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An Interview with Grandmaster DeMaria
by Karate Kidz Online

What led you to get involved in Martial Arts?

grandmaster

When I was very young, age nine, I lived in a very rough area in New York City's Chinatown. I was once beaten up badly and almost died as a result, so I decided to learn how to defend myself. Some of my Chinese friends introduced me to a teacher of Kung Fu in Chinatown. This was my start in martial arts training. I fell in love with it and have never stopped since.

Who was your main inspiration, beyond Ch'ang Tung Sheng?

For more messages from Grandmaster, see the Archives.

All of my teachers inspired me in some way. Each was different in his approach to teaching. Each taught me different aspects of the martial arts. Some were weapons experts, some were throwing experts and some were very fast with their hand techniques. Although my last teacher (Chang Tung Sheng) was the most famous, I would not be who I am today without every one of my teachers. It was the combination of all their knowledge that helped me to learn this wonderful art.

Your school was the first to be united with the Shao-lin Temple in Mainland China, thats an incredible accomplishment, how did that come about?

The Shao-lin Temple in China sent Master Gwo-lin Fashr to America to help spread the Shao-lin martial arts to the American people. When he arrived he traveled around the country to visit many martial arts schools. What he found did not appeal to him. Then one day one of my Chinese students, who worked at a Buddhist Temple and knew Master Gwo-lin, told him about our school. A meeting was arranged where he came to our school and watched our class.

Because we taught the Shao-lin Kung Fu at our school and had a good background, he wanted to join our efforts to spread the arts. He needed a good American partnership to help him better understand American customs. So we joined our schools and now work closely together, sharing a friendship and exchange of thoughts and techniques.

I would not be who I am today without every one of my teachers. It was the combination of all their knowledge that helped me to learn this wonderful art.

We are indeed honored to have such a wonderful relationship. Our friendship has grown over nine years and I am happy to say we have a lasting and close tie now.

Your martial arts background includes several different arts beyond Chinese martial arts, in your opinion what is the difference in the teachings, beyond the style of the martial art?

My training is indeed varied. Each art form is quite different from all others. As you may know there are many styles in the martial arts. In the Shao-lin Temple alone they have over 300 different recorded styles of martial arts.

All students must choose which style they favor or what kind of techniques they would like to train in. There are hitting arts, throwing arts, fancy kicking arts, fast hands arts, locking arts and many more. My choices were based on my need to learn certain types of techniques that suited my nature and physical attributes.

One of my teachers was a Southern fighter. He introduced me to animal styles, Tiger, Dragon, Eagle etc. The stances were higher and faster and the techniques were in many ways unique. Another teacher showed me the Northern styles of Old Shao-lin, like Tan Tway (spring legs arts). This improved my stances and showed me other methods of stepping and using body power that was far different from the Southern schools.

Another style called Mei ung Ch'uan (confusion fist) showed me the fancy body work of twisting and turning. Yet another taught me the use of Shuai Chaio (throwing arts) for in-close combat. I also studied some Judo which taught me more about ground work and varying throws. Of course the internal arts of Ba Gwa (eight trigram boxing) Hsing Yi (mind fist boxing) and Tai Chi (grand ultimate art) taught me more than I could mention here about the mind and internal energy.

The list could go on. My point is each art form has something to offer, so I cannot say which is better, because each strengthens the other.

dragon

The level of your devotion to Martial Arts is impressive, your credentials are impeccable. What is your ultimate goal?

I simply look forward each day to learning more and enjoying what I have learned so far.

You ask what my ultimate goal is; my answer would be to continue to learn, because there is no end in learning until we die. Learning is limitless, so I simply look forward each day to learning more and enjoying what I have learned so far. As for goals I would have to say it is to improve myself as a person and to perfect all that I have learned.

How do you feel about martial arts becoming more mainstream in today's society?

I am not sure the martial arts have become completely part of the American mainstream quite yet. They have surely grown since my start, and great strides have been made, but I think things are still growing. Of course I am extremely happy to see the growth thus far. It is my sincere wish that this trend will continue and that more Americans will come to know just how wonderful training in the arts is, and how much it has to offer anyone willing to learn. There are now more Masters in this country than in any other point in history. I am most gratified to know that there are more teachers here spreading authentic martial arts.

What are your feelings on "Full Contact Fighting" and how it exploded over the last few years?

Concerning full contact fighting, I think this is just a small part of the learning experience. I encourage all of my students to enter tournaments for a period of time, only to test their own abilities and to deal with the sport aspects of our arts. Competition has certain benefits for a student's growth. Dealing with fear, and also dealing with winning and losing are all part of life. The real opponent we face at this point in training is ourselves. Once the lessons have been learned you must move forward, beyond tournaments.

