A Spirit from Within – An Interview with Sifu Richard Bustillo

September 16, 20150 Comments

RichardBustillo-spiritwithinRichard Bustillo has trained with some of the greatest martial artists of our generation. Whether studying Jeet Kune Do with Bruce Lee or Kajukenbo with Sid Asuncion; Judo with Henry Okazaki or Escrima with Cacoy Canete, Bustillo was a willing and grateful student.

But what has solidified his place among these giants is not just his talent to perform, but also his willingness to share what he has learned with students around the world. His seminars are well attended and equally well received by practitioners who welcome his openness, his acceptance of styles not based on their pedigree but on their effectiveness. “The individual,” he is fond of saying, “is more important than any established style or system.”

In this revealing interview, Bustillo talks about the creation of the legendary IMB Academy, his time spent with Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto, and how you can develop the “fighting spirit.”

Q: What is your martial arts background?
RB: Doce Pares (Granmaster) in 1994; Escrima / Pangamot of Cebu, Philippines; Catch-as-Catch-Can wrestling 1990; Muay Thai (Kru) 1985, Kickboxing of Thailand; Boxing (coach / official) 1980; Kali (Guro) 1976; Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do (Sifu) 1974; and Escrima/Arnis 1968 (Guro) Filipino Martial Arts.

Q: How did you meet Bruce Lee?
RB: I met Bruce Lee at the 1964 International Karate Tournament in Long Beach, Ca. In 1967 I was fortunate to be accepted as an original member in the first class at the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute in Chinatown, Los Angeles.

Q: Technically, what stand out in your mind about him?
RB: Bruce Lee was a one-of-a-kind individual who was blessed with a God-given gift of natural talent. I’ve never met anyone who was as well-blalnced in mental, spiritual, and physical strength. Bruce lee had a positive aura about himself, just like Muhammed Ali, Elvis Presley, and other individual geniuses that have broken through the barriers of their art.

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Q: Tell us about the IMB Academy and the arts practiced there.
RB: IMB originally stood for the original founders: (Dan) Inosanto, (Chuck) Martinez, and (Richard) Bustillo. The acronym also means Individual, Mind, and Body and International Martial Arts & Boxing. This was an acronym derived by fate and good fortune. The logo symbolizes the trilogy of: “The Dragon – the Internal Spirit – the higher power or potential in all of us. The eagle represents our mental attitude – the vision, and pride of a leader. The tiger signfies body fitness, including strength and courage.

Your life is what you make of it; it’s really up to you. But if you feel you’re in a battle and there’s a struggle deep within, let all three balance together because on alone cannot prevail.”

Q: What else does the logo symbolize?
RB: In terms of the arts we practice, the logo also reresents a trilogy philosophy of: black/gray/white, heavy/middle/light, hard/firm/soft, long/medium/short, and offense/defense/counter.

It expresses the three combative ranges: the long range weaponry of escrima/kali/arnis; the middle-range strikes of boxing/Muay Thai; and the close-range grappling of wrestling/jiu-jitsu/judo. It consists of the three phases of espertise: Phase 1: Beginning; Phase 2: Advanced; Phase 3: Instructor level. The thorns symbolize every memeber’s loyalty and dedication to protecting the good name of the IMB Academy and its goal and purpose. The IMB’s goal is to encourage personal well-being to all mankind. All individuals, based on their abilities and experience, have their unique (Jeet Kune Do) way. IMB takes the position that, “These are some of our principles and concepts that are practical, simple and direct.” We supply you with the three basic ranges of various martial art disciplines. You practice them on your own and you make your own decision on what best fits your needs. we don’t want to teach you only martial arts. We want you to be able to develop it. This is ultimately IMB’s goal.

Q: What motivates you?
RB: The challenges of every new day motivate me to do better today than, yesterday. I surround myself with what I love, whether it is family, friends, students, music, hobbies, home, and whatever makes me happy and productive. The spirit of Bruce lee continues to be insipirational in my daily motivation. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my family, friends, Bruce Lee, Dan Inosanto, Cacoy Canete, and others who motivated me.

