100 Strangers Project -54/100 / by Michael Pung

A man is sitting, waiting by himself beside a bus stop to see a friend about a job. He is wearing sunglasses and is dressed in all black. He looks at me with a welcoming acknowledgement and I decide to approach him and tell him about the project.

Sensing the way I spoke he enquires, "Is that a funny thing that Australians do?" 

He introduces himself as William and tells me that usually people don't approach him in the way that I did, saying many are afraid. He knows many people who come from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and he can discern the ways of speaking. He himself is from New York but has been living in London for 14 years. He tells me that he is a martial artist and he teaches a form that incorporates many (I think 7) different types of disciplines. He loves motorbike riding and the movement involves and compares martial arts to it:

"The martial arts is the same, you're using your body in a certain ways. I don't use a lot of kicks, I don't use any fancy shit. It's more about the flow of energy and take an opponent and use their energy against themselves. It's all in the wrist. It's very relaxed and very co-ordinated. It's like a chess game. You set the person up... slowly."

He also explains to me about why he does martial arts:

"The purpose is to understand yourself. It's a transcendent act, it's like playing music. You pick up an instrument and you start tuning it. You start doing more with it, you start to find a new technique so that you can express what you hear and feel in your head. Like Coltrane. Coltrane was about expressing EXACTLY what it was. That's why he went through so much pain to get his sound the way he wanted to."

He tells me how this philosophy flows into his cooking, his music and his mixology. All things that he enjoys doing.

He reveals me about how he likes to spend time studying typography:

"I like typography. That's about making letters. Individual letters in an alphabetical system how they are structured by sound but by look. It gives you fonts like Helvetica, courier that's what it is."

I ask him, "Are you fascinated with just English or other languages as well?"

"Well you know, I'm very into the Katakana the Hiragana from the character based Japanese language and the Chinese. It's all based on the pentagram. So when you start to write..." He then proceeds to show with his hands how to form one of the characters. I notice a connection in this with the martial arts that he practices. "You get a real feel for the letters, it's different from the English system which uses nibs and points where you're actually cutting the paper for the ink to go into. It's like doing a tattoo on someone, you're cutting their skin and the ink goes through. It's a gentle relationship with the paper. So the Japanese and the Chinese they had that gentle relationship. It was the spirit as the movement of the sword. The pen and the sword are very, very intertwined they have the same spirit actually. And when you learn them both your wrists and hands move a certain way."

Thank you for taking part in the project William!