The Biography

 

Franco Richard (born on December 2nd, 1977), also known by Francombat (a nickname given by his Kuoshu Master – Zhu Shen Fa), is a French Canadian martial artist, former model, entrepreneur, author and Chairman and CEO of Francombat Management, LLC. the holding company who owns and operates a collective investment portfolio of businesses. He is also the founder of Pro Lei Tai™ – the World Governing Body for Professional Lei Tai Fighting™. Prior to launching Lei Tai Fighting™, Franco was best known as becoming a self-made millionaire at 27 years old by founding online gaming venture Bet on Combat™. With his finger on the pulse of the fight industry, he is also the driving force behind the combat brand site that bears his nickname francombat.com, as well as his philanthropic Unfightable Foundation. In 2017, Franco wrote an e-book, Investing on Combat Sports : Introducing the New Wall Street, in which he chronicles his life experiences as oddsmaker, professional bettor and bookmaker.

Early life

Franco was raised in St-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska, Quebec, a rural French Canadian town of 1,500 people located on the southern slope of the St. Lawrence River 200 km northeast of Québec City, the youngest of four children of France St-Pierre and Robert Richard. As a child he had a difficult childhood attending pre-school with problems of concentration and discipline caused by ADHD. After his parents had been advised by a doctor to give him some pills of Ritalin, they decided to enroll him in martial arts hoping to direct his excess energy and assertiveness in a positive manner. He also took private piano lesson besides martial arts. As he grew up he watched films by Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Vince Lam and Jet Li at the theater, which was his inspiration to learn martial arts. He was so inspired by them that while he was playing with friends, he would imitate the martial arts moves that he had seen, practicing everywhere he can. When he was 7 years old, he threatened his father that he would kill himself if he was not taught by Bruce Lee.

Already a karate black belt at 17, Franco dedicated himself to martial arts and training throughout his teen years. After participating to the 8th World Kuoshu Tournament in 1996 in Taipei, Taiwan, Franco knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life and how he was going to reach those goals. It was there that he unintentionally hit upon the concept for professional Lei Tai. Early 2000, Franco moved to Quebec city and opened his own martial arts studio. Then six months later, he opened up a subsequent school in Montreal’s Chinatown. When he wasn’t training or teaching at his martial arts schools, Franco worked as a doorman in nightclubs.

Franco was always a quick study, but rarely found himself engaged by schoolwork. In a March 2007 interview, he revealed that he has taken some college classes but does not have a degree. He attended University in Business but dropped out because he felt that he was not receiving a "real world" education that he was searching for. He decided that if the university faculty had actually known how to create a successful business, they would be running their own businesses instead of teaching how to do it. When he got older, he was pleased to discover that no one actually cares. Franco doesn't want to imply that college is bad or anything. He's just saying is “there's other ways to fill your head”. Determined to one day run his own company, Franco poured himself into study, fascinated with the complexities and challenges of business. The field of his study also encompasses stock market, internet marketing, software programming, human physical anatomy, physiology, moral philosophy, and sport medicine.

Franco began his modeling career at the age of eighteen, when he signed with a modeling agency in Montreal. After dropping school, Franco bounces back and forth from the East coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between making a living as a model/spokesperson. The French Canadian—born has appeared in high profile ad campaigns, and has worked with some of the top photographers in the fashion industry. At 6 feet 2 inches, 210lb, his major layouts include numerous television commercials and print campaigns. Most recently Franco was featured in several of the most renowned martial arts publications in the world, among others.

Never Sit Still

Ambitious, young and driven by a quest for greater success, Franco used to think that all he ever wanted to do in life was to travel. He achieved this goal pretty early. As his athleticism and martial skills grew so did his desire to further his training in the martial arts than what was available in the West. In December of 2004, he close his martial arts schools, sold all of his belongings, shouldered his backpack and went on a pilgrimage to discover all he could about Kung Fu. 

From December 2004 to March 2010, Franco traveled on a continuous sixteen-month trip around the world, blogging each day with his detailed and sometimes humorous style of storytelling. The blog Unfighting.com, which has received over 475,000 unique hits from a global audience, originally began as a small online journal for a few family and friends updated about where he is, but evolved into one of the best destination on the internet for wisdom.

A few months into his trip, then one day he heard about an "old Chinese guy" that could throw people around with a form of Chinese wrestling called "Shuai Jiao." So he decided to travel abroad to Taiwan, Republic of China. Through some contact, soon Franco received an invitation to attend a two-days seminar, which the best fighters were invited. His meeting with masters Zhu Shen Fa was a real revelation. Not only did he discover Kuoshu (Chinese term for martial arts), but he also developed a great friendship with his master. It also gives him the privilege of training directly under him. Grandmaster Zhu was impressed by Franco performance during the weekend, leading him to arrange for the French Canadian a 3 months extension seminar in private training with him at the Kaohsiung’s Mansion. It is immediately apparent to Franco that Kuoshu is not street fighting, but rather an art form he wants to master. 

The Chinese connection

Franco Richard has experienced what for most is an achievement far beyond their wildest dreams. He has trained with an authentic Kung Fu Master, lived in his home in Taiwan (Republic of China), and has acquired an in-depth understanding of his family art and all of its tradition.

Franco Richard is one martial artist who was not influenced by the new wave of “mixed martial arts”. For Franco traditional ways do not just mean traditional training, but also traditional ethics. And for Franco, like his master, martial virtue will always be more important than any technique or style. Instead of following the well-worn path of many fighters who specialized in kickboxing or wrestling, Franco found his calling in “Kuo Shu 國術 – a two character word that means “national art” that is now recognized as synonymous with traditional Chinese martial arts. Today when using the world “Kuoshu,” there are two possible meanings. The first refers broadly to all Chinese martial arts. The second refers to a particular type of full contact fighting contest that allows for kicking and punching, but with the added excitement of high amplitude throws and takedowns on a raised platform called Lei Tai in mandarin.

From 1996 to 2004, Franco has participated in many Lei Tai tournaments all over the world. In each one, he has always ranked as one of the best in the Middleweight division, thanks to his determination, incredible skills, and combative spirit. At just 18, Franco qualified for the 1996 World Kuoshu Tournament in Taiwan, becoming one of the youngest Lei Tai fighter in the entire Games.

Having spent nearly five years in Taiwan studying Kuoshu 國術 (an alternate Chinese term for martial arts), Franco continued to immerse himself in the languages, cultures and religions of a number of nations. Arriving in Taiwan in 2004, Franco’s quest to discover Asia’s diverse martial arts has led him to the original Shaolin Temple in China, a Muay Thai monastery in Thailand, as well as learning martial arts from Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea and the Philippines. Franco considers himself blessed to have studied with some of the greatest names ever in martial arts. There is an old Chinese saying, "The people you pick in life will be the people you emanate. Pick the best and you will be more like the best.”

Enter Francombat

Back in Canada in 2010, Franco has actively promoted ever since the study, sport, and teaching of the Art of Lei Tai™(擂臺術), his signature brand of kung fu fighting. He spent much of his time conducting seminars around the world, as well as assisting in the training of his contracted Lei Tai (擂臺) fighters from Canada and other countries. He is internationally recognized as the first person to introduce the professional sport aspect of Lei Tai fighting.

When it comes to Kuoshu-style Lei Tai fighting, few have enjoyed as much success on the International scene as Franco Richard, first as a fighter, coach and now as a promoter of the sport. In August 2011, Franco wrote to renowned Chinese Kung Fu masters from around the world, intimating that he wished to organize the first Professional Lei Tai Fighting Championship, in order to inspire more people to learn Kung Fu, stating, “I want to hold the first professional Lei Tai Fighting™ event in the world in the process of creating a legitimate and profitable combat sport, and consistently the next big thing in martial arts entertainment.” 

The first official Lei Tai “revival” meeting took place on 1st October 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to exchange ideas and discuss regulations for Lei Tai Fighting that will  reward a Kung Fu fighting style. His proposal was eagerly received. Soon the first “think tank” was formed and took on the responsibility of training referees and judges for the upcoming inaugural Lei Tai Fighting event.

But Franco understood his project was going nowhere without state approval (The sport was not sanctioned by any states or country). Franco’s first priority was to get his events approved in the province of Quebec first and then spread the sport worldwide. From there, he embarked upon a journey of working diligently to educate politicians and appointed officials on the merits, safety and economic impact the sport of Lei Tai Fighting could bring to the province of Quebec. During this time, the PRO LEI TAI accomplished what many would have thought as impossible, including the recognition of Lei Tai as a professional sport, establishment of an amateur Lei Tai circuit, and permission for events to have matches under the PRO LEI TAI Rules and Regulations. 

It’s all happening...

Giving Back

Franco Richard strongly believes in giving back. His commitment and contributions to philanthropy have continued to serve and benefit people far beyond the martial arts community. Despite his success, Franco never forgot his humble upbringing. In 2017, Franco spearheaded the Unfightable Foundation to share his good fortune with others who may not have been afforded the same opportunities. Franco has made the site not-for-profit with all proceeds going to fund the Unfightable’s charity initiatives. Recently, Franco announced that he was renouncing his entire fortune, currently valued at $20 million, for social and humanitarian causes. Franco proudly stated that he was inspired by the appeal of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who ask wealthy people around the world to pledge at least 50% of their fortune to charities.

