Fighting From The Streets To The Screen: An Interview With Martial Arts Star Rick Faraci, Part 1!

What do Rick Faraci and Jean Claude van Damme have in common? They've been in a feature film together! Learn more about the World Record holder of 'Breaking Stuff' in this interview.

Part 1 | Part 2

Article Summary:
  • In 2002 I did, in three and a half hours, all ten world-events that I hold.
  • I tend to forget my successes as I look forward to creating another conquest.
  • I did theatrical martial arts for the first time in '77 for a rock band called Harlequin.


Fighting From The Streets To The Screen:
An Interview With Marital Arts Star Rick Faraci, Part 1!

Rick Faraci is a man of contrasts. As an adept street fighter and skilled martial artist, he has held his own on the pavement, in fighting rings and on the silver screen for several decades.

Yet, he also promotes peace and goodwill through the numerous charities he has sponsored via his world-class breaking demonstrations, and diplomatic approach to handling the aggressors he has faced in his various roles, which have included, but are by no means limited to, door bouncer and bodyguard to the stars. It is often a case of expect the unexpected with the big Canadian.

Alongside his bodyguard, breaking, and acting work, we can now add teacher to his impressive resume. Currently residing in Hamilton, New Zealand, Faraci - who has appeared alongside screen notables such as Jackie Chan, Charles Bronson and Jean-Claude Van Damme - teaches his unique brand of combat to those seeking real-world practical martial arts instruction steeped in the traditional values that underpin today's modern forms.

At 6'1", 138 kilograms, with long black hair, tattoos and the aura of one who is extremely confident in his abilities to attack and subdue should the need arise, Faraci presents an imposing image.

But in a classic case of life not imitating art he is - in reality - personable, articulate and relaxed, qualities that are not, one would think, compatible with the kind of savage intensity and relentless ferocity needed to smash through 500 pounds of ice.

In tracing Faraci's life story, it is easy to conclude that it was a love for the martial arts that drove him to achieve countless successes within his many and varied career roles.

Rick Faraci Is A Man Of Contrasts.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Rick Faraci Is A Man Of Contrasts.
Photo Courtesy Of Borden Li.

After losing his mother at age 14, it was a passion for extending himself throughout his early martial arts training efforts that kept Faraci focused and allowed him to overcome the grief such loss inevitably brings.

Not content to merely become adept at the styles he studied, however, Faraci developed a niche for himself in an event that allowed him to become a ten-time world champion: breaking.

In 2002, Faraci completed ten separate breaking events in three and a half hours to become a world champion in each, and where 5700 pounds of ice crumbled under his massive frame. Not bad for one who, in the early 80s, was so overcome by nerves that he visibly shook prior to slamming his mighty elbow into a fraction of the ice he would in later years demolish as if it were wet cardboard.

But this only serves to prove that he is, in fact, merely mortal, a possible point for debate after seeing him ram 50 nails through five inches of wood in 48 seconds, another of his little party tricks.

In taking his theatrical martial arts show - where the fighting sequences and breaking demonstrations are as real as you can get - on the road, Faraci began to discover he had a natural talent for acting.

Plying his martial abilities on the big screen soon became another of his vocations, which, in itself, suitably accompanied his extensive body guarding and bouncing work. Now he teaches to legions of martial arts aspirants all that he had learned, though the big screen still beckons.

He will, in 2010, again be featured in the kind of action role for which his menacing look and athletic abilities are ideally suited: this time alongside Stone Cold Steve Austin in Damage, a delightful little tale which highlights the inherent dangers of fighting with violent psychopaths in illegal underground martial arts tournaments.

In the following interview, Faraci explains how he made it to the top by smashing through everything that stood in his way and how he became one of the big screen's more readily identifiable villains.

Faraci Began To Discover He Had A Natural Talent For Acting.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Faraci Began To Discover He Had
A Natural Talent For Acting.

Photo Courtesy Of Borden Li.

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[ Q ] Hello Rick. It is a pleasure to finally talk with you. You credit the martial arts for enabling you to become an actor, celebrity bodyguard, world breaking-champion and, now, teacher with your own school of combat. How did you get started in the martial arts and how did your involvement lead you to fame and fortune?
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The first martial art I saw was when I was five. It was the Shotokan Karate style my ten-year-old brother was doing at the time. He would bring it home and subsequently train with his little brother (laughs).

I took formal training when I was nine from a place called the Samurai School of Karate in Winnipeg. I went there for three years and achieved just below brown belt. It had no real style per se, but it eventually became Tiger School of Gung Fu. My brother was also into hockey and it was expensive to do that; turns out Kung Fu or Karate is not that expensive - as my dad put it, it was just a pair of pajamas.

