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Just like Bourne

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

The power of a book.

I vividly remember my father handing me the thick hardback and saying, “Read this. I think you’ll enjoy it.” Dad had no idea that he’d just laid something in my hands that would set the course for my life.

I was fourteen and had never heard of Robert Ludlum or The Bourne Identity, and I had no idea about the plot of the book. I immediately read the dust jacket and was mesmerized by Bourne having amnesia, and yet his body “knew” all of these special skills.

That one thought totally consumed me. The idea that the body could be trained to do something so well that it actually becomes an internal part of your being, something you can do without thought, as natural as breathing or sleeping.

I devoured the pages like a starving dog attacks a fried chicken leg. I read so much I even forgot about watching MTV. (That was a big deal for a teenager 1982, when MTV was a new phenomenon and actually played music videos.)

When Dad gave me the book, I was considering signing up for a summer Kung fu program. By the time I finished the first couple of chapters and Bourne had wiped out a group of fishermen with his “mentally buried” martial arts skills, I knew right then I had to learn kung fu. I wanted my body to know it…just like Bourne.

Now, over thirty years later, I continue to strive for that perfection in my own kung fu. I want to instill that same passion into my students and hope that they will believe that kung fu can be just as natural to them.

Kung Fu vs. Dracula – Part II

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

…Something started pounding the wall next to me. My girlfriend screamed, digging her fingernails into my arm. Strobe lights went berserk, flashing the walls with images of demons. That haunting kill, kill, kill, sound effect that’s on Friday the 13th started playing. The walls pounded again. The floor shook. Demons shrieked. People were cursing, begging to get out. A human stampede was imminent. Ghost-lady’s voice told us Bellazar, the vampire demon was deeply upset and one of us had to die. A black man behind me said, “Oh hell no, not me!” and he bolted from the room. Suddenly, two arms grabbed my shoulders and began sliding around my neck. I didn’t think; just reacted. I twisted free from my date and drove two elbows into Bellazar’s stomach. I heard “umph” and felt his hot breath on my neck. I then clutched his elbow with one hand and his shoulder with the other and flipped him over my back. I had no idea vampires knew so many curse words. A loud crash followed by more cursing and groaning, then something ripped. Ghost-lady’s lighter flicked on and she demanded to know what was going on. She didn’t sound very ghost-like anymore. Bellazar paused long enough in his profanity marathon to scream, “Someone tried to kill me!” and then continued with his demonic vocabulary. I grabbed my girlfriend, pulled her close, and moved toward the exit but she screamed. I had grabbed the wrong girl.

In absolute darkness, I spun around groping for her. People were falling down, running into walls. Others stepped on Bellazar; he cried. Women screamed. Men shouted. The noise level was deafening. The lights burst on and everyone froze–until they saw the vampire demon lying on the floor. He had part of a black curtain tangled around his ankle, which had ripped down when he fell. It flared around him like a cape. Five other demon-dudes had been hiding behind the curtain. Now they just stood there slack-jawed staring at their slain leader covered in blood – whether it was fake or real, no one cared. Someone shouted “Oh, Lord he’s dead!” then a frenzied sea of people stormed the exit. I had to move or get trampled.

Outside, the fresh air hit me like a blast of cold water. Everyone scattered. Sirens blared. The cops were running to the house. Michael Jackson stopped singing. Children were crying. The people waiting to get in started cheering. They thought it was part of the show. I joined some friends then hooked up with my girlfriend.

She was not happy.

I didn’t get it. I just saved her from Bellazar and she wasn’t happy. Neither was anyone else, however. I learned that park officials shut the house down for an hour and poor Bellazar had to receive minor medical attention.
So, the moral to this tale? If you want to know if you’re learning Kung Fu, see how you react when you’re frightened.

No, I do not condone trashing haunted houses. I suggest not going in the first place. Beating up demons, however, I’m OK with.

Oh, my girlfriend ditched me after that. What’s the deal with chicks and vampires? Forget it guys, the girl always chooses the vampire.

 

[reposted for the holidays!]

 

Kung Fu vs. Dracula – Part I

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

[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…

Kung Fu Holidays

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

During the Thanksgiving and Christmas season it’s easy to become preoccupied with all of the holiday frills that we often let our guards down, especially when it comes to our children.

I have many parents ask for some simple ways to make sure their child is safe during the countless shopping trips. So here are a few tips on safety for your loved ones this season.

Malls are unavoidable for us shoppers and the bad-guys know this. My suggestion is for children under 12 to remain with parents or adult during shopping trips. This is a drag for kids around the 10-11 age range but it’s much safer. For teens, shopping with friends is the rule, preferably with groups of four to six.

You must view the child-abductor as a cowardly predator. He is looking for that lone child to attack. Stay with the groups and remain in public areas of the mall. Avoid going to restrooms alone or walking out to their cars alone. Of course, cell phones are the ideal way for you to stay in touch with your child.

And always run! Hopefully your child never has to deal with being assaulted but tell them to run. Get out of there and go to a security guard. Inform them to report any suspicious incidents to the proper authorities.

The holidays are fun and exciting and for the most part are very safe, but it’s always better to be prepared and to have a plan. Have a happy Thanksgiving and a merry Christmas.

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.

Veteran’s Day

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I was ready to post on the topic of learning to fight without learning the numerous forms associated with Mantis KF, when the following hit me. (Will discuss the forms topic soon)

As I post this, the morning rain outside my window is pounding everything in its path. The creek running alongside my house is beginning to flood my front yard and strong winds force huge pines to bow. The sky is a purplish gray. I’m cold.

I find myself wishing for a sunny day, feeling down only because of the weather.

That’s when I notice the date.

November 11.

How selfish and spoiled I am. Here I sit, completely protected from the elements, writing on a computer, when thousands of United States Soldiers are carrying out their duties despite the weather. I watch the rain.

I can’t imagine sleeping on desert floors in 150 degrees as sand granules burrow their way into every cell of my body and mortar rounds hum through the night. Nor could I run through jungles with snakes and snipers ready to kill me.

I can’t imagine flying a jet with a MIG on my tail, or being aboard a ship with huge waves crashing against the hull pelting my face with salt water, soaking my clothes, while enemy subs hope to blow me up.

I can’t imagine fast-roping from a Blackhawk as men, women, and children fire their A-K 47’s at me, or being on a four-man special ops team, dropped off in the black of night a mile away from my target, swimming in shark infested waters only then to crawl through dense tropical forest to infiltrate terrorists’ camps.

I can’t imagine going through all of that and then Americans, the people I so proudly swore to protect and to defend, treat me as a leper when I return.

But you know what? I don’t have to imagine any of that. The United States Soldier has already done it for me . . . for real. These men and women do this day after day because they see the bigger picture. They understand the threat.

U.S. Soldiers are the epitome of servant hood. They love this country and we should love them.

The storm has intensified outside but suddenly, I feel warm, safe.

Thank God for you Veterans. Happy November 11.

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.