Personal life

For a person who is constantly on the move in pursuit of his dream, relaxation is an unfamiliar term for Franco because there is so much experience to cram into one lifetime. When he’s not flying around the world attending one of his promotional fight events, Franco splits his time between his Hollywood Hills house in Los Angeles and in Montreal, where his penthouse overlooks the city and South Shore. 

A semi-retired entrepreneur, Franco continues to serve as the company's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, playing a key role in determining the path of Francombat Management, and directing other areas of the corporation including television, video production, licensing and digital content. He is currently engaged in a forthcoming book project entitled “Unfightable: With Every Epic Battle Comes an Unfightable Story” an autobiography, which relating his life’s principles to dream big, take action and focuses on the mindset of being “Unfightable.” As he says: “Being Unfightable is a state of mind. It consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting battle.”

To this day, Franco still obsessed to be in the best physical condition possible. Despite his busy schedule, Franco continues to work out five to six times per week, in the gym as well as outdoors. His specialty is preparatory exercises for combat sports with his famous Combat Fit® by Francombat.

Updated: January 2017 

 


 

The Legacy

Life-Long List of Achievements

 

  • 1977 – Born in Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec on December 2nd.
  • 1984 – Begins studying Japanese Karate in his hometown St-Alexandre at age of 7.
  • 1996 – 2-Time World Kuoshu Light Heavyweight Shuai Jiao Gold Medalist.
  • 1997 – Become the World Kuoshu Light Heavyweight Kuoshu-style Lei Tai Silver Medalist.ng
  • 1999 – Opening of the first martial arts school dedicated to Lei Tai fighting in Quebec city.
  • 2000 – Begins studying Kuoshu under Sifu Zhu Shen Fa in Taipei, Taiwan.
  • 2001 –  Started to work in the nascent online gambling industry where he learn all the good the bad and the ugly being a oddsmaker, bettor and bookmaker.
  • 2004 – Launch of BetonCombat.com, a combat sports betting consulting firm.
  • 2007 – He turned $17k of saving money into 3.7 million in 3 years betting combat sports, while visiting 70+ countries.
  • 2007 – Founded the asset management firm and holding company Francombat Management, LLC., in the Caribbean nation of Antigua.
  • 2010 – Launched the world's premier combat sports management fund Bet on Combat investment Fund.
  • 2015 – Francombat: The Chosen One autobiography by Franco Richard first published.
  • 2017 – Franco Richard announced his semi-retirement from the online gambling business to dedicate himself full time to make the traditional Lei Tai fighting a recognized professional combat sport. Despite his retirement as a full-time pro bettor and oddsmaker, Franco remain the company’s CEO and Chief Investment Officer.
  • 2017 – Semi-retired businessman now dedicated to giving back with the Unfightable Foundation.

 

 

Show full timeline

 

 

                                                                                                

 

The Corporate

 

Francombat Management, Inc. is a brand-driven asset management firm and holding company who owns and operates a collective investment portfolio of businesses in the United States, Europe and Asia. Through its subsidiaries, Francombat Management encompass a diverse range of fields, including finance, real estate, gaming, fighter management, professional Lei Tai fighting live events, television, and pay-per-view programming, as well as the licensing and sale of branded consumer products featuring our highly successful brands. The business assets include a Lei Tai training facility, state-of-the-art call center, direct sales and retail division, a comprehensive Internet business infrastructure, marketing division, and publishing department, wine, and charities.

Franco Richard is the Chairman and CEO and has overseen day-to-day operations since inception in 2007 with his team of trusted advisors, and highly experienced executives, legal and entertainment attorneys. The company is headquartered in the Caribbean nation of Antigua, with principal offices in Los Angeles, Montreal, Taiwan, and France. Francombat also have employees working remotely in cities across the globe. 

The company also owns and operates the iconic Francombat Penthouse located in the top floors of the company property in Hollywood Hills, California. The estate became famous during the 2000s through media reports of Franco’s lavish parties.

In 2017, Francombat Management, Inc., completed a project to become a paperless enterprise. Francombat conduct data collection, entry, and maintenance, as well as all overhead functions electronically. The company’s technology strategy focuses on power reduction, efficient operation, and the elimination of e-waste.

Learn more about Francombat Management, LLC.'s leadership team.

 


 

Featured Portfolio Companies

Franco Richard is passionate about startups and is constantly looking for great companies that have the potential to make it big with the right expertise and resources. Learn more about some of the amazing brands and products that Franco has invested in.

     

 

The Executives

 

 

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FRANCO RICHARD

Chairman & CEO

Franco Richard (born on December 2nd, 1977), also known as Francombat (a nickname given by his Kung Fu Master – Zhu Shen Fa), is a French Canadian martial artist, former model, entrepreneur, author and Chairman and CEO of Francombat Management, LLC., the holding company who owns and operates a collective investment portfolio of businesses. In this top management position, Richard is responsible for its global strategic direction and business operations, which include print, online, television and licensing, event planning, marketing, public relations, broadcast production, fight-card selections, finances and legal operations. He is also the founder of Pro Lei Tai™ – the World Governing Body for Professional Lei Tai Fighting™. Prior to launching Lei Tai Fighting Championship™, Franco was best known for turning his life savings into over $3.7 million by betting on combat sports. In 2017, Franco wrote an e-book, Investing on Combat Sports – Introducing the New Wall Street, in which he chronicles his life experiences as oddsmaker, professional bettor and bookmaker.

 Franco hold a degree in Health and Nutrition


 

JUN FA LI

Chief Revenue Officer

Jun Fa Li is the Chief Revenue Officer of Francombat Management. Li oversees Francombat’s global licensing business, which generates over $1M in retail revenue annually. Li implements the company’s long term strategic goals through all revenue-generating functions and also oversees the business strategy for profitable revenue generation over the long term. She is responsible for all global sales channels, including global wholesale, retail stores, e-commerce for all of the Company’s regions and global logistics. Prior to Francombat, she held leadership positions at Greenplum, a Silicon Valley start-up acquired by Fortune 200 company.

Li hold a B.A in Business from the University of California. 

 

 

 

 


 

 

JAMES LEE

Chief Operating Officer

James Lee is the Chief Operating Officer of Francombat Management. Lee oversee all Operations functions and is responsible for managing all hands-on operational aspects of the company. This role collaborates with the Chairman & CEO to develop corporate and operational strategies, and is charged with facilitating these efforts across operations. Through a respectful, constructive and energetic style, guided by the objectives of Francombat, Lee provides the leadership, management and vision necessary to ensure that the company has the proper operational controls, administrative and reporting procedures, and people systems in place to effectively grow the organization and to ensure financial strength and operating efficiency. As part of Francombat’s executives leadership team, Lee is also actively involved in the company’s strategic direction and growth.

A long-time industry insider, Mike’s relationships with fighters, trainers, journalists, promoters and sponsors are unparalleled within the fight business. James Li brings an impressive management resume as well as a global network throughout the Asian and European market. Since 2007, Li has served as an overseas representative for the PRO LEI TAI® organization and is now focuses on fighter development, promoter relations, and endemic endorsement opportunities for our athletes.

                                                                    Lee is a graduate of the University of Montreal in administration.


  

 

SHEN FA ZHU

Chief Legal Officer 

Shen Fa Zhu is the Chief Legal Officer for Francombat Management. Zhu facilitates the business development and manages the legal affairs for Francombat’s brands portfolio. He also sit on the Board of Directors of PRO LEI TAI™ as the Chief Legal Officier. In this role, he leads Pro Lei Tai’s legal, compliance, regulatory and corporate governance functions. This requires Zhu to work closely with each of the other officers, and their departments, to appropriately be aware and advice. His background in entertainment law, intellectual property, business formation, and transactional matters allows him to provide unparalleled representation to our roster of athletes. Zhu is fluent in Mandarin, French and English. Prior to joining Francombat in 2007, Zhu was Vice President and General Counsel of Taipei Investment Capital.

Zhu earned his law degree from University of Taiwan Law School.

 

 


 

CHRISTOPHER LYNCH

Chief Financial Officer

Christopher Lynch is the Chief Financial Officer for Francombat Management. Lynch joined Francombat in 2010 and is responsible for the company’s strategic planning, corporate and business development and financial operations. Prior to Francombat, Lynch worked at Sony Pictures Entertainment, where he served as the studio’s CFO of the International Television Division, and Senior Vice President of Strategy and Operations.

Lynch earned a Masters degree from the University of Amsterdam and an MBA from the University of Business and Economics Vienna.

 

 

  

  


 

 

JEN ALVEY

Chief Marketing Officer

Jen Alvey is the Chief Marketing Officer for Francombat Management. He is responsible for various marketing in the organization with primary responsibility for areas as sales management, products development, marketing communications (including advertising and promotions), pricing, market research, and customer service. Making sure that all functions of the organization are aligned to meet its strategic commercial objectives. Alvey joined Francombat in 2016 to take on the newly created chief marketing role. Prior to Francombat, Alvey served as the head of global advertising and brand management for a Fortune 500 company. 

