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Karate: The Way of Elvis

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

People often ask me if Kung Fu, or specifically mantis, is the only martial art I’ve done. My initial response is yes. I’ve practiced Mantis exclusively since 1982.

However, before I found the Fu, I found Karate . . . Elvis Style!

When I was six, I watched this huge man shatter a brick with his fists at a park demonstration, advertising for a weeklong, beginner Karate camp. I begged and my parents signed me up. I fell asleep that night, excited about breaking that brick.

At 8:45 the next morning, sixteen kids ages six to twelve, and parents, lined up outside the community center. Class was to begin at 9:00. By 9:20, the instructor rolled up in a loud, dirty pale yellow Volkswagen Van. Smoke billowed from the tailpipe. He and his ultra-skinny hippy girlfriend got out and walked to the front door. I was confused. This wasn’t the same guy I saw demolish the brick in the park. This guy looked like Elvis. Not the heartthrob of the 50’s Elvis; the slob of the 70’s Elvis.

Wavy black hair, bushy sideburns, gut to his knees. He sported a tight baby blue terry-cloth jogging suit. Coffee stains streaked the front by the zipper and sweat stains ringed the armpits. Shiny white Nikes with a blue stripe covered his feet, unlaced. His girlfriend had stringy blond hair and her long was neck hidden behind colored beads. She wore a green halter-top, short-short cut-off jeans, and was barefooted. Her toenails were painted red, white, and blue. With no apology for his tardiness, Master Elvis said he was the karate teacher. He unlocked the community center door and told our parents what time to be back. Miss Elvis just hummed and laughed a lot, like some imaginary friend was telling her jokes.  

Once inside, he divided us into two lines by height. Some kid asked where the man was who broke the brick. Master Elvis sneered at him, chewed on a toothpick and said the man was just his helper. “I’m the master teacher,” he said. “And today we learn how to punch.”

Cool, I thought. I waited for him to grab one of the bricks stacked next to the door and punch it in two. Instead, the big man stood before us, rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck side to side. Miss Elvis was impressed. She said, “Whoa, baby” every time her big Teddy Bear moved. She sat cross-legged on the floor braiding her hair.

In one smooth move, Master Elvis spit out the toothpick and unzipped his baby blue jacket. More belly fell out, stretching his white undershirt to the max. Kids in the front row gasped and stepped back.

He looked up and lifted his hands as if receiving instructions from Heaven. He started this weird breathing. Everyone got quiet. His massive body swayed. I was afraid he’d fall over and land on the short red-headed kid in the front row. He dropped his hands and stopped sucking the air. He had a scowl on his face like he’d just bitten a pickle dipped in peanut butter. I thought he was getting sick. Suddenly his arms snapped to the sides, his thumb-sized index fingers pointed in each direction. His leg began to twitch. I’d never seen Caine on Kung Fu do this before. A few kids giggled.

Faster than I thought a fat man could move, Master E pulled his arms to his hips, yelled Keeya, and punched the air. The only girl in the group cried. He did this several times and within seconds sweat poured off his round red face.

Master E told us to go find a mattress and punch it until he said stop. He collapsed on a small chair and had a smoke. Half his butt cheeks hung over the sides. Along the wall behind us were rows of pee-stained mattress stacked to the ceiling. I found out later, that on weekends, homeless people slept at the community center. We must’ve moved too slowly to the mattresses because he screamed NOW and we ran for it. The girl cried even more.

I punched the side of a mattress until my hands cramped. One kid cut his knuckles on protruding bedsprings and bled everywhere, and at least three kids fell victim to an avalanche of falling mattresses.

Elvis sat, sweated, and smoked. Miss Elvis braided her hair and hummed California Dreaming by the Mamas & the Papas.

Finally, our master teacher announced he would break a brick using the punching technique that he’d just “taught” us. I just wanted to get away from the filthy beds. My hands stunk.

With the strut of a lone rooster inside chicken pen, Master Elvis walked to the bricks, stacked three on the floor, did his whole Keeya dance-leg twitch-thing, then slammed his fist down.

The brick didn’t budge. He said someone talking, made him lose focus. He tried again. Nothing happened. Three attempts later, the bricks broke and so did Master E’s hand. He wailed curse words, cradled his bleeding hand to his chest. Miss Elvis said, “Whoa, baby”, and ran to his side. Now everyone was crying, including Elvis. He told us to call our parents. Karate camp was over. We raced for the only payphone next to bathrooms.

