Tuesday, December 30, 2008

WT Vehicle Part 2

To me Wing Tsun is a vehicle for us to learn how to fight. It’s a means of teaching us how to use our body as a weapon but it does not dictate what the final end product will be.  This could be said of any martial art whether it’s karate, kung fu, brazilian jiu jitsu, etc.  It does not necessarily (although there will be influences) dictate how you will fight but it provides you with the skills, tool and knowledge you can use to incorporate into your fighting. Some like the kata and hardcore aspect of training and turn to kyokushin karate.  Others prefer a softer approach as it better reflects their personality or physical attributes and turn to bagua zhang.  In either case, one style doesn’t determine who the better fighter is.  The style simply better suits the person’s learning style so as to better encourage them, provide the necessary tools and skills that fit their body type and temperament, and it would also reflect their understanding of the fight – its psychology, its variables, its emotion. In any event, the style itself is no guarantee of fighting ability.

 

Some will argue that some styles are simply better tailored for fighting than others. Sure, maybe that’s true. Just like how jeeps are better tailored for earthy terrain compared to a Porsche boxter.  But then again, the boxter is better suited for the windy tarmac terrain compared to the jeep. This discussion is best suited for another day…

 

There’s a point where the vehicle does its job – it’s built solidly, has a firm suspension, 415 horses, etc - and so crossing the finish line is all on the driver. . So you’re the driver. You got your tan sao (for the most part), you got your structure (for the most part), you got yourself some good chain punches (for the most part) and you’ve got some tactile sensitivity (for the most part) – these are all aspects we train in class with a partner - So now how are you going to translate that over to the free-fighting scenario?

 

I think this is a question that many are scared to ask themselves.  It’s like day 1 all over again. You’re training your body to react in a different way. It’s fun, but also painful – not only physically but also to the ego. But you can’t let that stop you from what your goals are. Heck, if that were true, WT is not for you.  But this is something where little attention is paid, either in the classroom or even in the martial arts media.  Applied WT is different from WT fighting and it would be something that I’d like to see and trying to figure out for myself…

 

Am I asking that we should spar or, dare I say it, bring into the octagon? Not necessarily. I do appreciate the difference between a street fight from a cage fight – but they do share similarities and introduce variables not found in partner drill training.  In our class, we look at the entire spectrum of fully offensive to fully defensive, from using lots of forward pressure to very little, from an aggressive offensive position to a worse-case compromised position, so why not incorporate some aspect of free-fighting variability, un-cooperative play and physical resistance?

 

Until then and happy new year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wing Chun Perception

Check out Adam Williss's latest post describing the actor's, Robert Downey Jr, turn to wing chun to help him overcome his addiction problems.  I think this is great and brings some well-needed positive light to the martial art.

Perhaps this and the latest Ip Man movie, will help shed some publicity to the art of wing chun. I think it's time that Wing Tsun/Chun get some of lime light and be represented in some mainstream studio production. 

Who should we star to use sell this style? Someone who knows what they're doing..or someone who doesn't? How about an unscripted fight scene? that would be fun...

Until then.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Muscle Building Program

As many of you may know, I'm not in the camp that believes that weight training will slow your wing tsun down. I really believe that when guys say that, it's just an excuse to cover up either their laziness or their insecurities of not being bigger and justify it with the fact tthat they are taking wing tsun, karate, kung fu, etc lessons. 

It's not like i'm endorsing "bulking up" nor do i believe it will make your martial skill any better. i just get a kick out of a black belt snobbing off weight training as they think it'll "slow them down". 

Anyway..

In the beginning of the year, I took part in an online training regimen that helped me lose some weight. I was noticing some fat gains from December '07.  I finished the program in April then the stresses of moving out, renovations, and changes on the career front put the whole weight training program on the back burner.  Couple this with a depleted daily diet, I was losing quite a bit of weight..to the point where I was feeling pretty scrawny and could see it in the mirror too. By this time, it's been a year or longer in which I touched a dumbbell. 

So, in Sept of '08, I started a muscle building program. It was 16 weeks long and the concepts were incredibly simple:

1) Eat lots (for me, that meant eating around 2500-3000 calories a day).
2) Lift hard  (each day that you push weights, either increase by 1 rep or add more weight)
3) Get lots of sleep/rest (this was tougher, but tried to get the 8 hrs). 

The program consisted of 4 days/week training- 2 days upper body and 2 days lower body.   It is known that when you build muscle, you will gain fat, so integrating cardio helps slow this fat gain down. For me, because I was having a hard time consuming enough calories, I skipped out on the cardio. 

The program was set to do the same routine for 2 weeks. Then the routine would change (either in rep count, exercises performed, number of sets, or all of the above).  This would just keep your body guessing and shocked so that it can't get used to the same thing.

In terms of equipment - I have access to dumbbells - the highest was 50 lbs. I also had access to a universal gym (seated bench press, chest flies). Ideally, the program wants you to use a barbbell and dumbbells.  I was limited to what I had and I felt that the universal gym wasn't great but good enough. 50 lb dumbbells are not heavy enough, especially within 4 weeks - but this is up to whatever you're used to.  Also, a chinup bar is ABSOLUTELY neccessary.  I also used a weighted backpack - buying some used weight plates (10lb, 35lb) and shoved them in there. I would also throw in some dumbbells instead of the weight plates into the backpack when it was better suited. 

I could only do max of 3 chinups when I started.

It's been a really fun experience. Workouts weren't longer than 40 minutes and the routine was fun and utilized compound exercises instead of isolation exercises.  The different rep schemes also helped make the routines go by quick. 

My goal - just gain some of the muscle I lost earlier in the year. I'm not trying to get "huge" (and by the way, would be INCREDIBLY difficult to do..) and I didn't care if I gained fat. 

So now I'm almost finished! I have about 2 more weeks left. I will be posting pictures of the progress. So stay tuned!

Until then.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Footwork

When we talk about footwork in the martial art circles, many conjure up the image of Muhammad Ali or Bruce Lee in the "Way (Return) of the Dragon". With the advent of MMA, footwork also can mean sprawling to avoid being taken down to the ground.  

But what about in WT? What does it mean to have good footwork in WT? Unfortunately, the images conjured up are the 'hilarious' stepping scene in the chum kiu and the lack-thereof in the siu-nim-tau.  Even step/punch drills look pretty unorthodox and anything but intimidating.   We don't even have those cool horse/crane/mantis stances either...

So to answer, what is WT footwork? Really, it's all about being mobile in the midst and range of flying punches and kicks. If you notice, many other arts are actually stationary during the delivery of the punch and during the defense of one. All that fancy footwork pauses in the moment the assailant/defender must deal with a kick, punch, attack.  WT footwork, on the other hand, takes the opposite approach - only mobile when you're in the range of punches and kicks. 

That means moving while you can be hit. Moving while you're attacking, moving while a kick is about to hit you. Naturally, the thing to do is to stand there and absorb the blow or deflect it.  Stand there. That means, standing still for that moment. So where's the mobility?

In the flurry of hitting, the WT person should be mobile within hitting range. This also disguises the mobility as well. Kinda cool eh? 

Yep, but you guessed it - it's incredibly difficult to do.  But isn't that always the case with WT?

Until then. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Legs are cool

So in my last post, I discussed the idea of kinetic linking in wing tsun training. The idea being that chi sao and other training tools in the curriculum allow for the practitioner to create this linking and ability to do so more efficiently so that he can absorb force and deliver strikes in a completely upright position, instead of having to take a low/wide stance when throwing a punch or kick.

So once you figure out the kinetic linking idea, you start to realize what muscles you are using (it's a sign that your body is getting more efficient at this!). Now most of the time, we focus on arms and chest. And as you get better, the shoulder, and back muscles too. But we can't forget the legs!

The legs are incredibly huge muscles and shouldn't be ignored. Although not as obvious in the scheme of fighting (beyond kicking), the legs are used to connect your upper torso to the ground. They transfer energy into the ground and from the ground upwards into the arms. SO, my point is, train the legs and the better it can transfer this energy either one way or the other.

As your legs get stronger, that means it can transfer energy out (your punchers are powerful) or that it can absorb a huge amount of energy (your bong sao or pak sao gets incredibly heavier and structured). If you work your legs out regularly, you also increase the limberness in the joints as well as the muscles themselves.

