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Art of Kung Fu Basketball

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
I had an interesting revelation the other day. I’ve been going and playing basketball with a friend here at school. He is 38, and I think and what people would consider “in shape” (weight lifter, etc). He is probably a little better than me at basketball. Anyway, we have been playing for a while. The other day we both felt like playing more than usual. Needless to say, sitting behind a computer for 9-10 hours a day does nothing for your cardiovascular endurance. What I found interesting was when we were both completely worn out. Both just barely could lift our legs to run.
I started just beating the pants off him, getting good shots, moving around him easily, leaving him in the dust, so to speak. I really think it had nothing to do with my current “shape” as I’m pretty far out of shape. What hit me, was our (TKFF students) training in pushing ourselves. Our mental stamina, so to speak. It was interesting that when we were both completely exhausted, I excelled while he didn’t. He wasn’t used to pushing his body at that point of exhaustion like I am. It wasn’t any fun, I didn’t like it anymore than he did, but I understood it and was used to it.

 

You know how you always say we (TKFF people) pass people on the hills (while running, etc), I think that is exactly what happened. Its not that its easier for us to perform at the point of exhaustion (well maybe easier because we are used to it) but its just “what we do”. There is no option. You just dont stop…ever…period.

ART OF SURVIVAL

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

I’m writing this in the car on the way back from a week vacation in the mountains of Oklahoma. This was a much needed break in the middle of some of the most arduous and time consuming courses of medical school. It let me take some time to considered my life, where I’ve come, what I’ve done, and what I have spent my time and energy on. By far the most important things in my life are my faith and my family. The true passion and love of my life is my wife Stacy. Second only to her however, there have been a few things in my life that I would consider true passions. One of them, which you may not know about me, is survivalism; the art of survival. This ties right in with the other two great passions of my life; Kung Fu and Medicine.

It’s interesting how things take place in life, how they are connected and I believe, happen for a reason. I’ve often thought back about how “random chance” and a gift from my wife led me to walk through the door of Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness so many years ago. I really believe at least part of the reason I found Sifu Jones was medical school, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Kung Fu has really changed my life in ways I never imagined, and if I think about it now, in ways I haven’t realized yet. Not only did I lose nearly 65 pounds and get in the best shape of my life, but I learned and developed a skill rare in today’s world. I’ve written about the physical benefits of Kung Fu in other posts, I’ve discussed the camaraderie and brotherhood we develop as a family in Kung Fu; what I want to mention today is the “other” benefits. I would consider one of the greatest (if not the greatest) benefit of Kung Fu to be the mental training I received, and the growth and change that took place over my years of training. In fact I will say it; I think the mental strength we gain from training is the greatest asset not only to martial skill and survival but to life itself.

Ingrained in and inseparable from our physical training is a mental discipline, an actual training of the mind that takes place. Where you learn to push your body, to overcome pain and fatigue; where you learn to endure “combat” with yourself and those who have much higher levels of skill! What you don’t realize is that the ability to survive turns into an ability to succeed. That ability to flourish under such stress begins to “reprogram” your mind, where your default mindset is no longer a question of survival, but a decision to triumph. While this discussion has merit in the discussion of martial skill it has just as much in the discussion of life.  Kung Fu people are different kinds of people than most. We have no use for questions of survival; our ability to survive is not in jeopardy, we will survive and we will succeed. So with that factor out of the equation, we can focus on reaching our goals with a focus and determination most people don’t understand.

When I decided to pursue medical school, I can’t tell you how many people told me to set my sights lower, to accept something less than my dream. “Medical school is too hard to get into” they told me, “Maybe you should consider something less competitive”. “You can’t start this process at your age; you need to start it from high school”. To be fair, I did have to start completely over in college, so I had to start from scratch. It was a long, hard journey for sure, but that isn’t anything new to me, I train under Sifu Jones! Sifu Cheng (California) has a great saying his students used to repeat before each class, it went like this; “Inch by inch, life is a cinch, yard by yard, it is very, very hard”. That is absolutely true! Starting completely from scratch in college, while being married, while working full time was a task nearly as intimidating as fighting a room full of black belts! Wait a minute! I did that at Ja Gow, so I could certainly accomplish this goal! In either task, looking only at the finish line is intimidating, but working hard and doing your best is easy. I never had a doubt that I would get into and succeed in medical school, I only needed to do the work and never quit. I absolutely believe my training in Kung Fu gave me the mental agility, toughness, and absolute resolve to get where I wanted to be in life.

