Fighting From The Streets To The Screen: An Interview With Martial Arts Star Rick Faraci, Part 2!

What do Rick Faraci and Jean Claude van Damme have in common? They've been in a feature film together! Learn more in Part 2 about the World Record holder of 'Breaking Stuff'.

Part 1 | Part 2

Article Summary:
  • Rick is definitely a gentle warrior who would rather buy you a latte than fight.
  • Rick's Hybrid system incorporates the most effective aspects of seven different martial arts.
  • Rick's believes martial arts have lost many of the things that made them art.

  • Fighting From The Streets To The Screen:
    An Interview With Marital Arts Star Rick Faraci, Part 2!

    But although he would have little trouble rapidly and forcefully incapacitating an aggressor - indeed he has been forced to do this on numerous occasions - the highly trained and skilled fighting machine has proven to be, especially over recent times, a gentle warrior who would rather buy you a latte and have a chat, whatever your intentions might be.

    This Gentle Warrior Would Rather Buy You A Latte Than Fight It Out.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    This Gentle Warrior Would Rather
    Buy You A Latte Than Fight It Out.

    Photo Courtesy Of Borden Li.

    An eternal optimist for whom the word 'negative' clearly was not invented, Faraci believes in seeing the good in everyone and feels that if hired protection of any kind - he also was a door bouncer for many years - can have their problem patron shake their hand on the way out, rather than being scraped off the floor, then the security person in question has done their job properly.

    That he has the ability to handle himself in pressure situations both diplomatically and, when required, with extreme unrelenting prejudicial force speaks volumes about his martial arts philosophy: keep an open mind and be ready to adapt, and respond accordingly, to any and every situation.

    With over 40 years of martial arts training and teaching experience under his seventh degree belt, Faraci is one man who has many profound insights into what makes a good martial artist.

    In Part 2 of his interview, Faraci explains the subtle art of personal protection work and outlines his martial arts philosophy.

    [ David Robson ] Along with acting you have paralleled a successful career as a celebrity bodyguard. Tell me more about this career of yours.

    [ Rick Faraci ] Yes, I have worked with people such as Denise Richards, Ringo Starr, Pamela Anderson, and Rodney Dangerfield. I do close personal protection. If we are going for dinner we will call the restaurant up ahead of time and give them notice. Notify them that we are coming.

    If there is a big queue out front we will go through the kitchen, but we will make those decisions on the day. You are watching for paparazzi, and other guys that are a little bit intrusive.

    But to be a successful protection worker you must always treat everyone with honey - with respect - even the paparazzi. They are just doing a job. But it's my job to distance them.

    To Be A Successful Protection Worker You Must Treat Everyone With Respect.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    To Be A Successful Protection Worker You
    Must Treat Everyone With Respect.

    Photo Courtesy Of Borden Li.

    [ DR ] Do you have any interesting private protection stories to share?

    [ RF ] On one occasion there were three or four paparazzi brought up from LA to get this particular celebrity I was working with, Zac Effron's photo. We had a driver, blacked out windows and we were going to a set, so it is very close quarters.

    I spotted these lenses across in the parking lot so walked over to the photographers and said, "Guys, there are lots of people here and I really can't afford to have any problems, so you do your thing and I'll do mine and we'll be cool."

    We sent them coffees and they were cool and not at all intrusive. It is how you treat people regardless of what your environment is. If a client is approached a little aggressively, your job is to pull them slightly behind you and step in the way. It allows your client to move out of harm's way while allowing you to deal with the situation without worrying about where your client is.

    I was in Montreal with another client who was shopping. Suddenly cell phones were going and there were about 300 people outside. I got my driver to pull into the back where we went through the storeroom after first speaking to the manager.

    We parked the SUV right by the elevator the client went from one door to the other, the driver pulled the door shut and he drove off while I stayed behind. This shows how crazy it can get at times (laughs).

    And to allow them their privacy I don't sit with a client when we are out for dinner. Who wants to have a guy that they don't really know over their shoulder? Most of my clients do like to have me with them for dinner, but I explain that I can't really watch the room if I'm right beside them.

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    Cobra Kai!

    Rick Faraci demonstrates some breaking for a group of students.