I'm not asking to squat abnormal amount of weights. I'm just saying, don't forget them! I'm sure many of you are doing pushups but why not throw some body weight squats into the mix? or some forward lunges? Even knee bends will help lubricate the joints. You have to admit, standing in IRAS (internal rotation adduction stance) can really make your legs stiff..almost dead. So add a leg exercise to your repetoire in between your SNT and chain punch training..

Until then.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wing Tsun Wall

One of the beauties of Wing Tsun is the ability for the practitioner to develop an incredibly stable stance while being incredibly upright. That allows for us to throw heavy punches without having to really lower the centre of gravity by way of taking a really low and/or wide stance approach. We can stand normally, as if you're talking to a friend, and throw a punch that will move the guy off his feet and we, as the puncher, do not move off from our original position.

Try this experiment - standing in front of a punching bag (50lb, or whatever you wanna start with), stand normally, feet parallel as if you're about to knock on a door (as opposed to one foot in front of the other). Now throw a punch into the bag and see what happens. Does the bag move? Or do you move? or is it both? Ideally, only the bag moves.

How is this possible? Well, the term kinetic linking has been thrown around to describe the linking between the ground, through the various parts of our body to the tip of punch, which explains how a punch can be so powerful as all the energy built from each linkage is exerted out and into the target. When punching, many take a wider stance, with one foot in front of another, as this is more natural for kinetic linking to take place. But this is where wing tsun shines - it trains the body to develop the ability of kinetic linking with an upright stance.

How is this done? Chi sao. Over time, and when trained properly, the body starts to learn how to transfer force into the legs from the arms and from the legs into the arms in an upright stance...well because chi sao is trained in an upright stance. Your body just gets used to it after a while. You can stand up right, and when really good, knees LOCKED and still throw a powerful punch!

But does that mean this is the approach we should take when fighting? Absolutely not. It would be a shame to only throw punches with feet parallel or center of gravity high. But assuming you can throw a punch in a such an "awkward" position, just imagine the BOOM you would have in your punches should you take a lower stance or "one foot in front of the other" position!

This is where "function" comes in play. Once the kinetic linking abililty is discovered, you don't have to neccessarily abide to the "form" of WT...in terms of application.

Until then.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

November Calgary Seminar - Part 2


So now that you know what I did in Calgary, let's take a look at what I thought of the Calgary seminar experience..

Some points:

1) The students are a great group. I wish I could say it better. But this is the one major thing that I could feel right off the bat. The students were there to have fun, to learn and to kick some butt. No one was shy from new experience and everyone was eager to work with everyone else. The energy was positive. There was no ego and no partner preference (you know, the guy/gal that only wants to work with the "easy" partners). These cats wanted to train hard...and punch harder. You guys are incredibly motivating...

And, just on a general note, people could shake hands well. You know, eye contact, good grip and smile. I mean, that says a lot on its own, and i have to respect that. Not to take anything away from the hugs at all... It's just a reflection of character and personality. Great to see in my books.

2) Of course, this type of atmosphere was fostered by a good leader and teacher. German was a pleasure to train with. It was all about helping each other. I really appreciated that. He could let go and just train colleague to colleague in front of his own students. And I think the students also respect that too. In the politics of the wing tsun circles, it seems that it's only about image (teacher always wins, students can never hit or attempt to hit the teacher back) and not the hard work and sweat that goes into learning wing tsun. It was not about who hit who when we trained..instead it was about figuring out how to reproduce results and to take each other to that next level.

3) And Si-Fu, as always, manages to turn it up a notch to get the guys going. The energy, mixed with some humour, practical examples, and of course, amazing wing tsun skill provides an enlightening, entertaining and motivating experience for the entire class. His perspective reinvents the wheel each time for all of us as we journey through this WT path. How can you not appreciate what he gives day in and day out at his school? Us WT-Vancouverites are a lucky group.

Now I have to say it'd be great to see you guys make it to Vancouver! Unfortunately, I don't really have any means to contact you guys, but you can definitely hit me up at byam@functionalwingtsun.com at least to stay in touch.

Hopefully next time I will get an opportunity to train with each and everyone you.

I know some of you follow this blog, so please forward this to those that haven't seen it yet! I actually would love it if you guys could do a guest entry some time and share your experiences (good and bad).

So yea, I definitely had a great time! Would I do it again? Yes. Under one condition - I get a picture with the ladies too.

Until then.





Sunday, November 30, 2008

November Calgary Seminar - Part 1

Well folks, I'm back in Van city from a very refreshing and exciting WT seminar in Calgary. This is the second one of the year that Si-Fu has held. Now, before I begin, I have to let you know that my summary of the seminar will be a two part series. So please drop by on the Wednesday for my final thoughts and reflections.

Ok, so my decision to fly to Calgary was a last minute one. I wanted to check out the first one, but due to scheduling conflicts, I was unable to attend. This one, however, I could. Thought the plane/airport thing would add to the seminar experience too. And of course, I thought it would be great to say hello to our WT neighbours. I'd say in these martial circles, politics, ego and an overall "my school is better than yours" mentality reigns supreme. What better way to change that than to meet new faces and learn from each other...and in their home court ;)

A big thanks goes out to Sifu German Ferrer. For those that don't know him, this guy is not only very skilled in the system, but also incredibly dedicated, passionate, and enthousiastic about WT and this energy is passed onto his students. He is also very hospitable, letting me stay under his roof and making sure his WT brothers are treated as family. It was a pleasure meeting his lovely wife and daughter and, of course, Ninja, their adorable and VERY energetic dog.

More about his students on Wednesday so stay tuned..

So here's the schedule breakdown of my trip there...

9:15 pm - Scheduled departure time from YVR delayed to 11.45pm.

9:30 pm - Hit on the cute WestJet attendants a little bit. Wasn't getting any positive feedback from her...so I broke out the PSP to kill some time.

10 - 11:30pm - Played God of War for the PSP. Levelled up a few times (new combos, new powers), and killed the main level boss guy too. All in all a very productive gaming session. I also made a bet with the guy next to me in the departure gate that there were no Tim Horton's in the area. He gave me his in flight snack since I won the bet (score!).

12:15 (PST) - 2:20am (Calgary time) - Still working on the PSP. Incredible battery life by the way. No crying babies on the plane. I had a sprite and some Bits and Bites for my snack. The girls behind me were really annoying. They kept complaining about life because their vacation was over. One of them sounded liked they smoked WAAYYY too much.

2:30ish am - catch a cab. But the guy doesn't know the address! So i had to hop onto 2 other cabs, until one of them knew the area.

3am - cabbie got lost finding the place. But I ended up at German's place.

3:30am - Sleep. Well more like an attempt to. After all the running around and the excitement of having landed and all, it was hard to get to sleep. I would suspect I didn't really fall into a good sleep until 5ish.

8:30 am - wake up go for breakfast with Si-Fu Ralph and German. Had the egg's benny in case any of you guys are wondering. Lots of coffee too. Waiter liked to use expressions like "thank you my friend" or "you got it my friend". Sifu Ralph and German gave me the run down of who's who at his school. Apparently he's got a couple samurai's in his club, wide variety of experience and a wide variety of personalities. All good people. I was getting really siked at this point the sleepiness was gone.

11:30 am - 1pm; 2pm-4.30pm - Seminar is underway. I got to meet all the new faces. Everyone was smiling and joking around - just the way i like it. The atmosphere was set as friendly and everyone was eager to get started.

I had the pleasure of working with German for the entire seminar. We started off with "dynamic" poon sau to warm up, just waking our limbs up and getting our bodies moving. Then we went onto the technician chi sao sections, in particular section 6 and 7 with its variations for the remainder of the class. Taking this slowly, then increasing the speed, only to take it down a notch when we felt the concept of the drills were starting to deteriorate. At this point, we started to work up a good sweat.

Because the majority of my time was spent with German, I was unable to see what the rest of the group was doing. I do know that Si-Fu did take the students one-on-one for a round of his signature lat-sao drill around the room, and letting the students really give him all they've got. Everyone chain punched their heart out. And, as expected, all of us (yea, i was one of them) were exhausted after that and Si-Fu just laughs...as usual. Then a group of ninjas dropped down from the roof and we kicked their asses. I had the special task of taking out the white ninja (you know, the lead ninja), using a secret move that Si-Fu showed me only the night before, but I practiced that all night under the stars and supervision of "the Force". Ok, that last bit was a complete lie.

