Kung Fu: land of bulls–t……

25 Jul


Today’s blog, a bit of a rant, but also a real look at how a pervasive culture does have consequences. I can’t say I have a definitive answer as to why, though I can suggest a few reasons, but if you’ve spent any time at all in the Wu Lin / Mo Lam (Chinese martial arts community) you can’t help but notice that it resembles far too much a bunch of old women sitting around gossiping and talking smack.


I have told this story before. A classmate of mine was in China and ended up having lunch with a fairly well known teacher. Chinese societal convention dictated that my classmate pay for that lunch, as the junior. According to my classmate, he DID pay for lunch. But according to the teacher, my classmate did not….



Let’s all stop and remind ourselves that all of this has to do with who paid for LUNCH.

The teacher in China has a student in the United States. I’ve never met the guy. He’s never met me, never been inside my school, etc. I should also note that when I met Chan Tai-San, the guy was three years old. So, by the time this guy started practicing, I wasn’t even spending time in the community. We’ll call the guy “Dexter” (not his real name)…

I found out Dexter took it upon himself to talk badly about me because, get this, he heard my classmate didn’t pay for lunch with his teacher…. It is what I call “kung fu stupid.”

And “kung fu stupid” is pervasive. It even exists among those who studied under Chan Tai-San. I’ve told a story about a guy coming into the Duk Chan in NYC’s Chinatown one night and challenging Chan Tai-San. Chan Tai-San punched the guy in the solar plexus and that was it. The only people present were Stephen Laurette and myself. Yet I’ve heard a bunch of my classmates tell the story, get the details completely wrong, and insert themselves into the story. Apparently, lies aren’t just OK in the kung-fu world, they are the currency.


Actually, it gets worse. On Gene Ching’s kung-fu forum, a classmate (I loath to admit he is a classmate but he was) told an ABSURD story about Chan Tai-San. It was right up there with “he ripped his heart out and showed it to him while the heart was still beating.” This wasn’t just the case of someone remembering the details of the story differently, it was just an outright LIE.. NOT ONE OF CHAN TAI-SAN’s STUDENTS REMEMBERS ANYTHING REMOTELY LIKE THIS STORY.. just that guy. And frankly, it was embarrassing to be associated with such bullsh-t.


Many know that a number of years ago, I had a bare knuckle fight, locked door, under “old rules.” It was the result of a rather heated argument on a public form (and after the fact, a huge misunderstanding). However, the fact remains, There were only six people in that room; the person I fought, me, that person’s friend, two of my students and a “referee.” For a number of reasons; tradition, that it was a misunderstanding that started it, that it was no one else’s business, etc; the people who were in that room have not talked about the fight much/at all. Yet, of course, I’ve seen people who weren’t even in the room, who weren’t even in THE STATE, describe it… “well I heard it form a guy“… yeah, another guy who WAS NOT THERE… laundry women, old wives tales… aren’t you supposed to be an ADULT?

My personal opinion, the Chinese martial arts community now TALKS ABOUT FIGHTING; because they no longer actually fight! It’s all talk, actually it’s all gossip and bullsh-t.

And when I listen to them talk, I realize they don’t understand fighting at all. I have heard a few “kung fu people” discuss a fight I was present for. We’ll say between “X” and “Y”… It is pretty remarkable how many people in the kung fu world think “Y” actually “won” that fight….. Because “X stalled” I often heard.

When someone keeps their distance, waits for you to attack, isn’t hit by your attack, and kicks you in the legs until you give up, they did not “stall”… they did not “lose”….. they won

“Y” is of course a kung fu person and “X” is a despised Jeet Kung Do guy….

F–k! I listen to kung-fu people talk about fighting and realize they do not understand fighting at all…..

Headlocks aren’t “chokes”. Kung-fu has kicks and punches; if you kick and punch it doesn’t make it “just kickboxing.” Chinese martial arts has wrestling!

Kung-fu people just HATE Mixed Martial Arts, but their student base is no different than the “MMA fan boys” they hate so much… that’s the honest truth…


Kung Fu books….

