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Kung Fu vs. Dracula – Part I

October 13th, 2012 by Sifu Brandon Jones

[reposted for the holidays!]

Students often ask, “When does Kung Fu become natural?” or “How do I know if I really know it?”

My answer: visit a haunted house.

One October, my church youth group went to the Louisiana State Fair. It was an awesome trip. My favorite girlfriend of all time (except, of course, until my wife came along) and I walked the entire park arm-in-arm, intoxicated with the alluring aroma of funnel cakes, corndogs, and cotton candy. We rode every ride and saved the haunted house for nightfall.

Standing in line with a hundred other people, we anxiously waited to step through the spider web-covered door and tour the dark two-story monster-filled mansion. The wooden house with its boarded windows leaned left as if about to fall over, and the full moon spilled eerie shadows across the moldy-green roof. Michael Jackson’s Thriller was playing over the loud speaker and Vincent Price’s diabolical laugh echoed through the park. You could hear the wicked buzz of chainsaws from inside the house and the victims’ screams. Five people in front of us bailed out of line after that. At the exit, girls came out with teary mascara-stained faces and their boyfriends came out pale with red fingernail marks streaking down their forearms. One older woman (she was probably 30) fainted and had to be carried out by two burly ghosts.

My girlfriend hugged my arm as we stepped closer to the entrance. Her body trembled. What a rush. We were standing at the edge of a nightmare, ready to cross the river Styx. I handed Freddy Kruger our tickets. We ducked under the webs and stepped inside. The floor creaked beneath our feet.

Led by a ghost woman holding a lighter, about fifteen of us followed her flickering light down a narrow hallway and squeezed inside a tiny room. The smell of sweat was thick. The walls seemed to pulse with everyone’s fearful breaths. Ghost-lady said we were about to step into hell. If we did what she said, we’d survive. She started to say something else when everything went instantly black.

OK. Now I’m a little freaked-out. I’d studied KF for three years and I guess I hadn’t been startled since I’d began. That was about to change…

PASSION

September 3rd, 2012 by Sifu Brandon Jones

Passion

 

Recently, I attended a memorial service for one of the kung fu greats, Grandmaster Josephus Colvin, famously known as Kung Fu Joe.

Sitting there in the brown folding chairs, scrunched elbow-to-elbow with my kung fu family inside the sparsely decorated Hawkins Community Center, the one word that kept coming to my mind was passion.  If Kung Fu Joe had to be described in one word, passionate would have to be it.

I’ve never met a man more passionate about kung fu. Whereas I can discuss the Fu for hours without ceasing, Kung Fu Joe could talk for days. Even the officiating pastor, also a close friend to Joe, shared with us how Joe constantly spoke of kung fu, even up until hours before his sudden death. That’s amazing but I totally get it.

Since 1982, not twenty-four hours have passed without me thinking of kung fu. No, I don’t understand it, but perhaps the one descriptive word that can, is passion. How else do you explain that when Sifus Cheng, Hughes, and I get together, even over a long weekend, and still feel that we ran out of time to discuss and share everything we’d intended to about kung fu.  And if Grandmaster Fogg is with us, oh man, I feel there’s never enough time. You also see this level of committed passion during the Olympics.

An avid fan of the Games, I love reading and hearing the stories of the athletes as they push themselves to greatness. Can you imagine training eight to twelve hours per day, 365 days per year for four years, only to compete in a single event that lasts maybe thirty-seconds? Talk about being focused and passionate about your sport! I heard a story of a track and field competitor say that he hadn’t watched television or eaten at a fast-food restaurant in over two years due to his strict training regimen and diet. No movies, no going to parties, nothing but working, training, eating, and sleeping. And what about our military, the great men and women who are so passionate about their country that they sacrifice everything, train to become the absolute best defenders of our great nation.  They are the personification of passion in action.

Unbelievable? Not really. Not when you understand it.

As for the teacher in me, it’s very gratifying to see this passion transfer to my students.

