Mr. Eric Ishii first studied under shifu Li Da Chong (Brendan Lai) for more than 20 years. He passed away on Sunday, December 10, 2000 at Mills Peninsular Hospital (California, USA) after fighting against Leukemia for some time.
This is definitely a big loss to the praying mantis boxing community with whom he openly shared his deep knowledge. Personally, I have lost a very good friend, and this bio is my humble tribute to his memory. Eric, wherever you are I am sure you will be training Tang Lang Quan !!!
TRAINING IN HAWAII
Mr. Eric Ishii was brought up in Hawaii. Hawaii has a mixture of cultures and when he was very young there use to be black and white Japanese TV movies of Samurai and Ninja shows, both live action and Cartoon ones. This had some influence in getting Eric involved with Kendo (Japanese bamboo sword fighting with protective armor) when he was 9 or 10 years old. He trained Kendo under sensei Matsuda-san for about two years. Eric got to 3rd level during elimination in a statewide Competition, but then dropped out due to school homework was getting harder and taking longer to do.
During his Junior and senior years of High School, he trained in Kempo Karate under sensei Dustin Dunn for nearly three years. Kempo forms were animal based, which included separate sets / fighting techniques from Twin Dragons, Tiger, Crane, Horse and Bear. Besides practicing forms, they sparred a lot. It was through his involvement with Kempo that he was exposed to gong fu, and other martial art systems and movies. Then his teacher left Hawaii to go live in Los Angeles, California (USA).
Mr. Ishii I looked around for another teacher and he ended up taking Cai Li Fo (Choy Lee Fut) under shifu Buck Sam Kong after going to one of their recruiting demos which featured a lot of the animal forms. After he signed up and started practicing, he found out that the animal forms were not to be taught until one completed the Cai Li Fo forms in their curriculum. He tried to stick with the style because he was really interested in the animal forms at that time, however he just did not like the Long Range Forcing Power fighting of the Cai Li Fo, so after 9 months, he left.
Mr. Ishii ended up looking around again at different schools that were “open” to non-Chinese and visited the Bai He Quan (White Crane) Tibetan Hop Gar school of shifu Chuck Tse on two occasions. The White Crane class reminded Eric too much of the Cai Li Fo class and he politely decided not to join.
Later Eric became involved with training under shifu Patrick Hodges, who had been exposed to Northern Styles of gong fu, which were rare to find in Hawaii at the time (nearly everyone practiced Southern Styles or Tai Ji Quan and that was about it). Shifu Patrick had trained at the “Chinese Physical Culture Club of Hawaii”, a Chinese gong fu club in Hawaii similar to the Jing Wu Association. As a part of this club’s activities, they occasionally hosted visiting masters of traditional gong-fu and shifu Patrick managed to learn a set from every visiting shifu. In the early 70’s shifu Patrick was teaching northern gong fu (basically Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Zhang) when Eric started learning under him. Under shifu Patrick, Eric learnt his first Bei Tang Lang (Northern Mantis set), Beng Bu Quan (Crushing Step Boxing), and that started Eric to develop his interest in this style. Shifu Patrick left Hawaii to go study gong fu to Taiwan under shifu Shen Mou Hui, and after a six month stint, shifu Patrick came back and kept teaching Eric. Eric kept learning bei gong fu forms: Lien Bu Quan (Continuous Step Boxing), Gong Li Quan (Martial Power Boxing), Shaolin Er Lu (Two Shaolin Rows), Si Lu Ben Da (Four Routes Running Combat) and Yang Qing Fei Tui (The Flying Legs of Yang Qing -Yang Qing is a character from Water Margin Story-). But Eric was really interested in Northern Mantis and shifu Patrick only knew a little at that time, therefore Patrick advised him to go California to from shifu Li Da Chong (who was the only one at the time teaching Northern Mantis in the US (advice that finally Eric took moving to CA). Eric always remembered Patrick as a friend and teacher, and whenever Eric visited his home in Hawaii he would bring him a gift of lup cheong (Chinese sausage) or Kwan Yin tea. Eric and Patrick kept their friendship over the years.
Around 1974 Eric met shifu Anthony Chuy in Hawaii through a friend at the military base. At that time Eric was eager to learn Praying Mantis from shifu Chuy and the latter shared his Tai Ji Tang Lang Quan and Qi Xing Tang Lang Quan knowledge with Eric, training with him every week. Eric learned from shifu Chuy some forms and they eventually became friends and kept their relationship over the years.
Around 1975 shifu Anthony Chuy introduced Eric to shifu Ross Mobley who had spent years both in Malaysia and Hong Kong studying basically Wu Style Tai Ji Quan, but he had also learned a rare Northern style called Qi Xing Quan (Seven Stars Boxing). Eric learned from shifu Mobley the form Heavenly Fist, one of the two surviving forms of this style.
Eric kept training under shifu Anthony Chuy until the later left Hawaii in 1976. After his training under shifu Chuy, Eric decided to continue studying the Northern Praying Mantis System under shifu Huang Han Xun lineage on the continental United States.
Later Eric met an immigrant from South Korea (who was of Chinese descent). This person had been trained in the Korean branch of Mei Hua Tang Lang Quan (Plum Flower Praying Mantis Boxing). Eric learned three sets from this person: the Korean branch version of Dai Fan Che (Big Tumbling Chariot), Mei Hua Luo (Plum Flower Falling) and Jin Gang Quan Quan (Buddhist Goddess Boxing). Eric only kept training the third one that he particularly liked.
TRAINING IN CONTINENTAL US
Eric had a choice of relocating to San Francisco, Colorado, New York, or Hong Kong to look up a Praying Mantis School. Eric did an visit to San Francisco, California (USA) in 1976 and visited various schools, including shifu Wong Jack Man (Jing Wu representative), shifu Kuo Ying Yee, shifu Y.C. Wong and shifu Li Da Chong. He took lessons with shifu Li Da Chong for the remainder of his extended vacation.
