Home About Podcast Services Our Promise Schedule A Confidence Breakthrough Download Free Ebook

Wushu - the Ancient Art in the Contemporary World

With Asian Hustlers: Sarah Chang and Alfred Hsing

Published on: Aug 6, 2020

Wushu is an ancient Chinese fighting style that has retained its allure in contemporary times. Wushu professionals in the competitive sports and film industries are among the brave practitioners who take the grace and power of this ancient martial art to the masses, making it relevant thousands of years since its creation. Two of these masters of the art join host Kimchi Chow in this conversation. Sarah Chang is an American actress, producer, stunt coordinator, and a five-time USA National Wushu Team member. She is best known for producing and starring in the movie Circle of Bones, where she won the Best Actress Award in the Vegas Movie Awards. Alfred Hsing became the first Asian-American to win a gold medal at the World Wushu Championships. He subsequently became an actor, stuntman, and stunt coordinator. The work of people like Sarah and Alfred has kept the art of Wushu alive for future generations to enjoy. Listen to them share their experience in making this happen, and learn a lot of things along the way.

Wushu – The Ancient Art In The Contemporary World With Sarah Chang And Alfred Hsing

Kimchi: When I was young, I used to watch Chinese movies where people can fly through the air or fight with the enemy with bare hands. At those times, I wish that I had those skills that I could defend myself and protect others without any weapon. It’s too late for me to learn that skill now, but it’s not too late for you to understand this ancient art form and how people use it in the modern-day. We are going to have an exciting and fun session with two of our special guests who accomplished a lot using a Chinese martial art form called wushu. Please help me welcome Sarah Chang and Alfred Hsing. Let’s start with Sarah. What’s your childhood story and how wushu led you to the entertainment industry?

Sarah: I was born and raised in Virginia. I started wushu in a Chinese school. Later, I was brought to the wushu school of Zhang Guifeng. Zhang Guifeng is a teammate of Jet Li. That was when I started wushu. Later on, she encouraged me and my sister to train for the US wushu team. We started training and then we made it to the US team. I was on the US team for ten years. That was how I develop my passion. It was because my dad liked martial arts so that’s why he encouraged us to do it in Chinese school. He watched a lot of wushu movies. He forced us to do it when we were little, but it turned into a passion. I don’t think he knew that it would be something that I did for the rest of my life and doing a movie career. What about you, Alfred?

Alfred: For me, there are some similarities there. My dad also used to rent a lot of Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies. Back then when we were watching them, Jackie Chan wasn’t even mainstream in America yet. He would go to the Chinese supermarket and rent these Chinese Hong Kong action movies. I was watching things like Drunken Master. I saw Rumble in the Bronx before it came out in theaters in America. I was watching a lot of Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies. I was always into martial arts, but it wasn’t until high school that I discovered wushu. There are many styles of martial arts, karate, taekwondo and so on and so forth. Wushu at that time where I grew up in Northern California in the Bay Area, it was starting out. There were maybe 2 or 3 schools. When one of my classmates referred me to this martial arts school and when I discovered it, I went there. I immediately felt this connection because of all of the buildup from my childhood, watching all these movies, especially like the Once Upon a Time in China, Wong Fei-hung series with Jet Li.

When I saw this movement that one of these instructors was doing at this free trial, I was like, “That’s exactly what I want to learn.” I didn’t even know the specific background, Chinese martial arts or this martial art. I didn’t know the details, but I needed that and I connected with it immediately. I was sold. I was signed up. From there, I felt this connection with it. Once I started training, I felt a natural knack for it. I went to competitions like the beginner level and I did well. It built more confidence and more self-esteem. I continued and continued. Same with what Sarah is saying. I don’t think my parents would have expected that I would have continued on with it beyond college and into my professional career. It’s defined as a large part of me and a large part of what I’m doing in life now.

Kimchi: Do you think that learning wushu trained you to be more disciplined?

Alfred: It trains people to be more disciplined. At the end of the day, it’s what you get out of anything that you do. It gave me more discipline in the sense that if I wanted to be the best at something, I had to show up for practice. I had to put in the dedication, the hard work. I’ve trained in many places, but one of the places I trained in was in the Westminster area. From where I lived when I moved to LA, that was like a one-hour drive. Me and some of my teammates, we made this dedication to drive an hour out of our way to go practice through rush hour traffic and all that. It’s what you put into it. Anything you put hard work into, you can gain something whether it’s discipline or dedication, anything like that.

Wushu Professionals: Wushu trains people to be more disciplined because, at the end of the day, that’s what you get out of anything that you put hard work into.

Sarah: I totally agree with that for across various different martial arts or various different things you do in life. For wushu, there’s also that aspect. There are many different aspects of it that you have to work on like flexibility training. That takes a lot of discipline to do it. You have to do it every day before you can get to where you want to be and the conditioning and everything that’s added to it. That does take a lot of discipline to get that. A famous line growing up was, “Sorry, I have wushu.” You have to sacrifice your social life.