24 Jul

Almost as soon as I started training in New York’s Chinatown, I discovered Chinese book stores and kung fu books. Now, mind you, this was years before I met Chan Tai-San and long before I could speak or write Chinese. I’d just look at the pictures and try to figure out what the book was about.


It was kind of fun to go back years later and find out what I had bought, not knowing what they really were. I had both the Hap Ga “Siu Lo Han” book and Chan Daau’s “Do Pai” books.

south fist one

The first Chinese martial arts system I learned was Hung Ga, so I of course acquired the three famous Hung Ga books. I also managed to collect a few other Hng Ga and other “Nam Kyuhn” books. I was young, I had just started Chinese martial arts, and I couldn’t even read the books I was buying. At first, I was looking for books to learn styles, or at least forms from those styles. I remember I did learn a Choy Lay Fut crane set, a tiger set that was just labeled “Shaolin” and a tiger fork set from these books.

kahm na 3

People who collected these books probably remember how little application was addressed. Initially, I’d say almost all the books I bought showed the sets but almost none of the applications. Were they “keeping their secrets”? Or just didn’t have any applications to show? It seemed like the only application books were Chin Na/Kahm Na (grappling) books.

kahm na 6a

Why was Chin Na/Kahm Na the only application skill you could find in book form? I can’t tell you. I can tell you much of the technique in these books were silly wrist locks that would never work in real life. They were also, characteristic of much Chinese martial arts, pretty horribly organized and presented. Only one was rather brilliant, showing the attack, the Chin Na response and then the counter to the Chin Na. I may translate that one for you all one day.

quan fa

In the 1990′s, after I had met Chan Tai-San, and as I learned some Chinese, a new sort of book started to appear in these book stores. Suddenly, there were books with nothing but applications? I have been told that “sanshou” manuals were initialy considered only for the military and police and that you could get into significant trouble for having them in the 1970′s and early 1980′s. Then, suddenly, things changed.


At some point, the Chinese Wushu Association decided that sanshou, which had been military and police training, was going to become an international sport. The first world championship was held in Beijing in 1991 and suddenly not only was it no longer illegal to have sanshou manuals, they started publishing them!

throwing pages

I have a rather extensive collection of these books, including reprints of the original 1956 military manual called just “sanshou.” They are a strange collection of trends. Many are filled with illustrations of people in traditional kung fu uniforms. Others show western “track suits” to indicate how modern the methods are. Most are bare knuckle, a few show boxing gloves. Some are almost desperate to show the applications of traditional Chinese martial art. Others are clearly mis-moshes including clearly non Chinese martial arts. A few seem to have lifted their illustrations from Japanese Judo and Russian Sambo manuals. Addresses all this will have to be another project.

In the meantime, my Chan Tai-San Lama Pai book is still available at https://www.createspace.com/4891253

Learn from history, or repeat the mistakes over and over again…

23 Jul

The one good thing about the internet, you can have friends all over the world. So this morning I am chatting with a good friend from Europe. I have been under the impression that things for traditional Chinese martial arts are a little better “over there.” But the stories I was hearing sounded all too familiar.

Sanshou / San Da died in my friend’s country because (1) they put a modern wushu coach with no experience in charge of training the team, (2) put the events in hard to reach, undesirable locations and (3) dropped full contact from the major events. Dear G’d! I said! It sounds so familiar…..

and with that, I re-post a famous article about sanshou / san da in the United States.

Because if you don’t remember, you might let it happen again.

Who is running San Shou in the US?

As many are already aware, the officially recognized IWUF organization in the United States, Anthony Goh’s USA WKF, has abandoned San Shou and handed it over to one man, Shawn Liu. The decision was made to let Shawn Liu administer all IWUF related San Shou activities; the team trials were made part of his event, he retained power to pick the final composition of the team and he continues to serve as the head coach of the national team. In addition, the USA WKF dropped San Shou from their national competition in favor of letting Shawn Liu run his own “national tournament”.

All of the coaches of the traditional “Big 6” protested. They all contacted Anthony Goh not only to protest but also with constructive suggestions. They were all given nothing more than lip service and ignored. Cordial language was exchanged and handy phrases were used, but was the decision really in the best interests of the sport? Who is Shawn Liu and why should a single man be put in charge of US San Shou?

