Inside Kung Fu Tribute

Thanks to Dave Cater at Inside Kung Fu magazine for printing a tribute submitted after the passing of our friend Mike Martello in June. It is the Nov. issue and can be found on page 35.

You should be able to find IKF at most local news stands and bookstores.  Locally Top Grocery even started carrying it!

Rest in peace Mike,
Jake and family

Martello Obit in Kung Fu Taichi Magazine

I just received the Sept/Oct issue of Kung Fu Taichi magazine, and on page 108 is Mike Martello’s obituary I submitted last month. Out of respect for my editor, and copyright laws, I will not post the obit online. Support the fledgling martial arts rag industry and purchase a copy for $5. It should hit newsstands in the week or so.

JakeKung Fu Taichi Cover

Martello – The Lost Interview Pt. III

JB: The common theme these last two weeks with training under you is the idea of play.  Playing with different teachers, playing with students, basically exploration of principles and ideas via two person practice.  Care to elaborate?

Mike: This goes back to teacher Wang’s lessons.  I told him one day, “Teacher I truly wish I would have met you 20 years ago.” And his response was, “You would not have been ready for me yet.”   What he meant was that I needed to experience all the things I had up to that point; good and bad, so that I could learn for myself what was good and bad.  So I could take into control my training and seek out higher learning via a good teacher.  You must recognize when you are bad to understand good.   Take the bad experiences as a lesson, because once you find the truth you will never go back to the bad again.

Wang approaches his students as training partners.  All he wants to do is practice and by practicing he gets better.  So by building and growing together we foster this intense dynamic of teacher and student, where really there is no teacher or student, everyone is the teacher and the student.  Wang Laoshi is the first to tell anyone that he is just a student practicing, and will be forever.  I have never seen the man tell someone how to do something, he is there showing them how to do something!  It is inspirational to get tossed around by an 80 year old man with this outlook on training.

JB: You are a bit unique in that you have lived, and taught on three different continents over the years; Asia, North America, and Europe.  What do you see as similarities and/or differences in regards to the martial artists in these vastly different places?

Mike: People want Chinese martial arts.  People want to train.  But all around the board people seem to have an incorrect mentality towards their training.  Not everyone, but many.  They seem to train for all the wrong reasons, and I was guilty of this in the past as well.   Too much ideology separation is going on though.  Too much internal vs. external talk.  They seem to think there is a special magic bullet, special magic form, special magic technique that will help them get the principles.  There is no special technique, just the right teacher to show you, and the hard practice of a lifetime.  You must understand this is a difficult question to answer.

I see people misunderstanding what martial arts are really for.  Combat is merely the by-product, yet people want to be able to damage someone before learning about themselves.  I always ask my students how many fights they have been in.  Almost always the number is 0-3, unless of course you grew up in a bad part of town.  But overall most people practicing martial arts have been in very few fights.  So what are we spending all this time, money, and effort for?  Just to learn to fight?  Just to kick some ass?  If that is the case go do sport martial arts, and fight with the best out there.  Martial arts practice is truly about finding yourself, and pushing the limits of yourself.  Mentally; physically; and emotionally.  Sparring is so integral to practice because it is unrehearsed pressure to perform and execute your skills with an uncooperative partner.  I am not saying you need to go out and get beat down, this is not productive.  Push hands, sparring, wrestling, whatever methodology does not matter, but you need to test your skills in various formats.

This mentality seems pervasive throughout the martial arts regardless of culture, or country.

This segment really shows Mikes great attitude in his approach to training.  Truly their is a blurred line between student and teacher, as with an open mind you will learn from any situation, any individual or group of individuals.  Remember the fateful words of Napoleon, “Every failure is a blessing in disguise as long as you learn the needed lesson from it.”

This last trip Mike was so happy that I had been training diligently in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu).  “This training will make your stand up much, much better.”  he told me.  Mike even had me teaching certain techniques and follow ups at HIS seminar, for when we go to the ground!!  That is how comfortable and humble Mike was with his level of knowledge, and his attitude of sharing.  To ask some nobody like me to teach something at HIS seminar…wow… what an honor.