A few weekends back, seven Tyler Kung Fu students tested for black level, a first in our history to have that many attend one test. Talk about passion! These seven individuals, Sierra, DeWalch, Shawn, Jimmy, Jake, Sam, and Kelli, ages 16 to 60, trained their tails off for twelve long months leading up to the test, and though many sacrifices, they were loving every minute of it. So much so, that immediately following that Saturday crucible, though bruised, bleeding, and exhausted, the Significant-Seven, (after a few more tests I can change their name to Magnificent Seven)  posed for their post-test picture and then began mapping out a training plan for next year’s Black One test!

So ask yourself. What are you passionate about? And then what can you do with that passion to change the world around you?

Mind of a Warrior

August 9th, 2012 by James

Recently I went over to one of my Kung Fu brother’s houses so we could practice our forms together. We spent about 4 hours outside in his backyard doing forms and playing hands (fighting with control). We then went inside of his house to get some much needed water refills.

While we were inside I saw a chess set laying out on his table. I made a comment about how long it had been since I had played chess. My kung fu brother and couldn’t help ourselves. So we started setting the board up, and there we were trying to outmaneuver each other. (I am in no way a skilled chess player, but I can’t say no to a challenge.)

My kung fu brother was whooping the dog snot out of me on almost every move. I was on the defensive the entire game. It got to the point where I was left with only my king. Most people at that point would give up. However for me giving up is NOT an option. I just kept moving my king out of check. I still had the idea of victory in my head. Why? The odds were a million to one.

The answer to that question is that my training has taught me that no matter what the odds that I simply can’t give up. “Keep going!” I could hear Sifu (Brandon Jones for those of you that don’t know everyone) saying to me in my head. Defeat is NOT an option in the Mind of a Warrior.

Art of Kung Fu Basketball

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

 

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

Mindset

March 8th, 2012 by James

In everything you do, whether in kung fu, sports, or life in general,  it’s important to have the right mindset. All too often I see people who show no sign of work ethic in anything that they do. No will to try. Giving up, so afraid to lose. I can’t grasp that mentality, giving up without a fight. They don’t have the Right Mindset.
Former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell (Author of the best selling book Lone Survivor) is the epitome of having the right mindset. When ever he entered BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEALs) one of the toughest military training programs on earth, he already had his mind made up. He wasn’t going to let the drill sergeants make him quit. SEALs share that mindset.

For martial artists it’s equally important to have the right mindset. Especially for the more advanced students, particularly black belts. Black belt students are challenged daily to improve their skills and to never give in to the pain that they know is coming on their next test. In the life of a martial artist pain becomes your friend. You have to know you’re going to overcome any challenge that may try to slow you down.
When you have the right mindset you can do virtually anything no matter the difficulty. Sigung Fogg sat in horse stance for 6 hours. How did he do it? I will tell you. Even before he started he knew he was not going to give in to the pain. He had made up his mind that he was going to sit there in horse stance for 6 hours.

Having the right mindset is one of the most important qualities a person can have. All great martial artists, Special Operations soldiers, and athletes share that quality. No matter what you enjoy doing, what you do for a living, or even what physical activities you take a part in, there are challenges in everything. Having the right mindset will help you overcome those challenges.

 

The Fear of Running

March 7th, 2012 by David DeWalch

In Kung Fu we don’t run, we know Kung Fu why would we….

That being said, running is absolutely an essential part of Kung Fu training. Why?

Kung Fu like any other training requires hours of physical activity.  In order to train at a higher capacity your body, and more specifically, your cardiovascular system needs to be able to withstand KF training.  Additionally, the higher the level of Kung Fu the more demanding the training required.  Building cardiovascular endurance can be done in a variety of ways; walking, running, cycling, rowing, and swimming are all examples of cardiovascular exercise.  Keep in mind that training is specific; for example you wouldn’t find a cyclist swimming to train for a race (think muscle memory).  So running is essential for training and running is the best activity that complements our Kung Fu training.

As many students I don’t like to run.  As a matter of fact I don’t like to run unless I’m being chased.  There was a time in my Kung Fu journey that I realized that I wasn’t able to train as hard as I wanted to, I was holding myself back and cardiovascular endurance suffered.  It was decision time, either I just push forward with my Kung Fu training and not run and hope that the endurance will follow or I take the next step in my journey and start running.  All of the excuses in the book were applied; I’m too busy, too tired, too fat, and too out of shape.  My love for Kung Fu was and has been my motivation to run and get in cardiovascular shape; it is what drags me out of bed at 4 AM 4 to 5 days a week to run.

