One of the very worst pieces of advice ever given to the martial arts community at large came from the lips of Bruce Lee.
Determining just what is useful and what isn’t is quite a daunting task and one that should be examined closely. After all, a goodly number of today’s so-called “mixed martial arts” crowd as well as followers of numerous eclectic martial ways state very clearly that traditional martial arts aren’t entirely applicable to modern combat or combat at all. They believe that numerous techniques that are taught within the traditional martial arts either don’t work very well or, in some cases, not at all. This, they say, is why they have chosen to follow their “own paths.”
Executing a correct reverse punch, front snap kick, kotegaeshi, or o-soto-gari is a pretty daunting task for most raw beginners who have had little or no previous martial arts training. The new student can spend hours working on any one of these techniques for a whole month and it still is practically worthless in a real fight. The reason why is obvious; to develop any technique so that it is truly usable requires a great deal of practice over a period of time! There are no short cuts. My teacher said that developing effective technique is like making tea. It can’t be hurried and any attempt to do so will only ruin the drink.
It would be easy but very premature and terribly foolish for the novice to simply dismiss these fundamental techniques as being “useless.” The same holds true for other, more advanced techniques that he or she will eventually learn. I’m sure that you’ve encountered techniques that just didn’t work at first. I know I have. Still do. But with patience, some introspection, and lots of practice you’ve been able to see how they should be done, where your mistakes were, and suddenly they become functional!
When you learn a technique that doesn’t seem to work well for you, ask yourself, “why?” What are you doing wrong? Sometimes the error lies in the physical execution of the technique but sometimes it is hidden in a less obvious place. Maybe it’s your timing that’s off – and that can be indicative of a mental/psychological error or block of some kind, can’t it? Perhaps it’s your approach to the application of the technique or your approach (physical, mental, or even spiritual) towards your training “opponent.” Regardless, the error is thine. Find it and correct it. Sometimes it’s the finding of the error that corrects it.
To say that techniques of the traditional martial arts are not effective (in self-defense) is a blatant display of one’s own ignorance, and perhaps, one’s unwillingness to put in the required practice (which is a nice way of saying “lazy”). In days long since past, professional warriors (e.g., policemen, soldiers, bodyguards, and their teachers) relied on these arts for their very survival. Back then, it was pretty easy to determine if a given technique worked. If it didn’t, you died. Those who developed techniques that didn’t work took their failures with them to their graves. For the most part, we’ll never know what they were.
The techniques that did work are still with us to this day. If they didn’t work, they would have been buried long ago. So, to say that the surviving traditional techniques don’t really work is, in my opinion, a statement made by someone who has never learned genuine traditional technique…or who is unwilling, for one reason or another, to put in the time and training required to develop effective technique.
Beginning piano students dare not say that the classics are worthless and no longer functional! The masters who contributed to the creation of the traditional martial disciplines are our Bachs, Beethovens, and Mozarts.
To truly understand a technique and how it should be performed correctly requires at least 10,000 repetitions. In karate or kung-fu this isn’t terribly difficult, considering that you can easily practice 100 punches each day. In 100 days you should be able to perform the technique correctly, more or less. That doesn’t mean it can’t be improved, though.
But that’s not the same as making it workable. To be able to perform a technique effectively in combat requires much more practice. You see, the effectiveness of a given technique, whether it’s a punch, a kick, a joint twist or throw from aikido or judo…involves much more than just being able to perform the physical aspects of the technique correctly. Much. More.
Back when I trained in forms of Japanese karate, I could not, for the life of me, get a roundhouse kick to work. Actually, it took MONTHS before I figured out how to do it correctly. I guess I just had a mental block and I couldn’t imagine how to do it…but once I was able to throw a roundhouse kick, I couldn’t figure out how such a kick would ever be useful in fighting! I suppose Mr. Lee would have told me to reject it because, as far as I was concerned, it was pretty useless…
Then came Baguazhang. At first glance, this art seems to have about as much in common with combat as a fish does to a bicycle. It would have been all too easy to simply toss it away as being some sort of pointless, flowery, Chinese bilge water. But I didn’t. I stuck with it and studied it…in depth. I examined it carefully, examined myself, examined its strange footwork and body movements…and I practiced and then when I was sick of it, I practiced some more. And when I had problems making it work (which was pretty much all the time, at first), I stayed with it and figured out WHY I was having problems.
In any given martial discipline, at least a decade (or more) is required if one wants to truly understand the art. The problem is that most Westerners don’t want to spend that much time in training. They want “instant martial arts.” We’re accustomed to having “instant food” (which isn’t really food), “instant entertainment”, and now we want “instant martial arts.” But there isn’t such an animal…never was, and never will be.
So, rather than absorbing what you find immediately useful and rejecting what you think is useless, just ABSORB.
Yi Jin Jing is an exercise from ancient China. The features of this classical traditional Chinese health practice include extended, soft and even movements that flex the spine invigorate the limbs and internal organs. As an exercise it should be performed in a way that integrates the mind, body and spirit, during the practice practitioners must remain relaxed. If you would like to learn Yi Jin Jing there are a number of special qigong retreats where this is possible.
This article details guidance from the Chinese Health Qigong Association on how to best perform the exercise.
