Rob Ho Yiu Fay from Bristol England has two loves in his life, martial arts and films. So he decided to combine the two in pursuit of his dreams. He teaches a discipline called Total Combat Fight System and makes films with his most recent project ‘Landlord’ which he also stars in, an action packed movie soon to be released.
Nee Hao takes a look at what goes on behind the scenes of Rob Ho’s life
When did you start doing martial arts, what school is it from, and what level are you at?
I started in martial arts properly from the age of 14 and (23 years later) I am an Instructor, and the England Representative for the Total Combat Fight System (TCFS). This is a fight system with no rules that addresses the harsh reality of street attacks, where a person might be antagonised by a single attacker, or indeed by multiples, stand-up and to the ground.
How did you get started in it? How often do you teach, what is the secret to consistency?
My Guros are George and Mandy Johnston, of the Hybrid Academy of Martial Arts (WWW.HYBRIDAMA.COM). They reside in Glasgow and I train with them a number of times in the year. I started teaching TCFS in 2008, and what drew me to it was its no nonsense approach and how organically violent it is.
“I teach twice a week in Bristol, and I also conduct workshops/ seminars throughout the UK”
As with any form of training, it requires regular practice and intent. With TCFS I often carry out pressure test drills on my students that might involve ‘creating’ a tunnel for themselves to fight through a crowd, where people might be trying to stop you and/ or hit you. I sometimes switch the light off so the drills are performed in darkness. I have also been known to have my students do groundwork outside the training hall on concrete, so they get to feel what it is like to fight on their back, on uneven concrete and loose gravel. Odd this might sound, I carry it out in a nurturing manner.
Any form of martial arts training is beneficial; it really depends on what the practitioner wants from any particular style. However, should the discussion of street application arise, then the question is posed as to the extent in which a martial artist can ‘work’ the style they train in, in a given street situation. At the end of the day, it is not which style is the best, but what works for you.
TCFS stems from the Guros’ experiences from attacks of at least three or more people, fighting in the cage, and the preservation of gypsy honour. The system deals with un-programmed fighting and the unpredictable nature of street violence.
What films have you been in, and how involved are you in making them?
I have been in a small number of UK produced Independent Films, ranging from being an extra to playing the main bad lead. In 2009 I produced my own film, ‘Landlord’, in which I played the lead role, as well as having choreographed some of the fight sequences. Landlord is currently towards the end of its master draft being completed; after which it will head into post-production. This year I will focus on its distribution and sale.
The majority of the choreography was carried out with full contact, resulting in visits to the GP and hospital. It was a good couple of months before I recovered from my injuries after filming.
“In 2011 I will be directing my next Independent Film, ‘Vigilante’, in Bristol and the surrounding areas”
When did your interest in making films and acting start?
I have always been interested in martial art films, and it was not until the latter part of 2006 when I had an opportunity to be an extra on the set of Dark Eden. With each subsequent film project my comfort zone was continually being tested, until such time when I attended a screen fighting workshop, held by my ‘now’ Mentor and Best Friend Zara Phythian (WWW.ZARAPHYTHIAN.CO.UK). It was a baptism of fire, and it cemented my foundation for fighting in film.
Zara has multiple World Titles in martial arts and she is also an Inductee in the International Karate and Kickboxing Hall of Fame, which has as other Inductees, Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris.
I played the main bad lead in her film Furor in 2007 and ‘fast forwarding’ to today, I have been kept busy via Zara’s projects as well as my own. Zara also choreographed the fights in Landlord, and her partner Vic ‘Guvnor’ Marke was the Action Director. Avone Keene was Director of the drama.
What are the most important things to consider when making a film?
To me the most important element of a film is the story. It just so happens that I have fallen into the action ‘arena’, and what I was keen to convey in Landlord was that the action was warranted by the drama that preceded it.
Another objective is to engage the audience, how I intend to capture their attention. If the audience does not feel for the character, then I have lost.
I am keen to steer away from the usual one-dimensional storyline that often has an air of machismo attached to it. With Landlord, I opted for a more mainstream feel whereby I would hope that the drama holds its own. I also like to bring in elements of code and honour within my scripts.
I started thinking about Vigilante during filming of Landlord in the latter part of Summer 2009. I am a great fan of John Woo, Chow Yun Fat and Jet Li. Film-wise I loved Man on Fire, The Brave One and Harry Brown, and I will be pushing Vigilante forward with the above references as my templates.
You train hard in martial arts, what training do you do for making films/acting?
Where I am preparing for a film, my training alters in accordance to the fighting style that is required of me. The last few projects the style did not really need to change as it was reality-based.
Screen fighting requires an ability to act and the martial artist cannot solely rely on their skills. It takes two to fight and both performers have to work hard to make the fight look convincing. A 3 minute fight scene one-on-one could take a day’s worth of shoot. Where there might be more than two fighters, then this could be a couple of days.
Each take has to be spot on. You have to show emotion when required, you might have to take a full hit when needed. A screen fighter cannot afford to complain, as the Producer will simply get someone else. Whilst a martial artist might be able to fight well for real, if s/he cannot convey that on screen then it is hopeless. Furthermore, the Action Community within the UK is indeed rather small and word can spread on any Performer. Having no ego is key.
What are your future plans?
As I get older I feel that my culture is coming to the forefront. I have a project in my mind that would be my ‘heads up’ to Chinese culture for the MTV Generation. In spite of that, take each day as it comes. I am still a small fish in a rather large pond.
I recently applied to cast in one of Jackie Chan’s new films as a screen fighter, so who knows!
In the UK do you think Chinese actors and film makers are under represented?
I am only aware of a small handful of Chinese actors/ film makers in the UK Industry including myself. It is indeed a grave shame that there are so few and I would hope more people would step forward as I strongly feel there is room for everyone.
Any advice you can give for someone who wants to break into the industry?
I can only give advice from the action perspective. I would recommend that the martial performer be aware of what they can and cannot do, and not try and fake it. There is no point trying to apply for a fight role that requires tricking (martial gymnastics), if you are unable to flip. The same applies if a role requires a kicker; if you only know how to punch then it would be unwise to suggest that you can kick.
Keep training in martial arts, take acting lessons and join a casting agency. It is incredibly hard work, things do not happen overnight but if you persist, then you will be rewarded.