Kung-fu Kingdom presents an interview with Latin-American born martial artist, stuntman and choreographer Steven Dasz, who has worked and appeared in a combination of over forty short movies, including TV series and a host of other productions. He has met the likes of Robin Shou, worked with Gordon Liu (star of the acclaimed “36 Chambers of Shaolin”) as well as trained with Bill “Superfoot” Wallace and worked with Jackie Chan! So, without further ado, let’s meet Steven!
Hi Steven! Thanks for taking time-out to speak with us at Kung-fu Kingdom…dedicated to the martial arts.
Hello Raj, thanks for giving me an opportunity to have an interview with you and KFK, it’s my honour to share with you really!
So let’s start by asking you, where do you come from, what’s your age now, and what are your vital stats, height and weight?
Well, I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was born in 1977. I am 34 years old now. I am 5’7″/1.71M tall and weigh 139lbs/63KG.
How did you get started in the martial arts, how old were you?
I remember I was a very energetic person, my father said, “Why don’t you practice some type of martial art?”, I was 10 years old at the time. So, I joined my local gym a couple of blocks away and there I started practicing along with my twin brother.
What kind of martial arts did you do?
I did Tae Kwon Do for about three years. At the time I was also interested in Karate, and I also did Ninjutsu. I also started training in gymnastics and acrobatics too. It was hard work but gave me a good foundation to work with.
Who are your main inspirations? Do you have a mentor/teacher?
My first full-on exposure to the martial arts world was via the likes of Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee movies, so they were the first. I saw my first Bruce Lee movie at about 11 years old. The more I watched movies the more I became interested. For example, when I saw Steven Segal movies, I admired watching (his) Aikido skills and I got into that. When I saw Chuck Norris, I got into that style of fighting, like karate.
So you were something of a KFC?
Haha…yes, something like that! I became an addict of martial arts movies and I just liked to keep on watching them. Then I started to do fight choreography emulating those moves from the movies myself. Actually, I had many inspirations around the time I started training. Like I mentioned; Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, and also Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kurt McKinney (the young guy who played the lead role in “No Retreat No Surrender” opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme) also had a certain appeal.
Though I must admit, it was mostly the Chinese fight choreography that inspired me. I liked the idea of doing back flips and things like that. I trained for 4 years then at 15 years old, I stopped training for a couple of years and took a break from the gym.
However, I just kept on reading books and international magazines about the subject, my interest in Bruce Lee was always high. I got back in action soon too!
Good to hear that! Have you met or worked with any well-known people in the martial-arts industry yourself, if so, who?
I’ve worked with Gordon Liu and I’ve had the pleasure to meet some very good, well-known martial arts actors like Robin Shou in LA. You know he’s bigger in real life than he looks in the movies! I met him at the premier of “Red Trousers”. I also enjoyed meeting world kickboxing champion, Ron Smoorenburg of Holland, who, as you may remember starred and sparred with Jackie Chan in the movie,”Who Am I?”. I’ve also chatted with Mark Dacascos who I really admire and respect too. I’ve had the good fortune to meet many martial artists and actors. It was also a pleasure to meet Bey Logan.
Ah! You mean the, British-born Asian action-cinema movie critic/writer.
Yes, through his work on the combat magazine: Impact. I met Bey Logan on my second trip to Hong Kong in 2009 in the street in Central Hong Kong. He was usually training kung-fu in the street or on the roof as Hong Kong doesn’t have much space to train! He invited me to dinner with his family at his home.
I really commend his work too, I like his commentaries often as much as the movie he’s talking about, itself!
Yes, he is a very nice guy.
So, Steven, you made a movie called “Stunt Games” which is available on DVD. What is the movie about and where was it filmed? Did you do all your own stunts? What were the biggest challenges in making it? How can interested readers purchase a copy?
Basically, it’s about two aspiring stunt men that get mixed up with the mafia after taking on an assignment. The idea to do this movie came about after I did a short movie in the Canary Islands with director David Xarach. I asked David at the end of the shoot, if he’d like to make a movie in 2005. He agreed to collaborate.
Then in 2006 I went to the Canary Islands and developed the ideas for the script. We met up with a stunt team, I introduced my twin brother and we went into production in 2007, it was finished by 2009 in Madrid. It took quite awhile! I did the casting, fight choreography and co-produced it.
So it was very hands-on!
Yes, I also did my own stunts and during the making I also tore my knee ligament! You know, the hardest thing was the acting. I aimed to keep the movie interesting by keeping the audience’s attention. We took acting classes to give our personas more colour and life. Remember this is an indie-movie, it’s a good way to show how an action movie can be made even with a compact budget. It’s the first independent action movie made in the Canary Islands!
(It’s available in Spain and Portugal, it can be bought online too. Interested readers can check it out on IMBD, or at Afnac or the El Corte Ingles stores in Spain and Portugal.)
Sounds good. Do you have any other movie projects in the pipeline?
Stunt Games 2 is on the not-too-distant horizon I hope!
Tell me Steven, who in the martial arts industry would you most like to work with?
I would like to work with Sammo Hung who is in my view, the sifu or master of the martial arts movie world. Mark Dacascos, Jet Li and Robin Shou are others I’d be keen to work with!
Perhaps Tony Jaa?
I’m not sure…he has a different style, he does more acrobatics. He’s more of an acrobat!
Do you have any favourite martial-arts movies, a top three perhaps?
