Onassis Parungao Interview
Onassis Parungao, “Gao Bat Long,” has been practicing martial arts for over 25 years and had the pleasure of being an instructor at Lam Kwong Wings school in Sunnyvale, California. He also fought in UFC 7. I first found out about him because of the DVD project Kwoon back in 2004. I caught up with him and asked him a few questions.
Tell me a little bit about your martial arts background.
I was a U.S. Navy brat, so moving around a lot caused me to have to fight every time we moved. Growing up I fought allot…so eventually martial arts was a no-brainer. The short version is: I started with a Filipino method called Tung Kong Kalan (Arnis de Mano) and progressed through Judo, wrestling and then eventually Kung Fu…namely the styles of Hung Gar and Taiji. But after 34yrs of doing this stuff, it has taught me to never quit thirsting for a higher level.
When I was younger I tried to enter local Karate Tournaments to do some point fighting. It was extremely frustrating. In my mind I was winning…getting D-Q’d for excessive roughness was ridiculous. I had grown up with my father throwing me through hard wooden stools and learning to hit with conviction. Those experiences led me to jump at the chance when the UFC came along. It was a definitive way to win. No politics, no discrimination - you either take out your opponent or vice versa and I loved that.
I also liked Chinese San Shou for the same reasons…so winning a couple of belts in that sport felt like an accomplishment.
Still to this day, the Kung Fu is where my heart lies and what I spend the bulk of my time teaching and training. It’s deep in knowledge and I spend a tremendous amount of energy making sure it works for what I do. What most people know me for is: I’m a fighter first and teacher second. To me, health and longevity are just convenient side effects. To be frank however, as I’m getting older I think those two roles are gradually reversing.
Many people, like me, know you from Kwoon fame. Where did that project finally lead and do you still keep in touch with everyone who was involved?
Well, technically KWOON is still alive and the DVD is still being sold - it’s just not being funded. Otherwise we’d be making more episodes. We made 3 in total but had many more possible scripts to do…we just ran out of money. Honestly I could go on and on about the ups and downs of that industry and dealing with producers, distributors and movie makers but in the end it always comes down to money. It’s a shame really because I had visions of hiring awesome guest martial artists for new episodes. There was this one idea about an Olympic level Judo player, tossing everyone through walls and such. Or maybe a world class fencer and so forth.
I do keep in contact with the gang a bit. Todd works for Warner Bros. now down in L.A. and if you’re really are a fan of the show…you’d know that Todd needs to be around HOT CHICKS - for him it’s a must.
You participated in UFC 7 – when it was in its infancy. What did you get out of that experience?
First, let me say that I was an “Alternate,” which means that if someone from the main draw couldn’t continue, then an alternate would step in and fight in his stead. We as alternates also had to fight and win a match just to earn that right. I was grateful because we were treated as equals and televised on pay per view just the same.
You see, in 1995, the UFC was still a bracketed tourney…meaning you had to fight at least 3x’s in one night in order to win. The only rules at that time were 1. No eye gouging and 2. No biting. Also there were no weight classes, so a 150lb guy could fight a 350lb dude. Currently there are more rules, gloves, weight classes and you only have to fight once in a nite.
A few months later I also fought in the Russian Absolute, which was a 2 day version of the UFC and won a match. That same year I was asked to join a new Pancrase fighting league in Japan but I refused because I had just gotten married and I didn’t want to leave my new bride alone for so long. Call me a softie.
Of course I learned much about the ugly business of the sport, the shady people, drugs, even prostitution. I also learned about my strengths and weaknesses. I came to some realizations about my Kung Fu. No, I’m not about to be one of those guys who does a complete 180, gives up and goes straight to BJJ and Muay Thai. To the contrary I used those experiences to help me understand how to apply traditional kung fu in a more real world setting. Starting from entry methods down to escaping, notice that I didn’t say finishes? Anyway, applying the traditional kung fu is what I’m best at and that is what people usually want me to do seminars on.
Has your approach to teaching and training changed over the years?
Without a doubt! I guess like most people in the beginning of their careers they focus on “Speed, Power and Technique.” Eventually, as you advance in martial arts, you focus on being more mature. Example:
Both a beginner and an advanced person may use a simple technique. The more advanced you get, the more simple you are in application. The difference between them is that the advanced person does all the fundamentals A LOT better and with experience, at the right time.
Also, the last 14yrs I’ve been obsessed with the concept of “The Gun and the Bullets:”
- The Gun is your ability to use your methods and set up your opponent….effectively and consistently. VS. tall, short, large or small people (doesn’t matter), when you really know what you’re doing it’s a revelation. It is also the knowledge of what you can and cannot do, should and shouldn’t do.
- The bullets are how hard or developed your actual weapons/tools are. For example: developing a powerful strike. But remember, bullets are nothing without the Gun.
- The missing piece is if you’re good at using the Gun, you also deny or leave less opportunity for your opponent to fire back.
I have many teaching drills and concepts to expound upon this Gun concept. I often get asked about these quite a bit.
Do you have any future plans for articles, books or videos?
Yes, but it’s been difficult. I was never trained in the business of martial arts. How to self promote or how to think that way. So often I’m asked to write about what I know regarding the modern usage of Kung Fu. It’s such a touchy subject with me because I know the usefulness of Kung Fu in general as a martial art; both in personal self defense and from having fought in competition.
Half of me wants to share what I know to good people who are willing to learn, or more appropriately, work hard for it. The other half of me can’t stand picky, lazy, judgmental, condescending know- it –all’s that don’t deserve a short cut.
How do I share in a poignant, meaningful way…things that have taken me years to learn well? When people read descriptions of movements or application for disciplines in motion, like Kung Fu, they can only rely on their own personal experiences. If the reader lacks a certain foundation of knowledge then the message may not be understood.
I truly would like to put something out via any of those suggested mediums, especially on drilling, training or application concepts.
How can people get a hold of you for training and seminars?
Easy, the best way is email: cykwoon [at] yahoo.com
School Reference: http://cykwoon.freewebspace.com/
Cheng Yee Kung Fu School YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Subitai