Keith Vitali is an American Martial Artist, Martial Arts Instructor, Actor, Producer and Author who made his name over the last few decades as one of the baddest men on the planet, competing in over 1,000 competition fights since the 1970’s.
In 1981, Keith was honored into the Black Belt Magazine’s “Black Belt Hall of Fame” along with being ranked the “#1 Karate Fighter in the USA” at the time. Keith also appeared in movies over the years such as the classic “Wheels On Meals“, “No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers“, “American Kickboxer” “BloodMoon” and “Revenge of the Ninja“.
Keith also made the national headlines over the years with his company “K.V. Video Productions“. His video “Self Defense For Kids” was a huge hit across America and the world with newspapers like The New York Post, The USA Today, The Atlanta Journal and many more covering the video in a positive way.
I would personally like to thank Keith Vitali for his time and wish him all the best in the future. So from everybody here at Asian Movie Pulse, Enjoy the interview.
INTERVIEW WITH KEITH VITALI
1. What was it like walking into a dojo for the very first time and did you know immediately this was the path you wanted to take going forward in life?
Keith: I began my martial arts at the University of South Carolina in Columbia SC in 1971. I had just finished my first year at another college in Charleston, South Carolina that I was there on a track scholarship as distance runner. (1 mile run and cross-country) I was home for the summer and my best friend took me to meet his karate instructor at USC. Immediately I fell in love with the martial arts and when the instructor, John Roper (Korean descendant) let me know that I could attend his classes, I went home that same day and called my track coach and told him that I was dropping my scholarship and transferring to USC. Love at first sight. I received my first black belt in 2 years in Tae Kwon Do.
2. As the number one fighter in America for three consecutive years and eventually voted in the prestigious Black Hall of Fame, which fights were the toughest and most memorable?
Keith: I fought over 1000 competitive matches and absolutely loved competition. My most memorable matches were against Bobby Tucker and Ray McCallum. I fought Bobby Tucker 20 times. I lost the first 10 matches early in my black belt career against a much better and much more experienced fighter. As I gained in experience, I was fortunate to win the next 10 matches and remain great friends with him to this day. Next, the toughest fighter I went up against was by far Ray McCallum. I was fortunate to have won 2 out of 3 our dynamic matches all in grand championship matches in major national tournaments.
3. How did you land the role in the movie “Wheels On Meals?”
Keith: An associate and friend of mine, Pat Johnson called me on Thursday and asked me if I had an active passport. When I said I did, he then asked me if I could leave the very next day to travel to Barcelona Spain to star in a movie with Jackie Chan. Imagine my excitement, and of course said yes.
4. How was it working with the three big movie legends, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. Also, how did you find the Hong Kong style of action and what lessons did you take from the three incredible stars?
Keith: I stared with the incredible Benny Uriquidez as bad guys and absolutely loved and cherished every moment I shared with all three fantastic stars. I was overwhelmed with each of their incredible talents and enjoyed the fight scenes I had with each. All three could pull off incredible martial arts moves and stunts that I had never seen before and I was thrilled to be there to witness true genius. Jackie Chan taught me personally the art of chorography and how to set up fights scenes using rhythm. Sammo taught me how to use facial expressions to bring life to my character. Acting in this special film was the crowning achievement of my film career.
5. You have written many books over the years such as “Beginning Karate”, “Intermediate Karate”, “Winning Karate Tournament” and also children’s books like “Victor Stops The School Bully”. When did you first decide this was something you wanted to do and do you have a personal favourite you have written?
Keith: As a martial artist instructor for most of my adult life, I enjoyed writing technical instructional martial arts books, a tournament book, a book of bullying and an anti-bullying video. I’m the most proud of my “Self Defense for Kids” video and the book entitled, “Tournament Karate.” I’m proud to have appeared on TV shows around the country including the Oprah TV show dealing with bullying issues.
6. How do you compare the martial arts movies today as compared to the golden age of these types of films and what is the biggest difference now?
Keith: There will never be another golden age of action martial arts movies as in the past. The reason is simple, martial art techniques were seldom used in typical action films. The martial arts had their own genre, their own special type of films where martial arts skill were not only the main focus, but very few special effects were used as well. The main difference now is that almost all films today are using martial arts in their action scenes making the specialized martial arts film a thing of the past.
7. What three films would you suggest to an aspiring martial artist to watch?
Keith: My personal favorite martial arts movies are “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “IP Man” and of course, “Wheels on Meals.” I would also encourage them to watch any old Jackie Chan film – they’re all incredible.
8. Do you have any film projects up ahead?
Keith: Yes, I’m working on an American frontier film that is set to be shot in Canada in 2017. Unfortunately, it’s an action film but without martial arts used because it’s a period piece from the 1700’s.
9. Finally, do you have a message to the readers at Asian Movie Pulse and to the many fans around the world?
Keith: Finally, I would like to thank the readers of Asian Movie Pulse and my fans out there that still remember me. My advice is to always follow your dreams and if acting is a dream of yours, pursue it, and not let others tell you that you’re too short, too small, not good enough or anything else negative. The film world is waiting to discover the next Jackie Chan, the next Bruce Lee or whomever. The key is that those great stars have already been discovered so don’t copy them, be yourself with your own style, your own look and own set of skills.