Friday, August 29, 2014

First Ever Vancouver Wing Tsun Butterfly Knives Seminar

As part of my Si-Fu’s plans for 2014, advanced students at our school had the pleasure of attending the first ever Wing Tsun butterfly knives (bat cham do).

For those that aren’t familiar with the weapons, you can check out this wiki page.

There was a huge variety of butterfly knives at the seminar – although of the similar premise/shape, there were different weights, materials, sizes, lengths, and details across the board. Some felt easier to grip in my hand, others less cumbersome to maneuver and others that had too many pointy edges and were not pleasurable to train with.

I had the pleasure of using my colleagues butter fly knives – which happened to be one of the bigger knives if not the biggest one there! Not only could you stab and slash your opponent, I’m pretty sure I could bitch-slap them too considering how wide these knives were ;)

The entire seminar lasted about 6 hours. All we “managed” to get through was the entire Bat Cham Do form. Here are my major observations: · The is considerably longer than that of the long pole · This is part due to the repetitive nature of the movements, repeating movements on each side (left and right) ·

The movements, as described that day, seemed to be used to fight against very traditional kung fu weapons. I wonder how it would fair against other weapons and systems (eg. Escrima stick, broad sword, baseball bat, etc) ·

There’s an inherent sense that not much is known about the last form in the wing tsun system – many questions, interpretations, lack of history, especially when compared to the other forms found in the system. I should stress that I don’t mean that there was a lack of information but it just feels that we know so much more about the Siu Nim Tao, its history, it’s variations, it’s applications compared to the Bat Jam do. ·

The form feels more like a typical kung fu form, or karate kata than say the other forms found in the WT lineage (same goes with the long pole). I think it would be fun to perform this and the long pole form with the visual flair and expression of my previous days back in Karate/Kung fu.

I did notice that for students who have not been exposed to other martial art styles, it may be worth spending time to learn proper stance and footwork. Many regressed to the typical wing tsun stances we’ve practiced for years, understandably so.

I do think, however, there should be focus on proper stance training, footwork, etc and then deviating from that as the student gets comfortable with the stance and its functional capabilities.

It was another great seminar – it was jam packed with information and now it’s just about practicing the form to get the movements into me. Lots of fun!

 Until then.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Toughen Up Bitch!

Does this make you tougher? I was forwarded this youtube clip from a fellow WT colleague. Apparently it’s a lesson on making your students tougher – getting hit and hitting. Take a moment to watch this.

While the point of the drill is significant, I think this drill is more a waste of time and a bullying opportunity for the instructor rather than a teaching moment for the student. Yes there is some benefit to getting hit and to dolling out hits, but in the context of the drill, you only need a few minutes to get the idea.

If we’re here to toughen up the student there are plenty of more productive ways of doing this in my opinion. The definition of ‘tough’ is multi-layered as well and applies to more than just taking hits.

• Endurance challenge drills
• Intensity challenge drills
• Stress drills
• Circuit training

I’m not necessarily referring to weight-training or resistance training. It can also be used in the context of various wing chun drills as well. But the idea here is that it’s mentally and physically pushing the boundaries of the student’s comfort zone and just giving it his/her all.

Just receiving hits doesn't do any of this really and you can see the fairly slow pace/intensity of the drill..poor kid is just getting hit and that’s about all the value he’s getting out of it. I also think a good sparring session will be a great teacher here as well and also teaches the student how it feels to get hit and in a very unpredictable fashion.

It’s also high intensity and a test of endurance and stress – all at the same time. A few sparring sessions will teach you so much and very quickly. I really believe that, in the context of some wing chun schools, sparring is under-valued especially for students that have never done it before.

There are so many other ways to ‘toughen’ up and for some, it’s more mental than physical. What mental drills are ever taught or practiced? Many may wonder what this means.. Growing up, we suffer trauma as children – either getting bullied, parents being very abusive, injuries or accidents as kids, sickness, illness – all these factors have played into our belief systems, our confidence and our self-esteem which is expressed in our behaviours and possibly our lack of ‘toughness’.

Something to think about.

Until then.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Welcome to Kickboxing!

The other day I was invited to a friend’s kickboxing class. Thought, what the heck! I’ll give it a shot. He’s been doing it for about a year now and the class is a beginner’s class.