    So I will sit at the bar or a few tables away. And I don't have dinner. When people go to take pictures I just get up, stand in the way and nicely say to them, "They are having dinner. If you give it a little while and let them have their dinner I'm sure they will be happy with the photo."

    If someone is being overly aggressive you can go into nerve ends and locks. But I don't want to tie an aggressor up if I don't have to; I just want to give them enough to send them a message to move them along. So it might require some nerve manipulation into their shoulder blade, the sternum, a little flex and they go upright and you go by.

    I've never had to subdue anyone in this role. If you have to do that you haven't done your job. But the martial arts give you that ability if you need it. I can walk up to a guy and say, "let's talk." Worst-case scenario we go physical. I'm trained for that. But I'd much rather have a chat and buy you a latte (laughs).

    And people will comply. I have a certain reputation where it will be, "Rick's working and he's fair so we will keep our distance. We will still try to do our thing without getting him involved with us." And no one has been a problem.

    I did six years with Smallville, taking care of all their cast members, and there was not one problem. Everybody I've ever worked with has been absolutely brilliant, really cool.

    Worst-Case Scenario We Go Physical. I'm Trained For That.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Worst-Case Scenario We Go
    Physical. I'm Trained For That.

    Photo Courtesy Of Borden Li.

    [ DR ] You have, as of late, turned your talents to teaching martial arts here in Hamilton, New Zealand. Tell me about your unique Hybrid martial arts system and how you came to teach it.

    [ RF ] Everything I've ever chosen to do I've been, by the grace of God, lucky to achieve. I wanted to do it and I've done it. I came out here and fell in love with New Zealand and the people here, the lifestyle. It is really quite comfortable.

    I turn 52 this year and I don't want to put myself in harm's way anymore; I'm no longer into the bodyguard scene, not really into being a villainous actor either, though both lines of work are still open to me.

    I might want to direct a little bit more as well in the future. But I love to teach. When we were out here three years ago we were in a young lads' classroom and they introduced me and said all this stuff about me and one of the kids turned around and said, "Out of everything you do, what do you like the best?" and without hesitation I said, "I like to teach".

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    So I had an epiphany. From that point on I wanted to come back here and open a school. That was three years ago. I'm teaching out of the YWCA now and my classes are growing week by week.

    My Hybrid system combines the most effective aspects of Tae kwon Do, Aikido, Hapkido, Shotokan Karate, Iron palm, Iron Fist and Wing Chun. I was very fortunate to be trained extensively in Tae Kwon Do with Master Am Lee out of Winnipeg - I had achieved second Dan with a really big attitude when I left (laughs).

    I fought full contact in my younger years - in my 20s - in kickboxing with PKL (professional kickboxing). I took the light heavyweight central Canada title back then. The kickboxing world has so many martial artists from different backgrounds who go to test their skills in the ring, so you meet all these different styles and learn new things - read this, study that, do this.

    Then, in 1995, I met Robert Will Cunningham who was Chief of Security for a company where I was training one of the executives. He was a decorated Field Colonel out of Vietnam - he did four tours - and he took a shine to me and kind of considered me his son.

    I spent six years with him, one-on-one. He got me into the bodyguard scene and then he passed away in 2000 from cancer. He taught me the practicality of it all. With bar bouncing you get this practical side as well.

    My System Combines Aspects Of Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Hapkido, Shotokan Karate, Iron Palm, Iron Fist And Wing Chun.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    My System Combines Aspects Of Tae Kwon Do, Aikido,
    Hapkido, Shotokan Karate, Iron Palm, Iron Fist And Wing Chun.

    [ DR ] What are some of the basic tenants of your Hybrid system?

    [ RF ] I'm a very firm believer in kata as it builds your foundation. It's your house, the base from which you learn. I do systematic drills, combat drills. But those can always be modified to each individual. These drills are taken from a specific attack so there is an offense to a defense and you continue on and keep advancing into it.

    Everybody is different, no two bodies are the same, and therefore no two interpretations are the same. You develop a focus as you progress, but until you are either challenged or motivated you really don't know how you are going to react. So for anybody - as long as they have that natural ability within themselves - it is easier to deal with the moment if you can adapt.

    For me as a teacher, I'm but a guide. I'll show you these techniques and different movements: the basic fundamentals of spinning side, front and back kicks and so on, different applications of different systems, how you can interpret them. And to reinforce the movements I teach I do a thing I call 'tit for tat' where I use a very slow pace.