Mike also reveals the need for uncooperative partner practice (ie. sparring) in this segment.  I cannot really remember a lesson (private, public, or otherwise) with Mike that was not hands on.  Not a single one.  Even when working a form Mike took the hands on approach and help the student feel the technique.  Feel the stretch.  Feel the power and where it came from.  Again Mike would emulate his teacher by doing, not telling.

Many students would ask Mike how he attained the level he had, some fishing for a “special” answer.  “Hard work.  Disciplined practice.” is all he would ever say.  “There are no secrets.”  Mike and I had some similar experiences in the past with various teachers both Chinese and Anglo who would be living a lie by telling their students that their was some mystical, metaphysical answer to our questions of why, how, when.  In the end these charltans revealed their true identities and we moved on.  We learned that the true responsibility of our progression lay in our own hands.  The student has to take control of his/her learning and progression.  All too often the student has unrealistic expectations of the teacher, and never owns the responsibility of their own training.  Let that be a lesson.

Train Hard,

Mike and his Miao Dao

Martello & SwordOne of the things that instantly drew Mike and I closer was our mutual passion for a relatively rare weapon; the Miao Dao(various translations, but essentially “Willow Leaf Sabre”). Mike and I had both learned the same form, though I must admit Mikes was so much more flowing and beautiful. The version I learned was via Taiwan as well, but more choppy, less fluid. Actually we were discussing a special camp here in the Pac NW where the Miao Dao would be the topic learning both form and function. Mike had spent a little time with me training the weapons intricacies and what not, but it was one of those projects that I said “later” to. Now I wish I had spent more time on it with him.

Their are videos all over of Mike teaching and training the Miao Dao, so I will not get too deep into it, but I wanted to share something with you all. The following text is an excerpt from a personal correspondence I had with Mike (though I do not think I was the only one privy to this info) via email. I am not going to share all of it right now because I have plans on writing an article about the Miao Dao in the future, but I think you may find this interesting:

“The Miao Dao may vary in size and weight, but a standard version would be approximately 128 cm long (blade 98 cm, handle 30 cm). When it comes to fierceness, the Miao Dao has no equal. Wielded with one hand or both, combining the characteristics of both saber and spear into one, it is not hard to see why this versatile weapon was unrivalled on the battlefield. The movements of the Miao Dao are fluent yet compact, with the body supplying power to the weapon, while the waist steers the blade in its motions. An attack is always wrapped inside a defensive technique, while a defensive movement immediately transforms into an attack. Its interlinking movements and rapid evading footwork makes the Miao Dao wielder an unpredictable foe. The Miao Dao is truly a great treasure within the Chinese martial arts world and also an invaluable part of Chinese history and culture.” – Martello

I also want to share the following illustrations with you. I do not know the name of the illustrator (if anyone does, please forward it to me so I can give credit where it is due), but this is a beautiful rendering of the Miao Dao form as Mike taught it, and as it was passed on to me.

I hope you can enjoy objectively!


miao dao 1miao dao 2miao dao 3miao dao 4

Martello Obit in Inside Kung Fu Magazine

I just got word that the obituary I wrote about Mike will be in the December issue of Inside Kung Fu magazine, which will hit stand about mid-October. This will obviously be a bit different than the one in Kung Fu Taichi Magazine.
Again IKF has one of the largest readerships in martial print circles, so you should be able to find this magazine at your local bookstore or newsstand.


Martello Obit in Kung Fu Taichi Magazine

There will be a 1/2 page obituary for Mikeee in the next issue of Kung Fu Taichi Magazine which Gene Ching (editor/ friend of mine) said should hit stands August 5th-ish.  The magazine is found in most major bookstores and newsstands (do those exist anymore??).  Not sure about Europe guys???

If for some reason you have a hard time finding it I think you can order single issues from the website (see above hyperlink), and if worse comes to worst you can contact me directly as I will get extra copies, and all I will ask is for the cost and shipping to be covered.

BIG thanks to Gene Ching for getting this in last minute.  I literally had to scramble and get pics and the text to him within 48 hours so it would hit the printer in time!   Gene bumped someone else for this, and I thank him.

I have tried to get an obit in other publications, but have not been received well.  Keep that in mind before spending money on some of the joke martial rags out there.  Gene has always been great to deal with, and one of the only editors out there I respect.