A native of France, Jen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in advertising and marketing communications from the University of UCLA.

 

 


 

MEGAN JAMES

Chief Communications Officer

Megan Chen is the Chief Communications Officer for Francombat Management and Editorial Director of Francombat.com. In this role since 2013, James oversees content development for the company’s media properties, including print, online, mobile, TV, film and radio. She primary responsible for managing the communications risks and opportunities of a business, both internally and externally. James is typically responsible for communications to a wide of stakeholders, including but not limited to employees, shareholders, media, bloggers, influential members of the business community, the press, the community and the public. She joined Francombat in 2010.

James holds a bachelor’s degree in Literature from Laval Université in Quebec city.

 

 


  

SHEN WU

Chief Technology Officer

Chris Wu is the Chief Technology Officer for Francombat Management. He is responsible for executing Francombat’s web operations, development and unified brand strategy across all media platforms. Wu drives the coordination and alignment of Francombat’s digital content initiatives, social networking platforms and print businesses. From designing the websites, generating traffic, replying to user comments, advertising and getting the word out that Francombat exists, amongst the millions of other websites. Wu is the person emails go to first, and the guy who will answer any complaints, opinions and feedback that comes from members.

Wu earned a Masters degree in Computer Science from Concordia University in Montreal.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Chief Human Resources OfficerCASANDRA JAMES

Chief Human Resources Officer 

Casandra James is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Francombat Management as well as the Executive Assistant of Franco Richard. James is responsible for the company’s organizational development and Human Resources, as well as compensation, benefits, recruitment and other administrative functions. Her key role for the company is to take care of the paperwork, the flights, the hotels and all the other technical tasks – as well to assist on pretty much everything. James is responsible for making sure everything is done in time. A true Chief Executive Organizer, she act as a go-between for Franco’s dealing with appearance/public relation and the crew. When not working, Casandra gives her time to charitable causes. She recently spearheaded the Unfightable charity initiative – a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire the next generation to dream big, take action and encourage individuals to remain positive in the face of adversity.

 James holds a degree in Human Resources from the University of Ottawa. 

 

 

 


 

"The brightest leaders create opportunity and inspire others to do their best work." 

— Franco Richard

 

The Foundation

 

The Unfightable Foundation is an independent charitable giving organization based in the beautiful island of Montreal, Quebec. Founded in 2017, what started as a grassroots movement to honor Franco Richard's life's philosophy Unfightable and dedication to make the traditional Lei Tai fighting a recognized professional combat sport, has become a thriving not-for-profit organization that motivates individuals around the world to become the best version of themselves.

Through a number of educational and social initiatives, the Unfightable Foundation encourages individuals to remain positive in the face of adversity. Consistent with Franco Richard's innate belief, we know that we can impact the world by inspiring people to follow their dreams, in harmony with theirs inner selves. By making a difference in just one person's life, the world has changed for the better.

The Foundation has pledge millions of dollars and hundreds of hours in support of individuals, communities and charitable organization throughout the world.

For more information visit the official site here.

 

 

 

Questions and Answers

 

We asked the fans to send in their questions for Franco Richard's interview via Twitter. As you can see, we're all about letting the fans have their say. You guys had questions for Francombat; here’s what he had to say. 

What does Francombat mean?

Francombat™ (traditional Chinese: 法蘭貢跋; pinyin: FA LAN GONG BA, Wade-Giles: FA LAN KUNG PA is the Chinese disciple name of Franco Richard given by his Kung Fu master. It’s first started with a wordplay of Franco’s name and Combat, then became his Chinese disciple name building upon a philosophy of honor, directness, and fairness in combat and in life. Francombat’s philosophy is also represented by a logo featuring a traditional martial art salute. His philosophy and principles often mirror Franco’s fighting beliefs and are used as a metaphor for teaching the Art of Lei Tai™. It is a reflection of the martial artist's journey towards wisdom and perfection.

Today, "Francombat as a word and as a concept have entered the popular lexicon and have become a worldwide phenomenon. Through dynamic marketing and aggressive protection of its trademarks, the brand's popularity has grown exponentially year after year. From a signature clothing line to fragrance to fight gear, Francombat is more than a martial arts brand, it's an Attitude. The brand has extraordinary success reaching the coveted 18-35 year old male and female markets because the brand reonates and continues to generate a real sense of Attitude and lifestyles. Francombat™ was the most searched name on Google and Yahoo several times (5 weeks in 2010, 1 weeks in 2009) and on numerous magazine covers. This is what was meant by the word "FRANCOMBAT" all along.

Where is the Francombat headquartered?

The headquarter of Francombat Management, called “World of Francombat”, is located in the Caribbean Nation of Antigua. Around 100 of the Group’s more than 250 employees work at our campus-like headquarters. Francombat is a truly global combat sports brand. Therefore, everything we do is rooted in combat sports. Everything that happens in combat sports happens in moments. Every moment is a chance for the athlete to start over and take today.

When and why did you start martial arts training?

I begun martial arts training when I was 7 years old, partly to be able to defend myself in an unarmed combat situation. From all the old time kung fu movies like Five Fingers of Death I really fell in love with Kung Fu. Whenever I saw martial artists performing in the movies or on the street, it made me very excited and increased my desire to learn it. I have been hooked ever since. As a child I had a difficult childhood attending pre-school with problems of concentration and discipline caused by ADHD. I was very naughty, I was a trouble maker; always skipping school and getting into street fights. I feel like everybody had story to tell about me. After my parents had been advised by a doctor to give me some pills of Ritalin, my parents soon grew tired of dragging me out of the director school office and finally agreed to enroll me into martial arts hoping to direct my excess energy and assertiveness in a positive manner. Training martial arts proved to be one of the best ways of reaching this goal. I came from humble beginnings, but I received a lot of love and support from my family. At first they didn’t want me to practice martial arts, but eventually they realized that it was something that I loved to do, and that I was actually pretty good at.

You started training in martial arts very young. What led you to move to Taiwan for further study?

I started practicing Kung Fu when I was seven years old. I studied for twelve years until I moved to Taiwan in 2000. Through reading I became interested in the so-called Internal martial arts. I had already practiced what was considered to be an External art for quite a period of time. Although I was young and had much to learn, I realized there was a limit to how strong and fast one could become, and that those attributes would decline with age. San Soo is a non-sportive, purely fighting oriented martial art. 

I was always looking for other methods of training and technique that would increase my martial ability. When I read about the Internal arts, I was intrigued by their philosophy and the idea of the soft overcoming the hard. The ideas made sense to me, although at the time I really couldn't imagine how it all worked. As I looked around, I failed to find what I was looking for. Although I met a couple teachers who practiced the Internal arts along with their External Arts, and who were quite good, it still wasn't what I was looking for. The Tai Ji Quan that I saw being practiced was useless for fighting, and the majority of the other Internal styles I saw were not being practiced as they were preached. That is not to say there were no competent instructors of the Internal around, I just didn't find any. So, I decided to "go to the source" and look for teachers in China.

Which style of martial arts did you learned?

My first introduction to martial arts was in Karate at the elementary gymnast school of my village. I learned the fundamentals of the Japanese martial arts. I obtained my Black Belt in Karate as a teenager. I would say my formal martial arts training started in 2000 when I moved in Kaohsiung, Taiwan to study Kuoshu (Chinese term for martial art) under Sifu Zhu Shen Fa. It was in Kaohsiung, that I was inducted into the Zhu Style Kuoshu family and became an official 2nd generation lineage holder. I was instructed individually under Master Zhang Yu Fei.

A great variety of Chinese martial arts styles are taught in Taiwan. What was your reason for concentrating on the internal styles?

Although there were many fine martial artists of various styles in Taiwan, and I did study some of the External styles, I was determined to see if the stories I had read and heard about the practice of the Internal styles were true. Fortunately, I met and trained for years with teachers of exceptional ability, men whose skills exceeded all my expectations. To clarify, I wasn't looking for (nor have I ever seen) anyone with "mysterious powers," pushing people without physical contact, the "death touch" or other such nonsense. I was looking for practical martial ability of a higher order. Basically, I was looking for methods that were not based solely on brute strength, speed and superior size; I was looking for arts in which the soft could really overcome the hard.

Who was your martial arts teacher?

All of my teachers taught me different styles of martial arts, and they all had my fullest respect. Each of them was a true master in his own right. Some teachers are very famous and you may hear a lot about them, while others whose names go unnoticed are as great, and in some cases greater than those who have such notoriety. I could say much the same thing about all my teachers. None were the same and each was great in his own special way. Each one impressed me in different ways. I would not be the man I am today if it weren't for each of my Shifu. Each created a different part of my martial arts makeup.

However, there’s on particular master I have to give the most credit for my kung fu skill. I would like to pay my most sincere and deep respect to my beloved master, Sifu Zhu Shen Fa, in gratitude for his guidance and detailed verbal transmission of the methods, principles, and applications of the highest level Kung Fu, to be taught to me, impartiality, and friendship over many years. He was kind enough to teach me the greatest family’s Kuoshu martial art. He also inspired me to try to be different from the others and his episodes got me to where I am today.

