Go back to www.tylerkungfuandfitness.com

Author Archive

Quit?

Friday, August 6th, 2010

As some of you may be aware, last weekend was our yearly national titling in Austin, Tx where many of the schools associated with The United States Kung Fu Exchange gather to test our upper level students.   This year, we had two students ready to title, Philip Anthony (Level 2) and Tina Knight (Level  1).   Both did very well and helped uphold the excellent reputation that our school has earned.  So be sure to congratulate them when you see them!!

Now on to my topic; Following the Titling on Friday night, we had Sigung Fogg’s workshop on Saturday.  We started around 8:30 with a warm up, followed by two seminars from Sifu Leverett and Sifu Medley, Lunch, a seminar by Sifu Jones, and then Sigung Fogg’s, ending around 4:30.  Since 7+ hours of Kung Fu is not enough, we moved outside (in the Austin summer heat) to play some hands.

After playing with several of my Kung Fu cousins, I had the pleasure of touching hands with Sifu Medley.    At this point, I was tired, very tired.  I fought myself to keep moving almost as much as I fought Sifu Medley.  My hands felt like they were filled with lead, and my feet felt like they had begun melting into the concrete on which we stood (not even having started yet).  I felt like I was moving in slow motion, barely able to move to attempt to deal with the incoming attacks.  Then something amazing happened, which has happened many times before, and I was hoping would occur, It got FUN.   The weariness drained away, clearing my mind, pulling energy from where my body stored it, using it to keep me alive (and loving it).   Time outside of the hands ceased to matter and passed without my knowledge (estimated at around 20 min or so). I was keenly aware of my surroundings, but my focus was wholly upon the Kung Fu master in front of me.  When we finally stopped, around 6:40pm, Sifu Medley said “You Tyler guys don’t know how to quit.” “No Sir.” was my response.

Quit.  To Give Up.  To Admit Defeat.  – “No Sir” I will have none of that.  And neither will Sifu.   I’m told that the inability to give up is a character flaw.  I do not accept that.

At Tyler Kung Fu and Fitness, we do not quit.  Not when so tired we want to fall down.  Not when our family is in danger.  Not when everything seems hopeless.  Not Ever.   It is the same attitude that produces survivors in otherwise fatal instances (Read ‘Deep Survival’ by Laurence Gonzalas ).  It’s the same attitude that makes the Navy SEALS and Army Rangers the best in the world.

There is nothing in this universe that will make me give up on my beliefs, my family, or my friends.

Quit?  Not a chance.

Stretched Thin

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

I have been asked several times “How do you balance Kung Fu and your normal life?” For several years now, I can not separate Kung Fu from my “normal life”… its one and the same. But I completely understand why the question is asked. The more applicable question is actually “How do you fit Kung Fu training into your normal day-to-day routine?

Now that can be a difficult question to answer, as each of us are different. Instead of telling you how you should incorporate it into your routine, I will share with you how I have in my own life.

I am a very busy person. I have a job that works me at least 40 hours a week, usually more, and requires travel that has lasted months before. I also have a wonderful wife and daughter (and expecting another in Sept). I also have all of my family and friends, and quite a few hobbies and projects ( not counting honey-dos and daddy could yous). On top of all of that, I learn and teach Kung Fu. Needless to day, I don’t get to be lazy very often.

Fitting Kung Fu in is not easy. I try to come to class and meet up with my Kung Fu brothers and sisters for hands as often as I can. But for the most part, my training is solo, intermixed throughout the day. I try to start and end every day with some Kung Fu. A good stretch in the morning, roll out of bed, maybe do a little horse stance while brushing my teeth, then the last few moves of the form I am learning before getting dressed for work. The morning drive usually entails me going through a form or one of our fighting drills in my head several times. At work, I try to take a morning and afternoon break, and maybe take a brisk walk around the parking lot a couple times to get the blood and muscles moving. Perhaps running a form through my head, sometimes stopping to physically work a move, pondering applications. Lunch time is usually relaxing with a book, but if it’s getting close to test time, or I need a different kind of relaxing, its form time, either at the school (less than 5 min from work), or in the parking lot.

Evenings are usually the best and worst times to fit in the Fu. I try to take an hour or two a week and play through my forms in the back yard, but it can be hard. It may be 9:30 or 10:30 before I can even start, and after a long day, feeling exhausted, it can be difficult to actually get out and do it. But it is so very rewarding when I do. If I don’t get a chance to get outside, then I will play a form or two before showering (or while in the shower), then some more horse stance while brushing the teeth. After that, laying in bed, I will work for a bit on feeling/controlling my Chi. Many times the last thing to go through my head at night is Kung Fu related.

