David Ross of NY San Da on the clinch

30 Oct

The clinch may be the most important position in a fight but in most traditional martial arts it has been virtually ignored. Despite their best intentions, those who rely upon striking will find themselves in the clinch at some point in a fight. They need to learn clinching in order to remain standing. On the other side of the equation, most grapplers will rely upon clinching as a defense against strikes and to set up their throws and takedowns.


Thus, all fighters must learn to clinch. The first priority in the clinch is to establish CONTROL. The first few seconds are the most important and the most dangerous. Fighting for position, establishing grips, breaking grips, and unbalancing are all essential skills. In general terms, clinching will either be used to control the neck or the body. Once you have established control, you have several options; striking (knees, elbows, etc.), throws and takedowns, or escaping.


The clinch for striking

If we examine different combat sports we will find that striking in the clinch varies depending upon the format. In Western boxing, the rules limit the options to either (1) punching out of the clinch with short punches such as the uppercut, or (2) throwing body punches, or (3) holding the arms to prevent punching and waiting for the referee to break the hold. In Muay Thai, the cultural aesthetic has led to the development of knee and elbow strikes, with some basic wrestling to throw the opponent to the canvas. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has incorporated elements of both of these sports while also introducing new methods. An intelligent fighter familiarizes themselves with ALL of the options in the clinch and understands their relative advantages and disadvantages.

The clinch for throws and takedowns

The advantage of using a throwing technique is obvious. A good throw can inflict as much damage, if not more, than a combination of strikes. You are hitting your opponent with the ground. For the purposes of definition, a full body throw involves both of the attacker’s feet leaving the ground as the body goes up and over your center of gravity. A properly executed throw also places an opponent in a position where you can strike, including STOMPING on their head!

A takedown is a much simpler undertaking. Any technique which puts the attacker on the ground and which is not a full body throw is considered a takedown. Full body throws can be devastating but are more difficult to set up and complete. A takedown is much easier. The disadvantage of takedowns is that they seldom disable the opponent and thus require a submission technique to complete the encounter.

The study of clinching to throw generally revolves around clinching the body; seat belts (grabbing the waist), body locks, and the use of both the “under hook” (when your arm is under the opponent’s) and the “over hook” (wrapping the arm OVER your opponent’s arms). To defend against inside striking, you should keep the lead shoulder against the opponent’s chest and the lead leg distinctly forward (i.e. do not stand square). You can also “duck under” and go around to the back. The option you choose may have to do with your relative strengths.


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Striking (打法)

29 Oct

Striking (打法)


In Chinese martial arts, “striking” can be used to refer to a variety of methods including punching, palming, elbowing and butting. In Lion’s Roar San Da, the striking techniques we used may differ from Western boxing or Muay Thai because we take into consideration grappling strategies as well. These basic elements must be considered in striking;

Distance is a key element in striking. Depending upon your strengths, you either want to maintain distance or close the gap. Distance is frequently misunderstood or not even considered by many fighters. Teaching distance means teaching body awareness. You have to instinctively know how long their arms and legs are and how to identify the proper distance while in a match.

Steering is keeping your opponent in front of you. It is also trying to steer your opponent into your power side. A superior fighter can use steering to create an opportunity where they can hit and not be hit back. Steering is about POSITION.

Level control:
Controlling level has two aspects. The first is controlling the level of the opposition. Keep the opponent upright so you can strike the best targets and to prevent shooting. The second aspect is using your own changes in level as a psychological weapon.

- Straight punches (穿拳): Jab

The jab is a straight punch delivered with the lead hand. The punch is extended forward, keeping the elbow in and turning both the shoulder and hip into the punch. The arm should remain relaxed and you should be careful not to hyper extend the elbow joint. Return your punch by dropping your elbow back to the side of your ribs and returning the fist to a position in front of the face.

- Hook punches (角搥): hook
The hook is deceptive, adjustable and powerful; making it one of the most effective punches. It can be delivered at all ranges. It has the power to end any fight immediately when used properly. The lead hook is delivered by raising the elbow until the fist and elbow are in a straight line and the forearm is parallel to the floor. The fist can be held either with the thumb facing you or upward toward the ceiling. The punch is completed by turning both the lead hip and lead shoulder into the punch.