There will also be a longer obit on their e-zine in the near future.  I am wrapping up writing for that.  I never thought something would be so difficult to write.  Not emotionally so much, but trying NOT to add in every damn thing I can think to say about Mike has been tough!



The Lost Interview Pt. II

JB: Correct me if I am wrong, but at this juncture in your life is when you started to shift your priorities in your training and teaching; focusing more on mechanics, body development, sensitivity etc.?

Mike: Right at that point I was still hung up on styles and forms because that was what was educated into me. I had to break that. It took some time. Teacher Wang is certainly the single most inspirational influence in my life to date. He has not only changed my outlook on the arts, but also my training and approach to the arts.

JB: How did the progression of change go about; via the push hands training, and San Shou training under Wang, or was it something else?

Mike: He went about it in a very nice way. Wang never knocked any style or teacher. After a few months of training with him I sat down for dinner at his house, and Wang stated that I was going about learning his stuff the wrong way. He said I was trying to use his ideas with the techniques and theory of what I had trained in the past. He said everything I had learned was good, but he also asked me to open my pocket and put it away for another day. Let me re-shape you, and when you open your pocket later you will see a whole new spectrum of colors. And he was right!

I was trying to use the technology without a decent engine. Wang wanted to build me a decent engine so I could then later go back and apply all the technology I had learned. It is like putting a Ferrari engine in a Tonka truck. If you rev that engine the Tonka truck will just blow up. On the flip side of that coin if you have a body that LOOKS like it will speed away, but have a weak engine inside, then again that is a waste.

And that was me! Basically at that point I had a Ferrari frame, but no engine. That was Wang’s point, I move beautifully but I am empty, I have nothing behind it.

JB: Can you describe some of the methodology Wang used to rebuild your engine?

Mike: Well he made me start by finding my body, getting in tune, truly in tune with my body. And he used push hands as the medium in which to get me in tune with my body. He started with my hips and the theory of Zhan Zhuang (Pile or Post Standing) via the Ba Shi (eight stances) of Babu Tanglang (Eight Step Praying Mantis) because I was familiar with this already. But you must understand Wang’s Zhan Zhuang is not about standing still, but it is about cultivating energy, this is very important. I asked him about Qigong, Neigong, all that stuff and he told me to forget about it because he does not do any of those things. Wang felt these exercises were a way for people to distract their minds and gives them fodder to argue about internal versus external, and it has nothing to do with hand to hand combat. Teacher Wang’s point was that their was none of this back in the day, you either practiced martial arts or you didn’t! All martial arts are based in combat. It would be like asking a boxer if he is doing internal or external training. It just IS boxing. There is no special breathing technique to make you better. All these skills are acquired via practicing with a partner. Different partners. Constantly interplaying with each person’s energy and technique. Knowing how to deal with force. This is how teacher Wang helped me to see myself, to see my weaknesses and strengths. Teacher Wang’s calligraphy hangs in my house and one of my favorites is “To nourish ones skill’s through combat. To complete ones training through the master’s guidance”

These paragraphs shed light onto some of the most important aspects of Mikes training in my opinion. All too often we get hung up on styles, or how something looks (IE. a certain posture). I too fell into this mind trap. We must remember that styles are simply a vehicle to understanding our bodies, and how our bodies work. We are all human; two arms, two legs, a head etc. We are all subject to the physical laws of the universe such as gravity, leverage etc. At a certain point in each martial artists career a light bulb clicks on and we discover that mechanics are where its at, not styles, or forms, or lineage. None of these things matter after a certain point. Mike was instrumental in helping understand mechanics and body usage.

This became difficult when trying to organize a seminar with Mike because how does one sell these ideas to get people in the door? So many people are hung up on styles and cannot get past that trap. For instance I have had people tell me, “I do not know/like Taiji, so what is the point in coming to a Taiji workshop?” Mike would simply tell them, “…look past the form, as the form is empty without mechanics and coordinated power. Posture, structure, and intent are key to your progression in the arts.” Tim Cartmell is all about this, and Mike had a huge amount of respect for Tim. I wish they could have met, as Mike really wanted to. I was actually in the middle of planning a seminar where my teachers would get together here in Seattle and offer a workshop together.