Miss Elvis wrapped her man’s hand in his baby-blue jogging suit jacket. It turned purple from all the blood. He moaned and stumbled as she helped him to the van. Before he climbed in though, he managed to light another cigarette. She jumped behind the wheel and floored the gas pedal. Void of adult supervision, we just stood there in awe, watching the van skid out of the parking lot.

Elvis had just left the building.

Investing in Loss

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Now when I say, “Learn to invest in loss,” who is willing to do this? To invest in loss is to permit others to use force to attack while you don’t use even the slightest force to defend yourself. On the contrary, you lead an opponent’s force away so that it is useless. ~ Cheng Man-Ching

The two kung fu students faced off ready for a friendly bout. The senior student led with his dominate right side. He knew that his right back-fist combined with his right side-kick were unstoppable.

The younger student also led with his stronger right side but he felt less confident than his opponent; he was wearing a blindfold. His balance unsteady, his sense of direction completely off kilter with no idea of where his classmate was standing. He hoped he didn’t look stupid.

His goal of today’s match was to keep his guard up until he made contact with his si hing (older kung fu brother) then use feel to determine where an opening for a strike or kick may be. Even though the fight was to be slow, this took considerable amounts of concentration.

The instructor said, “Begin.”

The younger, blinded student stood; his hands up waiting to feel his si hing’s arms or legs make light contact – thinking he would then ride his brother’s attacking limbs back in on recoil and simply return the strike.

Faster than a blink, the older kung fu brother lashed out with a back-fist, smashing his younger opponent’s nose, followed by a spinning right side-kick sending him into the brick wall.

The young student collapsed to his knees. He felt like his navel had collided with his spine. He couldn’t breathe. Blood flowed from his nose beneath the blindfold, splattering the floor.

Obviously, the si hing did not practice the “Invest in Loss” discipline. Although he clearly held the advantage in skill as well as eyesight, his intent was to show off his techniques, not help his brother.

In order to master the art of mantis fighting, or any martial arts really, the student MUST invest in loss.

In the example above, the seeing student should make light contact with the blind one such as touch his stomach with a “strike”. Blind student feels he’s been hit, too late to block, so he must yield to the blow then grab the hitter’s arm and slowly counter. This teaches both students: The blind student feels which way his body should move in reaction to the blow and then how to set up a counter move. The seeing student also sees and feels how his opponent reacts to his attack and counters thus teaching him how to move and counter. And on and on it goes.

In the past 14 years of teaching, my kung fu has grown exponentially. Why? Investing in loss. As a Sifu, I must continually invest in loss. What good would it do for me to bust-up my students and then continue the evening lesson as they’re being wheeled out to the ambulance. Neither of us would ever grow.

To paraphrase the great motivational speaker Zig Ziggler, “Help enough people achieve their dreams and goals, and yours will be achieved as well.”

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – El Final

Monday, July 13th, 2009

…Oh crap! I’ve only sparred in class twice and now I’m about to fight Ranger J.J. McQuade.

Miraculously I stood. My hands were at my side, feeling like concrete. My knees wobbled. I dragged my legs across the black line into the ring. I walked like a Zombie. I should’ve been praying, meditating or something as I struggled to a fighting stance. Instead, my mind raced to a story Sifu Fogg had once told me. He said he and Chuck had sparred at Mr. Norris’ home in California back in the 70’s. Sifu said he won. I swallowed and chewed my mouthpiece. Now it all made sense. Chuck commissioned Mr. Clone to Baton Rouge on a revenge mission. Take me out as an example. NOBODY defeats Chuck Norris. I was a dead man.

Judge said go. Chuck Clone smiled. Spit dripped off his chewed-up black mouthpiece. He looked like the devil. He began to circle me. I wanted to turn with him but my body wouldn’t work. He charged with a ridge hand. I thought of ducking but I moved with the agility of a dead cat. I felt the impact from the blow then my feet left the ground. I heard the roar of the crowd as I tumbled through the air. From what others told me, it was beautiful, especially the way my body cartwheeled across the gym floor. Chuck Clone had followed the ridge hand with a spinning hook kick to the back of my head. As I tumbled out of the ring, I thought of Sifu, John, my other classmates. I had let them down; then I though of Rocky. His words to Mr. T, “Come on. You’re not so bad. You ain’t nothin’.” A rush of adrenaline flooded my muscles. I rolled to my feet. Chuck Clone was going down.

