Go back to www.tylerkungfuandfitness.com

Posts Tagged ‘Martial Arts’

The Ninja

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

One year into opening Tyler Kung Fu, I had the privilege of meeting a ninja-well, sort of.

Shuffling through paperwork one Tuesday morning in April I answered the phone, and on the other end of the line was a ninja. The conversation went like this:

“Good morning, Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness.”

“Yes, are you the sifu? I must speak only to him.” The caller spoke with an urgent whisper, as if he wanted no one around him to hear his conversation. I couldn’t resist. I whispered back, even glanced around my empty office to be sure no one was listening to me.

“Yes, I am he.”

“You are the sifu? What is your name?”

I told him.

“Ah, yes,” he seemed to approve.

Unknowingly, I’d passed the first test. He continued.

“I want to share something with you, yet it must go no further than the boundaries of this phone line. Agreed?”

Was this my first obscene kung fu phone call? Curious, I agreed.

“Sifu Jones,” the caller whispered, “I am a ninja.”

A ninja! I was speechless. I love ninjas. Since 1982, I’d studied any material available on the stealthy assassins. I’d read every book and article written by Stephen K. Hayes. Read Eric Van Lustbader’s novel Ninja, twice, and of course, watched the ultimate ninja movie of all-time, Chuck Norris’s The Octagon. I pulled in deep breath to calm my nerves. After fifteen years of study, I was finally able to speak with a ninja. Though I didn’t have his moves, I felt I did possess his intellect. We could speak as one.

“Incredible,” was all I managed to say.

“Indeed.”

“How long have you been a ninja?”

“A lifetime.”

“Wow. Where did you receive your training?”

He laughed, as a wise grandfather does whenever his grandson asked something stupid. “The entire geography of the world has been my training ground. Yet, as you know, Sifu Jones, I cannot reveal specifics.”

“Oh, of course.”

The ninja cleared his throat. “Sifu Jones, for years I have searched for a disciple. I recently arrived here in the States and after much study of you, your school, and your martial ability, I . . . well, we, have chosen you. Your mantis knowledge can greatly enhance our organization.”

Whoa! This was the happiest day of my life. Even better than when I was recruited by the Justice League.

“I’m honored, sir.” I glanced at the caller ID. It said unknown. “So you’re here in Tyler.”

“Again, I cannot answer that.”

Thinking about the we, and our organization, I asked, “Can you tell me your name, sir, and talk about your organization.”

He laughed again. “Sifu Jones, your testing of me is admirable. But no, I cannot.”

“I understand. What may I call you?”

“For now, that is not important. What is important is that we meet.”

“OK. When?” My pulse quickened when he didn’t answer. I quickly scanned the room to make sure he wasn’t already there. Finally, I heard what sounded like the squeaking of a chair and then the clicking of a computer keypad.

Another thirty seconds of silence he said, “Arrangements are being made for my associate to visit your school. You must understand, Sifu, you and I can never meet in public. Once my associate relays to me that you are onboard, we can proceed with a meeting place.”

OK. I knew this guy was nuts but now he’s venturing into psycho-nuts. I reached under my desk and made sure my .45 had a full clip. “Great,” I said. “Class begins tonight at 6:30. Have him stop by.”

“I’m afraid a class setting is unacceptable. He will arrive early; spend a few hours with you. There is much to discuss.”

“I’m in private classes until six,” I lied. “Tell him to be here by then.” No way was going to spend time alone with a psycho-ninja.

He sighed. “You’re an elusive warrior, Sifu Jones. Yet, that is why I chose you.” I heard more typing. “Yes, six will be fine. He will be there.”

I almost hung up when—“And, Sifu Jones . . .”

“Yes.”

“Welcome.”

At 6:25, cloaked in a cloud of smoke, the ninja’s associate arrived. He pulled up in a 1985 Buick. When he opened his door, a plume of cigarette smoke billowed from inside the car. I was disappointed when he climbed out and he wasn’t hooded. He had the rest of the ninja uniform, though.

I was expecting him to flip, or roll his way into the school but this poor guy could barely walk in. He could’ve been mid-forties but looked late sixties. His gray hair was in a tight ponytail and his goatee hung to his chest. Three diamond studs pierced his left ear.

I introduced myself. He nodded and said to call him “Bill”.

Knowing he would decline, I invited him to join class.

“I come only to observe, Sifu Jones.”

