The Dojo Kun

by Phillip Starr

The training hall oath…recited at the beginning of class by many martial arts schools worldwide.  The oath is a reflection of the values and spirit of the martial discipline which they practice.  When I trained in Kyokushin karate many, many moons ago, we all recited it before every class and to this day, I remember it; “We will train our hearts and minds for a firm, unshaking spirit….”

We were told that we should focus on the meaning of every line and recite the oath with reverence and spirit.  Nowadays, fewer and fewer martial arts schools utilize a dojo kun, even if their particular style has one (some styles don’t) and of those who do, the students tend to repeat the lines of the oath robotically; like a parrot.

The oath is there to remind us of what we are striving to accomplish and why we leave sweat and blood on the training hall floor.  It’s our fault as instructors that this particular aspect of training has fallen by the wayside and been forgotten.  But we can readily find it again and put it to the use for which it was originally intended.  Shall we re-trace our steps back a little distance and retrieve it?

ELEMENTS TO REMEMBER

by Phillip Starr

In earlier writings, I’ve mentioned the concept of “kyo”, which is the chink in your opponent’s armor; it is an opening, a “window of opportunity” through which you can quickly enter his defense perimeter and bring him down. Well, that’s what you hope to do, anyway.

I can see that you’re a little perplexed. “Whaddya mean, ‘what I hope to do?’” Well, you’re going to barrel through that window and…then what? Stop and consider that once you enter that window, not only are you close enough to strike the opponent…but he is equally close to you! Ah, yes…I saw some eyebrows jump. Hadn’t thought about that, had you? You bet. So, you’d better bring him down because if you fail, it’ll be his turn.

There are five key elements that must be studied and practiced repeatedly if you are serious about developing real martial skill. We’re going to look at each one individually.

SURPRISE OF ENTRY

This would seem pretty obvious but many people miss it. Your movement (not just your technique) must occur suddenly and without warning. The enemy must have no clue that you’re on your way and when it happens, he should be taken by complete surprise. This means that you have to train to eliminate any “telegraphs” (small movements or physical signals) that indicate your intentions. If you fail to do this; if you inadvertently “telegraph” your plans to your foe, the results will be disastrous.

SPEED OF ACTION

In this wise, I’m not talking about how fast you can deliver a punch or kick; I’m talking about how swiftly you can move your entire body and deliver your techniques . You dare not be too slow or pause in the middle of your attack lest you provide the opponent with your own moment of “kyo.” Your movements must be smooth and quick, never wooden, clumsy, or “jerky” as if you were a robot. Everything flows together seamlessly, without a break.

Both of these first two elements, Surprise and Speed, have to do with the concept of timing and rhythm. These concepts are discussed in detail in my book, “MARTIAL MECHANICS.” It presents special training routines that will help you polish your timing and better understand the idea of “rhythm” and how you can apply it to your best advantage. I strongly suggest that you save up your beer money for a couple of days and purchase a copy.

CLOSING WITH THE ENEMY

The objective here is to take the opponent’s ground! You must close with him as quickly as possible while simultaneously firing out powerful blows. You are already inside his defense perimeter and he must do his best to defend himself against the onslaught. He has no chance to mount a counter-offensive; your blows force him to focus on defense. Train to apply the techniques with which you are the most comfortable, including both grappling as well as percussive techniques. You must figuratively “grab him by the belt” and don’t let go!

VIOLENCE OF ACTION

This goes hand in hand with the previous element. Your attack must be overwhelming and extremely violent. This isn’t to say that you must become angry or otherwise lose control of your emotions. On the contrary, you must control your feelings and keep your spirit calm. Bear in mind that your objective is to take his ground (remembering that no battle was ever won by letting the enemy keep his ground…) and run over him. Literally.

CONTROLLED EGRESS

Once the enemy has been brought down, you must immediately move out of his striking range. Keep in mind that thugs rarely hunt solo; he’ll likely have friends very close by. You must be prepared to deal with them, so don’t pause, “pose”, and admire your handiwork as if you’re in some grade B kung-fu movie. Maintain eight-directional zanshin and prepare for whatever may come next.
Here endeth the lesson.

My Home for 3 Years in China

Here’s the latest school review for one of the toughest schools we work with and one that is nonsense good for Sanda and combat kung fu. Owen Gibson trained at Master Wang’s Kung fu School in China for 3 years.

