Stojko and Doyle -- Bringing Martial Arts to Ice
By Joyce Minten
From Spotlight On Skating Magazine
Have you ever wondered how Elvis Stojko has incorporated his study and training of martial arts into his skating? Glen Doyle, author of "The Martial Artist's Way", Eivis' Sifu (pronounced Seefu) guides us through the world of martial arts and gives us insight and understanding into the impact and influence it has had on Stojko's skating.
Doyle comes with a set of his own credentials. A three-time Canadian Kung Fu Champion (CCKSF Tournament Circuit), Glen retired in 1994 from the competitive aspects of the sport. Initially, his father introduced him to the sport of boxing at the early age of 4 years. By 12, Doyle realized that because boxing is based on weight division and he is not a big guy that perhaps it was time to find another interest. Several years later, and after dabbling in several forms of martial arts such as Aikido and Hap Ki Do, Doyle accepted Hung Gar Kung Fu as his base style. Now 17 years later at the age of 33, Glen has a wide range of activities that occupy his time. He teaches three nights a week at the Jing Mo Kung Fu Club in Toronto, Ontario, conducts seminars, participates in shows and his book, "The Martial Artist's Way" is due to be on bookstore shelves by mid-February. "The book is an overview of the martial arts which incorporates my experiences, some of my opinions and what I've been taught. Also there's a couple of chapters on cross-training, the stuff I do with Elvis, how we met, and a little bit of history, but more or less how I incorporated my martial arts into his skating world and how he blended the two. But basically it's a book about pretty much everything you'll ever experience if you decide to take up a martial art from picking a school, to picking a style, to picking a teacher, to training," explains Doyle.
One of the main purposes of the book is to help people find the martial arts style that is best suited to them based on their body type, personality and the reason they are interested in pursuing martial arts. "Kung Fu is very classical. It stems from China and the era that it was created it was used to survive. So a lot of those ways of thinking are still in the style although we don't teach it like that we teach it more from a self-defense point of view," said Glen. But beyond the physical realm and an area Stojko has certainly perfected is using martial arts to strengthen the mind. "The bonuses and benefits of it are your self-esteem your confidence. I notice people attack things more aggressively after they have been studying for awhile, they turn it towards more energy at work by going for that promotion or when they play sports with their friends they're really into the game. The whole energy level changes and that comes from the mind-set because once the mind-set is put into overdrive the body follows. When people feet good about themselves because their mind is strong then automatically there's a spiritual aspect that now will kick in. They have this way of viewing the world that might be a totally different way of looking at things," said Doyle.
The style is what brought Elvis to Hung Gar Kung Fu. Stojko who has a black belt in Karate fell in love with the style when he was first introduced to Kung Fu by Doyle eight years ago who also trained his brother. Glen explains, "his brother came to me and said, 'my brother's a figure skater and he's thinking of putting martial arts on ice but his style is very linear and it's kind of hard to match it with the blade.' Skating is very circular," said Doyle. Right away upon seeing Glen demonstrate some moves in Kung Fu, Elvis was able to envision how he could apply it to his skating and the ice.
"Most Hung Gar Kung Fu is based on circular motion and movement. Rather than meet an opposing force head on matching force with force sometimes we redirect the energy. Now the reason hung gar kung fu is thought of as a circle being no beginning and no end, that means in a student/teacher point of view that you're always learning you've never learned it all," said Glen. "In kung fu, there are no rankings, they don't have belt colours because they don't believe there's a specific goal to get to you're always going for something later. They're always learning. My Sifu is 83 years old, the man who taught me and he says himself, he still learns everyday. So the no beginning and no end means that you're always searching, you're always striving to get that next level up and once you get to that level you always strive for the next one and the next one and you never ever quit," Doyle said.
"You can see it a lot of times with reference to Elvis. He's always pushing the envelope. He's never sitting back content with where he's at he always wants to push the envelope. He wants to see what else he can do. There is no complacency in his way of thinking, once he gets to a level that he wanted to, he's like, okay where do I go from here now. And then the next level and the next level. I'm almost certain he gets a lot of that from his martial arts training," said Glen.
Sound familiar. If you haven't noticed yet; there are a number of commonalties between Stojko and Doyle. Their competitive drive, love of their sport, the language they use and other people have even gone so far to comment that the way they both move in martial arts has its similarities. The Bruce Lee films heavily influenced both Glen and Elvis, a kung fu stylist who studied in Hong Kong. "Sometimes we're so parallel it's scary. I'll have a breakthrough in some of my training and I'll call him up and I'll say, man I was doing this stuff at the club with Sifu and it felt great.... And two or three days later, he'll call me up and he'll say he had a breakthrough with Uschi or he had a breakthrough with Doug, or he had a breakthrough with himself. We both seem to hit plateau's at the same time and then climb to different levels at the same time," said Doyle. Although, Glen is Eivis' Sifu, which in the Chinese culture means "teacher", the two have also become close friends. "For as much as I taught him, he's taught me. He's taught me to ride a motorcycle and any other vehicular things snowmobiles, jet skis..." said Glen. 'We like to go see a lot of movies.... We shoot a lot of pool. Because most times when I hook up with Elvis and it's not in a training realm, he just wants to ease off and just relax," said Doyle.
When involved in hung gar kung fu, there is a great deal of responsibility on both the part of the teacher and the student within that relationship. Glen explains the culture that is inherent in this style of martial arts. "I like to use the words of my Sifu. The club is his family. He is the father and we are all his children. When we go out and we do something that's not very nice we affect him we make him look bad," Doyle said. The best thing a student can do is do well because then the Sifu feels good. The Sifu can feel proud because if he has a good student it means he's a good teacher. The thing about martial arts is you get out what you put into it. That's the number one thing. You can't borrow the technique, you can't steal it, you can't buy it, and you have to put in 100% to get out a 100%. If you put in 1O% you're only going to get out 10%. So the same thing if the teacher is only putting in 10% into the student there's not going to be much growth there," said Glen.