- Overhand punches (扱搥): overhand
The overhand is related to the cross. However, unlike the cross, the hand travels over the shoulder and descends downward. The motion is similar in some respects to throwing a ball. The overhand is a power shot.


Sifu David Ross: San Da Training Systems

28 Oct


With over forty years of martial arts training, twenty five years running schools and training students, and a Master’s Degree from George Washington University in Asian Studies, Sifu David A Ross brings a unique perspective. He holds second degree black belts in Taekwondo and Hapkido under the late Master Pong Ki Kim, and is even more noted for the sixteen years he spent with the late Master Chan Tai-San, being formally adopted as his disciple. Sifu Ross also has training in the Chinese martial arts of Hung Ga and Shuai-Jiao (Chinese wrestling)


Starting in 1994, Sifu David Ross began putting his students in various combat sports competitions in order to test the methods he had been taught and his theories. He considered it a work in progress constantly revising his methods and seeking out more training. His cross training experience includes western boxing, Muay Thai, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, free style wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling and Japanese methods of Mixed Martial Arts. The core program retains his Chinese martial arts training, particularly Chan Tai-San’s Lama Pai, but never limits itself.


In total, Sifu Ross produced three world champions, over 18 national champions and a variety of regional and local champions in Sanshou, San Da, Muay Thai, and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). His school remains located in the heart of downtown Manhattan, New York City. He also offers beginner friendly program including kickboxing programs for fitness. The New York City school has over 1000 students and has been cited as one of the top 50 martial arts schools in the United States.


Mixed Martial Arts | Muay Thai | Sanshou | San Da | Boxing | Thai Boxing | MMA | Kung Fu | Chinese Martial Arts | Hung Ga | Lama Pai | Shuai Chiao | Shuai Jiao | Taekwondo | Judo | Wrestling | Greco-Roman Wrestling | Free Style Wrestling | Jujitsu | Jiujitsu | Brazilian Jiu Jitsu | Savate | Sambo | Submission Wrestling | Choy Lay Fut | Chan Tai-San | Lion’s Roar | Si Ji Hao | NYSANDA | NY San Da | Combat Sports | Shooto | Catch Wrestling | Chan Tai Shan | Black Belt | Hapkido | Yudo | Moo Duk Kwan | WTF Taekwondo | ITF Taekwondo | Tang Soo Do | Pong Ki Ki | Tai Chi | Taiji | Push Hands | Tui Shou | BJJ | Competition | Fighters | Athletes | Training | Conditioning | Rotating Curriculum | http://www.nybestkickboxing.com | NY Best Kickboxing | LKFMDC | New York San Da | http://www.nysanda.com | NY Muay Thai | New York Muay Thai | New York MMA | New York Mixed Martial Arts | New York Kickboxing |

Training to fight: David Ross of NY San Da

22 Oct


We are currently training one of the students for an upcoming Muay Thai bout. In my school, that usually means we get everyone in the program involved. The more bodies a fighter has to work with, the better. It also provides a lot of valuable lessons for those who help out.


FEAR: Fear is the first obstacle. People are afraid to get hit. They are afraid they will “look bad” in sparring. They make excuses (“it’s my first time sparring”). The first lesson to learn is that in training to fight, everyone gets hit. Everyone sweats, bleeds, gets knocked down. Everyone has a bad round or even a bad day. Sometimes people may even get knocked out in training, it happens. Everyone is afraid, and almost no one likes getting hit (I know a few exceptions).


Learning to fight is learning how to deal with FEAR. I always share a quote from the legendary boxing trainer Cus D’Amato;

“Fear is like fire. You can make it work for you: it can warm you in the winter, cook your food when you’re hungry, give you light when you are in the dark, and produce energy. Let it go out of control and it can hurt you, even kill you….Fear is a friend of exceptional people.”


ANGER: Anger is a huge issue in training to fight. People get angry, but often the real anger is at themselves. They dropped their hands, they didn’t follow up, they didn’t finish the combination, etc., This is a good example of how fighting also teaches life lessons; you can’t change the past, and if you obsess over it you are just going to make even more mistakes. Move on, keep it moving, learn from a mistake and continue training.

