Interview By: Lakhvinder S. Madahar
Although Rick Young’s no stranger to the pages of this magazine or to the City of Coventry, as his been holding regular courses for the past 10 years, at the invite from the BCA ‘s Peter Consterdine and Geoff Thomson.
Rick Young’s reputation precedes him; it seems almost unnecessary that he should need any introduction, but some occasions warrant one.
He is one of the country’s leading martial artists, highly skilled in the arts of Kali and Jeet Kune Do, as in many others. He has trained with Guru Dan Inosanto and Sifu Larry Hartsell, to name but a few names. For a person with an impressive amount of experience and knowledge behind under his belt, Rick remains a down-to-earth man who uses the martial arts to develop himself emotionally, physically and mentally. Rick’s deep understanding of the martial arts as a whole are best reflected in the respect that he maintains for the arts, in whatever form they may take. He maintains an open mind, is constantly looking for ways to develop and improve, especially with regard to training his students (for whom he also expresses great enthusiasm). At the end of the day, he feels, loyalty and patience come at the top of the list of requirements for anyone involved in the martial arts. Hopefully, this interview will accurately express Rick’s opinions and thoughts on martial arts, drawn mostly from his own experience.
It’s always nice to see a success story. Receiving an introduction from his friend (Shaun Shanley) and first instructor to becoming one of Dan Inosanto’s top instructors in the country. After Dan Inosanto’s first visit/seminar in this country; most of us remained content with just wanting to train with Dan Inosanto. Where as he goes out, gets a loan and then followed Dan around the world for about six weeks. He was determined enough to do what ever it takes attitude towards achieving his dream and living it.
Earlier this year, I asked Rick to hold a day seminar for my students and myself on the Filipino martial art of Kali. As this is the art, I hold a great passion for, almost as long as I can remember. Since, Kali is a vast subject or as Rick said; on his course, that in the four hours of us training, we had only covered about two centimetres of the art as “Kali is about three miles long and when something is three miles long, it’s usually ten miles deep as well”. Bearing that in mind I think it was a wise decision at the start of the seminar to stay on just one of the many categories of the art, so we decided to explore the Empty – Hands of the art. Known as the Panantukan (Filipino Boxing), Pananjakman (Filipino Kicking), Dumong (Filipino Locking & grappling).
Since, then his done a few more seminars for us and we have arranged a few more for the next year. Due to being blown away in the first ten minutes of his first course, with his knowledge and ability. Without a doubt he left all of us very inspired.
Lakhvinder S. Madahar: Thank you for conducting a very enjoyable seminar for my students and myself and for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.
L.M. Rick, could you tell me when and why you started training in the
R.Y. I started to train in martial arts in November 1975 under my friend
Shaun Shanley. He had a lot of Judo, Karate, and boxing training and asked
me if I wanted to train with him. After he showed me some of the things he
had learnt I was hooked.
L.M. Who were your instructors in the early years, could you shad some light on them?
R.Y. I trained under Hamish Adam in Wado Ryu Karate for almost six years
and at the same time was training on and off at the Leith Victoria boxing
gym, which was situated really close to were I lived. I also did a small
amount of Western wrestling. I have to say though it is the training and
teaching that Shaun gave me that has stayed with me the most during the
years since. Even now, twenty-seven years, on he influences me a lot in the
way I train and the way I approach martial arts. I still think that after
Guro Inosanto Shaun is the most talented martial artist I have ever seen.
L.M. Could you tell me about the credentials you have in different arts?