The truth is you can do anything you set your mind to. Anything at all. Don’t let people tell you its too hard; after all Kung Fu literally translates to “Hard Work”! Hard work may hold others back, it may deter some, but it is where we excel, it is where we as Kung Fu practitioners flourish. So whether your goal is to practice Kung Fu, lose some weight, get in shape, learn to do Chi Sau, title at Ja Gow, finish high school, go to college, go to medical school, or become president of the United States, remember that hard work is the vehicle that will get you there and Kung Fu teaches you how to work hard better than anything else!

Inch by inch life is a cinch; Yard by yard it is very, very hard!

Train Hard!

The Running Man

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Being separated from my kung fu family has been harder than I anticipated. While I’ve always been one to push myself, it’s so much better to have support and motivation from others. I have really started dissecting my training and trying to find new ways to push myself and reach the next level. While most of you might not be as geographically separated form the school as I am, we all have times when we work out alone or individually and that’s good for your kung fu.

We all have plateaus and stages we go through in our training as well. The secret is to not fight them but use them to your advantage. If I am honest I have been through 3 or 4 serious plateaus even close to burnout in my training. We must remind ourselves that this is normal and not the enemy of our training but a tool to help us progress.

When I go through a plateau I try to change my focus and accept some changes in my training. I often use it as a chance to focus on other aspects of training I normally don’t spend much time on. It’s a great time for very slow hands for example. Maybe just do feeling drills and chin na drills for a couple of weeks. Its all about being completely “rounded” (no pun intended). If you tend to dislike really slow drills then use them on your tired days, or during a plateau. If you have been pushing your forms really fast, take it easy and think about each individual move in a form, play them “tai chi” slow and think about your balance in each stance. If you have been playing your forms 25 times each every day, maybe cut that down and use the extra time to write down each move of the form on paper. This gives you another way of thinking about the forms and really gets them in your head and in your body. We often get blinders on but the truth is we have to work on so many things in order to increase our skill; these times can be very useful.

One of the things I’ve done recently is embrace running. I’ve never really been a big fan of long distance running but I was very fortunate to have a group of kung fu brothers that helped and motivated me to run and work hard. Sifu Jones would push us both mentally and physically in our runs. I found myself looking forward fondly to the bonding that happened during those runs and in turn enjoying the physical effects running had on my skill. Still, running was simply a part of training I had to push through, sort of like horse stance. You guys at the school have a great opportunity to motivate each other and help each other reach greater levels of skill than you could alone. Take advantage of it, we never know what life has in store for us and I can honestly say the time I had with my kung fu brothers and sisters was invaluable to my skill in kung fu.

Since moving I found running a quick way to get some cardio in, warm up my body for forms and P90X (another post altogether), and spend time getting my head mentally prepared to push myself in my training time. As time went by I began to look forward to my morning runs as a time to clear my head, enjoy being outside a bit, and think about things in my life such as medical school, and especially kung fu.

Take some time and think about what you can do to use your plateau to increase your skill. Figure out a way to make it work for you and add to the overall journey of increasing your skill!

Since I’ve been running everyday for quite a while now, thought I would share my “relaxed” running play list with you. I go through stages in my music as well but here are some recent favorites I use to try and relax into my run rather than push for speed right now.

In no particular order:

  • Superman’s Dead – Our Lady Peace
  • Salvation – The Cranberries
  • Ignition – Toby Mac
  • Just Like a Pill – Pink
  • Undone (Sweater Song) – Weezer
  • Suddenly I See – KT Tunstall
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor (This includes No Easy Way Out, they must be together!)
  • Uprising – Muse
  • I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers
  • Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield
  • Sugar, We’re Going Down – Fall Out Boy
  • Going the Distance – Cake
  • Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz

Feel free to comment and add your own favorite running songs. No making fun of my song selection, unless you are going to come visit me and hang through a full workout with me, then you can make fun of them.

