A taste of Hollywood with Dave Lea 2011

Dave Lea grew up in North London and now rubs shoulders with the stars in Hollywood, that famous district in LA.  Dave is a stunt and fight coordinator, actor, stuntman and a dance teacher. He has appeared in films like Get Carter, Tango and Cash where he fights Sylvester Stallone. He’s also been floored by Jean Claude Van Damme in a leotard, also the cowboy played by Will Smith in Wild Wild West and been gunned down by Rene Russo in Lethal Weapon 3, but who wouldn’t let that happen? The movies that perhaps capture most imaginations are the Batman and Batman Returns, Dave stunt/fight doubles for Michael Keaton in both.

Now imagine Dave Lea sits in a small Knightsbridge café with Christmas music in the background after a weekend seminar; and he’s already planning what fight scene he could do with the tools he has around him.

 “Hey I want to add a bit of flamboyance in here. Maybe a punch from one style, a kick from another.  All that stuff I learnt in one piece of choreography, story, script, character, it will be exciting and dynamic. There are so many elements, it can be overwhelming. What if I wanted to do a fight in there and include those stairs and that table. You can’t do a spinning whip kick in there, it’s up close you gotta go close contact, elbows knees, head butts. You gotta be able to co-ordinate it and set up cameras for that, sometimes four different cameras with guys, it’s huge. You can just pick a bottle up and hit someone over the head or you can do it with a little panache!”

Luckily for some in November 2011 Dave Lea came back to London to show some of what he has learnt since he got to LA. We know Hollywood is renowned for its celebrities, red carpet movies, bright lights and millions of dollars. So how did he get there?

“I guess I was ready, I had trained for years in several martial arts. I started on Eastenders after a nine month straight acting role, I just felt the need to kick things over, smash things up on set! From there I found my way into a Batman movie as a motorbike rider. I saw the action playing a biker guy on the street, I wanted to be involved so I worked out at every opportunity, someone told the producer about me and my skills, at that time they were looking for a real time fighter – that’s how I came to wear the Batman suit. The producer liked what he saw invited me to Los Angeles and that is also how I got onto Tango and Cash. Thanks Phil! I thrive on action roles.”

Why return to the UK, what did you want to achieve?

 “I have done a couple of stunt seminars before and was hungry to do them again, I wanted to do a couple of seminars in the UK to share knowledge and my experiences in Hollywood. This should appeal to martial artists interested in the action movie genre.

 “For the London seminar it was important to get some choreography on camera, show the guys what they had done that weekend. I had to determine where each person was at and work with that.  I only need to see a couple of good moves in the audition to know what I am working with. I saw the kata’s and the kicks. I think some were humbled by the experience, not many realised how much goes into making the movies, until they got stuck in. It is important to recognise that the camera doesn’t just recognise kata’s in a brutal fight scene, it sees everything. I tried to help the attendees to use everything they have and they were happy to give everything back”

How are martial arts helpful in the stunt movie industry?

“Martial arts helps due to the discipline and movements involved, but think of self defence, street fighting and a movie punch, I can tell you they are all hugely different. Hit a boxer he’ll jab you in the face, choreograph a fight in a movie with Brad Pitt, you gotta be something different. If you wanna be a fire-fighter you got to respect the fire and understand it, if you want to be a culinary chef, don’t go into fast food restaurants. My advice to aspiring actors in this business or stunt people is, make sure your credentials are correct, be honest, be ready.”

Luke Scott attended the London seminar, he started martial arts at the age of six in Lau Gar Kung Fu and now practices and competes worldwide in Wushu and sport Karate Forms. He said:

“Although martial arts play a part in stunt fighting, they are completely different concepts and it is an art in itself. The most important thing I learnt was how important the camera is. That’s the primary consideration for a stunt fight, you have to be accurate and powerful and get the distance right to sell the fight – along with timing your facial expression and body posture to react to the other fighters as well! It was a whole new way of thinking for someone who is used to just worrying about how well he’s doing the technique.”

