ACT Up Close
What: ACT — Action, Cinema, Training Principles: Reuben Langdon, Bruce Khan, Byong Yu Where: CBS Studios in Studio City, Calif.., and Valencia, Calif. Cost: $30 per class. Or you can attend up to three classes per week and pay only $200 per month. Note: There is an initiation fee of $150. Contact: (818) 324-6294 He is a black belt in hapkido and a fifth dan in Korean kyeoktooki. He is a certified sports massage therapist and an alumnus of die prestigious Seoul Action School.
Khan worked as a fight choreographer on a number of projects in Korea before joining Sammo Hung’s Hung Gar Ban as a performer and choreographer in Jackie Chan’s latest Hong Kong action film Highbinders. Bruce helped designed a number of key action sequences performed by
Chan himself. Currendy based in Los Angeles, Khan is pursuing an acting and stunt career.
The third party and final member of the ACT tri umvirate is world- renowned grand master Byong Yu.
Master Yu’s resume includes six world championship belts and 28 gold medals, along with 36 highest com mendations and three presidential
Byong Yu citations.
Grandmaster Yu has been nominated to the Martial Arts Hall of Fame and has also received the Golden Masters Instructors Award. For nearly 30 years, master Yu has been involved with almost every aspect of bringing martial arts to the mainstream. Master Yu has trained and worked with many actors for television and film and feels a program like ACT will only increase the standard for martial arts action on film. His belief in ACT is so strong, he has given this program a home at his prestigious Martial Arts Center at the CBS Studio Center in Studio City, Calif.
In this exclusive interview, Langdon, Khan and Yu describe ACT and its many benefits.
INSIDE KUNG-FU: What is ACT? ACT: Action, Cinema, Training. We teach the fighting techniques that are used within action cinema. When one says action cinema here in America, we think of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, etc. We teach the essentials for action cinema that are mostly popular in Asia. In Asia, when one says action cinema, the first image that comes to peoples minds is martial arts-related fighting films that feature stars like Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Jet Li. When individuals come to our school for training, we don’t just teach them traditional film fighting; we take it up a notch and incorporate various fighting arts and techniques from Asia that help create a more dynamic fight scene. You can say we teach the Hong Kong or Asian style of body mechanics and their reactive movements for cinema fighting.
IKF: When was ACT established? ACT: We have been physically training students since November, 2002, but we have been practicing die art of ACT with fellow actors and stuntmen in die business for years.
IKF: What kind of clientele do you cater to? ACT: Actors, martial artists, stunt-men, stunt coordinators/choreographers and action directors are some of the clients we train. We also get a lot of executives from the film and television industry that have a curiosity because of the newfound popularity of Hong Kong action cinema or action cinema in general. We teach a whole range of individuals, from the average person that comes in off the street to film and entertainment industry professionals. All these individuals come to explore their physicality and want to learn acting and martial arts while having a good work- out at the same time.
IKF: How are classes structured? ACT: We have beginner, intermediate and advanced classes. Each level is structured differendy because of the obvious advancement of the student. In the beginners class we teach basics like balance and movement. We also teach the student how to act within the movements of fighting. They have to be able to sell the punch or kick on screen as well as be able to react to being punched or kicked. In the intermediate classes we take it up a notch. In these classes the students should know the fundamentals and will be able to keep things with a flowing rhythm, so to speak. Their bodies are awake in these classes and can react to the situation at hand. In the advanced classes we teach what is needed to make it in the business as a professional action actor, stuntman, fight coordinator or action director. We do a lot of behind-the- camera training. At this level the students are sufficient enough to sell themselves in front of the camera, but they must also have the knowledge in what sells behind the camera as well. The students will film one another and work on angles and editing techniques that help to create a more dynamic action scene. For this, we must give the students some knowledge in how the camera works and how it makes them look good on screen. We teach our students to wear many hats.
They must know choreography, fighting, stuntwork, camera work, etc. Through all this, the student will learn their strengths and weaknesses.
Some might be better actors, while others better choreographers. They must find themselves through the process.
IKF: Would you say that you teach the art of Hollywood Do? ACT: If Hollywood Do is the incorporation of martial arts into traditional film fighting sequences, then yes, that is exactly what we teach.
We will say though, we are trying to bring that art allied Hong Kong Do into the homes of America. We teach the Hong Kong way of martial art screenfighting. By incorporating additional elements with Hong Kong/Asian influence, such as choreog-raphy, camera and editing techniques, we will help you make it in the industry.
IKF: Do you have to have an established background in the martial arts to join ACT? ACT: Not at all. Of course it would help you, because of the knowledge of body mechanics one gets through the martial arts. This is why we have a beginner’s class all the way up to advanced. We will teach you the basics so you are comfortable and ready for the next stages. You progress at your convenience; we are only there to help with the process.
IKF: What’s the main objective for the clients that come to train here at ACT? ACT: It varies from student to student, but the most common thread with the individuals that come to train here is that they all seem to have an attraction to acting. It can be die actor who wants to improve his physical skills and be able to perform within more physically demanding roles or a martial artist who wishes to incorporate acting and tune himself for the camera with his already acquired martial art skills. We accommodate everyone.
IKF: Do you try to bring a martial arts philosophy to ACT even diough it’s not what one would term an established martial art?
ACT: Yes, definitely! We here at ACT have martial arts backgrounds. Though ACT is not a martial arts school, we hold true to the philosophies and disciplines one gets in formal martial arts training. Even if what we do in front of the camera is not 100 percent real fighting, we are in fact still performing martial arts and must prove to the audience we are doing just that. To stay true to the character or role of a martial arts action star, one must have the heart and soul of a martial artist. Without the martial art philosophies and disciplines, we cannot be true to the character, so this is why we hold true to the martial arts philosophy within our classes.
IKF: Your classes can be very intense, but yet there’s also a sense of freedom of will. Why do you feel it’s necessary to have such intense workouts in a casual surrounding?
ACT: We have to make these classes fun or it becomes an act of hard labor. It’s important that the students here have dieir own individuality.
That means, we let them express themselves the way they want to, as long as respect and a complete effort is made in the process we teach here.
The training is intense, because we are here to learn, but the itude here is casual because we respect everyone’s individuality.
IKF: Why do you think many established actors and actresses are beginning to learn Hollywood Do? ACT: If an actor does not sell himself to the audience on screen, regardless what he or she is doing, then the audience will not believe the actor in his role and respect will be lost. There is a new trend with actors wanting to know how to do things themselves without the help of a stuntman, fight double, etc. A lot of these actors feel obligated to the audience to give them the most-honest performance they can and that means doing the hard stuff by themselves. This does not mean the actors should jeopardize their own safety by doing something risky. When we meet our limitations, that’s when the right professionals for the job take over.
IKF: How has being members of the Sammo Hung Stunt Team affected the way you teach your classes?
ACT: Everything we do here, everyday, one way or another, leads back to Sammo and what we have learned from him or people like him. He is our sifu, so to speak, and we owe it all to him.