How Far Does the Fu Go?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

From: Adam
Date: Mon, Apr 12, 2010 at 9:27 AM
Subject: How Far Does the Fu Go?
To: Sifu

Sifu!!

I was out for my run and saw a huge Rottweiler several blocks up. He was by the front door of a house and I was trying to discern the situation. I popped out my earphones to be more aware and was about to turn around and try a different route when he saw me. He did that aggressive freeze and stare they do so I slowed down a bit to try not to appear scared or aggressive. When I got a couple of yards from him I tried to softly say “hey puppy”, to calm him down – it didn’t work. When I got parallel to him he took off out of the yard right toward me. I immediately stopped and looked right at him. I clapped as loud as I could and yelled “NO!” as sternly as I could and I pointed up to the house and ordered him, “GO!”

With him running at me and me trying to stop running we basically collided. We were so close his chin hit my knee and got dog slobber on it. My clap and aggressive yell startled him, I could see him sort of twitch. He stopped, growled a bit and looked up at me. Again I said, “NO!” and pointed and said “GO!” It was like he was thinking for a second and then turned and jogged back up to the house. I walked until I was out of his sight and then took off faster than I had planned to run today!!

I gotta tell you, I was ready to bring about “complete destruction” on that dog. Not sure how it would have gone, but I would have snatched the life out of that dog, that’s for sure! Well, at least I had to believe I would have! Whew, that was intense. I just kept remembering times we had run together and you had taken that aggressive stance with dogs before and it worked. I did everything I could to show I wasn’t scared and was in charge of the dog. I’m glad he decided to buy it!

Adam

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!

Blinded Me With Science…

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

One day as I was playing chi sau and trying to use techniques I knew from my forms, I began to wonder why we are so precisely instructed on the hand and foot movements. I mean the self defense aspects of Kung Fu are simply to deal with the attacker quickly. Why so much attention on exactly how far the punch must go or the angle of the fist from the elbow? If I was attacked it seems the scuffle would be awkward and sloppy, certainly not precise and crisp like our forms….right? I can’t make the attacker move into the right area for my attacks…can I?

I’m sure most normal people don’t get so tortured by their own brain, but I was stuck thinking about this for quite a while, trying to decide my stance on the issues. It wasn’t until teaching my anatomy and physiology students about optimal muscle length that I put the answer together in my head. Like so many things in Kung Fu there are many reasons for the precision and meticulousness of our forms. If I have learned anything from Sifu Jones it’s that Kung Fu is mutable, that is, it can adapt to any situation. The list of reasons for our forms training is long but here is at least one explanation that I found interesting.

Our muscles are organized into contractible units called sarcomeres. The units contain two proteins, actin and myosin, that are sort of like the cables that pull our muscles when contracting or moving. Think of a winch that pulls a cable, with each pump of the handle the cable is draw towards you and whatever is at the end of the cable is pulled closer to you. That’s basically what we are talking about with muscles, the “whatever” at the end of the cable would be your hand, or foot while the cable would be those proteins in your muscles. If the cable is not inserted into the winch enough, there is not enough to get a good grip and really pull the cable, consequently if most of the cable is shoved into the winch it also wouldn’t pull as there would be no room. Same thing with your muscles, the most effective and useful way to use our muscles is at the optimal length so that the proteins overlap just the right amount for maximum work.

The placement of our hands during forms takes advantage of this. For example, the gwa choy must be made to stop before the fist is extended too far from the body, which would weaken the punch and keep you from putting your full weight or “center” behind it. The elbow strike must be on the same horizontal plane as the shoulder so you can twist your waist and not loose your balance. If there is an optimal length for muscles that means there is an optimal length for punches and kicks. Remember this when practicing your forms, under or overextension is incorrect, you must maintain your balance and power through proper body mechanics…..correct form!