I spun around, charged the ring, but Clone wasn’t there. He was already on the sidelines, surrounded by judges and awestruck fans. I was nothing but a forgotten casualty.

It turned out that Chuck Clone was actually a nice guy. He was a student of one of Mr. Norris’ last operating schools, and he’d been an extra on some of Chuck’s movies. None of my KF brothers saw the fight so on the way home I exaggerated a little to make me not look too bad.

Overall, it was a great experience. I learned to face my fear, and I learned of the enormous power of suggestion. The simple fact that Mr. Clone had Chuck Norris Fighting System stitched on his gi made him a giant in my eyes. He also had the skills to back it up, another lesson learned.

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Tres

Friday, July 10th, 2009

…”Competitors,” a voice boomed over the PA, “we don’t have enough fighters in each rank to merit a contest so we will mix all belt ranks divided only by age. Please listen for your name.”

Several competitors cheered, others booed. I wanted to throw-up. The great PA voice in the sky had just announced that I might have to rumble with Chuck Clone. I shot a glance at him. He was pulling on his war-ravaged headgear. Two loose strips of tape flapped side to side. He was smiling the way I’m sure Goliath did when he went out to battle David. I had the feeling, though, that this giant-story was going to have a very different ending. I frantically searched the crowd for John and my other teammates. I needed backup. They were competing in other divisions.

“Jones,” the great PA said, “have a seat on the line.” I sat cross-legged on the black line of the gym floor and sized up my competition. There were nine fighters. Two while belts, four green, one red, a purple (whatever that is) and Chuck Clone. All of us supposedly under 19 but I swear they looked 40. I was so nervous I put my sparring boots on the wrong feet and forgot to lace up my gloves. My mouthpiece was suffocating me. I fought the urge to bolt, or to shout Wait! You have the wrong guy. I’m not worthy to represent the U.S. Kung Fu Exchange! Instead, I sat there and re-taught myself how to breathe.

Since so few fighters, the event was supposed to be set up like king of the mountain. Whoever won the bout continued to fight, but the judges already knew who’d win, so the event turned into “let’s watch Mighty Chuck Clone destroy these weak worthless earthlings”.

All grew quiet.

The judge cleared his throat, looked at the roster. I was the newest. I figured I’d be first. My head felt a hundred degrees. Salty sweat singed my eyes. The room began to tilt. My muscles twitched like I was strapped to a metal chair being torture shocked. I started to stand but the great PA voice saved me–only for a moment.

Out of pure diabolical pleasure, the judges ordered white belts to go last. Sure, allow the lambs to watch the lion eat their parents first. I grew more nauseated with each round. Chuck Clone was incredible. Purple Boy lunged at him with a snap kick. Faster than I could blink, Chuck Clone spun and drove a back kick into Purple Boy’s gut, knocking him out of the ring so hard he refused to come back. The Green Boys did worse. They moved in slow motion compared to Mr. Clone. From one agonizing round to the next, they were either swept, flipped, kicked, or all three, out of the ring without landing a blow. The crowd went crazy. I was afraid my bowels would do the same. Please somebody take this dude out!

Red Man stood, pounding his fists into his palms and bobbing his head side-to-side. I had hope for Red Man. He was bigger, meaner looking, had some wicked dragon design on his gi. He threw one punch. I held my breath. Chuck Clone ducked. Red Man dropped unconscious. The bout lasted 15 seconds. I didn’t even see what he did. The audience sprang to their feet. Chuck Clone was indestructible. No wonder Mr. Norris sent him. The two other white belts reluctantly stood. They stared at the floor with their shoulders slumped. One by one, they stepped into the ring then flew back out, headfirst.

My turn…

* * *

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Dos

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

…We demonstrated five more techniques and won first place. Great start to a first tournament. John and I went separate ways, and since I was a rookie, I entered white belt division.

It was during roll call that I first saw him. I did a double take, blinked several times to be sure. I thought that perhaps my euphoric brain, clouded from my recent victory, was playing tricks on me, but as far as I could tell, Chuck Norris was standing ten feet away with his back to me.

I stared in disbelief at the guy with blond hair wearing a starched white gi. He had Chuck Norris Fighting System embroidered in bold black letters on the back of his gi and running down each white pant leg. He was talking and laughing with judges and other competitors. My heart started pounding like an out-of-control jackhammer. My palms went clammy. My stomach butterflies began killing each other. He turned, glanced at me and nodded.

