“Like eating too much good food”

Beef lo mein, one of my favorite dishes. I tend to judge a Chinese restaurant by how well they make their noodles.  Image taken from: http://bakeatmidnite.com/ground-beef-lo-mein/

Beef lo mein, one of my favorite dishes. I tend to judge a Chinese restaurant by how well they make their noodles.
Image taken from: http://bakeatmidnite.com/ground-beef-lo-mein/

Well, it’s been another week of school, training, and mulling over both of those things. What have I learnt? That it’s still far, far too easy for me to succumb to the fault of over-training. At the beginning of the week, I stepped lightly back into practice and decided to make a concerted effort to remain at the form level with my force training and pattern practice, even going so far as to omit certain portions of my training or to not do as many repetitions. The result? Still over-training. Continue reading

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Golden Bridge and Thirty Punches

All kung fu styles have characteristic stances used to develop force. Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrates Golden Bridge, the most characteristic stance chosen for force training in Southern Shaolin kung fu. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrates Golden Bridge, one of the major stances in Shaolin kung fu to develop solid stances and strong arms. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

My family medicine rotation started today and I have a rather uncertain schedule, so I’m not sure if I’ll be posting daily, but I do plan to keep posting at least weekly, heh.

Practice was split up into several smaller sessions today again. My early morning session involved Lifting Sun & Moon, Art of Thirty Punches, and Old Monk Removes Shoes. Lifting Sun & Moon seems to have long since replaced Lifting the Sky as my favorite “just qigong” pattern. About two years ago, one of my questions to Sifu concerned opening patterns and some particulars can be read here; some interesting reasons behind why various styles employ different opening patterns can be read there. Regardless, I particularly like the movement of Lifting Sun & Moon because it’s presently helping to open up my hunched shoulders. As I write this, I realize I should also be performing General Surveys Field throughout the day; in fact, back in 2012, Sifu taught me that pattern as everyone was about to go home after a regional seminar and I was waiting for a taxi; “Your posture is hunched over and no good! Stand like this!” he said, and just like that, Sifu “gave” me one of the Eighteen Jewels of Shaolin Wahnam qigong. Neat, huh? Continue reading

Toughening and protective skills in kung fu

Grandmaster Lam Sai Wing, a well-known master of Hung Gar kung fu in recent times, demonstrating "Separate Gold Fists" in the Iron Wire set. He looks quite fit and healthy, not at all banged up from his training. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Grandmaster Lam Sai Wing, a well-known master of Hung Gar kung fu in recent times, demonstrating “Separate Gold Fists” in the Iron Wire set. He looks quite fit and healthy, not at all banged up from his training. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

In June 2013, someone on the G+ Martial Artist forum noted that he was doing “tree toughening” exercises and asked for our opinions on the exercise. Here was my response:

Are you swinging your arms, legs into the tree and striking your body against a tree? Provided you follow the correct method and gradual progression, you’ll eventually develop what kung fu people call Iron Arm, Iron Leg, Iron Vest, Iron Head, and so forth, depending on the conditioning you do.

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Closed door teachings and songs of secrets

As Sifu Antonius Korahais demonstrates, one does not have to be Asian to excel in martial arts.

A discussion on the G+ Martial Artists forums included a lamentable situation of a non-Japanese man being turned away from learning Shorinji Kenpo in Japan, presumably due to “Westerners not understanding profound truths” or some-such. This discussion led to the notion of “secret teachings” and how such things can get passed down to the next generation. Here is what I had to say on the matter, using the example of the fundamental set at the Southern Shaolin temple, Cross-Road at Four Gates:

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Wudang gong-li training

We had a brief discussion on the G+ Internal Martial Arts forum about a great video of force training at the Wudang mountain by Wudang Pai, an excellent kung fu school preserving and teaching arts practiced by Daoist sages at the Wudang Temple.

Video link: Wudang Gong Li Training

Here are my comments about the video:

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Does form follow function or function follow form?

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrating Black Tiger Steals Heart. Many generations worth of lessons and fighting experiences were crystallized into this basic pattern. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit demonstrating Black Tiger Steals Heart. Many generations worth of lessons and fighting experiences were crystallized into this basic pattern. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

We had a great discussion on G+’s martial artist forums regarding the question posed above. On the kung fu side of things, first there was random and haphazard fighting. Eventually, people figured out (and more importantly, passed on) the idea that certain ways of moving and fighting were better for their purposes; folks moved from the typical “boxing” jabs and hooks to crystallized kung fu patterns like Black Tiger Steals Heart (a level punch to the chest at the Bow-Arrow stance) or Hang a Golden Star at Corner (a punch to the side of the temple at the Bow-Arrow stance) because of certain advantages (a protected groin, more agile footwork, and being able to use waist rotation to generate and send spiral force from the abdomen into the opponent to deal injury).

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Goals inform training

It is important to have measurable goals in our training. One very useful goal for martial artists to achieve is to hold the Horse Riding stance with correct form and a relaxed mind for five minutes. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

The two pillars of kung fu are force and combat application. A useful goal for martial artists to reach in developing force is to hold the Horse Riding stance, with correct form and completely relaxed, for five minutes. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

Blind and haphazard training will get you no where. You have to know exactly what you want, why you want it, how you will get it, and when you plan to arrive at your goal so that you can be as time- and cost-effective as possible. Most of us aren’t exactly immortal; why not do the best we can to get what we want?

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