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Become the Principles: Part I in the series

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

The young monk slowly picked himself up off the hard brick floor. He tried to ignore his kung fu brothers’ whispers but Grandmaster’s disapproving stare hit him harder than his opponent’s tiger claw just did. He stifled a groan when he stood straight. Every joint in his body ached, even among his toes. The puffy knot above his left eye throbbed as a hundred of tiny beads of sweat, mixed with rivulets of blood, rolled off his bruised, bald head.

Ashamed, the young monk stared at the floor. “Grandmaster, I’ve studied and memorized the combat principles, yet I can never defeat my brothers.”

From the raised platform, Grandmaster rose from his seat. His traditional orange robe rippled in the afternoon breeze as he walked to the edge of the stage and looked at the wounded young man slumped beneath him. He smiled, stroking his long white beard as he remembered saying those exact words to his grandmaster so long ago. He nodded, agreeing with his thoughts. Time is the answer. He spoke to the monk.

“Memorized the principles, yes, but you have not become them.” The wise master bowed and left training hall.

I remember memorizing the twelve soft principles of 7-Star Mantis years ago. I was so proud of myself. I could speak of the principles as if I were a kung fu scholar. But like the young monk learned, knowledge of something (mental) and becoming something (physical) is two different worlds. I can read and go to school for years to learn how to play the piano—and I bet I could even pass a written test on the subject—but if I never once sat down and played, then I would fail my final recital miserably. Totally the same with kung fu. To learn any art you must first understand the principles that make that art what it is, and then become it.

Sifu Fogg always says, “Believe, conceive, achieve.”

First, believe in your art, believe it WILL work, only then can you move on to the conceive part. Once you begin to understand (conceive) how it works then you can achieve it—in this case, achieving the ability to fight like the most feared predator in the insect community!

So, here is the HOW. (Let’s cover one each visit)

Principle #1: Evade full force. In Fu Slang, Don’t get hit!

Let nothing make contact with your body, a punch, palm, elbow, knee, kick, head-butt, a tackle or takedown, a baseball bat, nothing.

  1. Face-off with your partner. One of you will throw only straight punches (painstakingly slow at first) while the other simply moves away, whether this means to duck, step back, spin, fall, flip, whatever, don’t get hit and DON’T touch your partner. This is all about evading. No contact. Do this for 60 seconds then next person punches. Do 3 sets, increasing speed each time. Then go to avoiding hooks, uppercuts, elbows—make your way down the punch list.
  2. Move on to evading all manner of kicks. Talk with each other; ask “what ifs” as you kick this way or that. Be real. Help each other. Later you can strike with long padded weapons, fast and hard, while the unarmed student evades.
  3. Evade tackles. Have partner charge you and tackle you if you don’t move.

Do these everyday, if able. Maybe pick punches one day, kicks the next. Remember, your goal is to become the, evade full force principle, not just memorize it. This is how you do it.

Begin with these drills. Next time we’ll discuss Redirecting with a dil sao.

Oh, please let me know about your own evasion drills. We all can learn.

Ready For Some Football – Part Two

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

***

I actually tried to hunch down and hide, but everyone was staring at us. I finally stood, and with shaky knees, followed John down the rickety bleachers. Our steps echoed through the gym.

We had told a few friends what we did and they were nice enough to encourage us by whispering, “You’re dead,” as we went by.

“Stand there.” Coach Martino pointed to the center of the gym.

We did. The three other coaches stood behind us with their arms folded behind their backs, legs wide, military style.

Martino addressed the class. “What you see here, gentlemen, is two quitters.”

Whoa, talk about a knee to the stomach. Coach ambushed us!

“They’re not only quitting the team . . .” Martino paused, letting the words hover over the players’ heads like a chunk of bacon dangling over a pack of pit bulls. “They’re quitting YOU.”

I couldn’t believe this. He was painting a bulls-eye on our chests.

I scanned the bleachers now in front, and above me. My soon-to-be former teammates scowled as if coach had just told them John and I had kissed every one of their girlfriends.

I glanced at John to the left of me.

Oh crap!

He was easing his right foot forward and twitching his fingers—the way he always does before he spars.

I was about to vomit. John’s preparing to fight the entire football team who has—now that we’re gone—a minimum weight class of 195 pounds, and I have to back him up.