What was like studying with your Shifu, which you called affectuously The Master, in Taiwan.

My master was very traditional in his teaching, meaning very strict. In those days we had a great deal of respect for my Shifu and was too afraid to ask any questions. I can remember the only time that we were allowed to talk during training was while we would hang our foot in a tree stretching. The Master was very confident in himself; most people would assume this was because his external martial art is very famous. After I studied from him for a while, he trained me in Chi Kung. In time, I learned step by step how to use the internal martial arts for Lei Tai fighting. After this I realized that no matter how famous my teacher’s external martial art was, I found his internal arts even more amazing. However, the most important lessons were not these “hand-to-hand teaching” but the tea-chats later on. We had afternoon tea-chats for years until he was seriously ill. I found out, during the afternoon tea-chats, I learnt much more from him than from anybody else. 

Can you provide us with a brief history and a description of the characteristics of what your learn in Taiwan with your Master. Can you talk to our readers about the curriculum?

The training consisted of all fighting, which are known in Chinese as Ti () Kicking; Da () Striking; Shuai () Grappling and Throwing; Na () Seizing and Controlling. He also taught me a Shuai jiao and Chin Na style form. The Master not only taught me the form, but personally demonstrated the grappling submission and hard falling techniques. You don’t expect to see a double takedown from a 73 year old. Everyone was amazed by his performance, including me. I have traveled China, Taiwan, and around most of the world, but I have never seen anyone perform like him. I also had the valuable opportunity to study the Old Frame of the Chen style Tai Ji Quan, Xing Yi Quan (He Bei style) and Ba Gua Zhang.

It was from this fighting experience that he developed the Snake flowing hand, which gives practitioners the ability to better judge their opponent. Art of Lei Tai™ also emphasizes moving to the side and short angle (called Mi Zong Bu), meaning Lost Step). Together, these two concepts have proven itself very effective in Kuoshu-style Lei Tai fighting since 2010.

So, your Master didn’t have a formalized method of teaching techniques?

There was no fixed curriculum or teaching method, as I said before, he taught you according to your ability. My Master taught differently to different people according to their level, how they commit, and how they learn.

As a westerner, what kind of difficulties did you face in trying to study Chinese martial arts and adapt to what must have been a very different cultural lifestyle?

I didn't know anyone in Taiwan when I went, and I couldn't yet speak Chinese. I applied to the Chinese language program at the Taiwan Normal University where I would study for five years. I had a letter of introduction to one teacher and immediately began to look around and make connections in the martial arts community. I made friends with other martial artists and went to see every teacher I could. The situation in Taiwan and Mainland China is the same as anywhere else, for every outstanding teacher there are legions of mediocre ones. I had a very specific agenda for study. Although I didn't understand the Internal martial arts at the time, I did understand fighting, and I was looking for practicality. In retrospect, I was very fortunate in meeting and being accepted by several outstanding teachers. Over the years, I had several false starts with teachers who took my money but held back instruction, but all in all, the vast majority of teachers I met and trained with were open and generous in their instruction. As far as adapting to the culture, I found it a little difficult at first, but I loved Asia from the start and soon felt quite at home; so much so that I stayed in Taiwan and studied for ten years.

What the strong point of Kung Fu is?

Kung Fu is based on circular motion and movement. Rather than meet an opposing force head on matching force with force sometimes we redirect the energy. I would say the technical aspect of attacking while withdrawing. So if someone is attacking you, you can attack while backing up. The Master always said that if you can learn retreat and attack simoustanousely this is more difficult, more technical, but more efficient against any opponent that rush you. So, retreat and attack. 

Now the reason kung fu is thought of as a circle being no beginning and no end, that means in a student/teacher point of view that you're always learning you've never learned it all. In kung fu, there are no rankings, they don't have belt colours because they don't believe there's a specific goal to get to you're always going for something later. They're always learning. So the no beginning and no end means that you're always searching, you're always striving to get that next level up and once you get to that level you always strive for the next one and the next one and you never ever quit. In fact, the most important thing in Kuoshu is the fight concepts; it does not matter how many movements or how many forms you have learnt! Anyone can create kungfu forms and teach these forms to his students for commercial’s sake.

You have created your own combat form called “Art of Lei Tai™” But, what is Art of Lei Tai and How did you came up with such a complete art?

Not exactly. Art of Lei Tai is not a new style of martial arts but rather my personal interpretation and expression of Kung Fu. Art of Lei Tai is my notebook that I took while training Kuoshu in Taiwan. It’s about putting the four Kung Fu skills known as Ti () Kicking; Da () Striking; Shuai () Grappling and Throwing; Na () Seizing and Controlling on the Lei Tai all together.

What are the fighting concepts that are focalized on in the Art of Lei Tai?

With the whole set of Art of Lei Tai fighting concept, a person can easily understand what is the difference between fancy movements for demonstrations only and a real martial artist who can apply the best techniques in real fighting. Unfortunately, the most difficult thing is that: without learning up to a certain level, without full explanation from the instructor and the considerate study and deep-going analysis, a practitioner normally can not really understand the truth behind the techniques.

What are the Difference Between MMA and Lei Tai?

Perhaps the biggest difference in the two, MMA and Lei Tai Fighting, is the difference in how they view combat. The mixed martial arts training is focused daily in anticipation of pitting his skills again another well trainer fighter. It seems that MMA just focuses on the wrong things about martial arts training. I feel that the overall feeling of martial arts has become so shallow. We are accustomed to the ideas of wanting to overcome adversity, to push ourselves to become better than others, or to conquering and intimidating others through violence. It is unfortunate that combat sports like MMA encourage and support the ideas of violence or belittling others for the sake of entertainment. Kung Fu stresses these values much more than MMA. I truly believe that not all MMA fighters are only interested in violence and glory. Conversely, not all traditional practitioners are always training for righteous reasons. It is the mind of a person that makes the difference; the art being trained is irrelevant. I believe there are some MMA practitioners who will spend their time patiently to truly comprehend the arts and experience its deep feeling. 

Kung Fu is a traditional art, and it has persisted over hundreds of years and generations because of the values it promotes. It takes time, patience, endurance, perseverance, and high morality. Today, It is much more difficult to find people who can appreciate Kung Fu for what it really embodies as a whole. I believe the mentality of wanting to learn martial arts only to fight is still more popular than learning martial arts for self-cultivation. MMA is more popular in this respect because they enter into sparring training much earlier. Externally, the results in MMA are more easily visible and can be trained relatively quickly. Even when I began martial arts when I was 7, I had only wanted to learn how to fight. After a certain stage in MMA, I believe that winning matches and titles becomes the only goal. To me, succeeding in competitions like those in MMA can be steps in the process of your training, but it definitely should never be the goal. These students are only searching to become better than others and getting fast results. Earlier I referred to this as the “McDonald’s” culture, getting things quickly, easily, and just to the point of satisfaction. MMA is well-suited for those who are looking for fashion and quick results.

The good side of MMA is that the body conditioning program is very rigorous and can quickly form a strong foundation for deeper training. Many traditional schools often do not stress enough body conditioning in the beginning, as they are not learning how to fight in just a few months time. In MMA, the highly competitive environment also motivates students to constantly push themselves harder. This helps students make themselves better by always pushing their limits and always striving for improvement. It is only when MMA becomes more focused on winning and bettering others that I dislike it.

Unfortunately, I believe this is why many fighting schools often criticize Kung Fu. There are no immediate results, like winning fights. Traditional schools often train their students first in fundamentals: basic stances, basic hand forms, basic body mechanics, basic coordination, and very importantly, martial morality and the mind. They are much more demanding in terms of requiring concentration and discipline of the mind. This preliminary training alone can take years. Many beginning students give up or lose patience in traditional training because of this, especially the ones that only want to fight.

The results of Kung Fu training take much longer to see, oftentimes taking 1-2 years minimum to get a feel for the art, 5-10 years to discover it, 10-20 years to explore it, 20-40 years to develop it, and a lifetime to perfect it. Only after the mind has been developed can the techniques be properly learned. Learning a lot of techniques with no foundation and no root is very shallow and void. Developing the art to a truly deep and meaningful level takes a lifetime of dedicated training and a clear mind. It is a journey without an end. However, nowadays much of this generation do not have many of these qualities, and what is worse, is that they do not seek them either.  

I wish that the traditional arts would get some more attention. Otherwise, in a few more generations, we will truly lose its essence and original purpose. That is the reason I began the Art of Lei Tai 10-year program at the Francombat Center. I have been training a small group of students at this center full-time since 2008. The students train about 8 hours everyday, 10 months out of the year, and they live independently at the center. I hope that from having this daily, rigorous training routine, they will develop the attitude and characteristics necessary to become good martial artists, and to become good people.

To a novice, there does not appear to be a lot of wrestling or ground work in Lei Tai/Kung Fu. Can you explain why?

