USC University of Southern California

Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC

Ostrow faculty member finds mind-body discipline through Wing Chun martial arts

Photo by Hannah Benet

While some might know this Ostrow faculty member is accomplished in parkour, few know that he’s also trained in one of the toughest forms of martial arts.

BY YASMINE PEZESHKPOUR MCM ’16

You don’t want to mess with Parish Sedghizadeh DDS ’01.

Thanks to his training in Wing Chun kung fu, he can land 10 punches in a single second—not that the affable associate professor of clinical dentistry would ever practice the potentially deadly art outside the dojo.

But when Sedghizadeh isn’t performing research or teaching at Ostrow, he’s perfecting his skills and training others in the ancient form of kung fu.

Sedghizadeh was first introduced to Wing Chun by his best friend Maytri and his cousin Paul when they would spend time hanging out after school as teenagers.

“One day, Paul introduced us to family friend and Kung Fu Master Wong Wah (Tom Wong) who had come to America from China and was starting to teach a few select students Wing Chun,” Sedghizadeh says.

“Wing Chun has taught me my own limits in both body and mind, and given me the patience to deal with anything thrown at me with poise and perseverance.”

–Parish Sedghizadeh DDS ’01
Associate Professor of Clinical Dentistry

Master Wong is one of the original disciples of the traditional style of northern Wing Chun kung fu known only by a select few in the world.

Wing Chun kung fu was first developed more than 300 years ago by a Buddhist nun who taught it to female villagers so they could protect themselves. It is one of the deadliest forms of martial arts and was the type practiced by the late Bruce Lee.

Master Wong began teaching Maytri and Paul elements of Wing Chun in their yard each day after school.

Parish S. performing a kick
Sedghizadeh practices a thrusting sidekick meant to strike an opponent’s chest or chin.

“It was so interesting seeing the upper body movements and lightning-fast strikes of Master Wong,” Sedghizadeh says.

“I really wanted to learn Wing Chun, but they said it was a very technical and dangerous form of fighting, not to be taught to just anyone,” he says. “So, Master Wong initially was not willing to teach me.”

Still, Sedghizadeh would join them and observe their training every day. Seeing his persistence, Master Wong finally took him on as a student.

Despite his natural athleticism and Tae Kwon Do training, it took Sedghizadeh sometime to get acquainted with the body movements and control necessary for Wing Chun.

“The hardest thing to learn initially was that I had to relax and actually try not to use all my muscle strength to deliver an effective blow,” he says.

“If the muscles are tense, the speed of a strike decreases, and we all know speed kills — just think of a bullet thrown at you versus speeding out of a gun.”

Even though Sedghizadeh has been practicing and teaching Wing Chun for more than  25 years, he admits he still gets nervous before martial arts competitions.

“For competitions, you often wait around all day before you know who you are fighting,” he says, “but you know it’s likely a total stranger, and you have no idea what their skill level is until you go.”

Nerves aside, he finds the discipline and commitment associated with the practice tremendously rewarding.

“The training has helped me in all aspects of life and work,” he explains. “Wing Chun has taught me my own limits in both body and mind, and given me the patience to deal with anything thrown at me with poise and perseverance.”