Another interesting point Mike makes here is the discernible difference between health maintenance and combat. Qi, and Qi Gong, have nothing to do with combat. There is nothing wrong with studying Qi Gong, but to do so and expect the results to be combative is foolish and dangerous! Mike knew this, and tried to teach the true way to those who had been led astray with other teachers. Mike and I share the same outlook on Qi… at a certain point in your training EVERYTHING becomes Qi Gong! Qi is in your body, otherwise you would be dead, so it is not as if you are doing Qi Gong only when you practice a certain Qi Gong set. Your awareness is actually the discernible difference in this regard. You must become aware of the energy inside of your body and then you can really start to play.

The “internal vs. external” debate is something we spoke about often. Mike and Tim both have the same view on it… by using your posture and structure properly, you are stronger and can issue force seemingly effortlessly. It has nothing to do with magic Qi balls from hell. It is simple mechanical physics. Mike cringed when he saw “no touch knockouts” type bullshit in the martial arts. It angered him because this was a false representation of the arts we hold dear, and makes the Chinese martial arts a joke to the majority of people grounded in reality.

Mike was quite candid in his conversation with me here. A true student who used himself as the example. How many teachers do you know that would say openly what Mike says above about being empty and no good!? One of the most admirable things about Mike was his brutal honesty, and though he dished it out to all, he was the first person to criticize himself and his shortcomings. “I will never make you do something I have not, or cannot, do myself Jake.”

A true warrior sage!


Mike Martello – The Lost Interview Pt.I

Okay, okay it is not a “lost” interview, but I got your attention didn’t I!? It is the only one I did (formerly) with Mike, and it sheds lots of light into the way Mike approaches his teaching and training that I have not seen with any other interviews. I wanted to share this special moment with you all so I will be putting it on in spurts, and editing a few things here and there. No magazine wanted the interview, so fuck em’… I am printing it for all of you online!

I will be adding some insights into the various comments he makes. I will put my comments in a different color, or italics so you can skip over them if you do not want to hear my input. I have tons of notes and what not from Mikes lessons both in seminars, also from the hours and hours of private lessons I took with him. It is solely my intention to share and hopefully give some insight into the man we love, and the teachings he graced us with.

The interview took place the night before Mike left in October of 2007.

Hope you can enjoy objectively!

Forever a Student:

An exclusive interview with Mike Martello

Interview by: Jake Burroughs

“The teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.”

Thomas Carruthers

I knew Mike Martello via e-mail and phone for several years before we got the chance to meet face to face while I was visiting Europe to conduct a seminar, and our friendship continues to grow with each coming year.  Often criticized for his views and no nonsense attitude towards the traditional Chinese martial arts, Mike pulls no punches when it comes to skill and the development of martial artists.  Agree or disagree with him one must respect the fact that Mike has dedicated his life to the martial way, and does not believe in secrets.  Those who know him are familiar with the high energy, child like, enthusiasm he has for training.  So when I sat down to interview him during a two week visit to Seattle, WA. (His only US stop), I simply let go of the reins and let him spew whatever was on his mind.  The result is what follows.

All of his life Mike Martello has studied the martial arts, from boxing as a kid, to becoming an international form champion, to living and training in Taiwan to deepen his knowledge.  Relatively unknown in the Chinese martial arts (CMA) circles, Mike has dedicated the rest of his life to studying under Wang Chieh of Taiwan.  Wang is one of Wei Xiao Tan’s senior most disciples in the art of Babu Tanglang (Eight Step Mantis), as well as his families White Crane system.

Mike Martello is a typical New Yorker, a little brazen at first, but a sincere and dedicated life long friend once he gets to know you.  He remains one of the most open teachers I have yet to meet, sharing everything in his art with anyone willing to sweat a little during practice.  With this interview I hope to shed some light on one of the Chinese martial arts least known teachers.

Jake Burroughs: Why don’t we start with your background in the arts?

