What better way to launch The Mighty Dragon ‘Eye on China’ series than with the Beijing based action team, Troy’s Team. Troy’s Team are the only action team in China providing weekly open training courses for those invested in developing their action skills for film and television performances.
Launched in 2013 by Australian martial arts expert and actor, Troy Sandford, their short film perfectly showcases their talent, enthusiasm and high energetic performances of this group dedicated to excellence.
As I viewed the film myself it was evident that the whole team are passionate about their art and all benefit from the highly motivational leadership from Troy himself. Students are shown the differences of technique between screen vs real fighting and it’s obvious that this positive training environment brings about huge personal achievement.
Troy’s team utilise their experience to write, direct and produce their own projects and this range can be seen from this beautifully shot film. From impactful fight scenes to impressive use of colour within the film segments, you can see that they have left a firm stamp in China and no doubt this footprint will be felt beyond.
As a 1st generation Star Wars fan I was quite excited to see they are launching Saber training too. Maybe its time to dust off my Skywalker saber and have a go on my next trip to Beijing.
I took the opportunity to ask Troy a few questions about Troy’s Team.
Vikki: From Australia to Beijing – what did Beijing offer that nowhere else did?
Troy: Beijing offered two things – the school where Jet Li was raised, it was important for me to invest some years in their intensive athletic program where I could fulfill my dream training as an athlete as he did. Coming from Australia where the level of martial art is generally much lower due to the lack of time one has based on the stress of having to fit into a regular societal routine I dedicated my every being to the martial arts. Westerners commonly have family / jobs and commitments, I surrendered everything and first moved to Sichuan to train in the Emei mountains as well as the Chengdu sports university. I had already visited the Shanghai sports university and had wanted to end up in the capital to better pursue film as I predicted that would be where the bulk of the film industry was developing. And so it was – that I embarked to the capital. I would like to note that I had saved an extensive amount of money to invest into my own training in Beijing. I prepared US$25,000 which I worked six labour jobs at the same time back in Australia and spent it all travelling in china, paying over priced fees that locals were paying less than a quarter for at the time. That is the reality, however it was my dream and my investment and I would pay endless amounts to receive the same gratification and experience.
Vikki: What sort of people do you get through the doors and what do they leave with?
Troy: Many different shapes and forms, personalities and dedicated animals come through our doors. We offer them all the same, the discipline and will to take ownership of their lives, their pursuits and their habits. Of course we challenge them physically and mentally as any decent martial arts experience should. We offer realistic self defence training based upon every well known system commonly practiced along with some more exotic less well known systems. We leave the individual with an understanding and appreciation between fighting for film and performance versus real world applicable combat principles. The best of all that they leave with is a further developed appreciation of self discipline, respect and ability to work with others. These principles are more important than any punch of kick the world has to offer. Sometimes I feel I did not press upon them the finer concepts of self discipline, you just can feel it when you teach well or get through to some groups, in these moments I feel as if I have failed. In these moments I learn that punching and kicking is simple, discipline and self respect/confidence is not as easy to share or teach others. This is our absolute pursuit.
We leave the individual with an understanding and appreciation between fighting for film and performance versus real world applicable combat principles.
Vikki: Who were your inspirations as a kid and why?
Troy: I’m 31 but I can’t stop joking and laughing so loud even on set when I should probably be more reserved. Mentally I’m still a kid. The more I age the less I find I know – every day I’m reading about or meeting new inspirational people. If I had to answer as a younger kid before the age of 15 who inspired me – the first group of sick happening dudes would be the ninja turtles. Nothing was cooler and filled my heart with excitement, at the age of four I began to learn rolls and spinning back kicks just from watching the old school animations. They are so important these precious stories and heroes for young men to find their way – as I matured I found the spirit of the dragon in Bruce Lee. Of course, who else could it be. The man was lethal – I was a kid and I knew it. The speed, the power, the confidence, the well spoken spirit of a warrior. Sometimes I watch Bruce and to this day I am still confounded. He changed my entire life and because of him I am working with and for people that worked directly with and for him. As I write these very words I am lost for air, I am so thankful to god and all of the people that have ever given me a chance or supported me to follow this mighty path. Lastly beloved teacher who was a mighty mentor who I knew only so short before he passed away. His name was Kieth Blackburn – he was a hard man. Owner of the Shaolin Ssu Kung fu academy of Australia, he passed away due to motor neurone disease. I vowed to his son I would dedicate my life to the martial arts to the very end of it in honour of his father. Not one day goes by where he is not in my heart.
Vikki: What have you learnt about yourself through martial arts?