To understand my excitement, you need to know how much of a Chuck fan I was. I had seen every movie enough times to memorize the complete dialogue in each film. Play me a half-second snippet of the movie’s musical score, I could tell you the exact movie. I had every magazine with Chuck on the cover, and I had the HBO showing times of A Force of One, The Octagon, and Eye For An Eye, written on my Sports Illustrated Swim Suit wall calendar. I even lost a girlfriend over a Chuck Norris movie. I took her to see my all-time favorite, Lone Wolf McQuade. I didn’t kiss her during the film and she claimed I ignored her. Well, yeah! You don’t kiss during a Chuck movie. I know, I needed therapy, but I had found my calling through the martial arts, and Chuck Norris represented what I wanted to be at that time.

Once I saw his face, I knew it wasn’t Chuck, but only because of his age. The guy was maybe eighteen and extremely fit. Throw a beard on him, add a few wrinkles around the eyes and you had Chuck. He was wearing black tattered hand pads and matching sparring boots held together with duck tape. He moved through the crowd with confidence and a hint of bravado. Everyone seemed to know him, giving him high-fives, pats on the back. I studied his every move, learning. Though not Chuck, he obviously knew Chuck. I mean the man himself sent this kid to represent the entire Chuck Norris Fighting System. Could you be any better? I wanted to absorb everything I could from this guy.

His headgear dangled from his right hand by its Velcro strap. I instantly thought of Hercules holding Medusa’s head. The black Styrofoam head padding also had wide strips of gray tape covering battle scars. His worn, frayed and faded to ash gray, black belt hung around his waist so naturally I wondered if he ever took it off. Chuck Clone was definitely a tournament veteran. Thank God, I wouldn’t be fighting him…

* * *

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Uno

Monday, July 6th, 2009

As I slid into the back seat of that 1980 Cutlass Supreme at 3:30 in the morning on a Saturday, I had no idea that in five hours I’d come face to face with my greatest hero . . . Chuck Norris.

I hadn’t even been in kung fu for three months, yet here I was with five other students headed to Baton Rouge, LA for our first martial arts tournament. Sifu Fogg had given us a crash course on tournaments for the last several weeks. I don’t remember why this tournament was so important, but I do remember the pain in training for it. Then on the Friday before, Sifu tells us he can’t go. So we were off to Louisiana without a Sifu.

It was late August, 90 degrees before the sun even came up, and the car’s A/C wasn’t the best. The back of my legs stuck to the tan vinyl seats. To beat the heat, I wore my Ocean Pacific tank top, short running shorts, and blue-striped tube socks that climbed to my knees. (Remember, this was the 80’s. Tube socks were cool. Sly even wore them in Rocky III. And if Stallone said tube socks were cool—then tube socks were cool).

Titus, the driver, and proud owner of the Cutlass, was a huge reggae fan. For the three-hundred-plus road trip, we gulped Mountain Dews by the case and bobbed our heads to the syncopated melodies of Bob Marley and others. I truly wanted dreadlocks by the end of the day.

The tournament began at 10. Four wrong turns and two wrong highways later, we arrived at 9:50. We scribbled our names at the registration, rushed to the changing rooms, threw on kung fu clothes, and sprinted to the taped-off section of the gymnasium where we were to compete, doing all this as the tournament director called our names over the PA.

John Cheng and I had entered a “practical self-defense” division. It was an event where you had someone attack you then you showed your stuff by dealing with it. That was the first event and we were scheduled to perform first. (Guess who played the bad-guy.) With no warm-up, we jumped into the center of the ring.

The first technique was to escape a standing chokehold. Due to our tardiness, Cheng and I missed the rules discussion, one of which was to perform the routine slow the first time then fast the second time. I pulled in a quick breath to focus then clutched Cheng’s neck. Already nicknamed “Buzz saw hands” for his incredible speed, Cheng’s left hand shot under my left hand, broke the grip, blasted my temple with his right elbow, rammed a knee into my gut then threw me to the floor. It happened so fast and I hit the gym floor so hard, the crowd actually gasped. The judges rushed to my side, asked if I was OK. I gave them a thumbs-up and sprang to my feet. The previous weeks of intense training with John on full-speed mode had conditioned my body.

After seeing that, officials huddled for a serious pow-wow and decided to bring in a mat for competitors to fall on. They also asked John if he could slow down—three different times…

* * *

Jow Ga: The Navy SEAL of Kung Fu

Friday, June 5th, 2009

The U.S. Kung Fu Exchange is rapidly approaching two-thousand members worldwide. Of those 2000, less than 35 people have earned the title Jow Ga. That’s not even 2%.