With the big trend today in Brazilian Jui Jitsu and Cage Fighting, do you think this overshadows the study of Chinese Martial Arts?

As for the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Cage Fighting events, this is part of the tournament scene. They also have their place. Those who know realize these types of events are not the true martial arts either. The fighting aspects are considered to be the lowest benefits of our training, spiritual growth being the highest level. However, fighting skill is the first reason most people study the martial arts.

This is natural, I myself started for these reasons. But in time and with the right teachers to guide you, higher levels are realized. People often forget that Shao-lin monks don't advocate violence. They practice the arts to cultivate and discipline the mind, body and spirit. Once these levels are reached the fighting stops and the loving begins.

The philosophy and wisdom taught within the Shao-lin learning experience are worth their weight in gold.

Most Martial Artist have no understanding of philosophy, wisdom and inner peace. There are al ot of schools that just teach students how to fight and thats all, they aren't taught spirituality. Young martial artists especially don't have first hand experience with this. I feel that there is a missing piece to a puzzle and that young martial artists are not being taught that martial arts are not just about fighting but are a lifestyle with many components. What is your opinion on this topic?

The philosophy and wisdom taught within the Shao-lin learning experience are worth their weight in gold. It is here that we learn nature's deepest secrets. Sadly, there are those who do not teach this aspect of our arts, simply because they have not learned it. Therefore not every school will advocate the traditional approach to learning. There will always be those who just want to fight. This is the nature of man. There will always be the Yin and Yang aspects to all things: those who do and those who don't, those who will and those who won't. There is no changing these forces. It is the people who must change. The path of wisdom comes to those who seek it. Some will and some won't.

dragon

Do you mind if we get a little personal? I am sure that practioners of Chinese Martial Arts and Martial Artist in general are curious on how has Martial Arts has changed your life?

I can answer only one way: It is my life; I have done nothing else since age nine. Without the martial arts my life would be empty, devoid of meaning. I feel all I am now is just a result of my training. It continues to grow in intensity in my life and changes me more with each passing day. There seems to be no end till my end.

You are an accomplished author and your work has been published in martial arts magazines worldwide, and you have one of a few books out as well, including "Chang Style Tai Chi Ch'uan." Do you have plans for writing another book or having bringing your knowledge to the Hollywood?

I have two new books I am working on now: the revised version of my book "Chang Shi Tai Chi Ch'uan" and a second book on Chang Tung Sheng's Hsing Jing Ch'uan. The work is progressing and I hope to have these books available to the public sometime in the coming year.

As for Hollywood, I did have the experience of making a few motion pictures in Taiwan, but I don't think Hollywood directors will be calling me any time soon. I really never moved in that direction nor had much interest in it. No loss to Hollywood. There are many who find this very appealing to the ego and will seek it. As for me, I feel much like the Chinese sage Lao Tzu. When asked if he would like to govern the people of China, he answered, "I would rather just sit here like a turtle and wag my tail in the mud." To me Hollywood fame is the least of my ambitions.

What are your feelings about young martial artists today?

As for the Martial arts of today, there is good and there is bad. But as I have already stated, this is the interplay of Yin and Yang. There will be good teachers and there will be bad teachers. It has always been this way. Nothing really changes that much when it come to human nature. There are great schools and there are poor schools. If upcoming students just do a little research and are careful in their selection of school and teacher, they will have the chance to learn good martial arts. It is the student in the final analysis who will have to find the differences among schools and teachers. I can only suggest that newcomers look closely before joining. There is enough information on the internet today to help people find the best of the best.

Do your students compete in tournaments?

There are greater rewards awaiting those who keep moving forward in their training, awards that no tournament can match.

As I mentioned, I do think it is a part of the total training. However, after my students have done their time I tell them to then move forward. I feel about two to five years of tournaments is enough for anyone who is on the traditional learning path. There are greater rewards awaiting those who keep moving forward in their training, awards that no tournament can match.

And Lastly, Do you have any advice for the martial artist reading this?

I can only say, as my teacher told me, just keep training. If you honestly apply yourself with full vigor you will reach the highest levels of training. Masters are born from students who never quit. I will end with a quote from Master Chang Tung Sheng. This is the best advice I know:

"A Kung Fu man remains strong naturally. Coherence of the different arts and skilled appliance of them is the main point for him while practicing. Full vigor leads to a successful career and constant discipline is the only key."

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