Peter Choo-Foo, currently based in Montreal, Canada, is the founder and head instructor of a modern style called Tyfung Kung Fu. TyFung Martial Arts originated as a cooperative venture between Patrick Chan-Yu-Tin and Peter Choo-Foo. The style is the result of cumulative martial experience, proven techniques and martial theory. Its roots can be traced to the Island of Mauritius (in 1972), and is linked with the Kokeshi Kempo Karate club.
How did you get to become the sole head master of Ty Fung?
First of all, I do not consider myself a master and never will... I am but a humble martial scholar in search of continuous improvement to the way of the "One within the ONE".
As for the history of Tyfung, in February 1997, Patrick decided to seek a new path and focus in the art of Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee's Style). It was mutually agreed upon to end the venture in order to avoid conflicts in philosophy and training methods. Terms were arranged amicably, with full controlling interest and ownership of title transferred to myself.
Why didn’t you follow and join Jeet Kune do?
I was unable to fully dedicate myself (effort, time, resources, limitations) to following the "way" of JKD, its training requirements and political structure. I did not want to get involve of the political issues faced by the multitude of styles claiming to be the "real" JKD vs the true essence of the art. My belief is that the true essence of JDK (creativity, evolution, etc.) can only be embodied by Bruce Lee, the remains are his legacy and student’s interpretations of his "style".
Why didn’t you affiliate with Kokeshi Kempo? Was there anything you did not like about Kokeshi Kempo?
Labels! I hate labels! A punch is a punch, a block is a block, a kick is a kick, it's only in its application that there are differences. The real objective remains the same: Attack or Defend, or Attack to Defend.
I enjoy my freedom of expression and ability to continue to grow, learn from others and self research, without having someone tell me that's not a particular style or you are not suppose to do that, or it has to be this way only! I see techniques in an analytic pragmatic way. There are many ways to solve a problem, it is a matter of finding and applying the most cost effective solution for the given moment, thus in a martial point of view, be able to apply the most effective technique in a natural way.
Wouldn’t naming your martial arts “Ty Fung” constitute a label?
The label of Tyfung was just to differentiate ourselves from the other arts being practiced at the time, in a sense it's like an identity to respond to inquiries. Just as we see in today's society: “what background are you from?” It also had a symbolic tie with Mauritius (where Patrick and I were both born).
It was the transformation from Kokeshi Kempo Karate... we evolved from the labels of Kokeshi Kempo, because most of the techniques and concepts changed (i.e. circular vs linear and lineage); we were not doing Kempo anymore. It was an evolution and the result is a combined structure of our cumulative experience, which today, is still constantly evolving.
Is there any external factors that help Ty Fung evolve?
The foundation of Tyfung is based on the "Martial Scholar", being able to balance oneself and achieve self-actualization by identifying personal goals and working to achieving them via training (physical / mental / spiritual).
Just as in education (engineering, literature, IT, etc..), I try to follow the guiding philosophical principles of JKD (i.e. economy of motion, ability to apply technique, training with maximum effort, etc...) without labeling myself as doing JKD or another art and having to explain the historical aspect of lineage and its associations etc... The guiding principle is the ability to apply without thinking... if the movement is not natural then maybe it should be questioned. The Martial Arts of today is more a science than that of a mystical unknown art... there is no "secret" technique, unorthodox maybe, but as long as it works for a given situation, then it’s excellent.
What irritates you the most about teaching?
Spending too much time teaching and not training. Additionally, if (or when) a student leaves, after you sacrificing years of time and effort, then it becomes time wasted!
It's like finishing a work of art; once you sign your name on the piece, it sprays itself with gasoline and lights itself on fire...
Thus you balance it out, that's why my philosophy is that I train instead of teach... by default, we will train and advance together (guidance vs. teaching) at our own pace.
What do you mean by guidance vs teaching? What is your definition of the two words?
Guidance - you adjust to the individual’s needs and capabilities of the student, which means more personalized adaptive training, based on a core set of principles. Teaching - more of a structured, less flexible approach, based on homogeneous preset regimen towards certification / accreditation. The differences are subtle, as with guidance it is more up to the individual to measure success, while with teaching, it's all about levels / certification (belts, sashes, etc...).
After years of guiding a student, how do you deal with the harsh reality that the student will someday leave?
I learned not to get too attached to students, as when they leave, it does feel like failure or as some would put it, under-achievement of "the WAY".
We all have different paths to take, becoming successful in reaching our individual goals and objectives is the ultimate achievement. Realizing a dream and moving on to the next is where we acquire wisdom and experience, to be passed on to others who care to listen, absorb and apply.
I guess my expectations are set high on achievement when I see potential and get disappointed when I hear excuses or low focus. Thus, my other saying which I try to apply on a daily basis: "No expectations, no regrets.... just do it!"
What are the achievements that your training aims to help the student achieve?
The goal is to develop each student into a contributing member of society who has the ability and competency to "kick ass" if put in a "compromising" situation, for the benefit of self preservation or the protection of someone in need.....
How do you filter students to get only those with potential?
As long as a student is willing to learn and do their best, I will guide them to reach their potential.
Remember that martial arts are not just about the physical contact; the mental sparring (arguments / discussions / philosophy) and the spiritual balance (belief in spirituality and faith in oneself / society) makes up the trinity that all true martial artists strive for...
A good instructor should be able to see the potential in his students for both the martial (fighting extrinsic) and art (artistic intrinsic) aspect.
What sets your style apart from other styles that makes it easier for you to guide students to the best of their potential?
It's not the style that makes the difference; it's the teacher/ master / instructor with their attitudes and aptitudes...... (i.e. "there is no such thing as a fat master", don't hide behind a belt or ranking) I do not have to depend on Tyfung for my livelihood, I am not bounded by labels, rules and regulations and have the liberty to be very creative, while effective....