We do have the di tang chuan (Ground Skill Chuan) at high levels. For the lower levels, we don't focus on these skills. Kung Fu is focused on real fighting, not competitions or sport. We try to teach beginners that, in a real fight, if you fall on the ground, you are in big trouble and you might get killed; so, we do have the di tang chuan, but it is for the higher level, when they have already learned how to stay on their feet. Also, our ground work is not the same as Jiu Jitsu, for example. We focus on leg kicks, breaking the leg, so it's ground fighting, but not what many people might imagine - like the scissors, dog style, very advanced leg sweeps, and, as I said, breaking the leg. It's not wrestling.

Is there qigong in Lei Tai?

Yes, we have the qigong in Lei Tai. If you train Lei Tai but don't have the qigong, how will you do kung fu? We use qigong to develop our power, like jing li (hard striking power). When we punch, we want to use our qi to bring our power through to our fists and legs. If you don't have qi, how can you have power in the fists and legs?

And is there anything special about the qigong that you teach that is especially different from other approaches to qigong?

Ah, no, but it must be remembered that within qigong traditions, there are many different forms of practice. Sometimes we sit, sometimes we stand; sometimes we do it the hard or external way, or wai chi kung (external qigong), so qigong comes from inside; but we also do it the soft or internal way, nei kung (internal qigong). Also, we do yen fa (eye work), training our eyes at the same time as we do our qigong.

And of course qigong is also for training your breathing? When you're fighting, how do you breathe?

First you bring in the air through your nose, then you throw out your power and punch; then you let the air out your mouth, and relax.

What is your primary teaching message?

Some people think martial arts is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious that that. Art takes a lot of time and the right mind to truly appreciate and enjoy. Keep your cup empty and continue searching deeper and deeper into your practice. Without this mentality, the art you practice will always be only on the surface. I began training martial arts because I wanted to fight, but from that time until now, after more than 30 years of practice, it has evolved into something so much more rewarding.

How effective your practice ultimately is will be up to exactly how much you train, what you train, and for what purposes. As i said several time, Lei Tai Fighting is a different sport, with different rules. Like MMA is different than Boxing. There is no ground fighting. As a matter of fact, you have 10 second to submit your opponent. 

What has been the hardest obstacle in teaching?

The hardest obstacle today is finding committed students. It is not easy to find a student who is able and willing to sacrifice or compromise things such as their job, families, or social lives to sincerely dedicate to training. Kung Fu has been downgraded to a hobby or sport. Additionally, it is not easy to find a student who has the will, patience, endurance, perseverance, and morality required to train to a meaningful level. Any art takes a lot of time and patience (Gongfu) to reach an accomplished or exceptional level. So many young kids only want a quick result and do not train as seriously as the generations before them, but still want and expect the rewards

Have you ever considered to fight in the UFC and Why?

I am a big fan of combat sports, period! However, I never been interested to compete in the cage simply because I was already competing in Kuoshu Lei Tai tournament and I was pretty good at fighting. So I just decided to stick with my sport, and today it pay off. 

Can you talk about the seminars and certification in the Art of Lei Tai?

Student will receive certificate by me and their sash will come with the student’s name inscribed on it. There’re three level in the Art of Lei Tai; beginner, intermediate and advanced level, represented by yellow, blue and red sash.

What is your training schedule look like?

Food, Afternoon session, Food, Evening session, Food, Sleep, Repeat.

Do you use weights in your training?

Yes, I train with weights about 3 times a week. 

Some people say you incarnate a modern Bruce Lee?

I don’t consider myself as anyone but Franco Richard. Bruce Lee was an innovator and was instrumental in spreading Kung Fu that is still evolving. It is an honor to be compared to Bruce Lee, but Bruce is one of a kind and so am I. Bruce Lee made you believe in what he was able to do. People have made the comparison between us. Personally, I’m my own man, and I’m on my own journey. I cannot fully accept something like the comparison because I am me. But I definitely take pride in it that some people would compare us two, because the man is a legend.

What fighters do you count among your influences?

I came up watching Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee. They are two iconic people. I like their approach to combat sports, I like their skills and I like their philosophies. I think skill and philosophy go hand in hand. You have to be the full package. I think my master is another one because of his understanding of the body and his focus on breathing technique. Breathing is an overlooked aspect of the fight game. If you can control your breathing, you can control anything. 

How did Bruce Lee influence you?

His philosophy, his belief that there were no styles. He was formless. He adapted to everything. There was not one set pattern, movement or routine. He was ahead of the curve.

What stands out to you the most about him? 

I admired his evasive skills. He was the best defensive fighter ever. You could not hit him. Add that to his confidence and his beliefs, I admire someone who believes in himself and in his ability and backs it up. 

Do you allow yourself to dislike an opponent?

We cannot get along with everyone. It doesn’t mean I disrespect them or act like a fool. I don’t get caught up in all that trash-talking stuff, just because it’s really not who I am. I’ve always kind of gone by that mentality - just be humble and respect your competitors. I fight for things I stand for. I’m not going to let myself be disrespected - I am not a coward. If I have something to do, I’m going to do it.

Is it possible to show too much respect to an opponent?

A lot of people mistake my kindness for weakness. They have no idea where I come from; they don’t know my past. They see Francombat. They forget that before I was Francombat I was Franco Richard, just a regular guy from the bottom of the food chain. I had to work a lot to get where I am. It’s been pretty crazy to be able to finally kind of put in place everything that I’ve worked really hard for. It’s always been a dream of mine to achieve this kind of success.

What do you like about combat sports?

First, I love the fact that it allows me to meet lots of passionate people and talented athletes. It's very inspiring. I really just love combat sports, I love the drama around it and love the characters. I go to quite a few fight events and I love sitting ringside because it’s the only sport where you are that close to the action. Like I have said before, it's like a chess game - you move the wrong piece, and it's over.

What do you not like about combat sports?

I don't like cheater. Fighters that takes steroide. It make the whole combat sports industry look bad. Unfortunately, not everyone gives martial arts a good name. I hope to change that.

Do you have any heroes?

None, but I take inspiration from everyone and everything. I’m inspired by champions, former champions, true competitors, people dedicated to their dream, hard workers, dreamers, believers, achievers. There is no world-best. And no one is unbeatable. We all want perfection but it’s almost impossible and I am myself after it at every moment. I always try to improve but it’s very difficult.

Have you had to deal with personal threats or “challenges” over the years?

In my earlier years of teaching, sometimes people would just walk into my school and interrupt my classes or seminars to cause trouble. I mostly defused such challenges without fighting, but felt forced to respond to several persistent individuals. One time, there was a drunk guy who came to my school to challenge me. I did not believe he really wanted to fight, and in the end, I was right. He began by talking a lot about how he had won many fights against other people. I listened to him and nodded my head. When he realized I was actually listening, he calmed down a little. I told him that I was in the middle of a class and said that if he wanted to fight, he would have to wait until my class was over. He sat down. I gave him a cup of strong coffee. When I finished teaching my class, he was nowhere to be found. All I saw was an empty coffee cup on his chair. From then on, every time he walked past the school, he would always raise up both of his hands and wave to say hello. We became friends. I believe that most people are not bad, and sometimes it just takes a little bit of work to get to know somebody’s true intentions. Sometimes people just come across some rough patches in life. I understand that very well from my own experiences.

The worst challenge that I had to deal with was when I was attacked in a nightclub in Quebec city by people who only had the intention to harm or conquer me. Many were just interested promoting themselves, and only wanted to be able to say, “I beat Francombat.” There was no chance to show courtesy or establish friendship in these situations. That is why you must be alert when someone approaches you with a hostile attitude. If you have good awareness and alertness, you can easily sense when such a situation is coming and react appropriately. The outcome is always dependent on how good your reaction skills are, your strategy and assessment of the threat (if any real threat is there), and how effective the techniques you use are. In many cases, I was able to just walk away, regardless of how upset the other party was. Sometimes all that is required is a calm mind and a well-strategized approach. I still believe that the best fight is no fight. In today’s modern day times, physical confrontation is usually not necessary, and that is the option I always seek first before all other solutions.

Beside being the Chairman and CEO of Francombat Management, inc., you are the Founder of Pro Lei Tai and the Lei Tai fighting series. What does it mean for you and what are your responsibilities regarding this position?

It is a lifelong dream. It truly shows me the power of visualization and the power of an unshakeable belief. It is just the beginning. That first event was a huge turning point in my life It fulfilled a lifetime dream of mine and has changed my life in many ways. The purpose of Pro Lei Tai Worldwide is to promote Amateur and Professional Lei Tai Fighting through the principles of Chinese Martial Arts known as Kung Fu in the West. I am honored to be of service to this organizations working to bring martial artists form around the world closer together. As the founder of the professional combat sport my mission is to promote Lei Tai Fighting as the first class sport that it is, to provide the best quality and fairest tournaments, and to offer to the fan of combat sport the most exciting spectator events given anywhere. My role as ambassador not only keeps me traveling around the world, but allowed to share my passion for Kung Fu. I want people everywhere to realize that Lei Tai Fighting™ is a first class sport and the Lei Tai (platform) is the formal place for martial artists to express martial arts techniques.

What is your favorite part about your job?

The creative brainstorm sessions with my executives. It is all encompassing. I learn so much about all different facets of the media industry (Television, Movies, Magazines, Digital Media, Publishing).

What is your least favorite part about your job?

