Saturday, July 2, 2011

Revisionist History

I came across a link to the March, 1989 issue of  Black Belt Magazine that readers here might find interesting. As you can see from the image, it's a piece on silat, featuring Pendekar Paul de Thouars, and his "protégé," Stevan Plinck.

The article, written by Lilia Howe, who is, according to the article, Dan Inosanto's sister, has in it a lot of dubious historical material–I've discussed the problems of oral history at length in various postings here and on my other blog–but what is indisputable is that the student in the photographs with the Pendekar is our own Maha Guru Stevan Plinck.

Pictures. Grainy, dark, but right there in black-and-white, and the article is full of them.

The article mentions that the Pendekar is very choosy about who he teaches, and that Stevan Plinck is one of two students who have the art as he teaches it. Below, a snapshot of a graph in the story:

So, in 1989, the Pendekar was allowing that Guru Plinck was an adept at the art he renamed "Serak," from "Serah," and since there weren't any letters in the following issue from Paul allowing as how the writer misrepresented him, one assumes that such a statement was allowed to stand because he said so. 

In several places, there are interviews with other senior teachers who speak to this–you can go here, for instance, and read it. Or check out some of these links.

Now, to be accurate, because somebody said something doesn't make it so; however, if he's quoted that way and if he doesn't deny it, that probably means the writer wasn't too far off.  

Here is the wonder–and for some, a big drawback–of the internet: Once something is put there in public, it's out there, and while it might be hard to find, diligent folks can uncover it.

What does this mean? Well, it means that if  you said, "I never said that!" and somebody can access an article showing that you did? If, on Monday, you said it was so, and on Tuesday, you said it wasn't so, one could argue that either (or both) statements could be wrong, but that you contradict yourself stands there baldfaced on its own.

"Hey, I never said that!"

Why, yes, yes you did. And here it is, right fucking here ...

In a court of law, a sharp attorney would elicit inspection of this kind of revisionist statement thus: Well, sir, on Monday you said this; but today, you said the opposite. So my question is, were you lying on Monday, or are you lying now ... ?

Why do I bring this up? Because I am pissed off. And because somebody needs to say it.

Because in our martial art, and this is no secret to long-time players, some of our seniors are big on revisionist history. They change it to suit their whims, and it is wrong. And downright ugly at times.

How does this happen? Typically, like so: A teacher has a falling out with a senior student, and they part company. The teacher, who has extolled the virtues and skills of his student until that point, can and usually does, rescind ranking in the system—hey, he quit, so his certificate isn't going to be renewed. 

The teacher can do that. 

However: The teacher can't take away the knowledge the student has, so instead, he belittles it: "Oh, him? Well, he only studied with me for a couple-three years, and I never gave him the final secrets, so he never really had the art."

Really? But that's not what you used to say.

"Well, he had it when we were getting along, but now that we aren't speaking, he doesn't have it any more."

Uh huh. So that's how it works. 

We have a term for that where I come from: Bullshit. 

Personally, I find this kind of behavior reprehensible. It rises from an insecurity and a mean-spirited place where one tries to inflate one's own talent by attacking another's.

It's happening again, which is not a surprise to me, but it is no less despicable, and here is the thrust of this:

Anybody who says that Maha Guru Stevan Plinck isn't the real deal in this art? They are full of crap. They don't know what they are talking about. 


I hope I said this clearly enough. Be sure you get the name right if you want to tell somebody I said it: Steve Perry, that's S-t-e-v-e P-e-r-r-y. And if you have a problem with it? You can put it where the sun don't shine.

And have a nice day.