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Posts Tagged ‘Hard work’

Caramel Apples

Friday, February 19th, 2010

A couple years ago had you asked me, “What thoughts would go through your mind if someone walked up and pushed you?” I would have probably said that it would make me mad and I would push back. I know the correct response should have been to turn the other cheek, but as you can see I still don’t have the answers.

Just the other day, in a small kung fu class in the little town of Tyler, a couple of us guys were getting some instruction from the “Man” It had something to do with plucking, center, being empty, timing, and caramel apples I think. You’re saying, “Caramel Apples?” Yes, caramel apples, and believe it or not it was a great analogy. I think I described our lesson as a grenade going off in my mind. I had just enough know how to see it, but was unsure if I could ever really grasp the whole concept.

What’s bad is that this confusion isn’t after my first week of kung fu, or my first month or year, but I’m going into my third year now and the questions just get bigger, broader, and a little further apart. After talking with my sihings, they all have the same problem understanding. That gives me some comfort, but not much.

This is what keeps me training every week. It may sound weird to some. – why would you want to keep working so hard at something you will never fully understand? Because it’s that complex, it amazes me. More everyday. The more I think I know, the less I really understand.

So now when I get pushed, I’m wondering…Did my shoulders fold around the punch? Did they drop in the hole? Did they have my center? Were they empty when I plucked? And then I’m telling myself, I was off balance, they had my center, I was too late, or did he say get a beat ahead? Was I supposed to return the strike? I think I turned that time. Was I supposed to turn?

Then I SCREAM to myself, bow to the “Man”, and leave more confused than ever but I can hardly walk out the door.

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?

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 Importance of Horse Stance

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And He Could Show Up Any Day Now…

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

We hovered around the door, watching the young man testing play his staff form for a minute or so before the baritone voice of Sigung Fogg asked;

“Would you guys like to come in?”

Everyone stopped what they were doing to find some extra chairs as we tried to quickly (and subtly?) make our way from the door to the other side of the room, crossing in front of at least 3 Sifus, the tester and a couple of other students. Once we got our seats there were three things I noticed right away:

  1. The test was taking place in a school weight room which was probably the size of our big room, except that about 1/3 of it was filled with weight equipment – and that the whole thing was carpeted.
  2. An odd sticky thwap-thwap sound, and
  3. That there was no air conditioning.

As he moved through his weapons sets I realized that the thwapping sounds were the guy’s shirt – which looked like he’d literally been hosed off in the parking lot – thwapping and sticking against his chest.

After the staff he went into his straight-sword form which was interesting as I’d never seen that.  From the straight-sword he moved to the spear form.  The emotions I felt as I watched him try and try. and try. to pop that spear up off the carpet with his toe at the beginning and then flip it around his back and catch it with the other hand ran from pure heartache to relief, to “Yes!” when he finally got it.  He finished his weapons with Yin Ching broadsword which was the same but with totally different emphases than what we learn at our school.  It was interesting though, after he played his weapons sets he touched hands with a couple of people and eventually got what they called a boxer’s cut which bled quite a bit, but it was watching him struggle so determinedly with that spear form that was more disturbing to me.

While he was fighting, Sifu Perry and his student arrived with the benches and everyone was called into the office where we relinquished our funds and were told to grab a bench and head outside.

It was standing in that parking lot, in the bright sun that made it feel like at least 107°, that caused me to briefly question both my sanity and the black kung fu pants and dark shirts we had all decided to wear.  We’d all lined up and had done a couple of drills when Sifu Curtis came out and just started doing the form.  There was no warning, no “let’s get started”, just straight into the form.

With a jumping inside crescent kick.

Over.  The.  Bench. 

Needless to say, he had everyone’s attention then.  Sifu Curtis didn’t speak much; he would occasionally say something like “now, on your own,” or “ok, from the beginning” but he really didn’t need to, all eyes were on him.

“And then you set the bench down, do a front flip over it and bow.”

We finished the form after that final tidbit of information and then took a break to get some water, find some shade and catch our breath.  As I sat there Sigung Fogg came out from the school and as he walked over to where we had gathered asked

Everyone’s got it? Wintor you got that flip no problem right?”

and instinctually, before my brain could even engage I grinned and answered

Well yeah, frontwards and backwards!”