Dave remembers a valuable lesson when he trained with Dan Inosanto in LA:

“For me, I am thankful I wasn’t satisfied with one style, I studied as much as I could I went around the world learning new styles. Dan Inosanto’s students hit me with everything and I had to suck it all up. I realised don’t be restricted. I want to use the best of all styles as well as I can. I want to learn as much as I can to keep adding to the repertoire. It is the same with dancing; I do Viennese Waltz, Salsa, Latin Ballroom and Tango…. I don’t know what the music will be but I am going to dance to it, no restrictions! My advice would be don’t prepare yourself, be ready – that means consistency, keep training. Learn the basics and learn them well, don’t be in a rush to get up there. Be well trained, understand martial arts, the greatest martial artist will be a guy/gal that can snap a hair off ya nose and not hit you, so close to your face your hair blows up and comes down again and you can only guess what that would feel like to hit your face.”

Do you have any favourite moves you like to use?

 “Yes a nice low shin to someone’s thigh is strong. I like the snap popping side kick to the kidney, that’s nice. Sometimes a low kick to the knee takes care of business. I love watching all martial arts, I like Pencak Silat, which is physically very exciting I love watching that stuff. Wing Chun kicks are not very flashy, unlike Wushu, but very effective. I enjoyed the Ip Man movies. I am a great admirer of the wing chun power.”

If people were to contact you about your seminars and master classes what can they do now to learn more about the performance industry?

“Be even more ready for the next time I am in the UK, prepare your show reel. I love to be positive but I won’t candy coat anything for ya. Are you gonna be like me, no. But, maybe I can help adjust your frame of mind and teach you about acting and stunt performance. Or maybe I will create something for you to aspire to. It is an exciting adventure. Before the seminar I asked people have you ever been shot, stabbed, run over, or hit with a baseball bat? The camera and audience can read your pain! The question made them think about that and how they might use that emotion in a scene. My seminar took people out of their comfort zone, but they learnt from it and left smiling.

“In the meantime study movies, get on set, ask what lens is that, compare it on the monitors, some people go to film school, some people wing it. Ask yourself what you have learnt since your last happy memorable experience – what have you really learnt and is it enough, maybe not? Ask your mentors questions and keep studying anything can look good if you have nothing substantial to compare it to. I still ask my mentors questions all the time, One being Charlie Picerni, who did all the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard action movies.”

Steve Coleman has studied martial arts for 21 years including Shotokan Karate and Wushu. He has worked as a stuntman and acrobat for TV commercials, music videos and live performances. He attended the London seminar and master class and says Dave is a different man with a camera in his hand:

“My first impression of Dave was “this guy looks serious about business” and I was pleasantly surprised when he threw us in at the deep end. Personal tuition on fight choreography from someone like Dave rarely happens if ever. My creative side was overhauled, my choreography was opened up and I was exposed to new ideas, new methods and alternative approaches to creating fight scenes. You should see Dave in action. His ideas and creativity will change your whole concept. You will learn many new methods and importantly get a feel for working under a stunt coordinator (it is tough!). The approach Dave uses is very hands on and ensures quality and creativity as well as securing the actors safety. I haven’t experienced this level of detail from any stunt coordinator previously.”

What is next for Dave Lea?

“If someone calls me up to book me for a seminar, I’ll try to make it happen. I used to go to martial art seminars with visiting yanks when I grew up in London, so I thought I would do the same, teach what I have learnt. Who knows I may be on location in six months. In January I am shooting a commercial in Vegas. I’ve learnt when it happens it happens. I get excited to come back to the UK for what I do, bit of business, see the family and go back. However, there is something endearing, embracing about LA.  You bet yourself a dollar every time there is a blue sky out there. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. The choices we make shape our lives, yet the choices we don’t make can shape our life’s more profoundly.”

To contact Dave Lea http://www.davelea.com/

Or email davelea7@earthlink.net

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I used to despair that I wasn’t contributing to the world when I worked in an office. I knew I could be doing more. That knowing became doing eventually.

“Stand for nothing and you will fall for anything”

I believed that physical exercise would heal my broken heart. Now I know that was just the beginning.

I have the tenacity similar to that when I was a teenager and LOVE that comes with it simply because I use my body to achieve new goals. I keep learning about myself.

Now I know people, I know the mind.

I won’t quit.

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It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me

I was given a copy of a 1990 MAI magazine, my sister bought me it as a gift. Bruce Lee was on the front! On her recent trip to Sheffield, it had been left in a charity shop for her to find.

