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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


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.

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