The best word to describe Vincent (Vin or Vince) Cecere would be "multitalented."
Vince has been a face and name in and around Hollywood for many years. Though you may not have known it, you probably saw him in the movie Analyze This. You probably saw him in a hilarious Bud Light Super Bowl commercial. You might have seen his sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live not too long ago (late 2015), and you might have seen him on stage delivering stand up comedy. You may have seen Vin a lot of places. I remember seeing Vin in the movie "Serving Sara" where he plays a bodyguard/henchmen tasked with beating up Matthew Perry.
I came to know Vin on the set of a small sci-fi film called "RUST" (link below) where he served as the film's stunt coordinator. I spoke with him on set, letting him know that I recognized him from Serving Sara and immediately afterward, Vin did what he does best; he told me stories from the experience. "Yeah, we had a good time on that picture..." He's an open book, and shares his testimonies with sincerity. He is a great conveyor of information. Vin at his heart is a teacher, which lead me to the opportunity knowing Vin in another one of his other talented capacities: Jiu-jitsu instructor.
Before wrapping on the set of RUST, Vin and I would exchange information and he asked if I'd be willing to stop by his jiu-jitsu school to capture a few images of his class. I was in and headed up to Van Nuys one day with camera in tow.
Vin's class was held at the Diamond Star Sports complex in Van Nuys, CA (so you'll see netting and batting cage infrastructure in the background of these photos) and it was a great experience. I don't shoot sports so I did my best to freeze some action and catch these guys during their work.
A few of his students were stuntmen/played henchmen on RUST so I recognized their faces. I am creating this blog/page very retroactively, so my documenting isn't 100%. I was sure to get each student's name and email address, but matching the name to the face will be difficult (I'll try to remember through the set). At the very least I'll just mention everyone's name. It was a pleasure to work with Chris, Shea and Guido again (they were the guys from RUST) and in addition it was nice to meet Jack, Eli, Matt, Benny and David.
Vin starts things off by greeting and address his class...
I don't think Vin was just "showing off his guns." There was important instruction going on here:
Vin would then hand things over to his highest ranking student. It was the black belt above on the left. I am slightly confident that his name was Benny.
I had a lot of respect for their discipline and intensity even in warm ups and stretches:
Shea (below) stretching out his wrists:
Guido (right) checking I believe it was David's posture and form:
Kicking exercises (getting fuzz on names. I think the two guys below are Jack and Eli):
Each student then took part of a "simple" rolling exercise:
Afterward the students would pair off and go through slow motion, step by step sparing and/or grappling techniques. Vin would step in from time to time to offer correction and instruction. (Chris below on right):
Hey, let me help you get your positioning on that grip...
Yep. Yep. You got it...
Vin would eventually take over again, get his students in a circle and perform more complicated grapple and striking combinations that they were to eventually learn:
While some of this may look painful, the class was actually very respectful to one another and their are implicit rules that govern their practice and training. No one is to harm anyone else. If someone has reach a pain threshold for a grapple or hold, they simply tap the area of their body or the mat to signify a desire for release and the other member will grant it. For example...
Back to the demonstrations:
Ouch again. I mean...just one finger and...
Another part of Vin's life, as a part of the world of martial arts is that he his heavily invested in public safety and self defense training. While scanning his YouTube videos I came across an older video (probably mid-90s or so) where he was on the news, getting coverage for conducting a self defense class for flight attendants. That said, Vin stays in touch with the law enforcement community quite a bit. That evening he asked if I would capture a few images of new product that was to be tested by a few law enforcement agencies. I did not get the name of the product/prototype but it is pictured below. It looks like a simple device but from the way (many ways) Vin used it, it is clear it's function is to easily incapacitate criminals in a less lethal, but very effective way.
It is a handheld device and plays on the ability to control a criminal's hands, wrists, etc, and can even be used for striking. Examples of the pain below:
In any other set of photos, I would probably call the following images "outtakes," but I just wanted to show a few images of the fun these guys had during the class. Though it requires a lot of focus and discipline the class wasn't all seriousness and fighting. You can tell they really enjoyed each other's company and the class in general:
The group ended the evening in peaceful and respectful way. I'm sure it's a common practice of many dojos around the world, at the end of every session the group kneels in a circle on their knees, and each member of the group has the opportunity to express themselves. Each member first expresses a point of gratitude, and then they have an opportunity to share any grievances they may have with other members of the group even if it is the instructor. Rank and heirarchy do not apply in this time, one can speak freely. The other members will not retaliate but always receive the words with humility and respect and will internalize them for their future behavior. It was wonderful to witness.
A few former members of Vin's class that were watching joined in on the circle as well as the group photo at the end. It was a pleasure to watch this group for a little while.
I'll end with these. The night had a moment where I got a little bit of the treatment. At one point, Vin told me to put down my camera and said, "Come here. I want to show you a little bit of what we're doing." "I'm about to lose a limb," I thought. One of his students thought it'd be funny to capture the moment. He was demonstrating/teaching me about pressure points. They're real. They work. If you thinking I'm hamming it up, keep in mind, you can't really see what he's doing to my wrist outside of the frame,