According to some historians the Yi Jin Jing has its origins in primitive shamanistic rituals. Prototypes of these basic movements where found in a 2000 year old text called Illustration of Qi Conduction. Others however, credit Bodhidharma the Indian Buddhist monk and originator of Shaolin Kung Fu with the creation of the Yi Jin Jing. Whether this is true or not it is undisputed that the monks of the Shaolin Temple played a significant role in the evolution of the Yi Jin Jing exercises.
“The earliest account of the modern 12 movement exercises is included in the Illustrations of Internal Exercise compiled by Pan Wei in 1858 in the Qing Dynasty. As traditional Yi Jin Jing relies heavily on traditional Chinese medicine theory of the Five Elements – metal, wood, water, fire and earth – different schools of the exercise have sprung up emphasising this aspect in many works.” – Chinese Qigong Association.
Smooth and extended movements to stretch the bones and tendons
A full range of motion is required related to the bones and joints. Bones are flexed and muscle groups along with tendons and ligaments are stretched. The result leads to improved blood circulation and nutrition supersession in the soft tissues. Thus enhancing mobility and strength in all directions.
Soft and even movements for coordinated grace
The modern version of the Yi Jin Jing links the 12 movements making the exercise both easier to understand as well as graceful. Limbs are flexed in curved natural range with the joints axis. When strength is required it is applied gradually combined with a tenderness of movement.
Focus on spine turning and flexing
The Yi Jin Jing movements focus on the spines, vertebrae, ligaments and the spinal cord through twisting and stretching movements. The movements must be done with a relaxed body and mind in order to gain the most health benefits. These benefits include improved fitness, prevention of disease, longevity and improved intellect.
This is my list of the best kung fu schools in China for 2017. In this article I have chosen only the very best kung fu schools based on what they offer in terms of training, location, food and how well they cater to kids. Each year we will update this list based our school visits and student reviews.
Consistently the best kung fu school for training in terms of structure, tuition and depth of transmission is WDP China. The instructors are mostly bi or multi lingual. The school training schedule runs 6 days per week. 7 hours per day. You can see a typical training schedule below.
06:30 – Get Up
07:30-09:40 – Warm Up & Hun Yuan Fa Li, Standing Qigong, Walking Meditation
09:50-12:00 – Morning Class
16:00-17:30 – Afternoon Class
19-00-21:00 – Evening Class
The school curriculum has been systematically developed and taught with modern teaching methods in mind. This curriculum features 8 Trigrams IN-BETWEEN the 4 Instructor-Levels.
Students can choose:
WDP CLASSIC (All traditional styles with specific basics, qigong, tao lu and style specific applications)
WDP COMBAT (realistic fighting skills using INTERNAL PRINCIPLES of all styles).
In addition to the regular curriculum the school also has, online training, seminars in sword, push hands, body conditioning, hand conditioning, neigong and much more throughout the year.
To find out which school I recommend for Best Location, Best for Kids and Best for Food. Click here. Learn Kung fu in China with StudyMartialArts.Org
To learn kung fu in China or learn more about any of these schools. Visit the StudyMartialArts.Org website or email us direct at email@example.com
Learning kung fu in China might just be one of the coolest, and most rewarding things you do. Whether it’s a bucket list adventure holiday, or an action packed affordable gap year. You’ll need to prepare for the culture shock, and language barrier. The good thing is that since the early 2000’s China has increasingly become more open, modern and foreigner friendly. Indeed in 2016 over 13.7 million foreign visitor came to China!
Nevertheless its still worth baring in mind that you are no ordinary tourist. You are coming to learn kung fu in China, this means that you will most likely be staying for an extended period of from 1 month to 12 months. Therefore these 3 simple steps will be of great help.
Learn Kung Fu in China with these 3 simple steps.
Visa applications should be done in advance of your arrival in China. Chinese embassies or consulates can assist with the visa application process if you wish to do it by yourself. If not, this company Visa HQ is one of the most reliable and has a proven track record. Should you however, decide to arrive via HK and get your visa there this information will assist you.
Speak the lingo gringo. Here is a great article providing all the information you will need for avoiding common mistakes when attempting to learn Chinese.
Getting around China is not always a straight forward easy task. This article on buying bus and rail tickets will keep you right. If however, you’d prefer to fly check out ctrip and elong. Both these online sites are in English and offer cheap international in domestic flights.
For further information to help and assist you to realize your dream to learn kung fu in China visit StudyMartialArts.Org.
These guys offer up-to-date independent information on martial arts schools as well as a full booking service for FREE!
A run down of the current top Female BJJ players in the world inspired by Attack the Back.
Whether the following amazing women and BJJ competitors where motivated by family; fitness; exercise; self-defense; stress relief; or as a transition from more traditional forms of martial arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu enrolment for women has increased every year despite it being a traditionally male-dominated sport.
Below is a list of who’s who in the world of female BJJ.