At age 17 I went on to attain a second Dan in Tae Kwon Do with Winnipeg's Master Am Lee. All the while I trained in Shotokan with instructor Jerry Marr where I achieved just under black belt. I came from a very poor family so a lot was gifted to me: class time and instruction.

I could never afford the testing and grading and all of that, but I dabbled in a ton of different things. I also started bouncing in nightclubs when I was 17. The fighting in this setting was practical; I had to go around the back alleys and do the business.

In Vancouver I also studied Kung fu with Charlie Wong - and Tai Chi and wing Chun forms. But Charlie died around the same time as my mum, which left me theoretically homeless. My father really wasn't there for me; couldn't be there for me. I began keeping myself spiritually sound through the martial arts, and training with Master Lee for about 6-7 years really helped me here.

Then I met all sorts of wonderful practitioners: Simon Posner out of Vancouver - unbelievable tactician - and Chris Franco who both do Pankration. They for many years gave me their schools to train in; I was just a Ronin wandering around and training at different clubs and having a good time.

Faraci Began To Discover He Had A Natural Talent For Acting.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Faraci Began To Discover He Had
A Natural Talent For Acting.

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[ Q ] How did your mother's death affect you?
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My mum passed away and I was 14 I was really quite lost - it was just mum and I and the rest of my family was scattered to the four winds. So I really hung on to the martial arts as my blanket, my focus and for the solace of it all. I was able to go into the dojo and do it all by myself - have a good cry. There was always that push.

But I've had ups and downs. Eventually when I got into theater shows and performing - which I always loved to do - I did so many and thought I was going to hit the big time, and then I didn't. So I became disillusioned.

I was a bar bouncer for a long time. Then just before I turned 35, I said I'm done. I had bounced in LA, had done shows all across Canada and performed everywhere. I think I had, at that time, five or six world titles for breaking.

Then I went to Vancouver and got into the movie industry. My very first movie was with Carl Weathers, then Charles Bronson, then Jean-Claude and Jackie Chan. I think I've done about nine or ten features and have directed my own movie called Blood Brothers: Reign of Terror, which is a horror/thriller.

I direct it and play the role of the lead villain, Jack. We needed a villain and I looked in the mirror and said, "yep, there he is, right there." I have also probably done 40 or 50 television shows doing stunts as a special guest.

RELATED VIDEO: Blood Brothers
Blood Brothers - Reign of Terror!

It is good vs evil and brothers vs brothers as Paul and Vinnie attempt to find Jack - a serial killer who keeps slipping through the system - Will they be in time to help his latest victims and finally bring Jack to justice?

So I have really gone from nothing to something. I hate the cliché of it but the truth is when my mum passed and my Master passed around the same time, I had anguish, I was heart broken. I sought to embody the spirit of Bruce Lee to make me something special. And it worked out great; I have been very lucky throughout my life.

I lived on the street and got a job as a bar bouncer - from there I ended up doing motion pictures, performing on television. Then being asked to bodyguard. My dad hadn't seen me perform in the ring or set my world records. I hadn't really seen much of my dad, especially in the early years. Now we are quite tight.

Just as I was getting into the movies, suddenly there was a response; it was nice to seek him out and find him.

I Have Really Gone From Nothing To Something.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
I Have Really Gone From Nothing To Something.
Photo Courtesy Of Borden Li.

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[ Q ] Tell me about some of the key breaking records you have attained. What went into achieving these?
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In 2002 I did, in three and a half hours, all ten world-events that I hold. There are nine events as well as Pappi's Gauntlet, named after my old trainer, and which is a little bit of all nine wrapped into one.

The process is as goes: The short speed break, the long speed break, the brick power break, the gauntlet, feet of fury (all kicks), the burning labyrinth, the marble power break, spike brace, the dragons awakening and Pappi's Gauntlet.

The short speed break (Rick achieved 50 boards in 37 seconds) was tough. This is ten punches, ten kicks, eight multi strikes, and four stacks of five, one stack of low fours, all over a very tight area. It is a team effort; it is not just me smacking things - it is about these two guys planting them fast enough and locking them off.

There are also bricks: 22 inches per brick and I would break them with a single blow. After that was the gauntlet. It is often done as a run of five stacked boards. I do two at a time and I do 270 of these in 60 seconds. And in this you have 25 feeders so you have volunteers throwing up boards.

After that comes the marble - 15 slabs in one hit. It is very expensive; my wife cringes every time I do something like that as I pay for my own materials.

