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Archive for December, 2008

Softness version 2.0: Misunderstandings

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

The topic of softness is usually grossly misunderstood in the world of Martial Arts. When most people in America think about Martial Arts, they think Karate or Taekwondo, both of which are “hard” styles. What they and many students of both, do not understand is that in the upper levels, they both move towards softness. It just goes to show that there is no “better style” just “better practitioners.” The main reason I have been given as to why Karate starts with hardness and moves toward softness later is that most students cannot understand softness in the beginning. I do agree that it can be one of the more difficult things to teach to a beginning student as many advanced students have a hard time really understanding the benefits of being soft.

Misunderstanding #1: You can not block a punch while being soft. FALSE

You do not need to stop a punch, merely redirect it to where you are not. Just as it takes 100 times more force to stop a bullet than to deflect it. All you need is just enough force to move the punch (or better yet you) out of its path.

Misunderstanding #2: You cannot put any force behind a punch while being soft. FALSE

The force that we put into our punches and kicks does not wholly come from the muscles in our arm/leg. Instead it comes from our waist and core. Much like a Rock in a Sock, when swung, a small amount of force at the center is multiplied many times out at the rock. The sock only delivers the rock to its target. A small movement at the waist – using our core muscles – is amplified by our arm (sock), and sending the fist (rock) to its destination with devastating results.

Most misunderstandings are simply because of lack of information or experience. We try to give plenty of both. If you have questions, please feel free to ask one of your instructors. Just be prepared for a long, usually excited answer. This stuff fascinates us!

The Real McChi

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

One of the most misunderstood aspects of Kung Fu is the power of Chi. The simple explanation is that Chi is our inner energy. In some circles, Chi is given an almost mythical representation that is far from the truth. We have all seen the movies where they use “Chi Magic” or somehow move something with their Chi.

Some people do not believe that Chi even exists, but it most certainly does, just not like it is portrayed in the movies. The idea of Chi has been around for thousands of years, and is just recently being explored and accepted in modern western medicine. Our entire body is connected to our brain through nerves; from our inner organs to our muscles to our skin. With a simple thought we can move our hand–but how? Our brain sends a small electrical signal to our muscles causing them to contract or relax (extend). When something touches our arm another electrical pulse is sent to the brain, where it registers the location, duration, and intensity of the touch. The human body is one big electrical machine. The electrical impulse that controls our body is our Chi–our inner energy. It cannot extend outside of the body, nor does it diminish with use. It is our own little electricity grid to power everything in our body.

Yes, Chi can be controlled. It takes years of practice to be able to simply feel your Chi. To be able to move it and control it is normally a lifelong journey, but it is most certainly possible. One of the main purposes for Chi control in Kung Fu is power. On a normal day-to-day basis, even while working out, we utilize only a small part of our muscles’ potential power. It can be seen/heard of from the many miraculous stories of life and death situations where someone did some seemingly impossible feat of strength. In these instances, our brain can release our entire muscle strength for the purpose of preserving life. It is our basic Fight or Flight response. Now imagine if you could call upon some of that at will?

Power is just one of the many uses of Chi. At TKFF, the use of Chi in Seven Star Preying Mantis Kung Fu is integral with techniques and applications. Over time you will learn to feel and eventually manipulate your Chi. It is a long and arduous path that is well worth the time.

Kids are Sponges

Friday, December 12th, 2008

My son will be six in January, and he has been in the Little Mantis Kung Fu class at TKKF for 24 weeks. A couple days ago, my family and a friend of my son were at a school event when I was shocked at what my son was doing. He was teaching his friend some of the techniques that he had learned in his Kung Fu class.

I was blown away. He was telling his friend, “This is what you do if someone grabs you, this is what you do if they grab your arm, this is what you do if they pick you up, and then you run. That’s called Stanger Danger.” I was so proud. He told his friend, “First you palm strike, then push kick, then run, and you can elbow, and you can snap kick, and you can block, and you can double block, but then you run for help.” His friend was doing the techniques with him, and of course my son had to interrupt from time to time to correct his form.

Kids are sponges. Why not let them absorb the knowledge of what to do if confronted by a stranger? He is always coming home and telling me, “Grab my shoulder.”, and before I know it I’m getting kicked in the leg and punched in the stomach. He says, “That’s what you do if a stranger grabs you, then you run.”

That is what Sifu Brandon Jones teaches in the Little Mantis Class, Stranger Danger. I’ve peeked in on many of my son’s classes and Sifu Jones truly loves what he does. The kids are learning self protection by acting through dangerous situations and having a blast at the same time.

Come to TKKF and see how your child can learn to protect themselves if a dangerous situation with a stranger should ever arise, and while they are learning, they’ll be having so much fun, that they don’t even know they’re soaking up this knowledge.

Kung Fu in Action

Friday, December 12th, 2008

As Kung Fu students we train our bodies for many reasons and while these may be different for every person, self defense has always been a big part why I train so hard. I don’t believe in fighting and certainly think walking away or running like a scared first grader is the best line of defense against violence but in some situations that option is not available. When you’re out with your family you simply can’t run and leave them behind. This is a situation I found myself in that running was also out of the question.

As I was driving home one day I began coming up behind a larger vehicle hauling some equipment. The road was several lanes so I leisurely pulled into the left lane to pass them and not cause any kind of traffic jam. It was such a nonchalant move I didn’t even pay attention to who was in the vehicle or what they were doing. That was until the vehicle suddenly accelerated and pulled up beside me. At that point I realized there were several people in the vehicle and they all began shouting and waving their fists (and fingers) at me. I didn’t pay it much mind, I was in a smaller vehicle not towing heavy machinery so I accelerated and thought it was over.