Leticia Ribeiro N. Dos Santos is a 4th degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and multiple time world champion in the sport. She is associated with the Gracie Humaita jiu-jitsu school. Wikipedia
Born: February 24, 1979 (age 37), Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Kyra Gracie Guimarães is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner and grappling world champion and a member of the Gracie family. Wikipedia
Born: May 29, 1985 (age 31), Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Height: 1.7 m
Weight: 53 kg
Michelle Zonato Nicolini or Michelle Nicolini is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and mixed martial artist. She holds a black belt under Robert Drysdale and is an ADCC and 8x BJJ World Champion. Wikipedia Michelle is an instructor at Evolve MMA in Singapore.
Born: January 5, 1982 (age 34), Itu, São Paulo, Brazil
Residence: Santos, São Paulo, Brazil
Teams: Checkmat, Evolve MMA
Gabrielle “Gabi” Lemos Garcia is a Brazilian Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, grappling world champion, and member of the IBJJF Hall of Fame. Wikipedia
Born: November 17, 1985 (age 30), Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Height: 1.87 m
Weight: 111 kg
Team: Alliance Jiu Jitsu
Mackenzie Lynne Dern is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and mixed martial artist. IBJJF ranks Mackenzie as the number one female black belt in brazilian jiu-jitsu. Wikipedia
Born: March 24, 1993 (age 23), Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Height: 1.6 m
Is a BJJ Coach based in the United States, New Jersey, at Princeton. Valerie teaches BJJ and Sports Psychology and is an all round inspiration. In the video clip below Valerie explains how she fought depression and found happiness in her life.
Hometown: Curitiba, Parana, Brazil (resides Coconut Creek, Florida)
School/Training Camp: American Top Team (Coconut Creek, Florida)
Discipline(s): Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (Black Belt; 4-time World Champion)
Height: 162 cm (5’3″) Weight: 53.3 kg (118lbs)
In the video below you see Matuda pull of an unmissable and incredible submission in her fight against Michelle Nicolini from Polaris Pro 12th Sept 2015.
World Champion (2015 weight & absolute black, 2014 & 2013 brown, 2011 absolute purple, 2010 blue)
Pan American Champion (2016/2015 black, 2014 brown, 2013 absolute purple)
European Open Champion (2015 black, 2012 purple)
New York Spring International Open Champion (2015 weight & absolute)
Pan American Championship 2nd Place (2014 absolute brown, 2013 purple, 2010 blue)
World No Gi Championship 3rd Place (2010 blue/purple)
European Open 3rd Place (2015 absolute)
Favorite Position/Technique: Open Guard, Pressure guard passing
Yvone Duarte, the first female black belt in BJJ. There had been some debate and somewhat of a quest to figure out who the first was, so it’s good to see that they have figured it out.
Duarte was a fierce competitor, winning both her weight class and absolute several times in the late eighties and early nineties. This is particularly impressive since she fought at 52kg, just under 115 pounds. She received her black belt from Osvaldo Alves, who is, to put it lightly, a true legend and founder of the art of BJJ. She went on to become the head of the BJJ federation in the state of Brasilia, and has reached the 5th degree black belt.
After my last fight for the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) in 2010, I didn’t know whether I was going to fight again, so I was afforded the luxury of easing off the punishing training regimen that having an upcoming fight forces you to endure, and instead I could focus on training purely for the love of it once again. I found myself drawn to Tai Chi and immediately began noticing all the imbalances in my body, and it took about two years to undo most of the significant damage I had caused to myself from years of sparring and pushing myself to the limits in training.
The beauty and depth of the internal arts
Once I’d realized the efficiency, beauty and depth of the internal martial arts, I was 100% committed to its mastery. Having a somewhat obsessive-compulsive personality when it comes to doing what I love, I immediately devoured all the texts and videos on the subject matter and began my travels to learn from various masters around the world. I took three years off from sparring, and instead focused on moving as slowly and smoothly as possible. It was both a beautiful and humbling experience to feel like a complete beginner again, and this helped me realize that, more than anything, it is the learning that I enjoy. I love a challenge, and when I read claims that Tai Chi Ch’uan takes 10 to 20 years to master, my imagination was instantly captured and I knew what my future had in store for me. I had to completely “empty my cup”, detaching from my previous training methods, which is no easy task! As my brain was attempting to rewire itself to learn this new language, most of my old habits were actually in direct contrast to what I needed to be doing in order to evolve further in this new direction. The concept of doing less to achieve more is certainly a tricky one for Westerners to wrap their heads around!
And now today, when I try to pass on what I have learned to my friends in the MMA community, I encounter two common scenarios. The first is the confused look as I try to explain a concept which is too alien to their current way of thinking, one that does not harmonize with – indeed, even threatens – their limiting beliefs, or the way they see the “sport” of martial arts. The other is simply an inability or unwillingness to “start over,” to throw away the old to make way for the new, even if they can see the value. People too often feel that they have invested so much energy for so many years that they would be doing themselves a disservice by starting anew. As I see it, our attachments can become our downfalls, and adaptation is the key to longevity and harmony.
After years of study on everything from nutrition to philosophy, anatomy to alternative health systems, as well as the classic texts on war and peace, every aspect of my training has shifted dramatically from what it once was. A significant moment came when I felt I was no longer just following what everyone else was doing, or what my coaches were telling me to do. I was coming from a place where I could draw on my own experience and research – and, more importantly, I was following my intuition.