“So,” Coach continued, “after this class, they’re no longer a member of this family.” Coach sneered at us then blew his whistle. “Fall in for laps.”

The gym floor vibrated from the sixty-plus players trudging down the bleachers.

No one talked to us as we filed from the gym onto the field.

None of this I could figure out. We were not good football players. What is the deal?

John and I ran the five laps in silence, constantly checking over our shoulders. Some of the guys were cool, most indifferent, but a few were jerks.

My kung fu Spidey-sense told me that we were going to have some trouble in the locker room.

We finished the run, played catch, then jogged back inside.

I didn’t even make it to my locker before the fight began.

Two dudes behind me grabbed my arms and ran me into the wall of lockers. I managed to twist my head so my nose wouldn’t take the blow. I couldn’t see John. His locker was around the corner from mine. But I did hear lots of shouting and locker-banging.

Two big hands dug into my shoulders and spun me around. I locked eyes with my two assailants. They were two guys I’d never liked. This had nothing to do with quitting. They just wanted an excuse to fight.

I lifted my hands and shifted into a fighting stance.

The two morons had their shirts off and their fists circling in front of them. Two more idiots stood behind them, shouting, “Get him.”

“Take this karate boy,” the closest one said as he punched.

How many times do I have to tell these imbeciles, I do kung fu, not karate?

I ducked. His fist plowed into the lockers. I came up with a snap kick to his groin then blocked a punch from bozo number two. As he pulled back for a second blow, I nailed him in the jaw with a right hook. I was able to kick him in the stomach before the other two tackled me.

We rolled on the filthy floor, fists flying everywhere. My head hit the concrete floor as fists pounded my face. The coppery taste of blood filled my mouth.

The locker room was a bloodthirsty frenzy with everyone shouting and clapping.

We kept rolling until we hit a bench. I looked up. A forest of legs surrounded me. I caught a glimpse of someone’s backpack sitting on the bench. Somehow, I was able to tuck in my legs and kick the guys off me.

With blood dripping from my swollen lips, I sprang to my feet, grabbed the backpack, and went to swinging. I clobbered two more before someone shouted, “Coach is coming!” Everyone scattered.

I whirled around to face the two dudes that had first pushed me. They had their fists cocked but neither looked too eager to move first. The one I’d kicked in the stomach had my Nike shoe print on his gut.

I stepped forward. I still held the backpack, ready to pile drive their fatheads into the lockers.

Coach came in and broke it up. The two guys left, talking trash. I waited until they were out of sight before I dropped the backpack.

I still didn’t know where John was until he walked around the corner. Aside from some bloodstains on his gray gym shirt, he looked normal, like another day at the office. Behind him, three boys came limping out, holding their stomachs. Their faces were swollen and bruised.

“Hope you girls enjoyed your last day of athletics.” Martino shook his head and walked off.

I washed up and we headed to the office to change our schedule.

Football or kung fu?

Looking back now, I think John and I made the right choice.

Ready For Some Football – Part One

Monday, May 17th, 2010

To say that high school football in East Texas is a big deal, is an understatement. However, quitting football is even a bigger deal.

During our eighth-grade year, John Cheng and I juggled kung fu training with playing football. After practices, we’d head home drenched in sweat with our entire muscular and skeletal systems shot. Yet, we’d still roll out of John’s car and put in some kung fu time.

One afternoon, we looked at each other, and said, “Why are we doing this?” We agreed that football was not in our future but KF definitely was.

Feeling confident with our decision, the next morning we strolled to the coaches’ office to tell them we were quitting so we could devote more time to the Fu.

The season was over, and John and I were on the second team. I played maybe two games. I figured us quitting would be no big deal.

We got to school early because there was a particular coach we hoped to talk to, Coach Smith. He was in Sifu Fogg’s fraternity and he was pretty cool to us. Hoping Coach Smith was the only one there, we knocked. I was very disappointed to hear four “Come ins” from the other side of the office door.

We stepped inside the huge office to see all four coaches sitting at their desks. The place reeked of burnt coffee and cheap cologne. Each coach looked up from his newspaper and stared at John and me as if we were a pair of water bugs they considered squashing. Plastered to the wall above their heads, was a banner that read A Football Team is not just a team. It’s a Family.

My backpack suddenly felt a thousand pounds.