In what seemed like only an hour, the seminar was over. Pictures were taken. Si-Fu was the lucky man to have taken a picture with the ladies ;) A dinner was planned for 6pm that night, so we all had to leave and get ready for that.

5:30pm - we get home, and BAM, i'm exhausted. My body is tired and I can feel the effects of little sleep taking its toll.

6:15pm - we are at the dinner. The dinner consisted of a Chinese smogasbord. Good eats :) I was starving...and yes, I admit. Contrary to WT/Kung fu eating ettiquette, I was the first at our table to have gotten food. Si-Fu handed out certificates to the participants of the seminar. In addition, he announced (the well-deserved) Sifu status for German. As a nice touch, he included a card that his students would sign to commemorate this designation. Congratulations German!

Photos were taken, as well as good conversation. I made my way to the second table as well just to get to know the people better. People brought their wives/husbands and it was great meeting them as well. All were very personable! And they really liked to hug too!

9:30pm - dinner ends. We all say our goodbyes and head home. Interesting to note, many wanted to stick back and just join in on the conversations. Good sign of a team/family spirit.

10-11pm - Sifu Ralph, German and I just relax for the evening. Just enjoying the peace and quiet, interspersed
with conversation. Only, to our surprise, a group of ninjas bust through the door again. But this time, they were ninja turtles. (Joke getting old?)

I call it a night.

Sleep is wonderful, but still felt short-lived.

7.30 am - up and head to the airport for my 9am flight back to Vancouver.

So there you have it. And in case any of you are wondering, I'm actually stuck at the next boss guy in God of War. So i'll have to Google how to beat her.

Until then.












Sunday, November 23, 2008

Collection of Forms

What is up with people's obsession with collecting forms? In particular, learning the wooden dummy form or the biu tze? There is the impression that as soon as you learn these form, then you're getting somewhere. As if, you can fight now that you know how to whack a block of wood. C'mon, that's ridiculous.

These guys judge skill based on how many forms you know. Seriously, this has got to be one of the dumbest things in the martial art circles.  When I was in karate, i realized that to be a second degree black belt, you had to know all katas and kumite drills from white belt to black belt, plus another 10-15 katas for second degree black belt. And yet, when sparring, all they got is the reverse punch, front kick and round house. What a waste.

That's actually one of the reasons as to why I left. It wasn't fighting or practical skill that determined black belt status, it was how good your memory was.

Seriously folks. let the katas/forms go. 

Until then.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The WT whisperer

There is this show on the National Geographic channel called the "dog whisperer". I'm a dog guy, so this show has me hooked. It's about this guy (Cesar Millan) who goes dog owner's homes to rehabilitate their dogs. These dogs are usually troubled cases from abusive households, accidents, etc that exhibit dominant, aggressive, and/or protective behaviour to people, animals, or objects. 

Dogs communicate in the most primal form of language - body language and states of energy (excitement, relaxed, submissiive). This Cesar guy is amazing, within minutes he can transform a growling, protective pitbull into a submissive "dog". He can read their body language and understand the importance of energy states. 

So, what does that mean for us? Simply, actions like taking away space, inflating of the chest and eye contact are all dominant traits. This will also trigger aggression from others. While, submissive dogs are prone to being attacked.  The ones that are "balanced" display calm, assertive energy. This is a state that we should project at all times, when strolling in a parking lot, on a dark street. 

When emitting this calm assertive state, it tells others that you're not a threat but you're confident and aware. Just because we know kung fu doesn't give us the right to look like mr. tough guy otherwise, trouble will find us. At the same time, we don't want to submissive (avoid eye contact, hunch the shoulders) as attackers would interpret that as easy prey even though you may have some mad WT skills. 

This calm assertive energy neutralizes the threat. That, my friends, is self defense.

Until then. 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Really?

So I can't say I'm one who enjoys the adrenaline rush of a real fight. I'm not the type to look for trouble, but instead like to dissipate it or buy a guy a beer. In my limited experience (less than 5) of real fights (not sparring or controlled fighting situations), I was under the impression that fights usually escalate as a result of protecting someone, or being mugged, or someone is aggressive towards your girlfriend or whatever the case...

But what I'm starting to realize is that fights can happen for absolutely no reason at all. Like none - no reason. Just the other guy wants to fight and will find some excuse to make it happen. Whether you bumped into him by accident, or looked at him, or didn't. If they want to fight you, they will. That means, if i wanted to buy a guy a drink to dissipate a situation, the guy will still escalate the hate. You can't win in those situations.

I mean, REALLY buddy? Are guys that dumb, drunk or whathaveyou that this is what I have to expect?

Unfortunately yes. In one sense, that's just sad. In another sense, we gotta be ready.

And then, the next question is - "is it worth fighting?" You get handled by the bouncers, tossed out the club and banned....and the club is full of amazing women.

That's not cool.

Until then.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

WT Vancouver Nucleus

The school that I attend is one of a kind. My instructor brought over the German-flavoured Wing Tsun and made it his own.  His teaching, and thus our resource, stems from a variety of teachers, seminars, and life experiences (read about his history here). 

From day 1, he's stressed that my Wing Tsun will be expressed differently from his, and from my colleagues as it reflects our physical attributes, character, temperament, preference, etc.  Of course, as students we have to go through the process of mimicking or copying the teacher, but we all know that eventually this dissolves and true expression of ourselves through WT is the ultimate goal.

Now, i've been fortunate to be one of the few - I would say part of the nucleus - that have made it to the technician levels under my Sifu and to join the ranks of a handful of other fellow WT'ers. 

What I've started to watch for in the last year or two is to see how each individual has or is in progress of making WT their own. I would say that some struggle, while others you can see their approach and how they try to make it work, and often enough, it totally reflects their character. 

It is very interesting. 

This is how kung fu (whether wing chun, tong long, choy lee fat, karate, etc) ought to be applied.  I think this where many students in other arts struggle. When it comes to any activity, you have to make it your own. Is this an insult to your kung fu ancestors? Hell no. It's only an insult to a teacher that's full of it, has no idea what he's teaching and is threatened by students not growing and learning for themselves.

Does this mean you should learn ground fighting in addition to WT? No, not necessarily. But if you wanted to, more power to you. What this DOES mean is that you express a little bit about yourself in every tan sao, punch, chop that you throw.

Until then.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween 2008

It was my favourite "holiday" - Halloween! Once again downtown was brimming with energy, excitement and scantily dressed (drunk) women :)

that's all. Thanks for dropping by.

Just kidding.

In the clubbing adventures, I've seen a few guys getting into some shoving matches here and there. It's usually on the dance floor or at the bar. Some happen on the streets, but usually this is just carry over from having been kicked out by the bouncers. Usually the fights, if any, are quick and dirty. No time to square up, judge distance, etc.

A few years back, maybe around 2000/2001, I was in at the Atlantis nightclub where two guys started getting into a scuffle and it escalated into something more. The difference was one guy actually started to use his ground fighting skills. This is a rarity - to see ground fighting in the club. The guy took his assailant down and you can tell already he knew what he was doing. The dance floor opened up and they were literally tossing on the ground right around my legs. Then...

CRASH! The guy right beside me smashes his drink on the ground fighter's head. Then his friend kicks him. I say to him, "you know that guy?" He's like, "nope! but this is fun!"

That was an eye opener.

Anything happened to me? Not really. I came away safe that time. But I did realize that even when you have the advantage, anything can happen. Especially in the setting of real life..and surrounded by drunk men. You just never know.

You realize that even if you feel confident about your skills, there are factors that are out of your control. The best way to control for that is prevention - don't get into the fight. That is your best line of defense.

Until then.




Monday, October 27, 2008

Economics

The stock market is crashing down to record lows. It seems that every channel you turn to, the news headlines are the economy and the US Presidential election. For months, we Canadians have been told by economists that, although we are not immune, we would not be as hard hit as our American neighbours in terms of the housing price slashes and in terms of overall economy. Within the last few months, we are seeing price decreases, with some new condos slashing prices by 20% (in addition to lower promotional mortgage rates). And now, only a few days ago, condo developments in Vancouver (The Ritz/Onni) and in Surrey have stopped construction. Most likely because the developers are having troubles finding money to finance these projects.

So how is this affecting your wingtsun studies in terms of tuition payments? or even commitment time? perhaps you need to put in more hours at work to make more or to get in good with the boss for job security purposes.

or maybe this won't affect you at all.