Another anger issue; don’t get mad, get even. When someone hits you, hit them back. When someone comes near you, hit them. When someone misses, hit them. NOTHING FOR FREE.


ATTITUDE: Protect yourself at all times AND do everything you can to injure your opponent. Don’t worry about them, don’t have sympathy. Assume they are trying to hurt you; it’s a pretty safe bet. I am NOT advocating unsportsmanlike conduct at all! I despise trash talk. I despise showboating. I insist my fighters follow the rules of whatever venue they are in. BUT, remember you are in a fight. The referee is the person who is there to look out for the fighters. A fighter’s job is to WIN. And knocking out or submitting your opponent is the best way to win.


TAKE THE BEATING IN THE GYM, NOT IN THE RING (CAGE): People disagree with me, but I have my fighters do longer rounds than they actually fight (3 to 5 minute rounds for kickboxing for example). Of course, they do 45 or 30 second rests instead of the full minute. We work up to five rounds of sparring for every round the match is scheduled for (a three round match, you spar 15 rounds, that does NOT include pad work and conditioning).

In sparring, go light enough you avoid (you can never completely prevent) injuries. But not so you are “coasting”.


BASICS AND STRATEGY: Fights are won with basics (fundamentals) and strategy. They aren’t won with fancy tricks or “showboating.” We punch the kicker for example. If one of my fighters doesn’t demonstrate that, it’s a problem. We have 18 of those maxims. We go into fights with a “world view” if you have it; we know human nature and how fights play out. One of my fighters should understand that well before the fight happens and be able to use it to their advantage.


BE COACHABLE: Are you capable of being taught and trained to do something better? Or do you think you already know? Or already know better? The biggest obstacle to most fighters is not the long rounds, the physical conditioning, the injuries, etc., The biggest obstacle to a fighter’s success is not being coachable….



NY San Da: Mission Statement

20 Oct

NY San Da: Mission Statement.

NY San Da: Mission Statement

20 Oct

In the modern world, the term “martial arts” has come to mean many different things to many different people. In the United States alone, a student can have widely different experiences depending upon which institution and instructor they choose to train under. The term martial arts training is used today in such a general way that it can cover a wide variety of activities ranging from hard core training for self defense to relaxed, esoteric, almost meditative practices intended solely for health, relaxation and fitness. There is no longer a universal standard and goal for those training in the martial arts. Furthermore, there is little discussion of perhaps the most important issues, why do modern people practice martial arts and what is the relevance of such training in modern society?


The average student begins training with only a vague understanding of why they want to practice. More often than not, those that continue training do so for reasons different their initial motivations, even if they are only dimly aware of such a transformation in their attitudes. Those who become instructors invariably recall that as time passed the practice of their chosen martial art simply became both part of their life and a part of what makes them the person they are. It is often not something they think about or discuss. Thus, both among the instructor and the student there is almost universally a lack of conscious self awareness of precisely why they do what they do and it’s precise relevance to the world they live in.

    Practical self-defense

Humans around the world first developed martial arts as a means of self-preservation, as the only defense against an often cruel and savage world. It was neither as recreation nor sport, but rather a matter of life or death. As individuals developed societies, martial arts logically developed into means of preserving and protecting the society, i.e. they became methods of warfare. Methods of fighting with swords, shields, spears, lances, axes, etc. had immediate relevance and utility to mankind for a great deal of our recorded history.


However, the relevance and meaning of martial arts training still changed as society evolved. Advances in warfare technology made many older battlefield methods either lessened in importance or completely obsolete. At the same time, increasingly urban lifestyles created a new need for both individual self defense and personal dueling methods. The average Renaissance gentleman certainly had practical need of sword fighting techniques to defend himself and his honor in the urban life he led, but very little need for battlefield training with armor and lances. Today, a student may similarly find utility in learning to defend against a knife attack but has absolutely no practical application for the sword fighting techniques the Renaissance gentleman may have used on many occasions. This appears not only to be a logical but also an obvious conclusion, yet how many martial arts students in the modern world still devote time and energy to the mastery of such archaic weaponry?