These 2002 Ultimate Breaking Championships of the 21st century records took place in Templeton High School, Vancouver, Canada, the last school I attended while my mum was alive. I came home one day and she had passed away and I never went back to school.

Without having graduated, it was my alma mater, and when I first went back after being away for so long the first thing I did was to make sure that the kid I stuffed in the locker 20 years ago wasn't still there (laughs).

In 2002 I Did, In Three And A Half Hours, All Ten World-Events That I Hold.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
In 2002 I Did, In Three And A Half Hours,
All Ten World-Events That I Hold.

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[ Q ] Winning 10 world titles in just over three hours must have been extremely satisfying?
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It was, but the problem with me is I tend to forget my successes as I look forward to creating another conquest. It can be good unless you are living with me or are family. My trainer told me after I won my 10 world titles, "Dude you are a ten-time world champion, enjoy it." I never become complacent.

No sooner do I finish an event than I'm looking forward to the next one. After 2002, after doing all ten events - and we are talking over 750 boards, tons of bricks and 5700 pounds of ice - I couldn't wait to get back into it. But it was a different story during the event itself.

Pappi's Gauntlet has two events: the Dragons Awakening and Pappi's Awakening. After the 7th event I wanted to quit; I was hurting fierce. I had micro fractures in my bones and my arteries and veins were collapsing. They had to cut me out of two sets of neoprene and my feet looked like hobbit feet.

After the seventh challenge I was done, they had to cut me out. I was in tears but carried on. My daughter, son and wife were there. They were like, "Come on, this is something you wanted to do, something no one on this planet has ever done." And that is to destroy everything in one sitting.

The spike brace by itself was 56 spikes. They didn't go well, the wood was knotty. The world record was 50 of them in 48 seconds, which I had set in 1991. To smash these in you use a hammer first, palm, or whatever else you can get off to smack the bejesus out of them. But it is generally very fast strikes.

No Sooner Do I Finish An Event Than I'm Looking Forward To The Next One.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
No Sooner Do I Finish An Event Than I'm
Looking Forward To The Next One.

Photo Courtesy Of Borden Li.

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[ Q ] I understand a major motivator for you is the charity work you do. When did you begin breaking objects for charity?
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I started doing charities in '83, telethons for charity groups at first: Lions Club, Make a Wish Foundation. It all started when I was bouncing in '81 and there was this one girl, a single mum, whose daughter was going though her fourth or fifth heart surgery. I started doing break-a-thons to raise money for her and I got national exposure here (in Canada) on television.

People wanted to see more of what I could do so I did a live telethon. I did eight years with telethon and two to three years with Make A Wish. The cool thing about it is that you explore that ideal of being a warrior and having a quest.

It is a brilliant quest and a lot of fun to be able to say I'm going to do this breaking event and everything will go to this social charity to help children and young adults. This makes it more exciting and gives you more drive. And it's cool to watch the children's eyes light up and their jaws hit the ground.

At the Ultimate Breaking Championships of the 21st century in 2002, I donated all the proceeds to my alma mater, the last school I attended. They were shooting the television series Smallville at the school and I hadn't been back since I left until the day they were beginning shooting.

It was very interesting because memories of my mum came back and the principal was really cool. A year later we did the event and we donated everything to the school's literary and arts programs.

A Year Later We Did The Event And We Donated Everything To The School's Literary And Arts Programs.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
A Year Later We Did The Event And We Donated Everything
To The School's Literary And Arts Programs.

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[ Q ] How do you condition yourself for the extreme force you inflict on yourself each time you break heavy objects?
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I did theatrical martial arts for the first time in '77 - it was a stage show for a rock band called Harlequin. They did this open concert to raise money and I knew some of the people involved in the show.

I did nun-chucks to music at home for fun and knowing about this they told me to come up on stage and show what I could do. Well that afternoon I practiced and broke one knuckle and fractured a finger, but I still did the show.

After things like this happen you realize that you must take into consideration certain potential problems that could occur, and you learn from this process. I don't drive my hands into sand.

What I do sometimes for big world events is to let my hands sit in boiling hot water and salt: this tightens the skin. So it saves you from getting tears and surface wounds. After an exhibition I will treat them very nice; soak them in ice and talk to them nicely (laughs). I don't do any hard weight training now, but I did when I was younger.

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My first striking demonstrations were pretty intense and forced me to adapt to extreme situations pretty quickly. Master Lee would have me demonstrate breaking with him; he got me doing some pretty unique stuff: lobbing off the top of a fireplace brick on an open palm, without gripping it, for example.

