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As with so many, Mr. Fonseca developed an infatuation with martial arts through movies. He watched Shaw Brothers classics as well as the more comical Jackie Chan entries and pretty much anything else the movie store had. His parents cultivated his interest by introducing him to a family friend, Master Frank Hargrove, at the time, an 8th degree black belt practitioner of Okinawan Karate and Ryukyu Kobudo. Students of Master Hargrove included uncles of Mr. Fonseca. Young Walter would be introduced to him almost three decades later.
For over one year, young Walter studied with Master Hargrove. The training was solid and he liked it well enough, but it did not have the popular appeal that it garnered in the 1960s and 70s. It did not have that thing that teen Walter grew to admire. It was not kung fu. He professed his desire to learn kung fu to his mother and as it happened, through her work, she had just happened to meet Sifu Hoy K. Lee. When visiting Sifu’s Lee’s school, there he saw what he was missing. It was not simply linear strikes, but rounded techniques, elegant aggression, a fight in every demonstrated movement. He could tell that there was a vast curriculum for him to absorb. It had exactly what he was looking for.
Dedicated to the craft, Mr. Fonseca spent countless hours studying and training kung fu. His passion was repeatedly rewarded with extracurricular lessons, more complex forms, and personal development instruction from Sifu Hoy K Lee himself. He had an aptitude for the art that was recognized by Sifu Lee. Mr. Fonseca recalls how his Sifu would encourage and enable his education by picking him up from his house in Hampton and driving him to the Virginia Beach school for weekend training.
At the completion of high school in 2001, Mr. Fonseca enrolled into Virginia Commonwealth University to pursue a degree in Philosophy. Mr. Fonseca states that he was influenced by the writings of Krishnamurti and Ben Okri. Mr. Fonseca now admits that his decision to obtain this degree in philosophy, whether it was consciously or unconsciously, was also influenced by the moral education of those old kung fu reels he watched in his youth. While he attended University, Mr. Fonseca was graciously welcomed to continue his leadership development and training in kung fu, sparring, and lion dancing at the school of his Si-hing, Sifu Charles Middleton. He became a fixture at the Richmond school and even rose to the ranks of head instructor by 2003. He also became an important conduit for the transfer of knowledge between schools, bolstering relationships between the Newport News, Virginia Beach, and Richmond schools. This came through his personal training in kung fu as well as his newly found leadership role in the development of up-and-coming practitioners.
Throughout his years of college, Mr. Fonseca demonstrated his martial arts prowess through professional performance of Lion Dance blessings, through tournament participation, as well as martial arts instruction. He received numerous winnings at local and national tournaments across disciplines; but he cared more about the comradery that he developed amongst his fellow martial arts practitioners. This became one of his most defining qualities. He was an approachable teacher, a legend in his own right. Like his Sifu did for him, he opened his doors and home to his kung fu family any time they needed a place to stay for local competitions. He donated his time, money, and wisdom to the Jow Ga causes local and abroad. He provided instruction to other developing martial artists. And where there was no Jow Ga, he brought the lessons of Jow Ga with him. He often quoted the Jow Ga school poem stating that he believed that “It was not enough to simply learn kindness and learn justice. One must also practice those values.”
This character of giving persisted even after he transitioned to law school in Oregon in 2009. Not only did he keep up relations with his Jow Ga Sifu Hoy K Lee, but also his kung fu brothers and sisters and the wider martial arts community. Despite his growing law practice, Mr. Fonseca continues to devote his time to kung fu. He continues to educate himself in the broader world of martial arts even going as far as dabbling in Kickboxing and Jiu-jitsu. But he always comes back to his Jow Ga roots. As his Sifu once told him, “Once kung fu is in your blood, that’s it.”
Sifu Walter Fonseca has been and continues to be an excellent ambassador of the Jow family traditions. We know that he will continue to forge new relationships, bring Jow Ga to new eyes, all the while maintaining ties with the roots of his personal development.
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