    I throw a punch and you block it. We then check out the body to see what is open and then you throw an attack slowly. It too will be blocked. So it is very much like a slow-paced chess game. You are under no risk so you can take great risk. You can explore different angles and when you get to higher levels you eventually start getting faster and more fluid. Plus you learn how to strike with depth, so not everything is about breaking and smashing - and then your start to see it instinctively throughout the body.

    It is really hard to explain; you have to experience it. When a strike occurs your instinct is to put up a block, but once you have done this where do you go from there? Most guys don't know what comes after that. It is like "I've blocked, now I can go back to my set stance". Or they throw the one punch. This guy may be skilled, too, so it becomes this dance, this pattern.

    It is very similar to sticking hands, but we use the whole body, so instead of using just the hands we have legs, leg kicks and sweeps, rib shots. So you are always constantly looking for those really abstract openings, and the more abstract, the greater the opening. You follow those linear lines.

    I used to joke that my system is the art of winning, and that's kind of what it is. If you learn a little of everything and you come against someone who has used it also, if you have seen it or experienced it and it is not fundamentally new to you, you can settle into it and know how to get around it.

    I was a bar bouncer for 12 years and maybe raised my hands five or six times in my whole career. And this is in an out-and-out brawl. But there are pressure points, pinches, trapping for safety, locks to be utilized. Not every style teaches all of these things.

    I Was A Bar Bouncer For 12 Years And Maybe Raised My Hands Five Or Six Times In My Whole Career.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    I Was A Bar Bouncer For 12 Years And Maybe
    Raised My Hands Five Or Six Times In My Whole Career.

    [ DR ] As I understand it, you also believe in using both sides of the body with equal force and dexterity when applying all of your techniques.

    [ RF ] Yes, I'm a firm believer that you should be able to do all techniques on both sides. Be ambidextrous. This applies to stances, katas, and weapons forms and makes you a much better rounded competitor and very aware of right and left side attacks.

    Your peripheral vision on both sides is much better defined. You can also shift your stance. A rule of thumb is that if your opponent's lead leg is right you should be left, or to the opposite of him, whereas if you learn to be ambidextrous you can set him up, then go right. You can just constantly switch, depending on the number of attackers you are faced with and your environment.

    Your environment dictates your motion too: a crowded bar and an open street, for example. They determine your movement. If someone was being bullied and you choose to intervene you have to be aware of chairs and tables and the distance between you and these objects.

    By having your whole right and left-brain aware you can make these decisions quicker. If you are only one side dominant you will immediately go to that side and you will favor that side.

    I'm A Firm Believer That You Should Be Able To Do All Techniques On Both Sides.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    I'm A Firm Believer That You Should Be
    Able To Do All Techniques On Both Sides.

    [ DR ] To belie the perception many have of you as being this villainous movie character and super tough martial artist, you are actually quite relaxed in person. Does this mindset translate to your teaching style?

    [ RF ] I'm not your usual kind of instructor; I'm not a militant kind of guy. I am, as you said, more relaxed. I think it helps my students to learn better. People don't go to dojo today - unless you are going into the ring or have a purpose.

    Most times, if someone does have a purpose it is a revenge thing or a bully thing. All those (reasons) are not really going to teach you because you won't have the patience to truly learn the martial art.

    I believe there are two types of art forms. Let's say there is the martial sport - which is your UFC and full contact - and then there is the martial art, which has the philosophy, the physics of it, and more of the science aspects.

    Combat is a science which was studied in the feudal age, and that's how we have all of these understandings today. A lot of the real interesting stuff is kind of lost now. The chi, the focus of inner strength, the striking an object and breaking it on the other side, they are almost a dying art.

    People want to get in the ring and test their skills and that is okay, but the tragedy in my eyes is that a lot of the schools that are martial sport motivated are not necessarily led by honorable instructors - in them, if you have basic fundamentals of punch, block and kick you can fight. The tragedy is that nine times out of ten you end up fighting a guy who has already had more experience than you so you become a pummeling dummy.

    What do you learn from being beat up? You learn that losing is not cool. Does it improve your skills? No. Does it improve your motivation? Perhaps. But what a harsh way to do it! Could you imagine in the feudal age if they just started hacking guys to bits (when teaching them)? You would have no army left.

