Interview With Master Wilfredo Roldan
By Shihan William Rivera
MartialForce.Com Online Magazine
Edited by Lydia Alicea
“The stick was a blur. I counted four strikes feeling the impact on the heavily padded headgear I was wearing. I was later told it was more like seven strikes and you heard the impact across the dojo floor.”
Hello and welcome to Martialforce.com. My name is William Rivera A Yudansha and Student of Eddie Morales Shihan.
The opening comment is my way of introducing you into the world of Wilfredo Roldan Hanshi. Yes, the stick was a blur and was part of a demonstration of the fluidity and power of Arnis stick fighting. Arnis is one of the arts taught and practiced by this multi faceted individual at the International Nisei Goju Ryu Headquarters in New York City.
Wilfredo Roldan is the recognized Grand Master of Nisei Goju, a system founded by Grand Master Frank Ruiz who passed away in June of 1995. Roldan considered one of the legendary tournament competitors to come out of the Nisei Goju system has appeared in various martial arts magazines. He has acted in movies is a physical Educator for the Board of Education of New York City as well as a singer who has performed at various night clubs in Manhattan.
Currently in the process of writing a manual on his style of karate, he took time from his busy schedule to answer some questions on the creation and development of Nisei Goju Kata and the Martial Arts.
1) M.Force: Let me start with this question. On certain web sites on various time lines Masters Harry Rosenstein and Ron Taganashi are given credit along with Master Frank Ruiz for the creation of Nisei Goju. Some just name Master Ruiz. Who created Nisei Goju?
W.Roldan: “Master Ruiz and Master Rosenstein were the founders of Nisei Goju. Master Taganashi was instrumental in its formation, he was a General. Many of Master Taganashi’s students believe he was a founder, they are mistaken.”
M.Force: What makes Nisei Goju Different?
W.Roldan: “Grandmaster Ruiz was a creature of knowledge, he did not care where a particular technique came from, if it was good, meaning it worked he would use it; he would adapt it into Goju. Regardless of its source, regardless of his feelings, if there was something you could learn if it was good for your development he would say, “Go learn”.”
M.Force: Grand master Ruiz sent you to other instructors?
W.Roldan: Yes, and that helped in the development of Nisei Goju. Grandmaster Ruiz was interested in your development as a person and martial artist. When he taught me all he knew he sent me to Grandmaster Urban. When I made Sandan, Master Ruiz wanted me to learn Samurai Ju Jitsu in Staten Island from Grand Master Peter Siringano Sr.. I remember saying “Why? Well no, I actually said “What, I am not going over there that guy is nuts”, I went and it was excellent, it was real. It added a new dimension to my martial arts training. “
Old Picture of Master Roldan as Sandan ( Third Dan ).1970's
M.Force: Is there a superior martial art?
W.Roldan: “We have always believed that there is no superior martial art, there are superior practitioners, how ever superior practitioners cannot be as great as the art itself, for the practitioner dies.”
M.Force: Nisei Goju was the first art to evolve from USA Goju , what enabled it to grow?
W.Roldan: “Nisei Goju was the tool Hanshi Ruiz used to take Goju Karate to a new level. As long as the foundation of the system is strong and the system enhances a practitioner’s martial art it will flourish. Every system has gone through a metamorphosis throughout the years those without a solid foundation have disappeared. We are basically teaching what Master Urban brought back out of Japan when he first started forming USA Goju, which has totally evolved as you can tell by the practitioners when you went to the Goju tournament. “
M.Force: (My favorite line.) Can you please give me more?
W.Roldan: “Since the inception of Nisei Goju, it has been recognized as a system that would and still does help in the development of a martial artist. Nisei also made history in being one of the first umbrella organizations, students and masters in other styles passed through the doors of Nisei to enhance their martial arts training with Grandmaster Ruiz. Look at just some of the great ones that passed through the system. Some stayed others went on to create their own styles. Louis Delgado, Thomas LaPuppet, Chaka Zulu (Zujitsu Ryu), Ron Van Clief (Chinese Goju), Earl Monroe, Herbie Thompson, the great Harry Rosestein who went on to create Kanzen Goju, and so many others. “
M.Force: You turn and see new styles created…(he stops me)
W.Roldan: “Nisei was not a new style being created, it was the evolvement of a style. New styles being created? They are not creating anything you have heard the expression “No-body re-creates the wheel” in reality all they do is get different hubcaps for it that make it shine, it is still the wheel. Music is synonymous the same notes differently arranged make the different music we know. It makes jazz, salsa, it makes hip-hop. It is the same in music all over the world, different musicians different order you have a different style you have as is said something new, they are still the same notes. It is the same in the martial arts someone gives a different appearance, outlook or a different moral it is not per-se new. What is important is the impact of the style, does it build and enhance you as a martial artist.”
M.Force: What are your thoughts on kata?
