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Friday, July 9, 2021

David Willey

I had my cancer biopsy surgery this morning. Had some minor complications but got through it. Will know something in a week. When I came out of anesthesia I saw that I had a message on my phone from David Willey's sister.

David Willey was my longtime Hung Gar and Wing Chun kung fu teacher at Hidden Valley Kung Fu. He was the best and most proficient martial artist I have ever known. We called him "the hammer." 

Believe me, this 145 lb. man could hit you harder than you have ever been hit and he did it in the most beautiful of fashion. Watching David fight was like watching Nureyev dance. Hit you with a smile, he was and is a genuinely beautiful person.

He is a fabulous teacher and was particularly good with teaching children and young students, extremely patient and always imparting his wisdom and technique with the greatest warmth and understanding.

Absolutely brilliant at a variety of skills including forms, sparring and weapons. Could fight mantis and dragon as well as the five animals methods and Wing Chun. Great with a staff.

The nicest, most lovable and peaceful human being you could ever encounter in the world but he was an absolute terrifying monster on the mat and his technique was impeccable. Wednesday night "back to back" sparring sessions were particularly grueling when you were paired off with David, he was fierce and plainly loved his craft, would give or expect no quarter.

I competed in the 1989 World Championships in San Francisco and watched David become Seven Star Grand Champion that day, beating the heavily favored and brilliant martial artist Shane Lacey in a major upset. 

The school had its ups and downs. Financial woes. Our Sifu, John Vihildal, came down with major heart issues that forced him to stop teaching. The school had several moves and name changes. I had to stop working out as my knees could no longer take getting swept. I got cancer, remember training the same day as chemo, if you can believe that? Finally had to call it quits.

Sort of lost touch with the old gang.

I would occasionally run into David while shopping in Escondido. David had shifted his focus to fencing and became nationally ranked in the foil, a competent and beloved teacher locally and a USA Fencing referee. 

This was interesting to me because in martial arts we preached bilateral symmetry and fencers tend to get large lead legs.

I was saddened to hear today that David is now fighting pancreatic cancer. It doesn't sound too good. There is a Go Fund Me page

Say a prayer for him, light a candle, make a donation, or think a good thought for a great human being, whatever is your custom or inclination. I hope that he can make a recovery but I recognize the enormous battle he is now fighting.

9 comments:

Stuart Lee said...

What a nice description of David's martial arts career! Thank you for that! David has been my right-hand-man for over 20 years at LionHeart Fencing Academy and I can tell you he is universally loved by students and staff. He ranks among the best "over 50 year old" fencers in the nation and has an impeccable reputation as a referee. He truly shines a positive light everywhere he goes! I'm honored to call him my friend and brother-in-arms.

Blue Heron said...

Thank you so much for writing Stuart, please send David Leslie and my love.

Unknown said...

I am trying to place who you are. I too was a long time student of David's in Hung Gar, dating back to the days if Hidden Valley. I also competed in San Francisco, and watched David win. I was also a student of April's, and did Yoga. David was my ballet partner for quite a while as well.
Your tribute to David is spot on. I took class and Private lessons from David for many years, and he expected nothing less than my absolute best, whether it was my forms, staff, weapons, or sparring.
David is all you say he is, and more. When Sifu John tested me on which "animal" I am, an chose Crane, David made sure I was skilled and competent in every aspect.
I learned of David's Cancer through another mutual friend, and you could have knocked me over with a feather.
I am keeping up to date on how David is doing via messages from Donna and others, as I am no longer in CA to visit him. I am doing what I can in other ways. Have lit a candle at church, have sent him positive messages, have donated to the Go Fund me page, have sent flowers, and say a prayer for him every day.
I am a breast cancer survivor, so I get it.
I have so many wonderful memories of my time learning Kung Fu from David, and dancing with him. Your tribute brings them all back.
I wish you good health, and wishes for an outcome on your surgery that is in your favor.
One thing for certain is, our years of martial arts training has taught us to be fighters.

Barbara McClain

Blue Heron said...

Thanks Barbara, I fought heavyweight in San Francisco. I also donated the tiger fork to the school. I know we know each other but can't place your name. Do you remember the evening bus ride the night before the tournament? We were in a bus or cable car to the hotel and a motorcycle went down right next to us and skidded down the hill. Pretty amazing. John took us all to a little park before the tournament and we sort of chilled out. It was a smart move, very calming.

I wonder if David maintained relationships with April and John? This is a shock to me too. I sparred with girls in class on occasion, mostly Maryann, Thomas's wife. Was a pretty crazy place with Hardcore Jimmy and Cajun and so many other interesting characters.

Blue Heron said...

Barbara, were you the lady who came to the school from the aikido dojo in P.B. ? If so, I do remember you.

Unknown said...

No didn't do Aikido.

Unknown said...

I rented a car from the airport but heard about the motorcycle accident.
I don't know how much contact David had with John and April after the school closing, and him turning to fencing. He did know about John's passing, and April now residing in New Mexico
Yes, this cancer diagnosis with David, is shocking to say the least. One of the healthiest people I know. Goes to show, cancer doesn't care who you are.

Barbara

Blue Heron said...

I had no idea that John had passed. When did that happen? I assume it was heart oriented. The man was so phenomenal, to watch a guy his age do kipups. He used to tell errant gunslingers walking in that you could fight him after you went through David and no one ever could. As outstanding as David was, John was on another planet, shrouded in mystery. The proof was in the pudding. Maybe I will run into April in New Mexico, heading there soon for shows. All the best,

Robert

Unknown said...

David passed on Friday. He will be dearly missed.