Fight Dreams: Interview with Founder Cynthia Vance
“Cynthia Vance created Fight Dreams in an effort to challenge fellow martial artists to give back to that which has given to them. Martial arts has proven to be a life long journey for many that has provided wisdom, experience, maturity, confidence, freedom and more.
It is our mission to provide the community (with help from YOU; the fighters, students, trainers, coaches) with the necessary backing needed to offer this experience to at-risk youth or those who may not be able to afford training.
Our first goal is supporting the Damon-Bahe Boxing Club of Chinle, Arizona, USA located on a Navajo Reservation. The Damon-Bahe Boxing Club began in 1960 with a mission to provide a safe haven for at-risk youth in the community. With the ever-increasing problem of alcohol, drugs and gangs, the Damon-Bahe Boxing Club strives to offer a place to build self-esteem, self-confidence and the “Never Give Up” attitude as well as physical fitness. The club was also the inspiration for the movie “Black Cloud” which was filmed at the gym in Chinle, Arizona, as well as other sites through out the Navajo Nation. Their boxing program is non-profit and volunteer based.”–Fight Dreams
FFP: When did your martial arts journey begin? What initially drew you into it? What keeps you doing it?
CV: I used to take karate as a kid, but I have to be honest, I hated it. It only took a few months before I called it quits. I’ve always been intrigued by martial arts ever since I was young but it wasn’t until I saw a group of women from all walks of life training that I realized that this was something that I could do too. It didn’t take long for me to sign-up after that. I’ve been training for over a year and a half now. I started out with kickboxing and now train Boxing and Kempo. Training became the only time where I felt I could honestly express myself. And ever since I discovered this, I’ve been hooked. I love everything about martial arts and it’s completely taken over my life.
What inspired you to start Fight Dreams? How did it begin?
There are several things that inspired the Fight Dreams project. I grew up around a mother where ‘giving back’ was just an everyday thing. She’s devoted her whole life to caring for others and so I grew up with a mentality that it’s never a question of “Why are you doing this?,” it’s always been a matter of “Why shouldn’t you be doing this?” I was also partly inspired by one of my favorite artist’s Immortal Technique and his project that he self-directed to help orphans in Afghanistan. To see one’s passion come to life for a cause like that was very moving to me. One day I looked at the corner of my room and saw my 2nd pair of gloves just wasting away and I thought to myself, “There must be someone out there who could really use these.” It was in that moment that everything came together and Fight Dreams was born. I picked up a few non-profit fundraising books soon after, spent a few weeks reading and planning then jumped right into it.
As a videographer, why is it important to create media around fighting? Where do you draw inspiration from artistically and who are some of your cinematic sources of influences?
For me, it’s always been a love of mine to capture an athlete’s passion. Sports is one of the few paths of expression where you can actually physically see a human being’s dedication, heart, spirit and passion…. More so with martial arts as I believe it is one of the most purest things in this world.
Just as martial arts is an honest expression of oneself, it’s always on my mind every time I make a video on fighting to represent the fighter or the art honestly as well; to represent it in it’s truest form. Sometimes the media strays away from this and focuses too much on the entertainment factor. It’s always important for me to create videos that maybe can give a little insight to what it truly feels like to be a fighter.
There is so much to be inspired from in this world. I’ve drawn inspiration from literature, art, music, film or even life itself for some of my videos. I’m always making sure to constantly feed myself food for thought to maintain creativity. Ever since I was 12 years old I knew I wanted to be a part of filmmaking. I’ve always been captivated by films ever since I was incredibly young. I would have to say Leni Riefenstahl is my biggest influence. She was a pioneer for sports documentaries. The following directors also constantly inspire me: David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Quentin Tarantino and Alfred Hitchcock. Their films always remind me why I’m so passionate about this art.
Can you talk about what are some of the similarities between being a martial artist and a visual artist?
To me, the philosophy behind being a martial artist and visual artist is one and the same. The only difference is the form of expression, but in the end it all about expressing yourself in the most honesty way. Being an ‘artist’ offers insight into who we really are. They both require creativity, dedication, skill, passion and spirit. Bruce Lee said it best, “Art lives where absolute freedom is because when it is not, there can be no creativity.”
I am personally interested in how martial arts programs can be huge asset in at risk communities and think your project is super awesome! Can you talk about why you are personally invested in bring martial arts to at risk communities?
I suppose my desire to help at risk communities stems from my upbringing. I had a great childhood but my teenage years were incredibly hard to get through. I can honestly say that if I didn’t have filmmaking, if I didn’t have a passion or way to express myself, I’m not sure where I would be today. That was the only thing back then keeping me going. With Fight Dreams it was a no-brainer to support programs that support at-risk youth. I know what’s it like to grow up in a low-income, broken family. But to have a positive outlet, even if it is just one, is so powerful for a child. It’s makes all the difference in the world.
Who are some of the people that have really contributed to your passion for martial arts?
My coach Eric Acio has always been a big inspiration to me since I first met him. Coach Eric is an esoteric genius when it comes to martial arts. I’ve never met anyone who is as passionate and knowledgeable about martial arts as he is. He’s dedicated a lifetime to his craft and it shows. I aspire every day to amount to even a centimeter of the level that he is at and work very hard to bring honor and respect to his name as I’m representing his teachings every time I step onto a mat or inside a ring.
Coach Steven “Soul Samurai” Saito, who is a professional MMA fighter, is an inspiration, a great soul and the first person to motivate me to be greater. He is a living, breathing example of “Yamato damashii” or “Japanese spirit” that always keeps me grounded to my ethnic roots. It’s in our culture to have an incredible fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude and he always serves as a role model of this to aspire to.
I constantly credit Joe Frazier to being the sole reason I have any real passion for martial arts. It wasn’t until I picked up his autobiography that I discovered how much I really love boxing. That book changed my life and introduced me to the greatest sport in the world. He reminds me what it means to be a true warrior and champion with everlasting spirit.
And all of the men and women that I train with who fight and train their asses off to bring out the very best in each other… how can one not get passionate over that?
Shout outs & contacts?
A big thank you to everyone that has contributed in one way or another to the Fight Dreams project! It’s because of your support we are making a small but powerful difference within the martial arts community.