    It's different in today's military. There is a certain amount of 'breaking you down' but they build you up again. It's not like you are going into full-on combat. Martial arts, on the other hand, are the study, the science, and the mathematics of combat. With my system you are learning a practical style of fighting yet at the same time maintaining those traditional beliefs. I'm a big traditionalist but I'm also practical.

    Martial Arts Are The Study, The Science, And The Mathematics Of Combat.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Martial Arts Are The Study, The
    Science, And The Mathematics Of Combat.

    [ DR ] For a system touted to teach effective combat techniques does your style emphasize sparring among your students?

    [ RF ] Not within classes. My movements aren't designed for sparring. The idea is to inflict as much pain as quickly as possible. Crack the floating ribs and tear tendons - that kind of thing. For those who would like to get in the ring I can teach them the house, give them the foundation, and when they are ready I'll send them to a boxing coach.

    That's how they will become champions. I can't teach those things, as they aren't my forte. We do systematic combat drills for self-defense. My stuff is not based on being kind. If someone is going to physically assault you on the street the intention is to hurt you, perhaps even kill you. And they can do this by accident; render you unconscious if you fall and hit your head.

    If a person is going to create conflict on the street with you, you have to deal with them with extreme prejudice. So a lot of my techniques are based on cracking ribs, breaking limbs, taking down with extreme force, applying joint manipulation and so on.

    You can practice to break a person's leg, for example, but it only takes about 35 to 40 PSI to break a leg or to cause real nasty damage - tendon and ACL tears, or anterior cruciate ligament or medial collateral ligament damage.

    If A Person Creates Conflict On The Street With You, You Must Deal With Them With Extreme Prejudice.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    If A Person Creates Conflict On The Street With
    You, You Must Deal With Them With Extreme Prejudice.

    [ DR ] What in your view is the most effective way in which to finish an opponent?

    [ RF ] I'm actually a big fan of stomping while an aggressor is up - this is called the crossover. Basically what you do here is drive your heel into their knee, which makes their knee go sideways.

    If you don't break it you will cause an amazing amount of tissue damage. If you want to get rid of a tree you pull it out by the roots, if you want to end a fight you should take out the legs. So we do a lot of leg work in class. Combat classes are where we do the drills and practice combat techniques.

    [ DR ] What are your thoughts on the phenomenon that is modern day MMA?

    [ RF ] I think it's brilliant, now. The UFC technically is well put together. The rules are good. In the early years I thought it was very gladiatorial and I was put off by it; it was barbaric. It just showed how minimally we had advanced.

    Now it is very sophisticated with St Pierre and the light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida. As soon as he won the title I got phone calls from people saying "Now we are going to have to listen to you talk about tradition" (laughs).

    And it is good how quick the refs are willing to end it nowadays. Those are heavy blows and if you have the big heavyweight guys, that is serious damage that is being inflicted. It doesn't take much before your brain begins turning into mush.

    Before, they weren't jumping in as quick and guys were bleeding all over the place. It's inevitable though; everything has to advance. The science of conflict has advanced.

    Back in the early days when we were breaking you would smash a tatami board and you would try to have the calcium in your knuckles grow, but those days are gone. I'm proof of that; (to prepare for combat) you don't have to bash and smash your body like that to get that type of ability.

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    [ DR ] You appear to be a man of contrasts. On the one hand you are all for effective and extremely violent street fighting methods, on the other you preach anti violence and peace. What really is your stance on martial arts effectiveness and usefulness?

    [ RF ] I'm a conundrum really. People don't expect me to be as flexible or as fast as I am. Expect the unexpected. Everybody has his or her opinion of how one should fight. Everyone has their master who tells them how it should be. Nothing has to be; the only good outcome is how you win, regardless of how you get there.

    In the ring you are governed by rules because it is a martial sport - on the street the only rule is survival. If that requires a chair, a stub or a club then so be it. Whatever - get on it. There are no rules, really. The outcome can be incredibly serious.

    We created the sport, but it has always been about survival and warfare. Europeans have watered it (the martial arts) down and turned it into sport. Now, that being said, it's a great sport and a lot of fun. But there are two distinct types of martial arts' fighting.

