He leaps from tall buildings in a single bounce. He back flips off towering boulders. And one day he might kick Jackie Chan’s ass. Amy Brown-Bowers profiles Ryerson’s most dangerous man.
He surveys the boulder at Lake Devo. The ground in front of it is scattered with puddles and soggy leaves. Students walking by on Victoria Street hunch into their winter coats and stare at him.
His bare arms pucker with goose bumps. He’s got protective gloves on that hide the scars on his hands. He bobs up and down a few times on his ankles, tosses his head — now he is ready.
He charges the rock, runs up its side and back flips off the top of it. He lands in a squat and slaps the concrete with both hands.
Emerson Wong, a fourth-year information and technology management student, has spent the past year back-flipping off boulders, scaling telephone poles and leaping off roofs.
In the near future he plans on jumping from one moving to another.
Oh year, he wouldn’t mind back flipping off another Ryerson landmark — the bookstore.
Why is Wong keen on killer stunts? Because one day it might pay him $60,000 a day.
Wong wants to break into the film industry as a stunt man.
Last year Wong, along with six other stunt men formed a stunts team. The team is called Ryouko.
Wong’s team trains approximately four hours a day. Their motto is “exploring the limits of the human body.”
Next month Ryouko is going on a cross-Canada tour. Wong refers to the guys on his team as his extended family.
A few months ago Wong’s stunt career flipped forward in a big way.
Acclaimed Hollywood stunt man Tommy Chang agreed to take on Wong as somewhat of an apprentice. Chang’s Bloor and Ossington studio is a highly prized space.
Chang has worked on numerous films, including pictures with Jackie Chan and Wesley Snipes. Chang sees great potential in Wong.
“He wants to see how far he can take (me),” says Wong. Chang refers to Wong as his special project. He attends Chang’s stunt training classes free of charge.
Wong began bugging his parents at right years old to take him to martial arts classes. It took 10 years to wear them down.
Right from the start of his martial arts training, it was apparent Wong had incredible raw talent.
Wong says he was on a faster learning curve than the other students in his classes.
“I could see the movements, and I had better control of my body,” says Wong.
He can only imagine how good he would be now if he had picked up martial arts earlier.
“With that extra 10 years of training, I could have been much better,” says Wong.
There are few extreme stunts Wong will shy from, but he hardly considers himself fearless.
“I feel fear all the time,” he says. “I’m notorious on my team for being the most chicken. I only do (the stunt) if I feel absolutely certain I can do it safely.”
Wong is proud of be Canadian, but he avoids performing in cold weather at all costs.
“In cold weather I’m less agile, I feel more nervous,” says Wong.
Wong’s signature stunt is a back flip off an eight-foot platform onto concrete. The most important part of that stunt is the landing, for those interested in trying it at home.
Wong’s goal is to one day double that height. Which is why he currently has his eye on the Ryerson bookstore.
In an effort to add to his stunt repertoire he has taken up snowboarding, sky diving, dirt biking and dancing.
“I’m still picking up skills, I want to be constantly improving,” says Wong.
“I’d rather be the person doing [stunts] than the person sitting back watching it.”
Wong says his new skills will help him pick up more stunt work.
Hollywood films pay anywhere from $2,000 to $60,000 per day.
Wong says he wants to get to the point where he can turn down work.
He has lofty goals. However, his stunt training may prevent him from achieving them.
“A few years ago I used to be like a machine, sleep wasn’t important,” says Wong.
He’s hoping to complete his ITM degree this year.
But he’s constantly training, learning scripts and responding to fan mail, so graduating on time will be difficult.
Wong is looking forward to his post-graduation years so he can finally pay off his bills. Stunt training has already cost him about $150,000.
To pay for part of his expenses, Wong started his own businesses.
Currently he gets paid for designing Web sites, taking wedding photos, and selling cellular phones accessories.
In addition to being a stunt man, Wong says his long-term goal is to one day own property and rent it to tenants.
Investing in property would provide him with steady money.
“It’s very unstable, what I’m doing now,” says Wong of his budding stunt career.
Wong says if he can avoid injury he plans to be a stunt man for the next 25 years.
According to Wong, one way of staying healthy is eating right.
“What you eat is quite important,” says Wong, who evaluates what food will do to both his body and his skin now that he’s breaking into film.
“Greasy food and chocolate leads to acne.”
Wong would also like to add 20 pounds of muscle so that he is “more of a photographic size.”
But with his remarkable metabolism, this could prove to be a Herculean task.
“It’s very difficult for me to gain weight. I could lose 10 pounds in two days but it takes me two years to gain 10 pounds,” says Wong.