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Grandmaster to visit Demopolis Saturday

Jim Webb of Demopolis Karate Studio is excited about Saturday’s coming attraction, a event he has worked for months to put together. The studio, located on North Strawberry Street in Demopolis, will play host to Grandmaster David M. Grago, who inherited the Pao Fa Lien Wing Chun style. Grago, who operates schools in Europe and South America as well as the United States, has studied with world-renowned martial artists, including Grandmaster Kam Yuen, best known in the mainstream world as the technical advisor of the television series Kung Fu.

“David has been around the world,” Webb said. “He has trained with masters in China. And (Kung Fu) is kind of something you don’t see a lot around here.”

Grago will conduct a free seminar at DKS Saturday, an event that will focus on the basic techniques and principles of the Wing Chun style.

“David, for the most part, is just going to be doing basics. It is going to be more principles on the way things work and why they work,” Webb said. “I’m doing this as a freebie just as a general thing for people to come out and develop an interest in those arts.”

Webb has studied the style under Demopolis’ own Fred Hansard, who learned under Grago in the 1970s.

“I took from David for many years. My first black belt in this style came from David. David is one of the few Grandmasters,” Hansard said of Grago’s distinction. “He is actually sanctioned by the Republic of China, which is virtually unheard of. This is a guy that, normally for him to show up at a seminar, there are 200 to 300 students.”

Hansard operated a school in Demopolis along with John Russell for years before taking over day-to-day operations at the yacht basin. Webb’s work at DKS mark the first full-fledged effort to renew an interest in Kung Fu since that that closure. Hansard said Saturday’s seminar is aimed at sparking an interest in the martial arts and providing attendees with some basic skills and understandings.

“David is going to probably give you a basis of Chinese martial arts. He is going to do some self defense techniques to help the average person,” Hansard said.

Hansard said one of the key differences in Wing Chun and some other forms of martial arts lies in its design. According to Hansard, Wing Chun is designed for close-range combat.

“This style is a Chinese boxing form,” Hansard said. “To me, it is one of the most practical because, if you ever do have to defend yourself, it is normally at short range, not long range. Win Chun teaches you to use deflection and minimum power to overcome your opponent.”

Grago, a resident of Plano, Texas, is originally from New York City but did his undergraduate collegiate studies at Spring Hill in Mobile. His seminar is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and last until approximately noon when the group will break for lunch. Attendees will then be invited back for an afternoon session. Admission to the event is free.