To many, this is a hobby, while to others it's an indispensable one. I mean, wing tsun training is a relatively good investment. Instead of purchases (bag of chips, beer with the guys, etc), WT is investment into yourself. You are making yourself better than before - a sense of appreciation in the time and money you've put into it. This is your health and safety too.

So, is the economy affecting your training?

Until then.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The WT Structure

Kung Fu is generally taught in a relatively unstructured way. There is no ranking system - it's just the time put in, seniority and what sifu wants to teach you that day. Many in wing chun circles feel this is how wing chun should be taught, just like our ancestors. It is the Chinese way. Actually, this unstructured teaching method was one of the reasons why karate implemented a ranking system. Otherwise the quality of teaching was inconsistent. Some students knew more than they should and others less. Others missed out on complete sections and just thought it wasn't taught. Then comes the arguments of what system is right or best.

This is where the ranking system in WT comes in handy. It's not a measure of fighting skill, per se, but a measuring for one's own progress. What does erk me a little is that some think that because that a set curriculum does exist, somehow, it's less-effective or not as good as other schools that teach without a ranking system.

But I have to admit, in my experience, the ones that laugh at the structure are also the ones that show less than impressive wing chun. Why focus on what is wrong with a technician grade ranking system when, instead, it can provide benefits?

The technician grade system lays out the basic skeleton on how your progress SHOULD proceed. This at least gives you some idea of what to expect for yourself, from your teacher and where you want to be.

On the first day of school, what does your teacher give you? the curriculum for the entire semester - when are your exam dates, project dates, presentation, final exam, course material, etc.

Now imagine a school where the curriculum isn't standardized. There is no exam date, there is no criteria on how your project is marked, and there may or may not be an exam.

YOU tell me, which school would you want your kids to be enrolled in?

So why laugh at the ranking system of WT?

Until then.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Technician Testing

www.wingtsun.ca is the official Leung Ting school in Canada. Like our school, there was recently a technician grade testing.


Here's the link to the footage taken of the testor undergoing the "exam". In case you need to figure out who that is, he's the guy with the black shirt. And I say that because, you really can't tell who's winning. Is that a sign of skill?

http://www.wingtsun.ca/multimedia/videos/

*They suck. There. I said it.



*Not saying I'm good. I'm just saying that it should be distinguishable as to who's at the higher position. It's a bitch-slap of a fight. Where's the body control, the mobility/stability of the legs? You just see a flurry of patty-cake flickering of hands that, yes, WT/WC/VT is guilty of being known for.

Oh and at 0:38, there are two black shirt guys. I THINK the one that's senior (based on his badge on his shirt) falls down and they cut the scene. hahahaha..why even include the clip. Unless, I'm mistaken and he's the junior? Anyway, I should keep my mouth shut. We're all as vulnerable as the next WT guy...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weight Training

We just wrapped up the last seminar for the year. It was a four part seminar - something that hasn't been done before. Steve McMinn (link to his blog on the right) gave a presentation on kettlebell training. As part of his technician grade requirements, Steve discussed how kettlebell training fits with the physical requirements of wing tsun. I found the talk incredibly informative and a good introduction to the kettlebell. Being a personal trainer, and a great training partner, his talk introduced us to proper form, what muscles are used and how that relates to WT.

Steve is probably one of the few guys, in my experience, that have actually advocated by example, that WT can be practiced in conjunction to weight training. This has also been my experience, but my purposes for training may be different for others. First of all, I don't train to increase bulk/size. I don't train to necessarily make my wing tsun better. I only train because I enjoy it and the physical fitness gained from it. I am no expert, but over time have tried to learn what weight/resistance training is all about.

Here is what I've learned so far:

1) You cannot bulk up muscle while maintaining a low fat percentage. It's either one or the other. You get strong, but at the same time (because of the increased caloric intake) you will gain weight and that gut.

2) High intensity interval training and Tabata training is a more effective form of cardiovascular training compared to long, marathon-like cardio sessions.

3) The body is an incredibly efficient and adaptable machine. So it's a good idea to switch up your exercises every 2-4 weeks to "confuse" your muscle.

4) There is a muscle to mind connection.

5) Resistance training without any WT training will diminish your skills in WT (at least for chi sao).

6) Workouts shouldn't last longer than an hour.

7) Working out the legs is more important that working out the upper body, in particular the biceps, chest, etc.

This is it for now. I'm sure there will be more.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mental Block

So far, I've discovered three major stages of hitting. Perhaps there are more - but I don't know any better to say otherwise at the time of writing.

1) There's hitting at the target. You hit the target - you make contact with the target. Simple (and as bland) as that.

2) There's hitting the target. This time you can make an impact on the target. You hit and the force is felt. Albeit, it may not be dramatically damaging, but at least you're not rocking yourself back and the target in front of you is moving as a result of your hit.

3) There's hitting through the target. This one is what we want. Its like a cannon ball being sent through the brick wall. You're solid enough to be able to hold your ground, your hands/wrists can sustain the impact and all the force dissipates into and beyond the target.

The third stage is not neccessarily a result of a lack of physical attribute - weak wrist, small fist, not fast enought, etc. What really impedes progress at this stage is also mental - because we know the target exists we cannot hit beyond it.

take this as an example; first, trying punching a door. Then, have someone blindfold you, spin u around and have u throw a punch, not knowing whether there is a door in front of you or not. If u do happen to hit the door, you'll find that the impact and commitment of hitting the door unknowingly is, by default, more powerful than simply seeing the door and hitting. Why is this?

It's all mental.

There is no spoon.

Until then.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Magnetic Zone

What is the “magnetic zone”? It’s the area between the attacker and the WT defender, in which the attacker can make physical contact either by a punch, kick, grab etc. The maximum distance of the zone, is generally measured as the distance a stomach level side kick, delivered by the attacker, can cover without taking an additional step.
 
It is in this range in which the WT defender can be attacked. Once the attacker moves into the zone, it is the responsibility of the defender to bridge distance as fast as possible, smothering any incoming attack – hence the term “magnetic” zone.  This is also a very dangerous situation, in the sense that it makes or breaks the outcome of the fight.  Hesitation will definitely be a factor. If, however, the defender can bridge this distance safely while yielding a forceful attack, it will maximize both damage to the attacker and maximize safety for the defender.  But this is only ideal. During the bridging, any attack can be delivered. So that means the defender must not only be able to cross distance, but he’s got to be able to defend against an oncoming attack at the same (whether it’s a punch, kick, chop, tackle) and throw his own attack in there. This all happens within one step. The defender must also pack boom into his punches.
 
It is a critical time of the fight.
 
Otherwise, you may resort to a few other options that is more “naturally occurring”.
 
1)       You close distance and grab onto him and he grabs onto you – how good are you at grappling?
2)       You maintain distance and square each other up and start trading shots from a distance, a la round 12 of western boxing – are you taller than he is? how long can you keep this up?
3)       To maintain distance, especially against a taller opponent, you are placed right in his sweet spot where he can punch you and kick you fine, but for you, he’s slightly out of reach. – how good is your pain tolerance?
 
Until then.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kung Fu Fighting

Let's take a moment to look at what characteristics define real kung fu application. In other words, what does real kung fu look like? This is not about practice or drill work, but in actual application.

1) If you clearly show your technique, that is NOT kung fu. That includes whether you show definitive tan sao punch, regardless of how structurally or positionally correct it is, it is still not kung fu. When applied, kung fu technique is not distinguishable. Only function is distinguishable.

2) if you must pull back to throw the next attack, that is not kung fu. Chinese boxing relies on going forward regardless of where your limbs are.

3) If attacks travel in a straight line, that is not kung fu. Sure, in training there are techniques and weapons that travel in a straight line, but in application there is twisting and circular rotation from the ground up and within the delivery of the attack.

4) Attacks are not delivered from specific points, like the fist or first knuckle. Instead, the whole arm is the weapon, and if the contact point happens to be the first knuckle, then so be it.

5) There is no definitive offense/defense in each movement, instead, all movements contain elements of defense and attack and the possiblility to transition into a defense or attack. This explains why in 1), there is no clear technique. it can't be one or the other - it has to be both.