Q: Tell us about your longtime training partner and friend, Dan Inosanto.
RB: Dan Inosanto is next to God in my heart. I have been very fortunate to have a friend, training partner, teacher and compadre for over 20 years. He is one of the kindest, most generous and honest people I have ever known. Dan is a walking martial arts encyclopedia. I have seen him make many sacrifices for the martial arts knowledge he has acquired. he lives martial arts 24 hours a day just as Bruce lee and all the other true martial arts legends have done.

Q: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has taken the martial arts world by storm. What makes this art so formidable?
RB: I wouldn’t call Brazilian Jiu-Jitus a formidable martial art. It was certain individuals at the rigth time and the right place that evolved martial arts to another era. The martial arts have now evolved to wrestling and grappling. Before this time it was Muay Thai, Kali/Escrima, Kung-Fu, Karate, Judo, Boxing etc. Jiu-Jitsu existed long before judo became polular. We have to thank the jiu-jitsu pioneers from Brazil for sharing their training program with the martial art community.

Q: Is your teaching methodology different when teaching a seminar compared to teaching at the IMB Academy?
RB: My teaching method at seminar and at the IMB Academy is the same. I teach the three combative ranges of Cacoy Canete’s Doce Pares Escrima, Boxing/Muay Thai, and Jiu Jitsu/Wrestling along with the Jeet Kune Do concepts, principles and philosophies. The only difference is the element of time. Seminars don’t have the benefit of the repetition drills needed to ingrain new skills into muscle memory because of the limited block of time. The Academy students have the benfit of daily training.

Q: What does Jeet Kune Do mean to you?
RB: JKD literally means “The Way of the Intercepting Fist”. I have used this term to also mean intercepting a weapon strike, kick, punch, or grappling hold. The philosophy of JKD is to be your own best teacher, to evolve and develop to a higher level and not be limited or bound, but to be liberated individual free from restrictions. Bruce Lee’s four personal combative ranges are the kicking range, the striking range, the trapping range, and the grappling range. I have developed my JKD to encompass three combative ranges. My three IMB ranges are enhanced by the martial art principles, concepts, theories, and training methods of Bruce lee. Jeet Kune Do emphasizes that, “The individual is more important than any established system or style.”

Q: What did you find so attractive about Filipino martial arts?
RB: The martial arts of the Philippines are among the best self-defense disciplines when practicing with or without a weapon. The Filipino method of training with a weapon builds a strong confidence in one’s mental, physical, and spiritual strength. It gives the individual the psychological edge of understanding the angles of attack for hand defense coordination against weapons.

Q: The concept of aliveness (training against a resisting opponent) has added a new dimension to many students’ training. Why is it so effective?
RB: The concept of training alive is to train with a sparring partner or training with moving equipment that works the “negative” attributes. On the other hand, training on a heavy bag or Wing Chun dummy is “positive” offense training – meaning that they have one-dimensional benefits (in that all you have to worry about is your offensive attributes against a “dead” target). The heavy bag is good for working body movement and building power, but it does not strike back. Working with a partner who is moving in a sparring manner while feeding the focus pads or Thai kick pads for punching, kicking, knees, or elbows is a step closer to alive training. Training defensive techniques are also positive when the training partner moves in with offensive attacks. this kind of training increases the proper balance and coordination needed to evade and strike back at any time. Working on defensive techniques and counter-measures are best trained while sparring. In a nutshell, training on dead or stable equipment can help to increase speed, accuracy, power, and form, and working against resistance is the laboratory where you learn to apply what you know. One needs to balance both concepts of liveliness and static training.

Q: What is “fighting spirit” and is it something that can be developed?
RB: Fighting spirit comes from within. Some are born with afighting heart, while others must develop their fightinconfidence to achieve it. Fighting spirit is having the will and desire to win. It is a valuable tool to possess even in business, sports, fitness, and self-defense.

Q: What do you see as the future of martial arts?
RB: Martial arts will continue to develop and evolve for the better of mankind. Even with our present world situation and need for public safety, martial arts training starts with the individual. Each student must find, develo[, and practice his or her own individual Jeet Kune Do. I perceive th emartial arts of the future to be cross-training with or without weaponry.

Interview was conducted by Salim Badat, a Wing Chun practitioner in Southa Africa. This article first appeared in IKF Magazine in July 2003. You can reach Sifu Bustillo through his school’s website at IMB Academy.

The video shows highlights from Sifu Richard Bustillo’s seminar at Master Fariborz Azkah’s school in May of 2012.

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