Interview to Master Riccardo Di Vito

Good morning to our audience!

I am Pasquale Guido Mazzotta, one of Suhu Riccardo Di Vito’s students. A lot of time ago, I had the idea of an interview to my Master. That time I said him: “SuHu, you make so many interview to so many people, in Italy and abroad, and now the moment would come for somebody to make an interview to you. What about me making this interview to you?“. This happened almost 3 years ago. Now time has come to realize that idea. Here following the interview to SuHu Riccardo Di Vito. Enjoy it!

When did you start the Wing Chun way? Why did you start studying it with so many other systems available in the Martial Arts world, specially the Chinese one?

Dear Guido, you are giving me the possibility to summarize my experience in the Wing Chun path, so many thanks for that. In 1998 I started this way following the hint of one of my friends, who is today one of my best students, Damaso Colasante. I would say that without his hint, today I wouldn’t be who I am, so it’s really appropriate and opportune to thank him. No other reason to take this way, but going to the gym/kwoon where Sifu Michael Fries taught: in a few seconds he gave me so many punches…and I fell in love! Apart from jokes, I noticed something really disruptive in that system, although it has taken me ten years to understand what it really was about.

My biography, very detailed, is public, because for me it’s very important to be transparent. I don’t have “dummy” Sifu or “hidden” Sifu, or dust under the carpet and bones in the cupboard. You can easily find everything on www.riccardodivito.it/biografia/. What I can say here, making some addition to what I wrote there, is that without initiative and resourcefulness, I really wouldn’t have got where I am now. I am honest, no false modesty: I believe that I wouldn’t have improved so much without questioning everything and using the ‘doubt’ as my personal lighthouse. By a restless experimentation and the hard work, I attained a good level, therefore when I met my Master Lin Xiang Fuk, I felt immediately very good and comfortable. Different feeling from others coming from GM Yip Man’ system, with so many differences in postural work and so on. For me, it has represented the end of the research, kind of natural conclusion, and it was not another way, because I had taken already much distance from what I had been taught so far.

Did you have any martial experiences or any other educational experiences before your entry into the Wing Chun world? In general, do you think it could be useful to have other experiences before moving to a well-defined martial system such as Wing Chun, or, more specifically, the Hek Ki Boen Eng Chun?

I attended for some time, not more than two years, a boxing course in the district Centocelle in Rome , where I lived , but I’ve never experimented with the ring, cage or octagon . My martial education is totally Wing Chun based, although I have had several experiences of struggle at the amateur level . These experiences , however, have helped me to unblock a certain rigidity of the systems taught until a few years ago in Italy. I am fully convinced that if you want to capture the potential of the Hek Ki Boen Eng Chun Pai, you have to practice only this, right from the start . Contrary to the claims of other Masters , I do not think that HKB is just the tip of a sword, but rather a complete sword , which doesnt require any other inputs . The only thing that you could combine with this system, for personal culture, or for use in sport contexts, is the study of ground-fighting , which is not there. Other experiences , to conclude this speech, you can and in some ways you have to do , to see if the path taken is the correct one, right in itself , but once you’ve chosen, these other experiences can only be opportunities to test your own path, not to pick up a piece here and one there just to continue your growth when you do not have a guide.

Have you ever participated in competitions ? Do you think it would be be useful to the personal development of Wing Chun practitioners or to the development of Wing Chun in general ?

I have never participated in sports competitions, nor will I ever. It has never been among my interests. Probably it might be useful for some practitioners to be aware of their level of technical skill, but, in general, the path of ‘sportivisation’ has never convinced me. The martial art is the study of overcoming one’s own limits, but when you enter the octagon your perspective changes completely. There, enter to win, to get a title, to get the money or the fame, then it is a total change of direction with respect to what we decided to do when we entered into the flow of this Tradition. This doesn’t mean that my students will never fight in these contexts. If the opportunity arises, we will discuss it into the family. If we will decide to open the door to the sport competition, we will prepare the fighters just like everyone else ‘coach’ of combat sports. If you look closely videos of sports competitions, however, there is a considerable flattening of the technical knowledge, because in that area the functionality has already been maximized through a continuous and constant experimentation. I would never limit or change our work to fit in that context, but if any student wants to try, I have no problem to help and support him.

