Michael M. Vendrell
November 1953 - February 2013
Michael Vendrell is the last remaining master of Yee Chuan Tao in the world. He was taught the art by Grandmaster Leong beginning at the age of three. By the age of 16 Michael had passed a very rigorous 48-hour trial to become the next and only master of the system in the world. For the next three years he fought in underground no-rules cage-fighting, never losing a match. However, becoming a Christian at age 19 helped him grow to understand the non-violence Master Leong had taught him. Michael believes love is more important than violence, and that martial arts should be taught with more cooperation than competition. Peace and harmony are the ultimate goals of a martial art, not more aggression. He studied a variety of martial arts so he could be well-versed in all forms of hand-to-hand combat, and achieved the level of Teacher in over 20 systems, including Judo for which he studied with the famous master Gene LeBell for six years. Even though he achieved black belt in many systems, Sifu Mike doesn't like to refer to "black belts" or other belt levels, for there are no levels in any true art. For Kung Fu, there is only "student" and "teacher." After having studied all those other systems, Michael still believes that Yee Chuan Tao Kung Fu is the most effective of them all.
During his 47 years as a martial artist and 28 years as a stuntman and stunt coordinator in motion pictures and television, he has taught and trained such people as David Carradine, Pat Morita, Brandon Lee, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many others. Even though Sifu Mike uses his abilities in the movies, Yee Chuan is not a sport, but an effective system of self-defense that works in the real world for real people.
Michael also uses his abilities in the Chinese healing arts as well. He learned these arts alongside the Kung Fu with his old master as a child. All true masters can do both, using chi to hurt or to heal. (Remember, too, that Yee Chuan only "hurts" when someone comes at you; there are only defensive moves: it is not violent).
In his book, The Spirit of Shaolin, David Carradine had this to say about when he and Mike first worked together on Fast Charlie, the Moonbeam Rider (At the time, Mike was still working as a driver):
"Throughout the movie I studied with Mike informally. His coaching was almost always in sparring. He would match his style with mine, work at my level of proficiency, then gradually lift me to higher levels, changing styles rapidly and talking all the while --coaxing, teasing, threatening, praising, probing, story telling, philosophizing.
"Mike gave me two very strong lessons: one in inventing my own animal forms and the other a powerful focusing exercise for specific development of chi strength.
"Steve Carver, the director, turned out to be a real guy. He liked Mike and gave him his shot. Mike's first stunt was crashing a motorcycle into a hay bale. Never having been on a bike, the crashing part was easy for him; coming out of it in one piece was the hard part. He made it through and then proved himself useful in other ways. Mike is a doctor of sorts. I have seen him--more than once--make an injury disappear on the spot. There was a lot of call for that kind of thing on Moonbeam Rider.
"He has healing hands and is adept at joint manipulation, reflexology, massage and other curative therapies, such as a passive skeletal alignment similar to the "Alexander technique", and a "gong" therapy in which differently pitched massive bronze bells are placed around the subject's body and struck alternately in patterns and cycles designed to clear blockage and align the chi. The amazing thing about all this is that is works. If this is hard to believe, you've got Mike exactly; hard to believe! I have seen him receive the dim mak, or "touch of death," and survive it.
"Mike got his stunt card on that picture and made it into The Silent Flute. He's now a stunt coordinator with many credits, including teaching kung fu to Arnold Schwarzenegger." (From The Spirit of Shaolin, pp. 55-56, by David Carradine)
Mike's film and television resume can be found here
Back to About Instructors