Where to start?  Common question…..  There are so many ways to go and so many things you can do.  There are apps, websites, trainers, etc, etc, etc.  Usually simple is better, especially when you are starting out.  One of my favorites has been the couch to 5K program.  The beauty of this program is that it is dead simple and provides direction as well.  As you advance with the running you can add the Chi Running system which is a great complement.  Benefits of cardiovascular training won’t be immediate but you WILL see the benefits.  You will be able to train longer and train harder with your Kung Fu, you will feel better overall, you can eat more (my favorite), and you will fight better as well.

Keep in mind that cross training isn’t a bad thing.  It can add some life to an otherwise mundane routine.  Running should be the primary exercise modality but some swimming, cycling, rowing, or kickboxing thrown in can’t hurt.  Additionally, weight training is helpful as well but that’s another post.

You can do this.

 

Kung Fu According to Van Halen

February 8th, 2012 by Sifu Brandon Jones

Though he would probably disagree with me, John (Sifu Cheng) is the only person I’ve ever seen move faster than Eddie Van Halen’s fingers in his classic guitar solo, “Eruption”.

Until a recent visit to our old neighborhood, I hadn’t thought about that image in a long time.

Driving through the entrance gates of Country Club subdivision was like being sucked through a time portal. The further we followed the winding streets of our childhood stomping grounds the faster we warped back to the 1980’s.  I flipped on the radio and half expected to hear Dire Straits and Sting demand, I want my MTV!” or Huey Lewis explaining the “Power of Love”.

With the windows down and the spring wind rushing through the car, we circled the block. For the briefest of moments as we drove past my house, I swear I smelled baked chicken, rice pilaf, green beans, and freshly brewed tea, my family meal most every night.

As we rounded the corner to his house, John and I pointed out the many areas we used to play in as kids: Brent Morris’s wall, Amanda Bridger’s trampoline, Joey Weaver’s front yard, and the sparse remains of the woods that once surrounded our neighborhood. It was funny. Driving to John’s house, we realized were following the exact path as our running route some thirty years earlier.

Stopping in front of John’s house, I killed the engine. With the overgrown lawn, the open mailbox, and the two newspapers lying in the driveway, it appeared no one was there. We got out and walked around to the backyard.  Man, you talk about a tsunami of memories crashing over me.

With the warm breeze to our backs, we just stood there, silent, reverent, taking in the sights and sounds of our past.

The backyard grass was high and out of control except in the very center. It was the exact spot where John and I had spent over ten thousand hours training, pounding the grass to dirt. Apparently, the massive amounts of sweat, blood, and tears we shed on that hallowed chunk of ground had destroyed any grass seedling’s chance of ever producing.

In my mind, I could still see John’s weatherworn picnic table sitting on the now cracked and empty back patio. Sitting atop of that very table was the fuel that had kept us going through those grueling workouts: John’s jam box, cranking out the melodious sounds of Van Halen.

Always towering above the portable stereo was our stack of Van Halen cassettes, each album chosen for a specific segment of our workout. While Diamond Dave heartened us with his signature howl, Eddie’s screaming Kramer guitar pushed us faster.

Beginning with the self-titled debut album Van Halen, John and I warmed up to the classics “Running with the Devil” and “You Really Got Me”.

Women and Children First was next withAnd the Cradle Will Rock”. For the kicking drills, we popped in Fair Warning and kicked across the length of the lawn to the sounds of “Unchained” and “So This is Love”. For empty hand forms, we rocked to the mighty Diver Down with the hits, “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”, “Little Guitars”, and “Pretty Woman”.  Also from that album was the great remake of Dancing in the Streets. John doesn’t remember it but I promise I remember him competing in the musical forms division at Johnny Lee’s tournament in Shreveport with that song.

Whenever we sparred, we listened to the colossal-mega-hit album 1984.  Has there ever been a better Van Halen album?