What is the biggest obstacle in your opinion in learning martial arts for those who approach them? What were, in particular, the difficulties that you have encountered?

I do not know about the other, but in general I see that many approach to our discipline after seeing the movies. So I think the big obstacle is to forget what you see and allow yourself to feel. In principle, students today do not do anything other than play a technique, a form or a sequence, but only a few are able to perceive and feel what happens in depth. It is also probably a ‘guilt’ of the society that we have built and it is not specifically the fault of this or that individual, but it is clear that this extreme rationalism is nothing more than a block whenever you practice martial art so deep inside. In my journey before HKB, I had big problems in remembering sequences and I lacked a coherent thread which could allow me to be free from certain formalisms. Since I met my Master Lin Xiang Fuk, however, I found difficult to raise my level of use of the True Intent, part of which I am currently investigating and working on. Unfortunately, there are things that come immediately, others require more time, but it’s the beautiful part of our research. If it were that easy, we would not do anything to practice it.

Do you think that a knowledge of eastern culture is necessary, or at least has a role in learning a martial art created and developed in a culture different from our one? And do you believe that the interest of a Westerner to Eastern martial art, particularly an art as complex as what you teach, and that requires great control of his body, can be justified mostly by the desire to own a different lifestyle? Or are other kinds of stimuli necessary for learning? For example, the spirit of competition?

Il saluto dell'Hek Ki Boen Eng Chun Pai

Surely it is important to know the Oriental culture for a student, because you can more easily understand the many nuances of this wonderful art. For a teacher is very important, if not critical. I don’t like at all, for example, those who reject this culture and who have ‘westernized’ the Wing Chun, focusing only on external movements and coarse gestures, as well as those who say they ‘hate the Chinese,’ and then they live thanks to this fantastic culture. Regarding the second question, I can tell you that many students are not satisfied with the learning of mere technique. This makes me really happy, because if there is benefit in changing their way of life (to the best), I am proud to be able to help the transformation. This does not make me a spiritual guide, but just a SuHu. I will accept charges and honors, in all aspects and with any results. I always try to help at any time for any problem, just because of my role, which is not only the teacher of the gym X or Y.

The competition is a good thing, it is useful, unless it becomes the goal and takes the place of the ‘whole’. To train hard to achieve your goal is the key, but if this becomes a fight for a title, for a belt, for victory against the other and not against yourself, then I don’t like it, and this belongs to a field that is not our field.

The Hek Ki Boen Eng Chun Pai is spreading slowly in the peninsula. There are many enthusiastic people of this Wing Chun system coming from Fukien. However, there are also many people who criticize it. What would you say to these people, with regard to resistance to accept something that is relatively new to western audience, and especially the Italian one?

I have read several negative comments, often motivated by personal grudges rather than objective assessments. What can I say? I also thought most of the things that have been said and written on the internet, but then I changed my mind knowing my Master and practicing seriously Hek Ki Boen Eng Chun. I cannot help, I can just invite everybody to make this experience without any prejudices. And if people do not like it, as it can also be (otherwise it would become HKB Italian Republic … hahaha ! ), we will keep a mutual respect. We don’t want to convince anyone, but clearly if people criticize because of the roles and positions, without hearing or seeing, this is just a waste of time: we don’t have time to waste, so we ignore them…

Which are the goals you want to achieve personally walking your path into HKB Eng Chun? Which are your wishes for your School? Which are the personal responsibilities that you feel like burdens on your shoulders?

The goal? Do not have one! I do not know where I can get. It would be enough for me to worthily represent my Master and spread the system in a serious way. For my school I wish it could give jobs to many young talented Candidate Instructors, before of opening other schools in Rome and elsewhere, where to teach HKB Eng Chun to everybody, giving the opportunity to be really part of an unbroken tradition. The role of National Coordinator, shared with my Kung Fu Brother Gianluca Giusto, weighs a lot, since I have to devote so much time to the education of other teachers and to the Organization. But it is a role that honors me, and that I still have to carry on, so I do it, head down and push.

