Me on the wooden dummy circa 2016 (with some mistakes!)
I began my Martial Arts journey when I started college at SUNY binghamton, at 16 years of age when I was on the college wrestling team for about 3 months.
Although I played basketball and football like any kid, I was not particularly athletic, but I found that wrestling was one sport that I was actually good at, and within a couple of months could already handle myself on the ground against someone significantly bigger and stronger than me.
Due to a heavy party scene, I quit wrestling, but in my Senior year I joined a karate club. The Sensei, an “older” gentleman of perhaps 40 or so was an executive in IBM and ran the club as a hobby. This was a Kyokushinkai school.
After I graduated from college my parents had already moved to NYC, so I continued training at a Kyokushinkai school located in the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The instructor was an adopted son of the founder, Mas Oyama. This was a typical hard core Kyokushinkai school.
I later moved up to Buffalo NY for almost a year, and while there I looked at all of the schools and the one I liked most was a Tae Kwan Do School, where I trained for about 8 months. The first time I saw Kung Fu was when a dude walked into the school and wanted a friendly spar with the instructor. The instructor was a very cool guy and agreed.
The Kung Fu guy was a Hung Gar stylist, and I thought the circular blocks he used were really cool, so when I returned to New York I briefly joined a Hung Gar class in the school of Aaron Banks. Banks was at one time famous as an early promoter who started some full contact karate tournaments, billed as no rules “bloodsport’ type tournaments, way back in the day. I didn’t stay too long.
Eventually I found another school that I liked. It was a Karate school located in Times Square back when the block known as the “double deuce” was a dangerous place even to walk through, and was infested by street hustlers, pimps, and assorted neer do wells. While nominally a Shotokan school the instructor taught a very eclectic Karate program, including back fists , spinning kicks, and flying kicks.
The building was dilapidated and lacked air conditioning. I still remember my Brown Belt test which was held on an almost 100 degree day on the 4th of July.
I studied karate for around 4 years , and for a long time wasn’t especially good at it, but finally my sparring started to get much better, to the point that some of the other instructors in the school would stop and watch me spar. I was told that this meant I was getting good, because these guys rarely bothered to watch students sparring.
I was learning the black belt katas and was getting ready to test for first degree black belt when I read in article about Wing Chun in Black Belt Magazine.
I was so enthralled by the article that I quit Karate and enrolled in a Wing Chun school run by Lee Moy Shan, who was one of Moy Yat’s top students although he was a quite young man at the time. I remember him as a skilled practitioner, but he taught in the traditional Chinese manner, which did not work for me.
There was no formal class, but the school was open all day, 6 days a week,. When you went to the school you could just hang out, or you could pick a partner to practice with.
Around once a month the sifu would go around the room and ask each student “what have you learned up to”, and then give you five or 10 minutes of instruction. The Sifu would sometimes give brief lectures about the principles of wing chun which were very entertaining. He was a charismatic guy too.
Not learning anything much, I quit the class and all Martial Arts out of frustration for a very long time. As I recall, I studied there for maybe 6 to 9 months. I then concentrated on my career, eventually going to law school and becoming a practicing attorney. But in 2005 I saw an article about the health benefits of exercise.
I was never out of shape or unhealthy, but I wanted to stay that way, and I found traditional exercises like jogging, the exercycle, treadmill, etc way too boring, so I decided to give Wing Chun one more try. This time it jelled and I have been training and learning ever since.
At the present time I have become semi-retired as a lawyer. During the shut down phase of Covid, out of total boredom, I did some online training, which included about two months of private lessons over Zoom in Bak Mei, and also a Balintawak class over Zoom from a local instructor.
After becoming vaccinated I started training in Balintawak in the “live” class and continue studying there to date.
Recently I bought a house in Staten Island, near public transportation , which has a very nice space that I can use for private and semi- private lessons in Wing Chun.