Aside from training to 1984, the best memory I have of that album was in ninth grade. John, Brent Morris, Drew Van Devender, and myself, preformed “Jump” at a school talent show. With John as David Lee Roth, he jumped, did the splits, and nailed aerials better than Diamond Dave did himself in the Jump video. I played Eddie, Brent was Alex, and Drew was on keyboard as Michael. Though we placed second, we were the only act to receive a standing ovation and an encore request from the audience. It was incredible!

As for John moving faster than Eddie?

At that time, John’s best competition weapon was the spear. I remember he’d grab his weapon, pop in the cassette, push play, and then run to our training spot as “Eruption” exploded through the small speakers. He’d then bust out the spear form, keeping perfect time with Eddie’s smoking fingers. At the song’s end with the guitar fading, John held the spear’s base, dropped to the splits, then effortlessly snapped back to his feet with the spear flipping in his hand. It was awesome. Eddie would’ve been proud.

Incidentally, in writing this, I learned that Diamond Dave has rejoined the band and they cut an album. The first one since 1984.

Interesting. Perhaps I should write about Journey. Maybe Steve Perry will come back. Then the world will be perfect again.

A New Family

February 2nd, 2012 by James

When I first walked through the doors of Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness, I never expected that I would become so consumed with this mesmerizing art. Nor did I ever think that I would become a part of the Instructor Program within 6 months of starting. I have dived so deep into the art that I automatically react using what little kung fu I have learned.

In many ways, Sifu Jones has been like a father figure to me.  Therefore he has generously included me in beneficial kung fu events, such as demos, Sigung Fogg’s birthday celebration, as well as Grand Master Fogg’s annual workshop.

Just the other day, whenever we arrived in Richardson, Texas to celebrate Sigung Fogg’s birthday, Sifu Jones introduced me to Master Fogg and told Sigung that “I’d been bitten by the bug” (meaning I’m obsessed with kung fu, which I am, and proud to admit it). Sigung said to me “So you actually like this stuff?” My response to him was “Just a little.” (I said with a smile on my face). Then Sigung said something that will forever change my perspective on kung fu. “Welcome to the family. You’re in it for life.” At that time I realized kung fu can’t leave my life. Even greater, I’m part of a family forever. (If you read my first blog you’ll understand why that’s so important to me).

Shortly after the meet and greet it was time for the ceremonial demos. (It’s a sign of respect for a Sifu to have there students demo in front of their Sigung on his/her birthday). I wasn’t expecting to have to do a demo, so I had not prepared a form to do. Then when Sifu Jones called on me, my stomach dropped and I started sweating like crazy.

I got up, bowed at the sifus, called out the most recent empty hand form I had learned, and let my body do the rest without thinking. I thought I did horrible, but everyone told me that I did great. Despite how nervous I was, I’m honored that Sifu Jones would trust me with such a task.

We went out to eat at a Chinese restaurant after the demos and everyone was sharing food like we had known each other forever. We were all laughing and talking about (you guessed it) kung fu. Following dinner we stood outside the restaurant for about an hour discussing the applications of different moves. I was having the time of my life watching the masters break down different forms, and absorbing as much of it as possible. It started getting late and we had to come back to Tyler and everyone started hugging me and shaking my hand. I felt proud. I knew they will forever be my Family.

 

Never Quit, Never Lose Hope

January 25th, 2012 by James

My name is James and this is my story.

After eleven years of marriage my parents got divorced because they both have incurable mental issues. (At that time I was just a baby). I lived with my mom until I was in third grade. She fed me lies about my grandparents and dad. At such a young age I didn’t know what or whom to believe. The lies ceased when my mom and oldest sister went to prison on drug charges.

About two years ago after eating at Spring Creek barbeque, my grandpa’s aorta ruptured. We rushed to the parking lot of Super One foods on Troup highway while I communicated with a 9-1-1 dispatcher. The ambulance met us there and rushed him to the hospital. When we got there the doctors told us that he had a three percent chance of living through the surgery. Heart-broken, we thought we were gonna lose him. Just when we thought all was lost, they told us that he made it through the surgery.