Shawn Liu arrived in the US a complete unknown. He was shown around the country by Sifu Tai Yim, a very respected traditional teacher, as a courtesy. At that time, Shawn Liu was introduced as a WUSHU COACH. He never been able to acquire a full time position in China and thus had come to the US seeking opportunity. At no time was there ever any mention of the Shaolin temple or that Shawn Liu was a monk. Did Shawn Liu wake up one day and suddenly “remember” he had spent his entire life at the temple?

Let’s not forget history whenever we mention the Shaolin temple. It was virtually empty for most of the 20th century. In the 1980’s, after Jet Li made his famous “Shaolin Temple” film, he also did a documentary on Shaolin. At the time of that film, there were FOUR monks living in the monastery. Of course, in recent years Shaolin has become a big money making operation for the Chinese government, with details and history being played fast and loose. The Chinese government for example released a set of video tapes in the early 1990′s called “a course in Shaolin”. It is a compilation of several teachers, some not even strictly Shaolin. Thus, it does NOT represent the actual teaching in Shaolin or the teaching of one teacher. Is it mere coincidence that Shawn Liu first sold this set of tapes in the US in the early 1990′s? It also happened to be exactly what he taught when he first arrived here? Don’t you find that the least bit interesting?

Perhaps Shawn Liu’s fantastical claims about being a Shaolin monk are the reason two other Shaolin monks have BOTH punched him in the face at major events. The most recent being a normally very cool and very well liked Shi Guolin, who bloodied Liu’s nose at Jimmy Wong’s event. Shawn Liu also took a severe beating in China recently which he tried to spin in his favor and for sympathy. However, the real facts behind that incident remain obscured.

Even as a contemporary wushu coach, Shawn Liu left a lot to be desired. During a competition in Houston, students of Jeff Bolt had to speak to him because his scores were “all over the place”. Shawn Liu then performed what was supposed to be Chen Taijiquan at the masters’ demo. People who had actually practiced legitimate Chen Taijiquan report the performance was so bad it was embarrassing.

Shawn Liu first became “infamous” when he acted as Chinese Wushu Association president Xia Bahua’s translator. Xia Bahua discovered to his horror that Shawn Liu was not translating what he was saying and was in fact pushing his own agenda. Professor Xia complained through the Chinese Wushu Association. This forced USA WKF president Anthony Goh to demand Shawn Liu issue a formal apology.

On the same speaking tour, Shawn Liu demonstrated his unique ability to insult and alienate people who originally offered to work with him. Yonkers, NY based Shuai-Jiao (Chinese wrestling) teacher Peter Chema was kind enough to offer his space for FREE to Shawn Liu and Xia Bahua for their lecture. Shawn Liu returned the favor by insulting the Shuai Jiao people to their faces. Shawn Liu told them they didn’t know how to “ba” (grip) or throw correctly. Of course, since this was in English Xia Bahua did not know and only learned about it later. Professor Xia was naturally embarrassed and upset.

The same day, during the same lecture, Shawn Liu actually punched himself in the face and broke his glasses while trying to demonstrate a basic technique. For years, people have questioned Shawn Liu’s skill level. He claims to have been a fighting champion. Of course, he claims to have done those fights while at Shaolin temple and we’ve already noticed that for years he never mentioned Shaolin while here in the US? And no one can find any record, pictures, movies etc of these matches? Strange don’t you think?

A former national San Shou coach said of Shawn Liu, “he’s a nice guy from the same province as me.” but when asked about his skills and accomplishments as a fighter? The coach said he had no comment.

Shawn Liu has a habit of claiming other people’s students as his own. A number of people he never trained at all he claims as his students. His complete inability to run an effective practice has been the source of jokes among the US team for years. A former member of the national team has noted that Shawn Liu is virtually clueless working the corner at events. The real truth of course is that Shawn Liu is “US coach” in name only, Jason Yee and Cung Le have been the driving forces in the actual training, as almost all of the team members have been their students anyway.

