Self defense is bull—t…….

26 Aug

The idea goes like this; people who aren’t interested in studying martial arts still need self defense, everyone needs to be able to defend themselves. So for years, people have offered self defense seminars and short term self defense programs. But the sad reality is, most of it is total bull—t. In fact, the entire idea is mostly bull—t.


Consider this, for centuries men who spent their entire lives training to be warriors, who trained with weapons, who went into battle with those weapons, with armor, fought and DIED. It is simple and it is straightforward, no amount of training can totally prepare you nor guarantee your success in a real fight. What is a “real fight”? Assaulted by surprise, by multiple attackers, conditioned criminals, larger, stronger, with weapons? How many people have fallen victim to the new “knockout” trend, where dumb (I mean really stupid) kids just walk up and punch someone?


Harsh reality, the best defense is to not be there. It’s awareness of the reality. It’s situational awareness. It’s not being a deluded dimwit like the 100 lbs woman who was a Taekwondo black belt and “sparring champion” (in POINT FIGHTING) who thought she was such a badass she’d hang out in bars and talk crap to men twice her size. She was found dead in a ditch along the road one day.


Of course, if you are in a profession where your life is regularly threatened; a police officer, a correction officer, etc…. you need specialized training. But without the awareness, it’s fantasy role playing. Note one of the best programs for this sort of thing, called “DIE LESS OFTEN“. I love the name, and the strange look on people’s faces when they first hear the name. DIE LESS OFTEN. It’s fu–ing brilliant. And we don’t have much brilliance in the martial arts community…..

Martial arts is NOT a game of tag!

25 Aug

In retrospect, I was sort of lucky. My first martial arts experiences were boxing (PAL program as a little kid) and Taekwondo (Moo Duk Kwan under the late Pong Ki Kim). There is no such thing as “point sparring” or light contact in boxing. The Taekwondo I learned was full contact, the old school style with out pads and full contact kicks to the head and body. So I suppose I never associated martial arts with anything other than full contact.


In Chinese martial arts, I came to learn that when most Chinese refer to sparring, they are NOT talking about full contact. I can’t say why, but among most Chinese sparring is a game of tag. It is some sort of cultural bias. Even my own teacher was guilty. He told me a guy was going to visit from Canada. He told me the guy was really good at sparring/fighting. When the Canadian arrived, we invited him to spar, and frankly he was terrible. We embarrassed him in front of Chan Tai San. Then we asked Chan Tai San why he had said the guy was good? Chan Tai San ignored us.


After Chan Tai San had passed away, the hing-dai met a teacher who has also been a coach in Guangdong. He had just arrived and was looking for students, he tried very hard to convert us. Over tea, he told us that among all the coaches he was the best at sparring. He said he had beaten all the other coaches. Stephen Innocenzi, a training brother of mine, asked if that meant that he had beaten Chan Tai San. The teacher shook his hand violently and was very clear, NO! For him sparring was like a game of tag. He said no one wanted to spar Chan Tai San, because for Chan Tai San sparring always meant full contact. Despite the one Canadian debacle, that had been my experience with Chan Tai San.


However, I had consistently and continuously seen people called “good fighters” who could never demonstrate more than light contact games of tag. It annoyed me, it still annoys me, that this was the standard in Chinese martial arts. But it sure does explain a lot!

The Chan Tai San Lama Pai book is still available at

The lost concept of commitment

1 Aug

I was obviously a child, but I dragged my parents into the late Pong Ki-Kim’s Taekwondo/Hapkido Dojang and begged them to sign me up. My father was afraid I wouldn’t actually go, so he signed me up for the “yellow belt program” which was just three months. Of course, he had to renew my membership and the rest is history. That’s because I knew what I wanted and I was committed to it; I wanted to be a black belt. I didn’t know how long it would take, but I was going to do it.


Not long after I met Chan Tai-San, he wanted me to make a commitment to him. He was worried that I didn’t understand him enough, so he got someone to translate. They asked me if I was willing to commit to Sifu Chan and follow the path. It wasn’t a hard question, YES. I knew Chan Tai-San had real knowledge and I wanted that knowledge. And I was willing to do what had to be done to be his student.


Among the many changes I am seeing in today’s population, without a doubt a major change is a total lack of commitment. I can’t begin to tell you how many people tell me they want to “fight” but can’t commit to the necessary time to train. Fighting isn’t easy, and training is a MUST. But the reality is, I see more people who want to talk about fighting, act like they fight, but not actually train.


