During a recent trip to LA, after filming my third appearance on Fight Science for National Geographic, I found myself an unexpected guest at the USA Wushu Training Centre.
The academy was founded and is run by Eric Chen. Eric is a wealth of knowledge of martial and film techniques and styles, as well as being the best Wushu instructor I’ve ever met.
Eric is also trainer to the stars. He has worked with many of Hollywood’s A-listers, including Jet Li and Jackie Chan. It would have been enough of an honour to just train at the centre, yet I found myself not only teaching lessons there, but actually staying at the centre itself for the remainder of my stay in LA.
This was not organised in advance. Accommodation was only provided for the duration of the shoot, which only lasted half of my trip, leaving me time but no place to stay. In my typical fashion, I trusted things would work out perfectly.
I must admit, aside from filming Fight Science, my other motivation for this trip was the chance to spend time with my brother in arms, Joe Perez, who will always be extremely close to me (not too close depending on what I have eaten).
I had last played with Joe in waist-deep snow in Norway while filming a Nazi Zombie movie together (seriously). It was Joe who introduced me to Eric.
It turned out that Eric was organising my weapons for Fight Science, and we hit it off (not literally, for once).
It was an absolute pleasure to feel instant camaraderie with someone who felt the same old-school martial spirit that I try to live my life by.
As if Eric’s friendship was not enough, then he offers me the apartment at his training centre! This was above and beyond the call of duty. I silently gave gratitude to the universe for coming through for me, yet again.
I offered to teach a series of seminars to Eric’s students during the remainder of my stay as a way of physically expressing my heartfelt appreciation.
This was certainly no chore, as Eric’s students were not only extremely well trained and talented, but also retained an abundance of respect that I have not seen at other schools where I have taught.
Staying and teaching at the National Wushu Training Centre was a great experience on many levels.
I realized that when I was a child I had dreams of having a martial art studio that felt like this. The centre looked like one should look. The perfect blend of old and new, with heavy hints of Asia and all the functionality of a high tech film studio.
I was like a kid in a candy shop. I worked off my jetlag by spending a couple of hours having midnight training sessions in the open expanse of the centre every day. I had fallen through a rabbit hole into martial wonderland.
After I returned (reluctantly) to New Zealand, I was honoured by a video one of the students had created, combining footage of some of my classes at the centre.
Looking back on my trip, I was reminded of two valuable lessons.
One is do not underestimate the importance of your surroundings for a healthy and creative mindset.
I am positive the centre itself helped refuel my motivation to pass on my learnings. I returned not only invigorated to continue my teachings, but also to recreate a similar environment here in New Zealand.
The second lesson I was reminded of was to trust in the universe and realise that it starts within.