“What do you want?” Coach Martino, the head coach asked, as he searched for something on his desk. It was a mess. Stacks of folders, World History textbooks, copies of sports magazines, papers, and a Big Chief yellow pad scribbled on with Xs and Os covered his desk. I kept waiting for something to fall, but it never did. Coach bobbed and weaved around the assorted piles smoother than Ali dodges punches.

When I tried to speak, some kind of shrill squawk burst forth from my voice box, a toxic mixture of puberty and fear. Thankfully, John was there to take over.

“We want to quit football,” he said, “to spend more time doing kung fu.”

So there it was, out there. As quick as a blink we had stepped off the cliff.

Silence filled the room except for the ticking of the coaches’ Coors Light wall clock. It sounded like a bomb in my ears.

As if on cue, the three other coaches slowly folded their newspapers, laced their fingers behind their heads, and then leaned back in their chairs. They stared at us. The rusted springs from their swivel chairs grinded and set my already frayed nerves even more on edge.

Martino found what he was looking for, read it, scrawled something on it, then added it to another pile. He rested his elbows on top of a coffee-stained playbook then squinted at us over his round glasses the way Clint Eastwood does before he blows somebody away with his .44.

As always, John stood there with no emotion. I, on the other hand, was fighting off a stroke.

Hoping for an ally, I glanced at Coach Smith. He just scowled at me, chewing his toothpick. I quickly looked away and tried to focus on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar. It hung crooked on the dingy paneled wall above the coffee pot. Looking at hot bikini babes is usually a cure-all for a fourteen-year-old boy, but this particular morning it just made me feel stupid. It’s like she was laughing at me, saying, You just signed your death warrant, kid.

After sixty seconds of tortuous silence, Coach Martino pulls out a pouch of Redman chewing tobacco and stuffs a huge brown wad into his mouth. “Alright,” he says, as he rolls up the package of chew. “Finish class. Then clean out your lockers and tell the office you want a schedule change.” He spit in a yellow plastic cup and wiped his thick black mustache. “Now get outta here.”

The other coaches went back to their papers and Martino started writing something in a black folder.

John and I ran to the gym and didn’t look back. We couldn’t believe it had gone so smooth.

With a huge weight off our shoulders, we ascended the old wooden bleachers for the last time and found our spot midway up. Athletics was our first period. All we had to do now was get through this class. We sat and waited for the coaches.

Coaches came in, blew their whistles, and said they had some news before we started our morning run.

“Cheng, Jones,” Coach Martino shouted. “Get down here.”

Oh crap!

***

At What Lengths?

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Josh Davis, three-time U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist in Swimming, said as he stared down his lane at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the thought crossed his mind that 4 hours of swimming each day for 10 years—a total 25,000 miles—now came down to one moment in time. That’s unbelievable!

I love studying the championship habits of Olympic Athletes—well, really, the habits of any successful person in their field. What is their secret? At what lengths did they go to reach their goal?

As you know, from my earlier blog, “Committed or Interested”, (if you haven’t read it, stop now, scroll back, and read) I don’t believe there is a “secret” to success. The secret is busting your tail with hard work and putting in long hours.

Sifu Fogg always told us there’s nothing secret about mastering mantis kung fu. He said, “You just train hard, then do it again and again.” I’m doing that, but I’m still holding out for the kung fu download that Neo got in Matrix.

I remember before a tournament, I often trained 3-7 hours per day. John Cheng did more than that!

So, at what lengths will we go to achieve our goals? Here is a (very) few of the successful people I studied.

  • Eight-time U.S. Olympic Gold Medalists Michael Phelps swims a minimum of 5 hours per day 6 days per week.
  • Vladimir Horowitz, an acclaimed Russian-American concert pianist practices from 4-8 hours per day. Closer to home, my kung fu student, Shawn Bradley, when practicing for his final concert to graduate, played his piano up to 10 hours per day!
  • John Grisham wrote every day in the predawn hours before he went to work.
  • Stephen King writes a minimum of 3 hours per day 7 days a week. He says doesn’t even take Christmas off.
  • Walt Disney worked tirelessly on achieving his dream of creating the first full-length animated feature, despite all of Hollywood, and even Walt’s family, saying he couldn’t do it.
  • Sylvester Stallone loaded up on caffeine and wrote the Rocky screenplay in just three days.

