Is Practicing Forms Important for Real Fighting?

by An Jian Qiu

In all martial arts, many students will one day ask themselves:

“Is practicing forms important for real fighting? Should I just be performing drills, or sparring?”

The answer to this is not a simple yes or no because it depends on how you practice your forms:

  • Do you let your mind wander, or are you incredibly focused?
  • Do you ‘take it easy’ and treat it as a warm-up, or are you challenging yourself each time with deep stances and powerful movements?
  • Are you just ‘following the motions’, or do you have a specific goal in mind?

At An Wushu, we believe form training done correctly is incredibly important for developing your kung fu:

  • Forms develop what we call your ‘kung fu body’. Strength and endurance are a very important part of kung fu, but can be developed by many activities; the specific attributes you need for perfecting your kung fu, however – such as flexibility, timing & chi skills – can be best developed through forms
  • Forms teach movements in a logical sequence (e.g., “Strike… if they block, then you do this”) and create useful muscle memory*
  • If you practice your forms the way you fight – with spirit, power, and accuracy – then you’ll fight the way you practice your forms

*Many students are also curious about the applicability of ‘grander’ movements, such as flips, spins, kicks and so on. There are a few schools of thought on this:

  1. In years past, it was not uncommon for future masters to be taught incredibly slowly, often learning a single form over five years! If you have practiced a movement 100,000 times or more, you will definitely be able to use it in combat – even if it is perhaps not as efficient as it could be
  2. Many movements are taken to their extreme to better develop the body: e.g., if you train with your horse stance at parallel, spending minutes then hours in this position each day for many years, your legs will become incredibly strong. If you only stand at ‘fighting height’ for these years of training, you will miss out on this strength.
  3. In some styles, there are moves that are simply not meant to be used in combat, e.g., backflips, and are simply there to develop the body of the practitioner. Similar to Point 2, if you spend years training backflips, you will have much more explosive muscles and better co-ordination than if you didn’t. (Note: There are no movements like this in An Wushu, however, as part of a complete training system this is a great way to train.)
  4. Much of the power generated in kung fu is difficult to do in a small way until you can do it in a big way: e.g., even a beginner can sharply twist their body, push off their heel and throw a strong ‘cross’ punch (albeit at the probable cost of their balance). But if they limit their twist to only 1-inch, can they generate power? The answer is no. By starting with an over-exaggerated movement, a beginner is able to gain the internal feeling needed for any movement and gradually refine the movement to its usable form.

So, is practicing forms important for real fighting? As with anything in kung fu and in life, you only get out what you put in.

To learn more about An Wushu or how to study with Master An full-time in China visit www.StudyMartialArts.Org we work exclusively to help dedicated students connect to quality martial arts schools. This includes visa assistance and independent information all at no additional cost to you. Check us out with no obligation.

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The Martial and Mandarin: Are you a type A student or a type B student?

In China dedicated martial arts students who plan to make the most of their time generally fall into two categories.

Type A – You’re a martial arts student in China and you’ve reached a level where in order to further develop your understanding and skill as well as make your life easier you’ve got no choice but learn the language.

Type B – You’re a Chinese language student who’s always been interested in martial arts but has yet to take the step into training. But things have finally come to a head and you’ve had enough of conversations about where you’re from, how much you earn and whether you like Chinese food, girls or football.

Chances are a few of you reading this post have had at least contemplated at least for a second combining martial arts with language learning.

You might have considered the following options. A university course with a certain amount of martial arts training, finding an elusive badass master and informally studying the language or by joining one of the many international kung fu schools and taking their free classes.

The benefit of combining martial arts and language learning can be found in the practical skills you learn that not only add to the experience but also your CV. Indeed such a step can take many in completely new directions abound with opportunities for the wily foreigner. Overall these programmes allow participants the opportunity to develop their martial arts and deepen their own understanding of Chinese culture and language.

“It’s a unique way to study with a high level master outside the normal international kung fu school route as that all important Chinese visa can be provided relatively cheaply through a University.”

Find a badass kung fu master  

This video clip above was taken in Yantai, Shandong province.