W.Roldan: “Kata is the encyclopedia of the martial arts, you can teach an entire system through the kata, I believe in good kata, kata with meaning and life. The problem arises when the fight is taken out of the kata; the kata is a fight many do not see that.”
M.Force: So you are saying kata can help you develop your fighting skills?
W.Roldan: ‘Yes it gives you more to pick from, as far as fighting skills are concerned there is no guaranty the kata will manifest itself in your fighting, in order to build that kind of mechanism it may take years. The techniques within the kata are an asset to everyone; the problem arises when a student tries to learn the kata without as I have previously said a foundation. A building built on sand can not withstand a storm, if your foundation (stance) is not strong your kata will be weak and ineffective.”
M.Force: What are your final thoughts on kata?
W.Roldan: “If you look at some of the great competitors of the past, you can see kata did not hurt them. Luis Delgado, Master LaPuppet, Master Chaka Zulu (Owen Watson referred to him as a kata impresario) Master Ron Van Clief a great fighter to this day, all exceptional kata with incredible fighting abilities.
Always remember if you are messing up your advanced form, it is because your basic forms are not solid. “
M.Force: How do you teach Nisei Goju?
W.Roldan: “Nisei Goju has a gradual progression in its teaching method. How do students check their sanchin, do they check it by putting their knee down? When they put it down where does it, go? When you are in a horse stance and you turn into a front stance than pivot back, does it change? Are you equidistant on both sides? These are just some of the traditional self testing parameters that we teach that ensure the development of their basics and stance. Again, foundation and basics, When you first start the martial arts too much information will not allow you to react natural. The less you know, the more you know it than there is no limit.”
M.Force: At your school, you teach Arnis was the great Professor Vee your sole Arnis instructor?
W.Roldan: “No I was doing Arnis with my cousin who studied under Richard Bustillo. Arnis, Arnis de Mano also known as Kali or Escrima is a Philippine art. I have been studying and competing in Arnis since the 70’s. Arnis is a martial art that encompasses weapons as well as empty hands. Many people are into new school, old school, I believe in any school. As much as my style of Arnis has been likened to Vee Arnis I do not call it that, it is another part of my system of Nisei Goju.”
M.Force: You were promoted to 10th Degree by Professor Vee (Florendo MaCalruz Visitacion the founder of Vee Arnis Jitsu) in the art of Vee Arnis Jitsu on March 26 of 1996, who is the head of Vee Arnis?
W.Roldan: “Grandmaster David James.”
M.Force: “You were recognized by Grand Master Urban as supreme leader of the Nisei Goju system in 1995 and also by the World Head of Family Sokeship Council, did Grand Master Ruiz leave you as the inheritor of his system?”
W.Roldan: “Grand Master Ruiz did not leave anyone in particular the system of Nisei Goju, he thought everyone would get along. When he passed away, there was a meeting of the various leaders of the system I was voted to run the system. They wanted me to run Nisei Goju for 4 years. I said “ I am very honored and happy you have elected me to run it for 4 years I will except on one condition, it will be a lifetime position.” I felt the system would not survive with interim leadership. Their was a vote it was seconded than there was a third motion, suddenly someone (I will not mention the name, we all know) tried to filibuster, they lost I won. Someone asked me, “What if we do not like what you are doing?” I replied, if you do not like what I am doing you know where the door is do not let it hit you on the way out. I do not have any dilusions of grandeur; I am and will always be a Practitioner of the Martial Arts. In Nisei Goju Master Ruiz taught the fighting, Master Rosenstein was responsible for the kata, Master Taganashi was supposed teach the weapons. I did not do any weapons with him, bottom line was Grand Master Ruiz was the driver in the system.”
Innovative Training tools
M.Force: Sad as it is we have to end, so the final multiple questions. How do you classify Nisei Goju? As the driver and the head of the style where is it going?
W.Roldan: “Nisei Goju cannot be classified as just Karate anymore, although it has a Karate area it is a Martial Art. Nisei Goju continues to grow while maintaining its foundation in the art Grand Master Ruiz intended. “
M.Force: Thank-You Wilfredo Roldan Hanshi.
MASTER ROLDAN AND MASTER RON VAN CLIEF
MASTER W.ROLDAN AND
LUIS MERCADO , SENSEI 4th DEGREE RENSHI
Wilfredo Roldan Hanshi continues developing the Nisei Goju system. He gives seminars throughout the world in Nisei Goju, Nisei Arnis Jitsu, Arnis systems and Kobudo. He also teaches the jujitsu applications inherent in the Kata of Nisei Goju. His School address follows including his Email for more information on Nisei Goju look at his website:http://niseinyc.com
By the way, bring your Gi, you will be invited on the floor.
International Nisei Goju World Headquarters:
130 East 7th street
(7th street corner Avenue A)
2 flights up
New York City