Clearly, history should teach us that the martial artist of the past lived in a world very few of us alive today would recognize or even understand. However, there is still a need for martial arts as a form of self preservation. Modern society remains violent and inhabited by professional criminals. The conditions we live under have changed, and thus the requirements for effective self defense training have also changed, but self defense skills are still essential for all people, regardless of their age, sex, social condition or profession. There is still a great relevance to martial arts training, though the technical composition of such training should naturally evolve as the world around us changes.

    Physical education and other benefits

Is the only relevance of martial arts in the modern world self defense? While self defense is so frequently cited as the reason for martial arts training, the reality is that very few of the many so called “martial arts” offer anything remotely resembling realistic and practical self defense. One reason is because of the aforementioned lack of self awareness on the part of both the student and the instructor. In particular, instructors often conduct their classes exactly as their instructors conducted them. An unbroken chain of such behavior and the result is that what is being taught is what may have been totally relevant and practical a hundred years ago but which has absolutely no utility for the modern student. The student contributes to the problem by never actually coming to grips with their actual motivations in studying a martial arts, i.e. self defense, and never stop to question and reevaluate what they are doing.


There is another contributing factor to the dilemma of self defense training that is less clearly identified and relevant to the discussion. Martial arts instructors seldom verbalize but for the most part are quite aware that very few students are interested solely in self defense training. In the modern world, martial arts can also serve other purposes. There are many benefits to martial arts in addition to their effectiveness as self defense and everyone, regardless of age, sex or physical condition can benefit.

Men and women are social creatures, seeking both friendship and recreation. Almost every single martial arts student enjoys training at least in part because they make friends, they enjoy learning new things, they feel good when they practice, they learn new things about themselves, and because it becomes part of their lifestyle. Training can cultivate the shy and those who lack confidence. On the other hand, it can also instill discipline, teach personal responsibility, and can teach them to become self reliant, independent and positive.

Many martial arts students will be fortunate enough to never have to use their sills to defend themselves but will benefit from the recreational and physical education aspects of their training every day of their lives. The practice of martial arts also has many advantages that other forms of physical education do not offer. It is an activity that can be practiced alone, without any equipment and even in small areas. It is equally well suited to practice in large groups, with a wide variety of apparatus and in large training halls. I do not honestly believe that any other activity offers such a wide range of options. Furthermore, it can remain a challenging and interesting activity for many years or even a lifetime. A properly constructed martial arts program is inclusive, offering these benefits to a large segment of the population. A program that fails to take into consideration the importance of these factors will be doomed to failure. The key is, as with all things, balance. An effective program balances realistic self defense training with physical education and recreation.


If a martial art strives to be relevant and beneficial it offers its students self defense, physical education, and recreation. The core of a modern martial art offers a training program suitable to a wide population (ideally both male and female students between the ages of 14 and 40) which will improve and maintain health, teach body awareness and serve technically as the foundation for specialized training (e.g. combative, law enforcement and elite sport competition). The core training should consist of the basic movements including effective methods for self defense. In addition, as a form of recreation the core training program must also have a wide variety of techniques to keep interest. Modifications for children (under 13) and for executive (over 40) will be necessary but these programs should still conform to the same principles as the core program. Finally, modern martial arts training should include the development of ethics, self discipline and confidence. The instructor and training environment should strive to achieve these results.

David Ross: Lion’s Roar San Da

19 Oct

If you know me or followed me on this blog, on facebook, etc., you probably know that when cornered, I will describe what I do as “Lion’s Roar San Da” (獅子吼散打拳法). “Lion’s Roar” was of course the original name of the method that split into Lama Pai, Hap Ga and Pak Hok Pai. My teacher, the late Chan Tai-San, had teachers in all three of these traditions and did a pretty comprehensive job recovering the tradition in his teachings.

chan tai san applications

The term “San Da” can be reasonably described as “free fighting” but more importantly, to me, it describes an ideology; a desire to be effective, to acquire material regardless of the source to improve that effectiveness, to train alive and to keep practical fighting at the forefront. It isn’t at all a new concept in Chinese martial arts, yet it is also very much an Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) approach.


