Kwoon Alliance interview: Troy Roy- on “Empty body skills” in Tai chi chuan

Snake and Crane in the Rat’s Den

Troy Roy began training in the Chinese Martial Arts in Europe in 1989 and was a member of the Tang
Shou Tao Association in California from 2002 til 2007, then again from 2010 through 2012 and is a
veteran of their annual full-contact Hsing-I tournaments. He fought in the 2008 USKSF International
Lei Tai Championships and was ranked 4th in the Men’s Heavyweight C weight division. Also more
recently, at the age of 40 years, being just under 5′ 11″, weighing 170 lbs, he defeated a strong,
aggressive challenger in his 20′s who was over 6′ tall and weighed over 200 lbs at the East Bay Rats
Motorcycle Club Full-Contact Fight Club event in Oakland, California. He trained in Chinese Internal
Kung Fu, including empty-body skills and free fighting, with Sifu Scott Jensen who was a longtime
student of both Peter Ralston and Grandmaster Wong Jackman.

Troy is also known for having written the first biography of the infamous “Count Dante” (a.k.a. John
Keehan) titled Deadliest Man Alive! The Strange Saga of Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting
Society, which can be purchased at

(The Chinese art of Tai Chi Chuan, which legend says is based on the movements of the snake and
crane in combat, is often touted as a method of self-defense, and teachers often recount tales of the
great masters of the past using their art to win challenge matches against formidable opponents. Seldom
however are modern practitioners of the art able to replicate these feats. It is Mr. Roy’s contention that
this is due, not to the ineffectiveness of Tai Chi as a martial art, but due to the lack of proper training
methods and unrealistic means of testing one’s training. Toward that end, he decided to test his art
against an opponent in open competition. This is the result of his training.)

Kwoon Alliance- I always wanted people to know your story, because I think it’s a good example of
what someone can accomplish with proper training. In July of 2008 you flew out here to Maryland
from California, met up with Kung Fu instructor Ashe Higgs, and I helped corner you two for your lei
tai fights. That weekend, things did not go as planned with Hsing-I on the platform, however, you went
back to the lab, changed up your training, changed up your philosophy, tell the readers what you did
and what the results were afterwards.

Troy: I had started my training with Northern Shaolin and Praying Mantis Kung Fu while living in
Italy and had done some full contact fights in Europe. When I got back to the States I trained
intensively in Hsing-I Chuan, fighting in closed-door full contact tournaments, and wanted to test it out
in a more open venue, like the Lei Tai Championships. The results weren’t what I had hoped for, so I
went back and watched the videos of the fights and saw that I was too tense and too aggressive. I
wasn’t relaxed and using my mobility, I was just trying to knock my opponents out. When I reviewed
the videos and saw what I was doing, I could tell that everything I really NEEDED to do was part of
the Tai Chi I had learned. So I went back to one of my teachers, Scott Jensen, and what his teacher
Peter Ralston (who had won the World Full Contact Fighting Championships in Taiwan in 1978, and
had trained under Wong Jackman and William C.C. Chen) referred to as “empty body skills”. So I
worked on Tai Chi with Scott, primarily these “empty body skills”, which are basically dodging,
evading and footwork drills, and trying to build a “connection” with your opponent, training until you
can read or “feel” your opponent’s intent, what is sometimes called “ting jin” in Tai Chi – the ability to
listen to and interpret the energy of another person . From what I undertsand, Ralston trained so
fanatically that he developed a high level of ting jin, he could tell what his opponent was going do
before he even attacked. So we did a whole lot of training in “empty body drills”. I also did a lot of
yoga, stretching and relaxation postures, to try to develop as much relaxation as possible. One thing
that Ralston emphasizes in his writings is that as long as you are upright, you cannot be TOO relaxed.

Kwoon Alliance- So you used Hatha yoga to release the tension within the muscles and connective

Troy: Yes, basically any tension you find in the body you need to release it and sink your energy down
into the legs and feet. The power is coming entirely from the feet and legs, so that whenever your
opponent attacks, you sense what his attack is, you’re able to not be in the spot where he is attacking,
and when you counter-attack it will be much more powerful. Anytime you are moving with tension it is
like driving a car with one foot on the gas pedal and one foot on the brake. You are using up a lot of
energy and you are not going as fast as you could. Once you release that tension it is like taking that
foot off the brake and you do not have to use so much gas. And so I worked for 2 years on doing just
that. No kind of strength training at all, I did not want to rely on strength to any degree, and just wanted
to be relaxed. So after 2 years of that I decided to test it out. I was not able to go to the Kuoshu
nationals that year due to to financial reasons, so I looked around at what was going on in Oakland
California. There was biker gang in the area called the “East Bay Rats” that has a boxing ring behind
their clubhouse and each year they have an open full-contact fight night.
Kwoon Alliance- “It’s the biker smoker!! Put on some gloves and go at it!!