R.Y. Most of my credentials are in JKD/Kali under Guro Inosanto, Sifu Larry
Hartsell, Sifu Paul Vunak, and Sifu Rick Faye. I have a second dan karate,
first dan Judo and I am a senior coach with the BCA. I am also qualified to
teach Muay Thai and basic Wing Chun. I am a purple belt in Brazilian
Jiu-Jitsu under Mauricio Gomes and represent Gracie Barra Scotland. I am
also a representative of and associate instructor under Sensei Erik Paulson
in combat submission wrestling. To be honest though, although I feel
privileged and honored to be given these credentials, in the end
qualifications are just an indication of were you are with any art at the
moment you are given the certificate. Getting a black belt can be
relatively easy, the hardest part is maintaining and progressing in to the
deeper levels of your chosen discipline. After all these years I can
honestly say that now more than ever I feel like a beginner again. Every
time I get to the top of the mountain I see that there are many, many, more
peaks to be climbed. Martial art training if taken seriously is a lifetime
endeavor. With that said the credentials that mean the most to me are my
full instructorships under Guro Dan. He gave me them almost ten years ago
and now as then I don't really feel as though I deserve them but it is
great just knowing he gave them to me.
L.M. What do you think of the growth of JKD/Kali since Inosanto's first
seminar in 1979?
R.Y. I think it took a couple of years to gain any sort of recognition but
since the mid to late eighties it has spread at an incredible rate. At one
time you could name the JKD instructors in this country on one hand and now
Guro Inosanto alone has around thirty instructors here. There are also many
other instructors from different lines of the family. I think Bob Breen,
who was there in the beginning, is the one most influential JKD/Kali
figures in the country. Bob deserves a lot of credit. In my view without
him JKD/Kali would not have been half as big as it is now. I take my hat
off to Bob and respect him as not only a superb martial artist but also as
someone I can call a friend.
L.M. What were your first impressions of Dan Inosanto and the art back in
R.Y I was flabbergasted! It wasn't just the art though it was in the way
Guro Dan showed it and the level he was showing it at. I was only seventeen
and totally in awe of both the art and of Dan himself. I remember standing
beside him watching Bruce Lee and him fight in the Game of death. It was
really strange talking to him as he was being strangled on the big screen!
He gave a demonstration with Jeff Imada that was superb. I spoke to him
after the show and told him I wanted to train with him in Los Angeles. He
just said, "Sure kid, no problem". I was a spotty faced seventeen- year old
and I don't think he took me seriously, but he hasn't got rid of me yet!
L.M. Was it the Kali or JKD that attracted you toward Dan?
R.Y Probably the JKD but once I saw the Kali I was hooked on that as well.
L.M. From the many categories of Kali which one do you favour the most?
R.Y. That's a hard one. I would probably say though the Stick and dagger or
empty hand training would be my favourite areas.
L.M. It has been stated that the way the Filipino martial arts are taught
in the USA is different from the way it is taught in the Philippines, what
do you think?
R.Y. I have only trained in Britain and America in the Filipino arts so I
couldn't really compare the way it is taught in the Philippines to the way
the art is taught in the west. I do have extensive video footage of people
training in the Philippines and of instructors from there teaching, and it
looks good. Personally though I have no real interest to visit there just
now as I already have a lot of other material to work on and cover.
L.M. You have trained extensively with Guro Dan Inosanto, what is a typical
lesson with him like?
R.Y. With Guro Dan there really is no typical lesson, every one is
different according to which system he is teaching and what he is trying to
get across. He has such a vast amount of knowledge that his classes are
always packed with information. I have been fortunate to train with him
privately and that is an experience that I rate as one of the greatest
privileges of my life. Also having conversations with him about the arts or
about life in general are filled with wisdom and knowledge. He is a
Pandora's box of insights and information I really find it hard to grasp
how much he actually has. He inspires me so much. Since I first met him in
1979 he has never let me down or disappointed me. On his last visit to
Edinburgh I had to collect him at four o'clock in the morning to catch an
early flight. As soon as I walked in the door he started discussing certain
moves and principles from different arts. Both his assistant Joel Clark and
myself were exhausted at such an early hour but here was a sixty six year
old man raring to go with the wide eyed enthusiasm and energy of a child
and the knowledge of a truly wise man. He is incredible.
L.M. Apart from Dan Inosanto who else has inspired you?