I trained under Shifu Wang Xing Long for almost 3 years from 2016-2019. The life here is hard, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. However this school is distinguished from the rest – because it breeds warriors. Here, there is no pretence. The school doesn’t attempt to cater to the foreign ideas of what a kung fu school should be like. It’s cold, it’s basic, and you just have to work hard every day. Shifu gives his everything into his students – especially if he see’s you work hard. He lives and breathes this school, and truly cares about you (even though it may not seem like it when he’s screaming at you while you’ve been lizard walking a kilometre). This school breeds warriors because it’s impossible to be any less if you work hard. I achieved my masters level 4 (black duan) with Shifu’s help. The school is my home, and I strongly advise anybody wishing to learn legitimate kung fu to go here – as you’ll be hard pressed to find other legit places for foreigners (I’m looking at you schools in Shandong).

A consistent thread when you train with Master Wang from all his school reviews is the hard, relentless and strict traditional training. Training is 5 days per week 6-8 hours per day. Winters are bitterly cold but the rewards and results from the training speak for themselves. Get through training here and you will have the confidence to take on any challenge. Master Wang’s school offers Sanda, Shaolin Kung fu, and Taichi quan.

For further information on travel and training in China visit www.studymartialarts.org – for independent reviews, without the BS as well as free assistance and support providing you book through our platform.

Kun Khmer Weight-loss & Siem Reap Fitness Camp

More and more people are contacting me to book places at weightloss and fitness camps focusing on martial arts. One of the best in terms of fun, training and location is Kingdom Fight Gym’s camp in Siem Reap close to the famous temples of Angkor Watt.

Kingdom Fight Gym aims to restore the ancient fighting art of Kun Khmer. At Kingdom Fight Gym you can learn this ancient martial art from the Khmer Empire. The Gym offers Kun Khmer (Khmer Boxing) intensive training camps which include two 2 hour long classes per day. In addition to that it also offers group classes for kids and adults, Private training with experienced coaches (active and retired fighters, local and foreigners).

Kingdom Fight Gym, Siem Reap is run by Mark van Dongen and Kwok-Leung Tsang. Their aim was to create a social, cultural sports centre that partners with the local population and existing, sustainable organisations in Cambodia and Netherlands in order to contribute to the lives of Cambodian youth. The Gym provides them with a place to learn mutual respect, how to defend themselves, connect to their culture, gain self-confidence and develop as a well rounded individual.

Here are three of the latest reviews from people who have attended the camp and trained at the gym.

‘Everything was amazing: the atmosphere, facility, equipment. The real gems are the people; coaches, fighters and the gym community. Super friendly and approachable. The coaches have extraordinary amount of experience and I liked the different techniques they introduced. The trips were organized perfectly. Such a treat to see the beauty of Cambodia and how much it can offer to a tourist like myself (… including .50 cent beers)!!!’

Joanna from the United States

‘Excellent organization, great communication, wonderful and helpful staff, well equipped gear, attention to each individual. We have never done something like this, and would definitely do it again. A big thank you.’

Cécile from Switzerland

‘I spent one month here and it was the best investment in myself I’ve ever made, so rewarding in many ways. Daz, Rith and Bora are all amazing coaches that make you train hard but still have a really good time and laugh a lot. I will surely try to come back at some time, thank you guys once again for an amazing time!’

Jon P from England

Why so many grappling styles stop when things go to the ground — The Tai Chi Notebook

If you throw your opponent to the ground in almost all of the old, traditional folk wrestling styles then you win. That’s it. Game over. To modern day martial artists that seems very odd, as we’re now all used to seeing MMA and BJJ fights on the ground, sometimes lasting minutes. But in olden times, […]

Why so many grappling styles stop when things go to the ground — The Tai Chi Notebook

Through a Lens Darkly (1): Images of China’s Martial Culture — Kung Fu Tea

***Greetings!  As I noted in my last post I am taking a (hopefully) short hiatus from multiple-essays-a-week blogging as I adjust to the demanding schedule of a new job.  But rather than let things get stale I decided to use this time to go back and systematically review some of my 800+ posts (over 3 […]

Through a Lens Darkly (1): Images of China’s Martial Culture — Kung Fu Tea

How to Piss off Your Martial Arts Teacher

by Yang Shuangxing

Ever wonder what seemingly small, inoffensive things might very well annoy or even genuinely cause your instructor to get fairly steamed?  It’s well to have a good idea regarding these ostensibly innocent things for many reasons…

SHOW  UP LATE FOR CLASS

Showing up a couple of minutes late isn’t too bad, although you’re clearly not interested in warming up or you’re avoiding it.  Fifteen minutes will almost certainly upset your teacher, even if he says nothing.