Yantai is a small second tier Chinese City on the northeast coast of China. It has cheap housing and has a good environment. Yantai is famous for a number of kung fu styles including Taichi Mantis, Tongbei quan, and Baguazhang. Locally with a little care you can find good masters. The city itself is a hot bed of kung fu schools and is well worth a look.

“Yantai is a hot bed of kung fu schools and masters on the east coast of China”

For details of our Traditional Martial Arts and Language Learning programmes in Yantai email info@studymartialarts.org. You can also check out Master Sui’s full biography and training schedule here. Or you can have a look at this school Kunlun International Kung Fu School which has links to Ludong University in Yantai for long term visas and currently has a very good Shaolin Kung Fu and Mantis Kung Fu master that you can study martial arts with.

Two alternatives that may be more suitable for those who are less independent or would prefer an all-inclusive experience are  The Yuntai Mountain International Culture and Martial Arts School founded by Shi Yan Lin, also known as Xie Xu Yong. This school is the only martial arts school currently offering a quality half day martial arts and half day language learning programme. The other option I would recommend is Capital Sport University of Physical Education in Beijing.

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Yuntai half and half programme

Master Shi Yan Lin is a master with over 10 year experience in teaching to both Chinese and International students Shaolin Martial Arts. The school is located in the famous Yuntai geological park, which attracts thousands of tourists every year and is fairly close to the fabled Northern Shaolin Temple. The Martial Arts training at the school will primarily focus on the various Shaolin fists and weapons as well as Sanda and Taichi. The school building formally a hotel has been converted into student accommodation, as a result the rooms are comfortable and comparatively of a high standard. The newly built training area and performance hall is five minute walk from the main accommodation area, so everything you need is close at hand.

The Chinese language course organised as part of the half martial arts, half language learning programme is available in partnership with Jiaozuo University. These courses can be specially tailored and intensive. This, makes the school a very real prospect for serious Chinese language learners. This close relationship between the martial arts school and the university means that long term student visas can be obtained for long term International students of the school.

The down side to the programme primarily relates to the schools relative isolation and the management insistence for compulsory school line ups throughout the day. Sometimes this can make students feel like they’re prisoners rather than students.

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University Programme

Captial University of Physical Education & Sports is one of Beijing’s premier Martial Arts Training Universities providing top-ranking conditions for international and domestic students. The university is supported by Hanban and Confucius Institute offering Chinese Language Learning Programs, Martial Arts University Programs, TCM, Sports & Health Care Programs.

The University offers the following programs; 4 Year Undergraduate Programs, 3 Year Master Programs, 3 Year Ph.D Programs, 1-2 Year Non-degree Programs and Short-term Programs.

The Universities Featured Programs are:

1. Chinese Language Programs
The University employs a special team for teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. This team is specializes in training international students who want to learn Chinese Culture and speak the Chinese Language. Class sizes are smaller than other universities and attention and help given to students is higher than at other Universities.  Thjs helps to ensure that students acquaire the language competences sufficent for their speciality studies in China. Small classes of differnt levels are provided as well as one-to-one teaching to meet students needs.

2. Martial Arts Programs
According to the period of study students can expect to study martial arts from martial arts champions who are experienced in both teaching and competitions for performance and also sport.

3. TCM Sports Health Care Programs
The instructor for this program is Ru Kai an assistant professor of Sports Rehabilitiation Department of Schools of Sports Science and Health. He is also the successor and master of Xisui Neigong, Baduanjin and Yijinjing.

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One of the main benefits from studying Mandarin at Capital Sports University is obviously the facilities, access to top coaches plus relatively small class size for language learning.

If you would like to learn more about studying martial arts and learning Chinese check out these great articles.

9 Mistakes to avoid when learning Chinese at a Kung Fu School in China

The things Chinese People Say

 

Huang Shan – China’s famous Yellow Mountain

The Yellow Mountain (Huang Shan, 黄山) is among the most visited and notable mountains in China. For those looking for a unique natural landscape and don’t mind having to compete for it with swarms of other tourists, this is the place for you.

You might have to use the new martial arts skills you’ve been learning at your Kung Fu School in order to fend off the other tourist that will be fighting for rooms and places to stay on this mountain. This is not a joke nor an exaggeration. Tensions can get pretty high over the last rooms when the alternative could be a cold sleepless night on this huge rock.