R.Y. Really the list is so long. I have always tried to seek out the best
that I can to develop myself so there are a lot of practitioners who have
helped me or inspired me. Some that come to mind are Hamish Adam my Karate
sensei, George Kerr, Marc Preston, Billy Cusack, and Jimmy Delaney, my Judo
Sensei's, Master Toddy who taught me a lot about Thai boxing, and my boxing
coaches Eric Bell and Joe Fortune. I really like the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
people and Rickson Gracie, although I only rolled with him on five or six
occasions, was an immense inspiration in the way he carried his art.
Mauricio Gomes is someone else I look up to as well as the Machado
brothers. Rick Faye has taught me a lot and has had a major effect on the
way I approach the art. I think Rick is one of the best practitioners and
teachers in the world. Geoff Thompson and Peter Consterdine as well as
being friends of mine are really inspirational. In my peers Terry Barnett
is some one I admire and respect, I love him like a brother. He doesn't get
a lot of publicity but Terry is a superb martial artist and most
importantly a beautiful human being. Steve Powell in Manchester is one of
the country's most underrated martial artists. I really like and respect
Steve. My students who work hard and then come in and do a three-hour
workout are an inspiration. They train hard for the love of the art and
nothing else. Probably the biggest inspiration though would be my mother
who even when she was told she had cancer and it was basically a lost cause
kept fighting to the very end. She was such an inspiration and more of a
fighter than I could ever hope to be.
L.M. You are a second dan in Karate, do you still practice Karate and what
are your views on the effectiveness of Kata training?
R.Y I haven't practiced Karate since 1982. I haven't done Kata in that long
either so I don't think it would be reasonable for me to give an opinion on
its effectiveness. I do think though that shadowboxing in any form is an
expression of the art so kata, if it is truly relating to the system being
practiced, could enhance the practitioners understanding of their chosen
L.M. You have entered competitions in the past, could you tell me a little
bit about that side of your training?
R.Y. I have competed a little in Western boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
but not to any high level. I train with high level exponents of different
arts so when I spar them it gives me an indication of where my level is. I
think competition though is different as you have to prepare and focus for
a specific event and you have to deal with adrenal reaction and fear.
Training in the Dojo can sometimes give you this but I think short of an
all out street fight competition comes closest to getting your adrenaline
going and making you confront yourself as well as your opponent. I do wish
I had competed more when I was younger but there is no point in trying to
change the past I am looking to the future and what it holds for me.
L.M. What are your views on the UFC, the Dog brothers, and other extreme
R.Y.I think the extreme forms you have mentioned have done an awful lot for
the arts, but they are not for everybody. The Dog brothers, UFC, and other
extreme competitions, show a more honest and brutal look at the arts and
what works under certain conditions, but as I said it is not for everyone.
Also as hard as these events are they are different from a street fight as
you have time to prepare yourself and you know who and what you are up
against, but as I have just said they can give you a good grounding for a
real situation. Personally I like Vale Tudo and train in it myself, but as
an instructor I try to offer my students a broad spectrum of arts and
training methods that they can use to develop themselves. I genuinely feel
that martial arts should retain its scope and breadth of styles and in the
way in which we train in them. Unfortunately I think a lot of people are
falling in to the trap of thinking that the only way is their way and that
everyone should train like them.
L.M. Some people say 99% of street fights go to the floor. In your
experience do you think this would be the outcome in a street situation?
R.Y. I don't know who makes up the statistics concerning fights going to
the floor or if 99% of fights actually do end up there but I do think it is
good to be equally well versed in your stand up and ground game. I have
seen fights finish with the first punch and others that finished on the
ground, but I would prefer not to go to the ground, hopefully finishing it
up top if at all possible. Basically you should be as well-rounded and
prepared as possible; this includes the mental and emotional side of things
as much as having good physical attributes.
L.M. Looking at it from a street effective point of view which art would
you recommend for a beginner?
