May 07, 2017 News
“My father has a lot to do with who I am as a person, and what I learnt from him is what I carry with me always and that is: Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.”
By Suraj Narine
Our Special Person this week, Max Massiah, is known for his involvement in the world
of sports, music, television and drama.
Max was born on January 7, 1961 to Kenneth and Brenda Massiah in Georgetown but spent most of his early life in Pouderoyen on the West Bank of Demerara.
He said that his father died in 1977, and though he is remembered mainly for his unorthodox methods of childrearing, the discipline that Kenneth Massiah instilled in him, has remained with Max throughout his life, and he has been able to pass it on to his own children.
Max Massiah attended the Queenstown Roman Catholic School before attending Tucville Secondary. He was later enrolled at the Campbell’s Academy in Eccles.
MAX THE MUSICIAN
Immediately after leaving school, Max enlisted in the National Service. It was during his time there, he obtained a Grade V in both Practical and Music Theory from the Royal School of Music, London. He played for the National Service Military Band.
Though the saxophone has been regarded as his speciality, Max has also mastered the clarinet and drums.
He is scheduled to perform some of his musical magic this Mother’s Day at the Tower Hotel on Main Street.
After spending four years in the National Service, Max migrated to Canada in 1978. He returned to Guyana five years later and spent one year before departing for Trinidad and Tobago.
He said that it was in the twin-island republic that his life took a change. He got married and fathered five children. Massiah now has 10 children with most of them living abroad.
“I did a lot of Marketing and Public Relation courses in Trinidad and Tobago. I quickly rose to top salesperson at various firms including Junior International where I sold computers.”
Five years later and he had moved from selling computers in Petit Bourg, to opening his own motorcycle store called “The Biker”. He also offered motorcycle riding lessons.
Max’s admitted that by selling motorcycles, his obsession for drag racing grew. He recalls the thrill he got just by listening to his customers as they carried on and on about racing.
Soon after, he began hitting the tracks. He participated in a number of meets before representing Guyana between 1986 and 1987 at organised drag racing competitions in Trinidad and Tobago.
Max returned to Guyana in 1991.
MAKING CONTRIBUTIONS HERE AT HOME
“Most of my life I spent abroad. I decided to come back because my family said that I should make my contributions here at home and that thought sunk into me…It took a lot of convincing, but I came back eventually” he said.
He remembers one of his initial ‘contributions’.
“One day I was approached by a close friend who asked me to paint a signboard for his shop. He was impressed by my work, and it was only time before I was marketing that newfound skill. He became a contractor making signs in
almost every part of the country. Businessmen came knocking at his door requesting his services.
According to Massiah, the sign in front of the Magistrates’ Courts on Avenue of the Republic, is one of his creations as well as many signs along the East Bank of Demerara advertising private businesses, drawings on the seawall, in Bourda Market, and in front of the National Cultural Centre.
… THE ACTOR
Max Massiah is also known for his performances on stage. He is a popular figure in the local drama arena and has written, directed and appeared in several popular plays. He related how that aspect of his life unfolded.
“I met with Ras Leon Saul and we were chatting at my home in Versailles, and he was telling me about this play called ‘For Better…For Worse,’ and right in my living room, we pushed aside the chairs and we started to act, and he gave me a part. So my first appearance as an actor was in 2004 in that play. This led to more plays. Ras Leon offered me the lead role in his next play called ‘In Search of happiness’ and that led to more offers.”
Massiah has graced the stage of the National Cultural Centre on more than 50 occasions, including with one of Guyana’s greatest comedians, the late Habeeb Khan.
Some of the other plays he was in include: ‘The Golden Scheme’, ‘The Berbice Uprising’, ‘Front Yard,’ The ‘Uncensored’ Series, ’Victoria’s Secret’ and ‘The Link Show’.
He also played roles in several local films including ‘Rainbow Rani’ in 2006, Bonny Alves’ ‘The Convert’ (2014) and ‘Protection Game’.
…THE MARTIAL ARTIST
Max is also no stranger to the local Martial Arts fraternity. His involvement actually stemmed from an incident that occurred when he was 11 years old. He recalled that his father had departed the country and they were posted to stay with a relative who resided in Kitty.
Massiah says he and his brother were walking one day when they had an encounter with a known bully that resided in the area.
By the bully’s side was another child who began sizing up the Massiah brothers.
“So this guy told this kid who was his brother to hit me and he did. But I didn’t feel anything because it was a little brush. I didn’t do anything and I didn’t say anything.
The bully told his brother to hit me again and he did, but this time (he hit me) near my tummy. That one I felt.
The boy told his brother that it was time to leave because obviously, they weren’t getting to me. So he (bully) said, ‘give he one last hard one’ and when I heard that, I began imagining myself with a black and blue eye and my teeth missing. I unleashed on this kid like a propeller and I was screaming on the top of my voice and I didn’t know why.