I had to back up. His breath reeked of cigarettes, coffee, and corn chips. He motioned to the waiting class. “Please proceed.” Funny, his voice sounded exactly like the ninja caller. I’d told my class that we may have a ninja visit us. So far, no one seemed impressed. With much effort, he eased onto the bench and watched.

A few minutes into our warm up, he waved me over. I had a student takeover.

“Yes,” I asked, sitting next to him.

“The mantis grabs, I don’t see the effectiveness.”

Oh brother. Was he already issuing a challenge? I had a student demonstrate grabs with me then I sat back down.

Mr. Ninja actually shook his head and clicked his tongue. “Still not convinced. The way of the ninja is fast and ferocious. Perhaps we’ve made a mistake choosing you. I must test you myself.”

I knew it. Sifu Fogg had warned me of nuts challenging new school owners. Normally, the sifu has senior students deal with challenges, but being open less than a year, I had no one. Sick of this ninja stuff, I stood and said, “Please demonstrate. He said he could only go half speed due to an injury he received while on mission in Peru.

Of course.

It happened so fast that my students didn’t even notice. Not his punch. Me jerking him to the ground.

When he punched, I plucked his wrist. Stumbling forward, he punched with his other hand. I grabbed it and pulled him to the floor. He smacked his knees on the hard tile. He groaned. Everyone stopped and looked. I told them to keep training.

Grabbing the bench, he stood, but not for long. His legs gave way and he had to sit. Two seconds of combat and he was completely out of breath. I offered him some water. He declined. Said he’d seen enough and would be in touch. He limped back to his car, fired up a cig, and drove away.

It’s been fourteen years and I’ve yet to hear from him – obviously I failed the test. Or maybe, just maybe, the ninja has been watching me all this time. Waiting for my skills to develop. Waiting for me to become worthy.

I too must wait.

Think Like a Super Hero

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Parents often ask if the martial arts will help or hurt their already aggressive-behaving child.

I understand the parents’ concern, particularly in the way Hollywood portrays the martial arts. Often a violent cartoon or “kid’s” program showing bloody martial arts fight scenes is all a mom sees. So when little Taylor asks if he can do karate, Mom has visions of her beloved son flipping through the air with razor-sharp swords killing ninjas.

But in my fifteen years of teaching experience, I’ve yet to have a student whose aggressive behavior escalated after beginning martial arts training. Actually, I’ve noticed—along with the parents—the child’s aggressive behavior diminish and I’ve yet to hear any of my law enforcement students and friends tell me of a crime-spree involving a kid kung fu master.

On the flip side, I’ve seen very introverted children become more confident and outgoing after training in the martial arts.

True martial arts is all about self-discipline and respect for self and others. The physical side of it gives aggressive children a positive physical outlet.

In researching juvenile crime statistics involving the martial arts, all I discovered were positive articles of martial arts reducing aggressive behavior in children and teens.

One was a Texas A & M University study that showed a significant decrease in aggressive behavior of delinquent youths after they trained in the Korean martial art, Tae kwon do, for just six short months. The title of the study was Martial Arts Training: A novel “cure” for juvenile delinquency. The title alone is pretty powerful.

Yes, the martial arts are comprised of punches, kicks, and throws – violent actions, but one of my favorite teaching techniques is telling the students to think like a super hero. I ask them; just because Batman has the skills to beat people up, does he do it to every one? “Only to the bad-guys,” they shout back to me, “like the Joker!” I explain to them that knowing martial arts is exactly like having a super power and they should treat it as such, just like Batman, and only use it in times of danger and self-defense. During class we reinforce this principle with role-play of how and when the student’s kung fu powers should be used.

This example totally clicks with a child’s imagination and empowers them as well. They think, “Wow, I’m kinda like Spiderman or Batgirl. That’s cool!” Many children in my classes even quote Uncle Ben from the movie Spiderman: “With much power comes much responsibility.” That is what martial arts is all about.

The Seven Coolest Things Sifu Fogg Has Ever Done:

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

7.   Kung Fu Phony: Back before cell phones, Sifu carried around a big white cordless phone while he taught class at the old Marshall school. It seemed to always ring during Horse Stance time and it was always some student from another country whom he hadn’t talked to in years. I hated those students. One evening, when Sifu was fighting the whole class, the phone rang. He told us to keep attacking. As we did, he mantis hopped over to the phone, answered it, and kept talking while he beat us down with one hand. Two times, he even asked the caller to hold on while he smacked us on the forehead with the phone. He told the caller he had to squash a bug. Oh yeah, he was smoking too.

