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Balanced Life

Just being off by a little can make a big difference.

Alfred Hsing is a bilingual actor that has completed training at the Beijing Film Academy and is the only American men’s gold medalist at the World Wushu Championships. He was born in Northern California and attended college at UCLA.

He is an actor and martial artist that has recently appeared on HBO’s Silicon Valley. He was also cast on CBS Pilot, Mission Control, executive produced by Simon Kinberg (Deadpool, The Martian, Logan) directed by Jeremey Podeswa (Game of Thrones).

As an action coordinator, he’s most recognized for working on Ip Man 3 (the scene featuring Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson). He also worked under Jackie Chan in the $65M Chinese epic, Dragon Blade (also starring Adrien Brody and John Cusack).

Talk with Alfred Hsing

Q: What are you doing recently?

A: Recently, I have been working on a Hollywood project that I am very excited about. For the time being, I can’t disclose the project. In this project, I am the stunt coordinator. This will hopefully become another representative work of mine, so I will give it my all and devote my energy towards it.

Q: When did you start learning martial arts?

A: I started learning it when I was around six to seven years old. I am fond Jackie Chan and Jet Li films, and was inspired by their movies. At the age of 15, I signed up at a Chinese martial arts school in Northern California. From then on, I have been training various styles of martial arts. Martial arts is one of my lifelong passions.

Q: What are the differences between action director and stunt coordinator?

A: Working styles and norms can be a little different in China compared to the United States.

The crew of Hollywood projects is sometimes divided much more detailed than that in China. Action director can also be known as second unit director. In blockbusters, such as Fast and Furious and Marvel Films, etc, the action director is typically in charge of shooting the action. For example, a crew might be divided into 2 units. Then, Second Unit might be responsible for the action. The stunt coordinator is heavily responsible for ensuring safety on set and bringing in the right stunt professionals for the job. He typically is not in a position of authority when it comes to shot choices/angles.

On Chinese crews, the stunt coordinator often assumes the role of an action director in that directors will often relinquish the set over to the Stunt Coordinator once they get into an action piece.

A recent project I worked on in China is a TV series entitled My Fitness Instructor, which is starring Wang Dongcheng and Zhang Li. This is one of the first if not the first TV series in China that heavily features mixed martial arts (MMA) competition in a drama series. In this series, I served as the action director.

Q: Are “kung fu” and “martial arts” same?

A: They are different. “Martial arts”, as its name implies, is an integration of force and art. Any defense and attack can be a kind of martial arts. Anything that uses your hands or legs to attack or defend can be a martial art, such as Boxing, Taekwondo, Karate, and Tai chi. Chinese wushu is a style of martial arts, which is the martial arts practiced by Jet Li and Donnie Yen. “Kung fu” is often interpreted as “traditional martial arts.” In Chinese, “xia gong fu” means to do something carefully. Kung fu is often associated with traditional Chinese martial arts styles like- Hong Gar, Wing chun, Shaolin, etc, and so on that are familiar to us.

Q: Have you got any thrilling experience in the crew?

A: In Europe Raiders, I was involved in stunts and action design for the first several months.

In demonstrating a piece of choreography, my knee slammed to the ground which ultimately resulted in a ligament tear. I couldn’t walk for two months. It just goes to show that just being off by a little can make a big difference. We often do wire work as well and some people think it looks fun, and it definitely can be, but even a mistake or fall from a low height can still cause a lot of damage. As a professional stunt performer, it’s important that your moves are precise and that you can hit your mark repeatedly.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for beginners who learn basic actions for defense?

A: Learning is a long process, which calls for constant practice. When a person is nervous, it is hard for him or her to make a correct response at one instance. Then, constant practice is required over time to achieve muscle memory so that you will be able to respond in an emergency situation.

Q: How do you cope with pressure?

A: Working out is a good way for me. Many workouts can be done at home. Take the push-up for example. There are so many variations you can do. You can find online workout videos and train at home in many different ways. Currently, I am doing some movements which can keep me in shape. I also do some meditation.

I learned some philosophies from Tai Chi. Just like the Yin and Yang symbol holds both black and white, it relates to balance in life. When everything goes smoothly, there is always still a dark point, and when everything does not go smoothly, there is still a white point. This means there is good in the bad and risks in the good so you need balance.

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