Troy: I have learnt about the physical limitations of my body and the endless possibilities of my mind. I have learnt how to appreciate, communicate, I have learnt I am not the strongest, or the fastest, I am no athletic champion but I am a champion because even though I am not talented in the martial arts, I train every day. I study every day. I read every day. I work hard for those I love every day. I learnt to always tell the truth and anything indifferent to that is working against oneself stopping them from becoming mighty and powerful within. I have learnt that moralistic courage is a by-product of physical strength and those both combined lead you to self confidence which can assist you with anything your day can throw at you as a challenge. I have learnt about my ego and that it was extensive – I have also learnt that one’s ego although commonly perceived as bad – the studious martial artist will see the balance within his own ego and use it as a weapon. Uncontrolled it can cause one pain, understood and well managed one can measure themselves against their peers and competitively drive them to get that gold medal. I encourage my team to look towards the strongest of us, the most flexible of us, the most talented of us and work hard to over take them. The ego is a pathway to incite personal development between peers. I’ve learnt to never waste one moment of any day. These are the first points that come to mind.
Vikki: I see you have worked with Keanu Reeves and Jackie Chan – can you tell us more on the Troy’s Team collabs?
Troy: Just as a shooting star passes it’s onlooker, so to have we brushed with the excellent talents of the world and ever so briefly. I spent more time with Keanu Reeves than any other personality of which then again was only so brief. I can say this, he told me he knows nothing about martial arts – 5 minutes later I see him performing some of the most beautiful Tai Chi I’ve ever seen a foreigner perform. He’s undeniably talented and one of the hardest working humble individuals you can meet in any trade. He was so kind to me, I shall never forget. As for Jackie Chan – he’s the main man in China. His team rocks the major pictures and produces the most content, his guys are hard working and one of his action directors ‘Guanhua’ is simply the most talented athletic martial artist I’ve ever seen in real life. Wow he’s nuts. I never met a guy before where I thought he matches my aggression and work ethic, the day I met him I was humbled. I am begging him to teach me on a consistent basis.
Vikki: For a woman entering the martial arts film industry – what key advice would you give her?
Troy: I would advise her to nail some martial arts basics, put together an action stunt reel. Network as much as possible and treat the industry as a business. Which means respect and operate as it were a business. Many action teams should provide educational services and these are the best ways to network and get in the door. Simply call them up, throw cash at them and ask them to teach you if they have the time. Someone somewhere would feel honoured and gladly invite you for a week’s worth of training at a reasonable cost. This is just one particular strategy, there are many but this one is a good way to go.
Vikki: Can you tell us more about your work in IpMan 4?
Troy: I can say it was one of my dreams to be in a film that directly connects to the Bruce Lee legacy. I share a scene with not only IpMan but also my hero Bruce Lee. I can proudly say I grabbed the opportunity for one of my team to land a role with a good amount of lines and some good screen time plus a fight sequence. I am proud of him and this makes my heart fuller than the role I was fortunate enough to grab myself. Our appearances are short and swift, I’m proud that in my scene I share the screen with two additional team members as well.
Vikki: You were cinematographer for The Tattooist – can you tell us more on this project?
Troy: The Tattooist is a short horror film trailer by Michael Wong, I shared the cinematography role with my wife Mayela Magrou who is a recognised industry pro having worked with some of the world’s largest brands. The world seems to be going nuts over this short but brave piece by Michael Wong who is widely respected in China for film production. Many of the guys behind the scenes were my production unit under the leadership of Michael they did a great job. All the credit to Michael.
Vikki: In terms of acting, will you stay action based or expand out of that?
Troy: Before I dedicated my life to the martial arts I was in high school competing with the countries top students and we were performing a piece ‘Cats’. I enjoy the challenge of undertaking any role and working hard to make it unique yet creatively in sync with the directors vision. Before I became a martial artist full time I was a young teenager actor in the Australian industry, I left it behind to venture into China. We plan to produce our own films in time. I shall work in any position or role that best suits me, my team however are a very talented bunch of guys so it’s tough to compete with them alone.
Vikki: What’s next in the pipeline for you as an actor and for Troy’s Team?
Troy: The team comes first – I must ensure their victory and success by being an honest leader something I still have a lot to learn about. Luckily I have a bunch of senior team members around me to keep me grounded. We will travel to every Asian nation to learn from the best – we’re based in Beijing, so much of our training is China influenced. We will head to the World Taekwondo Federation sports institution and train with the athletes later his year. We’re currently managing multiple projects struggling to pay bills on all fronts. I have since opened a film company with my partners Lisa Li Brown and Vladimir Ershov also a team member and talented martial artist. Together we currently work hard to develop our film label and are in the process of writing and seeking ideal scripts to produce. The most important thing is that my guys show up to training on time like clockwork every morning except for Sunday’s. (when they’re expected to workout privately).
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