Alfred: I totally agree with that. You had to sacrifice something because you have the passion to push forward in what you would want to do and that wushu or achieving certain things. A lot of sacrifices, I do forget about that. A lot of people are going out or whatever. You’re like, “It’s more important to go train.” There was something else I wanted to mention. I feel like wushu for me helped me become more OCD. I became more detailed. That’s helped me with what I’m doing now. Beyond stunts, I’m getting into the action, directing, some coordinating and all that. It’s important to be detailed, the right angle, the right measurements, safety. A lot of these things, being precise, having a certain eye for things, wushu has done that for me because of the way that the wushu competition was. We had to be precise with hitting a certain level of movement.

There’s this thing called Nandu, which is a difficulty movement, which Sarah can also go into more. When you hit these certain moves or these requirements, that is part of the martial arts. Part of the competition is you have to know these things and be specific. The difference of a certain hand position like little things. There are so much here versus here, open versus closed versus straight versus angled. People wouldn’t probably normally think about that because you’re competing that both Sarah and I were at the level of a national and international level, the competition gets precise. You can’t wing it. Zeroing in on these details, when you’re already good in general is much harder because you have to refine. I’m sure Sarah can speak on some of the things she has to overcome and to work on in that area as well.

Sarah: Everything is about being precise. If you’re not precise, which has cost me a lot of different competitions in my life, you lose it. It’s between a couple of points. If you don’t make that step or that difficulty, you lose the competition and you have to have that laser focus to be that much better than the guy next to you. Precision is key.

Kimchi: What’s the most unique character that distinguishes wushu from other martial art forms?

Sarah: In general, wushu is called martial arts in general, in Chinese.

Kimchi: It’s the same as Kung Fu? Most people know the word Kung Fu.

Sarah: Kung Fu in Chinese means having high skill in something. That’s how you become having Kung Fu. The terms that are used are more generalized than what we do. There are two different forms of wushu. We do competitive modern wushu and contemporary wushu. In contemporary wushu, there’s the taolu. It means the form section, which is what Alfred and I do. After doing films, we both also now do more of the sanda, which is the fighting form. Cung Le does more sanda. In terms of different aspects between this Chinese martial art and others, for me, the use of your chi, the movement and how it flows together. It’s fluid in the taolu aspect that we do.

That’s something that stands out to me, but maybe Alfred could have a different take on what’s the difference of wushu with other martial arts. It’s difficult to pinpoint that because every martial arts, you’re using your hands, your feet, your limbs and everything. Everything gets mixed together. There are still punches and kicks. The one thing that I can say is that the fluidity of the movements and how you use your chi, which you only get to once you get to a certain level of practicing wushu.

Kimchi: A Kung Fu movement is smooth. Sometimes for people like me, I thought, “That’s tai chi.” Is tai chi similar like wushu or is tai chi rooted from wushu or vice-versa?

Alfred: First, I want to say that it’s super great hearing Sarah describe what wushu is. One of the things that a lot of people face that started with wushu is trying to explain it. I had the exact same conversations with people. My version, which is not too much difference from what Sarah said is there’s a modern form of wushu and then there’s more of a little bit more of what we perceive as a traditional form. These days, people call it Kung Fu. The stuff that you see as a bit more traditional. There’s modern wushu, which now it’s become a style like taekwondo, karate. They’re all styles. The way you recognize them is based on their qualities. Taekwondo, their quality might be a focus on kicks, but they still do punches. Karate, they’re a little bit more of a hardstyle. They also have punches and kicks whereas maybe jujitsu is another martial arts style, but it’s focused more on grappling and submission techniques.

These are all martial arts because they use hands, feet. It’s a form of combat. Wushu would be symbolized by a combination of fluidity, grace and power sprinkled it in with a little bit of acrobatics. The best way you recognize these things is by watching them and seeing them more like food. There’s Korean food, Chinese food, Vietnamese food, all kinds of food around the world. There’s still protein. There are still carbs. There are vegetables. What makes it Korean food? What makes it Japanese food? It’s because of certain characteristics. You’re like, “I recognize sashimi. That’s Japanese food,” but it doesn’t mean that Korean people can’t use fish. That’s my best analogy, comparing wushu to food. It’s not to be confused wushu, which is a style, Chinese cuisine.

Let me answer your question for tai chi. I had the opportunity to do a little bit of modern wushu tai chi. I also did a little bit of traditional tai chi. Tai chi would be a subcategory of wushu. It is definitely a Chinese style of martial arts. Even then, it can be separated into two categories. The more modern wushu version of tai chi, it’s become a presentation. It’s graceful. It’s a high level of difficulty like dropping down to one leg and all these difficult movements combined with jumps where they land into splits and certain things. With traditional tai chi, there are many styles, but the two dominant ones are Chen style tai-chi and Yang style tai chi. Chen style tai chi is martial arts, but it has more combative applications to it.