I skimmed through this morning and found Dave Lea teaching women self defence, I noticed he had the same hair cut as when I met him at a stunt seminar a couple of years ago. I was going to write a story for some UK martial arts magazines based on what I learnt at his seminar but it never happened – until now.

So what does Dave Lea do? He is a Hollywood stuntman, a dancer, a teacher of his ways and an exciting martial artist.

Before we met in the UK we spoke on the phone several times about his website from his home in LA. We discussed why he was going to visit the UK and his past. Also that he had an operation coming up. We agreed I should attend the seminar, take my camera (I am not a photographer) and do an interview. I took part in day one of the seminar, not day two as I had been invited to the Combat magazine hall of fame awards.

Day One was a blast. Dave is a little grimy in appearance, by that I mean thisDave Lea TMAX (see image). When he got down to action he was glowing. Full of energy, excitement and enthusiasm. He wanted everyone to feel at ease, so used me as guinea pig for demonstrations! Dave is a warm person with an immense inner child and he is a stunt man!

He is not too flashy. He knows what he is talking about. He admits he was in the right place at the right time when it came to working on the Batman. This doesn’t mean he was lucky. It means he was ready.

When we got down to learning some basic principles of stunt choreography he watched us intently and quickly spotted – we all lacked what he had. Flair.

By the end of the day I had learnt more about Dave than I had screen fighting. I believe that was for the greater good. I went away feeling I was not ready, but that I could be. He did not destroy my passion he enhanced it. I do think my relentless attitude has something to do with it. But I also think his kindness and gusto for what he does, had an everlasting effect on me too.

Now it wasn’t all rosy and light. Dave and I continued talking about what he would like to have portrayed in my story. To a very fine art. We met in a café (I bought the croissants and coffee) and I asked the questions I thought should be answered to show his true self. But I did not even scratch the surface and we failed to reach a conclusion about how the piece should be written (then Combat magazine ceased to exist).

Now, I have always wanted to write about Dave Lea so I have done this post and soon the story I wrote will follow shortly (which in hindsight does not do either of us justice, but you live and learn)!

I urge you to check out his retro website http://www.davelea.com/stunt-training/seminars/london-2013/

(Quick side note; you will see Linda Hall on the pictures, Dave introduced us. Linda is stunning in many ways)!

Dave has vast experience in the movie industry and does not need to brag about it. He now represents to me what I expect the back stage of Hollywood to be all about. Understated crazy class acts and hard work.

Rest assured his seminars are the worthwhile if you want to capture a glimpse of him at his Hollywood best.

I think his role as the stunt double for Batman working with Tim Burton says more than I possibly can. I urge anyone, who is interested in martial arts. No fuss stunt/fight choreography. Who wants a role model with flair and ambition to meet Dave Lea. I was lucky enough to get to know the man behind the mask and he’s, well…. intriguing.

Remember “It is not who I am but what I do that defines me”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRqa47-jv0M Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Dave Lea.

Dave Lea is back in the UK this September/October at TMAX, his details are on his website.

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When I stand still

As I sit and type in my room I listen to this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRr9nQWJDxc&list=RD02D60eLhlik04 I feel tearful.

Partly it is due to the excitement of yoga and what it is doing to my mind and in turn my body. The other part is fear of my age and how quickly time goes.

Both of these aspects I can manage with the words that sound in my head … “Just Train”.

Just step onto the mat

Just step onto the mat

So this part of the rollercoaster will soon be over and I will just hold on. With all my heart.

I have spent the best part of a year and a half training in Shaolin Kung Fu with who I consider to be a teacher of very high value. Which is why the very little I earn, goes back into his teachings. Various aspects have meant my levels of commitment have wavered, but I always come back to my heart. I imagine myself being elsewhere sometimes, I know I am still meant to be here for now.

I have not left Shaolin once and each term I learn lessons the hard way. Which means my confidence is affected. Which in turn affects my training.

Despite the recommendation to meditate daily (yin), I haven’t. I feared losing the strength I had acquired through physical exercise (yang). Until now. I see well respected teachers writing on social media “just do what your coach says” and think to myself… I do, don’t I?! Recently I realised no I haven’t. However it is not due to disrespect. It is due to ignorance, the old cliché “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” springs to mind. I am guilty of it and that is why I know when I tell others what they must do to be strong…. I know I have to wait patiently and the ones who do listen and take part, will come back to me.

nurture your feminine side

nurture your feminine side

I have had one thing remain with me at every stage of a recent transformation.