6) Kicks are seldomly delivered above the waist. In practice, especially in other arts, kicks are delivered at various heights. But this is all training. In reality, kicks are delivered below the waist to hide the kick, as well as minimize the compromising situation of throwing a kick. Also, the opponent is in a compromised position or controlled position at the limbs, in which a kick can be safely delivered.

7) Kicks/punches are not repeatedly thrown simply by the limb itself. Kicks and punches are thrown using the entire body. The whole body is the fist.

As you can see, the defining characteristics are very involved and clearly shows why kung fu training is long, painful and takes a lot of determination in order for it to be applicable for fighting. Unlike other arts, it takes a heck of a lot in order for it to be functional. Chinese fighting is incredibly different from any other martial art. I'm not saying other arts can't hit hard, or aren't effective - i'm simply saying that if you want to deliver an attack in true chinese form, it's gonna take a lot. Maybe that explains why so much has been lost, or that only forms competition is popular or that kung fu has been given such a bad wrap.

Until then.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Shadow Boxing

Ever tried shadow boxing? Doesn't sound so "wing chun" does it? But I have to say it's a very good drill. Extrememly good. Especially since it's very unlikely that we incorporate it into the regular class curriculum. So why even consider it?

1) Cardiovascular - when done in rounds (eg. 30s rounds or 60s rounds for 5-10 rounds) it can be an intense cardiovascular workout.

2) Full power - you can practice launching your attacks at full power if you wanted to. There's no restrictions - you don't have to worry about hurting your partner since there isn't one.

3) Creativity - you can unleash your creative side as there is no restrictions to the type of attacks you want to throw. You don't have to just throw chain punches or fak saos, you can do whatever you want to.

4) Movement - you'll move in a way you've never moved before. You'll discover ways to unleash powers that may seem very "unwing chun" like but delivered in a "wing chun" way. You'll discover what your body has to do in order to allow you to move like that...and learn the restrictions that you may have been inflicted on yourself during training.

Of course, i'm not asking that you forget about wing tsun or what you have learned. I'm asking you to take the idea of shadow boxing and incorporate into your knowledge of wing tsun. It's a tool for you to expand your horizon beyond the chain punch, tan sao, bong sao...or just a way for you to move from one move to the next as smooth, fast and as hard as you can for several rounds. It's exhausting..and the next day, incredibly painful .

Try it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Interdependent RElations

The WingTsun kung fu curriculum can be compared to as that of an ecosystem - each building block affects the other building blocks, which ultimately determines where your kung fu progress will be. 

If your stance training is not good, it will affect chi-sao, forms training, etc. If your chi sao is good, but your forms training is not, again your kung fu will be limited. 

Much like other chinese kung fu systems, the entire curriculum is made up of different stages that precede free fighting.  This means, forms training, then basics training, then stance training, then partner exercises, then chi sao, then more chi-sao, then drills, then back to forms...it's a long ways away. 

What this means is that you can't skip out on one and expect brilliant results. All the training is connected and dependent on each other. This is what makes kung fu and wing tsun so damn difficult to learn and takes so long to apply. Which also explains why so many can't use it to fight and instead, just stick to forms competition or resort to some psudo-kickboxing.

Sure, one can be a good fighter without all the pieces, but just not a skilled practitioner of a kung fu system, like wing tsun/chun/etc. 

It's imperative to realize that the end product is not about just chi-sao or just about wooden dummy, or collecting all the latest and coolest clips, books, magazines and tricks. It's about doing everything.

Simple enough, eh?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Internal vs. External

The debate continues: what is better, "internal arts" or "external arts"? First, the question must be answered: What is the definition of "internal" or "external arts"? Well, herein lies the problem. No one really knows. I'm sure there are those that think or believe they know, but extensive research as well as those within real kung fu circles, know that there really is no real distinction between an internal art or an external one.

Conventional thinking generally defines internal arts as soft arts, like tai chi or bagua, while external arts are thought of as hard-striking/training arts, like hung gar or shaolin fist. Well we have to go back to yin/yang theory - every art has both yin and yang, which means, a complete kung fu system, regardless of style is has both yin/yang aspects, hence both internal and external training forms and methods.

Some feel that "internal arts" is defined by the location of which an art originated (eg. wudang), but again, I doubt this.

An art that is completely external or internal is not combat kung fu anymore. It's not kung fu. Sure it could be a fighting system, but doesn't fall under the definition of Chinese kung fu. And this can't be any truer. Experts in internal arts are the last ones to deny that the system is soft and should be applied as such. Tai chi is to be used for combat (at least, used to) and we all know combat is ugly, gruesome, sloppy and well..full contact.

What's interesting is that in terms of my WT journey, some would classify the class to be a hard style, while others would call it soft. It depends on what was being taught that day. In my experience, I've noticed my Si-Fu take a turn for the "softer" route..but i'm not sure if this is because it's in his own recent discovery, or simply because it's time for me to learn this stuff and he knew this all along. Let me make it clear, that when I say softer, i don't mean weaker..but instead a more internal approach - the idea of not even being there for the attacker to hit, rather than deflect, wedge or bong, or whatever term you want to use.

If this is true, then perhaps internal or external is not means of classifying kung styles, but rather a means to distinguish levels in expertise, regardless of style. For example, as a student progresses, he moves from an external understanding and application to an internal one. interestingly, in the english language, I could say that as expertise is gained, the art is further "internalized" so well into our bodies and mind, in which one could use less effort to defeat an attacker, which could be interpreted either by an attacker, witness or defender as being a softer art. But note, this would be true in any style of combat.

Until then.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Kick is Just a Kick

I think it was in the Tao of Jeet Kune Do that I read a statement to the effect of: “A kick is just a kick” then as you progress “A kick is not just a kick” and then as you master the art, “A kick is just a kick”.
 
I had no idea what that meant..or at least, pretended that I understood. Here’s my current understanding now that WT has given me a new perspective:
 
Beginner: A kick is just a kick. A punch is just a punch.
 
Well it’s as simple as that. At the beginner stage you learn what a punch or kick is, how to throw one and that it’s purpose is to hit an intended target.
 
Intermediate: A kick is not just a kick. A punch is not just a punch.
 
At this stage, you realize that your kick can be other options instead of just kicking. It could become a really long step, it could be “jammed” and converted into a knee strike, it could be “diverted” and have to react as a defensive maneuver. Same with the punch – the punch could turn into a tan sao, or diverted into a fak sao, depending on the type of contact it receives as the punch is delivered.
 
Master (although I’m not saying I’m a master, just the proper word escapes me at the moment): A kick is just a kick. A punch is just a punch.
 
As the student progresses from an intermediate level to a more expert level, he realizes that regardless of all the options a punch can turn into (bong sao, fak sao, lap sao, etc) or a kick can turn into (bong gerk, yap gerk, knee, foot stomp, ankle strike, etc), he still wants to be able to hit the opponent. Ideally, with his initial intended attack (hence a punch or a kick) as this maximizes efficiency while minimizes time/energy loss and extraneous variables.  
 
So we come full circle. Very yin/yang wouldn’t you say? How Chinese kung fu is that?? Good sign in my opinion.
 
Until then.
 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Respect the Basics

Unlike the conventional training methods of wing chun, WT takes pride in teaching its lessons by providing different scenarios to the student. Sometimes its defending yourself against a drunk asailant, others its just a variation of a particular chi sao section. With such variety, it's easy to see that many of the basic fundamentals are lost or, to say the least, not focussed on.

Take for example, the front kick or the forward step. Can you perform these with accuracy? How about with precision? Is it robust-can you apply it under various situations? In other words, there needs to be some kind of quality control in the basic foundations in which bong sao or fak sao rely on.

Yes, this type of training is tedious and just plain boring. But you're fooling yourselves in thinking that this isn't needed. I mean, ya it MIGHT work without knowing all the basics...but just imagine what you could produce if you "mastered" the basics.

Kung fu is not for everyone. This is why, back in the day, there was much involved and testing in the selection of a student (stand in horse stance, learn just a few stances or moves)- it is an "interview" process conducted by the teacher to select the student with the right character to handle the "boring" stuff.

Just cuz its boring doesn't make it less important.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kung Fu Part II

To add to my last post, we will now examine the physiological characteristics that define kung fu. These points are found in all styles of REAL kung fu. Even though you may be learning from a legitimate instructor, if he/she has not taught these to you or if you have not absorbed and incorporated this into your training, then what you are practicing is NOT kung fu. So, to the points we go.