They focus on an upright level of grappling, where they take you off balance and tie you twice where they can push and knock you off balance. That’s the simplest way I can say it. That’s the strength of the traditional Chen style tai chi. You do see that they have these explosive movements that you don’t see in typical tai chi because they’re different. I spoke a bit about it. To summarize it, it’s a subcategory like sushi or katsudon. There are rice bowls, sushi, ramen. Tai chi is a subcategory like within Japanese or Chinese food. You have Sichuan south food, northern Beijing duck, etc. It’s a subcategory.

Kimchi: It’s useful and it’s relatable when you refer to food. Most of us have experienced multiple Asian foods. The Westerner, they say, “You are Asian.” We say, “We are Asian. We are different. We have a specific type of dish that’s distinguished us from each other.” How do you stay in shape as a stunt professional?

Alfred: For me, I try to stay with a variety of workouts because you want to keep your skillset broader. When I was training competitively for wushu, day in and day out, we would be training our wushu kicks and our forms over and over. Whatever your form was, if it was long fists, southern fist, weapons, short weapons, we train those day in and day out. For stunt work, the difference is everyone will gravitate towards their skillset because every stunt person is different. Some stunt people focus more on driving stunts, high falls diving, gymnastics. My skillset might be more within the fight choreography and martial arts side of it. Not that I’m limited to that, but that would definitely be an area that I gravitate towards.

I’m training different styles of martial arts. I’m a huge fan of mixed martial arts and UFC stuff. I’ve been learning more of Muay Tai, Brazilian jujitsu training with friends. Also, combining that with more acrobatic training so tricking or XMA as they call it, which is the crazier flips, twist, cork, stuff like that. Keeping up with the general cardio. I like to hit interval training and stuff like that. It’s important to keep on learning, keep on increasing your skills. At the same time, maintaining them so I’m doing cardio and I’m going to the gym. It’s almost an endless amount of training. I know Sarah has a crazy hit in cardio. What do you do for your training?

Sarah: I totally agree with all the points that you talked about. I’m definitely more focused on mixed martial arts because in terms of movies and as an actress, in more parts we’ll do more mixed martial arts things. If they want me to do wushu, it’s not going to be competitive wushu. For us, we could pull out certain wushu skills like that. I’ve been doing this for many years. It’s something that’s ingrained in us. Right now, learning new skills and learning different martial arts. If I could be a boxing role or if I could do like a Muay Thai or an MMA fighter, that’s more viable these days especially with the popularity of the UFC. In terms of home workouts, I like to work out with my daughters, my new weight. We do a lot of family workouts. We do hit work workouts as well. High-intensity cardio workouts definitely help. A lot of it now is more to stay in shape and to stay muscular, toned because we don’t want to see these female action heroes that have no muscles. That’s a big no-no. We had to make sure we’re still fit.

Kimchi: Especially you, Sarah, as a young mom. You have a lovely daughter. She got to pick up after you. As a young mom, has this new role forced you to evaluate your career as a stunt woman?

Sarah: I’m mostly being an actress. I don’t do stunt double work anymore. Even before I had my daughter, I already made that choice. It’s hard to be one or the other. Once you become a stunt professional, especially if you’re a girl, there is a shortage of women stunt professionals. Once you show that you have your skills, people want to keep you as a stunt professional. I haven’t done stunts in that respect for quite a long time now. If anything, I would move more towards directing my own action. Mostly because I can choreograph and I know which moves I’ll look better in. If you’re in the role and you want to do an awesome fight, you put in a lot of your own input.

I did get to action direct a film in 2017, which is now on iTunes, The Trigonal: Fight For Justice. In terms of doing stunt stuff, that was something that I did. Going back to your question, becoming a new mom, you definitely think a lot more about your safety and the future. More acting roles for sure. As an actress, you’re definitely open to all different roles. I’m down for comedy or romance or drama. That’s all fine. If it has an action, then I can showcase my wushu skills or MMA skills that I’ve picked up along the way.

Kimchi: Which role would fit your personality the most? You say you can play comedy, action, romance and things like that.

Sarah: It’s action-comedy. I like doing action-comedy the most. I’m taking more of the Jackie Chan route. Everyone always asks, “Martial arts, which one would you like? Who do you like the best? Is it Chad, Donnie, Jet Li, Jackie?” You always get that question, but you can’t say you like one. Each one has their specialty and you want to be well-rounded with all of them. I do say that I would like to go more towards the action-comedy and Jackie Chan style.

Kimchi: That role has not been taken yet. I’m waiting for your name, Sarah. Set that role and say, “I will be the action-comedy actress.” I don’t remember seeing any Asian woman who is good at martial arts as well as funny. Maybe work on that. There’s something there for her. What about you, Alfred? Would you continue working as a stuntman once you are married and have children?

