Rob has trained in martial arts for 20 years to date and has recently embarked in the world of screenfighting in the Independent Film Industry.
In a short space of time, he has become a member of the UK Black Salt Screen Fighting Team, and registered with The Fighting Stunts Association (Sin City). Based in the UK, he is under the watchful eye of Zara Phythian (13 times World Martial Arts Champion and actor).
He feels that as a Screen Fighter, he goes into a project as a ‘blank canvas’, and looks forward to the direction offered by the choreographer”
[Paul Reeves] Hi Rob. Thanks for taking the time to give this interview.
[Rob Ho] It is my pleasure. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.
[Paul] You’ve been practising martial arts for 20 years now. What made you interested in taking up martial arts?
[Rob] Well, I grew up watching Bruce Lee films and so he initially sparked off my interest. Then I guess it was experiencing bullying first hand when I grew up, which prompted me to learn martial arts, for self-preservation. I continue to train for well-being.
[Paul Reeves] What does a typical day’s training involve?
[Rob] Ha ha to be honest, I think I am rather lazy! I do in the main jogging, coupled with light stretching and performing various martial art techniques. It has dawned on me that the shooting of a fight scene requires rather a lot of stamina, so good resilience is recommended.
[Paul] When did you start chasing your ambition to use your martial arts experience to try and get into action movies?
[Rob] Paul, it all started when I changed my career, which I will speak of later. Historically I always dreamed of being in a martial arts film, yet I was encouraged to follow a specific path; namely a traditional career which would allow me to live. Well as I mentioned, after changing careers, I wondered where things would take me if I signed onto a casting agency. This I did near the start of 2006, although I have historically received modelling work from them, ha ha, doing “business suit” work!
Over the last few years I was also teaching Hip Hop dance in Bristol, and I made the decision to stop teaching after the summer of 2006, to focus on martial arts performance training. I did not have any projects lined up but I was happy as I had made the change to martial arts training. The way I approached it was that if something came of it, then great; but if there was nothing, I would equally be happy.
It was not until last September 2006 when a friend emailed me a link. A company were advertising for extras to be in a UK based martial arts film. It was one of those moments when I thought, well….shall I or shall I not…..I completed the application form online and sent it off, just because my friend kept on encouraging me to. I received a reply informing me that they wanted me, and if I could turn up in Bradford at 5.30am on a Saturday morning! Now, being in Bristol, that was miles away, and it did not seem rational. However, after mulling it over, I presented myself with the, “…what if anything comes of it” scenario, and made the long drive up. That film was called Dark Eden.
I had a very open mind when I arrived and I came away from the day `taking` the experience that I wanted from it.
[Paul] You left behind a career as a solicitor, which was a very bold decision to make. Did you ever have any doubts about leaving this career path?
[Rob] I spent 10 years in the legal field and it was one of those situations Paul, that I discovered it was not for me. I must confess, there was a month of deep reflection, asking myself if it was the right thing. In the end I knew it was.
This coincided with my father’s health being at a stage where he could not really continue working at the same rate he previously did; and it was agreed that I`d help out in the family business. I now work with my older sister Susan, and we are both Landlords. .
[Paul] Was it always in the back of your mind to someday pursue your dream of being an action film actor?
[Rob] To be honest, over the course of time I always day dreamed. Even when I was watching the trailer in the cinema before a film started, my mind would be elsewhere and I would visualise myself in some amazing fight scene! However I always thought (certainly until recently) that it may have been all but an intangible dream.
[Paul] Have you ever had any serious injuries during training or shooting a scene?
[Rob] That is a very good question. I get the feeling that some people think martial film fights are not painful. That is not the case. I have come to expect that when I perform a fight sequence, I anticipate an injury of some sort. ‘Touch Wood” I have received more niggling injuries than serious ones. My left big toe ‘pops’ out of joint sometimes, and nowadays when I train, I tape my toes together!
[Paul] Who have been your biggest influences to chase your dreams?
[Rob] That would be a number of people. I would first mention Peter Hallett of Utopian Pictures, who gave me my first experience of proper screenfighting, together with speaking lines for the camera. Then there is Zara Phythian and Master Vic Marke. I can truly say that both have taken me under their respective wings, and I am honoured to be a member of their stunt team (UK Black Salt). Zara is a 13 times World Martial Arts Champion and actor. Master Vic is a very well respected international coach in martial arts, as well as being a Producer/ Director. Every time I visit them, I learn something new in relation to screen fighting. I am soon to fly out to Ohio with them both to play a Shaolin Fighter in Zara`s film, “The Game”.
I almost forgot one crucial person who has encouraged me to see what I can make of this screen fighting. That is my mum! Her face lights up when I tell her what I have been up to, and she is very proud that her little boy (well I`m 34!) is going to the US to be in a martial arts film! However, mum keeps stressing to me the importance of remaining grounded, which I seek to abide to.
[Paul] Out of today’s martial arts movie stars, which one would you most like to perform with?
[Rob] I would love to work with Jet Li. Not only is he an amazing martial artist, his acting is very strong also.
[Paul] You have a very nice profile on Myspace. Have you found Myspace useful in helping you make contacts in the film world?
[Rob] Thank you Paul. Myspace has been an amazing networking tool for me. It was Myspace which connected me with Peter, Zara and Vic, so yes, it has been great.
[Paul] You seem like a very pleasant natured person. So how does it feel to play the roles of bad guys and evil henchmen? Do you find it a challenge?
[Rob] That is awfully kind of you to say Mister Reeves! I enjoy playing bad roles and it is sooooooo the opposite to how I am in reality. If anything it makes my male friends chuckle, and freaks my female friends out! The latter find it hard to connect `lovely real Rob`, with `evil reel Rob`!!!
[Paul] Do you worry about being stereo typed?
[Rob] I would say no, because in the small number of productions I have been in to date, whilst they have been ‘bad’ roles, the way in which I have been asked to play them have been quite diverse. For instance in Peter’s film, “Tough Justice”, I play a modern day henchman who fights modern martial arts. In Zara’s film, “The Game”, I will be playing a Renegade Shaolin Monk, fighting Zara`s character with traditional kung fu style moves, with the traits of a monk.
[Paul] What would be the best advice that you could give to someone who would like to start trying to get into action films?
[Rob] I was lucky through Myspace and I basically networked, perhaps that it might be a good place to start. However it is important that you remain humble throughout and realise that film makers are not obligated to help you.
[Paul] What are your hopes for the future?
[Rob] I am hoping Paul that perhaps one day my pastime of being a Screen Fighter becomes my main occupation. At the moment I am a Landlord, although the hours are somewhat flexible for me to pursue my love of screen-fighting. I would also hope that the UK martial arts film making industry one day could join forces and make a film project that would show the world what we are all about.
[Paul] Rob, it’s been a pleasure. I hope we see you up on the big screen very soon.
[Rob] Thank you very much Paul. I am most flattered.
Rob “Hip Hop Ho”
Interview by Paul Reeves