YOGA – The Love Warrior Duncan Wong, Iyengar, my sister. Have all been there when I had to run for freedom. They are there now when I find Shaolin so hard I am unable to see anything else.

Today I did mountain pose as Iyengar and his student Scaravelli advise in their books.

Mountain Pose or ‘Tadasana’ is just standing still but is the basis for all the asanas (posture sequences with breathing instructions). I stood still with time in my newly reformed bedroom for a minute.

And gave full attention to what happened to my body throughout. My breathing was relaxed. I listened to what happened when I breathed in and out. Felt the breath in my lungs and brain. Wherever else it wanted to travel. And I was at peace.

Gravity takes hold in this position. I felt tension in my shoulders drift away. I notice that my left side is not as strong as my right. (I am working on that with other asanas and exercises, focusing on my glutes, which appear to not work as they should)! My feet tip in balance occasionally. And I have tension in my right shoulder.

If standing still can tell me that and other yoga postures can rectify this. Why would I not do yoga?

Ask yourself why would you not do yoga, if it is as simple to start as standing still.

To conquer a mountain, you must understand it, embrace it, respect it, follow the paths it gives you and overcome it.

This could be said for everything in life. Balance.

Now, imagine what the world would be like if we all stopped, stood still, practiced unity and overcame a mountain. What would we have learnt? What would we do next? Why would we ever give up learning and understanding.

Yoga is not scary. Kung Fu is not scary. Mountains are not scary.

I am not scary.

I am not scared. For now that is anyway!

Mountain Rescue Team at Scafell Pike. I have the rucksack on.

Mountain Rescue Team at Scafell Pike. I have the rucksack on.

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A woman who has no evil, knows no evil

22 July is the day I was born. It celebrates a meditation / yoga guru, my friend Kym, now a royal birthday too. Mostly it has rained on my birthday but I managed street parties in Leeds and trips to see monkey’s. Today I will visit my Nan.

I was woken up by incredible thunder today. Mother Nature is reminding me of virtue. As are my birthday gifts!

Stick to the plan! Be good.

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For each a road

For every man a religion

Forget everything and remember


Fantastic Expectations Amazing Revelations

Finding everything and realising


You’ve got the fear.

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Make it count – my Nike Fuel Band

‘Greatness is not bought, it is made’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCvt3Z-BzK4&list=PL6AA1D7BA47E9F336 Nike

I was given a Nike Fuel Band by my Coach and his Wife at the Shaolin Temple where I train. I hadn’t bought one as they are £150 and I could afford a couple of months training instead. I did some volunteer work and apparently earned it.

I don’t think a gift had meant that much to me in so long. Hard work, for a cause and people I love; didn’t need a reward. Because seeing finished products and having a part in something tremendous was enough http://www.shaolintemplecheshunt.com/

When I first wore the fuel band I was excited and apprehensive, not to let my Warrior friends down. A Nike Fuel Band means my coach can keep tabs on me, I have daily goals to hit – I had forgotten how to write down a goal let alone hit one.

I used to earn lots of money and have lots of shoes. Now I earn no money and would rather be barefoot.

So anyway, Nike Fuel – was a big thing. Could I keep up?

Well some days no.. but mostly – yes. Little did I know my activity levels are above your average woman my age and in the Nike Fuel online arena.

My average daily Nike Fuel What does this mean?

Well – like belts in grading’s… achievements come and go. They don’t really last. It is tomorrow that counts. And it means I gotta keep going! Keep moving, keep trying. Such is life!

The adverts with the fuel band emphasise finding your greatness, it doesn’t matter who is better or worse. It is about you. And if we all keep going. On the path we love, overcoming the bits we hate. Maybe Earth would be better.

Nike is a lot of things. Vulgar at times. Nike fuel is not an entirely accurate portrayal of what I or anyone is able to do from day to day.

But I like what they are trying to achieve. I like that I don’t sit still too often. And, I like that I have a goal to hit every day.

Double Nike Fuel Figures April 2013

Just because I may not hit that goal, doesn’t mean I haven’t tried. I do it for me and them and you.

‘Never fear moving slowly, only standing still’

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