It all comes down to fitting it in wherever you can, however you can. This usually requires some sort of sacrifice of doing something else, from watching TV, to sleeping, or another hobby. By and far, though, the greatest asset to my Kung Fu outside of the school is my wonderful supportive wife. It was actually her urging, many years ago, that got me to visit Tyler Kung Fu and Fitness, which greatly changed my life for the better.

So to all of the Kung Fu wives, husbands, parents, and children who support your loved ones Kung Fu aspirations; THANK YOU. For without, you, we could not do this which brings us so much happiness!

The Bonds We Build

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

As most of you know, I have had to do some extensive traveling over the last year or so. It has been very difficult to be away from my family but sometimes we must do something that we are not happy with to better benefit those who depend on us. But in addition to my regular family, I have also missed my Kung Fu Family. Four hours travel each way gives me plenty time to think about Kung Fu, and I have come to some personal Kung Fu realizations:

#1: I am Kung Fu. It is in my blood, in every cell. There is no separation left. Every step, move, action and reaction is Kung Fu. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

#2: The Kung Fu family is as real as our own family. Those who train with me, sweat, and even bleed with me are my brothers and sisters. It is very much like the bond soldiers build when in combat.

#3: Teaching Kung Fu is one of my favorite things in my life. It helps keep me sane because it takes every bit of my attention and concentration.

I can tell you from experience, that all of the Instructors at Tyler Kung Fu and Fitness feel this way. From the very first time I met Sifu, I knew that was the case with him (and still is), and he has passed that on to us. And because of that we have created these friendships that are extremely strong.

A couple weeks ago, I drove from Port Arthur to Galveston (about 2.5 hours one way) to see two of my Kung Fu brothers, Adam and Kody. We ate and proceeded to play hands on the beach. I made this trip after working for over eight hours and it was well worth it to see my brothers. That same mindset brings back all of our Kung Fu brothers and sisters back to the school every time they come back to Tyler for whatever reason. It’s all in the things that we have shared at this place, that has become sacred to us, and built these bonds that will last a lifetime.

I am a Martial Artist

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

A poem that I found very interesting:

I am a martial artist. I see through different eyes.
I see a bigger picture when others see gray skies.
Though many can’t conceive it, I stand…facing the wind.
My bravery, not from fighting, but from my strength within.

I am a martial artist. I’ll walk the extra mile.
Not because I have to, but because it’s worth my while.
I know that I am different, when I stand on a crowded street.
I know the fullness of winning, I’ve tasted the cup of defeat.

I am a martial artist. They say I walk with ease.
Though trained for bodily harm, my intentions are for peace.
The world may come and go, but a different path I’ll choose.
A path I will not stray from, no matter, win or lose.

-Karen Eden

The Importance of Horse Stance

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

I feel that I should begin with saying that I am in no way a Horse Stance Expert. Like everyone else, my horse stance needs constant work. Every so often, I have to look at my Horse Stance and try to make improvements where I can. I am currently trying to get back into real Kung Fu shape after my almost 4 month outage due to work travel and as I do this, the first thing on the list is Horse Stance. And when I am working on something in my own personal Kung Fu, it always spills over to my Students.

Most martial arts use a version of this stance, and it seems that everyone puts emphasis on a different aspect of the stance. I believe that Horse Stance is one of the most misunderstood stances in Kung Fu, and one of the most important.

Traditional Horse Stance training has fallen off dramatically over the years, and I truly believe that has lead to the degradation of Martial Arts in America. Many martial arts schools have either changed Horse Stance to make it easier, or eliminated it as a training tool altogether. They use a variety of excuses, my favorite being that “it doesn’t teach anything useful.” When I hear that one it sounds to me as if they said “Because I am lazy and don’t care for my students.” There are many things that Horse Stance training can teach, I will cover just a few of my top favorites.

First I will cover what a good horse stance is: feet a bit wider than your shoulders, back straight, legs bent at 90 degrees, with your upper legs horizontal to the floor (hips and knees same distance from floor), knees directly above the ankles, and the shoulders directly above the hips. Do not expect to be comfortable. If it doesn’t hurt, then you are not doing it right!! (though the pain should only be in the legs)

1. The most obvious is that Horse Stance builds physical strength. Strength comes in two types: raw power (lifting) and staying power (holding). Horse Stance primarily builds holding strength, keeping your body steady and solid through the range of motion when fighting.

2. Horse Stance builds pain tolerance. When done properly, Horse Stance hurts; but it is a “good” pain. By that I mean that it is a pain that only occurs when you are in the stance, and leaves no lasting damage. This is extremely useful in any situation in which you must fight for your life, allowing you to ignore a certain amount of pain while still being able to respond and protect yourself.

