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Interview with Jeff Westfall
Interview with Jeff Westfall by Amber Asher
Re-print of a 1997 interview with Jeff Westfall conducted by Dave Rogers. This article first appeared in the TBA Newsletter. Jeff Westfall was interviewed 11/13/ 97 by Amber Asher, Jeff’s student, Amber being an exceptional boxer with a winning record as well as training in Muay Thai. Jeff is the local TBA rep for Evansville, IN.
Jeff Westfall holding for Ryan Blackorby’s apprentice test in Evansville, Indiana on 10/26/97.
Amber Asher: How long have you been involved in the Martial Arts ?
Jeff Westfall: Well, I started in Karate in 1971, so I guess about 26 years.
AA: How long have you been training in Muay Thai?
JW: My first exposure was at a Kali seminar with Guro Dan Inosanto in 1984. It was a week long seminar, so for a little variety Guro Inosanto pulled out a pair of Thai pads one afternoon and asked for a volunteer to try a three minute round of kicking the pads. That experience, and Guro’s encouragement to seek out Ajarn Chai and train with him spurred me to get started and have been training ever since.
AA: What other art’s are you involved in?
JW: I’m currently training and teaching Kali-Silat, Jun Fan, Brazilian Jui-Jitsu, as well as Muay Thai. I also train in Judo and Fencing and look forward to starting Sambo in 1998.
AA: What has Muay Thai training done for you?
JW: Gee, where do I start? I spent many years in traditional Karate and Gung-fu, and learned a lot of very effective and useful concepts and techniques, but something was missing . It seemed as if I was training around the edges of realistic fighting but never really getting to the real thing. You know those "what would I do if" scenarios we all present ourselves and student’s with regarding possible self-defense situations. I was not getting all the answers I wanted from the arts I had studied.
Then I met Ajarn Chai and Guro Dan and suddenly faced the dilemma of plenty of answers, but only twenty four hours in a day to train on internalizing them. Then there is the question of training intensity. I had trained very hard and seriously in the arts, but Muay Thai raised the level quite a few notches. Preparing for and taking the Instructors test was a pivotal experience in my life, forcing me to dig deeper into myself than ever before. It completely changed the way I look at training and teaching. I owe Ajarn Chai quite a debt of gratitude for that, and for many other things.
AA: What do you think makes Muay Thai so popular?
JW: It’s a no-nonsense art ,what you see is what you get. The average person may not know what is good technique when he or she see’s it, but when they watch and listen to a skilled Thai boxer working the Thai pads, or fighting in the ring there is no doubt in their minds about their abilities.
You tell people all the cultural legends and mystical lore you want and it wont impress them as much as their own eyes and ears will through simple observation. Also, while it may take a lifetime perfecting, you can become fairly dangerous in a short amount of time. The movements are so natural and it’s very therapeutic or at least that’s what a lot of my students have observed.
AA: What do you like about teaching?
JW: There are a lot of things that I like about teaching, but the single best thing is to be privileged to watch as personalities, spirits, and physiques of these students, who in the process often become my good friends, evolve over the course of time.
AA: What do you think has been your biggest challenge in teaching Martial arts?
JW: Good question. I suppose it’s budgeting my time and energy. If I put all my time and energy into my students, my personal skill and attributes will decline, and I will be setting a bad example and hindering my ability to demonstrate techniques and concepts. If I put all my time and energy into training myself then I will be too tired to give the student’s the attention they deserve.
AA: In your opinion, what makes a good Instructor?
JW: A good Instructor never rests on his laurels. You are either evolving or going extinct in this life, and thus a teacher should frequently reexamine his teaching methods, looking for ways to improve training efficiency. You should strive to be the best example you can be as a person and a martial artist as this has a far greater influence on your students than anything that comes out of your mouth. I think the most important thing though is to understand that you have to teach each person differently.
AA: If you could change one thing about the world of the Martial Arts, what would it be?
JW: I would make it easier to do the one thing that we should be doing as much of as we can, train! All the political power struggles and ego contests in the martial art have so many of us wasting time and energy, and eliminating potential training partners.
I think that many of those out there reading this will agree that one of the most precious commodities to them is a reliable, consistent training partner. Every time you alienate another Martial Artist by giving in and playing these "my style is better than your style" or "my instructor could kick your instructor’s ass" games you cut your own throat by eliminating another potential training partner, not to mention all the people he tells about your behavior. Ajarn Chai warns us all the time to stay away from politics, and I agree with him one hundred percent.
In this same vein, I would like commercial Martial Artists to understand that our competition is not each other, but rather the ignorance of the public. If the public truly understood the benefits of Martial Arts training there would be more prospective students calling up than all of us put together can handle.
AA: What is your personal training regimen ?
JW: I try to do at least five developmental and five maintenance workouts a week, in addition to running five miles twice a week, progressive resistance training three times a week, and taking three Judo classes and one Fencing class each week. By developmental training I mean long intense workouts in a given art. The maintenance workouts are still intense, but much shorter, so as to fit more of them in. I cycle through the arts so that each one is focused on periodically, for developmental training, while keeping my level from dropping in the others with the maintenance training. I find Muay Thai to be so beneficial that I cycle it through at twice the frequency of the arts, so I do quite a bit more of it.
AA: Where do you think the martial arts are headed in the future?
JW: Right now, somewhere in relative obscurity, someone is practicing an art that will be all the rage in ten years, but is unknown at present. Each time someone like this comes out with some new answers to the age old questions of personal combat there will be people eager to learn them, and to hold them up to the standards of more established arts. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have all the confidence in the world that Muay Thai would be right up there in the fore front of this process, growing as an art and gaining even more popularity than it enjoys now.