Over the last three years, my main training partner has been my son Shen, who is now three. Becoming a father forces you to adapt in so many ways, and in order to fit the daily amount of training hours in, one is required to make changes both to lifestyle as well as the type of training. Motivations change too. Now I am inspired to lead by example and I have to be more consistent and thoughtful with my approach. Shen is of the age now where he can spot anomalies and he loves nothing more than to ask, “Why, Dad….?”
Four ounces to move a thousand
Tai Chi Ch’uan talks of using four ounces to move a thousand pounds, so when I wrestle my son, it’s not a case of the strong and experienced versus the weak and unaware. Instead, I make it so I literally use as little effort as I can, and would have to say that he becomes the stronger of the two of us. I constantly play around with his balance, trying to affect it so subtly that he is unable to grasp what is the cause of his instability.
Taichi principles in training and life
From my many years studying ground fighting, I am well-versed in the best offensive and defensive techniques; but I have yet to teach any to Shen. Instead, I just put some weight on him, pinning him to the ground or against something upright, and ask him if he can get out. Then I let him try and wiggle and squirm his way free using movement and the principle of finding space. Sometimes he says he is stuck and I give him a pointer on which part of the body he should move to free himself up. He has become blocked, limiting his own movement through lack of awareness. We all do it, becoming attached to one way of thinking; and when that doesn’t serve us, if our vision has become too narrowed, then we are unable to come up with any new, creative ideas because we are drawing from memory instead of feeling in the present.
A Karate friend of mine recently asked Shen to punch his hand and was surprised that I hadn’t taught him “correct technique” yet. But that will come later, and it will come easily and quickly once he knows how to move correctly and has cultivated a mind which stays open to assimilating new information. Besides, I don’t really want my three year old knowing how to punch just yet!
Shen’s favorite film is The Jungle Book, and there’s nothing more he likes doing than climbing on me. Even my 10-month-old has started joining in, crawling as fast as he can across the room to get in on the action. We mimic animal movement, moving primally across the floor like gorillas, monkeys, snakes, bears…
Aside from our training together, just observing how a baby navigates this world is enlightening for those of us obsessed with movement. From the first few months when you can feel the strength of their grip and how all limb movements originate from the dantien, to when they begin to perform deep squats and exhibit perfect posture. Getting to feel true softness, noticing how their pliant muscles can move freely around the bone, and realizing what is actual full-joint mobility.
It can be an awakening experience knowing that we all once moved like that, and somewhere along the line we picked up some bad habits, and are continually paying the price for it as we age and strive to unlearn, simplify, return to our youthful ways.
When I was a boy, my friends and I would regularly dare each other on, challenging one another, pushing our boundaries in the quest for new experiences and overcoming fears. I find myself continuing that tradition with my son. When we come across some cold water and I ask Shen if he wants to go in, I’m really asking myself if I want to go in. Without him there, I may not always verbalize the idea, which brings it one step closer to reality. Like all good training partners, you find ways of fitting more training into the day and bond through the shared experiences.
I am a believer in the saying, “Do one thing a day that you are scared of.” It is an excellent way to prevent the mind from calcifying. When the mind begins to set, this is a sure way of letting fear creep in, and it only needs one foot in the door. The mind is like a parachute – only useful when open!
When carrying Shen on my shoulders, it forces me to adopt more and more efficient posture. With him constantly growing a little heavier, it reminds me of the old story of Qing-Gong training when one jumps out of a hole every day and each day the hole gets made 1cm deeper.
When he climbs on my arms as I am sitting, my structure is tested and I strive to apply all the principles that Zhan Zhuang practice cultivates – keeping the shoulders down, elbows heavy and spine tall.
But most of all my son helps me develop PATIENCE! An integral component to successfully training internal martial arts, it is something we could all have more of – the ability to not get frustrated and to continually adapt to our ever-changing circumstances. Having kids has forced me to reassess how I spend my time each day, and trim off the unnecessary. Time is more precious, and sleep, food and even breathing has to be respected even more due to their significant contributions to my energy levels. When you start your day with breathing exercises in the morning, it forces you to become more aware of your environment, more in the present, and has the ability to make you consider how you will spend the rest of the day a little more carefully. As the saying goes, “The yi leads the qi.”
The chances of the average MMA student today incorporating standing practice into their daily routine? Slim to none, and Slim just left town! The current MMA fighter wants quick results, and there is the prevailing dogma that if they haven’t finished the day exhausted and beat up, then they haven’t trained properly. There is also the irony of being partly motivated to rush through the stages of training in order to hit the “big time” in their twenties, believing that they will be “past it” by their mid-thirties, not realizing that it is this very mindset that will cause the damage to their bodies (and brains) that unfortunately force so many of them into early retirement. With often irreparable knee, spine, and shoulder injuries to name a few, it is a sad situation when professional athletes cannot even nurture their health into their forties.
Maintaining a neutral state
Nowadays, it is a rarity when I feel sore, and I enjoy the process of returning my body to a balanced, neutral state as soon as possible afterwards. This enjoyable process of putting a little wear and tear into the body before healing ourselves can be likened to the tempering of steel, where thousands of oscillations between hard and soft alchemically transcend us to a new way of being. There are no shortcuts for the sword that is destined to become great; it must be willing to endure and persist. It must also love its journey, and believe in its destiny.