Wushu Professionals: For stunt work, you want to keep your skillset broader than you would for competitive Wushu.

Alfred: The profession that I’m in, stunt work action filmmaking, that’s a profession that I’d like to be throughout my whole lifetime. In terms of being a stuntman or a stunt performer, there is a certain limit on that in terms of doing the physical stunts, action and a lot of the heavy, more extreme hits. Even now, regardless of marriage and family and all that, you have to think ahead that when you’re 50 or 60, you don’t want to be falling off of a building and crashing this. There are still people that are amazing and they’re still skilled. Maybe they love that and they want to keep doing it. That’s totally awesome. I have a lot of respect for that. I’d like to, at that age, have the choice of what I want to be doing.

That’s why I’m doing both. I’m performing physical action, but I’m also choreographing stunt coordinating. A lot of that is more mental because you’re working with a team of people. You’re not doing a car hit or a fall or whatever. You’re getting the best people. Some are younger people. You’re getting some amazing people that can do high-level acrobatics and tricks. You’re piecing it all together and you’re trying to create something, innovate something that’s exciting, fun for audiences, but also works with the story and the script. I’m transitioning in that way. I’ve also enjoyed the directing and action directing part of things. In China, I’ve action directed, which they also call the second unit directing, a 42-episode TV series which heavily featured mixed martial arts as one of their storylines in there.

I was the action director, which meant I brought together the stunt team. I put together all of the action. I designed it. I also was in charge of the whole set when it comes to shooting the action portion. I tell the extras, the actor, everyone. I coordinated the whole sequence and shoot it. I had a small hand in some of the preliminary editing. I had a small role in one of the episodes as one of the athletes. That was definitely a dream because people ask you, “Do you want to do stunts? Do you want to act? Do you want to direct?” I got to do everything there. That would be a dream is to be heavily behind the scenes with designing and creating something fun and exciting. It’s still playing with my friends and playing with all the actors who have become my friends with a role or two. That’s ideal for me. I look towards, for example, John Favreau. He directed Iron Man. He also has a role in the movie, but he also directed it. Not Tony Stark, but he’s got a role in it. That’s the realm I want to be in, but maybe with action or action-comedy. That’s what I aspire for.

Kimchi: Congratulations, Alfred.

Alfred: I’m not there yet but thank you.

Kimchi: You are stepping on to the path already so that’s wonderful.

Sarah: You have the skills to action direct and act in a feature film. You’re there.

Alfred: We’re one step at a time.

Kimchi: I want you to bring us back the first time you get a role in a movie. What did you feel at that time? Do you remember, Sarah?

Sarah: I’m trying to think back. You’re excited. You’re nervous. Going back to the first short film, first acting gig, that would be a different experience from a first feature film. A feature film you’ve already done several, but first short film, for me, it was scary and exciting at the same time, “I get to do this. This is cool.” At the same time, you’re totally lost. You don’t know what you’re supposed to do and you get to it. I’m super excited but also nervous. It’s a lead role in a short action film called Live N Scheme. I read the script. I thought it was super cool. The director took a lot of time. We would hang out in character before we shot the film. I was comfortable at the time we shot it. It’s exciting. It’s something unknown. It’s nerve-wracking. I was fortunate that the director was a good friend of mine. We stayed in character, hung out in character for two weeks before we did the shoot. When I got to the shoot, I was on it. I felt great doing that role.

Wushu Professionals: The more we practice our skills, the better we will do our task.

Alfred: There was something in there that Sarah said that it made me think. When she said that it’s nerve-wracking on your first time doing a project or anything, I thought of knowing Sarah, there’s something I admire. It’s like uncharted territory, even though it’s scary. It’s scary for anyone, but she’s always down to like, “Try that unchartered territory.” Even if she’s scared or uncertain about it, she’s willing to go head-on into it. That’s something that’s admirable. She’s always been going hard. She’s willing to do it. A lot of people are not willing to take a step into something that they’re uncertain about or scared of. To do anything remarkable or to pursue what you want to do, you have to be willing to be afraid, but be okay with like, “Somehow it’ll work out or I got this.” It’s a combination of that, but she has that mentality and she still goes or even though she’s like, “I have no idea what’s going on.” There’s an element of that because it’s your first time. I’m saying I’m the same way.

Kimchi: What about you, Alfred?

Alfred: Are you talking about my first project?

Kimchi: For a role in a movie?

Alfred: I’m trying to think what would be my first one, but I’ll share a first with you. It’s a little bit more of an interesting story. I was already a little bit into the film industry. I had already done a few small projects, short films and stuff like that. I had found my way of working. I was working in China for Jet Li. I was assisting him. We were in this movie called The Sorcerer and the White Snake. Prior to that, I was in the US. I had worked on some short films, a UCLA student film, and a couple of their projects. This was my first time anywhere on a major feature film. It was $20 million budget. It was a big project. I was amazed at everything on the set and how big of a scale. There are sometimes hundreds of extras.