He would punch a nail through a hand held board. I was holding the board, which had to be positioned close to my body (laughs).

Compared to strongman, what I do is more technique oriented with a consideration of speed, inertia, laws of physics and the willingness the sacrifice your limb (laughs). Things can go horribly wrong. Really, on any given Sunday something could fracture. I've been lucky at this point, but I have broken a few bones, took a third degree burn to my leg and dislocated both shoulders.

I've Been Lucky At This Point, But I Have Broken A Few Bones, Took A Third Degree Burn To My Leg And Dislocated Both Shoulders.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
I've Been Lucky At This Point, But I Have Broken A Few Bones, Took
A Third Degree Burn To My Leg And Dislocated Both Shoulders.

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[ Q ] To be successful at breaking it is no secret that you must be big and strong, as technique will only take you so far in this game. How do you maintain your immense size?
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I used to do a fair amount of weights but now it's just about maintaining, so it is a lot of weapons training: Sai, Tonfa, Kama, weighted chains, iron fan, samurai swords, staff - I have about 100 swords at home, European as well as Japanese.

I had a friend who bought me a Knight Templar sword and when I was in Rome I picked up an actual gladiator's sword, which are quite short so they obviously like that up close and personal contact (laughs).

I like the double swords, Musashi style. There are some long Katanas out there: most of mine are the 42-43 inch range. But I've lately gotten into this S-Curve hilt so the blade actually creates an S, which resembles a human spine. It has a really interesting fluidity to it. So yes, much of my training nowadays is with weapons. My size just stays as it is.

I Used To Do A Fair Amount Of Weights But Now It's Just About Maintaining.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
I Used To Do A Fair Amount Of Weights But
Now It's Just About Maintaining.

Photo Courtesy Of Borden Li.

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[ Q ] Your object breaking success has resulted from being not only powerful and large but also being technically adept. Tell me more about the art of striking and breaking.
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I usually do a three-inch break. I will break ice from a distance spanning the tip of my baby finger to my thumb and smash 400-500 pounds in one hit. I don't consciously think about visualizing through the object to the bottom anymore - I know what I have to do and have been doing it for decades so that sort of thing no longer comes into my head.

What does come into my head is the fact that every technique that I utilize to break should be a technique that can be used in an actual combat situation. The whole idea of bringing your arm fourteen feet off the ground and leaping and smashing is a little excessive.

Devastating strikes are actually within a very short distance - look at Bruce Lee's one-inch punch. Then it's about generating your chi and your energy. I believe you can break coming off angles too. But you really have to be committed to the strike.

When I first began breaking I was terrified - and because I used to put my foot in my mouth all of the time as well, I would have to back it up. When I first began breaking ice I would literally vibrate; I would be so intense and it was, like, only 15 inches of ice.

I would be just waiting for the moment to strike and every once and a while I would miss and the ice wouldn't break. Now I do six and seven bricks of ice. And I don't vibrate.

It's that chi, that confidence. I broke my arm on three slabs once though; snapped it in half (at an event in 1984). Broke my right arm, broke it clean through. Nothing really went wrong; it was just where my head was at that moment in time. That was the largest mass I had ever hit at that point. I hit it and broke my forearm and then stuck it again and broke the ice.

When I First Began Breaking I Was Terrified.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
When I First Began Breaking I Was Terrified.

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[ Q ] I understand the logistics required in setting up a breaking exhibition or competition is extensive.
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Yes it is. In one event we actually had to have a five ton refrigerated truck standing by for 48 hours by the stage with all of the ice we were to use for the exhibition. And to break 5700 pounds of ice generally takes around 11 strikes, that's it.

It's amazing the series of logistics that have to go into an event like that: the ice, the boards, the stands and the volunteers. They have got to get it all set up and then you have to start working straight away before the ice melts.

Here is a funny story. When I first began breaking we had this whole theatrical thing, this presentation. Musical forms were just coming into tournaments and the traditionalists hated it hand over fist.

Well, we are doing this show - the Harlequin show in '77 - and we got hit with rock concert lighting, the big 1000-watt pars. Imagine this in a small environment. It washes out everything including the guy standing beside you. I couldn't see anything.

So we do our stuff and part way through our fight scene we hear this guy yell out from the audience, "Let's see some blood." Well no sooner than this happens I kick my partner full in the face. But we still finish.

We get off stage and the crew sets up for the breaking part of the show. But my buddy's backstage and his teeth have gone through his bottom lip and he's talking to me in gibberish. I can't understand a word he is saying. So I pulled his lip off his teeth and said, "What did you say?" and he said, "I don't think I can go on." I said, "Shut up, you have no choice, let's go."