Mike Martello: I started boxing with my father when I was 3 years old growing up in NYC.  Moved onto Shotokan, and TKD.  When I was 11 I met a kung fu teacher (Teddy Wong), who showed me that the CMA were the best for me, not the best in general, but the best for me and then I met Su Yu Chang when I was in my early 20s.

I really enjoyed fighting, and being small all my life I had plenty of opportunities to test my skills against kids on the street.  That is the reason my father started teaching me boxing at such an early age, as he knew I would be tested on the streets of NYC.  But I also had opportunities to try my skills out in the ring where I mostly boxed, but I also competed in Karate tournaments, and a couple kickboxing events as well.  I just wanted to go try what I had learned.  My thirst for knowledge knew no bounds though, and so all of these situations were my teacher if you know what I mean.  Every loss, every win, every hit taught me unforgettable lessons.Danny, Mike, Nemo, Jake

JB: How was it that you met your current teacher Wang Chieh?

Martello: I went to Taiwan searching.  Searching for more martial arts.  Searching for a deeper level than I knew.  So I figured I would go to Taiwan and see what was there for me.

I met this lady teacher, Kathy Yen, when I was practicing in a park one day.  Just fooling around doing some Piqua, some Taiji and what not.  I saw this lady practicing with experienced men in the park, and she was throwing them all over the place.  I knew these men were experienced because the previous day they had invited me to practice with them, and they proceeded to kick my butt all over the place.

Most of the people you meet in Taiwan are very friendly and open.  Some practitioners are jerks though, so you have to be careful being a white guy from America.  Some people want to tell you what you don’t know, and what you are missing.  But few of those people will teach you the missing parts.  So when Yen saw me the next day, she said “Lai, lai.” (which means to ‘come’ in Chinese) and proceeded to tell me that she had been watching my Taiji practice and while my form was good, she said my Taiji was no good.

I said, “Huh!?!?  How can my form be good, but my Taiji is no good?”  And she proceeded to push me gently in certain parts of my body to show how I had no balance, no root, no structure etc.  So for 6 months I was practicing with her before she found out that I had over 15 years of experience in the CMA.  She asked why I did not tell her sooner.  And I told her I wanted to start fresh, as I felt I had a hodge-podge of techniques and forms but really did not feel I had much depth in any of my practice.  I was there as a clean, open book to restart my training.  I was excited about relearning something new.

So she says she knows a really great Mantis instructor that could help me more than she could.  I did not have the heart to tell her no, so I figured I would go meet with whomever and see what came of it.  It turns out I was introduced to one of the top Mantis teachers in all of Asia, Wang Chieh, one of Wei Xiao Tang’s earliest disciples.

I wanted to cry after touching hands with him the first time because I knew this man radiated something that I did not have, he was doing stuff all my other teachers would talk about, but could never do!  I was emotional about it because finally, FINALLY, I have come this far, I had found what I have been looking for!    His mechanics and structure was top notch, and keep in mind he was in his mid 70’s when we first touched hands!

This is a good break for our first foray into the mind of Mike. He had many a story ab out growing up on the streets of NYC, and his early training. Mike had many a good teacher, and a handful of not so good ones. One of the lasting lessons he taught me (as we had many things in common martially) was to learn and grow from even the bad experiences I have had. Not to be resentful, but to gain wisdom from such errors.

“Money can be made back. But time is lost forever (this comment is all the more poignant now). So do not waste your time being upset over the past, or because a teacher screwed yo u over. This happens. Learn from these situations so they do not repeat. Wasted time is wasted life, and we only have one.” – Mike Martello

Mike loved his teacher Wang Chieh no differently than a father. Mikes father died relatively young, so I think Wang Laoshi filled a void in Mikes life. Whenever he spoke of him the admiration, respect, loyalty, and love would emanate from Mike like no other.

Martello Memorial – Belgium

Here is the info on Mikes memorial in Belgium. If you have any questions please contact Dieter at the number below. No worries, Dieter speaks English very well so he can help us linguistically challenged kids too!

The cremation will be on Tuesday the 9th of June 2009. There will be no service.
Mike smiling

Friday the 12th of June there will be a memorial. Everybody is welcome there from 14:00 until 19:00. It will take place at our house. Maaldersstraat 27/5 2060 Antwerpen.
After the Service We will have a memorial dinner at restaurant “The Best” in The Van Wesenbeekstraat (Chinatown). From 20:00.
Please Let me know if you will come to the memorial service and/ or Dinner. You can contact  e-mail me at
It is IMPORTANT to let me know in advance.

