Paul de Thouars
The Pendekar has died, and I need to speak to it here. He was my teacher's teacher, and though what we learn now isn't quite the same, the genesis of our art came from Paul de Thouars. For that, I am grateful.
I never knew him personally. We talked on the phone a couple of times, back when I started Bukti training and I bought some videos from him. I have trained under one of his most senior students for almost eighteen years.
He was a most knowledgeable martial artist. He was the man who first brought Silat Sera (later Serak, and then Serak™) to the United States. He and his brothers, Willem and Victor, were among the earliest teachers of silat and kun-tao in the U.S., and over the decades, Paul's teachings eventually helped produce some outstanding teachers.
He was, back in the day for our art, the man.
Not that there is agreement on that, but that's what my teacher said, and he would know.
I used to engage frequently in the silat word-wars. I spent way too much energy doing so, and it was, I realized, a waste of time, so mostly I stopped doing it. Now and again, I'd stick my head up and see who was back-biting whom, and the accusations of lying, cheating, stealing, homicide, and my-style-is-better-than-your-style pomp and ceremony were (and still are) always evident.
When Paul passed, it was in full swing, and paused but briefly for condolences:
He is a miserable lying son-of-a-bitch! What? He died? Oh. Well, in that case, he was a swell teacher and a fine human being ...
One isn't supposed to speak ill of the dead, and I won't go very far down that road; then again, I'm not going to gloss over it. I will say what everybody involved with the brothers de Thouars already knows: They were a contentious family, with each other, and with their students. That more than a few of their best students went their own ways, and as often as not, involuntarily so.
The old joke about Sera players is, you aren't anybody until you've been kicked out of your system at least once, but I was there, I saw how shabbily my teacher was treated by his teacher, and it wasn't funny, it was ugly.
Loyalty is supposed to be a two-way street, but it isn't always.
Somebody will step up to take Paul's lineage, though who the best-qualified teacher is will be hotly debated as much as anything else. Lineage-holders in our art have been changed more often than a diarrheic baby's diaper. Yesterday's fair-haired boy, who spent a decade or two of close personal study with the head guru and was deemed one of only a couple finished students, will, as often as not, be today's ne'er-do-well ungrateful know-nothing who, when the guru tells it, studied only a couple of weeks, and didn't really learn anything.
Odd that that happens, but it surely does. Look around.
It won't be Maha Guru Stevan Plinck stepping up to claim Paul's lineage. When I jokingly said maybe we should start calling him "Pendekar," he said, "Please, don't!" Not even as a joke.
Paul de Thouars has passed on, and it was, for a number of reasons, a sad thing. I mark his passing with mixed emotions. This is not a political post; it's the truth as I see it.