Once your rooms are secured you have two options to get to the top of the mountain. The first is to hike up the mountain stairs. This is the best way to get a good view of the landscape. The other is by Cable Car. The earlier you get the cable car the better. It’s not unknown for their to be kilometre long lines of people even at the break of dawn. If you successfully get on the cable car, expect more hiking.

Once at the top book into another hotel (this should be done in advance). That way you can relax and enjoy both sunset and sunrise the next day. In terms of the hotel quality, expect them to be overpriced, and rough. Prices range from 200 rmb to 1,000 rmb. For the 200 rmb range think refugee camp conditions.

Here is a link to some of the best accommodation options for Huang Shan.

To avoid disappointment I’d recommend you plan to visit off season, defiantly not on a Chinese holiday. Pre-buy and take with you any expensive food items. Whether expensive snacks or a cheeky bottle of rice liquor everything will be way more expensive at the top.

Huangshan, is a mountain range in southern Anhui province in eastern China. Vegetation on the range is thickest below 1,100 meters, with trees growing up to the treeline at 1,800 meters. Wikipedia
Address: Huangshan, Anhui, China
Elevation: 6,115′
Highest point: Xuelian Feng
Province: Anhui
Country: China
Phone: +86 559 558 0033
Listing: Ultra-prominent peak
Mountains: Tian Du Feng, Xuelian Feng, Guang Ming Ding

Top tips for visiting Huang Shan & Detailed Guide

  1. Plan ahead, check the weather and make sure its off season.
  2. Book your accommodation in advance
  3. Expect lots of people and cues
  4. Bring your survival and luxury rations
  5. Expect things to be more expensive

How to get to Huang Shan

Huang Shan is located in the western part of Anhui province. Below are a couple of options by train from either Shanghai or Beijing.

  • Shanghai (5 hours on the G1509, leaving in the morning at 8.27);
  • Beijing (there are fast trains from 8 in the morning to 15.30, and the trip lasts a little under 7 hours) and on the same line, Tianjin;

From the city of Huang Shan, where long distance options arrive, shuttles depart for Tangkou (汤口), adjacent to the entrance to the Park, at the foot of the mountain. If you choose to climb on foot, the climb starts at Tangkou. If instead you’re going for the cable cars, there are shuttles that connect directly to the station, airport and the city of Tangkou obviously. These city buses don’t cost more than 20 Yuan for the longest trip. Even taxis and tuk tuks are available if you arrive from the airport or station, but to get to the cable cars you can only use designated buses.

Pictures of Yellow Mountain (Huang Shan, 黄山)

Yellow Mountain

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Locks on Huang Shan

Campsite

Porters

Crowd at sunrise

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Demystifying Power Generation: Fali? Fajin? Fa-who-what-where-why?

by Master An Jian Qiu

What is Fali? What is Fajin? Are they the same? Are they different?

A lot of time is spent on power generation at An Wushu. There is, of course, a huge amount of depth to this topic not covered in this article.  This is just a short article as we often receive this question.

(Don’t worry if it doesn’t clear everything up! It’s not supposed to: In the West, we usually Learn then Do. At An Wushu, you Do then Learn: An Shifu will explain a small amount about a concept before showing you how to develop it. You’ll go away and practice it for many repetitions, and then when you have the feeling/experience of it, An Shifu will explain much more and it’ll truly make sense. For kung fu, this is almost always the best way to learn.)

Fali

Fali means to ‘release explosive power’ and is something anyone can do to a certain degree. If you go to the gym and lift a heavy weight off the floor, you are using (a low level of) fali.

Fali is performed by compacting the chi inside the body, and the body itself, then reversing this process to strike the opponent. In this way, fali requires a ‘wind-up’, like stretching your arms back before throwing a ball.

A strike performed with fali is a fairly ‘committed’ strike, meaning that even if your opponent moves during your strike, you are still committed to your path. (Do not think fali is not useful for this reason… a fali strike can still be incredibly fast!)

At An Wushu, we believe fali is best exemplified by Bajiquan. The video below shows some Bajiquan to see fali in action.