  1. Head: held straight up and neck relaxed. It should feel as if a plate is resting on your head and the sky is pulling your hair upward.
  2. Eyes: eyelids are normal and relaxed, not bugging out or tense. The mind is responsible for awareness and feeling, not the eyes.
  3. Nose: breathing is normal, even and gentle and through the nose.
  4. Mouth: Lips closed, but with no tension. Tongue touches the roof of the mouth.
  5. Shoulders: Sink the shoulders, relaxed.
  6. Back: the spine should be held straight, not caved in (to the point when the chest expands due to overstretching the spine).
  7. Chest: relax, to not puff out the chest. Keep it "empty" and let the back lead and the chest follows.
  8. Stomach: should not be tense, but pliable like a suede leather bag. Also led by the back, and the stomach follows.
  9. Hips: provide support for the waist and lead the hips.
  10. Buttocks: 90 degrees from the ground. They should not stick out.
  11. Rectum: misconception to seal the anus. This is not healthy, instead do not pay attention to the anus and remain as is, focusing on relaxation of tendons, ligaments, muscles of the entire groin area.
  12. Elbows: weighted and heavy.
  13. Hands: relaxed and waiting. Punches/attacks originate from the spine, to the shoulders, elbows, wrist and then hands.
  14. Knees: relaxed and coordinate with the ankles/feet. The legs lead the way, as such, the knees are vital.
  15. Feet: relaxed and are lead by the ankles. Feet and toes should naturally grip the ground without extra tension.
So how does your style fair?

This is found in Adam Hsu's "the Way of Kung Fu"

Until then.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kung Fu

I'm reading this book by Adam Hsu. The author has a background in long fist kung fu, bagua and tai chi. It's a very interesting read. Coming from a traditional method of training, you can see that he's got a lot of experience in real kung fu and not just that flashy stuff that we usually come to think of "kung fu". Given his experience with various styles, the author has been able to determine certain characteristics that make kung fu distinct from other martial art styles yet stay within the confines of what would define kung fu as kung fu. Anything that deviates from these characterstics, whether its wushu or encompasses these characteristics whether its karate, it is considered kung fu.

Beautifully, all the characteristics are encompassed in the WT i'm learning. That's a good sign ;)

Here's what he calls the DNA of kung fu - the building blocks that are found in real kung fu, regardless of lineage, style, etc.

- a strong foundation: horse stance

- an offensive/defensive action stance: empty leg stance

- kicks do not use the arms for balance (the arms are busy controlling or dealing w/ attacks during the kick)

- entire body finishes moving at the same time

- punch from the spine

- both fists hit the same target

- split attention (hands/feet are independent of each other)

- joints are never locked (at first i thought this contradicted WT punching, but soon realized a lot of the locking of the punch is for training/stretching purposes)

- never hyperextend the shoulders and back

- Breath through the nose

- Qi is held in the dantian (sink...)

- Internal and external must go together

- No preparatory action (don't pull your fist prior to punching)

- All movements contain chan si jin (silk reeling energy or rotation/drilling energy generated from the ground up and through the entire body and focused out to the fist)

- Global awareness (see all around you, mind is trained and relaxed)

- Multi purpose movement (defensive/offensive techniques are interchangeable)

- Double layered training (improves health, mind, physical abilities, not just "to fight")


Until then.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Relax!

WT is all about maintaining relaxation – it’s one of the primary solutions to the many situations that arise. Of course, here’s where I insert the disclaimer that “relaxation” does not mean to be weak, but simply (in my opinion) to not give the opponent any of your strength or rigidness to work off of. Phyically, this entails that the WT student keeps shoulders low, elbows sink, qi is not stored in the chest but in the dan tien, etc.

Reality is, for many of us however, that being tense during a confrontation is so normal of a tendency (and such a natural response) that should it be ignored? Could it be ignored? Can we really “relax” when buddy is throwing a punch at us?

My answer is No. You cannot be relaxed as you want or think you should be. But you CAN be more relaxed relative to the attacker. In class, we are surrounded by other WT students who have also been taught to be relaxed, to attack, etc. So what does that mean? It means that we are constantly reminded of our inability to relax every week. What we sometimes forget is that the attacker that we may face one day is very unlikely to be another WT/WC stylist…what may seem “stiff” to you may be seem as incredibly “relaxed” to him.

Does this mean we should strive for mediocre relaxation? Of course not. This is just one way of looking at things. Gotta keep up the practice. It’s kind of like giving presentations in front of a huge audience. First time, tenseness creeps up and is visible to the audience. As you keep doing it – trying to relax but keep putting yourself in stressful situations, eventually, inside, you may feel that you were tense but the audience can’t see it. And finally, after more practice, you are able to perform your presentation without the slightest of hesitation. Yea, you might be nervous before you get on stage, but once you’ve started, you’re calm and collected and was able to focus that nervous energy into a quality-delivered presentation. Same goes for WT.

Until then.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Story

I was again away from this city this past weekend. Ran into some people who were discussing their martial art (muay thai) and brought me into their discussion. Of course, I keep my mouth shut about my experience with WT since no one asks and just let them describe how great the art is (which I completely respect). Totally understanding that excitement they feel, I let them do their thing and bask in that happy feeling in a completely open minded way. For those of you who know me, hopefully you can attest that the last thing I would do is march in and either “show off” how good WT is or how bad non-WT arts are. (I’m more of the perspective of “it’s the singer, not the song”.)

Anyway, the conversation then (of course) goes into “dissing mode” and these guys start dissing the likes of aikido, karate and kung fu..”kung fu’s great for movies but not real life” I agree with them..cuz I believe the same (that the kung fu portrayed in movies is generally more for looks rather than application). Finally one guy asks me what I do. I say, with pride, “kung fu” and a smirk. The next question is “what style”, and I reply with “wing tsun”. Then the usual “you guys only fight close range” or “you’re good at hand trapping, right?” and the “you guys don’t kick above the waist”..followed with ..”that’s a girl’s style!” Anyway, Iet them continue with their questions and try my best to answer it in a professional manner and how this and that is true or are misconceptions “we can/do fight long distances, we can deal with circular attacks, the history of WT is not well known. Blah blah blah”

So then, like clockwork, comes the part where they want to see it in action. Mind you, these guys are studying thai boxing – brutal and hardcore with, like me, years of “on/off” attendance. So in typical WT fashion, we cannot show them a move, instead we respond to “throw an attack”. Given that I know he’s a thai boxer, I thought he’d come in w/ the low roundhouse. Knowing how painful they can be…I was nervous and slightly tense from the anticipation. That tenseness and nervousness morphed into this revving energy where I just wanted to pummel right through the guy. Arms were not as relaxed in class, feet were not as flat on the ground as they are in class. Ankles, knees, thighs were ready to peel off the line and my arms were not super relaxed, but slightly tense yet (in my opinion), pliable.

Maybe I got lucky, but the guy stepped in perfect distance to land a right low roundhouse kick. Again, it was almost like clockwork – probably not fair since what I anticipated came true..and I simply charged forward with one step to intercept his step/kick initiation and landed a palm/push straight into the facial area just enough to let him know. His amrs tried to parry/cling onto my attacking arm and it was “so forced” that my second chain punch/hit followed with chocolately smoothness. These were not strong hits by any means, just enough to let him know of who’s got the advantage.

Distance opens up. So I let him “try again”. This time he tries a punch or something..i don’t even really remember but I was so roaring to go that I just rushed right into him at the earliest of commitment of his attack and that seemed to have shut things down again. Last try..he jab/fakes and tries to go for his take down. For you BJJ guys, to his credit, I don’t think he’s had much experience (he could’ve been a newb). Natural reaction was to control the head and neck, which I was able to and back up he came. I said, like in class, to “continue attacking” from his compromised position and somehow I locked his arm. He was using a lot of force, so I had to use more than what I thought I would have needed to as well.

At this point, I made my point and that’s all I cared about. This is when they were really curious about this “wing chun”. Gave me a better opportunity to explain the misconception of WC and how, in my experience, WT takes things apart and teaches in a more non-chinese way to handle non-WC attacks. The next thing guys tend to pick on after this is that our hits don’t look powerful, especially with the palm/push or whatever..since well there’s no actual hard contact. This is when I showed them the inch punch or something like that and give them a few good thumps to the chest and stomach just to give them an idea of what a hit to the nose may do. Now I can’t say if it’s true or not but they did tell me they were pretty convinced and surprised to see this – they’ve never seen kung fu in application before. And before WT, neither have I.

