One of the things I (Anthony Crosby) love most about running Anthony Around Town has to be the fact that I get to learn so much about topics I would have no experience with, otherwise. Shockingly, I’ve never competed in a Miss Nevada competition. I’ve never written a hit Country music song. I’ve never opened a fitness gym etc. But I have the privilege of being educated on a lot of different things the world has to offer by talking with gifted and passionate individuals in our community. And this week was no exception as I sat down with someone who has spent eighteen years of his life practicing the art of Kung Fu. Now, I’ve seen a few movies about a panda who has some skills in the area, but that’s probably as far as my expertise in that field goes. So, it was an honor to sit down and chat with a real seasoned pro!
Did you take a second to look at the picture above? That wasn’t captured at some studio somewhere in town. No, that was taken in the home of today’s guest, Ken Grange. Typically, my interviewees and I will meet up for coffee somewhere, but this was the first time I’ve talked to someone in a dedicated martial arts space! And I would say, my talk with Ken was just as fascinating as our meeting location. “I’m married with six kids (three oldest are boys, and three youngest are girls). I’ve lived in Elko for about nine years now. I manage a business here in town (Consolidated Electrical Distributors), and we sell electrical parts; I enjoy it. And probably the unique part about me is that I study Wing Chun Kung Fu. I’ve been doing this one art for eighteen years. My first Si Fu was a man named Ron Heimburger; he had brain cancer, and he’s been gone for eight years or so now. So, now my Si Fu is one of my older Kung Fu brothers out of Utah; I try to get over there about once a month to practice. And, if everything pans out right, we go out to Hong Kong about once a year to train for a couple of weeks.” You seem very dedicated to your practice, Ken! What got you started down the Kung Fu road? “I was going to school in St. Geroge Utah and my roommates, and I always took a PE class every semester, something fun to do to blow off some of the other classes. And I saw Kung Fu in the course book; I went to one class, and the instructor showed us how to inch punch somebody. And I was sold; you see somebody gets inch punched across the room, you know it’s pretty cool. I wanted to learn that! I went and signed up, met my Si Fu, and have been doing it ever since.”
Interesting stuff, Ken. Now, for those of us out there like myself who get a majority of their martial arts demonstrated to them by the Power Rangers, what exactly is the art of Wing Chun? What makes it different from any form if fighting? “Wing Chun is a Southern Chinese boxing art. It’s a lot of handwork with trapping and control. The kicking in Wing Chun is all low leveled kicking. It’s all knees and ankles, aimed low. And normally we would try to redirect punches, instead of stopping or blocking punches. Theoretically, this would help a smaller person as one of the first Si Fu’s of Wing Chun, Ip Man, was not a big man at about 5’2 and maybe one hundred pounds.”
I think I’m following along with you, Ken. But is Elko? What’s the martial arts scene look like in our area? “It’s about the same as it is universally right now. I’ve been around martial arts long enough to notice some trends. In the 90’s, everybody was doing Taekwondo. Now, that’s shifted into the MMA stuff; it’s a lot of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling. Here in Elko, the market for martial arts is just going to be smaller compared to other places. I even taught for a few years out of my dad’s garage, after I moved up here from Las Vegas, and that was interesting. And really, it’s interesting with Wing Chun because as famous and popular as it is in places like Hong Kong, it hasn’t landed anywhere in the states, that I’ve noticed. In Elko, there isn’t anybody, besides me, and I’m teaching it. I guess I’ve got a corner on the market, but sometimes it’s kind of lonely. It’s lonely especially when I compare it to Hong Kong where you can walk down the streets and see Wing Chun signs like fast-food places. But I’ve always enjoyed having students because it gives me, even more, the reason to work and not get rusty.”
Well maybe, after reading this feature, someone will be motivated to sign up, and the number of people practicing Wing Chun in our city won’t be so scarce! But maybe, right now, that specific person is still on the fence about getting started. How would you encourage him/her into taking that first step in the world of Kung Fu, Ken? “So, the hardest thing is getting over the fear of the unknown. Like starting on the first day of a new job or the first day of school. It’s nerve-racking, but if you can get over that initial hesitation, I’ve never met a martial artist who wasn’t happy to have someone walk through the door. It seems intimidating from the outside, but from the inside, we’re glad to have you come in! And the way I handle people, it’s all about just coming in and checking it out. And I’m willing to talk about it first; it’s not the deep end of the pool. No, we all had day one. And not everybody has to learn from me. If something I do looks too awkward, ok cool; I can point you to somebody who does something different. It’s all about whatever is comfortable. And I’ve learned a lot from Kung Fun beside just fighting. I grew in areas like ancestral rules, philosophy, and leadership. I think it has helped me a lot be better in different areas. It was probably a year or two after my first year of doing Kung Fu when I got my first management position; I just had a lot more confidence, and it helped me be a better leader. Whatever interest you have, it should benefit everything else you do.”
What a good truth to end on, Ken! Thank you for your time and for sharing your passion with us. You may just have inspired the future Bruce Lee, today! If you would like to get ahold of Ken to talk more about Wing Chun, you can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Nevadawingchun/
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See you around the Dojo sometime, Elko!