Marko Vesse - the Invisible Master

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Sifu Marko Vesse is the founder of the Wu Xing Dao style of kung fu, which focuses on explosive internal power and ‘steel-body’ conditioning. A master of the ‘internal’ martial arts, Vesse has spent considerable time in China researching these and improving his own methods, which he also teaches to boxers and professional rugby league teams. He recently gave Blitz an insight into his system

Sifu Marko Vesse
Sifu Marko Vesse - the invisible master

First, let’s recap briefly on your martial arts career: with whom and in what styles have you trained over the years?

I have been continuously training in combative arts for 25 years. I started my martial career as an amateur boxer at 13, under Jim Tsironis. I then both studied and taught Pak Hok (White Crane) kung fu under Sifu Ernest Ma and also Sifu Peter Quo. Then I trained in Mian Chuan with Sifu Martin Yang. I eventually became the chief instructor and co-founder of what is known in Australia as the Yang Mian System. I went to China to train in the Chen Men style of tai chi with Sifu Nian Guo Xin, who had won the Chinese national tai chi title four times. During later trips to China, I studied under Master Wong of Mei Hua Chuan (an ancient internal style of kung fu). Under his tutelage, I’ve been trained in Chen-style tai chi, chi kung [qi gong] and weaponry.

It has become very clear to me that a martial artist will not reach the heights possible by sticking to the one system all the time. Even though great skill can be developed this way, no one system is perfect. A highly respected Chinese master told me that one should study at least five styles of kung fu in order to become truly advanced. This advice has been repeated by other Chinese masters I’ve had the honour to spar with.

What was it each time that led to you making these moves and branching out into each of the different styles?

In a word, progression. All martial arts styles and teachers have something to offer, but it’s up to the individual to constantly expand on their knowledge to improve their current skills. When we consider the lives of the great martial artists who have become legendary, we always find that they broke with tradition and either left their earlier styles and created something new or else took their art to a higher level by injecting their own creative thinking.

I encourage my students to use their minds and their creative thinking as well as their bodies. My goal is to train someone who will one day be able to beat me. However, I also keep training hard myself and experimenting in order to make that goal difficult to reach. With this attitude, my students and I are able to keep improving both ourselves and our art. Continuous practice, experimentation and creative thinking are a tough combination to beat.

How would you describe the system you currently teach?

Wu Xing Dao is an extremely diverse fighting system. It holds true to the core of what mixed martial arts are all about. From the beginning, students learn to develop explosive power and speed, while programming the nervous system with an instinctive ability to strike in a multiplicity of ways. Because Wu Xing Dao is a genuine internal art, this is accomplished without strain. Relaxation and flexibility are emphasised right from the beginning. Students learn to use the whole body as a weapon, not limiting themselves to just punches or kicks. It is a style that continually evolves and strives for the simplest and most affective approach to combat. There are no wasted movements and what you practise is street-effective. Imagine having arms made of rubber with a steel ball attached to the end. Now imagine you have the ability to throw them in any direction with blinding speed. The result would be deadly and not typical of your size, appearance or strength. You become an unassuming but dangerous fighter!

Your system boasts the ability to make people ‘hit faster than professional boxers’. If that’s the case, are there any pro boxers now using your methods?

We have many students hitting faster than professional boxers and they do it on a daily basis. Their strikes are not just quicker, but in most cases, much more powerful. It is not difficult once you know how. Wu Xing Dao’s elastic nature and the way it stores and releases explosive energy are the key ingredients, and will enhance a boxer’s speed and punching power considerably. I’ve trained several boxers who will testify to the improved power, speed and performance that this training has offered.

Parry Mouhtaris is an example. He was an exceptional amateur boxer from 1986 to 1991, winning four Australian and six NSW titles, and was Australia’s hope for gold in the Olympics. However, Parry’s boxing career was short-lived through an unfortunate horse-riding accident. For him, like some of us, the fighting arts are a passion. Although he’s unable to compete professionally, he is still very much involved in the boxing community and is a pre-fight sparring partner to some of Australia’s big names, such as Emanuel Augustus. He strives to continually expand on his fighting knowledge and boasts a number of improvements when he takes his gloves to the ring.

Another boxer, Roman Savchen, was introduced to me by a friend. I taught Roman some power-development exercises and incorporated it into his boxing. Roman was later very thankful and stated that it has greatly helped him in his boxing career. He went on to win two NSW amateur titles in 2005 and 2006. He said: “I can now knock them down, left or right hand; before it was very hard. Thank you very much for showing me!”

I would welcome more professional boxers as students and am prepared to give them a money-back guarantee that I can improve their speed and power. If you’re a boxer and reading this article, come and see me. Nothing to lose, but plenty to gain.

In the past few years, you’ve spent quite a bit of time training in China. How has what you learned there influenced what you’re now teaching?

Thanks to my internal cultivation of Mei Hua chi kung and tai chi, I’ve learnt to fuse all the styles together. I’ve also learned a great deal about the cultivation and release of internal energy. I’ve learned to balance and improve the strength of our inner structure to heighten physical performance and prolong life. These things and more have evolved the way Wu Xing Dao is taught today.

You’ve done a bit of work with the South Sydney Rabbitohs Rugby League Club — what were you teaching them, and how did you tailor your program to their needs?

Souths decided to involve players who they felt needed the extra conditioning. This meant that other players were not involved. Consequently, I can’t boast great results like those achieved with the Penrith Panthers back in 2000, when I trained the entire team.

The program was done three days per week during the off-season and two days during the playing season. It’s a dynamic body-conditioning process that works from the inside out, rather than strengthening core power through weights. The main focus was on conditioning the players to be able to withstand higher degrees of impact in defence and to improve their penetration while running the ball in their hit-ups, and to improve their focus and recovery.

The players were taught how to handle heavy body-contact without injury. Focus, concentration and peripheral vision and targeting were other important skills that were taught. They were also taught how to apply the conditioning with the use of a football while practising passing skills during body contact.

Souths’ strength and conditioning trainer David Boyle said he wasn’t expecting the revolutionary course to turn the rugby league battlers into premiership contenders overnight, but that fans should see a new resolve and hardness in the Rabbitohs. This is an extract from an article about my work with Souths by James MacSmith in the Sydney Morning Herald: “It’s about getting these players really confident with a lot of contact,” Boyle said. “And that’s how we plan to play in 2006. We need to get our spot players [players targeted by opposition defences] defence-orientated.

“I’m quietly confident it is going to make a big difference. I’ve even told Joe Williams this could save his career. But the proof will start with the Charity Shields and move into the season. I am hopeful.”

A lot of rugby league and AFL clubs have for some time now been doing some cross-training in the grappling arts, like BJJ and wrestling, as well as boxing and martial arts. Do you think other elite sports can benefit from training in martial arts, such as those you teach?

Martial arts training can improve performance in all types of competitive sports. It develops amazing body awareness and the ability to master aspects of your sport more quickly. It helps concentration, focus and confidence and gets you into the zone. The development of power and speed can be readily applied to improve sporting performance without the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Recovery and injury-prevention are also key factors, and I have had great results incorporating it into my daughter’s tennis career. I’ve applied it to Manly Warringah Cricket Club to benefit the players’ mental and physical wellbeing, with strong focus on calm minds and explosive power. I’ve been credited by coach Michael Pawley and the club’s staff and players for their successful year when Manly became 2002 club champions.

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