Of course, they’ll still stick to the muay thai and I’ll stick to my WT.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pressure Point Fighting

I was reading a book on the Bubishi (also known as the “Bible of Karate). The Bubishi is a written collection of various notes on defensive hand to hand strategies, pressure point fighting, traditional Chinese medicines and philosophical assays based on White Crane and Monk Fist boxing.

Pressure point striking caught my eye. The diagrams in this book can be very detailed with all the points listed on the body as to what meridians they correspond to and what damage would be inflicted if it were struck at that point (and at what time). What I find interesting about pressure point fighting is it has one major assumption. It assumes that the attack can reach its intended target.

This, in my opinion, is a huge assumption. If you aren’t able to throw a “normal” punch and connect successfully, how can one even think about hitting such and such point with such and such hand position? It seems that the majority of fighting systems teach how the punch gets from A to B, only that it does get from A to B, hopefully. What I’ve found WT to be great at is to teach how to get from A to B, and if not A to B, then A to Y to B and so on. When I say “how” I don’t mean the pure mechanics of how to throw a punch..but how to ensure that your punch gets to where it wants to go.

If it’s true that most systems only go so far as to how to throw a punch, how then, can it teach applications on pressure point fighting since there’s nothing to assure that your hands will get to the intended target?

So yea, as cool as pressure point fighting may be. Unless you got a teacher who can also punch you at will, you will not know how to apply it.

Until then.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How do you know?

How do you know you're absorbing the material taught in class? What things do we do to reassure ourselves that we can apply what we've learned?

Some schools put the students into tournaments, others free spar, while others just know....and some deep down know or believe that they do not know at all. The obvious way, is simply to test it out on the street or street-like scenario. I think the same advice was given by Grand Master Yip Man. How practical is that nowadays?

In a system that believes that free/tournament/full contact sparring is not good training for street self defense, then what is? what tests can we do to reassure ourselves of this? Would you want your son/daughter to pass through grade school without any exams? maybe you do! What kind of tests can we perform to assure that we can truly apply what we've been exposed to in class?

Thoughts, comments?

Until then.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Yellow Zone

If you read the comment from my last post, notice the reference to the "yellow zone." Now for myself, I'm not too familiar with the yellow zone concept but it seems to be something of keeping yourself aware of your surroundings.

If that's the case - it's definitely interesting. I mean, I don't really train how to keep yourself aware. There are standard practices (eg checking corners, avoiding isolated pathways like alleyways, creating distance from the stranger down the street) but its very difficult to apply when enjoying a downtown stroll with the girlfriend. How do you train for this? Is it even worth it? I mean if an attacker is gonna attack me at a blindspot then there is no way to prevent that is there? Or maybe the prevention is in the yellow zone training...

Until then

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I'm Back

Hi folks! It's been a while, hasn't it? I've been out of town for the last bit and with no computer access (believe it or not). In any event, I'm back at this...

Last night, I was strolling down Granville St with my girlfriend around 1am. Normal evening, nothing out of the ordinary. We walked passed the Granville Street skytrain station and all of a sudden I hear some shuffling of feet that's just a little TOO close for comfort. I feel something poke against the back of my neck and this guy's voice saying "give me all your money".

No joke folks.

For whatever reason, all I did was shoot my hand out as I turned to face the "gunman", resulting in a lap sao kind of move and quickly shot my free hand to his elbow to control him forcing him towards the nearest wall.

The guy's like "YAM!" ....turns out it was a friend of mine.

A couple things I realized from this instance.

  • If this was for real, I would've been shot.
  • If this was for real, the attacker would've been able to land a good shot before I even knew it since my back was facing him.
  • I didn't think otherwise to stop, put my hands up or any other response.
Is this a result of WT training? Is this a result of stupidity? or maybe just an adrenaline shot. How should it have been handled?

Until then.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Kiai

In my karate days, there was a strong emphasis on "kiai" - also known as the karate yell that's coordinated with the execution of attack and exhale of air. The emphasis is on executing the kiai from the stomach/centre of the body rather than from the vocal cords. The idea here is that it enhances focus and power delivery into the technique.

In kung fu (eg. choy lee fut, hung gar, etc), the emphasis/purpose of kiai is there, yet there is less action of the vocal cords and is accompanied with, instead, a breathing/exhaling sound and is also coordinated with the delivery of techniques.

Now, in my WT experience, there is not this type of breathing. Instead, it emphasizes regular and natural breathing that's not particularly coordinated with the attack/defense/technique. Why is this? The idea being that emphasizing regular breathing, especially during times of stress, will help the body relax - which is exactly what is required to deliver powerful attacks.

Does this actually happen? I find myself mixing it up when stress levels go high. Regular, but deep breathing before physical contact w/ the opponent and then right at the impact/contact, I can feel myself performing a subtle kiai - more like that of chinese gong fu. What about you?

Until then.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

First Gen UFC

Do you guys remember the first UFC's? Back in the day when it was "kung fu vs. karate" or "ninjitsu vs. sambo"? That was cool wasn't it? There was a good mix from karateka, bjj, shaolin kung fu, boxing, and others. I think the one that really stuck in my mind was the fight between a ninjitsu guy and a sumo wrestler. This fight taught us a lot.

For one thing, the ninjitsu guy was able to deliver the first blow right to the temple, toppling the sumo wrestler (lesson 1 - speed helps and lesson 2 - first committed blow is best). This strike was a real committed swing, not like a text book jab you see at your local MMA schools. At this point, the sumo wrestler couldn't do much - he couldn't get up or move due to his hefty size (lesson 3 - fat limits mobility). Then the ninjitsu guy just started hammer fisting the sumo wrestler's neck and head until he submitted. Problem is, at that time, rules stated that the attacker must be knocked or submit but the sumo wrestler just covered up and didn't tap out while continuing to take the punishment. This lasted for a long while (Lesson 4, it takes A LOT to knock someone out..especially someone bigger than you). Finally the ref stepped in and stopped the fight, declaring the ninjitsu guy victor. Ninjitsu guy broke his hand and couldn't continue to the next round (Lesson 5, you can break your hand w/o knowing it in the heat of batter).

ALSO, as with many of these early fights - within the first 30 seconds, most of these guys were outta juice. Many were in great shape, but winded so quickly from the adrenaline rush. So does that mean that the adrenaline rush created be fear, created by being in the unknown and chaotic environment depletes energy stores beyond any trainable or imaginable amount? If this is true, is it REALLY that worth it to jog 45 minutes or longer a day in order to be able to defend yourself?

Also note that when you look at MMA now, it's all about conditioning. Who can stay up just a little longer than the other guy to perform that one choke hold (albeit in complete exhaustion).

But, to me, there is a striking inherent difference between using energy stores for a real-life fighting situation, and a more controlled and expected situation. You don't see this type of fatigue in boxing. Is it because they train so well or is it because they're more comfortable with the situation, have time to measure out distance and the opponent. Just imagine what that fight would be like if the two boxers had no clue they were going to fight that second.

Until then.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Step and Punch

To me, I'd say the most important "move" or "technique" or whatever you want to call it is the step and punch. This is what we've all learned in the first student grade and something that should be practiced over and over again throughout the wing tsun regimen. Although, of course, as one progresses, the focus sheds more on the way of chi-sao, soft control, and other more "complex" or "cool" stuff.

The ability to bridge a distance, while protecting yourself, to land that punch is all that's needed. Chi sao, wooden dummy, etc all teach you how to make that happen, but it's easy for us students to get lost in the methods and forget the lessons.

Step and punch. It's a beautiful thing. If you can't step and punch - if you can't safely bridge that distance - don't even think about pulling a bong sao or thinking a lap sao can save your day. As such, we should practice it over and over again. Different distances, different strengths, different stimuli and also, that means conditioning the body to execute the perfect step and punch. It's very similar to the first slash in iaido

Day one we were taught to step and chain punch. In terms of functional wing tsun, that means to be able to cross enemy lines to get to the target without hesitation and continuously attack regardless of the attacker's response. Can you do it? Can I do it? It'll take practice, that's for sure...

Until then.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Don't Forget!

