On 12th March 2013, the great martial artist Master Roberto Fassi passed away.

FassiChangLeader in an important Italian chemical enterprise, Fassi published many best-sellers among the Italian landscape of martial arts-books, he was columnist in respected magazines of the sector, but most of all Roberto Fassi was one of the most renowned Italian masters of martial arts and one of the European pioneers of Karate, Kobudo, Kung Fu Shaolin and T’ai Chi Ch’üan.

Pupil of Master Chang Dsu Yao, Master Fassi won the first place in Honolulu-Kung Fu-world-championship in 1980, in the competition of  T’ai Chi forms without weapons. In 1991 Master Chang Dsu Yao conferred him the qualification of sixth Chieh of Shaolin Ch’üan  and T’ai Chi Ch’üan: the highest degree ever conferred to a Westerner before.

I had the fortune to participate to his workshops three times in my life: in 1996, in 2002 and in 2008.

My strongest impression has been that Master Fassi appeared to be younger and younger: his spirit was year by year fuller of the curiosity and enthusiasm of a young boy. He was an unstoppable researcher: the last time I saw him, he shared with us pupils his own last discoveries about body and mind -synergy. In his own words, he had “just began” a deep exploration of the smallest connections between physical postures and meridians. I suppose that behind the word “just” there were several decades… His excitement was contagious. He revealed us that he was working in order to fulfill the “small homework” that Master Chang Dsu Yao gave him before his own final depart: deepening his own already remarkable knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine, philosophy, martial arts-history and spirituality.

In the last decades of his life, Master Fassi developed an intense cooperation with the Jesuit Father Davide Magni and with the Cultural Foundation San Fedele of Milan (Italy), for the study and the diffusion of T’ai Chi Ch’üan as a method of meditation and prayer.

Master Roberto Fassi always emphasized the non-violent purpose of martial arts and their own spiritual potential. A typical example he loved to repeat was the explanation of the Chinese ideogram “武”, (Wu), translated as “War” or “Martial”. The Western translation sounds like a violent conflict. But the Chinese ideogram does not represent concepts of fight or competition, as it would be, for example, by painting two swords opposing each other: actually in the picture the deadly weapon, which is a long halberd, is deviated by a bare hand! Here we are, in a powerful visual synthesis, the core of the practice of martial arts: self-defence, not offence. Therefore the study of correct attacks is merely functional to the learning of efficacious defences.

But Master Fassi underlined also that the most important goal of martial arts goes much beyond the aspect of self-defence. As Master Chang Dsu Yao taught, the practitioner of Kung Fu should develop a heart like Buddha’s: all qualities of gentleness, respect, compassion, canalization and control of negative emotions, that you learn throughout your classes of Kung Fu, should blossom in your own daily life. Martial arts are meant to improve spiritual growth, and a good practitioner should behave same way in and outside the class.

The most astonishing quality of Master Roberto Fassi was, in my opinion, his own humbleness. He never showed proudness for his own successes, and he had no mercy in pointing out his own limits, smiling with compassion at his own weak points. He often repeated that he had still much work to do on himself, underlining the importance of the help of partners and friends as mirrors or reminders: the confrontation with others may bring out all those “rooms for improving” still abiding inside of us.

I wish to myself and to all my teachers, pupils and martial arts -fellows to maintain alive in us the same humbleness, the same enthusiasm and passion and the same dedication and will for growing that made out of Master Fassi the great Man he was.