Dacayana UK

I have always been reluctant to accept grades above traditional ‘Black Belt’. 

I’m not sure why, perhaps I’ve never wanted or needed to be ‘in the spotlight’ or ‘put my head above the parapet’. I have never felt I’ve anything to prove and always just focussed on teaching to the best of my ability. However over the years I have learnt to be in the spotlight….of course. 

My first lessons about being right in the spotlight were short sharp shocks during the Lynmouth Martial Arts (multi style) festivals organised up until around 2008 (I think), firstly by Grandmaster John ‘Jo’ Biggs and then Shihan Paul King (assisted by yours truly :) ) 

The first time I taught at a VERY large gathering was during one of the early ‘Lynmouth’ Festivals I was probably 3rd degree black belt at the time.  I can remember facing 60 or 70 people on the mat, half of whom had black belts on, and many had red and black belts, red and white belts and red belts. Many were graded way above me. Many were 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th dans etc  in different arts. To say I was nervous was an understatement and I nearly froze. 

I can remember turning to Jo Biggs and saying ..OMG Jo there are 8th Dans on this mat and half of the others are way above me. His words I’ve never forgotten. “Yes Marcie, but are they any good?…..It’s your mat go and teach”. 

That did the trick and I taught. 

Such power in such a short sentence. 

On reflection and after many years I really understand the meaning behind this. The complexity of grades, difference systems and styles and of individual Martial Artists. There’s no level playing field. 

There are of course, certain ‘accepted’ time served ways of ‘measuring’ someone’s grade that I’m sure you know. Accepted time periods between 1st and 2nd degee/dan  and between 2nd and 3rd etc. However if you think about it this still does little to even up the field. For instance someone can train an hour a week for 3 years to get to say from 2nd degree to 3rd degree and this person may not be a particularly gifted Martial artist. 

Another person can be training several times a week for those three years , even perhaps running a full time academy and teaching lots too. This same person my be very gifted. You can see the two people are incomparable. This is not to say the first person doesn’t deserve his/her grade and it might be in a style that has a limited number of techniques to study. In that style their level may be well deserved. 

And that is the point of course. A grade, any grade , is only relevant within that Style of Art

All arts have different grade structures. BJJ for example have an extremely tough route to black belt. I’ve seen purple belt BJJ practitioners as good as 3rd Dan Traditional Jujutsu players. Ninjutsu grades go way up to 15th Dan. So there we are, the diversity is apparent. Many Eskrima styles now have a 10th degree and then a 12th degree level above for the founder or ‘supreme grandmaster’….I’m sure this was introduced as a competitive nod between styles, especially in Cebu. 

So how about Dacayana Eskrima and my role in it? 

Well I have had rapid promotion, although many of the skills I had before being a student of Grandmaster Jun Dacayana were transferable. Twenty years ago I was practising and teaching another Eskrima style (at 2nd Degree black belt level ) and running my own club. Before that I had studied a few Arts…. starting way back in the 1980’s . My involvement in Martial Arts has been approaching 40 years, although I had a handful of ‘wilderness’ years where I didn’t do too much! Overall though I have spent a LOT of time practising and teaching. 

I have had to spend a LOT of time doing this because I am not one of those naturally gifted Martial Artists that make everything seem so easy.  So…. I have had to apply myself. Thankfully in the early days both Jo Biggs and Jun Dacayana saw something in me that could be built on. 

Having taken on the role of looking after Dacayana Eskrima firstly in the UK and then further afield in Europe, I should have accepted the ‘being in the spotlight’ bit much earlier on. 

GM Jun promoted me on each UK visit, seeing the way I had learnt the material, built the system, designed syllabi, structured the system both materially and ethically, trained coaches, documented and administered technical material and generally promoted the system the best I could.

I accepted the grades until 6th Degree. 

In 2015 I received an 8th Degree black belt which I didn’t accept. In hindsight of course, it was a slight on Jun who after all, as founder of the system should have been able to bestow and do anything he wanted to ……and I had no right to refuse it. 

So here we are in 2020 and I have another Certificate. A reflection of the fact that Dacayana Eskrima is (probably) the largest single style Eskrima system in the UK, we have clubs all over the country, we have great coaches, we have built a network of Martial Arts ‘friends’ from different systems and associations and we are still GROWING and promoting Eskrima as best we can here and abroad.  We have country Directors in Italy, India, Ireland ..and just to prove we have countries not beginning with an ‘I’ we have Switzerland lol! 

We hope to spread the word as far as we can.

 So….I hope I am seen more than just a figurehead with a high grade, I am pretty sure those that train with me and those I have taught think pretty highly of me (because I know them well and they wouldn’t waste their time otherwise), so I am proud to accept whatever grade GM Jun gives me.  I see these grades in a strange way…. less of an honour but more of a challenge and responsibility to continue the stuff I’ve been doing since 2006 within the Dacayana family and within the Martial arts as a whole since the ‘80s. Oh the plus side I won’t have to worry about being graded again…. just about being judged! 

Marcie Harding February 2020

oooops ...here is the (2020 re-issue) of the original Certificate I refused to accept in 2015 (please read the article) !  :