Martial arts have played a central role in the life of Sifu Phil Romero for over four decades. Born in 1960 in southern California, Sifu Romero was first exposed to martial arts as a small child when he would watch karate classes and be fascinated by classes full of white gi-clad students. Phil’s family returned to their native New Mexico in 1969, and by 1974 he began studying the kung fu arts of Northern Shaolin and Tai Chi at Albuquerque’s Chinese Cultural Center under Master Charles Lin, where he stayed until 1978. During the latter part of his time with Master Lin Sifu Romero also trained kajukembo under Sifu Gerald Chavez, as well as kickboxing.
After graduating from Highland High School in 1978, Sifu Romero moved to Denver for work, and while there continued in his training of kajukembo and kickboxing with some of Sifu Dascos’ senior students. While he was only in Denver for less than a year, it was there that he was first told about Wing Chun, Jeet Kun Do, and Bruce Lee. When his Denver employer went out of business, Phil returned to his native Los Angeles where, at the recommendation of his cousin, he sought out the JKD school of Danny Inosanto. The following Monday Sifu Romero found Inosanto’s school, and noticed that the very next day at the same school, Master Hawkins Cheung would be teaching Wing Chun. Phil remembered reading about Cheung in Inside Kung Fu, and returned the following night to meet Master Cheung. Sifu Romero ended up becoming a student of Hawkins that night, and he has remained a devoted and loyal student of Master Cheung to this day.
While Wing Chun has always been Sifu Romero’s primary art since that first meeting and training session with Master Cheung, he has also been fortunate to train and cross train with practitioners of many other Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indonesian arts, including Mongolian Dog Boxing, Kodokan Judo, Japanese Jujitsu, and Aikido. More importantly, Sifu Romero has trained Qigong extensively and incorporates its principles in his instruction of Wing Chun.
When his mom became ill in 1990, Sifu Romero began making frequent trips back and forth between Los Angeles and New Mexico to help take care of her, as well as to begin occasional teaching of Wing Chun in the Albuquerque area. 1990 was also the year in which Sifu Romero received the high honor of being selected as a referee in the first ever international Wing Chun chi sau competition. In 1992, Phil and Sifu Dug Corpolongo opened the Acadamy of Kung Fu arts, incorporating their arts in addition to Hun Gar (under Sifu Frank Rivera), Chuka Southern Mantis (under Sifu Manny Rodriguez), as well as many other Chinese kung fu arts under a variety of other instructors.
In early 1995, Sifu Romero joined with Sifu Kurt Saenz, a Santa-Fe based student of respected Wing Chun instructor Sifu Augustine Fong from Tucson, AZ, to introduce Wing Chun to a broader audience throughout the state of New Mexico. By the end of 1995, Sifu Romero had established his official school, the Albuquerque-based Romero’s Wing Chun, where he holds morning and evening Wing Chun and Qigong classes troughout the week. While his Albuquerque school is his home base, Phil continues to spread Wing Chun beyond his own school with his contribution to the founding of UNM’s Institute of Traditional Martial Arts (ITMA), as well as presenting seminars to Wing Chun and non-Wing Chun students alike, throughout the US and around the world.