Troy: Yup. You don’t know who you are going to get, you can get in the ring with Joe nobody,or you
can unknowingly get in the ring with a Golden Gloves boxing champion. You don’t know until after
the fight.

Kwoon Alliance- So you fought there two years in a row?

Troy: I did it in 2010 and in 2012.

Kwoon Alliance- Please tell us what happened and what were the results-

Troy: First year I did it, it was 2010 and I had just turned 40 years old. I told my instructor about it, he
said ok, and got a group of guys together and we all went as a team. I was the first person to get up and
go into the ring. The announcer asked me how much I weighed. I told him 170. The ref yelled to the
crowd “Is there anybody here 170 pounds that wants to fight this guy?” Nobody answered, so he
yelled “Is there anybody here180 pounds that wants to fight this guy?” No answer again. Frustrated, he
yelled “Is there ANYBODY out there who wants to fight this guy?!” A young guy finally comes up,
about 25 years old, 6’5” looks like he weighted about 240 or so, and climbs into the ring. He looks like
a monster like King Kong. The ref looks at him, then the ref looks at me, and asked me “Do you want
to fight this guy??!” So I say “Yeah, I’ll fight him!”

Troy, on the right, vs monster brawler on the left.

Hooking the opponent’s punching arm & landing a punch.

Basically I could not have done as well if it were not for the two years of training to release the tension
I had in my body. If I stood up and went toe to toe and banged with him, he would have mauled me. He
was so big and so strong that the training that I did was perfect for him. Every time he attacked, I
shifted out of the way and he would lose his balance, and I would follow-up on him.

A would-be knockout punch on the way…

fight4… which fails to land where intended!

He LOOKED like he’d be slow because he was so big, but he was actually fast as hell, like the
Tasmanian Devil in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. He was definitely trying to put me into the hospital!


One application of the Tai Chi technique “Brush Knee & Twist Step”, and the opponent’s reaction to it.

Near the end of the fight I was taking it to him, I drove him back into a corner, he was frustrated and
came chrging out of the corner trying to slam into me with his whole body. The ring mat was loose and
I tripped on it while dodging out of the way and went to the mat. The ref was trying to get between us
to allow me up, but my opponent grabbed the ref and shoved him out of the way, then tried to knock
me out by throwing a punch when I was down. The ref disqualified him and threw him out. I think the
ref was more angry about being shoved out of the way than anything. It was their fighting ring, their
club house, and their rules.


Empty-body skills in action…


Body shot lands clean… and looks painful!




The training I received in Tai Chi and the extreme levels of relaxation, coupled with the empty-body
training drills, worked even better than I had thought they would. I was a little nervous before the fight,
but as soon as I dialed in to my opponent, I felt very comfortable the whole fight.

Kwoon Alliance- How did the second fight go?

Troy: The second fight I did at the Rat’s fight event 2 years later was actually kind of anti-climatic. At
the time I was 42, and even though my opponent was in his mid 20s, he was the same weight as me and
about the same size, so it didn’t really seem like much of a fight for me (even though he was young,
athletic and definitely trying to knock me out) after having seen what my training could do against a
much larger, stronger fighter. I had been working on my skills for 2 more years at this point, he was not
able to hit me at all, and I was hitting him at will. In the second round he ran in to punch me and
missed, I hit him in the solar plexus, he dropped his hands, waved off to the ref that he was done.

Kwoon Alliance- congrats, we are going to be doing more interviews later.

About Administrator

Coach Matt Stampe is a Database Administrator and I.T. professional. In the world of Bodywork, he has been a Certified Massage Therapist (CNT) licensed with the Virginia Board of Nursing, and has a “Master of Science in Acupuncture” (MSA) at Virginia University of Integrative Medicine ( He is a candidate with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). He has taught hundreds of people Authentic Yang Tai Chi Kung Fu for over 25 years. He was President of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Martial arts club, Secretary and Treasurer of USA chapter of Yongnian Association under Sifu He Weiqi. Experience includes: Kung fu schools: Omei Shaolin (Sifu Lu Xiaoling) 3rd degree Black Sash, Chinese Martial Arts Institute (Sifu Clarence Burris), United States Wushu Academy (Coach Christopher Pei), and Qi Elements (Sifu Nancy Bloomfield), Former Head Coach: Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation centers(Adults Tai Chi), Hope Chinese school (kids classes), NOVA MMA gym in Arlington (kids classes), and VUOM Martial Arts Tai Chi club (Fairfax). He has positively impacted peoples lives whether for health, sport, strength, combat, and spirit. As a true combat athlete, he teaches methods so people can be confident to defend themselves.
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