    Just because you are good in the ring does not mean you will be able to duke it out on the street, and vice-versa. Those are the conundrums that one faces.

    In saying all of this, a true victory is one you don't have to fight in, when you have that tough guy shaking your hand on the way out and no contact has occurred. And there is also nothing wrong with being nervous or fearful; it is what you do with it that makes a hero.

    I'm also pretty calm about doing things. In my early years I was pissing myself, absolutely terrified (laughs). I couldn't look into a crowd or anything when doing a demonstration.

    Now I get in the ring and people expect this whole angry character and I don't give it to them. You never give anybody what he or she expects: that is just too easy.

    I remember I had just finished doing the sticks and sword work in a recent exhibition (for the Big Boys Day Out event at Mystery Creek in the Waikato) and I leaned over to a group of guys ringside and said, "Well that is painful first thing in the morning." (Laughs).

    People Expect This Whole Angry Character And I Don't Give It To Them.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    People Expect This Whole Angry Character
    And I Don't Give It To Them.

    [ DR ] You always seem to have the crowd on your side when you are performing. Does this crowd involvement help you in any way?

    [ RF ] Yes, you certainly want the crowd with you and it revs you up as well. It's no different than using your chi when striking. They are really attached to what you are doing. And when you do mess up and fail to break a board it gives the audience the realization that it is for real.

    People have said I make it all look easy when, in reality, it isn't. It is years of experience.

    [ DR ] Do you expect your students to evolve their own game as they progress through your system?

    [ RF ] Yes. In terms of actual combat I'll show you a series of techniques, but in the street nobody is a machine. Nobody is! So how you interpret it happens on the spot in conflict - because I can only simulate conflict.

    If someone is aggressive with you I don't know how you are going to interpret it. If someone is aggressive with me how I deal with it on Tuesday might be different to how I deal with it on Wednesday.

    So when I teach you the basic fundamentals of motion and combat, how you interpret it is entirely up to you. It depends on the context of the conflict. I never want to come off thinking I'm better than anyone because I'm not. But I've had a lot more fights than most.

    How You Interpret A Technique Happens On The Spot In Conflict.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    How You Interpret A Technique
    Happens On The Spot In Conflict.

    [ DR ] What makes a well-rounded martial artist?

    [ RF ] Be an empty cup and absorb as much knowledge as you possibly can on your martial arts journey. Train in different styles and seek the most effective aspects of each. That said, if you have the blocking ability of Kung Fu, the striking ability of Karate and the kicking ability of Tae Kwon Do you will be a very well rounded martial artist.

    [ DR ] In your view, what responsibilities should good martial arts instructors have?

    [ RF ] The instructor has a responsibility to ensure that whomever they teach will use it for good as opposed to evil. I teach a certain amount of passive aggressiveness. With our creed it's about respect. I like to think I follow the seven virtues of the samurai - the loyalty, respect and benevolence.

    They have great meaning to one's development and as long as you are following these in your everyday actions, those who are following you hopefully will have the same outcome in their thought patterns. Eventually, though, if you do have a bad person they do really lose the whole significance of the art, so they can only go so far. They don't have the patience to go on and learn the internal powers and strength of it.

    When you see the kata there is so much to remember, so much to know; there is the breathing to be learned. This is not really a conducive exercise for people who are aggressive. If you are forcefully hitting, you are exuding energy that is not necessary.

    Real combat involves muscle mechanics, figuring out the angles. I'm not your average martial arts guy; I'm truly more old school than a lot of people. I was really fortunate - I had some great instructors.

    I met Colonel Cunningham when I was 36 and into my 40s. Here's a man who really changed my life. And was there a belt? Nope. This guy was an assassin's assassin. I would do events and he would meet these young guys who call themselves masters: 28 or 30 year old men.

    He had very minimal respect for today's martial artists. You can become famous very quickly in this game, but I was never one who looked for glory. I just did what I did because I did it, and enjoyed it.

    I'm Not Your Average Martial Arts Guy; I'm Truly More Old School Than Most.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    I'm Not Your Average Martial Arts
    Guy; I'm Truly More Old School Than Most.

    [ DR ] Thank you very much for your time and great insights, Rick. It has been excellent talking with you today.

    [ RF ] Thank you David, it has been my pleasure.

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