3. Horse Stance destroys perceived limits. Horse Stance teaches you how to push beyond your “limits.” Most of our perceived “limits” are ones which we place unduly upon ourselves, usually with little or no basis in fact. Take for example a 3 year old and a 30 year old, such as my daughter and I. She can flex to almost any position without problem, where I most certainly can not. This is not because my muscles are not capable of this flexibility, but rather my body has “learned” over the years that normal movement is limited to a short distance. So when I try to take them beyond that “normal” movement, they contract, causing me pain. When I take a mental hold of my muscle and force it to relax, my range of motion increases dramatically. We set similar limits on virtually everything. Practicing Horse Stance can prove to yourself that you can surpass these limits with some good Kung Fu (time and energy, or hard work)

4. Horse Stance builds Strong Character. Regardless of age, sex, race, music taste, or favorite color, Horse Stance is hard. It is hard for everyone. It shows that with some work, you can achieve your goals. A little bit of pain now reaps rewards later on. And if I am willing to put myself through things like this for myself, I am much more willing to help others.

As Sifu has told us several times before, practicing Kung Fu will either make you a better person, or you will quit. I really believe this statement, and that Horse Stance is one of the leading factors that makes this true.

Fighting the Frustration

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

In every student’s Kung Fu journey comes a point where they do not feel that they are progressing like they should. This has happened to everyone that has learned to fight in this way, back hundreds of years. It is completely normal, but it can be very frustrating.

It is very much like walking through a long, wide hall. One in which you cannot see the end, but you know that this is your path. While walking down this hall, you may all of a sudden you find yourself at a wall. In this wall there are many doors, but only one will be unlocked and available for your passage. After passing through that door you are again looking down another long, wide hall.

The halls are wide because each student’s journey through Kung Fu is different and each door represents a different solution. Sometimes the student will find the correct solution themselves and continue on their Kung Fu path, however help is usually needed.

Here are a few suggestions to move past this frustration:

  1. Play your forms with emphasis on applications. All of the fighting tools you need are in your forms. The more you play them, the more will come out when fighting.
  2. SLOW DOWN. The slower you go, the more time you have to think about something different to do or how to get out of a situation.
  3. Try new things and new people. Playing hands with someone new can often spur a new direction for you.
  4. Try focusing on a single principle/idea when fighting. Example; begin trying to catch people’s center by plucking.

Very often, the best thing to do is to ask a Ja Gow or Black Belt. We all love this stuff, and would love to spend some time with you to help you get better. Learning to fight at Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness can be a daunting task. It is certainly a slow and frustrating one, but it is also extremely rewarding.

Most of all, KEEP TRYING. As in most martial arts, you learn the most by doing something over and over and over and over again.

To All The Would Be “Kung Fu Fighters”

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Sifu Jones, the Ja Gows, and the Black Belts have always pushed the slow and soft way of learning how to fight in our often brutal system of Kung Fu. A few of the up and coming students witnessed something on Friday that proves that it works. What happened that afternoon is the result of many years of hard work and practice. I want to set the record straight about what happened and what it takes to get there.

During the Friday afternoon hands time, Ja Gow Adam and I touched hands for a bit. During our hands play, things quickly escalated to the point where we were going fast and hard. We were pushing ourselves; punching, kicking, throwing, yielding, grappling–you name it and we probably tried it. It was soft, controlled, and with no ego, and that made it a whole lot of fun (but educational it was not).

I know that we stress playing soft and slow, and that it can be difficult, but that is how you learn to fight safely without any rules or pads. Soft and slow however important, is only a part of the story. This story also includes several years of learning forms, conditioning our bodies, and learning to fight. All of the forms and the horse stance help to condition and train our bodies to react without conscious thought, but the most important thing–what has tied all of the forms, stances and drills together–are the years of playing hands soft and slow. Constantly helping each other get better by staying soft, relying on feel, trusting your partner and trying new things. That is the goal when you touch hands with your fellow students. Help each other. (Do not misinterpret this to try and teach one another, please leave that to the instructors)

Things everyone needs to work on (myself included):

  1. Stay Soft. Softness keeps you from hurting someone or yourself.
  2. Stay Slow. Ja Gow Bob Hung from California said “If you can do it slow, you can do it fast. If you can only do it fast, you are doing it wrong.” Also, you can not learn/get better when going fast.
  3. No Ego. If you get hit, it is your fault, there is a gap in your defense. Put your attention to closing that, not “getting back” at your partner. At TKFF, inflated egos are “popped”.
  4. Help Each Other. You cannot get better by yourself. You need practice, and you need feedback from those you touch hands with.

These few things, along with the proper hands etiquette, will allow you to learn in a safe, enjoyable manner, which is our goal here at TKFF. And remember, we love answering questions about fighting!!

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.

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.