The producer, she was cool with me and an amazing person. She was like, “Jet, why don’t you put him in one of the scenes? Make him one of your disciples as a monk.” He’s like, “Sure, go ahead.” I got super excited because film is what I’ve been wanting to do. They rushed me to the hair and makeup. They shaved my head. I didn’t care, but it was like, “I get to be a monk in a Jet Li movie. How cool is that?” This leads back to what we were talking about earlier because when I was on set, on camera, they gave me a line. I’m talking to one of the bad guys or something, “How dare you steal this thing,” or whatever. The line was in Mandarin and Chinese. All of a sudden, I was like, “What am I doing?” I was acting opposite of Jet. He was giving me this look of like, “Don’t fuck it up. Don’t mess it up.”

The director was Ching Siu-tung, who did Shaolin Soccer. He was like action design on Hero. He’s a huge Hong Kong director. He had a crazy jib camera come in, all this equipment. You look around and looking up, there’s the lighting department, the extras, the sound, all these departments. If I messed up, everyone would be judging me or being like, “That guy’s terrible. He’s wasting our time.” There are many thoughts. It’s super nerve-wracking. When you’ve been anticipating and wanting an opportunity, you want it so badly, you don’t want to mess it up either. In hindsight, I was able to pull through and got through it. It was a small scene and looking back, I don’t feel like it’s anything you should be nervous about or anything. In that environment the first time, it felt like a lot of things are going on at once.

Sarah: To add on, in all film sets, you need an army to do any film. When you’re in the spotlight, if you’re acting in it, there’s the camera and the light. Everyone is there to shoot whatever you’re going to do on the screen. It is extremely nerve-wracking, especially on a big-budget production. You have several cameras pointing at you. You have a certain timing. There are many things to think about. Sometimes they have, “You better move at this point. When the camera comes here, you better move. If you don’t do it right in the beat, you got to do it again.” Imagine telling 100 people, “You got to do it again,” which is normal on the film set. The amount of nerve-wracking, that feeling, it’s real.

Alfred: Which is why it’s super important to have, the more you do it, the more experience you build up. It doesn’t matter how talented or certain things you are. You can tell when people have experienced because you do have this trial and error. You make these mistakes or not even mistakes, but you accumulate these experiences and you realize, “There’s nothing to be nervous about or I got through that,” and everything is a new obstacle. If the camera’s coming and you have to move and time it, and feel the camera, these are all things that accumulate with experience. It’s important to go forward and do it.

Kimchi: Like in any other industry as well, the more we practice improving our skills, the better or the faster or the more efficient we will do our task. A stunt person, it’s dangerous. You put your life on the line. I wonder why the main character like Jackie Chan, I know that he used to do his own stunt until now. He’s too old or something. Why would he do that? Why would he risk his life to do the stunt where they can hire you, Alfred, the young guy, as his stunt double?

Alfred: This one’s not automatically on me because I’ve had the opportunity to work with him. I feel like there were two questions there, but if you’re asking about Jackie Chan specifically, he still does most everything. It’s understood now that when you’re filming a crazy level of production that sometimes there are two units. Sometimes you got to shoot over someone’s shoulder or if there are certain things that fall or certain things that he’s already done before, then there may be a stunt double. Every production needs to have doubles. It’s a matter of logistics. To answer your question though, the reason that he does his own stunts is because he started off his base as a stunt person. He built his name and his brand off of the fact that he’s okay putting himself to the limits and on a physical level, doing everything he can to entertain audiences and bring excitement to people.

Wushu Professionals: You are constantly putting your life on the line in stunt work.

The fact that he does it himself is it brings a lot of value to the actual production. When people watch, they know that he’s doing it himself and/or he’s someone that is capable. It’s believable when you watch it like, “He’s doing all this.” He genuinely can. The audience doesn’t care about what they see on screen. They also still have an impression of the person. Sometimes when someone watches it and they’re like, “That’s an actor. He’s probably on a green screen. It’s probably digital. He’s being digitally replaced,” it’s still exciting to watch, but it does take something away from it. Every audience is looking for something different.

Some people want to know like, “He did that.” That’s the difference to see it with your own eyes that this guy jumped from one building all the way to another building. There’s some excitement about that. That’s why when you go on social media, seeing real stuff happened, in some ways feels more exciting because there are higher stakes because it’s happening for real. The stakes are high. He’s risking his health and his body to do all these crazy things to entertain us. The audience respects that he does it. He loves making movies and he loves entertaining. That’s why he does it.

Kimchi: In the entertainment industry, especially as an actor and actress, what do you think is more important, the look or the skill?

