Yama is a lot like Shaolin, very line-based, but it almost looks like Shaolin and Yoga combined. You go a bit deeper in poses, and do more twisting. It really stretches your waist and hips and knees. It’s something I like a lot, and I feel that it’s really helped me as I get older.
I’ve also discovered the importance of a martial arts system. With UFC and MMA, everyone’s cherry-picking all the best things from different martial arts, so there’s no system any more. They train really hard, and by 40 their bodies are really damaged. The importance of a Kung Fu system like Shaolin or Taiji or Qigong is that you do the hard stuff when you’re younger, and then you do the softer stuff when you’re older. That way you experience the whole gamut of experiences and training to keep you interested and also keep you active and able to do things across your lifespan.
My first Kung Fu master, YC Chang, just died last year. He was 98, and he could still touch his toe to his chin. So I’ve re-examined the system I came from, and I’m starting to go back to it. In my youth, I did what a lot of MMA guys are doing; I studied Muay Thai and boxing, and others, to get the best from each, but it degrades your body to do nothing but the most intensive things.
If you put racing fuel in a car and run it flat-out all the time, you’re going to destroy the engine pretty quickly. So for me, it’s a matter of finding the right ways to train without hurting myself. Especially for this show, because I fight a lot. This past season I did, I think 20 fight scenes. In a movie, you’re in, at most, 3-4 fights over a 4 to 6-month period. I did those 20 fights in 5 months.
The next season is going to be 16 episodes, so it’ll be even more! You’ve got to be smart about how you use your body. I train smart, and I give it my all when we’re filming the show. I train hard, but I don’t do crazy stuff like I did before. I don’t try to jump as high as possible; I don’t do flips, or back flips, or anything like that. I just try to maintain good, fluid body movement.