Sifu Kevin Seaman is definitely not a newcomer to martial arts. He has spent many years studying various disciplines and his well-trained mastery of those systems are evident in his school of 7 (that's right) Seven varieties of martial arts.
Where did you begin your training?
Back in 1969-1970, when there weren't many martial art schools around. I started in a Judo dojo with Ken Ota. He is a great martial artist but wasn't well known back then. I found that Judo however was not for me, a tall lanky 16 year old where everyone else was short and stocky and it was collegiate style Judo on top of that. There was a fellow teaching what he called "Chinese Karate" at the dojo as well. It turned out to be "Gung Fu". The system he taught was Choy Li Fut. I liked it because it had a lot of long and short-range combat techniques. Although I was not good at it, I did have one thing going for me and that was persistence. I practiced all the time and saw what I could do with martial arts and realized that above anything else was the persistence. I really believe martial arts helps anyone in self-development. I understood what I had to do and did it.
Where did your interest in cross training with other martial arts come from?
I think it came from my natural curiosity to learn more. I went to unapproachable teachers and I got a "hands off" from a lot of them who saw me as a martial artist from another school and system. There were also those who opened their school for me. I also got into boxing during this period as boxing is another form of martial arts. As a matter of fact, I believe it to be one of the most practical training methods out there. It not only teaches focus but also power and strategy.
Was that when you started meeting the instructors that would ultimately be your mentors?
Yes, I met Daniel Inosanto back in 1976, which is also the time I was training in Wing Chun. One of my instructors made a statement to me which has since stayed with me and that is to "be open minded". This is why I chose to train in multiple arts.
The reason that you study Jun Fan Gung Fu must also be because of the principles involved rather than just techniques.
Right, I found that learning the concepts of martial arts also applied to school matters such as mathematics, History, etc… which makes understanding simpler.
In your teaching at your school, do you incorporate a rigid discipline?
I decided to blend both Eastern and Western disciplines, but the military approach isn't for me. If you respect people, they will respect you. For example, when you teach kids, you become what you want them to learn. You don't teach them what you want them to learn then do something else. They’ll turn right off from you. Kids learn from a role model, if you are what you want them to learn, they'll learn it. I really feel Bruce Lee taught in this way. I would have loved to
have had the opportunity to train under him.
Yes, however, you trained with his top protégé, Dan Inosanto?
Yes, and I continue to train with him. In the early 70's I was living in California and found out through research that Jeet Kune Do was being taught in LA at the time and wanted to study it. Unfortunately this is when Bruce Lee passed away. I would buy martial arts magazines to research more about Dan Inosanto and that's when I met Dan, in 1976. I had the passion to train with Dan Inosanto and finally had the chance in 1984.
Dan Inosanto's school did not teach Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do to anyone except advanced students. It was Kali that must be learned first at his school along with Wing Chun, Boxing etc. Sifu Dan also taught me that people could learn on a much better level if they learn the art through its history and people rather than dissecting the arts through techniques only. In other words, see the picture as a whole, then put a goal to where they want to be.
Is there a lot of competition at your school..between students of different arts.
No, I tend to tell my students not to compare themselves with other students but compare themselves only with themselves, where they were and where they are going. This may sound a bit arrogant, but I don't compare myself with my peers. I compare myself with my teachers. My reasoning is if I compare myself to my peers, then I really am not challenged, however, if I compare myself with my teachers I'll never get lackadaisical or feel like I know it all and I will always have a goal to reach for.
Currently, you have new videos out…
Yes, it is on Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do. Jun Fan is the system for the expression of Bruce Lee's physical system. Jeet Kune Do is a way of looking at martial arts. People get confused and feel Jeet Kune Do was Bruce's personal method but it was his personal way of looking at martial arts and approaching it. That is confusing to most people because we don't usually look at it that way. If you want to define my videos they are on Jun Fan which is the system in which to develop your insight into Jeet Kune Do.
So Jun Fan is a good first step in learning Jeet Kune Do?
Absolutely, I feel it is the best way to be introduced to Jeet Kune Do. There are a lot of arts that can be a good training ground for Jeet Kune Do.
With teaching so many different arts at your school, ranging from Wing Chun to Kickboxing, Boxing, Jun Fan and Jeet Kune Do, do you ever get confused?
(laughing) I think human beings are intelligent enough to know the difference. You don't get on a bicycle and confuse it with a car. It's the same thing, if I am involved in a Wing Chun class…Wing Chun is what I do. The same goes for each and every discipline in the school. We have to give human intelligence some credit for distinguishing the differences!
Thanks Sifu Seaman for taking time out to speak with us. I know you've had your master instructors training your students every year in the summer during a camp for the last few years including Sifu Inosanto, that must have been exciting for your students.
They are wonderful teachers and I would like to publicly thank them Sifu Dan Inosanto, Sifu Francis Fong, Chi Sirisute for their willingness to teach and allowing me to digest all I can from their arsenal of philosophies and techniqes.
East West Martial Arts is located in Cortland New York