Sarah: It’s whatever tells the story. It depends. What is the skill? What’s the role? Are they skilled? Yes, the skill would matter. Are they not skilled? Are they learning? The skill would take away from the role. In terms of look and skill, it depends on each different character. That being said, we both have done wushu. We both have a martial arts background. If we were to play a part that requires a wushu athlete or maybe even something close like an MMA athlete, the skill does matter to make the role look authentic. To answer your question, it depends.

Kimchi: What is the most memorable experience that almost cost you your life?

Sarah: I can jump into a small story. I got into stunts. They’re doing a music video with my friend after he introduced me to a stunt team in Taiwan. At the time, it happened to be that they needed someone who can do wushu. There my skills came into play. I did this wushu form. It happened to be the first wushu project in five years for them. I happened to be there at the right time, which was awesome. After that, I started doing more stunt work. I somehow had to do some car stunts. In Asia, you’re a stunt person. You do whatever the director tells you to do. It’s a lot different than the states and that’s great. Asia needs to change that. I was sitting in the car and we’re not even going that fast. The car director for the stunts is driving the car and then he somehow hits a ditch. The car spins and hits a tree. It’s fast. In the end, the whole stunt, I don’t think it was life-threatening, but it was a real wake up call for me. The tree hit right behind the door.

Imagine if we had gotten a ditch one foot further, the tree would have hit right here. I probably would have banged it with my head or something. It’s not life or death situation, but it was more like a wakeup call for me to be like, “You’re doing car stunts. You’re not trained for something like car stunts. You’re like a sitting duck.” That was a big realization for me to say, “I’ve started in this industry. Now I’m getting to know what it is. Is this something I want to do?” From that point on, I was like, “I want to learn what it’s like to be in front of the camera, what it’s like to do acting?” After that, I started taking acting classes. I went to Beijing to study at the Central Academy Drama. From then on, I can do a lot of martial arts. I can do a lot of stunts. I have the skills. In the end, I’m an actress. If you need my set skills, I could add that to my role.

Alfred: I totally hear you with the car stuff. When they have actors in a car scene, I was not driving. When the car itself, there’s a 360 or in a chase. Even the actors in the backseat need to be doubled for safety and sometimes the windows shatter or whatever. One day, out of the work that I’ve done, it was on NCIS, my entire day of work was sitting in the backseat of a car with a driver doing a 180. I did not do anything physical, but to what you’re saying, the stunt driver we had is super phenomenal, hundreds of credits, the most skilled guy in the industry. We were all in good hands. If the stunt is dangerous and the person is not confident with his abilities or capable or even have a mishap happens, you are sitting back there and trusting that your stunt brother can handle the safety of it. I could see jumping on that story that you were saying. It can be dangerous back there. That’s why they have some people even in the backseats when it’s something dangerous.

Kimchi: Does the movie company buy your life insurance for all the stunt professionals? Did you get the life insurance to protect you, whatever happened in the set you are all covered?

Alfred: There’s definitely insurance. I don’t know if they call it life insurance, but there is a disability. There’s insurance, but loosely do people that have been injured. It’s not worth it to trade. An injury to get compensation, it’s not worth it. No one wants to get injured. No amount of money can make up if you get severely and permanently injured or damaged.

Sarah: Especially for people like us who are physical. We like to work out. We like to do flips. It sucks when you have an injury. Our whole way of life is changed.

Kimchi: In that profession, do you buy your own insurance? If something happened to you, your life or you will be taken care of?

Alfred: Everyone generally if they can afford it has their own medical insurance. I definitely have the standard. In the Screen Actors Guild, which is what I’m part of, SAG-AFTRA, at a certain level, meaning if you’ve worked on projects and have certain hours or whatnot, you’re qualified to enroll in their health plan. I’m enrolled in the standard SAG health plan, which as far as I understand is decent. When we are on projects, they have an added level of insurance that the production purchases.

Sarah: In Asia, it’s a bit different. We don’t have a SAG. We have our own personal life insurance. On the production, they give you basic insurance that they give everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re stunts or actor or a crew, you get that. In the Philippines, we have ₱100 insurance. That covers ₱100, but I know the production pays. It’s Asia. It’s a little bit different here. That’s something that I feel like I want to consider more now that you’ve pitched it.

Kimchi: It’s dangerous because it’s your occupation. Is the occupation hazardous? It’s most likely you have a high percentage of the damage of your life, you risk your life comparing to some actor that’s in the romance. What do they do? They kiss and they do something that’s mild. No life dent. Normal insurance is okay. As a stunt professional, you don’t have special insurance for that. You might want to consider that and get the maximum insurance as you can. Especially you, Sarah, you are a mom so consider that. You never know because you are still open to play some role with martial arts in there. It’s not like you say I will never play martial art again.

Sarah: I want to be a granny, and play a granny martial arts.

Kimchi: What movies or roles do you want to play next?

Sarah: I’ve touched on that one.