SHOW  UP  LATE FOR CLASS AND WALK ONTO THE FLOOR

It’s bad enough that you’re late but in a traditional school, it’s customary to stand or kneel (in seiza) at the outer edge of the training area and wait for the teacher to acknowledge you and indicate that you are to join the class.

COME  TO CLASS IN A DIRTY OR WRINKLED UNIFORM

The condition of your training uniform is a clear indication of how you regard your school, your training, your teacher, and yourself.  If it looks like it was on the losing end of an Asian land war, your teacher will certainly take note of it.

DON’T  PRACTICE AT HOME

Didn’t practice at home?  Can’t remember your form?  Believe me, your teacher will notice your lack of personal training within the first 10 seconds of class.  Failure to put in personal training time shows that your training in very low on your list of priorities (if it’s even on the list at all)…AND it shows that you have little regard for your teacher and the efforts he’s made to teach you.

CORRECT  THE TEACHER

NEVER, EVER correct the teacher.  Period.

SIT DOWN TO REST OR GET WATER WITHOUT PERMISSION

NEVER do this without the instructors’ permission.  And never leave the training floor without his/her explicit permission.

TELL THE INSTRUCTOR  THAT YOU THINK YOU’RE READY FOR PROMOTION

Not Ever.  NEVER.

There are easily dozens more ways to tick off your instructor and I’m sure my friends here who are instructors can add many more to this basic list.  I just jotted down a few things that you, as a student, should avoid doing if you plan to survive very long in your martial arts class.

Shengjing Shan Kung fu Academy Review

by Tim Miller

My experience at Shengjing Shan kung fu academy has been one of the best experiences in my life. I have been here for 8 months and I am in the best physical and mental condition I’ve ever been in. I have lost the most weight I’ve ever lost in my life (30 pounds). It is deep in the mountains and has very little to no distractions which makes it a great location if you’re looking to focus on learning kung fu. The student environment is also very friendly. Everyone is very nice to each other and is there to help you when you need it. I’ve met some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met before at this academy. Master Qu is one of the best masters you could hope for. He teaches each student at their own pace based on their ability and condition, yet at the same time he pushes you to become stronger and better than you were yesterday. It is clear he cares about his students, not only on a physical and mental level, but also as a person in general. He has made this place feel like a second home.

Tim went to Shengjing Shan Kungfu Academy for 8 months. During this time he lost weight and got fitter than he’d ever been before. If you would also like to learn kung fu in China, get fit or loose weight there are some great options available for you to get fighting fit and reclaim your life. For further information and advice email info@studymartialarts.org to learn more.

 

The Ancient fighting art of Kun Khmer and the Temples of Angkor

Experience an Amazing Training holiday in Cambodia. This martial arts adventure includes 6 days of professional training in the ancient fighting art of Kun Khmer, as well as K1-style kickboxing. Training will be tailored and adjusted to your fitness, and training level. This training camp includes 10 nights accommodation in a 4-Star Hotel, high quality tours to historic sites of interest, and much more. You’ll visit Angkor Archaeological Park, Kompong Khleang, Tonle Sap, and Phnom Kulen National Park. You’ll experience top training sessions in a friendly atmosphere, and you’ll enjoy the rich music, dance and history of Cambodia while getting fit.

For this Training Camp you will be based in Siem Reap. Siem Reap is a friendly backpacker town. This region was the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire from the ninth to the 15th centuries. The ruins, of these successive capitals are collectively known as the Angkor Archaeological Park. The Angkor Archaeological Park is located about four miles north of the city center. The 150-square-mile complex, which includes the famous Angkor Wat Temple, is Siem Reap’s biggest tourist draw and will be one of the memorable sites that you will visit when on you join this tour. Siem Reap is your gateway to Cambodia’s glorious past and a vivid present.

A journey of activity, culture, and wonder

Check out the Destination Guide below providing you details of what you will visit and experience.

Angkor Archaeological Park

Angkor Archaeological Park, is one of the largest religious and historical complexes in the world, both buddhism and hinduism are represented here. The temples vary in style and age from the 9th to 13th century. All these temples were built by the kings of the once great Khmer Empire.