6.   Bar Hopping: One winter morning at 5 AM, John Cheng and I ganged up on Sifu inside a nightclub. We were fighting on top of the bar. We fell off, repeatedly. He didn’t. (Don’t ask)

5.   The Grim Grappler: A loud-mouthed grappler visited our school once and commented that once he got hold of anyone, it was over. They couldn’t do anything about it; said he’d been studying for years and he was unstoppable. Normally, Sifu just let this kind of foolish talk go, but this guy just kept on and on. Finally, with Sifu’s permission, he let this guy wrap him up in some crazy hold. While lying there in a tight ball of arms and legs, Sifu asked the guy three times if he was ready. I heard the dude say yes, and then I heard him scream. He sprang to his feet and ran out of the school still screaming. He never returned.

4.   Butterfly Stance: In Sifu’s early days of being in Texas, he only had Karate people to fight with. One evening, he fought an entire Karate school while sitting in butterfly stance. (How do you explain being beaten up by a man never stood up?)

3.   Immovable Horse Stance: Following an afternoon training session at his house, Sifu sat in horse stance with his back to the bumper of his Ford Falcon and had a student put the car in reverse and ease down on the gas pedal. Sifu held the car in place for at least 60 seconds while the driver steadily increased pressure on the gas.

2.   Falling Ashes: Often times when fighting with me, Sifu would be smoking. On many occasions, the ashes would grow really long. It was amazing. As fragile as cigarette ashes are, these somehow remained intact. Despite Sifu kicking, jumping, hopping, and beating me to a pulp, these ashes seemed to defy gravity. They simply dangled from the end of his cigarette while my life dangled from the end of his fists. I concentrated on not watching the ashes, but I couldn’t help it. I kept waiting for them to fall. Finally, they did, and without missing a beat, Sifu would hit me, catch the falling ashes with the same hand, and then hit me again. While I tumbled across the hard wood floor, Sifu would just smile and light another cigarette.

1.   Sorry, I’ve been sworn to secrecy on this one.

For Real

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Last Tuesday I learned real kung fu.

A new student who recently moved to the U.S. approached me after the morning class and asked me to watch him practice with the walking stick (short staff). He swung the staff with such intensity and focus that I remember thinking, Wow, he’s doing this as if his life depends on it.

Well, I found out that it did.

With little income, my student lives in a rough apartment complex inside an even rougher neighborhood. In very broken English, he told me that in just the last three days, he’d had to fight his way into his home, and then had to throw people out of his home. He said fighting is never one-on-one. Always three or four. And they are big, with big hands and big arms. They want my money, my food. They no work for nothing, he said, they only want to take. He also told me he had to use a broom as his weapon and that’s why he needed more practice with the short staff.

I stood there, not only dumbfounded, but totally humbled and even ashamed.

For the last fourteen years, I’ve been teaching martial arts professionally. And though the lethalness of the arts is always in the back of my mind whenever I teach a technique, I admit I’ve taken KF for granted. I mean, thank God we live in a society where kung fu is not a necessary skill to have in order to live from one day to the next. But in that, how many punches and kicks—entire forms filled with hundreds of techniques— have I taught just going through the motions on autopilot with little thought of how the student may really need this in order to survive the evening at home.

Weeks prior, I’d shown him a few techniques with the staff. Good stuff, effective, but I showed him the movements more as an exercise, with little focus on the combat uses. The humbling part is that he told me those moves saved his life. He shook my hand and thanked me for it. I felt an inch tall. See, in my mind, from the get-go, I should’ve taught him those techniques with the seriousness of what they’re really used for, not just exercises.

You guys know the definition of martial arts but it lets reexamine it.

The word martial literally means warfare or combat. Placing the word arts behind it implies pooling all aspects of combat, studying them and then seamlessly imbedding the techniques into your being so that it (combative moves) flows out naturally. People who train in the martial arts are students of both science and art. Think of all the physics and biology you learn just from practicing kung fu. And of course it’s the repetitive practice that forms the art.

Spending thirty years with a Sifu who relied on his KF to survive the dangerous streets of DC and New York, and then the perilous jungles of Viet Nam, I can’t help but intimately understand the combat side of martial arts. I just allowed my focus to become lazy. Not again.