Shortly after, I was overwhelmed with feelings of depression. I felt like my sisters hated me and that I was all alone. I felt as if everyone liked my sisters more than me. I would cuss at my sister which is very unlike me. So in an attempt to flee my depression, I moved in with my mom in Terrell.

After about a month of being in Terrell I got into a wreck which amplified my depression. That’s when my mom started showing me her true colors. One night, we got into a major argument that ended with her cussing me out at 5 am while I’m trying to go to sleep. In the heat of the moment, I said a few words that I shouldn’t have. After that she kicked me out on the street so I moved back to Tyler. Three months later, I enrolled in the Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness Black Sash program, which is the best decision I have ever made.

I have thrived off of kung fu because it has made me realize that everything bad that has happened to me can never sum up to the good that I get from doing it. I’ve become part of the TKFF family, and I feel at home here. Now I feel a responsibility to help others that might be having a hard time, because before kung fu, I was right where they are.

The events that have occurred in my life has built my character and made me a stronger person mentally and emotionally. I have also become a more understanding person. My grandpa taught me to NEVER give up no matter what the odds. When I have kids, I won’t make the same mistake that my parents have made. So always remember NEVER QUIT, AND NEVER LOSE HOPE.

 

They Don’t Understand

January 11th, 2012 by Sifu Brandon Jones

With blood streaming from his nose, I watched the student struggle back to his feet.

He stumbled, fighting to remain vertical. Fatigued and cramped muscles had mercilessly seized his legs. His forehead was purple and knotted. Blood seeped from a gash on his left cheek. His clothes were unrecognizable from the spattered mud, blood, and grass stains. He trembled as muscle spasms in his hands forced his fingers to curl. Tears ran from his swollen eyes. Every ounce of his being wanted to fall down and give in to the deafening screams from his body demanding him to stop this brutal nonsense.

But he wouldn’t do it.

He was a warrior. Only unconsciousness or death would stop him.

Unable to speak from dehydration, he nodded and lifted his arms, signaling that he was ready to go another round.

I’ve witnessed this incredible determination from both mine, and from my kung fu brothers’ students in every black level test. As always, I’m the one who walks away changed.

How many times I’ve wanted to quit in so many endeavors, to walk away and just forget it. Life’s too hard.

Your girlfriend breaks-up, you lose a loved-one, go through a divorce, a job termination, a final exam, the two-hundredth rejection letter from a publisher, another denial letter from medical school, a frightening diagnosis. Why go on? It’s easier to quit.

But see, when you’re a warrior it’s different. You can’t quit. The crazy thing is, you’re unable to even explain why. There’s a passion inside of you burning so strong that you simply cannot ignore its heat.

That’s why Rocky will forever live as THE underdog/never-give-up-movie. Through Balboa’s character, Stallone brilliantly portrayed the heart of a warrior. The odds stood against him a million-to-one. For a while, neither Adrian nor Mick his trainer, believed he could defeat the champion Apollo.  Rocky was alone. But he understood that being a warrior often meant standing alone. Standing alone and believing in yourself when everyone around you says you’re crazy, even when LOGIC says you’re crazy. That’s the heart of a warrior.

That’s the heart of my students when their family and friends ask why they choose to do push their body through a grueling six hour test to be beat on, criticized (constructively, of course), assaulted with a deadly weapon, and then have to run five to ten miles while often puking along the way.

Why do soldiers do what they do? Police officers, firefighters, EMT’s, why?

No answer makes sense to the non-warrior. It’s impossible for them to understand. They simply do not have the warrior mindset.

There’s a great scene in the movie Black Hawk Down.

 Returning from battle, an exhausted, famished, and wounded Delta Force commando brushes past medical personnel, grabs a plate of food, and stops in front of a table piled with weapons and ammunition.

While wolfing down his chow, he turns to a Ranger and says, “Whenever I go home, people ask me, ‘Why do you do it, man? Why? Are you some kind of war-junkie?’ I won’t say a thing. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it.”

Anything in your life you want to give up on, walk away from? Wait. Search out your warrior heart. Don’t give up. No, others won’t understand. That’s the beauty of being a warrior. You’re scared yet press on. Don’t give up.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7