Wing Tsun kicking is practical..in the sense that it doesn’t kick above the hip (some lineages the upper limit is the knee). Front kicks primarily, and then the occasional side kick. There is also the option to knee an opponent. Kicking is another weapon to add to our arsenal. It’s just like the elbow, fist, palm etc. So why don’t we emphasize the stretching, flexibility and resistance training (not in the sense of weights, but conditioning exercises)? Shouldn’t we give some time to our legs? We should stretch them, in my opinion, in both “conventional” ways and WT ways. By conventional, I mean, a stretching regimen similar to that found in a wushu or karate class and by WT, I mean, focusing on the ligaments and tendons.

Being able to kick high, doesn’t mean you have to or are supposed to kick high. But wouldn’t you think that it would give you the proper foundation to kick better at a lower target? Yes, our hands/arms are very versatile and it’s safer to stay on two feet, etc etc. I’m not saying to ignore the hands, I’m just saying you can’t ignore the feet/legs.

Until then.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sucker

Ever been sucker punched? Have you ever been sucker punched, completely caught off guard and unwarranted?

There is pretty much no defense (that i'm aware of) that one can "perform" to defend him/herself from such an attack. Period.

It's one of the most interesting variables of a street fight, in which, the ring lacks. Attacks from behind, surprise attacks, or simply "unwarranted" attacks are very common. There is no squaring-up the opponent or measuring what he can or can't do. There is only the "present."

How do you train for that? how do you train to defend against something that you can't defend against? If this is the case, then why even bother?

Until then.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Losing it?

I haven't been able to attend class for the last 3 weeks or so. How do you keep up or train when you miss chunks of class like this? Standard exercises come to mind (assuming no wooden dummy nor weapons):

  • SNT/CK/BT training
  • Chain Punching drills
  • Footwork drills
  • Poon sau/Chi sao in front of mirror
  • "shadow boxing" WT style
Is there anything we can do to replicate the energy/benefits from chi-sao training? How do you battle through the long droughts of WT?

Until then.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Reaping the Rewards

Sorry folks - I think blogspot has given me some troubles. I had this blog scheduled for release, but I've noticed now that this hasn't been the case. In any event, here goes...

what has WT given you? Generally speaking, martial arts provide the standard points:

  • self-confidence
  • active lifestyle
  • self-defense skills
  • self-discipline
But beyond this, what have you gained from it? Perhaps a new network of friends? The realization that you can't stand people who keep talking and don't train? Or maybe that martial arts isn't your thing, and just wanna do something fun and not so serious..like you know, wushu.

For myself, it's given me a brand new perspective on life. It's given me the ability to just tough it out and get through it. Also taught me to set that ego aside - that's a biggie, i think. To accept this brings on so many other rewards. Sometimes, it's better to shut and actually LISTEN (not hear) what the other person has to say.

Speaking of which, i think of the 7 habits of highly effective people is "Seek first to understand. Then to be understood."

What has WT brought onto you?

Until then.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gor Sau

Many of us practicing martial arts want to know if we can answer the age old question, "can we really use this stuff?" To answer this, some enter tournaments, while others go looking for fights on the street. Others throw the pads on and step into a ring and try a round or two of full-contact sparring. And then you got those that have decided to walk the MMA road.

So I ask you, how are you answering this question? Do you do controlled sparring drills? Do you just trust your instincts and hope they kick in when you need them to. In any method, how do your assure yourself this is realistic and will translate to the street?

To me, this is the hardest aspect of them all. I guess it's much simpler if you feel that MMA or equivalent environment is a direct translation of street fighting, but if you don't..well then, the solution is much more difficult. What elements make up a street fight? how do we replicate this?

Any suggestions?

Until then.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Pitch

Here's my pitch:

there should be WT reality tv show. A reality show to crown the first WT fighter. The show would only be within the WT circles or WC/VT circles and if it catches on, we can bring to other audiences.

There will be guest "stars" to give out the challenges too...like Sho Kosugi, Jackie Chan and Simon Cowell :)

What do you think of this?

Gold, Jerry! Gold!

Until then.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Knee Pressure

What is knee pressure? why do we stress it so much during class?

For the longest time, I had no concept of what knee pressure was really supposed to be. Of course, I did what was told in class - to squeeze the knees slightly during the IRAS (Internal Rotation Adduction Stance) - but really, I had no idea what the end product was supposed to be. I just hoped it would somehow develop into whatever it was supposed to develop into.

Behold - chi sao! This is when I started to feel the strange benefits and reactions of knee pressure/stance work. The two go hand in hand - without knee pressure, you can't maintain a strong stance..especially in our awkward wing tsun ways (feet parallel, upright body position, let alone - pigeon toed!).

And now, just looking back, knee pressure is not something about squeezing the knees together. It's more of a reaction to an attackers stimulus that compresses the legs/knees together. It seems to do a few things:

1) it lowers the center of gravity - especially in our upright stance, we can still maintain a lowered center of gravity.

2) it encourages our body to drop into the ground, rather than lift ourselves upright (related to above point).

3) It stresses relaxation - can't really replicate the effects of knee pressure unless you're relaxed.

4) It protects the groin area - as the knees close in together, they hinder the path for an attackers leg to strike the groin.

5) anything else you'd like to add?

Best part is, as you get better, the "physical requirements" of really bringing those knees together dissapear and what you are able to get is an end product w/ the benefits of knee pressure but without the pigeon toed look. You are able to replicate this while standing completely naturally. How cool is that?

Isn't that how fighting should be? - natural?..not stiff and locked into our classical ways (eg. a pigeon toed stance)?

Until then.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Useless Moves?

Almost anyone can pin point moves/techniques, either in kata, kumite, drills, etc in which they deem useless but kept either for tradition, because "sifu says", or simply "just cuz". Whatever the case, it's pretty obvious that many feel that this is the case. Look at MMA - it's boiled down to a grappling art, some kickboxing and you're set! What happened to phoenix eye, tornado kicks, the cat stance...OR..even..the crane kick?

Wing Tsun touts being an efficient fighting system. Efficient as in how? That takes advantage of the shortest distance to reach its target? Efficient in not having to kick high? Efficient in being practical? Efficient in being one of the faster arts to learn/use?

But are there techniques in the system that is really redundant, or really not that practical, even though it may have practical implications? For all those "chunners" out there, take a moment to step away from the "WING CHUN IS THE BEST" perspective and examine what moves do we use too much, or not needed?

Is it tan sao? Is it bong sao?

I think we use bong sao way too much.

I also think we stick too much.

I don't think we need to stick at all nor do I think we need to use bong sao.

But to get to this level, we do NEED both?

What do you think?

Until then.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why Are You Not Here?

As with many schools, including the school I'm in, there is a turnover rate. On top of that, the men easily outnumber that of women participants. Why? I can't say, but I can say why I've left other schools.

  • Cost - the price per hour of instruction or monthly cost for what you're getting out of the class is low. Either you're spending 50% of the class stretching and doing pushups or the number of classes per week is minimal (one/week).
  • Sport oriented - the martial art was geared to tournament sparring or forms competition. Apparently, the number of trophies is an accurate reflection of martial skill
  • Not realistic - as much as they tout how realistic the art could be used, the focus was purely on sport and no matter how fast my punches were or how many points I could rally in kumite, I really didn't have the confidence. Even able to "hold my own" against other martial artists at the time of differing style, I still didn't feel this was it for me and that there was more out there.
  • Glass ceiling - it was not a matter of if I could get that black belt, it was a matter of when. I knew that the "black belt" was simply a matter of being able to spar decently during a belt test, learn my katas, and perform good technique. No test in whether I truly know my stuff - if my skills were automatic, reflexive, alive..and FUNCTIONAL.
So let's go back to why the low female attendance? Honestly, wing tsun faces the truth that we are confronting a stronger, intimidating, bigger opponent. Because we make this such a known point, female practitioners have to really face this fact. In doing so, the whole experience is intimidating, frustrating and pair this up with the fact that wing tsun is not easy to apply (initially)..especially against egotistical male macho-ness (either aggressive or even in a passive manner) and you get frustrated females who jump ship and instead learn katas (beating the crap outta imaginary partners and kiai-ing the air).

Unfortunately for men, they underestimate the danger of the attacker and assume that our partners in class are reflective of what we face on the street. So, interestingly, we get a certain type of man that enrolls in arts like wing tsun. AND..to add..guys like that get their asses wooped on the streets or in the ring and so you can't blame the MMA guys who point at laugh at wing tsun guys.

Until then.

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