Fajin

Fajin is the joining of the whole body together (muscle, bone, tendon, ligament, and Yi [intent]) to send out a huge amount of power over a very short distance. Bruce Lee’s famous 1-Inch Punch is what a high level of fajin looks like.

Fajin can be considered ‘super fali’ as it requires no ‘wind-up’. It will naturally be developed as a practitioner’s body control increases from many hours of fali training, however certain styles train specifically for it.

While a strike performed with fajin does of course have momentum and therefore is ‘committed’ in a sense, a practitioner will be able to change directions very quickly compared to a strike powered by fali.

View the video below to watch some Xingyiquan to see fajin in action. Being a shorter body movement than fali, fajin is easier to feel than see; however, if you watch Xingyiquan after watching Bajiquan, you’ll see the explosive movements in each style have a different quality.

To learn more about An Wushu or how to study with Master An full-time in China visit www.StudyMartialArts.Org we work exclusively to help dedicated students connect to quality martial arts schools. This includes visa assistance and independent information all at no additional cost to you. Check us out with no obligation.

Martial Arts Travel Guide for China

People who travel to China without downloading this travel guide are 138% more likely to be unprepared for the journey ahead. All right, so maybe we’re exaggerating this point to grab your attention. However, the fact is that after you’ve read this guide you will know exactly what preparations are required before you begin your journey and also how you can deal with all that China has to offer.

This guide walks you through, the dreaded Chinese visa, what to pack, health and safety, money and banking, domestic travel, living in China, communications and much more.

You’ll learn:

  • How to prepare in advance of your trip
  • How to keep you and your belongs safe
  • What you’ll need to become an expert traveler
  • How to earn extra travel & training cash
  • Ways to save money

Download the guide here

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“Internal” martial arts – cultivating “CHI”

Tianmeng Shaolin Kung Fu Academy
Tianmeng Shaolin Kung Fu Academy

by Duka Nadja current student of Tianmeng Shaolin Kung fu Academy

The term “internal,” is referring to a type of training that focuses on developing of the life energy called “Qi”. We come across the term life energy in every great and antient culture of the world: “Chi” (Chinese), “Prana” (Hindu). Nowadays researchers and scientist are able to prove the reality of the “Chi” existence, using special technical innovations. The real problem is a subtle nature of “Qi”, so that most people find it really difficult to feel how “Qi” flows inside their bodies and meridians. Our modern lifestyle, which puts an enormous pressure on the nervous system, causes “stiffens” of our feelings. So we can not feel higher vibrations of “Chi”. We miss the “unit with the nature” and natural flow of movements. So the “Tai Chi or Kung Fu retreat” in the natural environment of Tianmeng Shaolin Kung Fu Academy could be a great possibility to “come back to roots”. If the mind becomes less distracted and less stressed, it would allow the body to relax, giving you a possibility to feel deeply and completely. That’s why Tianmeng Shaolin Kung Fu Academy pays so much attention to internal martial arts practicing Qigong (life-energy cultivation practices). Qigong and Tai Chi are best ways of practicing for beginners and older people. It is important to develop the internal power before learning any fighting applications or Kung Fu forms. Additionally we offer Meditation to balance your emotions. A relaxed body works better and is less prone to injuries. So, integrating “internal” rounder and softer movements in the daily practicing routine of every “external” martial artists and athlete is a smart idea to achieve best results.  Bruce Lee describes “internal” martial arts as following.

“Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.”

Hua Shan – the worlds most deadly hike

Hua Shan has 5 peaks, the deadliest of these is the infamous Plankwalk.  For those looking for a unique and frightening challenge while taking some deserved R&R from kung fu training this is for you.

Arriving in Huayin (the town at the foot of the mountain) the day before is advisable. That way you can get a rest the night before. Do make sure you book because this place gets busy.

Once your room is secured you have two options to get to the top of the mountain. The first is to take a 6 hour hike up the mountain stairs. This is the best way to get a good view of the landscape. The other is the new West Cable Car (140 RMB/pp each way, $22 or 100 RMB/pp with student car, $16) the earlier in the morning the better. If you successfully get on the cable car, expect a further 4-6 hours of hiking.

