Daily newspaper interview - 2002
SPORTS FOR ALL: MARTIAL ARTS
Frenchman in Taipei teaches Japanese martial arts to one and all.
Godfrey Zwygart, the editor-in-chief of LIFESTYLE is also a martial arts expert who teaches the discipline part-time, mostly for fun and enjoyment. Zwygart, who hails from France and has made Taiwan his home off and on since the 1980s, is a black belt in the seven disciplines of the Yoseikan -- a martial arts school founded in Japan in 1931 -- and has studied with the founder of Yoseikan, Master Mochizuki.
A busy man wearing the hat of both a businessman and a magazine editor, Zwygart even took time last year to travel to Belgium at his own expense to represent Taiwan at the annual European Cup of Yoseikan Bajutsu – a horseback-riding martial art-- and took 6th place. Although the news was never reported in the Taiwan media, Zwygart says he enjoyed the trip to Europe and hopes to participate in similar events again in the future.
In a recent interview, Zwygart discussed how he first got into martial arts and why it has become such a big part of his life now here in Taiwan.
LS: When did you first come to Taiwan and why?
Z: I first came to Taiwan on business in the 1980s, to built yachts. Believe it or not, I was an ocean shipmaster at the time, my original and real job. Then I left Taiwan, came back again, got into business here and got caught in the life here. Many people ask me why I like Taiwan so much, and it’s hard to explain exactly or describe, but let me put it this way: it's not so much the convenience of living in Taiwan that attracts me, but the people here are great, and I guess Taiwan's attraction for me lies in its people. What I always tell my friends here when they ask me why I came to Taiwan is this: I did not choose Taiwan so much as Taiwan chose me.
LS: How did you first become interested in Yoseikan Budo?
Z: I started martial arts with judo and then karate as a kid in France when I was 12 years old, and then went on and off through many different disciplines. I only got to discover Yoseikan Budo around 10 years ago. It was a revelation for me: everything I had learned separately before was in there, all in one! I was hooked.
LS: What exactly is Yoseikan Budo? Can you explain?
Z: Yoseikan Budo is a complete martial art. Some of the Japanese martial arts were turned into sports after WW2 for several reasons, one of them being that martial arts in Japan were actually forbidden after Japan lost the war. Yoseikan Budo, like Chinese kung fu, integrates all kinds of techniques: punches, kicks, throws, locks and floor-work, weapons and sword. It is based on the use of qi, a wave or undulation movement that starts from the body's epicenter, called "tan tian" in Chinese, and propagates through the body to generate a strong impact. Yoseikan Budo is also, I should add, a philosophy of life.
LS: How does one become involved in Yoseikan Budo here in Taiwan?
Z: Well, before I brought it back three years ago, there were no Yoseikan Budo schools or teachers here in Taiwan. While Yoseikan Budo --like all Asian martial arts, has its real roots in China-- the specific form was created by Master Minoru Mochizuki in Japan in 1931. Minoru Mochizuki is the highest-ranking "aikidoka" in the world today. He is 94 now, and his son Hiroo Mochizuki has taken over as "soke," or Grand Master. The Mochizukis actually brought Japanese martial arts to Europe. They were the first to teach karate and judo there before World War Two. They now live in France.
As a direct student of Hiroo Mochizuki, when I moved back to Taiwan four years ago, I decided, with our Master's approval, to start a Yoseikan Budo school in Taiwan. A national federation was first established, and I opened a "dojo" in Tienmu, with the aim of bringing people together under a same roof, some just to keep in shape, others to pursue a deeper search towards inner peace and balance. This is the only place where Yoseikan is taught in all of Taiwan at the present time, but I intend to expand with courses in Taipei City this year. In a strange way, I have completed an interesting loop, bringing back to Taiwan a martial art born in China, nurtured in Japan and first exported to Europe.
LS: Is Yoseikan Budo good for both men and women? How old is a good age to begin?
Z: There's no age or gender limit in our national federation here. I have students who range in age from four to fifty, from different national and ethnic origins. Taiwan Yoseikan Budo (TYB) is the most international club around and is very popular with the foreign community, with the mix of students now being about a third Taiwanese, a third Japanese and a third Westerners. However Yoseikan Budo is a tough discipline, so it might be a little hard for older people to keep up with, so I decided to turn our place into a multi-discipline dojo where softer forms are also taught, such as Taikido, a mix of Chi-kung, Tai-chi and Aikido.
For women, we have a great activity called Yoseikan Training. It's a boxing gym, and although it may sound like taibo, it's quite different in content and addresses mostly women in their 30s. Our gym incorporates elements of self-defense and some sparring. We also offer courses in oriental dance.
LS: What have you learnt from Yoseikan Budo?
Z: That's a good question. Many things. Technically speaking, I have learned many more techniques than in any other martial art I studied before, and most of all, I can combine all these techniques. But you find in Yoseikan Budo all the things that are in any martial art: physical fitness, self-control, focus, confidence, respect, honesty, courage, persistence and spiritual development.
There are two major points, however, that I'd like to stress here.
One is that Yoseikan Budo involves full-contact work, so one has to learn four basic concepts that make a good fighter: distance, movement, timing and rhythm. The other key point is the use of Chi. Everything starts from the Chi. Technique is just the icing on the cake.
The other point is that the more you learn, the less you get into trouble. In life, there are different levels of aggression. The beginning level of self-defense is when somebody attacks somebody else and they get killed. The second level would be when someone attacks someone else and they're only hurt. The third level would be when someone would attack someone else and they're not hurt. The fourth level would be that as they begin to think of the attack, one of them does something that stops the thought. And the last level would be that they never think of it. So with Yoseikan Budo, I'm slowly going up this scale in search of that tranquility.
LS: Interesting! Can you tell us how exactly has Yoseikan Budo made your life more meaningful?
Z: Well, first of all, as I said before, I have personally gained a lot of self-confidence. But now, as I have matured and become a teacher, I feel that what I'm doing – helping others, kids and adults alike, to grow stronger, behave better and live happier lives -- is full of meaning and satisfaction for me. I especially hope that it helps the youngsters I am teaching here become successful and stable adults.
Copyright 2006 - GZ.