Kimchi: Do you want comedy? What’s your wish, Alfred?

Alfred: I feel like we both touched on it. For me, I genuinely love both sides of the film spectrum meaning the production, creation and behind the scenes aspect or behind the camera aspect, I enjoy. In terms of a project or a role in this phase of my life, that’d be excited about is playing some character or being part of some project where the protagonist has to go through some type of insurmountable odds in order to help someone or protect someone that he cares about or protect the cause or ideology that he believes in. I said it in depth, but a person that stands up to like a hero-type mentality or a project.

It doesn’t have to be a superhero project, but someone that faces insurmountable odds and stands up for something that he supports or believes in. He’s a hero for fun. She’s joking because I did a project, a live-action, One Punch Man. I’m a fan of the anime. I had to shave my head for that. There’s a recurring thing about shaving my head. There are some projects that I’m moving forward with characters that are going to face a lot of odds and adversities. A lot of fight scenes in order to achieve his objective and to share some positive messages.

Kimchi: I can see that in some romance too.

Alfred: There’s not a good film without some form of love.

Kimchi: If you have your own children like Sarah and this including Alfred, when you marry, you have children. If you have your own children, would you have them follow your footsteps?

Alfred: Sarah, I think this is you. You’re already one step ahead of me.

Sarah: Unintentionally, she seems to be going towards these footsteps. I could see her being a great actress. She’s a drama queen. She’s got these crazy kicks. She’s several months now. She does good form in her kicks. I don’t know how that happened. We workout around her. It’s a tough life, but I feel like she’s a confident girl. I think she would do well. Do I want her to do this route? I wouldn’t say it’s the most stable in terms of income and emotional and mental stability. I don’t think it’s a great idea if you had to choose, but if it’s your passion, I would support her 100%. If she had a choice, it’s not what she liked. I’d say, “Don’t go for it.” It’s a crazy life.

Alfred: I live for it. I live for the excitement of it, but it is definitely a crazy life. I’ll also jump into that. I’m not there yet. I do think that I’d be a hypocrite if I would say that I wouldn’t let my son or daughter pursue a similar path to me. I want them to have a strong foundation in terms of having a good skillset, tools, mentality, the right mindset and education and then let them choose. I don’t necessarily want them to only know martial arts or only know acting or whatever it is. You want them to go through life, gain experiences, try different things. If that’s what they like to do, I hope they have the right tools at that time because it is a difficult field.

I do think that’s why Sarah has martial arts skills and background as do I. It’s hard enough trying to come in and be an actor in a sea of people that are all talented, good-looking, hardworking. You’ve got to have tools on top of that. If you can bring something else to the table, if you speak multiple languages or you have a good grasp of comedy or you can do martial arts at a high level, those are all tools. I’d want them to have something concrete to go forward if they wanted to pursue acting or anything.

Kimchi: Are you multilingual, at least bilingual? Do you speak Mandarin?

Alfred: We both speak Mandarin. I studied French in school, but it’s barely functional.

Sarah: I studied Spanish at school. It’s functional. I’m learning Tagalog, which is fairly functional. I can sing in Tagalog though. That’s what I’ve been learning.

Kimchi: Another language is another opportunity. Another door open for us all.

Alfred: It’s important now that more people understand more cultures, not just their own. It’s a good time. Language is one of those things where it helps bridge the gap of understanding. You’re able to learn about other cultures more so bridging. That’s super important at this time.

Sarah: In terms of the language, I wanted to add on that. I’m a totally different person when I speak Chinese. The words shaped that culture. When you do learn another language, you learn how they think. You know how they express themselves.

Kimchi: How do you feel different? I feel different too. When I speak Vietnamese, I’m Vietnamese. When I speak Vietnamese, I feel different from when I speak English. I’m curious about you when you speak Chinese or Mandarin, how do you feel? What’s the mindset? What’s the thinking behind the Mandarin?

Wushu Professionals: Wushu- Precision is the key.

Alfred: I don’t know if there’s a specific thing. I was also going to jump in on what Sarah was saying because it’s a great point. I shot a short film where basically the same thing happens two times. This man he’s trying to save someone. One time it happens in LA and then the second time it happens in Beijing. I did this as a film experiment and it was interesting because of the way that you’re thinking. It’s different when you’re speaking in Chinese, there are certain things that become more natural and certain things that are unnatural. I don’t know how to explain it. This is weird. This is maybe me personally, but I was able to be more vocal about my anger in the short film when I was speaking English. Maybe that’s a more Western thing.

I was a little bit more direct. I was able to say what I wanted or I curse someone out and said certain things that were more direct. When it was the Chinese speaking character, he wasn’t afraid or anything like that. It’s his natural thought, the way that the language forms, it doesn’t go in a direction that’s like, “You do this.” It wasn’t like that. Some people would say he was a little bit more roundabout. I felt different, which affected even the performance. I’ve even seen this with Milla Jovovich or something, I could be wrong. There’s an interview with her and Justin Timberlake. It’s in Russia. When she speaks English, she’s a little bit more playful and fun. When she speaks in Russian, she seems definitely firmer and more stoic. The language forms how we think.