The system I teach today, have been teaching for twenty years now, uses Chan Tai-San’s material as a core, while embracing a modern, San Da/MMA approach. I’ve certainly incorporated non Chan Tai-San material, that isn’t even the point. I’ve absorbed whatever I felt worked within the framework of the system I had to improve it. And I’ve been remarkably successful for twenty years now producing both fighters and simply skilled students.

My approach, my “secret”, to training my students and fighters is, not surprisingly, very much traditional Chinese martial arts. We embrace core concepts and have essential drills which reinforce these concepts. Drilling the same things (the fundamentals, more than just “basics”) over and over and over again is how we build skill. Of course, the difference between what I do and what many so-called traditional schools do currently is HOW I chose my concepts and drills.

People have often wanted to characterize me as “anti tradition” or “anti kung fu.” But the reality is anything but; what I am opposed to is watering down technique, teaching flowery nonsense, ineffective training, deceiving students and the carnival bullshit that has taken over the Chinese martial arts community. I’ve taken students with no other martial arts background, trained them in traditional Chinese martial arts techniques and tactics and put them in virtually every venue available to test them, and they’ve won. That’s hardly “anti kung fu” is it?


Nor have I “abandoned” my teacher! I’ve kept his methods alive and PROVEN THEM FOR TWENTY YEARS. I’ve also pointed out, even shown video of it!, that my sifu, when he was alive and well, was present when I was training fighters, saw how I was incorporating other material and not only took no issue with it, he approved of it. Not surprising when you remember that Chan Tai-San was first and foremost a fighter, much more than he was even a teacher.

Finally, I should note that over the years, I have almost never had a set technique curriculum. Al of the ranking I have done has been “informal.” That is because I stress “concepts” over “teachnique.” I stress intention (YI) over the shallow form (Ying). A shopping list of a few techniques is no substituted for an understanding of concept and application. In fact, it is exactly this limited thinking that has so watered down Chinese martial arts. They see the tree but never the forest.


Manhattan NYC Kickboxing Classes

13 Oct

My name is David A Ross and I am head instructor at New York San Da, one New York City’s oldest and best established kickboxing gyms. I opened the gym in Hell’s Kitchen (near the garment district NYC) more than a decade ago for one purpose. I had already been teaching martial arts since 1989 and knew that kickboxing and martial arts were great exercise and a great way to improve your life. I wanted people from all over, not just Manhattan, to enjoy the benefits of this training.

The basic kickboxing classes I offer combine elements of kung fu, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Western boxing, san shou, san da, French savate and karate and are designed for beginners.

I also offer advanced martial arts classes focused on San Da / Thai boxing, Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts.

I teach martial arts to adults… ONLY ADULTS

11 Oct


A quick rant…..

At one point, martial arts schools were the fastest growing business in the United States. People decided to follow their dreams and used their life savings to open their school. Unfortunately, between 2009 and today, the martial arts industry has shrunk an astounding 50%. Half the schools that were open in 2009 have now shut their doors!

WHY? That’s the million dollar (in debt) question, isn’t it? Let’s take a look at an industry survey from one of the major martial arts business consulting organizations. I found the results both interesting and quite revealing.

Questions from the survey

How many active students do you teach?

0–200 students (75%)

The vast majority of respondents still have fewer than 200 students. You can read this a lot of ways. One positive, the industry clearly has room for growth. But watch when I pull up the next question!

What percentage of your students are children and ADULTS?

50% of their total active students are children. (83%)

30% or less of their total active students are adults. (57%)

This survey tells us that 83% of the schools in this study, and many are the “big earners” and the owners on the cutting edge of the industry, have less than 100 adults students. More than half have 60 adults or LESS!

The traditional martial arts industry model, which has been force fed down the throats of everyone who has ever owned a martial arts school and wanted to make it into a real business, has NEVER addressed the needs of an adult market! What is worse, the adult market is becoming even LESS interested in the traditional “add-ons”. That is, they are increasingly rejecting mysticism and elitism.

If you know me, you know that in my school EVERY SINGLE STUDENT IS AN ADULT. I do not teach anyone under the age of 16. My school has no uniforms, no belts, no kata, no one step sparring, no black belt clubs, no “SWAT” teams, NONE of the things the industry has been shoving down your throat for years.