Not being able to turn my brain off. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the next new and exciting thing for the sport and the brands. The hardest part of my job is constantly being on the road away from my family is the worst part.

What are the qualities of a good promoter?

One must first be a good communicator and be provided with a certain charisma (unfortunately it seems it can not be learned!). Listen to and enhance its fighters. Finally, you have to work in teams.

Which style of martial arts is the best?

No matter what your martial arts style, we all share one thing: the quest for greatness. My point is each art form has something to offer, so I cannot say which is better, because each strengthens the other. The Chinese style will teach you the Chinese way, the Japanese style will teach you the Japanese way, the Korean style, the Korean way and so on. I think the important point is that no single martial art is adequate to prepare the practitioner for the full range of situations that may potentially occur in a real fight. Individuals will naturally gravitate toward those arts which best suit their individual physicality and personality, but it is vital to become well rounded enough to have constructive responses to any situation which may arise. Almost without exception, all of the famous masters of old (those that were famous for actually fighting) trained in several different systems. Cross training was and is the only way to truly prepare for real fighting. Remember that all styles of martial arts were founded by men who had cross-trained, and then christened their synthesis as a new style. As much as the romantic in us would like to believe the old myths, the truth is no one ever learned a style in a dream, from reading the Book of Changes or from watching snakes, birds and bugs. Personally, I believe that for the vast majority of people, although it is vital to be able to punch and kick, a foundation in the wrestling/grappling-based arts is the most important for martial proficiency. I believe it is important to respect the practitioners of all types of martial arts, regardless of the style. Remaining humble with an open mind is the only way to continuous improvement. You can learn something from just about everyone. I often tell my students, "if it works for you, it's good.”

Some people say that there is no such thing as being "ring-proven" and that true martial artists don't compete. What is your opinion?

These people are too afraid to prove themselves and make that up as an excuse not to fight. Everybody knows that fighting and training are totally different. You have the, so called “Dojo fighters”, they are real good in the Dojo, but if they have to fight with all the pressure, they can’t perform. It is like saying that soccer, basketball, golf, swimming and others professional sports is not done by true athletes because they compete! If this is true for Martial Artists, it should be true for every sport. What is a better way to test your limits than competing? If you train without competing don't be so sure that it will be enough when you have to defend yourself on the street.

In your opinion, what makes a great fighter?

For me it’s heart, drive, and a fighter who wants to be the best in the world. There are a lot of guys who excel when things are going their way but crumble at the first sign of adversity. The guy who never quits, who never stops trying to win, and who wants to be the best no matter how bad things seem - that is the guy with the potential to be great.

Did you go to college and if so what degree did you earn?

I hold a degree in Health and Nutritions. Other than that, I have a masters in unarmed combat.

What was your job before becoming an entrepreneur?

While attending college, I held a variety of jobs, including delivering newspaper, modeling, bartender, bouncer, party promoter and penny stock trader. During this period, I had various business ventures, including a pub, Kung Fu schools, and a concierge service, which I still owns them.

Specific accomplishments in amateur competition?

I am a 2-time Shuai Jiao Gold Medalist (Chinese-style wrestling) and Kuoshu-style Lei Tai fighting Silver Medalist. I also been featured in Who's Who in the World of Kung Fu. 

Do you think that if someone wants to learn real Kung Fu he has to go to China?

No. come to my gym and you will see.

How many hours per week should train a student to grow in a serious way?

If I were to train a student, suppose he knows nothing and is not a born-fighter, I can make him good in fighting within 6 months. Say, 5 days per week, each day 2 hours.

What do you find most enjoyable about teaching?

I like changing people’s lives for the better. When I see somebody that you know is just a normal student and their life becomes better, they become a stronger person, they become a better person, that something that really exemplifies why I’m still teaching even with busy schedule.

Would you teach people for free?

I often teach for free to people that can't affort it. However, like every human being on earth, I have bills to pay.  

How do you help fighters expand their collection of techniques without changing their strengths or tendencies?

Well that’s the real trick. I always try to add to what they are really good at, and then try round out what they are not good at. That’s the method I try to use.

What is the difference between training for self-defense and training for a full-contact sport?

When it comes to self defense you are on the street and it is a lot different than fighting in the ring. In the ring you are prepared for the strategy, etc.; on the street you must be able to react instantly.

When did you start paying attention to the mental game of fightings and developing your own philosophy for the fight game?

After my second defeat I decided the mind needs to be fully committed, just like an obsession. You’re either all in or all out. In the beginning I wasn't really serious. I was just training and competing, just showing up to the gym, falling into routine and not really committing myself. I was having outside activities like playing football, doing this, doing that, going out. I was fighting the obsession. Then I decided I would just let it take over—and screw everything else. I don’t want nothing else. I want this.

Is mental toughness for a fighter something that can be developed or do some fighters just have it and others don’t?

It can absolutely be developed and improved, some start a little more tougher than others but every fighter no matter how weak or strong you are, if you have the determination to become mentally stronger, that’s what the martial arts give you, that mental confidence. Being able to do things mentally you weren’t able to do before.

Is it ok to be angry in a fight?

There is a lot of masters and instructors who will still argue with me - be emotionless, but I disagree. We have emotions, we're human beings so I teach from the standpoint, it's great to have the emotions as long as you don't let cloud your reaction. There is no place for emotions in combat.

What did you learn from competing in Lei Tai tournaments?

After I had been training in Taiwan about six months, my Xing Yi Quan teacher entered me in a full contact tournament. Though I lost, it was an enlightening experience for me. Although there were few rules in these matches, there was a certain strategy that applied, much different from a street fight for example. Many of the Chinese fighters are extremely tough, and they usuallv dominate the international competitions there. Competing with them I gained valuable experience and insight into my own methods of training. I went back to revise my training based on my experiences and, a few months later, I entered another full contact competition. The organizers put me up into the light heavyweight division although at the time I was only 150 lbs. I took first place in the division and came through without injury. This experience was very valuable as it indicated my training methods were on the right track. The next year I entered one of the larger international tournaments. I won again, taking first place in the middleweight division. 

I feel these competitions gave me a wealth of valuable experience. I think the most important lessons I learned from these fights was that you can never practice the basics too much. You need to be a well rounded fighter, but knowing a thousand techniques you can do beautifully when there is no real pressure is not nearly as valuable as mastering a few techniques you can actually use in a real fight. It is, however, vital to be exposed to all areas of fighting. In order to be able to maintain mental calm and physical relaxation under pressure, you must be proficient in striking, wrestling and grappling arts. Sparring with skilled, non-cooperative opponents is a must if you hope to be able to use your art in a real fight. Finally, your mind-set and attitude will almost always prove to be the ultimate determinate of your victory or defeat.

You’ve said before that not every fighter is a martial artist. What’s the difference?

First, you can tell by the way one carry himself in and out the competition. A fighter trains only when he has a fight. He trains only when he’s fighting. Me, I train for a lifestyle. Even back in the days when I was competing and I was not getting ready for a fight, I was always in shape. I do it as a lifestyle. All those guys that dedicate their lives to one martial art in particular and improving it – they’re true martial artists. Fighter fight! Martial artist seek the “art” in the martial. Someone at the gym asked me the other day what I was in training for...I said ‘I train for a better me.”

What’s the most important lessons you learned from studying martial arts?

To never give up on yourself, always live a healthy lifestyle and improve yourself to be a better person for others.

What do you need in martial arts to become a successful master?

Be yourself. Self mastery is the only truth I believe and what comes after this self-mastery.

Tell me how the book Enter Francombat came about?

My first book, Enter Francombat is simply an edited copy of the diary I kept in Asia and a collections of articles I published on my blog. During those years of adventuring in Asia I studied martial arts deeply, So I wrote and think a lot about the art, comparing one art to another, and also I did a lot of research, it was all experiential. My life was pretty well documented through the stories I wrote. Every time I would train, I would take notes. The book is an overview of the martial arts. It's my personal opinions on what I've learned. I don't believe you can learn technique from a book but I believe you can learn a way of thinking. And that's all my book is. It's not going to teach you how to fight. It's going to teach you how to train, how to pick a school, how to pick a style, what you can expect in your psychological make-up as you go through the ranks, what you can expect from the street as opposed to your club, how to train by yourself, how to train with a group. But the book never tells you what to do. It just opens your eyes to what you will see and it's a guide to what to expect.

Tell us a little about your blog. When did you start it, and what was your intention?

I started blogging by accident. I’ve always had the itch to write, but honestly lacked the discipline to do it consistently. In 2007, while I was working to make the traditional Lei Tai fighting a recognized professional combat sport, I had to find a way to help myself to never give up on my dream and shut down negativity from people trying to bring me down. The blog I started then transformed to Unfightable and became one of the best destination for wisdom. Blogging offers a write-as-you-go-approach that is comfortable. I haven’t stopped blogging, or writing, since that fateful Saturday.

Why “Unfightable”? How did you come up with that name?

Unfightable connects people who are looking to walk by faith, share inspiration, and celebrate positive change. The meaning of the blog’s name comes from becoming aware of where we are today and seeing where we want to be tomorrow, and then making the deliberate choice to cross the bridge to discover the beautiful life waiting for us there.

