Once you have met Andrew Desa on the mats, you don’t tend to forget him and that’s where he usually prefers to do his talking. He’s on a hot winning streak at the moment and admits to me that he must be one of the few people not looking forward to the Christmas break, when we speak in late December. He’s no one trick pony however and boasts a rich martial history and believes it is important to have a good foundation in the traditional arts. He used Wado Ryu Karate as a boy to mould his fast, clean techniques and to develop discipline and respect to fellow students and peers. He studied Taekwondo for the awesome kicking and devastating speed and the Kung-Fu for the hand speed and grace. Freestyle is where he is today, combining all of those traditional arts into his own style – centurion freestyle.
When it comes to the time needed to master each art, Andy doesn’t stick to a strict time scale but does believe that if you are going to try different styles you have to reach at least your Black belt to be able to fully appreciate that particular Martial Art. With a wide range of arts in his background, he insists he doesn’t have a particular favourite, rather he has elements about each style that he really enjoys. ‘I have loads of favourite things about each style. The karate’s snappy power, TKD’s kicks and patterns and obviously the Freestyle which allows me to express all these things that I have bought together.’ Stylistic differences are often a cause of arguments and factionalism but Andy remains very pragmatic about what he has learnt, believing that a kick is a kick and a punch is a punch, adding that there are only so many ways you can use them. So as far as martial arts are concerned, he doesn’t think that the styles are worlds apart -but is grateful that every culture is different because it allows individuals to express their character through their art. Talking of expressing a person’s character, I quiz Andy on a real test of his character, a one hundred man kumite, that he endured. ‘It was a while ago now. The Kumite was organised by the infamous Deadly Dicker who runs WUMA. He’s quiet a man! I have a lot of respect for
Dicker as he helped me see through the politics of martial arts and that’s what his Kumite was about. To bring all sorts of talent into one place to fight a hundred men to truly authenticate their black belts. It was a hell of a day and took a lot out of me!’
Andy teaches the RAF unarmed combat display team and he believes that every martial art has some sort of self defence, noting that this is a major reason why many students start to train. However, he recognises the need to differentiate between the various aspects of the martial arts when it comes down to the street. Whilst stating that the martial arts are a great base for self-defence training he adds that ‘No one would take you seriously if you stood in the street in a long stance doing basic punches. Training has to be specific either to the street or to competitions. You have to be realistic, and that’s one thing the display team taught me. There are no rules or referees on the street or in a hostile situation.’
When it comes to the current competition scene, Andy expreses an admiration for Corey Cain from the SWAT team. They’ve recently become friends and Corey inspires Andy because like Andy himself he’s not 19yrs old any- more but he still does the business -’and why not?’ Andy’s wife Lindsie also helps to keep this champion’s feet on the ground and like most fighter’s wives has to put up with a lot! Andy also acknowledges the influence of his Team Sponsor, Dee kemp, who is like a big brother to him and if Andy ever needs an honest answer, he asks Dee because he tells him it like it is, whether it causes offence or not! After many years in the martial arts, Andy has made many friends and experienced many memorable moments including one pretty bizarre incident-
Tve got a good mate in martial Arts, Pete Cook and it seems that when we get together anything can happen! He’s the only bloke ever to knock me out. We were sparring in a class and the instructor said stop so I did only enced themselves?’
He has worked as a bodyguard in the Middle East but is not prepared to add to the mystique of the trade, simply stating that it was not a glamorous lifestyle. He is more forthcoming about his boxing qualification and has a boxing coach that teaches for him at the academy, a man called Ju Brooks who, Andy explains, is ‘old school’ and takes no prisoners. When it comes to the question of boxing inter-acting with the martial arts arts, Andy sees the problem as more a case of boxers having a hard time accepting martial arts than the other way round but adds that, thankfully, that is all changing now.
As for the future, it is freestyle al the way because Andy loves the versatility and the way it accommodates the individual in expressing all the things they have learnt. He sees exciting times ahead, as he has just joined forces with Ty-Ga Karate where Soke Wasnewski has made him his
Freestyle Representative. Andy tells me that he has the utmost respect for Soke, after knowing him only for a short time and as a result they have 38 February 06 Taekwondo and Korean Martial Arts Pete didn’t hear him and went on to knock me clean out – what a great guy, salt of the earth!’ Probably his greatest memory, however, is a recent one from this year when he finally achieved a life long dream and opened his own academy. He admits that it’s an amazing feeling to be passing on his knowledge and love of the martial arts onto his students, and he still has to pinch himself to check its real! When the question of the worth of a black belt comes up, it hits a nerve with a man who has gone on to gain numerous ancillary qualifications.
The problem is these days you can get a Black Belt free in a box of cornflakes. We’ve got to be careful or else this problem will get out of hand and damage martial arts. You need years of moulding and shaping to become an instructor. You need to feel the highs and lows before you can fully guide your students. Other qualifications help me teach safely and my fitness training allows me to be sport specific but in my opinion there is no substitute for time served. How can some one give advice on something they have not experi-
International trips planned and seminars etc, so it’s a great time for Andy at the moment. ‘The academy is growing all the time so Team centurion will be competing all over next year – keep your eye out for us. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all our competitors for their amazing success this year – onwards and upwards and to thanks our team sponsors for their hard work and loyalty – keep it up guys!’