Another lesson MMA fighters would do well to learn is to tone down their competitive natures for partner drills, and increase their sensitivity. They are like a fighter-plane locked onto a target with one objective: seek and destroy. This extremely yang approach doesn’t lend itself well to being aware of what the opponent is intending, limiting the amount of information one can garner through touch and even sight. A simple grounding drill where one applies pressure slowly and steadily to their partner becomes a great challenge for the MMA adept, as they are not used to toning down their force and learning to vary it in such small increments.
One of my goals is to help spread the internal martial arts into MMA, not just because I believe the current standard of fighting on display is well below where it will be a few years down the line (the sport is still relatively young – the first UFC was in 1993), but I am also highly motivated to spread the health benefits to my fighting brothers and sisters. For this to be achieved, I am regularly reminded of just how much I will need to continue learning from Shifu Shen’s main lesson – the art of patience!
About Nick Osipczak:
Nick Osipczak began Hung Kuen at age 18 and six years later was competing for the world’s largest fighting organization – the UFC. No opponent could finish Nick in any of his 18 career fights. For 5 years he ran a martial arts club in London where at one stage his students amassed a 22–0 record in professional MMA bouts. Now specializing in Tai Chi Ch’uan, Nick passes on his knowledge and experience through seminars and intensive workshops.
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 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 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.
When I am teaching classes or workshops on taijiquan I always emphasize the three principles of timing, placement and power.
These three skills are not only fundamental to acquiring real world taijiquan skills but are fundamental to the successful application of any martial arts technique.
Bruce Lee and other famous martial artists often talk about speed as one of the most important attributes of a successful martial artist. This is not untrue, though I would say that timing is more important than mere speed. It is certainly possible to miss the mark because one arrives too early or is too fast.
Understanding this we should strive to master timing rather than just speed. When we arrive “on time” in this way, our opponent is where we perceived him to be and our technique is neither early nor late. In tai chi chuan this ‘correct time’ is when the opponent has “fallen to emptiness”, he is off balance and frozen or double heavy. This is the right time to attack and finish the confrontation. Many attacks delivered with the wrong timing are not as effective as one that is delivered on time, whether it be delivered fast or slow.
The skill that is most often overlooked in modern martial arts training is the skill of being in the right place at the right time, not just applying the technique at the right time. This is referring to the footwork, angle of attack, distance and also the impact area. The training to develop this skill of placement is honed and refined in tai chi chuan within the arena of push hands practice. It is here within pushing hands that we can investigate and ingrain all the different body positions and their advantages and disadvantages.
Push hands allows one to train this in a safe way and to get familiar with the up close and personal fighting range of tai chi chuan, a range that is shared by very few styles, somewhere between the clinch range and the striking range. This taiji range gives us the advantage of being able to strike or throw without changing range and keeps us in a range that most opponents simply are not familiar with.
When you placement is correct you naturally exploit the weakness in your opponent’s structure while capitalizing on the strength of your own. The application of Da or Fa will leave you in a perfect structure, neither confined nor over extended and the placement and angle of the body and arms should make you as safe as possible, whilst still being able to apply your technique on the opponent.
It is said in Chinese martial arts that Gong Li or power is the most important skill a martial artist can possess. I consider this to be absolutely true and in my teaching and training I place a great deal of effort into the development of power.
Just imagine fighting with a small child who has many techniques, has good timing and good placement but lacks power. The child would be unable to finish the fight and we, as grown adults could easily defeat the child simply with power, even with little technique. This illustrates the importance of Gong Li or power in martial arts.
Waijia cultivates Gong Li with many methods, including various kinds of weight lighting and resistance training, striking bags to develop powerful full body coordination and conditioning of the body to make the body hard and resistant to impact. Within the Neijia schools the development of Gong li is equally important, however the method to attaining it and the kind of force we generate is very different. This is where the differentiation between Jin and Li becomes important. While Li is generated by the contraction of muscle and the acceleration of mass, Jin is generated by the release of tension and the propagation of waves of force through the body. This topic is beyond the scope of this short article, we can look at it in a future blog.
For practical purposes, in taiji quan the jin is cultivated through the practice of standing pole, form practice and sometimes heavy weapons. Although the jin is cultivated in such solo trainings it is in the partner practice of pushing hands and fajin that we learn to refine this power and how to apply it with timing and placement. When these three skills of timing, placement and power come together, we have the almost magical looking effortless power that tai chi chuan is famous for.
In the below video you can see a demonstration of timing, placement and power.
Google services (e.g. Gmail, Google Maps), Wikipedia, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and other social media website are either blocked while many other sites are accessible but they may be censored or their performance compromised in Mainland China by the governments famous “Great Firewall of China”. Normal Internet habits are often more difficult in China, so you may find it more difficult to keep in touch with friends and family in the usual way. Don’t worry though, all’s not lost, a VPN can help you jump over the great fire wall of China.So what is a VPN anyway? And how can I access these sites? Well, a VPN is a Virtual Private Network.
Many travelers and students purchase these VPN’s in order to circumvent the Great Firewall by making your location and Internet content invisible, thereby allowing you to access blocked websites. Below is a selection of some of the best VPNs for China in terms of price and reliability.
