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Kung Fu in Action

Friday, December 12th, 2008

As Kung Fu students we train our bodies for many reasons and while these may be different for every person, self defense has always been a big part why I train so hard. I don’t believe in fighting and certainly think walking away or running like a scared first grader is the best line of defense against violence but in some situations that option is not available. When you’re out with your family you simply can’t run and leave them behind. This is a situation I found myself in that running was also out of the question.

As I was driving home one day I began coming up behind a larger vehicle hauling some equipment. The road was several lanes so I leisurely pulled into the left lane to pass them and not cause any kind of traffic jam. It was such a nonchalant move I didn’t even pay attention to who was in the vehicle or what they were doing. That was until the vehicle suddenly accelerated and pulled up beside me. At that point I realized there were several people in the vehicle and they all began shouting and waving their fists (and fingers) at me. I didn’t pay it much mind, I was in a smaller vehicle not towing heavy machinery so I accelerated and thought it was over.

Next thing I know, the vehicle changed several lanes, pulled into oncoming traffic and moved up to my left. Now I understood this was serious, the passenger was leaning out of the window and screaming at me. Suddenly he threw some kind of bottle out of the window and into the side of my car. At this point I’m dialing 911 on my cell phone when the driver makes a hairpin swerve into my lane. He would have hit my car had I not been able to swerve into the right lane. The movement was so forceful I actually spun out several times in the intersection loosing my phone in the process. Because that stopped me and they were traveling so fast, they were gone before I had come to a stop. I pulled into the nearest parking lot to check my car, tires, and shorts. I leaned down to look at a tire when I heard a loud crashing noise only to see the attack vehicle slamming through the curb of the parking lot. It came to a jolting stop and the driver shot out of the car like he had been ejected. He was running at me full speed and I knew I had no time to turn and run, try to open the car and get inside or do anything but prepare for the worst. When he was about halfway to me the other doors swung open and three other guys jumped out of the vehicle and started running towards me. The situation had taken a very serious turn but all I could focus on was the first guy. I knew I had to drop him quick enough to discourage the other attackers and give me time to prepare for them.

As he approached me he drew his right arm back and lunged in with a powerful straight punch. This was probably 8 years or so ago and I hadn’t learned a whole lot of Kung Fu but had been working on the Sup Sae Lo form and the first thing that my body did was go right into Sup Sae Lo #3. My left arm went up with the block and redirect while my right arm punched straight into the attackers face. I was in a very solid forward stance and could feel the solid connection but immediately my body went into the forward push kick and hit the guy in the lower stomach. He crumbled like a leaf and hit the ground hard. I backed up a few steps and got set for the three attackers. As it turned out, the three attackers were trying to stop the guy or were deterred by the scuffle, either way they grabbed the first attacker off the ground, shouted how crazy I was and took off. It took a few moments to understand all that had happened but I was interrupted by my cell phone from under the seat. It was the police making sure I was ok, since I had dialed 911 but then lost the connection.

All in all, I came out without a scratch and lived to go home and live another day. Personal protection is a very serious thing that needs serious attention, but one must not mistake self defense for fighting. I only did what I had to do and what I had trained to do, nothing more, nothing less.

Remember when you’re training to take it serious and work hard at your techniques, but know that using your training is a rare occasion and not one to look forward to. Have fun while practicing and work hard!

Blinded Me With Science…

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

One day as I was playing chi sau and trying to use techniques I knew from my forms, I began to wonder why we are so precisely instructed on the hand and foot movements. I mean the self defense aspects of Kung Fu are simply to deal with the attacker quickly. Why so much attention on exactly how far the punch must go or the angle of the fist from the elbow? If I was attacked it seems the scuffle would be awkward and sloppy, certainly not precise and crisp like our forms….right? I can’t make the attacker move into the right area for my attacks…can I?

I’m sure most normal people don’t get so tortured by their own brain, but I was stuck thinking about this for quite a while, trying to decide my stance on the issues. It wasn’t until teaching my anatomy and physiology students about optimal muscle length that I put the answer together in my head. Like so many things in Kung Fu there are many reasons for the precision and meticulousness of our forms. If I have learned anything from Sifu Jones it’s that Kung Fu is mutable, that is, it can adapt to any situation. The list of reasons for our forms training is long but here is at least one explanation that I found interesting.

Our muscles are organized into contractible units called sarcomeres. The units contain two proteins, actin and myosin, that are sort of like the cables that pull our muscles when contracting or moving. Think of a winch that pulls a cable, with each pump of the handle the cable is draw towards you and whatever is at the end of the cable is pulled closer to you. That’s basically what we are talking about with muscles, the “whatever” at the end of the cable would be your hand, or foot while the cable would be those proteins in your muscles. If the cable is not inserted into the winch enough, there is not enough to get a good grip and really pull the cable, consequently if most of the cable is shoved into the winch it also wouldn’t pull as there would be no room. Same thing with your muscles, the most effective and useful way to use our muscles is at the optimal length so that the proteins overlap just the right amount for maximum work.

The placement of our hands during forms takes advantage of this. For example, the gwa choy must be made to stop before the fist is extended too far from the body, which would weaken the punch and keep you from putting your full weight or “center” behind it. The elbow strike must be on the same horizontal plane as the shoulder so you can twist your waist and not loose your balance. If there is an optimal length for muscles that means there is an optimal length for punches and kicks. Remember this when practicing your forms, under or overextension is incorrect, you must maintain your balance and power through proper body mechanics…..correct form!