Eric ended up moving up from Hawaii to San Francisco in 1978 and he lived in the Bay Area until he passed away in 2000. At first, when Eric arrived to San Francisco he was just training under shifu Li Da Chong, then he was introduced to shifu Peter Kwong (who was shifu Li Da Chong’s elder classmate and gong fu brother). Shifu Kwong held two types of classes, one was an “open” class (mixed races) and the other one was “closed”, that was only intended for Chinese students. Eric ended up being able to join both classes and he was the only one in the “closed” class that attended the other “open” class too. This training under shifu Kwong lasted more than one year.
Somewhere around this time Eric was also introduced to shifu Xu Ji (Adam Hsu) and Eric also started learning Liang Yi (an internal style related to Ba Gua Zhang) under him. There are two sets that Eric learned from shifu Xu Ji, the Hand set and the Leg set. Eric kept practicing Hand set. Therefore, at that time he was training under three different shifus, although two of them belonged to the same style.
During 1979 Eric’s grandfather back in Hawaii became very ill, just after Eric’s grandmother had passed away, and he went back to Hawaii for a little while. When he returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, shifu Kwong had stopped teaching and Eric was told by shifu Li Da Chong that he had to make a decision between shifu Xu Ji and shifu Li Da Chong. Eric chose to keep training under shifu Li Da Chong and quit training under shifu Xu Ji. He kept learned under shifu Li the next 20 years.
Eric kept studying with shifu Li Da Chong, even after he was given verbal and a written document stating that he could teach. Eric wanted to teach but he considered the interest level for people wanting to study tang lang was very low and a studio room was too costly, therefore he preferred to continue studying under his master and assisting him with some instruction during the normal classes.
Eric was a sort of mantis encyclopedia, he knew most of the shifu Huang Han Xun lineage “solo” and sets except for:
Ba Zhao (Eight Elbows), Xiao Fan Che (Small Tumbling Chariot), Lian Huan Jin Tao (Chain Link Silky Suite) and the Zui Luo Han (Drunken Arhat) that he really had no interest in learning. He also knew both sides of a bunch of two-man sets of shifu Huang Han Xun lineage, including:
Beng Bu (Crushing Steps), Shi Ba Sou (Eighteen Old Men), Duo Gang (Conceal the Hard with the Soft), Bai Yuan Tou Tao (White ape steals the peach), Tao Hua San(Peach Flower Umbrella), etc.
He also knew many weapon forms (solo and two-man) including some rare forms such as: Dan Dao Dui Qiang (Single Broadsword Versus Spear), Shuang Bi Shou Dui Qiang (Double Daggers Versus Spear), Qi Men Gun Dui Qiang (Long Staff Versus Spear), etc.
OTHER TANG LANG QUAN TRAINING
In September 1991 Eric traveled to People’s Republic of China and he competed in the “Jinan International Traditional Wushu Competition and Demonstration Festival”. Eric won the First Prize in Group C of Men’s Boxing. He went to China again in 1994.
Eric was open and willing to learn, therefore he trained with several masters in seminars or special classes, learning a bunch of forms, in addition to his main style curriculum:
Special seminar type classes from shifu Zhang in Honolulu Hawaii, Tai Ji Tang Lang Quan (Supreme Praying Mantis Boxing) from shifu Zhao Zhu Xi (Chu Chuk Kai) lineage.
Special seminar type class from shifu Lee Kam Wing in Hong Kong where he learnt the form Tang Lang Bu Xuang Quan (Mantis Stepping Whirlabout Boxing)
Five Linking Methods, a set based on items taken from the Lan Jie Quan (Intercepting Boxing)
All Plum Flower sets from the Mei Hua Tang Lang Quan (Plumb Flower Praying Mantis Boxing) branch
Seminar in People’s Republic of China from shifu Lin Dong Chu from Yantai branch of Qi Xing Tang Lang (Seven Stars Praying Mantis Boxing), where he learnt PRC mantis Beng Bu (Crushing Step) form.
In Jinan (PRC) he took a seminar on Tai Ji Mei Hua Tang Lang Quan (Plumb Flower Supreme Praying Mantis Boxing) and he learnt Xiao Fan Che (Small Tumbling Chariot)
Shifu Zhang Bin Dou, Tai Ji Mei Hua Tang Lang Quan visiting San Francisco (USA) taught shifu Li Da Chong students the set Bu Chan (Catch the Cicada)
Wu Shu Mantis form called Xiao Tang Lang (Little Praying Mantis). Eric learnt this form from shifu Li Da Chong when the latter returned from one of his trips to PRC.
Besides Tang Lang Quan, Eric had some other interests. He had a collection of antique Chinese Weapons including several dan daos, guan daos, pu daos, daggers, jians, hatchets, chain whips and spears.
Eric enjoyed Sci-Fi movies and techno and trance Music (he was previously into heavy metal and 70’s & 80’s Punk). He was part of two different rock bands one which was a new wavish band (named Seppuku) and the other was a Heavy Punk Metal band (named Gutless), which released a 7″ record.
Eric’s nickname SEP (short for Seppuku – ritualistic suicide to protect one’s honor) stuck with Eric for long time. Apart from this, Eric loved Chinese food and was a good cook (Asian food).
Eric passed away at 2:17 a.m. on Sunday, December 10, 2000 at Mills Peninsula Hospital after fighting against Leukemia for some time. His passing away is a great lost to all the Praying Mantis Community. We have lost a great martial artist and a veritable fountain of knowledge but also a big friend and a beautiful soul. He will truly be missed by many.