After studying these people, I did discover their one common secret: persistence.

Psychologists tell us that to develop a habit, you must practice something one hour per day for 40 days.

To master something it takes 10,000 hours of practice to know all about that subject.

That’s 20 hours per week for 10 years!

Who’s up for the challenge?

Please comment and share your success stories with me.

Mrs. Jones

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Junior High for me-as was for many of you-a very interesting time of life. Kung fu definitely helped me get through it. However, I never dreamed I’d have to defend myself against a teacher! Her name was Mrs. Jones. She was a riot! She cared nothing about political correctness, wasn’t afraid of lawyers, and dealt with discipline problems herself. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Mrs. Jones was Tyler Perry’s role-model for his popular character Medea.

I remember the time well . . .

“Jones, whatcha writin’ boy?”

I closed my eyes and cringed at the sound of Mrs. Jones’ voice. She caught me. I was supposed to be reading pages 104 thru 125 in my eighth-grade History book, something about the War of 1812, but instead of that nonsense, I was writing another Wade Cheng Ninja adventure. I had been writing the series since sixth-grade.

Wade had just killed ten ninjas on top of the Empire State Building. As he repelled down, using his ninja grappling hook and trusty ninja rope, a mafia hit man was shooting at him from the top of the next building. Half American and half Chinese, Wade was the last American ninja, hired as an assassin for the CIA. Bad guys around the world were trying to take him out. Wade was cool, tough, and the ultimate ladies’ man. James Bond envied him.

I sat third from the front, middle row. Without looking up, I told Mrs. Jones I was taking notes on the assignment.

“I didn’t tell nobody to take notes, boy. But since you so smart read whatcha got.”

My classmates started laughing and Michael, sitting behind me, punched my shoulder and said, “Busted!”

“Everybody, shut-up.” Mrs. Jones pounded her fists on her desk. “I got to hear this.” She adjusted her three-inch thick bifocals and fixed her eyes on me like a starved Komodo dragon stares at a wounded jackrabbit. “Go on, boy, read.”

I could feel my ears turning red. There was no way I would actually read from my journal. Earlier in the year, in Social Studies class, a girl named Sherry told me I was weird when I told her I was writing an action novel. Since then, I tried to hide it.

My journal was on top of my open textbook. I slid the journal up a bit, so I could see the bottom page of my book. I begin to read from page 105.

That lasted about ten seconds.

“Stop right there, boy, stop right there. You must think I’m stupid. You readin’ straight from the book.”

The whole class busted out laughing.

“Bring me whatchu writin’ boy.”

Hoping that Myron, sitting in front of me, could block Mrs. Jones’ view, I quickly slid my journal beneath the history book and searched for something to give her. But in my haste, I dropped my latest copy of Inside Kung Fu. The magazine hit the floor with a splat. I may as well have dropped a hundred dollar bill the way Mrs. Jones’s gaze locked on to the fallen magazine.

“Well, what we got here?”

“It’s one of those violent magazines, Mrs. Jones,” said Myron.

At first, I wanted to deliver the iron-palm-explodes-brain-stem technique to the back of Myron’s neck for fronting me out, but then I realized he just stole Mrs. Jones’ attention from my journal.

Mrs. Jones crossed her arms and cocked her head to the side. Her curly wig hung on for dear life. She stared at Myron.

“Forty years of teaching, I ain’t ever seen nobody as stupid as you. I see that’s a magazine, boy.” She sighed. “You the reason I’m retirin’ in sixty days. And that ain’t soon enough!”

Myron mocked being offended. “Mrs. Jones, you hurt my feelings.” Myron always had a grin on his face and it drove Mrs. Jones crazy.

“I don’t care about your feelings, boy. Your problem is having feeling to begin with.”

The class went wild. Mrs. Jones and Myron got into it like this everyday.

“And I tell you something else, old smiley-boy. Whenever somebody smiles all the time like you do, that’s the first sign of insanity!”

I was laughing so much that I forgot about my magazine still lying on the floor-until Mrs. Jones focused back on me.

“Jones, bring me that magazine.”

“I’ll bring it to you, Mrs. Jones,” Myron said, just to irritate her.