Saturday the 27th of June there will be the spreading of the ashes with service. This will take place at the park on the way to Lilo. Map with further explanation will follow.
It will start at 8a.m. Everybody is also welcome here.

If you have further questions please feel free to contact me


Dieter De Potter

Mike Martello Memorial Info

I had a wonderful conversation with Mikes mom today, where we shared stories and reminisced. She is strong and is doing as well as a mother who has lost her son can. She thanked me for all I had done, and I told her I had not done anything. It was Mike who was the pebble tossed into the pond creating the ripple. Marie is savvy to theDao De Qing so she understood immediately what I meant. The least any of us can do is remember Mike in this way. She wanted me to share with you all the details of Mikes memorial in New York City.

There will be memorial services in Belgium, Taiwan, and Beijing where some of Mikes ashes will be put in a very special area reserved for royalty. More info on those as I get it.

On June 21st 2009 at 3pm their will be a memorial service for Mike Martello at the following location:
Holy Trinity Parish
14-51 143rd St.
Whitestone, NY. 11537

Mikes mom has specifically asked for NO FLOWERS to be sent. This memorial is open to the public, any and all wishing to pay respects is welcome. If you wish to send a sympathy card please send it to the following address:

Marie Martello
PO BOX 3757
Wayne, NJ. 07474-3757

Marie wants me to express her heartfelt gratitude to all of those who have shown their love to Mike over the years. The overwhelming wave of support and love has been very soothing to her, she said. She also said Mike would be very happy seeing everyone work nicely together.

The family has requested that their privacy be respected, so please limit your communication and attempts with them to the PO BOX above.   Any further questions contact me directly.


Mikes Youtube Legacy

Here is a link to Mike’s Youtube account where you can find hours and hours of footage.  I know with his seminars in New Mexico, and here in Seattle, WA. he basically took all the footage I gave him and edited it down to the meat and potatoes so to speak.  Those of you around the world are lucky in that Mike believed in sharing every

Mike tossing Jason "The Cajun" on his arse while training in New Mexico

thing.  He used to say: “Jake, why worry about anyone stealing something from video?  They were not their, they did not feel what was happening.  I want the world to see that the Chinese martial arts are still going strong, because honestly I am worried about the quality of the teachings being passed down.” Enjoy guys.  Lots, and lots of good stuff on those videos.  I do not know how things are handled on Youtube once someone passes, so you may want to burn them to hard drives just in case.



Mike Martello dot com & Three Harmonies

Mike and his infamous grin

Mike and his infamous grin

Big props to Keith Weiner and Kin (sorry broski, cannot remember your last name at the moment) for creating Mike!  They spent sleepless hours after their already hectic work days trying to get this site up and going, and for that we thank them as well as our brothers and sisters at Wutan Canada.

My name is Jake Burroughs, for those who do not know me I am a friend and student of Mike Martello’s living in Seattle, WA. Keith was actually my first Mantis and Baji instructor, so when he asked me to be involved with this project, how could I refuse!?  We are all family and one of the bittersweet side effects of a situation like this is that we re-connect with those we have fallen out of touch with over the years.

So it gives me great pleasure in announcing the collaboration of Mike and the Three Harmonies blog “The Ground Never Misses” in an effort to offer a platform where people can come share, learn, get information, and offer their thoughts regarding the passing of our dear friend and teacher Mike Martello.

Please feel free to get as involved, or not, as you wish here.  Share pictures, stories, video, and view what others have to say and offer.  We will also be posting news items as we receive them regarding memorial services in three different continents (even in death Mike is setting records!!).  As well as other information for students and friends alike.

Obviously any and all seminars and workshops that were scheduled with Mike are now cancelled.  Please contact the specific host of said seminar for more information, as we here do not have specific info on re-imbursements, etc.

If anyone needs anything, or has any suggestions please let us know.  We are all rookies at this kind of thing, but together we can make it work smoothly.


Jake B.