Shawn Liu has set up an institute in the United States but his students have not made a dent in the US San Shou community. Even at his own event, the US Open, they lose consistently to other teams, even non “Big 6″ people. Why is a man who has never produced a champion the US team coach?

As a promoter, Shawn Liu has consistently made promises he could not deliver on. He has promoted several events which were dismal failures, only being bailed out by the good will of people like Houston’s Jeff Bolt. Shawn Liu always promises to deliver international fighters, he has consistently failed to do so. At the US Open in 2001, Shawn Liu bragged he had fighters from “France, Iran, Egypt, and Trinidad” to one of the press people. He didn’t mention that these fighters were members of the New York Team! (France = Nizar Balghitti, Iran = Yousef Taghizadeh, Egypt = Ahmen Mohammed, Trinidad = Richard Acosta).

The recent “K Super Star” events that Shawn Liu has run have similarly been poorly advertised, poorly run and poorly attended. With each show he gets less support from the big name fighters and traditional “Big 6″ teams. If Shawn Liu had not conspired with USA WKF president Anthony Goh to have the US national team trials at his most recent event, NONE of the major programs would have attended at all. This was demonstrated by the fact that so-called “national” tournament and super fights at this event received NO support from the established programs.

Why put US San Shou in the hands of an individual who has shown a complete inability to even run an event? The so-called “national” tournament was in reality local, poorly organized, and poorly attended. It had 30 competitors, less than the local tournament NYKK did in New York in their gym! It was a pathetic attempted when compared to the Arnold Classic which had over 150 competitors including representatives of all of the original “Big 6”.

On to even more important issues, is Shawn Liu dishonest? A few people think so. It is well known that the “King of San Da” pro circuit in China pays good money to each team that comes to it’s special “China vs the world” cards. Shawn Liu brought a US team, did he give the fighter’s the money? Oh, did we mention that he forgot to tell a few of the US fighters that they were fighting with knees? That one “found out” the first time he got kneed?

Have the US team trials been conducted dishonestly? Maybe. We know that a major coach had to scream at the top of his lungs at Shawn Liu when a multi time national champion was going to be over looked so Shawn could put a “favorite” who had never held a title on the team instead. This isn’t widely known, but a few do know about it.

A few people have said that Shawn Liu “suggested” the outcome of a few San Shou matches in the past. That’s when he isn’t head judge and can’t simply wave off a decision ala IWUF fascist rules. In 1997 all FIVE judges had black winning in the finals of the United World event, Shawn switched it to red. Was it a coincidence that red knew Shawn? Maybe? Maybe not.

Back to more practical matters. Has Shawn Liu ever had enough influence to help out a US Team member when the IWUF was trying to do them wrong? The answer is NO. Not when Cung Le was wrongly disqualified in Italy. Not when Ray Neves was lied to and then dropped at the last worlds. Not when Albert Pope was robbed at the World Cup. He isn’t a great trainer, hasn’t produced any national champions of his own, and has no influence with the IWUF. Thank god he’s Chinese we guess?

Has Shawn Liu gone power mad lately? It’s an interesting subject to debate. He refused to attend either the US Wushu Union or the Arnold Classic because he didn’t get “a special invitation”. He’s more special than the rest of us, remember that please. Shawn Liu arranged for the USA WKF to drop San Shou and for the team trials to be held at his event. Shawn Liu also originally scheduled his event in conflict with Cung Le’s

At this most recent event, when a coach of one of the super fight participants argued with him, Shawn Liu’s answer was to have security remove him from the building. Did we mention that the coach in question was correct, and that Shawn had acted against the terms of a contract IN WRITING. Who does Shawn Liu think he is? A tyrant?

Have we mentioned that Shawn Liu has not paid many of the coaches and athletes the money he has promised them for their participation in his events?

Finally, let us never forget that at the 2001 US Open in Atlanta, Shawn Liu told the coaches of the “Big 6″ San Shou teams that the new federation was for them and that he’d only act as an “adviser”. However, he appointed himself president and CEO. Did anyone vote for him? Was there a vote? The rest of the new board suspiciously doesn’t have a single member of the US San Shou community on it either. Could be he forgot about them? Maybe.

