Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why Snake Form?

Most people in the local Kung Fu community know me for performing Snake Form in tournaments (before I stopped competing) and performances.  People that did not know me in the early days of teaching probably are not aware of why this started.  I know so many amazing forms from Chan Tai San that could have been the form of choice but that is the one that ended up being my signature form.  Here is the quick story behind it.

The year was 1989 and I had been teaching my class for about a year.  We were happy to perform and promote our classes to the public whenever the opportunity arose.  One request that year was for a Kung Fu demo during a Chinese New Year celebration.    Of course we were happy to perform at the celebration.  The follow up request was to see if we would be able to include a Snake Form to celebrate the Year of the Snake.  Sifu had taught me a Snake Form and there was enough time to fine tune it to an acceptable level for performance so I agreed.  The performance went off as planned and I felt very comfortable with the form.

The following weekend there was a tournament that the class decided to attend so I pulled out the Snake Form again because it was the one I was focused on during my most recent training.  I did well in the tournament and with a healthy schedule of other tournaments coming up in the following weeks, I just decided to ride it for the stretch.  That stretch became a year and the next thing I know it became my form of choice.  I did throw in other forms on occasion just for the change but always returned to Snake.

There were a few things that I think caused me to keep using the form:

  • It felt like it suited my body type
  • It became a bit of a challenge to prove that softer forms can still do well
  • A few instructors that saw me at tournaments encouraged me to keep going with it because it was a nice break from seeing the same old forms all the time
  • A very nice compliment from a person in one city that told me that the main reason they came to the tournament the second year was to see me perform again
  • Biggest reason - when Sifu came for a visit, my brother's students and I thought it would be nice to do a show for him...when I performed Snake Form, Sifu jumped up from his seat and was clapping and yelling that it was Snake Form!!  After the performance he told me how happy/surprised he was with the improvement in the form since teaching it to me.  With that kind of reaction, how could I not continue?

Friday, May 16, 2014

What Can A Kung Fu Student Do?

Every single student in a class progresses and improves...I guarantee that as long as you go to classes and put in some effort, you will improve.  The more important thing is how to maximize your training.  Each person learns at a different pace so here are some tips to help do your best.

  1. Learn something every class - This does not mean that you need to learn a new technique or a new part of your form every class.  What I mean is that you need to listen to corrections from your instructor, discover a more effective way to execute a technique that you know, remember that move that you always get stuck on, etc.
  2. Retain what you learn - Once you learn something in class, you need to ensure that you remember that for next class.  To progress you need to be able to retain your past learning and execute on them so you can focus on learning more instead of relearning something.
  3. Find your capacity - How much can you learn and retain?  This is different in every person.  Some people can learn and retain one thing each class while others might be able to learn and retain more things.  Kung Fu is not a contest so don't worry about someone else's pace.  
  4. Repeat - Repetition is the thing that will give your body the muscle memory to execute a technique or form.  Ensure that you are spending your time repeating what you learn.
  5. Question yourself - Ask yourself if you are actually doing this correctly as you practice.  Ask yourself if you understand why you are doing something.  Ask yourself what you can work on to make your techniques better.
  6. Listen - So many lessons are taught in our classes.  Instructors are teaching students, senior students are teaching junior students, fellow students are discussing techniques with each other, etc.  Listen to what is being taught and hopefully you will catch a few pieces of information that you may not have known before.
  7. Show up physically - During my career as an instructor I have been fortunate enough to be in situations where I could almost always be available for classes.  The harder part is being in the habit of going to class on days when you are tired or would prefer to be doing something else.  
  8. Show up mentally - Once you have arrived in class it is now time to prepare to focus.  Get yourself prepared to pay attention to the instructors and focus on the techniques you are working on.
  9. Be proud of yourself - You work hard and continue to improve.  Martial arts training is a journey that can last a lifetime so be sure that you remind yourself that you have continued when hundreds, thousands or millions of others did not continue after starting.   

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wow...My Opponent is....

When observing students working on their fighting, I often see students intimidated by level or seniority of the other student that they are going to fight with.  I was also there at one point but quickly learned that there is no reason to worry and eventually preferred to work with people who were more senior and usually better than I was for some good reasons:

  • Nobody actually wants to hurt you in class because we are all there to learn and get better
  • More senior students typically have better control of their techniques and are actually less likely to accidentally hurt you
  • Fighting with someone better than you forces you to elevate your fighting to match with your opponent's skill level
  • Senior students will often be able to see things in your fighting and be able to give you some pointers on improving your fighting
  • With mutual respect and control there is also an opportunity to learn because neither fighter is afraid to get hurt, therefore allowing you to try new techniques
  • We are all friends in class
I do recommend being more careful in tournament settings as adrenaline seems to contribute to lack of control.  I also believe that tournament fighters care less because they actually don't know you and will not have to see you in the next class.  I am not suggesting that people will try to hurt you but I have seen some things that you would not see in class.

Even with tournaments, I would encourage competitors to forget about the size or level of their opponent and look for ways to penetrate the opponent's defences that are within your own abilities.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Settled Into Our New Location

It has been a few weeks now and we are settled into our new location and training hard again.  For anybody who has not heard, we are now located in Mississauga, Ontario after about 14 years in our last location.  It seems like we are starting to get used to the surroundings and I am looking forward to everybody's continued success in their training.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Learn A Bit At A Time

Learning Kung Fu is not an exact science.  Each student learns at a different pace and has different levels of natural ability, coordination, learning aptitude, focus and self motivation.  Everybody loves learning new techniques and forms but it is important to remember to take your tome to allow your body and mind to absorb the new material.  It is natural to think that you can absorb more than you were taught but it is best to channel that energy into repetitions of the things you learned in the current and past classes.  It is almost impossible to be correct without repeated execution.  Remember to take as much joy in improving as you do in learning new.  This will greatly increase your overall result over time.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

New Instructor in the School - JP

We proudly promoted JP to Instructor level on Thursday night.  Congratulations JP!!  The only question we have is whether or not you wore the new belt to work.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I have been away for quite some time due to work related reasons.  Now that I have a chance to return to do some writing, I took a browse through some past posts and came across this one.  We are all a bit older since I last posted so thought I would link back to it.

Hopefully I will be adding more content again very soon.