Yes, I would say my favourites are:
- Police Story (Jackie Chan)
- Hero (Jet Li)
- Eastern Condors (Sammo Hung)
Can I choose one more please?
Sure, go for it!
Millionaires Express! (all star cast). I really like this one, such a great range of talent from East and West! But really, I believe all martial arts movies have something good to offer that you can learn from.
Great Steven, that’s a good attitude to have! Can you describe to us what a day in the life of Steven Dasz is like? What does your typical day consists of?
In my Bangkok life right now, my routine is to wake up, shower, cycle to the market get some food, have breakfast. Check my emails, I get my resume out to a few good agencies, sometimes I’ll have a film casting. Then I usually have lunch. In the afternoon around 5-6pm, I often go to the gym for a workout, yoga class or sometimes weight training. Recently I’ve been doing more acrobatics rather than fitness training. Sometimes I take boxing classes and on weekends I might do Wing Chun training. Then after a good stretch-out to end, I’d cycle back home and relax by watching a kung-fu movie in the lounge. My lifestyle is quite busy right now!
How often do you train/workout? Can you outline a typical training session? Do you have any favourite exercises?
I train around four days a week. I like Wing Chun training. I train traditional weapons. I like the 3 metre stick it’s good for the forearm, I like training exercises with it. I like to train wall climbing (artificial walls) and if I have a chance to do that whichever city I’m in, I’ll enjoy that. I like yoga too! All in all, it’s the best I think. It’s exercise for body and mind balance.
Do you have any special training tips you’d like to share with our readers on KFK?
I think a special tip I can give is that: all day can be training! First you need to listen to your body, because if you don’t, you can get injured easily. Second, after several years’ training, train in a flexible way and train by feel. Ask yourself: what kind of training would I like to do today? Training is to make you feel good. Try to find a way of training and exercises that you like. For example, for quite a while I didn’t like training legs. They’re not my strongest body part. My legs are not as comfortable to train as my upper body, like arms or back. But these days I am finding ways to enjoy training my legs.
What do you do for legs?
I do different exercises but what I really like are alternate lunges, this is really helpful for me. It helped me to strengthen my thighs, recover my knee and my calf muscles after my accident. Genetically I don’t have the best calves anyway, so this really works for me!
Do you keep a special diet? What kinds of food do you normally like to eat?
Yes, I have been experimenting with food since I was 16 years old. For example I’ve tried vegetarian and macrobiotic. I was never big into red meat, so I’ve cut that out completely. I read about Chinese diets. What works for me so far is grouping together food types and eating predominantly one type at each meal. So carbohydrates at one meal, proteins at another and fats at another.
Sounds like you’re quite into your nutrition!
Yes! I aim to eat healthily all the time. Mainly fruit, fish, vegetables, these days not so much carbohydrate like rice, pasta, potatoes. I also believe if you want to be a real, practical martial artist, you have no business smoking or taking intoxicants which cause harm to the body!
Your dedication is noble! Talking stunts now, can you describe the most impressive stunt you’ve ever seen?
I remember seeing an Indian guy, long jump so many metres in salt, great! Overall I can’t say I recall any specific stunt. Jackie Chan does great stuff! In kung-fu there are incredible stunts being done all the time but the majority of people simply don’t happen to see those.
What’s the most ambitious or dangerous, daring stunt you’ve ever done?
I did some complex kicks for my movie.
Have you ever been seriously injured?
Those kicks managed to damage my knee! Mentally I realize you have to be strong to overcome those effects. I used to enjoy stunts a lot more, but when you’re injured, you start thinking a lot more. Young guys don’t think about the consequences. Now I’m older and wiser, I think about the consequences.
Before, I used to use a trampoline, and I hurt my back. I tried to do a one-and-a-half front flip, I opened up my body, but my leg somehow reached my neck. The next day, I couldn’t move! As you know, the older you get, the slower the recovery.
So you’re saying it’s not worth the trouble and risk?
You have to be careful, listen to yourself!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to take up a form of martial arts?
I would say, decide what skills you want to develop, according to any strengths, inclinations you already have and take off from there.
Moving forward, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
You know, right now, I’m in Hong Kong, I just had to come back here! I would like to work internationally, around the world and become more well-known. I’d like to relocate to Hong Kong. I really love Hong Kong.
It’s like your second home?
I think it’s my first home!
Do you have a message for our readers and your fans?
The important thing is to use your time well, try to be consistent in your training. Learn the “language” of martial arts, martial arts training and remember: martial arts movie making, is quite a bit different from just martial arts practice!
If you want to get into making martial arts movies, you need to learn the language of on screen kung-fu, AND the fighting arts.
You never stop learning. Never think that just because you attain a black belt you’re the best, forget that! You need to train consistently and really enjoy it. You need dedication, pay attention to your health, don’t smoke and drink, for if you want to do those things, you likely won’t be a successful martial artist.
What’s the best bit of warrior wisdom you could share with us?
I think we all need more inner peace these days! I like Confucius, he’s really good. I also admire Buddhism. It’s really all about inner peace, harmony with yourself.
Nice Zen-like touch to end! Thank you Steven for your kind participation in this interview! Team KFK wishes you all the best now and in the coming months, please keep in touch!
Thanks for the chance to do this interview, I really enjoyed it. I am grateful to be a part of what you guys are doing! Yes, let’s stay in touch!