Mrs. Jones shook her head in disgust. “Boy, you done tipped over the edge. That smilin’ cult you belong to done sent you to the land of crazies. Stand up, Myron. You gonna stand till your feet’s as flat as dimes.”

Standing all period was one of Mrs. Jones’ evil punishments.

Myron stood, still grinning. I took my time walking to Mrs. Jones’ desk.

“Give it here, boy.” She snapped her fingers and held out her hand. I gave her the magazine and stared at her desk while she flipped through the pages, mumbling, “Mmm-hum.”

Stacks of un-graded papers, textbooks, a large round container of beige face powder, and the daily paper opened to the obituary page, covered one-half of Mrs. Jones’s desk. On the other side, sat her Bible.

Mrs. Jones didn’t let anything sit on, or even sit near, her Bible – it was HOLY!

The huge black book weighed as much as a Honda Civic and was as thick as five encyclopedias. I was tempted to touch it to see what she would do but it seemed that my magazine had already stirred her up.

“Boy, you know how to do all this stuff? You think you’re Chinese?”

“He is Chinese, Mrs. Jones!” Myron shouted.

Mrs. Jones leaned around me to see Myron. She lifted her fist. “Uh, Myron, do you want me to come over there and punch your smilin’ mouth? Even though my ankles is swelled up and my feet got the gout, I be on you faster than ugly jumps on your skin, boy. Shut up.” She looked back at me. “Jones, do you know this kon fu stuff?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, trying not to laugh.

“Are you fast?”

“Yes, ma’am.” I wondered why she asked me that as she began rolling up my magazine. Then it hit me. Literally.

“Let’s see how fast you are, then.”

I couldn’t believe it. Mrs. Jones was swinging the magazine at me.

I stepped back and blocked a few of the blows. The class went berserk.

Not satisfied with her hit-miss ratio, Mrs. Jones pushed away from her desk and stood up. Her over-weighted chair let out a hideous shrill as it scrapped against the linoleum floor.

“Boy, not even the Lord Jesus, can help ya now.” She leaned over her Bible and swung like a mad woman. Her watermelon-sized breasts threatened to bust out of her tight blouse and her arms jiggled like platters of Jell-O.

I kept blocking but I was laughing so hard I almost fell. It seemed like she swung forever. The whole class was on their feet, the noise louder than a pep rally.

Finally, the bell rang.

Mrs. Jones tossed the magazine at me and collapsed into her chair. Her gray-speckled wig sat lopsided on her head and rivers of sweat had turned her thick make up to paste. She fanned herself with someone’s term paper.

“Y’all better get outta here before I kill somebody. Whew.” She took a sip of tea from her 64 oz plastic Chevron mug.

“Jones, don’t you bring that magazine back here tomorrow, boy,” she told me as I was leaving.

I didn’t. But on the next day, she attacked Myron with the eraser.

Hell’s Angel

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Growing up in the kung fu world of Sifu Fogg was always adventurous. One lesson he taught me early on was that you have to stand on your own kung fu. Meaning the art must become your own; your skills; your talents. You must have confidence in your own ability.

Well, Sifu Fogg has a knack for drawing this confidence out of you, even when you’d rather he didn’t.

The spring of my senior year in high school, I was training with Master Fogg on the basketball court of an apartment complex. The worn-out ball court was a mixture of crumbling asphalt, grass, dirt, and potholes. The goal posts leaned and rusted chains served as the nets. The backside of the three-story apartment complex completely circled the ball court. Every tenant’s patio or balcony faced the court.

I’d trained with Sifu here on many occasions, so the fact that it seemed everyone in the complex was watching us on that beautiful sunny day didn’t bother me. <em>(Actually training anywhere didn’t bother me. We’ve trained in some crazy places before…but that’s another blog). </em>

Sifu was pushing me to the max, which I’m sure it was great fun for our audience. Me, in the sun, sweating, bleeding, on the brink of death, begging for a cup of water just to dip my finger into as Sifu laughed, and said, “Play your form again!” all while he sat under a crooked oak tree and sipped lemonade.

We’d trained an hour when this guy started heckling us from his third floor patio. He shouted, “That stuff’s not real. Bet it can’t stop a bullet (he’s never seen Sifu Fogg move) and “I can still kick your ____.” We ignored him. He continued for about ten minutes then went inside.

