Interview with James Lew

(Chang Sing / Martial Arts Coordinator)

Where are you from originally and what city do you live in now?

I am a native Californian and Los Angeles is home sweet home for me. In my work I have been blessed to visit many places all over the world. Some of the great places I’ve got to play in are New Orleans, New York, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Taipei, London, Manila, Cape Town, Honolulu, Bahamas and many more. I have found that coming home to Los Angeles is always my favorite city.

When did you first get into martial arts?

My lifelong adventure into the martial arts began when I was 14 years old. It was part of a natural discovery and curiosity that I decided to “try” training in the martial arts. The school was a combination of Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do.

What do you like most about martial arts?

The martial arts have been such an important part of my life that I cannot imagine how it would be without it. It is just as much a part of me as my two arms or even more important, my heart. The martial arts has been like a trusted friend and has always been there to support me, encourage me and always push me to higher levels in life.

What kinds of martial arts have you mastered?

I have to admit when starting my martial arts training I thought becoming a master was definitely the cool thing to achieve. After years of training my philosophy and goals changed…in fact, it is the realization that there is truth to “the more you know the more you realize you don’t know”. And the quest for more knowledge makes me feel humbled that we will always be a student in both martial arts and life. It continues to be a great journey learning different styles of martial arts.

The second style that I studied was in the “Karate Club” in high school. The teacher was a Green Beret Combat instructor who integrated his combat training with Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu. He developed a unique combination of “intense no nonsense take your opponent out” techniques with traditional graceful circular power. His style only trained in combat attacks…the philosophy of using offense as the best defense was rule number one. The stand up fighting techniques were quick and devastating. But then imagine a high school kid learning the art of ground fighting complete with chokes and arms/legs locks to submission or if necessary, breaks! This increased my thirst for more knowledge and it became my obsession.

I found another style, a rare Chinese art called Bak Mei Pai, which translated means “White Eyebrow Style”. A Kung Fu fighting discipline that legend has it that the founder had white eyebrows. What makes this style one of my favorites is that the hand techniques are similar to Wing Chun and that it is effectively coupled with the high kicks characteristic of northern style kung fu.

During this time I also studied the traditional Five Animal Kung Fu Style. Also known as Shaolin Temple Kung Fu, this style is the foundation of the Chinese martial arts. Being trained in the movements of the Tiger, Crane, Leopard, Snake and Dragon provides a strong core for all other disciplines. It was during this phase of my martial arts journey that my focus turned to perfecting my skills in forms. I partnered with my two best friends and opened a kwoon, a school called “Sil Lum Kung Fu”. As part of the business plan to get our name out there to the public we decided to enter tournaments. The approach was to dominate the forms competition to get new students. I was fortunate to have found a natural talent as a forms competitor and consistently won first place at every tournament.

Some of the other styles that I have been able to discover are Escrima, Wu Shu, Thai Kickboxing, Chen Tai Chi and I am looking forward to many more.

In addition, I must give credit and importance to my belief and practice of “cross training”. Not only is cross training beneficial but also essential to achieving the highest personal level in martial arts. My athletic background includes track and field, gymnastics and ballet. Keep an open mind to all types of disciplines and you will be rewarded with huge benefits.