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Guided By Passion, On Screen & Off : The Inspirational Yayan ‘Mad Dog’ Ruhian [Interview]

by Yayan 'Mad Dog' Ruhian

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If you consider yourself a martial arts film fan, you probably remembered when the world was taken by storm by the International collaboration film ’The Raid’ and, later on, its sequels which introduced us to the traditional Indonesian martial arts style Pencak Silat.

Recently, we had the rare yet exciting opportunity to catch up with the Indonesian fight choreographer and actor, Yayan ‘Mad Dog’ Ruhian, who in addition to ‘The Raid’ movies, also has starred in well-known movies such as Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War Of The Underworld and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Tasikmalaya-born Yayan has been a practitioner of martial arts for as long as he can remember, and during our interview, he shared with us his thoughts on his acting career as well as how martial arts practice had changed his life and how it may just help you to change yours too!


Image credit: @Bahasa_hanief


What types of martial arts do you practice? Could you tell us when and how did you start practicing martial arts? What or who was your inspiration(s)?

Growing up I’ve always wanted to learn martial arts because that’s what boys do, right? My martial arts journey began at the age of 13, where I was introduced to Indonesian traditional martial arts Pencak Silat at Perguruan Silat Tenaga Dasar, (Pencak Silat School in Indonesia). I’ve also experimented other styles of martial arts in my later years, but nothing lits my fire as much as Pencak Silat. Though quite a few years have passed, it has become and remained my biggest passion. 


Image credit: Merantau Films


How has the practice of martial arts changed you? Would you say that martial arts play a part in your big break into film industry?

Martial arts has been and always will be the most influential when it comes to shaping my life and who I am today. It has given me the chance to explore the places I’ve never been; it introduces me to new possibilities and helps me see pass through my boundaries. I had spent years traveling around Europe teaching, demonstration, performed Pencak Silat until fate brought me to Gareth Evans, who was the key person that's parked the beginning of my film career. So who knows what other exciting adventure awaits for me next? To put it simply, for me, martial arts creates dreams, hope, opportunities – it makes me believe that life can only get better with each and every day.


What would you say is the biggest difference between being a full-fledged martial artist compared to acting in a martial arts movie?

Living your life as a martial artist requires a lot of dedication in perfecting the techniques whilst incorporating the philosophy of the martial arts itself as a way of living. Whereas acting in martial arts films, actors might require the same amount of effort and discipline, you have to also be able to become more flexible and fluid–meaning that you need to have that (additional) ability to portray your character well and impersonate other people’s life and character as if they were your own. 


Image credit: Merantau Films


I have to say that each role has given me different kinds of sentiment, and they have all been very rewarding. But if I were to pick the most challenging role, it would have been ‘Mad Dog’ in The Raid. Here, I had to portray this character who is fearless, and a little bit off in the head, which is the complete opposite of me in real life who is well, pretty much the ‘average guy next door’.


Could you share with us your typical training regime? Also, do you have any special diet to support your training?

I don’t have any special diet per se, I guess I’ve always been lucky enough to be able to eat anything I want without worrying too much about getting out of shape. This of course, has to be balanced with daily training.  When it comes to martial arts training, building up your stamina is as important as improving your techniques. Hence, this is why I try as much as I can to train my physique and techniques alternately.


Image credit: Merantau Films


What is your greatest goal in life? What role does martial arts play in helping you achieve it?

I view myself as a simple man, and it reflects towards my main goal in life: to do and become better each day, and to give the best I can in everything I do. I believe this is also one of the essences of martial arts practice. It is important that we strive for progress and not perfection. We were not born in this world to compete with each other, we run our own race, and at our own pace, in which case of course, you have to give it your best! In a nutshell, my biggest goal in life is to become better than I was yesterday and martial arts has helped me at each step of the my journey. 


What do you find most challenging when it comes to becoming a martial arts actor and becoming a skilled  martial artist? At any point during your journey, have you ever thought of giving up? If so, what made you kept going?

The most challenging thing for me as both martial artist and martial arts film actor is to maintain the commitment in each role. You’d be surprised how the two professions are completely different in terms of ways of living. Life to me is a constant learning, you have to take up  new challenges in order to step up to the next level, and I refuse the idea of giving up as long as I am still breathing!


Image credit: Merantau Films


Finally, if you would share one most essential advice to someone who has just started their martial arts journey or thinking of becoming a martial artist in film industry, what would it be?

My advice for all those who are interested in taking up martial arts as a career path or a way of living is for them to truly be passionate about it. I find it very rewarding to be able to do something I love and I am passionate about, it almost feels as if I’m not working at all! That said,  just like anything that is worthwhile having, becoming a good martial artist or a martial arts actor won’t come easy. So you have to be able to persist, train hard and give it your best effort day in day out. The great news is, if you truly love it, you won’t really mind the challenge. 


Thank you for checking out this post! If you are interested in following Yayan’s footstep to becoming a passionate martial artist, why not start by spending some time in a training camp? From Krav Maga to Muay Thai and whether you’re a beginner or a pro, BookMartialArts.com has got you covered!

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