I no longer teach kung fu in the traditional format, but I still get flooded with requests for me to accept a few students and teach them the “traditional way.” Recently, I did just that; offered to open up a traditional kung fu class. My in box was SWAMPED with email. I told people they would have to commit to three days a week and commit to train at least six months; half the people couldn’t do that they said. I dedicated 16 years of my life, six days a week, to Chan Tai-San. They wouldn’t dedicate 72 hours…


The smallest membership I have at my school equates to about a 3 month commitment. If you want to learn martial arts, you need three months to learn the basics. Even if you are just into it for fitness, it takes three months to learn the workout and see results; determine if it is really going to work for you. Still, about 30% of the people who come in can’t make that commitment (or so they say?). If you are doing another activity, another form of exercise, ok MAYBE I can get that, but most frequently, when I ask them if they are doing any other exercise, they say NO. They aren’t even willing to commit to their own health and wellness. I have an option as cheap as $75 per month, that’s $2.70 a day. You aren’t willing to spend $2.70 a day to be healthier and live longer? Dear lord!


If we are looking for reasons why Chinese martial arts are in crisis; this is part of the story for sure. Even in the past, Chinese martial arts was a unique commitment. How can we expect it to continue to function in that format in a culture where people aren’t willing to spend $2.70?

The worst lie……

30 Jul

Today, I am going to take the dark comedy debacle of Gus Kaparos and draw from it an important lesson for all martial artists. No, I am being perfectly serious. The title of today’s blog might give you a hint. Yesterday, I friend of mine sent me a screen capture of Gus Kaparos, owner of Green Cloud Kung Fu in Patchogue, proclaiming that upon reflection, he had actually won his fight with Novell Bell.


We probably need to back up a bit; Gus Kaparos apparently is a habitual liar. In a Sinovision USA interview he did recently, he not only lied about the year he met Chan Tai-San. Gus Kaparos told tales about studying Muay Thai since the age of 10, about beating multiple opponents at once in street fights and about beating up an instructor and taking the keys to his school. The stories were so improbable they inspired a parody video by a former, disgruntled student of his.

Tall tales are not the only thing Gus Kaparos specializes in. He has challenged a number of people to fights, only to find ways to avoid actually fighting. He did it so frequently, it became a joke on Gene Ching’s Kung Fu forum.


Gus Kaparos is clearly a pathological liar, but former students have also suggested he has a drinking problem. So perhaps that explains why he doesn’t even keep track of the lies he tells and apparently talked himself into a fight with Novell Bell. Video of the fight should have told the whole story. Gus Kaparos clearly has very little sparring experience, questionable skills and clearly LOST….


I should mention that this was almost two months ago. It was being quickly forgotten. Yet yesterday, Gus Kaparos of Green Cloud Kung Fu in Patchogue Long Island New York took to facebook to revise history and claim he really won his fight with Novell “Black Taoist” Bell. On facebook, Gus Kaparos said
“I walked in the ring injured recovering from back surgery that almost left me in a wheel chair”. However, there are SCREEN CAPTURES from before the fight where Gus claimed he was in perfect health and said he would make “no excuses” for any injuries!


Gus Kaparos then said “Novel chose to try to blind me with an open finger thrust.” Watch the video at the end of this blog, THIS NEVER HAPPENED.

Gus Kaparos then says “Saying that it was a TKO was a lie! There was no standing eight count and I immediately got back on my feet”. Novell has now released the UNEDITED TAPE. It shows Gus Kaparos’ friends and students giving him extended rests, trying desperately to save Gus from himself.

Gus Kaparos said “In the second round I could have finished him off with a guillotine choke.” Watch this video, and try not to laugh so hard that you hurt yourself. Gus Kaparos has no idea what a Guillotine Choke is!

Gus Kaparos said “The rest of the time I was using my Kung Fu to control his little tantrum”. If by “control” he means getting punched in the face, kicked around the ring and not being able to block a single knee strike?

Gus Kapros then says “The real Sifus that know their stuff could very easily see that I was was calmly controlling a much larger healthier adversary”.

Gus Kaparos said ” I Spoke to other Sifus and they felt the only Technical loss was on Novell’s part”

Watch the video, the man is living in a fantasy land of his own construction. Unable to accept reality.

I have to seriously question how anyone in the martial arts community can still stand behind a man who has been proven a liar of this magnitude. Gus Kaparos wants to talk about “honor” but clearly he has none. Do people not have any self respect anymore?

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, even if this story initially appears to you to have no relationship to you in any way, IT DOES….

It is unethical and dishonorable to lie about your training, your qualifications and what you teach. it is inexcusable to lie to your students. But the worst lie?


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Traditional Kung Fu tactics that WORK….