You should also know that I offer one of the hardest workouts there is. People have puked during the warm up, even a few walked out. I don’t “water down” anything I do. And I strongly believe that most of my clients love my school precisely because I challenge them AND because they see RESULTS.

- ” I lost 38lbs in 5 months and it was purely down to this.”

- “Before going to Ny San Da, I was 230 lbs, and now im about 204 and lossing.”

- “Before I started at NY San Da I would get out of breath climbing the stairs from the subway. After just a few months of regular workouts I was able to breathe easily even when doing intense cardio work.”

- ” I have lost 40 pounds in the last year and a half.”

All real students who shared these on my facebook group.

What role forms in martial arts training?

10 Oct

Forms? Under various names in different traditions, form practice remains one of those topics that will generate not only a varied but also very heated discussion among martial artists. What role do forms play in martial arts training? Is it an outdated idea, whose purpose has passed us by?

kung fu

I’ve certainly learned my fair share of forms; in systems such as Taekwondo, Karate, Hung Ga, and Lama Pai. I even picked up forms in places I only briefly studied or from friends; Dragon style, Praying Mantis, Long Fist, Baji… One of the greatest ironies of my life is, when I first heard about Chan Tai-San, I initially thought I’d just pick up a few “cool” forms from him and that would be it. Oh how wrong I was on that count.

Kung Fu-3

In retrospect, my martial arts career had just as much training WITHOUT forms; the western boxing I did at the PAL, the few months of Judo I did as a child, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, all that mixed martial arts cross training…..

So, what can we say about forms training? Is it “practical”? In what sense? Or is it, like an outhouse, a function of a more primitive society, whose use we’ve long outgrown?


We can start with the most obvious; forms practice is NOT “fight training.” You can know a pile of forms, practice them daily, be excellent at them, and have NO ABILITY TO FIGHT AT ALL…..

While many people hold what they assume are “traditional” forms (many practice sets that have been SIGNIFICANTLY MODIFIED in very recent years and/or are actually very recent inventions and yet hold them to be “ancient secrets”) very close to their hearts; there IS a very strong argument that forms exist because martial arts were often practice by illiterate or semi-literate people and they were the best way to “catalog” the contents of a particular tradition. In this context, we ask if they are still relevant in an age when most of us can read and write and we have advanced storage systems. Most of us even carry a video camera with us wherever we go!


Of course, there is also something to be said for the fact that forms require us to perform the basics of our system hundreds, perhaps thousands of times. It is a sneaky but effective way to make us do those repetitions that many of us would normally avoid. I learned over 50 hand sets under Chan Tai-San, and in them I must have done the basics “fist seeds” hundreds of thousands of times!

If we view forms in this regard, there is something to be said for them. That is, if we also accept and assume they will be accompanied by just as much hands-on, practical, two person drilling. I’d suggest the challenge for the modern martial artist if finding the time to do this; today in traditional schools we more frequently see a lot of time devoted to solo technique practice and forms practice with very little time devoted to “alive” partner practice.


I’ve long suspected that forms practice has served another purpose. When I think back to those hours I spent with Chan Tai-San, him performing a technique, and my copying his movement, to remember the sequence and then replicate it over and over again. I was involved in movement study. I was learning to move, HOW to move, HOW to acquire new skills. I know that later in life, studying other things, many instructors found it fascinating how I could just watch something and then pick it up. This applied to ALL of Chan Tai-San’s senior students. I remember when YC Wong did a seminar in New York City, teaching a Pek Gwa set. Chan Tai-San’s seniors all picked up the set the first time YC Wong walked them through it. YC Wong commented that usually it took him 2 to 3 hours to teach this set, and we had all learned it in about 15 minutes….

The counter argument, the flip side, is that many people can NOT learn this way. Years of Chan Tai-San’s students trying to run their own schools demonstrated that many people aren’t only unable to learn this way, the ONLY way they can learn is by a slow, almost painful, “dumbing down” of the material.

And, of course, this still does not account/negate the fact that for fighting, you STILL need those hours of hands-on, practical two person drilling and sparring.



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