Born Jae Ha Min (재 하 민) in Seoul, South Korea on October 18, 1983, Keith Min is the second youngest in his family, having a brother and 3 sisters.
At the tender age of three, Keith and his family came here to America, where his mother introduced him to Hapkido when he turned four, under the tutilage of Master Chang. From grade school through high school, Keith’s speech therapist recommended he take drama to help improve his English. He participated in speech competitions, and even took up drama projects for school, such as musicals and a short film about Asian Americans. Ironically, as much as he enjoys acting, he expressed he does not intend on becoming an actor. Nowadays, he shares bigger dreams in performing stunts on film.
Keith loves all kinds of movies, such as “Die Hard”, “Lethal Weapon”, “Alien”, “Nightmare On Elm Street”, “The Dark Knight”, “Rocky”, “Crash”, “Cinderella Man” and “Tae Guk Gi: Brotherhood Of War”. However, iconic Asian action stars like Bruce Lee, featured in timeless classics like Fists Of Fury and Enter The Dragon have always garnered his attention. Evidently, as fate would have it, his love for asian action cinema and the desire to step in front of the camera and showcase his own skills would lead him on a journey from childhood martial arts training, to a career in teaching, and ultimately, acting and screenfighting on camera with Illinois-based filmgroup, LBP Stunts Chicago
Keith views his time with LBP Stunts as a privilege he holds in high regard. He views his team members as some of his closest and dearest friends with whom he shares a bonding chemistry that he feels has always held them together to help accomplish great things, with a lot of memories to share along the way.
One of those memories he shares dates back to a test video they did for the 2007/2008 inspired indie noir action production of “Those Who Go To Hell”, an unfinished low budget film by LBP Stunts, directed by writer, action director, LBP member and co-founder, Emmanuel Manzanres, now available for viewing on Youtube in four parts.
“There are so many memorable moments but one that stands out is a video test we did for the noir, ‘For Those Who Go To Hell’.” he says. “It was a fight test between myself and Shawn Bernal. We knew we were starting something great and it made us very very excited.”
As much fun as it is for Keith to be on camera, action filmmaking also has its share of difficult moments. Some of the lessons he has learned throughout his experience in filmmaking include being mentally and physically prepared for performing repetitive comprehensive fight choreography for the camerawork, and physical endurance when executing kicks and punches, throws and falls on a take-by-take basis.
Keith admires other athletes and actors who illustrate their unique and amazing skills through tricking (or “bilang”), and also respects Mixed Martial Arts fighting as a competitive sport, seperate from Kung Fu. He also appreciates the work actors and stunt performers go through when sequences often require the use wire work:
“I like wirework when used appropriately. In movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon it was really well done and was smooth. For modern movies it should be used sparingly and in a way that doesn’t make it obvious a wire was used.”
These lessons have helped shape Keith’s vision as martial artist, and continue perfecting his craft as a stunt performer when the director yells “action”. The camera is his stage. It is where he feels the freedom to express himself, demonstrate his talents, and put his soul into what he loves on camera for the world to see. Off camera, Keith’s other stage is the environment around him, a martial artist in a world mired in apprehensive consideration or living outside the norm. In life, he is both performer and observer.
Many years after hapkido training, he took up both boxing and Muay Thai. Later, Keith would find a new passion for Kung Fu, under his first teacher, Master Ni.
Since then, from the constant flow of footwork and fighting techniques incorporated in Baguazhang and the various animal and element forms that make up Xingyiquan, to the soft movements of Tai Chi, Keith’s kung fu training remains tantamount of his day to day lifestyle:
“Martial arts has really given me a way to condition my body and mind in very unique ways through various exercises, fighting techniques, and chi kung and meditation. I really appreciate the internal styles of kung fu because of how much they emphasize taking care of health. In my life, martial arts have taught me a lot about my outlook on life and how to deal with it.”
The word “internal” goes with emphasis in his curriculum for Chicago Internal Kung Fu, a training course he has been teaching three days a week at two locations.
Keith explains the root of his internal focus in his Kung Fu teachings:
“To show the simple effectiveness of the ‘internal’ arts. They are fighting-based and are strong but in a unique way. My classes are Xing Yi which is a very powerful and direct style. I teach how to use alignment and body mechanics along with great exercises for health and longevity.
