Friday, January 04, 2013

IN MEMORY OF: Florendo Visitacion (June 11, 1910 - January 7, 1999)

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Florendo M. Visitacion, 88, Martial Arts Master, Is Dead


Published: January 10, 1999

Florendo M. Visitacion, who built upon childhood experiences in a rural Philippine village to develop and promote his own eclectic and well-known system of martial arts in New York, died on Monday at Roosevelt Hospital. He was 88.

His daughter, Justice Laura Visitacion Lewis of the New York State Supreme Court, said he had recently entered the hospital from the Kateri Residence, a nursing home on Riverside Drive, after suffering a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Standing 5 feet 2 inches and never weighing more than 125 pounds, Mr. Visitacion, who was known within the martial arts community as Professor Vee, hardly inspired dread in street clothes. Indeed he never wore any insignia of his status on the street and he cautioned his followers to avoid flamboyance and to dress modestly.

But inside the dojos (where well into his 60's he would regularly throw much younger, highly skilled men to the floor) his authority as a teacher and a founder of a martial arts system was apparent.

''He was an oxymoron, a gentle martial artist,'' said his daughter. ''I would watch as he taught a particularly lethal form of self defense. He would not only disarm and throw his opponents but then he would go on to show how they might be killed in six different ways. And meanwhile he was a gentle and peaceful man who loved books. 'The truly powerful,' he would tell me, 'are those who are also restrained.' Those are words I often think of as a judge.''

Florendo Visitacion was born on June 11, 1910, the son of sharecropper peasants on the island of Ilocos Norte in the Philippines. It was not uncommon for practitioners of various schools of self defense to teach their techniques as they traveled through the countryside; it is from such wandering tutors that Mr. Visitacion learned basic skills. At 16 he left home for Hawaii, where he cut sugar cane. Two years years later he moved to Stockton, Calif., to work as a grape picker.

For a decade, he followed the crops and traveled within the large Filipino community of California, continually studying martial arts disciplines including jujitsu, escrima, or knife fighting, and arnis, or stick fighting. At the outset of World War II, he enlisted in the United States Army and served as a medic.

After his discharge, Mr. Visitacion came to New York, where he obtained a high school diploma and took some college courses. Decades before the martial arts boom that would crest along with the popularity of Bruce Lee films, he sought out a variety of teachers, notably Charles Nelson, a specialist in unarmed combat, Kiyose Nakae, a jujitsu master, Jerome Mackey, a judo champion, and Swami Vragiananda, a proponent of an Indian school of fighting called Varmannie.

From all these traditions as well as those he had studied earlier he forged a discipline that he referred to as a system of systems; he called it Vee-jitsu after himself, meaning the art of Vee. He opened and closed a succession of martial art books stores and dojos in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, and would often take on disciples, sometimes without fee, if they were sufficiently dedicated.

In 1967, his form of martial art was recognized as a distinct discipline by the American Judo and Jujitsu Federation. He was awarded a 10th-degree black belt based on his demonstration of Vee-jitsu and given the title of professor. He later resigned from the organization, believing its discipline was too lax.
By the time interest in martial arts soared, the aging teacher had gained near legendary status and was referred to as Professor Vee or Grandmaster.

Soon after his arrival in New York, Mr. Visitacion married Heriberta Bernabe Charbonnier, a native of Puerto Rico. They had three children before they were divorced about 20 years ago. In addition to his daughter, Justice Visitacion Lewis, and his former wife, he is survived by two sons, Edward of Miami Beach and Bladimir of New York and four grandchildren.

Mr. Visitacion's teachings went beyond physical movements involving comportment and behavior.

For instance, he once said: ''If on a subway someone pushes you or sprawls across two seats, you should not appear as if it mattered. Understand the person's problem and walk away. Confronting the person or even beating him up will not educate or reform him, nor is it our place to do so.''

Sincerest thanks to Guro Roberto Torres for the reminder posted on Facebook



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