What is your general point of view on the Wing Chun world today?

I think that Wing Chun is almost extinct. We have hundreds of courses, teachers, instructors and variations, but most of the times we are faced with personal interpretations, which differ in form and content from the teachings of their Masters. This means that it is becoming a personal style, no longer a functional system. The Wing Chun, unfortunately or fortunately, did not codifications ritualized as in other styles. Precisely for this reason I consider it a system that is an engine. If you make it a style, if you focus only on the form, if you don’t give enough space to the substance, you’ll destroy it. So this is what I see: many people have ritualized, disfigured, made schematic, and weakened the Wing Chun.

Your journey into the Wing Chun world hasn’t been so linear. You have wandered, for various reasons of which I will not ask you here, through various organizations. You’ve known several Masters. What particularly attracted you when you met SuKong Lin? What differentiated him from others up to the point of asking him the Bai Si ( * the ceremony with which the student wishes to be admitted into the inner circle of the direct disciples ) and finally put away the rest to archives?

I have no secrets nor hidden skeletons, as I always say , so I’m always ready to tell you what led me to change course . Regarding Suhu , from the first moment I was attracted from the fact that he was friendly and not at all ‘far away’ . He has never wanted to feel, neither has introuced himself as Grand Master, but always as a practitioner. Aside from that, he is the first one that went straight to the point, not playing with words: in order to learn HKB you have to make real and very big effort (in italian, it sounds more like “sweat blood”), no shortcuts. Here there is no question of form or sequence , but of hard work, just as I like. That’s what made me realize that he would be my Master . Let’s say that the Bai Shi has been offered to me. Suhu asked me if I had the pleasure of becoming “closed-doors student” , as they say traditionally, because we felt so well and comfortable together and also because (I guess) he saw how much passion I put in training and teaching . Before him, in the past I had also considered the possibility of doing Bai Si with another Master, but later I withdrew this request – I admit it was something really not cute and really not traditional – because I realized that I was acting on the wave of the initial emotion rather than by a profound conviction. I’m glad I reserved this formal act to my Master Lin Xiang Fuk.

To close this interview, one more technical question. Which are the technical and mental, which are the moral aspects, which mostly your School focuses on?

With regard to moral aspect, all my students follow a very serious and strict code of conduct, which is delivered at the time of admission into the School. If at any stage of their training the students come out from this code, they are expelled, as it happened recently. I have no problem to remove those who break the rules. With regard to the mental aspects I could write a book … let’s say that for me the most important thing is ging up to Ego. The more we deviate from selfish and hedonistic vision of this Society, the more we can get closer to Hek Ki Boen Eng Chun, at its heart. Only getting rid of what it’s useless you can fly. In essence, the important thing is not to bask because of results, victories or defeats. The great thing about this trip is the journey itself. Regarding the technical level, the most important thing is the concept of detachment, it is the heart of the system which we must strongly be focused on. If we don’t move towards this detachment, it is difficult to acquire the skills typical of HKB, especially the transfer of the Impulse Energy. Surely it is important to remember that our goal is to make you happier practitioners. This means removing the stress or the negative elements and give peace of mind through the practice. The attendance at school should not just be limited to the physical activities of those hours of practice, but a real closeness and participation in a community of people with a positive attitude. Here, in fact, we will exchange favors, job opportunities, transfer by car to reach the school, or even just gestures of affection and smiles, in a truly healthy and wholesome environment. Not just a Martial Arts School that makes of High Efficiency its foundation, but also a meeting place for a community of people who are willing to share enthusiasm and positive energy!

I am honored for having this interview. Surely this interview will help the public to have a clearer overview about HKB and about the particular point of view you have on these our beloved disciplines. Thank you.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make further clarity! And now … Sam Chian Po! Eh eh eh …

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