The Hole Inside

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

The Kung Fu that Sifu Jones teaches fills the hole inside me. Wow, what a statement. Let me clarify. I believe that most of us at some point feel incomplete. That we’re missing something in life. But we continue on doing the same old thing. Work, sleep, eat, entertain ourselves, go to church, spend time with family, etc.: all the things that we have found that we need. But what if you still feel that something is missing? Then you read a book, watch a movie or meet someone. And then you think, “What about martial arts?”. Then you start looking at different schools in your area. You go to some classes, maybe you participate or just sit and watch. You have searched online, looking for advice about how to choose a martial art. You have read hundreds of articles about which one is the best. But the problem is that everyone says that theirs is the best. Karate is the best; no, Tae Kwon Do is the best; no, Kung Fu is the best; no Aikido is the best; no, Boxing is the best. You get so confused about which is the best that you think that you’ll just pick the cheapest school because they’re all the same. Then you go to one more school to try it out. You walk up expecting the same old thing. But during you time there, you start to feel good, excited to be learning, and part of the group. At the end of class you go to the instructor and ask about how to join. You don’t wait for anyone to ask you if you are interested, you just know that this is what you want to do. You have found what you were missing.

I think that choosing the right martial art for you is a combination of the right instructor and the right style. It’s not about which style everybody says is the best. It’s not about which school has the nicest instructor and staff. It’s about finding the right place for you.

Muscle Memory – by David DeWalch

Monday, May 24th, 2010

In Kung Fu we train with repetition, performing sequences over and over in order to place the sequence into our muscle memory. As with other traditions passed down to us from our Kung Fu fathers there is a physiological and scientific basis to muscle memory.

When an active person repeatedly trains movement, often of the same activity, in an effort to stimulate the mind’s adaptation process, the outcome is to induce physiological changes which attain increased levels of accuracy through repetition. Muscle memory is fashioned over time through repetition of a given suite of motor skills and the ability through brain activity to inculcate and instill it such that they become automatic. To the beginner, activities such as brushing the teeth, combing the hair, or even driving a vehicle are not as easy as they look. As one reinforces those movements through repetition, the neural system learns those fine and gross motor skills to the degree that one no longer needs to think about them, but merely to react and perform appropriately. In this sense the muscle memory process is an example of automating an OODA Loop insofar as one learns to Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.

In this physiological description it is demonstrated why we train in the way that the Masters have handed down to us. Repetition is key in training our brain to work in conjunction with our muscle groups so that when the need arises we are ready to defend ourselves without conscious thought. Additionally, this is the reason that we train for good technique and form. In other words if we train with poor technique and poor form this is the information that our brain stores as the muscle memory resulting in unskilled and inadequate Kung Fu.

A common mistake is to perform the actions with too much speed that sacrifices attention to the exact mechanism of the technique and good form. Speed comes with training and is not a necessary component to obtain muscle memory. Again repetition of a movement and good form with focus placed on stances, plucks blocks and strikes is essential to building muscle memory. Speed and skill comes with time, training and patience.

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.

Fighting the Frustration

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

In every student’s Kung Fu journey comes a point where they do not feel that they are progressing like they should. This has happened to everyone that has learned to fight in this way, back hundreds of years. It is completely normal, but it can be very frustrating.

It is very much like walking through a long, wide hall. One in which you cannot see the end, but you know that this is your path. While walking down this hall, you may all of a sudden you find yourself at a wall. In this wall there are many doors, but only one will be unlocked and available for your passage. After passing through that door you are again looking down another long, wide hall.

The halls are wide because each student’s journey through Kung Fu is different and each door represents a different solution. Sometimes the student will find the correct solution themselves and continue on their Kung Fu path, however help is usually needed.

Here are a few suggestions to move past this frustration:

  1. Play your forms with emphasis on applications. All of the fighting tools you need are in your forms. The more you play them, the more will come out when fighting.
  2. SLOW DOWN. The slower you go, the more time you have to think about something different to do or how to get out of a situation.
  3. Try new things and new people. Playing hands with someone new can often spur a new direction for you.
  4. Try focusing on a single principle/idea when fighting. Example; begin trying to catch people’s center by plucking.

Very often, the best thing to do is to ask a Ja Gow or Black Belt. We all love this stuff, and would love to spend some time with you to help you get better. Learning to fight at Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness can be a daunting task. It is certainly a slow and frustrating one, but it is also extremely rewarding.

Most of all, KEEP TRYING. As in most martial arts, you learn the most by doing something over and over and over and over again.