Hide my ass is a UK based service, it has a 30 day money back guarantee, lots of server choice, no bandwith restrictions, lots of freebies, and has a great VPN client and website. In terms of the set up this VPN is very easy to instal on your computer and its one of the World’s leading VPN’s.
Astrill is fairly reliable and one of the most popular VPN service commonly used in China. It has unlimited download bandwidth and is among one of the cheaper services available hence its popularity. However, their help and support could definitely be better and recently its performance has been patchy.
Express VPN is very fast safe and has a money back guarantee. Its dedicated customer service support is excellent and it has unlimited downloads. The only downside is that it’s a bit more expensive than the others, but more on that later.
I’ve included Hide.me as an option here as it offers a free basic service with limited functions. As it’s basic option is free there are a limited amount of servers available and downloads are restricted to 2GB. However, if you’re just looking to check your emails or Facebook every now and again it might just save you some money and would be a much safer option than other free services like Vtunnel or Freegate.
A large US based VPN provider, StrongVPN is both high-profile, and popular. However, despite this reviewers have been unimpressed with its overall attitude to privacy, and performance. If the service was a budget offering it wouldn’t be so bad, but StrongVPN is also one of the most expensive providers. Despite this in terms of its performance in China, it does pretty well but when compared to other premium services it doesn’t always feel premium.
IPVanish is a relatively new VPN provider that was created by specialists with more than a decade of experience in network management, IP and content delivery services. The company was founded with the goal of providing excellent customer service and extremely affordable prices. The company has a large staff to help clients as they configure their products, and is widely considered one of the VPNs with the fastest Internet speeds in the US. IPvanish was vote by top10best websites to be the best VPN 2014. This new kid on the block has got potential and serious kick for the price.
So why not just use a free services to access blocked sites?
There are a number of free portals or proxy sites to access blocked websites in China however, they often come with restricted downloads or functions. For example, a proxy such as Vtunnel, can let you access the mobile version of Facebook, but it rarely downloads it all.
Freegate is also an option however, free service have also been known to open your computer up to viruses and hacking. If you must go for a free service, go with the safe option Hide.me above.
So what VPN service do I recommend based on reliability service and price?
At present for StudyMartialArts.Org purposes we use ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN has consistently been the fastest VPN provider with excellent support for all our devices. To date it has also been best-in-class for security features. Therefore ExpressVPN is our top choice. With a speed-optimized server network spanning 78 countries, ExpressVPN is one of the most trusted in the market. Setting up and using this VPN is super easy. Their apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS connect you with a single click to any server location you choose. ExpressVPN is ultra-secure and anonymizes your online identity behind powerful encryption and multiple VPN protocols and has 24/7 tech support. Because of this they aren’t the cheapest provider. ExpressVPN includes a 30 day money back guarantee on all purchases.
China awaits! The Great Wall; steamed dumplings, Shaolin monks and Qingdao beer. Already your mind is racing with wild expectations. However, before you leave home, remember this is a chance to immerse yourself in a strange new culture. This is not just any trip. This is a journey! By Studying Martial Arts you will interact with local communities more deeply than a traveler passing through.
Whether you experience a culture shock or not, there will be moments when you realize you’re doing something “wrong”. It might be small things like explaining you’re learning to sleep (Shuìjiào) instead of Chinese Wrestling (Shuāijiāo) or raising your glass higher than your elders when toasting. Then of course there are the obvious blunders like behaving like an ass on weekends away from your kung fu school or incessantly bitching about the fact things aren’t the same as they are back home.
China is a country made up of 22 provinces and 56 ethnic minority groups many of which have very different cultures, languages, dialects, customs and peoples. It has a population equivalent to the population of North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and all of Western Europe combined. Its bigger than an entire continent, so its not surprising that its developed differently to other counties you may be more accustomed to.
Each province and city will have its own speciality that you’ll learn along the way. You’ll make mistakes and discoveries but its all part of learning, but there are some no-no’s that foreigners before you have commonly committed. Learn from their blunders and avoid these common mistakes made by foreign martial arts students who head of to study martial arts in China month after month, year after year.
1. Not making the most of National Holidays and Weekends
In order to make the most of your weekends and time off from training you’ll need to put a plan together. Spending a little time at the local bathing center on the weekend can be a welcome treat allowing the body rest and recuperation. However, there is a distinct difference between the mighty Roman gladiator and spending hours plodding around in the dark like the walking dead.
If you want to sight see or travel, tickets need to be purchased in advance, planning and preparation is the key. As will be your willingness to travel alongside millions of other travelers. Last years golden week saw half a billion Chinese make various trips and journeys. That’s a lot of pot noodles and chicken feet, so don’t underestimate the need to plan ahead. The Travel China Guide has always been very helpful for trip planning and site seeing information. Here you’ll find The Chinese Public Holiday Calendar for 2015-2017.
“Last years golden week saw half a billion Chinese make various trips and journeys”
One of the best things about the school consultation offered through Study Martial Arts is the travel advice and support you can get. It will help you get the most out of sight seeing opportunities both near and far. Plus its all good stuff and FREE for SMA members and those who have booked their experience through StudyMartialArts.Org.