What inspired you to write Unfightable: With Every Epic Battle Comes an Unfightable Story?

The book has been inside me for a long time. Writing every day for my blog did two things: It made me a better writer, and it helped me find my voice. With a newfound confidence in my writing, along with the positive reactions I was getting from readers, I felt the time was right to write the book. The book is a heartfelt recounting of my best advice on finding the inner strength (no matter where you look) to never give up on your dreams—or on yourself. My book was not only inspired by my blog; it was inspired by seeing the positive difference I was making.

Many people said that I had changed their lives. That through me they finally did what they liked and that I had allowed them to take action. Over time, I found that I had this magical power of persuasion that people are finally realizing their dream. I want to be an inspiration for the young and for those who have ambitions. On the other hand, I didn't want to wait 60 years to tell my path and inspire others. It seems that a majority of people truly want to know themselves and to make changes in their lives, but they do not know how. That is why I wrote #UNFIGHTABLE. It is an entertaining guide to discovering what you believe and why you believe what you believe.

Nothing feels better than knowing that I’ve made a difference in other people’s lives. I’ve always tried to help family and friends, and I derived great satisfaction working with people. I love hear comment like: “This was just what I needed to hear today!” or each time I read an article, it spoke to me in a deeply personal way. While the themes are universally-applicable, it seems uncanny how often people find the exact words they need to hear. We all deal with the issues over and over again, and sometimes in very close proximity.

Why do think so much people want to write on Unfightable.com? 

People write about deeply personal things. They sometimes want advice, but I think often they just want to be heard. They want to know that others have been there, that we're all human. I try to hold the space for whoever may want to talk with me, letting them know I can relate and that I'm there. What I found was that I was spending a lot of money subscribing to ten different print magazines in order to get the content that appealed to all the facets of my life. Most of us are not interested in just one thing. We are dynamic, multi-faceted, creative individuals. There is a global movement happening for both men and women. Collectively, we have come to want and expect more from life. 

We live in a time where it’s cool to be brilliant and stylish. We set ourselves apart from other publications/blogs by offering content that is relevant to our readers’ adventurous, many-sided lives.  Unfightable articles are written by passionate, enthusiastic, intelligent young professionals who have a keen understanding of our target audience because we are the target audience.” I think people want to be able to share the things that they’ve been through. Vulnerability makes people feel like they can share and feel less alone.

In my book, I discuss the Dalai Lama’s idea that there needs to be a middle ground somewhere between the “me” and the “we.” Neither extreme individualism nor extreme collectivism is healthy. We all need to be able to strike that balance. Our culture does value individual success and wealth. It’s a matter of redefining that dream for ourselves so that it doesn’t divorce us from what we need for our own health and happiness.

You talk a lot about faith in your book, as you do on your site. Would you say readers of all spiritual traditions can benefit from your book, even if they don’t put faith in a higher power?

The faith message I share in the book isn’t from a religion point-of-view. It’s more about having faith that our lives matter; that we are all born with a purpose and with unique gifts to fulfill that purpose. For me, faith is about finding the strength (no matter where you look) to never give up on your dreams—or on yourself.

How important is faith to the practice of martial arts?

It is extremely important. You can’t study the language without knowing the culture. You absolutely can’t study the culture without studying the language, and religion is one of the biggest factors in culture. Finally, you can’t study the martial art without knowing the language, religion and culture. I probably know more about the Chinese culture than a lot of Chinese people do.

Are you religious?

If you're asking, you probably don't want to hear the answer. My religion is pretty simple. When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. Either way, it doesn't really affect how I behave.

In your principle on love, you defined it as seeing the best in others, not the worst. Why do you think we struggle to do this, and how can we change our instinct to focus on perceived flaws and slights?

I think we tend to see the flaws in others before recognizing their beauty because that’s how we see ourselves sometimes. When we believe we are beautiful; not so much in a physical sense, but in a spiritual one, we can then begin to see the world and everyone in it, as beautiful, too.

What do you think is the most important precursor to real, lasting change?

Wanting to change—really wanting to change. No matter if it’s learning to be a better spouse or partner, losing weight, or pursuing a passion, nothing happens until we want it to happen. But to answer your question directly, I think the precursor for change is recognizing that a certain aspect of our life is no longer for us, but we desperately want it to begin working again.

What is the main message you hope readers take from your book?

Creating positive change begins with discovering one powerful truth: You cannot change or heal what you do not acknowledge.

You’ve written that your book is not like other self-help books. What makes it different?

People who write self-help books often come across as super-beings. While it’s nice to be able to look up to them, their seeming perfection can make their suggestions seem unachievable. I’m no super-being. I readily acknowledge experiencing frustration, failure, stress, and anxiety like everyone else. And I make mistakes. Plenty of them. I work hard to learn from my mistakes. And then I share that learning with everyone I know. Another friend, after reading the first draft of the book, said to me that he loved my book because it’s unlike other self-help books that “tout all kinds of grand changes that end up oppressing you, making you feel so guilty that you avert your eyes as you walk past the shelf where they sit and accusingly call out to you, Why aren’t you following our instructions?”

My book, instead, is filled with practical, achievable suggestions for all kinds of ways that you can improve your life, along with a method for making changes that stick. My teaching is not a philosophy. It is the result of direct experience. My teaching is a means of practice.

One thing I love about your book is that you write in an accessible, down-to-earth tone and you offer suggestions to create positive habits starting right now. What would you say is the most important habit for happiness?

The power of negative thinking” is something I talk about when I give speeches. No one has heard that phrase, but everyone is familiar with the results of negative thinking—stewing over minor slights and inconveniences, being snippy with the ones you love, and general unhappiness. When we learn that our thinking has everything to do with our emotions, we can be happier by recognizing when our thoughts are running away from us, bringing ourselves back into the present moment, and reminding ourselves not to sweat the small stuff and to be grateful for what we have.

You’ve written, “You cannot heal what you don’t acknowledge.” Why do you think we choose not to acknowledge our pain?

I think the reason we choose not to acknowledge our pain is because it can be uncomfortable to do so. Sometimes we sweep past events under the rug so we don’t have to see them, or be reminded by them. For most of my life, I’ve swept the pain of being bullied under the rug. I thought if I didn’t think about it then it never happened. I would associate feelings of shame with being bullied. So, if I didn’t acknowledge the bullying, then I didn’t have to acknowledge the shame either. What I didn’t realize was the impact the bullying had on me. It affected my self-confidence in most areas of my life. It was only when I addressed the bullying, that I was able to improve my confidence—and my happiness.

One section of your book is titled “Learn to Live without Asterisks.” What does that mean exactly?

It’s about not setting on limits on how we think our lives should be. Asterisks are typically associated with limitations, restrictions, or conditions. We can get mired down with how we should do something, rather than following our heart. For example, “I want to write a book, but I should spend more time with my family.” You know what I did? I asked my family. They told me to follow my dream and write. On my last day in this world, I won’t have an asterisk next to the goal of writing a book!

When you first began your journey many years ago, how long did you think your journey throughout Asia would last? Did you map out a plan to cover numerous martial arts throughout various nations back then?

No, I didn’t map out anything. As my master said, “If you want to make the gods laugh, make a plan.” You don’t even know what all the options are or what difficulties or opportunities will present themselves. So, you just go and follow as the road reveals itself. Half the martial arts and some of the languages I have studied since coming to Asia, I had never heard of back in Montreal.

What was your motivation for travel.

I thought that was on most people minds. It was in mine, at least; I mean, who doesn’t dream of “one day I’ll travel the world?” I traveled for sixteen months through South America, Africa, Europe and Asia, mostly by myself albeit with some friends from home at certain points — and not to mention the countless friends I made along the way. 

What did you bring with you for your trips?

I break everything into two bags that convert into shorts and pants, a week of underwear and socks, five t-shirts, a quick dry towel, toiletries, money, passport. The usual. That doesn’t seem like much, but I was mindful I was not on a “vacation,” but on a “way of life” for over a year, which would include doing laundry regularly. You only really need a week’s worth of stuff, in terms of what you MUST have. I also brought my laptop, and my cameras, all stored safely (and hidden) in a lockable portable PacSafe, but that’s just what I needed to keep my blog up.

What advice would you give to someone organizing a long term trip around the world?

Plan the gist of your journey, but don’t over plan. If you do, you’ll set up expectations of yourself that may or may not be met — most likely the latter because of many, many unforeseen factors — and you’ll just end up being disappointed. If you have the luxury of time on your hands, just live in the moment, let your current situation lead you to the next.

What did you learn about yourself on your sixteen month world trip?

I essentially learned that I am the same guy wherever I am, and that I’m happy with who I am as a person. That’s not to say I was transformed by the amazing experiences I had; they did transform me in the sense that my desires of seeing things and doing things were satisfied. The people and experiences have taught me a great deal.

How did you afforded all this travel?

I saved up at teaching martial arts in my school for a few years and then closed it. That’s the simple answer. It also doesn’t cost as much as a lot of people think. Aside from the flights, I spend less on any given day than I would sitting at home paying utilities, car insurance, parking tickets (I get a lot of parking tickets). If you visit regions like Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, South America, and most of Africa -- and you’re willing to rough it a little -- you can get by five dollars a day.

