Rick Young Interview



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

martial arts?


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 rick.young@mcmail.com


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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