Format was pretty simple – Following 5 minutes of shadow boxing warm up, we had 1 hour of high intensity session of hitting the pads.

It was a great workout. And that was about it. A bit of background on me – I’ve done karate throughout my high school years and then dabbled in other Chinese martial arts until I found the current Wing Tsun school I’m at. For fun and fitness, I joined a boxing gym about 2 years ago and was with them for about a year.

My thoughts on the kickboxing class.

It was just OK. In particular, I was watching the caliber of the majority of students - which was not particularly impressive. When they punch, they just hit at the target – sometimes they punch themselves off balance, hands swinging everywhere, elbows high, unrooted, sloppy form, fatigued etc.

When I punch my combos, my partner couldn’t keep the pads up. When I kicked, he moved. I felt solid, I felt rooted. Combos included jab, cross, short hooks, long hooks, upper cuts and the left/right front kicks.

I think my partners were surprised at the speed, comfort and power of my hits..as I was the obvious newbie (no uniform) there.

Of course, I’m not here to bash kickboxing. I have great respect for the martial art and kick boxing produces fighters with absolutely powerful punches, kicks, stamina, etc.

My point here is that the majority of people that train, train casually and are ‘mediocre’ just like the rest of us in wing chun that train casually. It’s really not about the style that is better, but how much we train, how hard we train, how we train, our instruction, etc.

I feel we are very fortunate to have the detailed training that we do, that we focus on rootedness and structure, that we take the time to figure out form, technique and then add power, speed, reaction and creativity.

I don’t feel that, in this particular class, that the teachers emphasized this at all. It was just about leading drills and letting the students hit the pads. Yes, it could have been just this class, just this one time. I can also see how students may think they’re really good at kickboxing as they get to just hit the pads all the time.

But my point here is that students in other styles, in particular that train casually for fun, are not the lethal weapon that we may believe them to be just because of the style they train.

It’s not Muay Thai vs. Wing Chun. The assumption is that Muay Thai will win. But that’s not true. It’s him vs. you. Like you, he’s just an average joe, not a champion Thai boxer…

Would I go back? Nope. My heart’s in Wing Tsun.

Until then.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Perfection Is... a Waste of Time

There are two sides to every coin. The same can be said of our world...

At one point, we understood physics to be of physical objects - of which we could calculate distance, vectors, velocities, predict and estimate forces, pressure, where an object will land, etc. 

And then we realized that physical objects are not physical at all. They are, instead, manifestation of energy. They are protons, neutrons, quarks - unpredictable energy particles that can be in two places at once and behaves nothing like physical objects as we understood it.

What about our training?  We can work to death, down to the very detail of what wing chun action should be or what the drill should teach us, but then, we may lose sight of what it is we want to do at the end of the day - to knock the other guy out.

And it is on this note that perhaps, perfection is a waste of time.

Getting it right 60% of the time is better than attempting it that one time we get it 100% of the time.

On that note, do you believe that training to perfection is a waste of time? Do you think it's worth just getting in the ring and trying to fight where you're at, rather than waiting till you've trained chi-sao to such and such level?

Chi-sao is not fighting. Fighting is fighting. You don't need the perfect tan-sao to fight. Who's with me?

Until then.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

First Ever Wing Tsun Long Pole Seminar Vancouver

Ground-breaking seminar last weekend – it was the first ever seminar that introduced the senior students to the wing tsun long pole.

For those that aren’t familiar, the wing tsun system consists of two weapons – the long pole and the butterfly knives. In the wing chun curriculum, the weapons are taught at the very end..so you can imagine the excitement (almost) everyone had for learning this stuff, myself included.

 The long pole measures about 8.5’ long and weighs approximately 5lbs, give or take a pound depending on your innate strength, pole manufacturer, and build quality. The weapon itself is very awkward to handle, in my opinion, unlike that of a knife or even a bat. You’ll quickly appreciate the skill and training required to actually use this thing..

Unlike other martial art styles, the Wing Tsun student handles the long pole at the very end with a grip width of your own shoulders. There’s no dramatic spinning, tossing or twirling of the long staff.