Now think about how many people are in the U.S. Military and how many of those (who have the desire) become a Navy SEAL? Considering that the six-month BUD/S training is known as the most difficult military training in the world, and has an 80% failure rate, I bet it’s less than 2% as well. The United States Navy SEAL is by far the best of the best. When you want to be the best, you emulate the best. That is why I use the analogy of the SEAL to the USKFE’s Jow Ga.

Google SEAL and see what is required just to “try out” to become a SEAL. One requirement report I read was three pages long! And once you make SEAL, that’s when the training really begins . . . and continues until you retire. Same with Kung Fu. Earning a black sash is simply the basics.

What is Jow Ga? In Mandarin, the English spelling is jujiao, meaning junior teacher. We use Jow Ga, more of a Cantonese version and explain it as a disciple of a kung fu system. Someone who pours their heart and soul into learning 7-Star Mantis and becoming the very best they can be at it.

When John (Sifu Cheng) and I were young, we traveled with Sifu Fogg to train with his kung fu brothers and with his Sifus, both in Wah Lum and 7-Star. What an awesome experience. From New York to Florida, we (John more so than I) had the opportunity to meet and fight with the best mantis fighters of that time. Only a handful of Fogg’s students ever had that privilege. I’m eternally grateful to be one of that few.

Once Sifu Cheng and I had our own schools, we wanted our students to have those opportunities as well, to pursue excellence way beyond black sash. So, with the help of Sifu Jeff Hughes, we developed the criteria to become a Jow Ga as well as a training regimen to achieve that goal.

The first step is you must be black sash and have held that title for 12 months. Second, your sifu recommends you as a potential Jow Ga to the USKFE board, again, akin to SEAL. A soldier’s immediate Chief must recommend him for the SEAL application process.

Third, in keeping tradition with my and Cheng’s experiences in fighting other mantis brothers, you will then touch hands with other Jow Ga candidates from across the States. In 2007, in Hollywood CA, we had thirty Jow Ga candidates. That’s a lot of people to fight! Now you see what drives me to keep in shape.

The icing on the cake however, is a Jow Ga candidate has the opportunity to engage in combat with a sifu! This is great fun, although often extremely painful for the student. Jow Gas have a separate code of conduct and are held to a higher standard than other kung fu students. Jow Ga is not for everyone. Neither is SEAL. The training is brutal and ruthless but the end result is a transformed individual who is the best at what he does.

I’ll share the training requirements with you later as well as some of my own experiences in training with the legendary Fogg-Man.

As a side note, for some great SEAL reading, check out novels by Vince Flynn and Brad Thor.

Boxer Rebellion v2.0:

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

…”Dude, you’re in my room.” I had to get my legs untangled from my sheets. I wanted to kick him in the head first.

“Screw ‘em,” Jeff shouted. He lunged and smacked the guy closest to him in the jaw.

Then all hell broke lose.

As Jeff swung away, I dove off my bunk and landed into a mosh pit of fists. Before my feet touched the floor, I was blocking punches and kicks . . . all in my florescent boxers. It was so crowded the frat boys were hitting each other. It was complete pandemonium. I dodged tackles, blocked more blows then shoved the clumsy drunkards toward the door, hoping my bare feet didn’t get trampled on.

At 6’2 and 190 pounds and being a football player, Jeff mowed his way to the door before three guys tackled him right outside. All but two of the pack followed Jeff out. Crooked-Nose and Fat-Boy were still inside with me. We stared each other down like old western gunfighters. I even had the urge to hold my hands next to my hips and flex my fingers, ready to draw. It was mid November and the night air blowing through the door was freezing and I really wanted to put some clothes on. I scanned the room for a shirt but Crooked-Nose took a sloppy swing at me. I ducked. His fist collided with my metal-framed bunk bed. He howled like a wounded animal and collapsed to the floor, cradling his bloody hand.

Then Fat-Boy really ticked me off. He charged, cursing my mother. That’s not what angered me though. In his advance, Fat-Boy grabbed my only jar of Jif Peanut Butter off the top of our microwave and threw it at me. I sidestepped the creamy missile and the plastic jar exploded against the wall. My cherished peanut spread oozed to the floor in brown globs.