Kicking (踢法)… a couple of my favorite tactics

20 Jul

foot jab to round kick

People may have heard the saying “southern first and northern legs.” The saying would seem to indicate that in Chinese martial arts, the south is known for its first techniques and the north for its kicks. While comparing a Northern long fist set to some basic southern kung-fu might lead you to believe this is true, the reality is that kicking is a much more complex issue. Kicking (踢法) is one of the four skills of ALL traditional Chinese martial arts. And kicking doesn’t just mean high kicks. Here are few of the ones I am rather fond of.

8 inch Jaat Teui

The cross kick (AKA “inverted side kick”) (窒腿), the toes are turned outward and the striking surface is the heel and arch of the foot. It can be used as a stomp to the knee, in a sweeping motion and as a leg check. With proper timing, it can also be used to intercept the rear round kick.

Pek Teui alternate

The “chopping kick” (Pek Teui劈腿) is an extremely common Chinese martial arts technique and a particular feature of the Lama Pai I learned from the late Chan Tai-San. With the toes pointed up, the hook created by the instep and top of the ankle is used to kick out and uproot the foot.

shovel foot

Low side kick (AKA “shovel kick”) (鏟腿). In traditional Chinese martial arts, this was always considered an extremely dangerous and effective kick. I was always taught it would “break the knee.” The technique remains perfectly legal in Sanshou / San Da, and it was a tactic frequently used by the Chinese team during the first three world championships. Unfortunately, when finally tested in real fights the kick was less dangerous than its reputation. The best use of the low side kick is as an obstruction, to set up other attacks, or as a “stop hit.” A “stop hit” is used to intercept an attack and break forward momentum. It stops an attack as it begins and breaks your opponent’s rhythm.

chaai teui middle

Lead leg side kick (側腿). As the lead knee is raised, the rear foot turns outward and the front hip is thrust forward. The side kick then shoots out in a STRAIGHT line. The power comes from the locking of the hip. The buttocks must be tucked in. Also, the locking of the kick keeps the opponent at a distance. The lead leg side kick can also be used as a “stop hit” against a rushing opponent or an opponent launching a rear leg kick.

Much more information on this coming in my new book. In the meantime, my Chan Tai San Lama Pai book remains available at https://www.createspace.com/4891253

“Making pain a friend”

17 Jul

A friend of mine recently began training in a new martial art. It involves a lot of high kicks, low postures, and almost Yoga like movements. He’s a contemporary, so to put it “politely” neither one of us is all that young anymore. So we chuckled about it and then got into a deeper conversation.

push ups

We noted the obvious need for a warrior / fighter to have physical conditioning. Then I also suggested that to fight, you had to make pain “your friend.” He responded by telling me his new teacher had just told him exactly the same thing.

da sam sing

Most people who have practiced Chinese martial arts have done “Da Saam Sing” (打三星). Initially we may have assumed, or been outright told, that it would make our arms harder. But a closer reality was, it was just getting us used to banging away with our arms. It was getting us used to the pain we would inevitably feel both blocking and striking.

pak da gung one

Consider what you would need to survive a life-or-death conflict? Initially, many think of techniques they need to know, but the issue is far more complex. Do you have both the physical and MENTAL conditioning to engage in a struggle such as this? Do you have the strength, endurance, flexibility?

pak da gung two

Do you have the determination? Will you fall apart under the stress and adrenaline rush, freeze and forget everything you have learned? It has certainly happened in the past to many practitioners. Remember, if you have not been hit or thrown full power, you don’t know how you will react to conditions such as these. This is a reality very few students studying Traditional Martial Arts (TMA) are forced to deal with in current programs.

pak da gung three

A number of teachers I respect all have said the same thing; if you wish to fight you must make pain a friend. You must experience it. You must internalize it. You must be comfortable with it, so that it can never been an obstacle. This is not at all a new realization. It has always been part of traditional Chinese martial arts, though many probably didn’t recognize it.