"So the no beginning and no end means that you're always searching ..."
"When I teach people, I say you got to learn from your strengths. And Elvis' strength was his skating," said Doyle. "Your martial art ability is the echo of yourself," explained Glen. So it is to no one's surprise that the same dedication, power, and intensity Stojko brings to his skating, he brings to his martial art as a student. "As a martial artist a) he's very inquisitive, b) he's very focused and very strong. Now, we're talking about his physical abilities, he's a very strong, powerful martial artist. He's very fast and he's got good body control. Now, of course he gets that originally from his skating just the way he controls his body on the ice but he transcends that into his martial arts. So, you've got an inquisitive person which means a very sharp mind, he's very strong physically and then spiritually he's like one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet," said Doyle.
It's fair to say then, that Doyle must be a very good teacher. A model in his field for his student, Elvis Stojko has scaled to great heights in the figure skating world and remains a class act as a person. "Well, I let him be himself which means he could grow. I let him grow in the martial arts. I didn't constrain him to moving like I move or thinking like I thought. I encouraged, actually, him to do the opposite. To think what he wanted to think, to speak out loud when he didn't like something to tell me, when he liked something to tell me. I encouraged him to be who he was and I wanted him to grow as a martial artist and as a person," said Glen. However, Doyle is quick to point out that it is only Elvis who can take credit for his achievements in his skating career, "he's the one wearing the skates. He's the one standing out in front of all the people. I can take no credit for any championships he's won," said Glen.
Although Glen doesn't feel Elvis' prestige as a public figure has changed him as a person he was a nice guy before he attained super stardom status in figure skating and to this day he remains a nice guy. However, it can be said that our experiences shape us and contribute to our further development as an individual. 'Well, since he's gone into the spotlight, he has become an outstanding speaker. Very quick witted, very fast with answers and responses to sometimes controversial questions. He is very confident and comfortable with his opinions. He knows what he wants to say and he says it. He says it as diplomatically as he can, but he still says it. So, that's one aspect where he's definitely grown, just the way he presents what he's thinking," said Doyle. Someone of Stojko's standing, obviously has a number of young people who admire and look up to him. It comes with its own set of responsibilities and obligations. "He's a role model for kids young skaters and he handles that really well. That I think, just of course, comes with getting a little older and being the veteran. Being the guy whose been there, done that and for the young skaters who that might be their dream. He is very good at painting the picture for them to know what to aim for, to know how to get there, to know what to do," said Glen. For some people, this is not an easy thing to accomplish to maintain your focus on the job at hand while giving of yourself and honouring the commitments that come with the territory of being a Two-time Olympic Silver Medallist, Three-time World and Four-time Canadian Champion. But for Stojko it is almost second nature. "When he's in the game mind, he doesn't ignore everything. He still brings it all in. He'll make time for that. He stays focused he's not losing anything but he always encompasses everything that surrounds him," said Doyle.
When asked what Elvis' greatest quality is as a person, Glen responded with no hesitation, "Loyalty. He is your friend; he is your friend for life. No one can tell him differently, no one will ever convince him differently. He is a very, very loyal person and I am talking in his sport, in his personal life, in friendships, as a student. Loyalty is probably his greatest quality. Definitely, I mean without a shadow of a doubt," said Doyle.
There is no question that Elvis' family and friends are an important part of his life. His mom, Irene has been a central figure in Elvis' life and throughout his career, which began at the young age of 5 years. Besides the regular tasks a skating mom often takes on of driving her child back and forth to practice sessions during the wee hours of the morning, Irene has also been known to help design and sew Elvis'costumes even to this day and can sometimes be seen behind a video camera taping coverage of his practice sessions. Glen presented the following analogy when describing the influence Elvis' family and friends have had on his life. 'Well, you know the old saying, 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree'. When I met Elvis he was a great, great guy. Well, he still is. You don't get that way by not having that influence. We all pretty much reflect our surroundings and had he had different influences he'd be a different person. His mom thinks the world of him. His dad thinks the world of him. They're great people; they're very down to earth. They do what they can to help with whatever he needs they're there for him. And you'll see that in Elvis, if I call Elvis and I need something he's there without the blink of an eye," said Doyle.
Glen too can be classified as an outstanding individual who has seized opportunities that have come his way and constantly searches for new avenues to explore both as a way of stretching himself as a person and in sharing his talents with others. He is currently in the process of writing another book based on his experiences in teaching women martial arts and he hopes to publish it at around this time next year. Doyle continues to do fight choreography for film and is interested in expanding on that in the entertainment field, perhaps even doing some on screen work himself. As importantly, Glen fully recognizes the gift his father gave him by introducing him to boxing. "The boxing principles really molded me. They really gave me a good sense of who I was and right and wrong, good, and bad where I want to go, where I don't want to go. I knew that at a very young age," said Glen. The self-discipline he acquired from this sport is something Glen, through his teaching of martial arts would like to pass on to other young kids to help guide them on the right track and hopefully, to make a positive difference in their lives.
As you probably gathered, martial arts involves a broad spectrum from Tai Chi to Tae Kwon Do to Kung Fu. So, if you're not sure where to start and before investing a lot of time and money on a martial art that may or may not be suited to you check out "The Martial Artist's Way" by Glen Doyle, published by Harper Collins in Canada. It is sure to put you on the right path.
Joyce Minten is a freelance writer with a special interest in figure skating.She currently resides in Burlington, Ontario.