Next thing I know, the vehicle changed several lanes, pulled into oncoming traffic and moved up to my left. Now I understood this was serious, the passenger was leaning out of the window and screaming at me. Suddenly he threw some kind of bottle out of the window and into the side of my car. At this point I’m dialing 911 on my cell phone when the driver makes a hairpin swerve into my lane. He would have hit my car had I not been able to swerve into the right lane. The movement was so forceful I actually spun out several times in the intersection loosing my phone in the process. Because that stopped me and they were traveling so fast, they were gone before I had come to a stop. I pulled into the nearest parking lot to check my car, tires, and shorts. I leaned down to look at a tire when I heard a loud crashing noise only to see the attack vehicle slamming through the curb of the parking lot. It came to a jolting stop and the driver shot out of the car like he had been ejected. He was running at me full speed and I knew I had no time to turn and run, try to open the car and get inside or do anything but prepare for the worst. When he was about halfway to me the other doors swung open and three other guys jumped out of the vehicle and started running towards me. The situation had taken a very serious turn but all I could focus on was the first guy. I knew I had to drop him quick enough to discourage the other attackers and give me time to prepare for them.

As he approached me he drew his right arm back and lunged in with a powerful straight punch. This was probably 8 years or so ago and I hadn’t learned a whole lot of Kung Fu but had been working on the Sup Sae Lo form and the first thing that my body did was go right into Sup Sae Lo #3. My left arm went up with the block and redirect while my right arm punched straight into the attackers face. I was in a very solid forward stance and could feel the solid connection but immediately my body went into the forward push kick and hit the guy in the lower stomach. He crumbled like a leaf and hit the ground hard. I backed up a few steps and got set for the three attackers. As it turned out, the three attackers were trying to stop the guy or were deterred by the scuffle, either way they grabbed the first attacker off the ground, shouted how crazy I was and took off. It took a few moments to understand all that had happened but I was interrupted by my cell phone from under the seat. It was the police making sure I was ok, since I had dialed 911 but then lost the connection.

All in all, I came out without a scratch and lived to go home and live another day. Personal protection is a very serious thing that needs serious attention, but one must not mistake self defense for fighting. I only did what I had to do and what I had trained to do, nothing more, nothing less.

Remember when you’re training to take it serious and work hard at your techniques, but know that using your training is a rare occasion and not one to look forward to. Have fun while practicing and work hard!

What is Softness?

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

One of the major differences in our style from others such as Karate or Taekwondo is that ours is a “soft” style. I have been asked several times to explain why this is and how it is beneficial. This can be a long explanation, which I will be covering different aspects in the coming weeks, so check back often.

The first question usually is “What do you mean by ‘soft’?”

A quick explanation is simply that when we fight and play most forms, we have no tension in our muscles. Now obviously we must have at least some to remain standing and moving. But that is all we should have, just enough. It can be difficult for beginners and intermediate level students to judge how much is just enough. The best advice I could give would be to err on the side of softness.

Why soft? Not having tension and rigidity in your body will allow you to act and react quicker and more efficiently. A common example that I give is to try and tighten your whole arm and have someone push on it. Your whole body will move. In order to block or strike with that arm, you must first relax the muscles before you can move it. If you do the same thing, but only keep enough tension to hold the arm in place, then when someone pushes on it it will move and your center is not compromised. If you need to block or strike with the arm, it is ready to move immediately, therefore saving you the precious few moments needed to relax it, and possibly saving yourself from being hit.

Remember to check back often as I will post more on this very important subject soon.

Bit By The Bug

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

I want to share with you my experience with Tyler Kung Fu and Fitness. I’ve always been amazed with martial arts. From the first Karate Kid to Bloodsport, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to discipline your body to do things you never thought that it could do.

I’ve been training at TKKF for about a year now, and I feel that I am in the best physical shape of my life. I started out training in the Cross Training Combat class. The first day that I came in, Sifu Brandon Jones told me that it would be an intense work out, and was it ever. After the warm up I was about ready to quit, but the macho guy inside me had to save face. We did push ups, on our palms, on our finger tips, on our knuckles, and then came the sit ups, the leg lifts, the bag work out, the kicks, and the list goes on.

The next day I felt like I had ran a triathlon, but what I saw was what we were learning was REAL. The training that we were doing wasn’t only conditioning, but it was learning a reaction to what could happen in real life. We weren’t breaking boards, we were learning the applications of Mantis Kung Fu.

The combat class quickly led to Kung Fu. You see all the movies and the hoopla on T.V. but this was REAL. I guess that is the point that I want to drive across. I was just amazed and still am to this day that someone could train their body to sit in a horse stance for a solid hour, and hour squatting with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle, back straight, and breathing through the pain of your legs burning out of control and trying to keep them from collapsing. I have trouble fighting through two minutes.

And after a year you begin to think, hey I’m in great shape, I’ve learned a lot, and you realize that you haven’t even brushed the surface… and it drives you. It makes you think, what could I accomplish, how much harder could I train to be better, what could I read to make me a better martial artist, who can I talk with to teach me more, how early can I leave work today to go and train?

If you want to learn fancy kicks or how to break boards, I urge you to go somewhere else, but if you want REAL martial arts training, a caring staff of instructors, and the application of this training for real life self defense…come to TKKF.

Hi, I’m Jimmy Decker, and I’ve been bit by the BUG.