The Angkor Archaeological Park is breathtaking, and is a principal draw for anyone visiting Cambodia. You can visit these temples by local tuk tuk, motorbike or even fly past them in a hot air balloon. For this tour the best local tuk tuk drivers and guides will take you to the main temples were you will be able to take wonderful photographic opportunities.

Here the monuments and the surrounding jungle afford unlimited textural and lighting opportunities for composing the perfect picture.

Kompong Khleang, Tonle Sap

Is one of the largest floating village communities on the Tonlé Sap, Kompong Khleang (កំពង់ឃ្លាំង) it is more of a town than the other villages, and comes complete with several ornate pagodas. Most of the houses here are built on towering stilts to allow for a dramatic change in water level. There is only a small floating community on the lake, but the stilted town is an interesting place to explore. Fewer tourists visit here compared with the floating villages closer to Siem Reap, this is a reason to visit in itself. The village is relative untouched and pertains its authenticity, which makes for a non-touristy experience. Kompong Khleang is one of the most beautiful. Travel here and gawk in awe as there are not just houses but also schools and pagodas floating above the water. The village moves in unison with the current depending on which season the lake is in.

Tonle Sap is directly translated into ‘large river’, yet it is more commonly referred to as the Great Lake. Occupying the floodplain in the lower Mekong basin, Tonle Sap is comprised of a river 120 km in length connected to the Mekong river and a freshwater lake of the same name, which is flooded on a seasonal basis. Tonle Sap, has the highest concentrated biodiversity in many regions, and was chosen as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1997. Located South of Siem Reap, it is also home to a great number of species, roughly 300, including fish, birds and vegetation. Part of the Great Lake is dedicated to the Preak Toal Bird Sanctuary.

Phnom Kulen National Park

Is a playground for locals, Phnom Kulen (literally Mountain of the Lychees). This will be a gorgeous day out for relaxation and sightseeing. The main attraction is the waterfalls at the top of Kulen Mountain, and it’s also a great picnic spot; well set up in Cambodian style with hammocks and shelters to keep you shaded from the sun.

Phnom Kulen National Park is a very sacred site with multiple temples easily accessible. Two sites most noted are the Thousand Lingas at Kbal Spean, within the Kulen National Park site and Preah Ang Thom pagoda with its giant reclining Buddha. The area is a magnet to “kru khmer” (natural medicine doctors), and it attracts people seeking blessings from its holy waters, particularly the potent life-giving waters at Kbal Spean, that are said to help couples conceive.

Kingdom Fight Gym

Kingdom Fight Gym aims to restore the ancient fighting art of Kun Khmer. At Kingdom Fight Gym you can learn this ancient martial art from the Khmer Empire. The Gym offers Kun Khmer (Khmer Boxing) intensive training camps which include two 2 hour long classes per day. In addition to that it also offers group classes for kids and adults, Private training with experienced coaches (active and retired fighters, local and foreigners).

Kingdom Fight Gym, Siem Reap is run by Mark van Dongen and Kwok-Leung Tsang. Their aim was to create a social, cultural sports centre that partners with the local population and existing, sustainable organisations in Cambodia and Netherlands in order to contribute to the lives of Cambodian youth. The Gym provides them with a place to learn mutual respect, how to defend themselves, connect to their culture, gain self-confidence and develop as a well rounded individual.

Siem Reap

During the 20th century, Siem Reap ‘Thailand Destroyed’ grew from being a small village into a vibrant city catering to tourists visiting Angkor Wat. In the city you will find a variety of cuisine, accommodation options, shopping, and adventure activities from motorbike tours, to hot air ballon rides.

In Siem Reap there are a number of distinct shopping, drinking and eating areas. In the south of the city there is the central shopping and restaurant area next to Phsar Chas (old market). This area comes to life after sunset. The area is filled with bars, massage spas, and restaurants. The busiest and most popular place in the city after dark for backpackers and party goers is Pub Street.

Pub Street

Pub Street is 100m long stretch of pubs and nightclubs stretching from the Red Piano Restaurant to the Banana Leaf Restaurant. Two of the biggest clubs on the street are the Temple Club and Angkor What? And if you’re hungry you’ll find local food, western favourites and even insect snacks that can be washed down with 50 cent draught beers.