taking kicks

Think about all that basic training; Lihn Gung (練功), Ge Bon Gung (基本功) and of course Pak Da Gung (拍打功). These weren’t just physically conditioning us, they were teaching us to make friends with pain. And, as my illustrations in this blog should be proving, Chinese martial arts ALWAYS understood this.

alternationg shoulder strike

When we look at the shoulder strike drill above, we might also mention that in many respects it cane come to resemble the pummeling that wrestlers do… we always want to think we are different, but struggle, fighting, combat is all the same.

alternation chest to chest

Perhaps this second drill, smashing the chest, is more similar to pummeling?

alternating hip strike

Some traditional drills may even seem “silly,” until you’ve experienced combat enough to know that you use EVERY PART OF YOUR BODY.

shoulder striking

If you want to be a fighter, make friends with pain…..



A look back at the transition from “kung fu” to “fighting”

16 Jul

My first book, “Authentic Lama Pai Kung Fu: The teachings of the late Chan Tai San” is now available at https://www.createspace.com/4891253

I have already begun working on my next title “Lion’s Roar San Da: Combined Old and New Methods” which will outline and explain my application of traditional Chinese martial arts theory to modern fighting. I will be posting some excerpts here for all of you…. just to tease you :)

Upon my return to New York, I wanted to share with my class mates my observations and the techniques I had learned. Initially, I wanted to simply introduce a sort of side program, a collection of simple attacks and defenses that we’d introduce to the beginners as a sort of “back up” until they developed proficiency in the more complicated traditional techniques. I began teaching in the schools that my classmates had opened while I had been in Washington DC.

At this point, this was all still theoretical. We already knew that Chan Tai-San’s methods were not suited for the point sparring that most Chinese martial arts tournaments offered. We not only were limited in what we could do but we were consistently being disqualified not only for excessive contact but what the referees were calling “uncontrolled technique.” The school had begun participating in the national tournaments held by the North American Chinese Martial Arts Federation (NACMAF) under Tai Yim. NACMAF sparring had no head contact, but was full contact to the body and legs. Our results were mixed. I placed third in the “open weight” division, disqualified for throwing a “so choih” (sweep punch) which did not actually connect. We had been told that was legal (to demonstrate the technique) but when I did I was disqualified. I still fared better than my training brother, Michael Parrella, who in his first match instinctively caught a kick and sweep out the supporting leg. Michael was immediately disqualified.

The new training I was doing upon my return to New York was all inside the schools and amongst the student body. In all honesty, I also don’t think my thinking had really evolved that much yet. Then, somewhat ironically because I had never been aware of them, a student brought me the first three UFC events on video tape. Unlike most, I sat down in one sitting and watched Royce Gracie win all three events. My desire to learn more about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and other ground fighting arts ultimately introduced me to literature on randori. In particular, a Judo coach in Michigan named Mark Tripp shared with me his understanding of what randori meant and explained to me why it wasn’t about “sport”.

As some of my facebook friends are aware, I no longer consider Mark Tripp a “friend.” However, it was for personal reasons. I fully respect him as a martial artists and I will continue to give him proper credit for introducing important concepts to me and serving as one of my inspirations. History and facts should NEVER be “personal.”

For my blog readers, I have a special treat! Here is VERY RARE FOOTAGE of sparring in the original “Lama Kung Fu” school that was in Manhattan, New York from 1994. The ground work is from my cross training, though we ALWAYS sparred in Chan Tai San’s school. You will also see Chan Tai San walking around in the background, disproving the idea that he took issue with ground fighting and my cross training.

Now go train!

Chan Tai San book now available…. and why I wrote it

14 Jul

September 1, 2014 will mark ten years since Chan Tai-San passed away. Not long after that, I started a thread on Gene Ching’s kung-fu forum called “Chan Tai San stories. People almost immediately asked me if I was going to publish a book, and I initially said yes. It took me almost ten years to actually do so.

front cover art small

The book is now available at https://www.createspace.com/4891253
It includes a history of the Lion’s Roar tradition, it’s theory and some technique. It updates material that I wrote more than 20 years ago. It also includes all the Chinese characters for the first time.

chan tai san applications

Right after Chan Tai-San died, I was going to publish a small memorial book and hold a banquet, but almost as soon as the funeral was over, some of Chan Tai-San’s students returned to their old habits and I lost interest. But, ironically, the worst offender also helped motivate me to write the book and finally publish it. In recent months, as many already know, certain person has been caught telling a mountain of lies. The book, with it’s detailed chronology and documents including pictures of Chan Tai San training the disciples, should make it hard for people to be scammed by idiots such as this green clown.