2. Assuming You Can’t Get By on the Basics
Does everyone speak English? No. Do a lot? Yes. The number of English language learners in China has risen over the past decade. In tourist areas and capitals, its easier to find English speakers, but you shouldn’t expect it. Being open friendly, smiling, and using gestures as well as interesting ways to get your message across in a friendly way will do wonders for you. When I first arrived in China many of my friends who had much more experience speaking the language than me would be amazed at how well I would do with the most basic of Chinese. The only difference was my playful disposition and imagination. 9 out of 10 times I would not only get what I wanted but often get much more in return. This ranged from free lifts, meals, KTV invites and of course lasting friendships. Treat English like a welcome surprise, if you find it be happy, but if you don’t remember there was no promise it would be given to you anyway. Remember not to make your martial arts adventure in China a duplicate of your life in Europe or the USA etc.
At the sometime don’t assume no one speaks English either. There are approximately 400 million English learners in China so it shouldn’t be used as a language to insult people stealthily. English comprehension is often much higher than speaking ability due to shyness and how the language is taught.
If you want to get a head start on your language learning the SMA Welcome pack offers students who book through StudyMartialArts.Org $400 usd worth of language learning and martial arts materials pre-trip all at no cost!
3. Drinking the Wrong Way
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. 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 its own blog entry 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.
4. Failing to Address People Properly
In China much of how you address or interact with someone will depend on your relationship to that person. Just like the rituals associated with drinking and food, failing to address people properly can be a hinderance to building good relationships, gaining favor or simply getting the information you desire. The physiological fact is that when you start calling people auntie, uncle, brother or sister you should in most cases have the inclination to treating each other better and like family. This is good news if you join a good kung fu family.
Here are the most common ways to address people that are not directly related to blood relationships and can be applied generally.
Auntie (阿姨 a-yi) given to any woman around the age of your own mother.
Uncle (叔叔 shush) given to any man around the age of your own father.
Big brother ( 大哥 da-ge) given to any male older than you.
Little brother ( 弟弟 di-di) given to any male younger than you.
Big sister (大姐 da-jie) given to any female older than you.
Little sister (小妹 xiao-mei／妹妹mei-mei) given to any female younger than you.
Grandma (老奶奶 lao- nainai／老婆婆lao-popo) given to any female around the age of your own grandmother.
Grandpa (老爷爷lao-yeye/ 老公公lao-gonggong) given to any male around the age of your own grandpa
“Laoshi” may sometimes be used as a polite reference to a more highly educated person, who may not necessarily be a teacher.
Driver (司机si ji) General term for a taxi or bus driver.
Buddy (哥们儿ge men er) A term used between men when being friendly
Beautiful girl (美女mei nv) Often used when addressing young women who work in the service industry.
Mr (先生xian sheng)
Ms (小姐xiao jie)
Mrs (女士nv shi)
Thankfully the general terms above is likely to more than enough to help you get by day to day. If however, you’d like to learn more you can watch this short video highlighting the staggering amount of different words for family members in China.
5. Not Making the Most out of China’s Vast Bus & Train Network
China has an abundance of travel options for the intrepid martial arts traveller. From low budget airfares to high speed trains, bus services and slow trains.
Elong and Ctrip are two of the best airline ticketing companies in China. Both companies handle domestic and international flights and their websites are easy to use. Often it’s going to be worth comparing domestic flight prices with high speed train tickets as they are pretty competitive in comparison to the high speed trains. The cheapest way to travel is normally by long distant bus and depending on the journey can often be faster than long distant trains.
“If you want to buy a ticket travel or book into a hotel you’ll need your passport.”
If you do choose to travel by train you can easily pick up tickets from one of the many ticket offices near stations or dotted around cities. Simply search online for information and go prepared with train numbers, dates and useful phrases.
Traveling overnight by train can be both fun and enjoyable. If you’ve got money to spend go for the soft sleeper. Soft sleepers are (4 birth cabins) and idea in a group of 4. If their are non available or you are on a budget then the hard sleeper will do (6 birth cabin).
Seated or standing options for long journeys is something you’ll want to avoid. It will be an experience but it usually doesn’t make for a fun journey. If you’ve no other choice and there are no tickets left you can often ask to be upgraded. So use your relationship building skills with the conductors and service staff to gain favor.
As an alternative when no seats are available the dinning car can offer some welcome rest, however you will be obliged to buy overpriced food and drink throughout the journey if you wish to remain in the seat.
The last option of course is to bring your own stool and tea flask like the seasoned local traveler you are becoming. NOTE: Definitely bring your tea and flask.
For both trains and buses you should plan to be at the stations 30-40 minutes before they leave. With stations being so big , walking time, confusion and queues mean you’re likely to miss the train if you cut it too fine. Most importantly, if you want to buy a ticket travel or book into a hotel you’ll need your passport.
6. Not Making the Most out of the Cheap Internal Flights
China has two great, reliable budget air travel companies. These are Ctrip and elong. Both have English website versions and don’t charge foreigner site users more for flight purchases. The only downside is that they no-longer offer their cash and delivery service, purchases must now be made by credit card.
