1. As a quick intro, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your school? When, where, how and why did you start practicing?
About me, starting at a young age I found a direct and immediate need to have options for self preservation.
I did wrestling and boxing, starting in 1974 in Oregon, I moved to Texas from a small town in Oregon to a large city in Texas . The need for survival skill changed quite a bit and I will leave it at that.
Military service gave me a new perspective and I found a need to train in weapons and close combat. I began Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do training as well as Muay Thai and Grappling under some very fine instructors ( Tuhan Dan Inosanto , Ajarn Chai sirisute, Sifu Francis Fong, and Larry Hartsell ) these instructors all appealed to me over Karate or Tae Kwon do due to my previous life experience.
I learned Wing Chun From Sifu Fong and Inosanto Both one was IP man lineage and one was Jui Wan lineage. This is important because the methods are somewhat opposite in approach.
2. What are the most common mistakes, or assumptions, you’ve encountered during your years of teaching?
One of the most common things is a lack of reality that students get from instructors, the instructors quickly indoctrinate the students into a do this not that mind set with out explaining why, also the tendency this creates is you can only defend your own style.
You assume a person will attack certain ways and with certain control, when this is false in real life people fall all over themselves trying to hit you and you stand in the way waiting for that pac sao to work for instance…
3. Movies such as “Yip Man”, “The Grandmaster” and such are probably one of the reasons many people start to practice at some point. Since reality is mostly not matching most of these movie scenes, what are some key aspects a beginning martial artist should focus on?
This is a good question Wing Chun is a structured art, however one needs to be able to move well, my rule is Move , Hit , Block , if you follow this you are more likely to be ok.
4. How can Wing Chun be used in an educational, non martial arts setting?
Wing Chun is a fantastic art wing chun teaches problem solving, this skill alone will add to ones life. Besides all the cliche and obvious things this tops the list focus and immediate action.
5. The internet has completely changed our lives over the past 10-15 years. We now have access to lots of information (both good & bad) and connections like never before. How do you feel about this evolution and it’s impact on Wing Chun?
It has done a hell of a lot of damage and some good, too many people get too much info from the net and do not put it to the wood shed. Work Knowledge technique all three are needed the net is only one.
6. What direction do you see Wing Chun or martial arts, as a whole, heading in?
It is in a tail spin down in quality and up in popularity its becoming a laughingstock due to poor instructors being certified with no experience.
7. To end this interview in style, what is the best Wing Chun or martial arts advice you have personally ever received and what is the best advice you would give to our readers?
This is very Wing Chun … My Sifu Wife Paula Inosanto told me “shut up and train”.
And I will qualify that by saying find a good Sifu.
Sifu/Guro Jon Rister