Without the ability to take on a wide grip and the requirement to handle the pole at its very end makes that 5lbs feel more like 40lbs. It is this where the long pole training really shines. The shock to your nervous system to manipulate the staff with any form of accuracy and coordination, let alone power or even speed, is amazing. This is no easy task and, when done properly, you’re easily drained.

For us newbies, a heavy pole is not to our benefit. I would recommend not using such a heavy pole if you can when you first start out, as the handling the sheer weight distracts you from learning how to activate your body to properly move, coordinate and get your timing right. In fact, I had the pleasure of using one of the lighter ones during the first half of the seminar which really helped me ‘figure things out’.

From a conditioning standpoint, this thing just rocks. Your entire body – core, legs, shoulders, chest, back, arms – get an incredible workout. Even those “isolation” exercises, that many in wing chun circles deem as detrimental, are expressed here (eg. bicep curls, shoulder raises). It’s great for grip strength and the low horse stance is fantastic for rooting.

Long pole training really emphasizes the need for “whole-body movement”, as you quickly realize that using only your arms to manipulate the staff is absolutely a waste of time and effort. Such whole-body movement would translate to your empty hand fighting as well.

It’s funny, many wing chun people quickly discount  long pole training. It’s incredibly impractical – you’ll never fight with a pole that long! No one carries a long pole with them! And they’re absolutely right.

It’s also funny that these people rather chi-sao. And the same argument could be made here too – chi sao is impractical, you’ll never fight someone off chi-sao. I ask the same question, why not just fight?

The benefits of long pole training come from its conditioning. It shocks your body and just amplifies all your empty hand skills. It’s no different from any other drill we do and just adds to our tool kit.

But, beyond that, I do believe there’s practicality from a self-defense perspective. Sure you may not ever find a 9’ long staff, but you may find yourself using a weapon that’s 5’ long. Now your body has some idea as to how to manipulate that thing properly. Sure, chances are slim that will happen. But so are the chances that you’ll ever need a bong sao.

Overall, I had a great time at this seminar and was glad to see the energy was shared by others. I got home close to 5.30pm that night, only to be in bed by 8.30pm. I was completely wiped. Slept like a baby. It was pretty awesome.

Until then.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Do You Train REALISTICALLY?

What is realistic training?

Do you consider yourself to train under realistic circumstances? Or do you train to use your skills to fight realistically.

There’s a distinction here that’s very important.

On the surface, I think we can imagine the more conventional scenario of what we might think is “realistic training”:

• Uncooperative partner (tense, strong, resistant)
• Unlimited or many variables (sucker punch, no hint to type of attack)
• Attacks are unorthodox or do not resemble your style
• The drills are aggressive, under stress and pressure
• Realistic environment – cement, street, alleyway, bar setting
• No gi, training in normal clothing and shoes (And the list can go on)

Of course, such training can provide many benefits and I see much value in this. However.. There’s a difference between this type of ‘realistic training’ and training to use your skills to fight realistically.

 Let me elaborate.

You see, let’s take a moment and go back to your more traditional type of training. That could be wooden dummy training, chi sao training, partner drills, etc. Even within the context of it being more “traditional”, I ask you if the drills are being trained to the extent and difficulty to build the appropriate skills, reflexes, structure, etc to FIGHT REALISTICALLY.

To fight realistically, you’re going to need significant body structure, punching power, footwork and that means solid structure, ability to absorb a lot of force, no hesitation in reaction, etc. but where does all of that come from? Ironically, it comes from what we would perceive as traditional drills and exercises.

The major factor, however, is to train with the proper mindset and partner that trains these factors INTO you. Even though the drill may look silly or ‘unrealistic’ it’s actually training the reflexes, structure, strength, footwork, stance, etc that’s required for realistic fighting.

Of course, without this intent, the traditional drills become useless and won’t work anyway.

I do believe that chi-sao, lat-sao, partner exercises, etc can distract us from this intent as we all get lost in the drill - get lost in trying to win - and we forget that we’ve lost by not training for the real purpose of training – to fight realistically with our kung fu.

I don’t believe wearing camo pants and a t-shirt that says “SEALS” on it will justify any training to be realistic, but I’m sure many don’t see it this way.

Training to fight realistically doesn’t mean that your training has to look ‘realistic’ and training that looks realistic doesn't equate to being able to fight realistically either.