Sarah: I saw that interview too. I totally 100% relate to it. I feel like Asian culture is much more reserved, respectful and polite. I don’t know if that’s in the language or the way I perceive it. I’m not sure. When I speak in Chinese, I feel like I’m more reserved and respectful or something. I don’t know. It also has to do with that we’re American born and we’re more comfortable speaking English. We both got into a point where we’re comfortable speaking Mandarin as well. The roundabout is a thing of our culture as well. We don’t say things directly. That’s not how you’re supposed to do it. It is different.

Kimchi: That topic would be interesting to explore because I noticed that as well. When I speak Vietnamese versus when I speak English, when I do coaching, I ask my client, even though they speak Vietnamese, I say, “No, speak English to me,” because it’s hard for me to be a coach speaking to them in Vietnamese. It’s an emotional shift. I cannot be like them. It’s different. I relate to that.

Alfred: It’s like a mindset. You’re used to speaking in English when you put on maybe a more professional or coaching attitude. When you speak in Vietnamese, it might be a little more personable or it changes your mindset, even your body language. It’s possible that it could change.

Kimchi: Maybe on a solo show or when I’m going to share that in my private coaching.

Alfred: You should get a bilingual or trilingual speech pathologist on one of your next episodes. Someone that specializes in speech because we’re not experts in that. Someone that’s expert on that, but that also speaks at least two languages. That would be interesting.

Kimchi: That would be a great topic to explore. If you know anybody, let me know.

Sarah: My mom has a PhD in Linguistics. It’s putting it up, but it’s not a speech pathologist.

Kimchi: Sarah, you keep saying, “My mom is great.” Introduce her to me and we’ll see where we can start.

Sarah: You should do the next episode with our moms. We don’t even need to be here.

Alfred: She’s a financial controller.

Kimchi: I know that our audience enjoyed this tremendously. How do you want people to follow you or get in touch with you, Sarah?

Sarah: My plug is Starring Sarah Chang. It’s @StarringSarahChang on Facebook. @StarringSarahChang on Instagram and www.StarringSarahChang.com. You can also find my movie now in the US, Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids on Amazon Prime and The Trigonal: Fight for Justice on iTunes.

Alfred: You’ve got to go check that out. As for me, Instagram, pretty much all the platforms, @AlfredRocks. I’ve got to live by it. I have a few things popping up out there. One of which is we released a trailer for a One Punch Man Live Action. If you’re a fan of anime and action, and action comedy, go ahead, check it out. We are getting a lot of support and love in the online community. Also, one of my personal passion projects, Martial Arts and a Meal, where I’m the host. I meet up with an expert martial artist to talk about life, food, philosophy. They also teach martial arts. We talk over food, which is why I love food. I love martial arts. I put those two things together. It’s on YouTube. We’ve got four episodes out and a fifth one coming out soon with UFC fighter, Michelle Waterson.

Kimchi: Thank you, Sarah and Alfred, for being here. I have a better understanding of wushu. I have gained more respect for stunt professionals. For our audience, what is the one key takeaway that you are going to implement in your life from this interview? If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, review our show. Until next time, live life loud.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Quotes

"Wushu is all about fluidity, grace, and power."
"Language bridges the gaps; the words shape the culture."
"Language bridges the gaps; the words shape the culture."

About Sarah Chang

Sarah Chang is an American actress, producer, stunt coordinator and martial artist. Chang is best known for her work in the titular roles in the DJI/Wanda film, The Teacher (2018), Gabriela in Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids (2019), Mei in The Trigonal: Fight for Justice (2018). She also produced and starred in the movie Circle of Bones, where she won the Best Actress Award in the Vegas Movie Awards.

FB: @Sarah Chang

IG: @starringsarahchang

TW: @sarahchangwushu

Youtube: @starringsarahchang



Acting Reel


Action Reel


About Alfred Hsing

The first Asian American who win a gold medal at the World Wushu Championships. He then became an actor, stuntman, and stunt coordinator. Alfred has worked with his idols: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Donnie Yen in their stunt teams and as their stunt doubled.

Alfred has played many roles in: Silicon Valley, Ready Player One, and Mission Control. He also had active roles in the core stunt team and in the fighting & shooting choreography team in “My Personal Trainer” series and “Mouse Guard” movie.

Alfred has stunt coordinated with Zhang Ziyi, Wang Leehom, Adrien Brody, David Guetta, Chinese director Feng Xiaogang, and Hong Kong actress Jenn Tse.

Alfred earned an acting degree at the Beijing Film Academy and has a degree in Economics from UCLA.




Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!



Subscribe to get our latest content by email.