It took 17 stitches to close his mouth and I had broken a couple of bones in my hands earlier that day warming up. We didn't do another show until probably '79.

There were things we weren't aware of. The lighting was another ball game. There are certain elements to a theatrical presentation. There is the staging, performance and lighting. And they all compliment one other.

It's a presentation. We eventually got to the point where we had fog machines, vertical flamethrowers, glitter rockers and all sorts of stuff. We were a martial arts rock concert (laughs).

There Are Certain Elements To A Theatrical Presentation.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
There Are Certain Elements To A
Theatrical Presentation.

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[ Q ] You are also known internationally for your onscreen martial arts prowess, having acted in movies such as Rumble in the Bronx with Jackie Chan.
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My very first time on television was in a show called Street Justice with Carl Weathers and several martial arts guys. I actually got the gig because the director liked the size of my arms.

"Can he act?" asked one of the production members. "No," said the director, "but I like his arms though." I'm pro wrestler too so I can sell the hit where it looks like I'm actually touching my opponent.

The stunt coordinator for this movie was Tony Morelli, who was the first heavyweight full-contact kickboxing champion. The punches I throw are actually about nine or ten inches away from my opponent's face. Moving your head as the punch goes through is the sell. It looks like I tagged him in the chops.

If you put a little bit of theater blood in your mouth and crack your head as you are going back, that is the sell. It was this ability that helped me transition into movies.

Moving Your Head As The Punch Goes Through Is The Sell.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Moving Your Head As The Punch
Goes Through Is The Sell.

Photo Courtesy Of Borden Li.

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[ Q ] What was it like working with the stars?
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Working with guys like Jean Claude Van Damme was brilliant; he was very gracious. This was my third project - Timecop with Van Damme - and my heart was pounding through my shirt. It was just before my 35th birthday and I told all my friends that I was going to do a feature film before I turned 35.

It was a week of auditions. The first one was a cattle call so every martial artist and everyone and their dog was there. The next time I was told to come back it was with all of the stunt guys. Then I was asked back to do some lines. But Peter Hyams (the Director) had already decided it would be me.

It didn't really matter if I could act. It turned out I could act a little bit but he liked my look and he gave me a shot. I got to have a great fight scene with Van Damme. He was gracious and would ask about my kids when we had our makeup done.

As a fighter he is also very good. He has that super stretch - the problem here though is that you lose a certain amount of crack and impact, because you have less recoil. Me, I'm not so flexible, but I have a lot of impact (laughs).

I was also Dwayne Johnson's (WWE's The Rock) bodyguard on Walking Tall. Dwayne did a TV show called The Net - which included these website fights - and I was one of the guys fighting and who was beat to death, rolled out into the street and taken to the coroner's office.

But I got to stick around on the set; it was Dwayne's first acting gig. I'm standing there and one of the guys tells me to go in there and stand with the DP (director of photography) and the director.

I'm watching them work and the director looks over and asks me, "What do you think?" and I said, "Well, I'm not really impressed." So he asked me what I would do and I ended up getting to choreograph the fight scene.

And after that I was requested to do the bodyguard work for Dwayne for Walking Tall. With acting, once you're in, you're in. I have been very lucky and fortunate, but it has been a lot of work.

It doesn't just happen. You need to keep your tools sharp. Sometimes it is harder to simulate combat than to actually do combat, to make it look really good. Actually hurting the guys - like Segal does - doesn't keep it real because with the camera angles it is impossible to know if a person was hit or not. It doesn't sell like that.

I Got To Have A Great Fight Scene With Van Damme.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
I Got To Have A Great Fight
Scene With Van Damme.

Rick Faraci With The Author's Son, Curtis Robson.

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[ Q ] What current acting projects are you working on, Rick?
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I've just finished filming a movie with Stone Cold Steve Austin called Damage. I play a character called Biscuit. It's about underground fighting. He gets out of prison and has to make money so he goes into these fights and one of his fights is with me.

For our fight we are surrounded by attack dogs on chains so if you fall out of the circle, the dogs attack you and chew you up and you then get thrown back into the ring. I do a Pankration style of fighting with him: all open hand strikes.

I've Just Finished Filming A Movie With Stone Cold Steve Austin Called Damage.
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
I've Just Finished Filming A Movie With
Stone Cold Steve Austin Called Damage.

Photo Courtesy Of Borden Li.

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To Be Continued
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In this interview's second part learn how Rick became one of Hollywood's most sought after bodyguards and how and why he condensed his martial arts philosophy into one of the most effective combat forms currently available.

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Part 1 | Part 2

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