Until then.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ancient Chinese Secret For Deadly Elbow Strikes

What a horrible title… probably ripped off an issue of Inside Kung Fu circa 1992.

Lately, I’ve really been focusing on forms training. It’s funny how certain aspects of training seem more ‘fun’ than others..and what is fun now, isn’t fun 3 months from now and vice versa.

Like the seasons that come and go, so does our attention span for certain training patterns, drills, etc. And, for now, it seems a lot of my attention and discovery is in forms training, more specifically the biu tze form. 

Why all the focus on this form?

First of all - With the unpredictable nature of my work, training classes have been fewer and far between.. Forms training allows me to get in some training in the convenience of my apartment, and on my schedule. 

Second – I miss the beauty and flow of forms training from my kung fu/karate days. Sure wing chun has the SNT and Chum Kiu but I found them to be quite the snooze fest. The biu tze feels more fun in that it has more movement involved and is more reminiscent of my kung fu forms and katas.

Third – conditioning. Although not really cardiovascular conditioning (unless purposely trained with that intent), there’s coordination and functional conditioning as well as muscle memory conditioning that forms training ingrains into the body. The moves become second nature when under the stress of partner drills and sparring.

And to that point, I’m discovering the appreciation of that stretch you get and need to deliver elbow strikes with WT-specific flavour and intention. Similar to how we’re taught to stretch our arms to punch the WT way, a similar type of conditioning and flexibility is required to throw elbow strikes.

Furthermore, is the need to deliver such strikes on the ‘funny’ stance found within the WT curriculum… It’s easy to get off kilter when throwing a forceful elbow strike, while seated in the 100/0 weight distribution stance as seen in the WT lineage of wing chun.

And I’m finding it ‘fun’ to discover what is too much force, what isn’t enough and how to improve on this..all through forms training. Getting that stretch is also important. The stretch extends from the tip of the shoulder, all the way through the lats and even hips for me. I like that stretch feeling and I notice how much more work I need to do. I also find benefit to such flexibility.

Flexibility just lets you throw the strikes with more ease…resulting in a faster, harder strike.

Which is why I also try to maintain flexibility in my legs too. Stretching them out so that you can kick high means that kicking low will only be that much easier!

All in all, I’m enjoying the biu tze form at the moment. What are you training?

Until then…

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What A Shame Gutierrez...

Happy new year everyone! My apologies as it has been TOO long since I’ve last posted.  The second half of 2013 has kept me away from my blogging adventures but I’m back and boy do I have a post for you today..

Well, many of you may know this guy, Victor Gutierrez of the WT lineage (now no longer with the EWTO).  I always liked his stuff and here’s a cool youtube clip that I particularly enjoyed showing off to people who aren’t familiar with WT.

You can see he’s quite aggressive, yet his attacks flow well.

But then I saw this clip of him now.

Without any additional context to this video, I have to say I’m absolutely disheartened by what I saw.  RUBBISH I tell you.

It’s really a shame.

And if a guy of his WT caliber produces crap like that..what’s to say for the rest of us normal folk?
I don’t know if he’s intentionally trying to wrestle or if this is what his WT looks like a free sparring environment.

The guy is also clearly tapped after as well.

But let’s assume worst case scenario and that he was trying to use WT but fell into a wrestling mode. You can quickly see how fast your energy dissipates during a free sparring situation (not even a real fight!) and you can see how easily the ‘strength reflex’ kicks in.

I think both of these factors are absolutely normal and also why I feel there’s a lot of value in sparring.
I don’t think our class does enough of this and yes, while there are great arguments against sparring, I do think that as a conditioning exercise or drill, it has incredible value.

If for some reason, we can preach a form that utilizes a pigeon toed stance as something that builds wing chun structure or we can justify all the merits of doing tan sao at such and such an angle and holding it there for a certain period of time, yada yada yada – why is it we’re so quick to ignore the merits of free sparring?

Like with any drill, sparring has its weaknesses, builds bad habits, etc but at the same time, it also brings about many other benefits (adrenaline, uncooperative partner, reveals how fast the WT skills fade, etc).
I’m curious to know your thoughts in the comment section.


Until then. 

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