It’s very difficult in one short article to write about the history and legacy of a martial arts legend such as Dan Inosanto. There are volumes of books dedicated to his life’s work and it is worth every read. But here, in our modest newsletter, we can only share with you our experience of him and the impact he has left on us.
Sifu Inosanto grew up in Stockton, California. He is the son of two Filipino immigrants who were both highly educated in the Philippines and moved to the United States to pursue opportunities for themselves and their children. Stockton at the time was filled with many Filipino immigrants and other new immigrants to the United States. He started his formal training in the martial arts at the age of 10 in Okinawa Te and Jiu-Jitsu. His father also introduced him to local escrimadors, under whom he also started training in the Filipino Martial Arts. He was also a stellar athlete in his youth, participating in team sports such as track and football and even though he was small in stature, he proved to be quite the phenom.
After graduating from college, he began studying Judo for a few years before enlisting in the military as a paratrooper in the 101st airborne division and while stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he was exposed to several martial arts, including Kenpo Karate, which especially stood out to him. So much so, that when he was discharged from the military, he sought out training in Kenpo in Los Angeles. There he found Ed Parker, under whom he achieved Black Belt.
Ed Parker also encouraged Sifu Dan to train in the Filipino Martial Arts and more prominently, introduced him to Sigung Bruce Lee. At an International Karate Tournament, Ed Parker was hosting, Bruce was his special guest and required an escort and Sifu Dan was assigned this task. That’s where the special relationship between Sifu Dan and Sigung Bruce Lee began.
Sifu Dan studied with Sigung Bruce Lee until his untimely death and was personally chosen to carry on the concepts and philosophy of Jeet Kune Do. He, Taky Kimura and James Lee were the only 3 people to ever be certified by Bruce Lee to teach. Since then, Sifu Dan has gone on to evolve in his training. He has trained in a wide variety of martial arts and continues to learn and search for knowledge to add to his training. He is a true seeker of knowledge in not only the martial arts but it’s history and cultural background and is always expanding his practice while sharing this around the world with all his students.
It can be said that the state of martial arts as it is today is in part due to Sifu Inosanto’s study of the arts and the teachings he has handed down to his students. Mixed martial arts today would not be where it is without him. His students have also become prominent martial arts figures as he has allowed them to find their own martial arts paths and become fully expressed in their martial arts endeavors.
For Sifu Dan, martial arts is a lifestyle and his life’s work. His passion for the martial arts is palpable and it’s quite inspiring to be around. He is constantly learning and thirsty for knowledge and never arrogant about his skill. He loves seeing his students grow and takes pride in all of those who train in the martial arts. But what’s most revealing about Sifu Dan is what you learn when you spend time with him, listening to his stories, his wisdom, and his teachings. Despite all the skill, talent, wisdom, and fame, Sifu Dan has been and will always be the most humble of people. A true Guro, he is always willing to learn, even from his students, even from those who challenge him, and even from those he does not know.
Progressive Martial Arts is honored to host Sifu Dan for a 2-day seminar this March 14th & 15th. It is our privilege to host him for our martial arts community and our students.