The Words of the Servito Family

The Principle in Action -- Martial Arts Testimony

Gerry Servito
March 1985

Wonhwa-do instructor Gerry Servito

In October 1984, I returned to the Philippines after an absence of ten years. I had last been there for a visit after my graduation from college in New York City. At that time, I had just completed nine years of architecture and design training during some of the most spiritually and politically active years in the American university scene. As a result of those experiences in college, I had arrived at a few important conclusions.

The first was that I could not evade active involvement in social issues. The second was that education appeared to be the most constructive form of involvement in society. Probably due to the character of the sixties and seventies, I took education to be a matter of cultivating the spirit as well as the mind. And so, thirdly, I conceived the desire to be a teacher. If I were to teach design skills, well, that would be fine, but whatever the medium of instruction would be, the inner content would be a matter of spiritual and social values, and not merely a matter of techniques.

Despite these conclusions, when I visited the Philippines in 1974, 1 had not yet discovered what skill I could possibly use as my vehicle. So I returned to the United States, hoping that God would somehow enlighten me for the sake of others and particularly for the sake of my ancestral home.

It was upon my return to America that I met the Unification movement, and there I found the essence of all meaningful instruction. And when I was led to study Wonhwa-do some years later, I found one unique medium of instruction for teaching principled values.

I say "led" carefully, for I did not have a natural affinity for the martial arts, nor did I understand Father's recommendation to us to study these arts. But when I was in the seminary, I recalled my spiritual mother's advice to me when I was new in the movement and still strongly connected to my pre-movement meditational practices. She had intuited my need for a spiritual activity more suited to the Completed Testament Age, and had therefore advised me to practice karate instead of meditation exclusively. And so I took advantage of the Wonhwa-do training at the seminary.

During my second year there, I involved myself in studying Unification Thought, and found a new depth in Wonhwa-do which I had previously missed. From the beginning of Wonhwa-do practice, all students hear that its center is Unificationism. Discovering the depth of that connection gave me an entirely new appreciation of Wonhwa-do, for I could now discern the expression of Unification theories (of ethics, education, art, and history, for example) within the training experience.

Now, after four years of study, I can say that I have learned more about the vertical dimension of relationship than I had learned all my life. Since Father explains the parent-child relationship to be the central axis of all others, I could now begin to understand his rationale for recommending the study of martial arts to the movement: through that medium, specifically through the student-teacher relationship, ethical understanding is transmitted. This kind of experiential education is uniquely appropriate for learning such material, for a merely discursive education (lecturing, discussion, etc.) may only partially reveal the flavor and dynamics of vertical care, obedience, trust, loyalty, dignity, responsibility, and also the joy that such virtues provide.

These convictions were developed through my post-seminary years, for in CARP I had the opportunity to teach Wonhwa-do in several cities to many students. Touching incidents sometimes occurred which demonstrated growth in my students' characters, and I experienced profound satisfaction from this.

I was sent to the Philippines in October, with the direction to teach Unificationism and Wonhwa-do, and to help in any other ways that were needed. Since Mr. Murotani -- the national director -- and his wife could understand the motive and value of Wonhwa-do, it was possible to initiate study for the family there. Also, many Filipino people have an innate appreciation and ability for the martial arts. This is because the Philippines, like many other Asian countries, has practiced indigenous forms of martial arts throughout its history. (An original form of martial arts was called "kali." It was an Islamic, weapons-oriented style, which was the forerunner of more modern techniques called "Innis" and "escrima." These were practiced during the Spanish occupation. Because of their effectiveness, these styles are taught overseas, and have produced noted instructors and performers even in America.)

Within my first few days at the headquarters in Quezon City, we had decided to do our practice at 5:30 a.m. This was in order to avoid conflict with the normal center activities which began with prayer at 6:30 a.m. On the first morning, I rose early to prepare my spirit and the training hall, for teaching is not unlike lecturing: the instructor becomes a channel for the transmission of valuable information. The quality of the class depends upon the ability of the instructor to be a pure channel, sensitive both to heaven and to the students. So I cleaned the bodega which we had been given, and then knelt to pray and review my lesson plan. When I turned around that morning, I was pleased to see a few rows of students already kneeling in quiet prayer and preparation behind me. I explained the ceremonies of bowing, pledging, and of reading and meditating on Father's words, and we performed these together. Then we moved into the stretching exercises, and from those into the basic techniques. Over the next days, we learned different hand and foot techniques, and morning wake-up was now accomplished by a new sound: the united shouts of the Wonhwa-do brothers and sisters!

Class attendance began with about fifteen brothers and sisters, and oftentimes the class grew to twice that size. I quickly learned that some of the students were traveling one hour from their home centers in order to attend the 5:30 a.m. classes. On a few afternoons, we held class for the forty-day training session, and then the bodega was filled to overflowing, with long rows of brothers and sisters practicing and many other interested ones watching.

Knowing that we had only a month of instruction at best, the students already advanced to several higher techniques, in order to have material to study in my absence. This was made possible by the genuine aptitude and effort of the brothers and sisters, and because they could readily select a leader for the class in my absence.

As the days passed, the inner dimension of Wonhwa-do training became more apparent, for each person could begin to encounter the limitations peculiar to himself. By these, I mean the personal "problem areas" which affect our daily lives; for example, impatience, comparison, arrogance, lack of concentration, envy, self-doubt, etc. These are only some of the internal barriers which a Wonhwa-do student must face and learn to overcome; and in the shared student-teacher and student- student process of mastering each successive technique, individual and social virtue is revealed as the inner content of study. That dimension is what we had just begun to sample in the short time of our study together.

Towards the end of October, I had to travel to other cities to attend different seminars. But the classes continued faithfully in my absence, and I heard that new students also kept appearing. More recently, Brother Elcid -- who is now leading the class -- has organized a trinity of brothers to teach the different levels of students more effectively. They have also had to move the headquarters class to 4:30 a.m. in order to accommodate some new changes in their daily schedule. But practice continues, and in one letter, our sister Dada explains: "...Wonhwa-do helps me a lot to lift up my spiritual connection to True Parents, and I believe the more we go on, the more realization will come to our hearts and minds."

In my conversations with PARP (Professors' Association for the Research of Principles) members, I found that several professors are also interested and willing to support Wonhwa-do on their campuses. Since they understand that Unificationism is at the core of Wonhwa-do, they appreciate its value for their students' inner wellbeing. With these kinds of possibilities, it is our hope to be able to use Wonhwa-do as one important vehicle to strengthen the spirit of Filipino youth, and thereby contribute to the restoration of the Philippine nation and its neighbors. 

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