If you’d prefer to rub shoulders with the locals a night out at Khmer Pub Street or a visit to the Siem Reap Container Bars would be great alternative option. Located just off of Charles De Gaulle and the Tara Angkor Hotel you’ll find a plaza made entirely of cargo containers and over 20 container bars. Towards the front of the plaza is a huge stage, where performers sing every weekend. This is a Siem Reap must see attraction.

Phare Circus

More than just a circus, Phare performers use theater, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and modern. The young circus artists will astonish you with their energy, emotion, enthusiasm and talent. Phare artists are students and graduates from Phare Ponleu Selpak’s vocational training center in Battambang.

The association was formed in 1994 by 9 young men coming home from a refugee camp after the Khmer Rouge regime. They were greatly helped during that time by an art teacher using drawing classes as therapy and wanted to share this new skill among the poor, socially deprived and troubled youngsters in Battambang.

They founded an art school and public school followed to offer free education. A music school and theatre school were next and finally, for the kids who wanted more, the circus school.

Today more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the alternative schools. Phare Ponleu Selpak also has extensive outreach programs, trying to help with the problems highlighted in their own tales. Phare The Cambodian Circus offers these students and graduates somewhere to hone their skills and a place to earn a decent wage. Money that will take them out of poverty and give them self-respect and freedom.

Want to book your place?

Visit this page and learn more about this martial arts travel and training experience. 

Xinglin Traditional Shaolin Kung fu Academy – Reviewed

by Bianca Houtzager

My experience here at Kung Fu Xing Lin Academy has been more amazing and rewarding than I expected, and one that I wish wasn’t ending so soon. Within a week of arriving here, I felt very comfortable, happy, inspired and peaceful, and had already began dreading having to leave.

The environment of the temple complex is amazing and so beautiful. It is very special to live and train in a Buddhist temple and be a part of the daily life here. The monks, nuns and residents of the temple are always so friendly and welcoming. I really enjoyed being apart of the ceremonies and events at the temple, as well as eating with the monks. The location is stunning! I appreciate Sikong Mountain every day, and the view from my front door every morning. The school’s remote location makes for a perfect atmosphere to train gong fu and to focus on internal development. The mountains, the forests, the flowers, the insects and the temple buildings make this place so beautiful, I love it.

The living standard is good and I have felt very comfortable here. The food is really nice, healthy and delicious, (especially when Shifu cooks!) and the accommodation is good, comfortable, with good sized rooms and bathrooms. I love the view from the top floor!

The training is great and feels very authentic. It is hard, but only as hard as you make it. The harder you train, and the more you focus, the more rewarding it is. Shifu is a very skilful teacher, it has been a pleasure to be taught by him. He has such an in-depth knowledge of Chinese martial arts, history and Buddhism and it is very interesting and enjoyable to learn from him. He is good at creating training plans unique to each student by giving them forms that match their strengths and/or challenge their weaknesses. I felt like this particularly with my spear form, its suits me but also challenges me a lot. I had to really think about the movements and techniques and try not get discouraged when I found them difficult. I like how when Shifu gives you a new form he tells you some information about it first, including the name and history, and during the learning process explains movements and applications. But all of this would not be possible without Cindy, who does a great job of translating for Shifu, as well as managing and communicating with students and helping us when we need.

I like how the training week is structured and I like the variety of skills we are taught. The Shaolin gong fu is the main focus, but the wing chun, qi gong, and jumps class are all really interesting, especially wing chun, and they all compliment and help in other aspects of training. If I was here for longer I would include sanda into my training too… maybe next time. All these different styles and practises train different areas, but all benefit each other. I understand more now that the reason I enjoy practising martial arts is because it trains every part of myself, physically, mentally and spiritually, and it applies to all aspects of my life. I have found learning qi gong to be very beneficial and enjoyable. It has helped me understand the importance of having a quiet and focused mind when practising forms and techniques, and to develop more awareness of my body and its energy. It is also just a relaxing thing to do on a Thursday morning, to be peaceful and soft and listen to the birds and the leaves.

Overall this school provides students with such an enriching cultural experience that I imagine would be difficult to find in other places. Shifu and Cindy have created a wonderful school and place for foreign students to experience traditional Chinese martial arts, Chinese culture and Buddhism. I have enjoyed my stay here so much and gained a lot from it, and I cannot wait to come back!!!

Thank you Shifu and Cindy.

To read more reviews of the school visit the school profile page on the StudyMartialArts.Org site.