“There is a big emphasis on full body power and coordination. I like arts like Xing Yi because its concept-based techniques have several applications. But I truly appreciate the way they take care of the body and aim to make it more healthy instead of just building raw strength for power.
“Internal arts build and develop the dan tian, which is absolutely imperative to be aware of if you want to have internal power.”
(The “dan tian” he refers to is the lower abdomen, which is important for chi kung when breathing.)
Indeed, as much as kung fu embodies all the essentials for one’s own means of self-defense, Keith values his training for the essential core values he has discovered through the years, namely kindness, respect, trust, honesty, loyalty, honor, diligence and modesty. With these entities combined, Keith utilizes his training, knowledge and open mind to live a life of internal health, non-violence and resolve to represent the message of Kung Fu that is so often contested by critics and skeptics, as well as students who try to goad him while sparring, testing him to see if he is the real deal. For Keith, the best way to share his training and teaching is to demonstrate in what he describes as a “simple but effective manner to show efficiency and power”, and then explaining it all in simplistic terms for the average observer to absorb, jaded or other. Moreover, when it comes to learning martial arts, he expresses to those with a real interest in learning, no matter what style you choose, view your training with the fresh perspective to enjoy it on a regular basis.
He also shares the distinct belief that anyone, no matter what size or shape, can learn kung fu. Dieting is not necessarily important in his opinion, as long as people are eating decent food. He eats pretty much whatever he likes and enjoys food from many different cultures.
Keith Min, hailing all the way from Seoul, is the only martial artist in his family. He is a professional who loves what he does and cares for his friends, colleagues, students, and the community around him. He was fortunate throughout his life to find what he loves most about his life, who he is and what he does, which is kung fu. He continues to be thankful for all of his instructors over the years who have helped mold him and his core values, nuturing him into the fighter and advisor he is today, from his childhood Hapkido instructor Master Chang, to his boxing instructor, Macario Ramos and his Muay Thai instructor Rafael Rosales in his later teens. Although, none could have proven more pivotal than the valuable years of personal private Kung Fu training with teachers Master Ni, Master Kao, and his current teacher, Master Guo.
All in all, the experiences he carries with his Kung fu training and teaching give him peace of mind, a sense of direction, and a willingness to strive for better heatlth and wellness, while etching a hopeful, major place in history in the vast and ever-growing world of martial arts action cinema, among the likes of other aspiring independent action fiilmmakers and big name stars, most notably Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Jung Doo-hong, Sammo Hung, and his hopeful favorite to work with someday soon, Jet Li.
Keith credits his newfound family in LBP Stunts, namely Shawn Bernal and Emmanuel Manzanares, whom he met on the set of a John Woo action tribute shortfilm
they made together, following a Craigslist ad he spotted online. His time with them brings him just a little closer to his dreams as a mainstream martial arts stuntman, and hopefully, the next big action star.
And through it all, he remains humbled by his notoriety, his strength through resolve, his teachings, and the traditions he shares from over thousands of years of Kung Fu training, passed through thousands of years of countless battles, and age-old masters who fought to sustain their knowledge and philosophy, and the true meaning of kung fu beyond their living years.
At the age of 29, Keith Min is not just an athlete, or an actor or a stuntman. He is a friend, a genuine and kind person, and a mentor to those in his presence. He is a full time security guard, part time teacher, and gets a kick out of a good martial arts movie when he sees one. Furthermore, he is a valued member of his team, a gift to a unique industry that carries growing potential for greatness. And last but not least, his ardent focus on the bigger picture of what Kung Fu is about, makes him an inspiration, and an advisor whose message echoes the legacy of those before him, and will continue to do so for generations to come.
I had a lot of fun talking to Keith this week. The more I learned about him, the more questions I had. I even got to learn a only few interesting and heartfelt things about his family, which brought me a few bittersweet tears and definitely a lot of smiles.
Conclusively, I will definitely say that from what I have observed, the arts, in my opinion, are something that Keith is passionate about. And with Keith, on the path he is on, working with LBP Stunts Chicago, and completely dedicated to sharing in the philosophical, spiritual and martial teachings of kung fu, I would imagine his family couldn’t be more proud of him.
*When Keith is not working his day job or making films with LBP Stunts, you can find him teaching Kung Fu three times a week at the following locations:
890 South State Street, Chicago, IL 60605
(Sundays from 1:00pm to 2:30pm)
THE VITAMIN SHOPPE
2747 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60604
(Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7:00pm to 8:30pm)
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