R.Y. I think Thai boxing is one of the most well rounded arts out there. It
is suited to both the ring and the street. It has a great depth in almost
every area. If I had to pick only one art for someone looking for
self-defense I think that would be it. To be honest though if you are not
mentally switched on and aren't able to adapt to what Geoff Thompson calls
"The pavement arena" then it doesn't matter which art you practice you will
have a hard time making it work.
L.M. What is the best advice you could give to someone wishing to learn
Jeet Kune Do?
R.Y. Keep an open mind. There are so many different interpretations of JKD
now that it can be confusing for even someone who has been around a while
to know what is really going on. Read the literature, talk to different
groups and make your own mind up. I think Sifu Inosanto put it well when he
said "Draw a conclusion but don't be bound by it" The one caveat I would
make would be if the instructor or school constantly put down other schools
of thought. I think that might be a sign that either the instructor is not
secure or is not well trained.
L.M. Nowadays knowledge is freely available and you can train in many
different systems. Do you think anything is missing from martial arts these
R.Y On the physical level probably not. You can train in almost any style
you can imagine if you are prepared to put the time and effort in to
finding a teacher. I think loyalty and patience are probably the only
things I can think of that I would like to see more of. In some ways the
improvements of the last twenty or so years have come at a cost. I don't
totally agree with the way the arts have been taught in the past but in
some respects we have thrown the baby out with the bath water. By that I
mean that the arts have opened up and are more accessible, which is good,
but we have lost some values which I think are intrinsic to not only a
martial artists but also any human beings development. I don't mean blindly
following anyone but showing respect to the people who have spent time
teaching you and your fellow students and peers. We live in a consumer
society were people are used to a fast turnover and then once you have got
what you want leave behind what got you there. In martial arts I find this
attitude is becoming more and more prevalent. I'm probably old fashioned
but I would like a return to the days were even if you had overtaken your
sensei in some aspects the respect, loyalty and patience would always be
L.M Do you practice any form of Yoga or meditation for your spiritual
R.Y I am a Christian. I truly feel blessed by God in everything I do. I do
not use martial arts to help my spiritual growth, rather I read the Bible,
pray, or go to Church. Personally I use martial arts to help develop myself
on the physical, mental and emotional fronts. In terms of spirituality I
believe deeply that everything I have is given to me by the grace of God
and is on loan to me and can be taken back at any time.
L.M. You told me you were writing a book could you tell me a little about
R.Y. It will be published in late February is mostly text with a few
photographs. It is on cross training and JKD and how to develop your skills
and understand what it is you want out of training in the arts. I think a
lot of people get confused or don't know what they really want so the book
starts by asking; "Where do you want to go in your training?" From that
point it discusses single systems and their merits, training in different
systems simultaneously, and eclectic and synergistic systems. I try to
encompass as much as I can from the twenty seven years I have trained and
put it in the book to help anyone who is interested shortcut their training
and not make the same mistakes I have. I also have an autobiographical
section on my own training and the people who I have trained with.
L.M. As a final note is there anything you would like to add, regarding
training in JKD, Kali, or just training in general?
R.Y. I think everyone should just enjoy their training and if someone is
training in a different art for a different reason than you then good luck
to them. I am disturbed at the amount of putting down of arts and
practitioners by exponents who should really know better. If you truly have
a good system or are a good martial artist people will know right away. You
don't have to put down others to prove how good you are. Guro Inosanto is
the best example of martial arts I have ever seen. He is incredibly
talented, has a work ethic second to none, is compassionate and caring, and
is the most humble man I know. He is the prototype for the martial artist I
want to be. There is already so much negativity in the world without us
putting more in. We should strive to be the best we can while encouraging
others, whichever art they practice or method they follow, to be the best
they can be.
L.M. Thank you for a very informative interview. Rick.
R.Y. Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.
For more information about training with Rick Young call him on 01315544600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
L. M. Special thanks to Jasmine Seah for her contribution to this interview.
L.S. Madahar is a full time instructor with over twenty eight years experience. He teaches Muay Thai (Pharya Pichai Dab Hak camp) and the Progressive Kali~ Eskrima System of the Filipino martial arts in Coventry.
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