Will you give some advice to a first time traveler, where should I go?

I always recommend Southeast Asia. It's good for a bunch of reasons. Most of them hinge on the assumption that you're young, broke, and hail from a westernized culture. Stepping out of your comfort zone is really important -- seeing whole other ways of living. Kung Fu gives me an opportunity to see places I'd never get to otherwise. I love to travel. In December I started the round-the-world trip. Started in Vietnam. That was May of 2003. Came home in August, then left for Africa a year later. I came home 6 months and 76 flights later, in June of 2006. My last trip was in Seattle in September of 2004 few days after landing.

How many countries have you been to?

At last count: 80.

How long did you stay in each place?

Anywhere from a couple days to a week. Usually long enough to actually see and experience some stuff, but rarely as long as I would've liked.

Have you ever been robbed or mugged?

I had my wallet stolen on a train in Italy. And, full disclosure, I caught a kid with his hand in my pocket at the Thai/Cambodian border and experienced a botched pick-pocketing in Vietnam that yielded only my free map of Saigon. There was an awkward moment, we all looked at each other in confusion, then the kids ran off.

How many languages do you speak?

So far, I have studied five languages and speak four fluently; French, English, Chinese, and Spanish. I didn’t finish studying Italien and Vietnamese but I am going to.

There is a lot of talk about the martial arts of mainland China focusing too much on the sport and health aspect. Did you find this to be true?

The mainland government focuses most all of its support on performance Wushu. Traditional martial arts are all but neglected. Fortunately, the trend in recent years has been toward more tolerance and acceptance by the powers that be for the traditional and combat oriented styles. Whereas not too many years ago teachers of the traditional arts had to teach in secrecy, they are now able to teach publicly and even travel abroad to teach. Also, the recent proliferation of Sanshou full contact tournaments is, I think, an important development is the preservation of true martial arts. Modern Wushu is a fine sport and is beautiful to watch, but it is misnamed; arts without fighting cannot by definition be considered martial arts.

Does PRO LEI TAI plan on creating a “minor league” so that guys who are not up to Professional Lei Tai can be bred into star athletes?

All the other shows out there act as minor leagues for the LEI TAI. Guys get their experience and make a living in the other shows, and if they are successful enough we bring them into the LEI TAI.

Would PRO LEI TAI ever consider a pride grand prix style tournament for a LEI TAI title?

Tournaments are cool on paper. But in reality, fighters always end up getting injured and dropping out, or it’s not fair because one guy had an easy match, while another guy has a war that goes the distance, and then they have to fight each other.

Do you see yourself ever settling down and getting married?

Absolutely. I’m a romantic guy, and I am really looking forward to starting a family.

What's your all-time favorite fight movie?

Fearless and Enter the Dragon

What songs do you listen to when training?

I listen all kind of music, but I specially love house music.

Currently, what is your favorite form or exercise to practice and why?

After many years of practice, research, and experience, I have lost my potential and capability to perform external styles to a physically strong level. Whenever I get injured now, I recover very slowly. This has made me turn my focus to training in Taijiquan and Qigong. 

The internal arts disciplines the mind and body. They also train sensitivity to Qi and the ability to control and generate Qi. The feeling of internal arts is much deeper and harder to achieve than just about all external styles. It is a very unique and rewarding feeling because the only way to experience it is through diligent practice, and it keeps evolving into something much more the deeper you get. I enjoy the depth of this feeling very much. It is very deep, profound, and endless in knowledge, feeling, and creativity.

Nowadays, Internal arts is definitely my favorite form of exercise, because it helps me maintain some level of my physical strength. I believe regular physical movements are the key to slowing down the aging process, staying healthy, and keeping away from sicknesses. As my body continues to age, I will gradually be concentrating more and more on developing a deeper and more refined practice in internal styles only.

Do you really read all your email, and if so do you reply to any of it?

Pretty much, yeah. I try to respond to all of it, but it's gotten a lot harder lately. Sometimes, on a whim, I'll write back immediately. But most emails go straight into a folder that has swelled way beyond a thousand. I maybe sift through a dozen or so each day.

What are you the most proud of all of your accomplishment?

I am particularly proud of my students and disciples for being a true pioneers and fighters of the professional sports of Lei Tai fighting and getting it done when no one thought it was possible. For those who allow themselves to cop out by using excuses to not come to training need only to meet them and witness their example of perseverance. 

You have received many awards. Of all your achievements, is there one which you cherish the most?

As you mentioned, I have received many different awards from several different organizations and I certainly cherish them all. If I had to pick out one, I would have to say that becoming the Chairman of the Board of Pro Lei Tai and the sport is the biggest honor, because I accept the position on behalf of all of those who work behind the scene so hard to promote the Lei Tai Fighting. I am proud to promote and carry the legacy of Lei Tai Fighting on for generation to come.

Can you recall one moment in your life where you sit back and think, “Wow, I cannot believe I put myself through such mental or physical pain?” and why it sticks out in your mind as a defining moment?

Honestly, there were a lot of painful or harrowing adventures. But because it is your real life and not a movie, there is never a definite start or end point for any event in your life. So, when these things are happening, they sometimes seem less epic than when you retell them. In my book, Enter Francombat, I talked a lot about how dirty Shaolin was and how unhygienic it was living there. In Taiwan we trained from 5:30am till about 6:00pm. That is a brutal workout day, but you just do it. Afterwards it looks like a lot. At the time, you just get through as best you can.

Do you have any advice for martial artist reading this?

The first advice I give is: it is true that it is important to have a dream and to believe, but it's even more important to be realistic. When one chooses to become a professional fighter, be aware that there are few chosen. One can dream for years to be a prize fighter but it may never happen. However, this young woman who dreamed of fighting may become a great coach. This young man who wanted to make films could become a great promoter. You have to have a passion, and do everything to achieve your goal but always staying open to other things. Life often reserve beautiful surprises.

I can only say, as the Master told me, just keep training. If you honestly apply yourself with full vigor you will reach the highest levels of training. Masters are born from students who never quit. Everyone has their own talents and their own skills, and this just comes with hard work and training. I will end with a quote from the Master This is the best advice I know: “You should not try to be the best but the best you can be.”

At the age of 17, you promised yourself to become a millionaire and you are now.

In fact, I always wanted to play. Around 4 or 5 years, I had heard my aunt, that she was a millionaire. It had struck me. I knew she started from nothing and I told myself that everything was possible and that I would do the same. So I told myself that one day I would be rich enough to be free of my time and have the money to do whatever I liked in life, and I succeeded.

Are you rich enough to be able to retire now?

I could do it because I am able to invest and grow my money. I 'm already a multi-millionaire I don't need much more. However, I do not want to stop. My ultimate goal is to make the most money to reinvest in causes dear to my heart. To have a healthy society, we must invest to young people, and I want to help young entrepreneurs start businesses. I am also interested in the culture. I want to change the current business model for Quebec culture to survive, it is profitable and we can also live.

What is your ultimate goal?

Succeeding my teacher is a great honor, but it carries a great burden. My ultimate goal is to continue to learn, because there is no end in learning until we die. Learning is limitless, so I simply look forward each day to learning more and enjoying what I have learned so far. As for goals I would have to say it is to improve myself as a person and to perfect all that I have learned. As I mentioned earlier, I hope to find more committed students for the upcoming 5-year training program. Before I retire, I want to teach as many sincerely dedicated and committed students as I can to the highest level possible, through this program and the environment at the center. My goal is to provide as much as I can to these students such that they can continue developing their training and techniques independently on their own after they finish. My goal is to train a group of masters instead of students. In order to become a master, one must have a deep feeling of the art. This can only be achieved through experience, experience obtained through a rigorous and strict training regimen. The graduates of the center must have knowledge that is beyond the understanding of the average martial arts instructor. Only then, can they be a creator of new skills. Remember, arts are creative, and this creative capability can only come from a deeply rooted feeling, history, and experience with them. I also want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say “because of you, I didn’t give up.

It sounds like you have the fire in your belly. Where do you get all your energy from?

I don’t know really, I guess I have this hunger inside of me. I go without sleep sometimes and don’t eat, I work 16–18 hours a day. I always been like this. 

What does make you mad in this world?

When people don’t realize their true potential it really p!sses me off! and when people don’t understand that they can achieve everything they put their focus and energy on, no matter how big a dream is.

How would you like to be remember?

I want to be remembered as a person who can’t be compared to others and who set the pace set the tone for his own destiny. I want people to say, ‘He was smart; he had his own style. he was Francombat.”

What does the future hold for Franco Richard?

I believe in less talk and more action. Over the past few years I have not been able to promote Lei Tai Seminar as much as I would like due to my duties with Pro Lei Tai™. I have traveled and met many famous people and earned their respect by doing more and talking less. I plan to continue training, studying, teaching in my schools and doing seminars around the world. My upbringing has made me appreciate, and not take for granted, everything that is happening to me. When I was younger, I just wished somebody would show me how to accomplish everything I wanted. Today I am glad to be sharing my stories and showing people how I live so they can accomplish their own goals and dreams.