29 Jul

Traditional Chinese martial arts, AKA “Kung Fu,” has a pretty horrible reputation in today’s martial arts world. As I have previously posted in regards to this, much of it has to do with the culture that has developed; the wrong people in charge, the wrong attitudes, “posers”, “wannabes”, talking about fighting but not fighting, not understanding fighting, etc. Regardless, that does NOT mean that there are not applicable skills in traditional Chinese martial arts.

jaat tactic one

This first picture I post shows a combination of two tactics I am very fond of. The first is the “cross kick” to the shin. Hard to see, effective in not only creating opportunities but also very damaging. There is a similar kick in French Savate, and we combine methods a lot in my school. Here it is combined with using the hand as a distraction, a proven method in real fights.

pek to inside vs jab

Using “pek teui” / “bahk hok tam soi” against the inside of the rear leg. I recommend you wait until they jab, putting their weight forward and turning out their lead leg.

spin hook kick

Again, use the hands to distract. Throw a jab, set up a spin kick….

pek into chaai

When they lift their leg to avoid the Pek Teui, use the same leg to launch a Chaai Teui!

Remember, the Chan Tai San book is still available at

“A Killing Art,” Taekwondo history you probably never heard…

28 Jul


Today’s blog is actually a book review. As many know, I am a trained historian and former history teacher. Thus, I have greeted a new wave of more academically rigorous, neutral perspective martial arts books with great enthusiasm. I am also a major book addict, I read non-stop. Finally, with a 2nd degree black belt in WTF Taekwondo (but from a school where the Moo Duk Kwan banner still hung and the curriculum was so different that my instructor was frequently sanctioned by the WIF) and a Korean wife and father-in-law who also trained in Moo Duk Kwan, I was attracted to “A Killing Art: The Untold History of Taekwondo” by Alex Gillis.

The idea that the standard Taekwondo history presented by so many of its Korean teachers is not quite right is hardly a new idea. I trained in the 1980’s and watched them drop the Palgwe forms for the Taegeuk forms. So much for reverence for forms that were supposed to be “thousands of years old.” It also didn’t take a genius to notice that the Palgwe forms resembled karate forms. Of course, then there is the nasty little fact that you can find old “Tang Soo Do” books where you notice that “Tang Soo Do” in Japanese reads “Karate Do” and the forms are in fact SHOTOKAN FORMS.

Alex Gillis is not Korean. He is a long time student of Taekwondo, and at times you still see hints of both naivete and hero worship, but at least he is willing to acknowledge the thousand pound gorilla in the room. The founding fathers of “Tae Kwon Do” were all men who studied Shotokan, but in the post war period were loath to remain affiliated with Japan, a country which had occupied, tortured and humiliated Korea.

The Chung Do Kwan was in the Japanese occupation period a Shotokan school, not much more to it than that. The infamous General Choi Hong-Hi and Nam Tae Hi were also shotokan students…. MAJOR CON: The book remains almost exclusively focused on General Choi and his rivalry with the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). While there are several pictures of Hwang Kee, founder of the Moo Duk Kwan, he is in fact NOT MENTIONED ONCE that I remember. For a history of Taekwondo, to not even mention Hwang Kee, especially when discussing obscuring Japanese origins and the politics of unifying all the Kwan, is regretful.

As I mentioned, the obscuring of the Japanese origins, the creation of a new name and the creation of the “Korean martial art” myth, the false linking of Korean traditional Taekkyeon to modern Taekwondo, etc., is no longer all that controversial and surprising. The political corruption, the unbridled use of violence and questionable morals of the major players will be the real surprise here.


I had long heard that General Choi was a “traitor” who had gone to North Korea. But the extent to which he compromised his morals and coddled a brutal totalitarian regime in the quest to satisfy his own ego will probably still shock you. Un Young Kim, whose signature appears on my black belt certificates, actually ended up in prison because of his corruption, yet you’ll still be shocked to see how far it went, and how unprincipled the men who used to lecture us on morality really were. This book documents how the two “international” federations existed to line the pockets of their leadership, were unquestionably corrupt and in many ways just down right racist.

For those of us in the martial arts industry, you’ll also be shocked to learn that in return for using their Taekwondo muscle to suppress (read as “beat into submission and frequently kidnap”) democratic forces protesting Korea’s military dictatorship, the Korean CIA (KCIA) gave hundreds of thousands to dollars to instructors and helped them set up their Dojang. Korean Taekwondo did not just have “good business sense”, they were being secretly funded by both the KCIA, and even more amusingly, but Reverend Moon’s cult!

Of course, the instructors interviewed all deny that they PERSONALLY benefited, it was always some other instructor…

While I really wish the book had addressed Hwang Kee and the Moo Duk Kwan, and discuss the process by which the Kwan were FORCED to unify, the book still provides tons of sometimes whispered by never openly discussed topics. It is well worth the read. You can find it at


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

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


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