Five minutes later, Mr. Heckler was on the ball court.

Imagine the biggest, ugliest, motorcycle gang member you can think of and that would be Mr. Heckler, who now towered over me. He looked as if he walked straight off the set of a 1970’s biker-movie starring him as the lead bad-dude. He kicked at a chunk of asphalt and stepped closer to me. I could smell him.

His hair was a black tangled grease pit that tumbled off his fat head. He wore a sleeveless leather vest with a tattered sleeveless Harley Davidson T-shirt underneath. His arms were white hairy tree trunks. A nude woman named Lola, tattooed on his left bicep, danced with each flex. Fingerless riding gloves covered his huge hands and his fingernails had at least an inch of dirt caked underneath. His hairy gut spilled over the top of his grease-stained jeans concealing the origins of three chains that hung from his belt loops and slithered into his back pockets. His cycle boots were worn and scuffed.

He glanced at Sifu then at me and smiled with tobacco-yellowed teeth. He pointed at me, raised his fists, and said, “You wanna go?”

<em>Heck yeah, I wanted to go! </em>Go running like a scared rabbit and hide behind Sifu Fogg, who was still just sitting calmly drinking lemonade.

Biker Monster asked Sifu, “You the teacher?”

Sifu grinned, said yes, and then told him I was his top student and would be happy to fight with him.

<em>Wait, I’m not the top student. John Cheng is! I can call him. He can be here in thirty minutes.</em> I looked at my feet expecting to see all the blood that had just drained from my body to be pooling around my kung fu shoes.

Biker Monster said, “Right on,” and began to circle me, shadow boxing as he stumbled around.

I looked at Fogg. My mouth hung open and my knees were shaking. He waved at me, opened a package of cookies, and crammed a double-stuffed Oreo in his mouth. What is this! I’m about to die and he’s eating.

“Let’s do it, kid,” Biker Monster said.

My arms felt like hundred pound dumbbells and my legs were tubes filled with concrete. My heartbeats were off the charts.

We faced off, two warriors in a Roman coliseum. A million scenarios flashed through my mind like a DVD stuck on fast-forward. One thought was that if he If he connects a punch, I will have no face. I couldn’t believe Sifu was letting this happen.

He moved in, and without thought, I adjusted my stance to defend from the outside gate. That <em>one</em> movement did it for me. I realized my training was overriding the fear. I thought of Bourne. (A sly advertisement to read my blog “Just Like Bourne”)

Monster Biker grunted, shuffled forward, then suddenly stopped. “Hey, man, just joking around.” He dropped his hands and laughed. “I don’t wanna fight with you.” He looked at Sifu. “I’m outta shape, man. I can’t do it like I used to.”

He and Sifu talked while I sat down and encouraged my bodily functions to return to normal. After he left, I asked Sifu Fogg if he would’ve really let the fight happen. He said yes and that of course he had my back, but he knew I’d be alright.

Sifu’s confidence in me at that moment forever changed the way I viewed my own kung fu abilities. No way am I saying I’m great. I agonizingly strive to improve my kung fu everyday. It’s just from that day forward, I was confident enough to put myself out there, via tournaments, demos, etc. And twenty years later, that same confidence was a weapon of encouragement when I was struggling to open a kung fu school.

My goal is to pass that confidence on to my students in whatever they do. I hope during trying times in life, they will look back and say, “If I can pass my kung fu test, or learn a particular form, I can get through this.”

Lethal Weapon

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

The first action you must take after achieving your black belt is to register your hands as lethal weapons. It’s you civic duty to inform society how dangerous you are.

I remember the day I did. It was a horribly miserable August afternoon. Bleeding, bruised, and covered in dirt, from already enduring a twelve hour test, I was standing in the middle of a field with ten Eagle Claw masters circled around me. At once, all ten warriors attacked me for the final phase of my black belt exam.

Moving with the grace of a ballet dancer, my hands and feet shot out like exploding grenades. I moved faster than the wind. Within seconds, my opponents were eating grass and begging their master not to make them attack again. I stared at the master, showed him my mantis claw. He ran away, leaving his injured students behind. My Sifu was so impressed with my ability he told me to go immediately to the police station and register my hands.

Arriving at police headquarters, I informed them of my lethalness. Out of nowhere, this huge cop grabs me and tries to throw me down.