And just as my brain fired up and realized that maybe, just maybe that wasn’t the most appropriate response, he laughed.  Sigung Fogg has a pretty good laugh.

Sifu Jones asked me to write about my experience that weekend and it’s taken me a while to gather all of my impressions and try to get them compact enough for a blog post.  But there are definitely certain moments that stand out in my memory:

~  The thwap-thwap-stick of Dustin’s shirt;
~  Dustin’s determination to persevere through that dang spear form;
~  The searing heat out in that parking lot;
~  Uh? The jumping inside crescent kick. Over! The! Bench!;
~  Not getting a grunt of disapproval for joking with Sigung (whew!);
~  The smile that completely took over Sigung’s face when I mentioned that it was probably time for another trip to Jucy’s, and
~  Everyone’s enthusiasm, to both learn and help in the heat of the day, in a parking lot in Richardson, Texas in the summer.

From a Personal Trainer’s Perspective:

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Many times while I am at work at the gym I am asked about my Kung Fu training. I have been a student of Sifu Brandon Jones for about 8-1/2 years. I am also a personal trainer, certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, since March of 2002. Although I had lifted weights for many years prior to Kung Fu, at the beginning of my Kung Fu training I had no balance or flexibility whatsoever. I could not even bend over and touch my toes. That has changed tremendously through the years.I feel that Kung Fu training is the full package deal. Through the training you can get your body to do things that you once thought impossible. It is a place to work on strength, balance, endurance and flexibility while learning a skill in self-defense.

After reaching black belt you begin to realize there is always another level to achieve no matter how far you have come and much more to learn. After each test you realize that you can achieve these goals with hard work. By the way, hard work is literally the definition of Kung Fu. It is also extremely fun and challenging. I had personally rather do Kung Fu over walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary bicycle or using an elliptical machine.

Although I still lift weights some, the majority of my training is done in Kung Fu. I feel I get all I need there.

If you are looking for more of an athletic build and want to get in really great shape, as well as working on endurance, strength, flexibility and balance, and learning a skill in self-defense, Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness is the place to go.

Jow Gow Brent Hooser
Personal Trainer, NASM

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.

Bit By The Bug

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

I want to share with you my experience with Tyler Kung Fu and Fitness. I’ve always been amazed with martial arts. From the first Karate Kid to Bloodsport, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to discipline your body to do things you never thought that it could do.

I’ve been training at TKKF for about a year now, and I feel that I am in the best physical shape of my life. I started out training in the Cross Training Combat class. The first day that I came in, Sifu Brandon Jones told me that it would be an intense work out, and was it ever. After the warm up I was about ready to quit, but the macho guy inside me had to save face. We did push ups, on our palms, on our finger tips, on our knuckles, and then came the sit ups, the leg lifts, the bag work out, the kicks, and the list goes on.

The next day I felt like I had ran a triathlon, but what I saw was what we were learning was REAL. The training that we were doing wasn’t only conditioning, but it was learning a reaction to what could happen in real life. We weren’t breaking boards, we were learning the applications of Mantis Kung Fu.

The combat class quickly led to Kung Fu. You see all the movies and the hoopla on T.V. but this was REAL. I guess that is the point that I want to drive across. I was just amazed and still am to this day that someone could train their body to sit in a horse stance for a solid hour, and hour squatting with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle, back straight, and breathing through the pain of your legs burning out of control and trying to keep them from collapsing. I have trouble fighting through two minutes.

And after a year you begin to think, hey I’m in great shape, I’ve learned a lot, and you realize that you haven’t even brushed the surface… and it drives you. It makes you think, what could I accomplish, how much harder could I train to be better, what could I read to make me a better martial artist, who can I talk with to teach me more, how early can I leave work today to go and train?

If you want to learn fancy kicks or how to break boards, I urge you to go somewhere else, but if you want REAL martial arts training, a caring staff of instructors, and the application of this training for real life self defense…come to TKKF.

Hi, I’m Jimmy Decker, and I’ve been bit by the BUG.