Something about holidays, perhaps the quiet time it provides me, always makes me ponder where I’ve been and where I am going. I know at times it comes across as if I have always had some master plan, but the reality is that it has just come together over time, and time and distance provide perspective. Still, I think it is a pretty good story.
I started practicing martial arts after I had been sick. I had been diagnosed with Leukemia at age six. Half the children died back then, and I spent more than a year in the hospital. I missed a year of school and had to be home tutored. I hadn’t learned to play sports, I was very sick, I even had permanent nerve damage in my legs. So martial arts didn’t just help me rebuild my health and my body, it was everything for me. All my friends and all my world revolved around it.
I was extremely lucky from day one, I got quality instruction under a very qualified instructor even though initially I knew nothing about martial arts other than a few Bruce Lee movies I had seen that had peaked my interest. Today I laugh at myself, thinking about how as a kid I was sure my “master” was some old, wise secret man. I now realize he was younger then than I am now! Perspective, and irony.
I distinctly remember a few things about my early training; I asked a lot of questions, wasn’t afraid to “buck the system” and wasn’t always satisfied with the answers. The third thing I had been taught in my school was a knife hand blow to the neck. The very first thing I did the first time they had me spar was to use that knife hand blow to the neck. They stopped the entire class because of that!
To his credit, my instructor, the late Pong Ki Kim, was always willing to entertain my questions and at least attempt to provide me answers. But many of those answers left me wondering, and I continued to look for answers. I found old books on the Moo Duk Kwan my teacher had actually done. I wanted to learn more martial arts methods. In retrospect, I was always interested in the practical applications of martial arts.
When I met Chan Tai-San, I still thought there were “secrets” that could be gotten if I found the right teacher and he accepted me. 16 years with Chan Tai-San, formal “baai si” adoption, and acting as his translator and constant companion during his travel I indeed learned some “secrets”. They were not the secrets I thought I would learn.
About 5 or 6 years into my martial arts teaching career, I was exposed to the first three UFC events. I had already been interested in practical application and full contact training, but this new “no hold barred” (NHB) motivated me in a particular way. It began what ultimately was a 20-year adventure into learning what worked, how it worked and how you trained it.
While it initially may appear a contradiction, these days I am focused more on teaching martial arts for fitness. It was a transition that began in 2010 and now I really have very little interest in training people to fight. There are a lot of reasons for this, but at the core is the simple fact that I have been there and done that, and have nothing more to prove.
On the other hand, in the past six years or so I have had the immense pleasure of helping people be healthier, feel better about themselves and live better lives. Considering I started martial arts because I was a sick child, this really should not come as a surprise. Of course, being who I am, it is incredibly important to me that even though most of my students are not interested in fighting, they are still learning martial arts correctly. THAT is the real issue. I am a strong advocate of “Truth” and martial arts must always be practiced with truth.
At the same time, while I am not that interested in “fighters” anymore I am still very interested in explaining the connection between traditional martial arts and practical application. So I have refocused my efforts into showing people HOW I got to where I am today, and my “secret group” provides people with detailed demonstrations of how I went from “traditional kung fu” to producing so many champions in Muay Thai, San Da, Boxing, Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts. If you are interested in the “secret group” email me at INFO@nysanda.com
I can’t say that life has always been easy, but it’s been a great life, with great experiences. And I look forward to the next years that are coming