How silly of him.

Careful not to injure the officer, I made sure he landed on top of his desk instead of the floor when I flipped him using the secret tiger leaps from mountain and kills pregnant antelope technique. The entire department gasped in awe as the big man sailed over my shoulder. The officer who attacked me rolled off his desk and offered a handshake. Said he did that as a test to everyone who comes in to register their hands. I nodded, smiled, adjusted my new black belt, and shook his hand.

From there, officers led me down a dark narrow hallway. They blindfolded me, pushed me into a room that smelled of gunpowder and burnt rubber and locked the door. I could hear water dripping somewhere. Though completely blind, I sensed others in the room. I drew a deep breath and centered my chi as I prepared to use the blind monk escapes the cave and attacks one-legged merchant in village technique. I quickly exhaled. I was now one with the room.

For the next seven hours, I went through a series of grueling tests that involved handcuffs, shotguns, tennis balls, ninja stars, smoke bombs, Taser guns, and a live goat.

At the conclusion, the chief of police said he was sure glad I was one of the good guys, but being that he’d never seen anyone as amazing as me, I needed to register my hands and feet. I agreed. Just registering my hands wasn’t being totally honest. With my killer kicks, I actually equaled two lethal weapons.

I filled out the proper forms, swore in before the judge of my lethalness, took the oath only to use kung fu when in danger, and was issued the official Lethal Weapon card. (Only Mel Gibson and I carry multiple lethal weapon cards). The police even gave me a small badge that I must wear whenever I’m in public that informs people that I’m a hands-registered black belt.

Of course, the story above is false-well; some parts of it-but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve been asked if a person must register their hands once they become a black belt.

The answer is an absolute NO. Registering your hands is an urban legend, a Hollywood myth. There is no such registry and research has failed to reveal any statutory, regulatory, or other requirements that boxers or martial artists must register their hands.

I did read, however, of several court cases where jurors considered a defendant’s MA or boxing experience when deciding the outcome of their case. In 1988, (Wyo. 1988) the Wyoming Supreme Court convicted a man of aggravated assault for punching someone in the head. The defendant’s training in boxing supported the jury’s findings on his mental state. I also discovered a website where you can pay $34.95 to register your hands with this company. I wish I’d thought of that marketing idea.

Bottom Line: As martial artists, the courts hold us to a higher standard than regular civilians, as we should be. Discipline and control is the cornerstone of martial arts. Just use common sense. If you are at the grocery store and a guy bumps into you, don’t break his leg. However if someone is in your home to kill, steal, or destroy, then all bets are off.      You unleash on them.

That goes for terrorists attacking you on a plane. I have no problem using the kung fu master completely decimates the lunatic screaming “death to infidels” technique.

Key Words

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Ninety-five percent of the time, I keep a positive attitude and try to focus on the good things in life. Recently however, I learned of a situation that reminded me of just how wicked this world is.

The incident was between two second-graders, a boy and a girl. (Keep in mind as I tell you this, these kids are only SEVEN years old). At the lunch table, the boy asked the little girl to marry him . . . so that he could have sex with her. She said no!

Later that afternoon, he asked the same question; same answer from her, he says think about or you’ll be sorry. Next day, same happens, this time in the classroom. She says no, and the boy says, “I’m gonna tie a rock to your head and rip out your hair for saying no.” She tells the teacher Boy is bothering her, and teacher tells her to ignore him.

Following day, again in the lunchroom, the cycle continues but this time it gets physical. Boy grabs girl from behind and squeezes her. She screams STOP, tells the teacher Boy is bothering her, teacher says ignore him. Back in the classroom, Boy threatens Girl again, this time in a much more violent way with extremely graphic details. So much so, that I was too uncomfortable writing it here. Girl quickly backs away from him and threatens to tell her daddy. Boy says that he’ll just chop off the daddy’s head.

Girl did tell her parents, and after parent/teacher/principal conference, the incident was investigated. Turns out, a neighbor of the family had abused the little boy.

Evil begets evil.

More girls came forward with similar stories about Boy. Boy was removed from school for a week and assigned to a different classroom, with the requirement of seeing a counselor.

You’re probably saying, “What’s the teacher’s problem. Why didn’t she do something when Girl told?” In her defense, second-graders tattle on each other about a thousand times per day, and the girl only said bothering me.

