I started my martial arts journey in my freshman year at SUNY Binghamton when I joined to the wrestling team. I was never a “jock” although I did play basketball and football growing up like any other kid, but I found that wrestling was one sport that I was actually good at. Within a few months I was able to handle myself on the ground against significantly bigger opponents.
My years at Binghamton were some of the most exciting years of my life, but due to making friends, going to parties, etc., I ended up quitting wrestling. But sometime in my junior year I started taking karate classes. In Binghamton there were two Karate schools. One of these was run by an “older” sensei, a man in his forties, who was an executive at IBM and ran the school as a hobby. This was a Kyokushinkai school. I decided to learn Kyokushinkai because I had read that the head of the style, the famous Mas Oyama, had fought bulls, actual wild bulls, barehanded in the bullfighting ring.
When I graduated from college, I moved to NYC, where I continued training at a Kyokushinkai school located in the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The teacher there was a high level instructor who was an adopted son of Mas Oyama. This was a hard core and hard contact school. I remember training there on more than one few Saturday morning and hearing a loud “smack”, only to turn around and see that one of the students had been knocked down or knocked out. I was promoted to Green Belt after I had been training in Kyokushinkai a total of about 2 years.
I then spent about 8 months in Buffalo New York. I trained for a little while at a Kung Fu school. It is unclear which style exactly they taught, and they might have been training several styles, but we were definitely being taught some Shaolin style or styles. Not really happy there, I checked out all the martial arts schools in Buffalo, and the one that I liked best was a Tae Kwan Do school. I trained at that school for about 6 months. Toward the end of that time, one day a Hung Gar practicioner walked into the school and the instructor, a really cool guy, did a little light sparring with him. I really liked the moves of the Hung Gar guy, so when I returned to NYC I studied Hung Gar for a couple months at Aaron Banks’ Academy located somewhere in the Times Square Area. Aaron Banks was primarily known as a promoter who organized the first full contact Karate matches, the early precursor of kickboxing and K1.
Still not satisfied, I eventually found a karate school located in Times Square, which was called the American Karate Academy. This school was located in a run down building right on the “double deuce” of Times Squre, before the “Disney-fication” of Times Square, when the block was overrun with prostitutes, pimps, and other neer do wells. This school, while nominally a Shotokan school, actually taught an eclectic mix of karate styles and techniques, many of which are not even part of Shotokan, including spinning kicks, flying kicks, backfists, etc. The school also didn’t have air conditioning, so I remember well my brown belt promotion test, held on an almost hundred degree Saturday during a Fourth of July weekend.
Although I was a brown belt, and had by now trained in martial arts for at least 4 or 5 years, I still didn’t feel that I was that good at sparring. But then my sparring started to really improve and my teacher told me that I was getting ready to test for first degree Black Belt. I started learning the first couple of Black Belt forms. That was when I saw an article in Black Belt Magazine about Wing Chun. I was so amazed with what I read that I quit karate and joined Sifu Lee Moy Shan’s school. Sifu Lee Moy Shan, then a very young man, was one of Master Moy Yat’s top disciples. I remember him as a very skilled practitioner. The school used the “traditional” Chinese method of instruction. The school was open almost all the time, but there was no formal class, you just picked a partner and worked on whatever you wanted to work on. Periodically, perhaps once a month, Sifu would ask you what you had “learned up to” and would teach you something new.
This method didn’t work for me and I became so frustrated that I quit martial arts entirely. I think I trained with Sifu Lee Moy Shan for almost a year. After I quit that school I had a long hiatus from martial arts. Instead I focussed on building up my career, and then I went to Law School, where I graduated first in my class. I became a practicing attorney with a Family Law practice based in Manhattan.
In 2005 I decided that I needed to do some kind of exercise for health reasons, but I knew that jogging, the exercycle, etc., would be just too boring for me to stick to. I decided to give Wing Chun one more try. This time it “jelled” for me and I Have been training, learning, and getting better ever since.