The time is also right for this book. There has been a lot of excellent, academic, writing on Chinese martial arts in recent years. I think this book adds to that collection. I have included information on Lama (Vajrayana) Buddhism, what it meant to be on China’s western frontier, the extent of “Tibetan culture” and the politics of martial arts in the Republican era. I also addressed the controversies of “Tibetan martial arts” and the story of Sing Lung.

So, there is stuff in this book you CAN NOT find any place else.

    Authentic Lama Pai Kung Fu: The teachings of the late Chan Tai-San

The book is now available at https://www.createspace.com/4891253

Lama Pai Kung Fu and fighting…..

11 Jul

If you’ve read this blog before, chances are pretty good you know that I consider the late Chan Tai-San my primary teacher and his Lama Pai kung-fu system the foundation of my teachings. You are probably also aware that my current teachings focus a lot on fighting, particularly combat sports. Now, some people find this strange. I’ll even admit, at first I pondered the situation. Then as I looked around me, I started to think I was most definitely not alone in this.


Lama Pai descends from an older tradition known as “Lion’s Roar.” The other two descendants of Lion’s Roar, Lama Pai’s cousins if you will, are Pak Hok Pai (white crane) and Hap Ga. In retrospect, I’ve always identified these traditions with fighting. The first time I traveled to San Francisco, they had just promoted a full contact kung fu show. The Pak Hok Pai had won all their matches. Not hard to see why; take a long arm system and put gloves on, let them swing full power to their heart’s content, magic happens.


One of the tradition’s most famous figures is Wong Yan-Lam, who fought 150 challengers on a platform in public. One of the tradition’s most famous concepts is Chaan, “ruthlessness”, do what needs to be done to get it done. Are you seeing a trend?


In 1998, I was already training fighters and competing in sanshou events. At the national tournament, I met Hap Ga Sifu David Chin. He was the subject of the first English language work ever on the tradition. He was there with students, trying to figure out how the sanshou game worked. We talked a few minutes, here was a respected sifu but also one of the most open minded person I’ve ever met.


I came to be friendly with David Rogers, a UK based Hap Ga teacher. He not only trains fighters, he cross trains in Jiu Jitsu. Another open minded, traditional based person. The more you look around, the more you see they are out there.. but I’m tempted to point out that in every example, we are talking about REAL traditional Chinese martial artists. Sadly, there are too many fakes and wannabes.. but that’s another blog I guess?

Now go train!


Throw your leg in the air, and kick like you just don’t care!

10 Jul

A slightly different blog today, a bit shorter than usual I think….

In Japanese and Korean traditions, the so called “stretch kicks” are usually done stationary. But they still have the three basics; a straight kick, an inside crescent and an outside crescent.

1 (1) stretch

In Chinese martial arts, usually these three so called “stretch kicks” are doing with movement. They are line basics, done moving down the floor and then back again.


Have you noticed yet that I called them “so called stretch kicks“? Now, I am probably going to offend some people here, but if you’ve been reading this blog, you already know I am not shy about just being direct. I’ve seen some “applications” of these kicks…..


If you think a crescent kick is going to deflect a punch, or much MUCH worse, a knife thrust, you have some serious problem buddy… That was ok when we were 12.. maybe it was OK in the 1980′s, a lot of stupid stuff was OK in the 1980′s… but today? In the age of real martial arts?

There ARE some applications for the inside crescent kick (Pin Teui) and outside crescent kick (Baai Lin Teui), but I am not going into them right now… they probably require a video and I just don’t have the time today to film it :)

HOWEVER, a much more important reason to do these “stretch kicks” is to learn how to control your leg. I was taught that the RETRACTION of the leg is as important, perhaps even more important then the “throwing” the leg up high. Learning to control your leg at every minute/part of a movement is a skill important for real combat applications of the leg.