He didn’t get to land one punch. I was punching and kicking and he got up and ran away and I ran behind him screaming all the time because this rage was built up. Anyway, the kid ran away and I ran home still screaming. I ran under the bed and hid screaming and screaming. Every time I remember that incident I crack up. That was my breaking point”
The practice of self-defence became somewhat of an obsession after then for Massiah. He began watching Kung Fu movies, trying to learn all he could.
Martial arts came natural to him, he says, since “it speaks to discipline, commitment and the belief in oneself” – things he was no stranger to.
Shortly after the incident on the Railway Line, his family moved to Agricola where he signed up at a Dojo in Houston, East Bank Demerara.
The Dojo eventually shuttered and it was Max’s idea to persuade his parents to have the school move to his home.
“It was cool having a Karate school right in our yard. So my brother and I began training every day. Eventually we moved to South Ruimveldt, so we weren’t going to the school anymore because of the distance, but my brother and I would still train and practice what we learnt. After that, the rest is history – National Service and I migrated, but I never gave up Martial Arts. All my years abroad, I still found the time to practice and really better myself. Since the age of 11, I’ve owned a pair of nunchucks. It’s always with me. That comes from the many Bruce Lee movies I watched as a kid.”
Max is now a 3rd Degree Black Belt and has even formulated his own style called “MAX-I-DO” (pronounced as “max-e-doh”). This style consists of mainly submission holds and is concentrated on bone breakage.
MAX THE TV PERSONALITY
Massiah also spent some time co-hosting a programme with Kaieteur News Sports Journalist and Former Champion Boxer, Michael Benjamin. That show was called the “Sports Show” and featured all things in the local sports industry.
Max said that although he was grateful for the opportunity, his mind was not set. He was more focused on Martial Arts and Boxing – the more physical side of life.
He reflected that he was a little upset that there were not many live boxing matches being aired nor any local programme on Martial Arts.
So back in 2014, he launched his own show called, “Maximum Sports Combat and Strength”. The show has been dubbed as the most-viewed weekly one-hour “live” sports programme and is aired Fridays from 21:05hrs on National Communications Network Television.
The show has featured many renowned persons in combat sports locally and internationally.
“I have been highlighting our local athletes, federations and associations to bring recognition and awareness of their accomplishments to the Guyanese public. My programme has become the platform for promoting Combat & Strength Sports. I am also synonymous with bringing International Sports Legends & Champions to Guyana including two-time Female World bodybuilding Champion (Guyana-born) Laura Creavalle in 2015, and the famous Chinese Movie Star Hwang Jang Lee (Silver Fox) in 2016. In 2017, I will be bringing International WWE Wrestling Superstars to Guyana.”
Through his show, Massiah honoured four Guyanese who could be considered as “stalwarts” or even “legends”, and have richly entertained not only the Guyanese public, but would have represented Guyana in overseas competitions and events in what could be dubbed “Ambassadorial” duties.
These awardees include: Sensei Winston Dunbar, who has been training, studying and teaching martial arts for over 50 years; the late Grandmaster Dr. Stephen Michael Monasingh, who did the same for a similar period; Master Frank Woon-A-Tai; and Sensei Jeffrey Wong, for their extraordinary contributions to Martial Arts.
It was during the time of the launch that a team of Martial Arts experts visited Guyana. These experts caught a glimpse of the show and heard Massiah’s call for persons to get more involved in Martial Arts.
In 2015, Massiah received an invitation to attend the Legends of Martial Arts Hall of Fame Ceremony which was held in Pennsylvania, USA. He was awarded the coveted Hall of Fame Award for his extraordinary and dedicated contributions to Martial Arts through his television programme.
“I went there to basically get footage for my programme. I didn’t know they were going to give me an award. When they were calling up persons to receive their awards, they called for Max Massiah and I started to look around because I thought there was another person with the same name as mine, and I wanted to meet that person.
One of the grandmasters gestured at me to go up on stage and I asked what did I do? There were legends from all over the world that received awards that night and I still couldn’t believe that I was awarded. I didn’t believe it…couldn’t believe it!”
Early last month, at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA, Massiah was presented with an “EXPO II & Masters of Martial Arts Award” and “International Martial Arts Ambassador Award”.
During the award ceremony there was a huge display/demonstration which was attended by over 150 World-renowned Martial Artists with ranks of Grandmaster, Master, Hanshi, Sifu, Shihan, & Sensei.
There were close to 100 demonstrations, with Massiah being placed early at number 14 to do his demonstration, using his Nunchaku sticks.
He chose the 245-lb American, Hanshi Johnny Hunter from the audience, to do his “live” demonstration of submission moves, which thrilled the audience to hearty applause.
Massiah said that he has had the honour to meet Chinese Movie-Star, Grandmaster Chui Chi Ling (of Kung Fu Hustle), American actress and martial artist Cynthia Rothrock, Steve Ross and Don “The Dragon” Wilson (11-time World kickboxing Champion, and of “Blood Fist” fame).
Massiah says he continues to practice every day. Though he admits that he still has a long way to go, he is up for the challenge. Noting that the sky is no longer the limit, his intention to leave a mark on this world is admirable.
“My father has a lot to do with who I am as a person and what I learnt from him is what I carry with me always and that is: Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.”
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