So plan your internal flights ahead of time. Check for deals and book well in advance of Chinese holidays. If you follow these rules it could be that flying will be very competitive in comparison to purchasing train tickets when you consider the potential time you might lose during transit, money spent while traveling and of course the convenience of plane travel.
7. Clinging to Western Comforts and Society as well as Westerners themselves and Not Embracing your New Found Freedom.
Martial arts students in China have a much wider range of opportunity than tourists. You not only have a real chance to experience another culture. You have a chance to leave any previous cultural trappings and personal baggage behind you and start afresh. Affectively, you can drop out of both western and the modern Chinese rat race and return to a simpler way of life without the negative influences of celebrity, trash tv, news or politics. After all you are paying for the opportunity to live a unique way of life and train. Don’t waste that opportunity by hanging out every rest period online or by spending time with westerners who are a negative influence, simply because they are western and familiar.
Tourists come to China to see the sites, but you are a martial arts student. You have specifically come to learn kung fu in China! You have signed up to experience a way of life that allows you the space and time to train martial arts day in day out. One of the side benefits of this training is that you will be able to find the space and time to breath literally and metaphorically. You can’t do this if you seek every trapping and convenience from the West that you left behind.
Studying martial arts in China offers you a much wider range of opportunity than many other potential activity. You can discover not only the real China but more importantly the real you. Don’t waste this by clinging to familiar crutches.
“StudyMartialArts.Org will even pay their SMA students for articles.”
Whether your reasons for coming to China have been to study martial arts or simply for travel and adventure. The fact you decided to become a martial arts student changed all that. Your focus for the time you are at the school should be mastery and reaching new levels of skill, whatever they maybe. This is the reason you became a student, not making training your priority defeats the purpose and is annoying to the students who are doing just that. Your behavior has the potential to be either positive or negative. Students with a lack of discipline or demonstrating a lack of effort aren’t likely to be warmly welcomed. So if you’re not truly dedicated get ready to get the cold shoulder from the long-term students in your class. Skill level is not as important as attitude.
1. Focus on your training nothing else matters. It’s your priority now, so train hard and be honest with yourself.
2. Drop negative influences and old crutches.
3. Don’t spend longer than you have to on Facebook or social networks. Keep it to an hour or two max and at the weekend.
4. Leave news, politics, opinions and celebrity to others. Drop all negative influences and only keep what is essential.
5. Pick up a good book, you know the ones you’ve been planning to read and never have. Begin studying and focus on your own mind, body and spirit.
6. If you feel inspired write and journal your progress. This will allow you to keep track of your progress and your discoveries. If what you’re writing is good and you have a story to tell www.StudyMartialArts.Org will even pay their SMA students for articles!
8. Not Practicing Your Foreign Language Skills
Maybe part of the experience for you is learning the language. You’ve spent months in preparation using the free language learning resources from SMA or you’re taking classes for Studying Chinese and preparation to actually use it, but now you hear it everywhere you’re too intimidated to use it. The biggest mistake would be letting all the work go to waste because you’re shy. Another big mistake would be thinking that the Chinese language classes at the kung fu schools will be of any real help. Usually, these classes offer a token introduction and are not structured. The quality is generally low and is interrupted by new arrivals. My advice is to make the most out of the SMA language resources. SMA provides language learning materials for our students that actually work. Some are free and some we will order in advance of your arrival at the school. Which means that when you arrive you will have a HKS (Official Hanban language learning materials). These include a text book, workbook and accompanying audio CD’s. Here is the StudyMartialArts.Org list of Kung fu Schools and Universities in China that actually can provide students aquality martial arts and Chinese language learning experience.
Sound strange? Think again. As a previous long term martial arts student and now resident I have to admit I get tired of having to haggle. However, this is unavoidable, therefore it’s important to know the value of your money and what things cost not in comparison to your respective country but in terms of the cost in China. When fresh faced martial arts students arrive at a kung fu school your first job when outside the school will be paying for things and learning the subtleties of a good haggle. If you’ve got the right attitude your fellow kung fu brothers and sisters at the school will help keep you right.
Foreigners in China getting ripped off or paying over the odds for things is not a new phoneme. Don’t reenforce that through ignorance or lack of care, after all you may have lots of money or might only be there for a short time but others at the school will be there for longer and on budgets. Don’t make that harder for them by allowing yourself to be taken for a ride or paying silly prices for essential items in and around the school.
10. Handing Over Responsibility for Your Own Learning
Ultimately you must be mature enough to take responsibility for your own learning, development and progression. Yes you are paying tuition and you will be taught, however without hard work (kung fu) you will get little in return. The most important aspects of any martial art training is in the development of the foundation. The bitter pill of training, overcoming pain, repetition and boredom through persistence. This is up to you and can’t be put on anyone else.
“The most important aspect of any martial arts training is in the development of the foundation”.
If you’ve decided to study martial arts in China, you will make a few mistakes. Don’t let this scare you off though. Instead, remember you chose this journey for a reason, and make sure to take full advantage of the opportunities. Immerse yourself in your study and the experience and grow with each mistake.
When you do mess up, you might not know why right away, so ask your martial brothers and sisters, locals or friends and when you look back, you’ll probably laugh when you remember the wrong things you said or did!
It’s not about how many times you fall its about how many times you dust yourself off and pick yourself up!