MARTIAL ARTS/Special Feature-Interview
IX . II . XXI
ENTER SENPEI STEIN'S WAY!
By Ravi V. Chhabra
"Men are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth." - Chuck Norris
"Be Water, My Friend.
Empty your mind.
Be formless, shapeless, like water.
You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.
You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.
You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Now water can flow or it can crash.
Be water, my friend." - Bruce Lee
Martial Arts has always been a part of humans' psyche and has evolved in myriad forms taking influences from fighting techniques of insects, birds and animals to 'evolve' as a combat machine. The fnbworld's managing editor, a Judo, Karate and Jeet Kune Do enthusiast-student takes a peek into the mind of one of Karate's finest exponents Senpei Davy Stein, a 2dan Black Belt/Karate-Shotokan.
Ravi V. Chhabra: What initiated you into martial arts? Early memories.
Davy Stein: Growing up in Chicago (Illinois) there was no martial arts information, just an occasional exposure to a movie or television show. In about 1960, a Sensei came to an adult school that I was attending and gave a demonstration, I was so impressed, especially because I had been fighting in the streets since I was a 4-years-old.
It took 7 more years for everything in my life to line up and I walked into a JKA dojo and met Sensei Sugiyama and he and his class impressed me once again. Their classes were in the evening and I was a bartender and worked in the evenings, so he made day class with a private instructor available. This was Sempai Ted Hedlund, who is a very good instructor and he and I have stayed in touch all these years even though he has been living and teaching in Sweden and is a high-ranking Sensei and was chief referee for JKA for many years. I often thank him for my introduction and love of training in the Shotokan karate.
Ravi: Were you ever tempted to go to the Shaolin for Kung Fu?
Davy Stein: No never.
Ravi: Most of us get into martial arts, as I did to take on a persistent bully. A note about your first tryst with a thug and/or bashing up someone in a street fight?
Davy Stein: My first and not last was as 4-years-old boy in Chicago in an anti-Semitic neighbourhood with 3 to 5 children my age group, who brought the teaching of their parents with their prejudices from Europe with and passed them on to their children. I fought with them every day in the streets until I met a black boy my age and called to his black friends and together we chased my tormentors back to their homes and I played with my new friends. When my mother asked me why I played with the black children, I said because they are good to me. All the rest of my life I have only been with nice people.
Ravi: A pupil of the very fine Shotokan style myself, as it used to be the most popular one during my teenage, I am tempted to ask what is the 'subtle' difference between various styles of karate?
Davy Stein: I don’t know much about other styles.
Ravi: During a close combat, especially for women, what would be better - judo or karate? In my considered opinion, judo may have an edge as it entails throws, locks and chokes...
Davy Stein: I think every person is unique and I don’t want to make a wide speculation on what is best for millions of women I don’t know. I think it’s the same for men and women, research and experiment. Find your own path.
Ravi: As I see it, an advantage about judo is that one is taught in the first class itself how to take a fall on the floor (not withstanding that judo is practiced on a mat). Your views?
Davy Stein: There is no doubt that judo is primarily a defensive sport/martial art and, of course, its strong points are close body contact that includes locks and throws.
Ravi: How much do the reputed dojo/Sensei charge a pupil to join the karate classes in the US and was it lucrative in the pre-Corona times for the Sensei and for the karate school?
Davy Stein: There is no set fee. It varies from different parts of the country, East Coast is higher than Las Vegas, as may be, the cost of living is higher. Everything was better before the Covid.
Ravi: In your wisdom as an expert, what is Jeet Kune Do (JKD) and does it have an edge over the other fighting forms/techniques?
Davy Stein: No experience, no opinion.
Ravi: Could you name a few of the competitions you have taken part/won?
Davy Stein: I have never competed. If I want a trophy I’ll buy one.
Ravi: Your favourite martial art form, reasons? The importance of the kiai?
Davy Stein: The kiai or the sound effect is a technique in martial arts that literally comes out of the gut. It not only gives the fighter the extra punch, but is meant to shock the opponent. A good kiai is a sign of a healthy fighting machine. I think we both will agree on the modified kiai by Bruce Lee.
Ravi: Hobbies and how do you spend time with the family?
Davy Stein: I spend as much time as I can with my family and friends who I love with all my heart. I’m with my 4th wife, whom I have known since 1954. We had lost track of each other for 42 years and have been together for 10 years now. I stayed in touch with all my wives and many girlfriends and with also my dear friends, some of them for over 60 years. I visit them all over the United States.
Ravi: Where all have you travelled?
Davy Stein: Just once - 6 years ago, we went to Europe for the first and only time - London, Paris, Rome and Venice, the last place we visited was Trieste, Italy and went there to train with Maestro Paolo Bofalio, an amazing instructor and a wonderful man and all his students were very gracious. The citizens were the nicest in all the cities we visited. Paolo Bofalio is the founder of the Makotokai style which is very large in Europe and Japan.
Ravi: In case of an imminent and inevitability of a street fight, what defence or attack would you recommend?
Davy Stein: You can get injured in a tournament and I fight completely different when I’m in the dojo with friends and when I’m in the real world against someone who is trying to hurt or kill me.
Ravi: What is your present training routine and do you still teach karate?
Davy Stein: Due to the COVID, I only train Monday morning with 4 or 5 Sensei(s) and my son who is also a Sempai but he doesn't teach.
Ravi: Could you name few of your most liked martial arts movies?
Davy Stein: Too many movies to mention, but I must say that when I first see a new martial arts movie, I think it’s amazing, then it quickly becomes boring as the next batch comes from the ones who learned from the previous ones.
Ravi: How much time do you devote to katas...your favourites and the benefits?
Davy Stein: Classes ate typically followed by sparring then katas and finishing with katas. All training is repetitive and muscle memory, so that when you are in confrontation you react according to your training. You fight the way you train.
Ravi: Senpei Stein, the list of questions can go on, but due to the dynamics of internet reading/surfing, we are constrained to end it here. Truly grateful for your masterly views.