Interview with Martial Arts Instructor Evan Gatte

Evan Gatte is a Martial Artist and Martial Arts Teacher who has been practicing several different styles of Martial Arts for the last years. Evan was training with me at Nam Yang Kung Fu Retreat in Pai Thailand, when I had the opportunity to interview him and get some inspiration for my first steps in Kung Fu. Evan is also a determined young man passionate about his Art who will – for sure – be one of the people the Martial Arts world will hear from in the upcoming future. It was an honor to interview this inspiring human being and know more about his path.

1 – How long have you been practicing Martial Arts and what has drawn you into it?

I have been doing Martial Arts for over seven years now. Originally, I started because my best friend at the time was really into it and it was an activity we could participate in together. What draws me towards it still is the development I feel in myself both mentally and physically, but also once you have a good understanding of the Art, you can pass it on through teaching. The development in the students in both physical skill and character makes teaching a privilege rather then a duty.

2 – What Martial Arts do you practice? Do you have a favourite? If so, which one and why?

 Back home, our main three styles are Do Vee Fut, Di Muk, and my instructors style: Dale McCutcheons American Karate system. That has many different styles formed together that he felt was the best and most effective. It’s main focus is self defense, which is great to have in case of any trouble. I personally enjoy the weapons that we have within the systems; my favorite being the nunchucks. Another favorite is the animal styles coming from the system of Kung Fu, where different animals motions were adapted to the body in a way of fighting. I find them both fascinating and fun to do!

3 – What makes you so passionate about Martial Arts? What do you get out of the practice?

I really like having the confidence that if myself or any of my friends or family were attacked, I would be able to protect them.  In addition to that, it has improved my confidence in myself, helped me to form a good conscience, and stick to my values and opinions, even if I stand alone. Martial Arts is not all about punching and kicking, but constantly developing ourselves to be better then we were the day before. I don’t always succeed and I make many mistakes, but Martial Arts gives me that continuous focus that helps me to learn from mistakes and move forward. The improvements I see in my life through martial arts is being in shape first and foremost. It helps strengthen the body and mind and keep it healthy. It also has opened doors to coming into contact with some of the nicest people I have ever met. It is a stepping stone to finding good examples, giving me the opportunity to be a good example, and has guided me towards some really great life long friends.

4 – What is your goal with Martial Arts?

 My short term goal is to just continue practicing. I want to learn all I can, and then eventually pick what works best for me and really focus on those individual things. Long term, I think it would be a great opportunity if I could one day have my own school or Martial Arts Retreat. I want to be able to pass on what I know, but also help others to become the best they can be. One outlet of doing that can be through training and pushing people to never give up on others and most importantly, on themselves.

5 – What is the most important advice that you can give to someone who is just beginning in Martial Arts?

 There’s a saying that a black belt is a white belt who never gave up. Having come up through a ranking system myself, I totally agree with that. When I teach, I try to remember that I was once as nervous as the beginner. I also didn’t know what to expect. Finally, I didn’t know where to start. The most important thing that you can do is get started though. After that, it gets easier as that tends to be the hardest step. Once you’re training, continue your practicing and really try to focus on what you’re doing as you exercise. Don’t compare yourself to others or how fast they progress, because everyone understands things at a different pace. I have seen many black belts who have strengths and weaknesses and as you progress and the more you train, you will find out what yours are. I have seen some black belts who are not so good at sparring, but are amazing at self defense. Another black belt who isn’t too good with endurance, but can explain things in a way that is easy to understand and except. Some are great with keeping young students focused, others are better suited for the older crowd. Part of the process of training is finding out who you are and who you want to be. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Then you focus in on them and use your strengths to help others. You also try to minimize those weaknesses, but still use them to teach others. Be open to the possibility of change in your life. Set goals, and work towards them.

6 – What are your favorite Martial Arts movies and why?

 I love the Ip Man trilogy the best. The stunt coordinators did an amazing job organizing the fight scenes. I also like watching the Wing Chun practitioner take on opponent in different styles of combat and seeing that the hard work and discipline Master Ip had could overcome the many obstacles. I don’t think they are 100% historically accurate, but it did lead me to do research on Master Ip myself and come to appreciate not only his contributions to the history in Martial Arts, but also the development of the style he practiced in, which was Wing Chun.

7 – What did you like the most about Nam Yang Kung Fu Retreat in Pai, Thailand?

What I enjoyed most about Nam Yang was that people from all over came together to study martial arts. No matter our differences, we all shared that one thing In common. Since we were training together all of the time, it really brought us closer giving us the opportunity to grow with others and allowing us to meet some lifelong friends. I would recommend this experience to anyone who needs a break from life and needs to refocus but doesn’t mind breaking a sweat and working hard. For me it helped to not only get into good shape, but allowed me to step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to train and think about things without interruption. I am sure everyone’s experience would be different in their own ways, but non the less just as beneficial.

8 – Any last words you would like to share with Skin at Heart’s readers?

 When it comes down to it, Martial Arts can be a personal sport. No team playing or groups. But if you’re at the right school, you find out that the more you know, the greater your responsibility is to pass it on and then the focus isn’t on you, but trying to reach as many people as you can. It all starts, however, with stepping out onto the floor. If you have any interest in any kind of Martial Art, go check it out. The worst that can happen is you do not like it and you don’t go back. But the best that can happen is improving yourself and maybe even helping others. I know my life has changed because of my practice in Martial Arts, and I would be a completely different person had I not been in it.

Martial Arts are a lot like life. In times of trouble, when falling is inevitable, what matters the most is to get up and keep going! Skin at Heart is very grateful to Evan for sharing his experience with us and inspire us to stay on the path.

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