In college, peanut butter meant survival. Whenever my pockets were as empty as my fridge, peanut butter kept me alive. Now, it was lumped on my floor like a pile of manure. As Fat-Boy dove for my legs, I moved to the side and hammered his ear with a palm strike. He dropped like the Hindenburg.

“Let’s go. The cops are coming,” someone outside shouted.

Everyone scattered. Jeff and I threw Crooked-Nose and Fat-Boy out. I wanted to throw Jeff out. For the remaining semester, Jeff managed to avoid luring angry mobs to our room. I heard a rumor however that the real reason we weren’t attacked again is because everyone was so traumatized over seeing a skinny white guy duke it out in his boxer shorts.

Boxer Rebellion v1.0:

Monday, June 1st, 2009

You know when you have those dreams where you’re running around in your underwear? Well, that happened to me in reality.

One of the craziest experiences I’ve had defending myself was in college when my roommate and I took on an entire fraternity inside our Cracker-Jack-box-size dorm room. He was fully clothed and drunk. I was sleepy and wearing aqua-blue boxer shorts with orange palm trees on the front.

Returning from a long night of partying, Jeff, my roommate, who was also a frat-pledge at the time, threw open the door to our dorm room and announced he was home. I glanced at the clock from my top bunk; the green numbers glowed 4:01 a.m. He was actually early compared to other nights. I rolled over and buried my head in pillows, hoping to return to my interrupted dream-that didn’t happen.

I suddenly heard rumbling–well, more like an elephant stampede–and then angry shouts followed by crashing noises. Jeff was cursing, yelling for me to get up. I shot up, pillows tumbling to the floor. With sleep still clouding my vision, I had to blink several times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. Surrounding my bed was at least ten guys wearing matching fraternity T-shirts. They were all drunk and mad and said they were there to kill my roommate. I looked at Jeff. He was standing in the corner between his desk and closet with his fists clenched shouting, “Bring it on then.” He was saying this to not only the ten already in our room but to the other twelve crowding our doorway and spilling into the parking lot.

We lived in The Units; apartment-style dorms which were designed like old motels where you could park right outside your door. I heard tires skid and doors slam. More enemy troops had arrived. Through the dented window blinds, I could see the parking lot filling with people. The scene reminded me of those black and white horror movies when the bloodthirsty torch-carrying townspeople surrounded the castle, salivating to get inside to kill The Monster.

“What’s going on?” my throat was dry.

A dude with a scar on his chin and a crooked nose pointed to Jeff. “He’s talking —- (for the sake of any children or families reading this, I’ve activated the sensor button). “We’re gonna kick his —”
Considering that within the first five days on campus Jeff’s mouth landed him in five fights, this came as no surprise.

“It takes all of you?” That was the wrong thing to say but remember, I was delirious, my subconscious floating between the sleep world and the awake world.

“Shut up,” a short fat one said, squeezing forward, “this aint about you. But it can be.” …

Forms vs. Fighting

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

I get this a lot: “I just wanna fight. Not waste time learning forms.”

OK, I understand that way of thinking—for beginners. And I agree, however you will only remain a beginner if you keep that mindset.

That’s not true! What about UFC? Those guys don’t practice forms. They just fight and get better.” I hear that a lot too, or, “Bruce Lee didn’t do forms. He studied every art and threw out the unnecessary forms.” Both of these are false statements.

The whole forms verses fighting thing is really a moot point. The argument comes from totally misunderstanding what a form is. A form doesn’t mean hundreds of moves. A form is simply techniques linked together. Look at boxers. They don’t have forms per se but they shadow box with a flurry of hooks, jabs, crosses, uppercuts, and they do it over and over again. And guess what? Over time, the moves become totally embedded into their muscle memory, which is the point of forms or drills training.

In the UFC, each week these great athletes train like crazy, repeating the same techniques in the air, on bags, then on each other. Is that not forms training? And Bruce Lee did Wing Chung, a style which has forms. Wing Chung gave Mr. Lee his base as a fighter. Without forms training, how else would those techniques have gotten into his body? Michael Jordan practiced millions of free throws without even holding a ball. Tiger Woods practices his swing without hitting a ball.

Do you see the point? Forms training is fighting. It’s putting the techniques into your body so you don’t have to think about them. Many times, in fighting with my kung fu brothers or my students, I’ll do something and say, “Whoa, where’d that move come from?” It came from forms. I didn’t make it up. The problem is when an instructor can’t pull the moves from the forms and then show you how to actually use the techniques in combat. In that case, yes, from a fighting perspective, forms are useless.