Hearing about all this, I learned that there are certain KEY words a child must use to let the teacher know the situation is serious. Inform your children to use words, nasty, sex, serious, threatening, and or say, “so-n-so is talking about hurting me with a weapon”, “so-n-so touched me in a private spot” or “he’s saying stuff about naked people.”

I know, it’s not words we as parents necessarily want to discuss with our small children, but as the above story proves, society forces our hand. It’s our job to protect them however we can. Girl did involve her parents and that was absolutely the right action.

Please encourage your children to tell you things. It could save their little life.

Committed or Interested?

Monday, November 16th, 2009

There’s a difference between interests and commitment. When you’re interested in something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results. – Art Turock

Think about that quote for a moment. It reveals the secret to success.

Commitment.

That’s the answer. Whether for the practice of kung fu, piano, writing, saving money, and even in marriage, consistent, committed practice is the absolute must for triumph.

I found that quote inside Reader’s Digest when I was in college. I guarded it like a cherished proverb and kept it crumpled inside my wallet for years. In ’96 when TKFF opened its doors, I drove a thumbtack through it and it has since yellowed on my office wall. Over the years, Turock’s quote has both inspired me and haunted me. In times of waning endurance, the words fueled my stamina. Other times, I wish I’d never read the beast.

One rainy December day I was to meet Sifu Fogg at the park for a training session to prepare me for my Sifu test coming up that summer. The high was 25, the wind chill 18, and the freezing sleet sliced through your coat and skin. I was so relieved when he canceled due to the weather but he reminded me that I could still train, “because I was young and the cold was good for me.”

Great. Just what I wanted to hear. I pulled the blanket over my head with no intentions of going outside when Turock’s words stung my psyche more than the sleet outside would sting my exposed skin.

Committed or Interested? I asked myself. I threw back the wool blanket, got dressed, and ran to the park.
Consider this bit of info shared by Karen Eden in Ma SUCCESS magazine, December 2009 issue. She states:

• For every 10,000 who sign up for martial arts, fifty-percent quit the first month.
• The remaining 5,000, half will drop in the second month.
• 1,000 will go six months / 500 will go a year.
• 100 students will go two years.
• 3 will receive 1st degree-black level.
• ONLY ONE of 10,000 will become a master instructor.

That’s amazing stuff! Does everyone want to be a master instructor? Of course not, but you understand the pattern. Commitment equals success. What are your goals? Will you achieve them? Will I?

Committed or Interested. Which are you?

Veteran’s Day

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I was ready to post on the topic of learning to fight without learning the numerous forms associated with Mantis KF, when the following hit me. (Will discuss the forms topic soon)

As I post this, the morning rain outside my window is pounding everything in its path. The creek running alongside my house is beginning to flood my front yard and strong winds force huge pines to bow. The sky is a purplish gray. I’m cold.

I find myself wishing for a sunny day, feeling down only because of the weather.

That’s when I notice the date.

November 11.

How selfish and spoiled I am. Here I sit, completely protected from the elements, writing on a computer, when thousands of United States Soldiers are carrying out their duties despite the weather. I watch the rain.

I can’t imagine sleeping on desert floors in 150 degrees as sand granules burrow their way into every cell of my body and mortar rounds hum through the night. Nor could I run through jungles with snakes and snipers ready to kill me.

I can’t imagine flying a jet with a MIG on my tail, or being aboard a ship with huge waves crashing against the hull pelting my face with salt water, soaking my clothes, while enemy subs hope to blow me up.

I can’t imagine fast-roping from a Blackhawk as men, women, and children fire their A-K 47’s at me, or being on a four-man special ops team, dropped off in the black of night a mile away from my target, swimming in shark infested waters only then to crawl through dense tropical forest to infiltrate terrorists’ camps.

I can’t imagine going through all of that and then Americans, the people I so proudly swore to protect and to defend, treat me as a leper when I return.

But you know what? I don’t have to imagine any of that. The United States Soldier has already done it for me . . . for real. These men and women do this day after day because they see the bigger picture. They understand the threat.

U.S. Soldiers are the epitome of servant hood. They love this country and we should love them.

The storm has intensified outside but suddenly, I feel warm, safe.

Thank God for you Veterans. Happy November 11.