I recently got to see some Indian martial art, kalaripayattu, where similar leg motions are used, and for exactly the same reason. It was a cool way to be reminded about this, and to be inspired to do a BLOG about it….

More on this topic, on Jibengong, on Kalaripayattu and other stuff REAL SOON….

Now go train!

Lei Tai competitions – Kung Fu fighting in the good old days

6 Jul

In October 1928 three Chinese generals, Zhang Zhi Jiang (张之江), Li Lie Jun (李烈鈞) and Li Jing Lin (李景林) organized the first public full contact competition in China. The purpose of the competition was to select qualified teachers for the newly founded Central Kuoshu Institute (中南國術館),


Of course, many traditional masters did not compete because they believed their skills could only be proven in serious duels and not “sporting” contests. However, the event attracted hundreds of the best Chinese martial artists who participated in three separate divisions; (1) “boxing”, (2) weapons sparring ad (3) wrestling (aka Shuai Jiao).


In the “boxing” division, competition was suspended after a few days due to the injuries. The event was held with very few rules, but more importantly without any gloves or protective gear. Like the early UFC’s many fighters injured their hands and legs, unaccustomed to actually striking the elbows and knees used to block. The last 12 contestants were not permitted to continue, the public excuse being the “fear of killing off some of the greatest masters of the time”. The overall winner was voted on by a jury of his peers!


The next year a similar event was held in Hangzhou, China. This event was also organized by Li Jinglin, then acting as vice-dean of the Central Martial Arts Academy. This time there were 125 entrants for the “boxing” or “free fighting” (San Shou) competition which was held November 21-27. The event was very popular, the audiences every day numbered in the tens of thousands.

The tournament had few rules, they were not allowed to attack the eyes, throat or groin – anyone breaching these rules was disqualified. However, the event also had a flaw in the rules, in the event of a draw BOTH contestants advanced to the next round. By the end of the first day, more than half the contests had ended in draws! The rules were quickly changed so that in the event of a draw both contestants were eliminated.

With this, the competitors didn’t hold back and many people were hurt, mostly with head injuries. The judges’ committee instituted a new rule in response, stating that contestants were not allowed to continually attack the head! The history of Chinese martial arts fighting competitions is full of instances of poor organization, irrational rules, random rule changes and rules which defy logic and reality of combat.

Zhao Daoxin was a disciple of Zhang Zhaodong and was famous in Tianjin’s martial arts community. Zhao was only 20 at the time and at the beginning of his martial arts career, yet managed to achieve 13th place. His notes on the competition included these observations;

“Those ‘orthodox inheritors’ of traditional martial arts, regardless of whether they were lofty monks or local grandmasters, were either knocked out or scared out of the competition”

Zhao also noted;

“Even though, at registration, every competitor identified themselves as belonging to a traditional style, every one of them engaged in secret auxiliary combat training”

By the 1920′s both Western boxing and Japanese Judo had found there way to China and had made a huge impact on many martial artists. However, due to nationalistic and style pride, many did not openly admit to it!

Other examples of denial of reality manifested themselves at the event. The 2nd place winner, Chu Kao-Lou, openly admitted he also trained in Western boxing. One Taiji master complained that Chu’s fighting style was not using Chinese Martial Arts, to which Chu’s brother, Chu Kao-Chen, challenged the Taiji master. In respond, the Taiji master didn’t dare to accept that challenge.

Other quotes regarding the event

- 这次比赛没有看到高深的内功,没有发人于丈外的场面
You don’t see high level internal power, and Faijin that send people flying 10 feet away in this tournament.

- 太极打法毫无建树,四量难拨千斤
The Taiji principle didn’t work well. 4 oz could not defeat 1000 lb.

- 也就是说号称以巧取胜的中国功夫 实际上也是在跟人拚勇力比高大
The taller, heavier, stronger guys won in that tournament.

- 要学打擂台的拳术
After this tournament, people wanted to learn the style that can be used on the Leitai.



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