We’ve all grown up on stories. Folk tales, fairy tales, anecdotes and legends were the way we learned to look at the world. There would be mystery, fantasy and magic. There would be heroes and villains and monsters to slay. Such is the world not ordinary.
In the world of martial arts there are many such stories. Of fantastic masters with amazing prowess, masters with abilities bordering on the supernatural, masters with skills that have passed on into legend.
Mang Ben was such a man. I knew him as my teacher, my mentor, the Grandmaster. Many knew him the same way, Benjamin Luna Lema, Founder and Grandmaster of Lightning Scientific Arnis International, a tough man with a tough reputation as an Arnisador, also known among his peers as Ben Judo, the athlete who was an advocate of fitness.
That’s the truth behind the legend. There are so many stories about him that with each retelling gets more fantastic. But ultimately the simplest truth behind it was that he was a good man.
He was an “Old School”, Gentleman who would not face people in un-pressed pants. He had an “air” of formality about him. His hair was never out of place and I’ve never really seen him break a sweat. He was nearly always in his “trademark” white long sleeved shirt even when teaching, and was never without his cap. He was definitely a “class-act”, and a tough one to follow. He was a very exacting teacher and would make you do things over and over and over again… if he liked you. He loved teaching. We strongly suspect that the martial arts is the love of his life. He’d go out of his way for a student interested in the art. He went out of the way for us and for that, we are truly grateful.
But then again, at the end of the day, we’d see more of the person behind the stories. He loved to make jokes as well as make fun of us and he loved putting us on the spot. He loved food, and was very picky with what he ate. But when he did find something that agreed with him, it would be defeated very quickly. He was an adventurer and loved going places and seeing new things. He never seemed to stop learning.
And here we are now, his students, peers, friends and family, caretakers of his memory. Some say he’s not perfect, but I disagree. I’d say he was the “Perfect Human Being”. A man who was great despite his humanity. He may have his own faults, flaws and imperfections but then again don’t we all?
We are his Legacy. LSAI is his Legacy. LSAI is his Family.