To avoid disappointment I’d recommend you plan to visit off season, defiantly not on a Chinese holiday.

Top tips for visiting Hua Shan & Detailed GuideScreen Shot 2016-04-12 at 23.07.35

  1. Plan ahead, check the weather and make sure its off season.
  2. Book your accommodation in advance
  3. Expect lots of people and cues
  4. Bring a change of underpants

What to expect from the Plankwalk

‘During the actual walk you are walking across a narrow plank walkway nearly 5,000 ft in the air after all during the least intense part of the hike.  The remainder of the trail is composed of iron rods protruding from the mountain, small cut outs in the actual rock for your feet and/or chains for gripping yourself close to the mountainside.

The path itself is TWO-WAY traffic for the entire day, which means you are sharing an already extremely treacherous path with limited space often.  You will be required to move your harness over other hikers heads and step on the outside of them, sometimes only having room for one foot to stabilize.  It gets especially tricky when sharing either of the ladder areas and/or cliff cut outs, as they have even less real estate to offer. (http://blog.unboundly.com)’

 

 

 

 

Why people choose us

At StudyMartialArts.Org we are passionate about Martial Arts and Travel. We believe that the combination of both provide a powerful catalyst for greater awareness. Our mission is based on connecting you to the right schools, masters or instructors.

Below you will find a testimonial from one of our past students Arvid Velt. Arvid first joined the SMA 1 month intensive martial arts travel and training tour. On this tour we combine historic sites fun and travel with training with a variety of high level masters throughout China. During that time we assisted him and advised him on the next move to bring his training to the next level.

Arvid at the time of the filming through our support and that of his Master studied in China for two years.

For further information contact us at info@StudyMartialArts.Org or visit our website. www.StudyMartialArt.Org Or why not view our other testimonials here.

From Dali to Shangri-la | Off-the-beaten tracks itinerary in Yunnan

The road that links Yunnan’s three main backpackers haven from Dali old town (大理古城) to Lijang (丽江), the former capital of the Naxi Kingdom, and the ancient Tibetan town of Shangri-la (香格里拉) a…

Source: From Dali to Shangri-la | Off-the-beaten tracks itinerary in Yunnan

Top 5 tips for surviving drinking in China

You owe it to yourself not to be the drunken foreigner and more importantly the wrong type of drunken foreigner and let yourself down. Remember the purpose of your journey is to Study Martial Arts. Heavy drinking won’t help you reach your aims and objectives and may cause you, your hosts or school and Shifu to loose face (embarrassment).

Drinking in China and smoking is common place. With cheap alcohol and cigarettes everywhere, this is not the best place to run away to if you want to change these bad habits. This must start at home.

Most social drinking in China is primarily associated with eating. Most drinking takes place around the dinner table and meals as a way to cement relationships and do business. As a topic this subject could easily have a series of blog entries but that will be a story for another day.

Here are my top 5 tips for surviving drinking in China in brief.

1. Showing respect when drinking is probably one of the first things someone will explain to you. When drinking tea or when drinking alcohol with a superior clink your cup/glass lower. Its super simple and easy to remember. But its much appreciated by your elders, fellow guests, shifu’s. The rest of the customs and rules need not be learnt straight away and are things you’ll pick up on or learn as you go. As a foreigner you’ll not be expected to know them or everything.

2. When inviting or being invited out for dinner or meals in China. The standard rule of thumb is usually the inviter pays unless stated otherwise.

3. When drinking follow the lead of others at the table in terms of speed quantity and times. Whatever you do avoid mixing baijiu and beer. You should remember drinking in China can start very slowly but once the individual toasting starts it can be rapid and all those small cups will start catching up on you especially if you’ve insisted on drinking out of turn.

4. If you don’t want to drink have an excuse prepared in advance or warn your host of this. Excuses related to health tend to be the best. Having tried many over the years these where best received by hosts and guests. If you’re not going to be drinking much but still want to show respect have tea ready in your cup and don’t empty the cup (ganbie) just drink as you wish (suiyi).

5. Eat, eat and eat. Show appreciation and be a good guest.

If you would like to learn more about how to survive in China why not check out my post on 10 Mistakes Foreign Martial Arts Students Make in China.