Tim Cartmell on the Xingyiquan Fighter

17 Aug

As always, good stuff from Tim

Ground Dragon Martial Arts

Hey everyone, here is another my posts on Xingyiquan and Baguazhang specifically.  This time let’s discuss Tim’s view on the Xingyi oriented fighter and what that means.  All of this materially was found on the Shen Wu Discussion Boards, this is just a small bit that I pulled off a few years ago.

4171_4_15-hsing-techniquesStrategy and Technique

The underlying strategy of Xing Yi Quan is based around ending a martial confrontation in the most expedient manner possible (usually, while inflicting the maximum amount of damage to the opponent). It is not so much a system of self-defense as aggressive offense. The founder of the Art, Ji Ji Ke (Ji Long Feng), was a famous warrior, and his warrior’s mentality carried over into the boxing style he created. The “self-defense mentality” is one of escaping from a violent encounter unharmed. The ‘warrior’ mentality is one of taking out the opponent as quickly…

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The kung fu hobbyist…

16 Aug

Another NSFW blog from Sifu Ross…

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of video footage of the late Chan Tai-San. It just wasn’t a time when video cameras were something we all walked around with in our pockets. Much of the footage of Chan Tai-San is from demonstrations, but one particularly good film involves him teaching some Bak Mei (白眉) to Michael Parrella.

The footage is on the internet, so it is inevitable it will inspire various reactions. However, the reaction I want to focus upon today is this one; people ask why Chan Tai-San performs so differently than so much of the other footage that is available.

It has often been said that Chan Tai-San was one of those links to a lost past. But more importantly, he was indicative of a major change in the evolution of Chinese martial arts. Chan Tai-San was born in 1920. It was a time when we first began to see the kung fu hobbyist. Chan Tai-San was more indicative of an earlier period, he was not a hobbyist. He had occupational necessity for practical kung fu. He was in the military most of his life.

As my book Chinese martial arts: a historical outline details, prior to the 1920’s almost everyone doing kung fu had occupational necessity for practical kung fu. It was something almost exclusively practiced by military men or police (or, the other side of that equation).

Other great kung fu men, such as Chang Tung Sheng, continued to follow in this tradition. Chang was both a military officer and a member of the CID in Taiwan. He taught his brand of Shuai Jiao in the police training college.

As my book details, the “break” was not immediate, nor was it complete. In the 1920’s organizations like the Jing Wu still offered BOTH military related training (bayonet training for example) and public kung fu classes focused on physical education, ie for the”hobbyist”. None the less, more and more people who were not necessarily dependent upon practical application became involved in martial arts practice.

Sifu Ross NSFW blog continued

14 Aug

Pretty much every morning I wake up and remember what it was like to be that little kid that walked into the late Pong Ki Kim’s Dojang. I was positive my instructor was some wise old sage (he was younger at the time than I am now). I was positive he had learned some ancient secrets. I wanted to learn to fly through the air like Bruce Lee had done in that movie I had just seen.

I had been diagnosed with Leukemia at age 6. I spent almost two years in the hospital. I had been home schooled. I wasn’t necessarily supposed to live, I was definitely supposed to be a cripple. I didn’t know how to play any of the sports my peers were engaged in. If I hadn’t found martial arts, where would I be today?

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that I took to martial arts. It didn’t just provide me “health”, everyone I knew, everyTHING I knew was related to it. But there is always one thing that I am quick to point out; somehow, by sheer luck (?), I started off my path with an awesome and pretty unique martial arts teacher, and I continued on that path literally stumbling into great opportunity after great opportunity.

From Pong Ki Kim, I stumbled into Dang Fong (aka Tang Fung) Hung Ga under an herbalist from Malaysia. I wandered around NYC’s Chinatown mostly getting into trouble (that is another blog entirely) until I stumbled in Jeng Hsin Ping’s Shuai Jiao school. Perhaps the world’s best authority on Chang’s method and certainly full of knowledge, it prepared me to appreciated Chan Tai San’s method later. It was also where I met the late Stephen Laurette, who not only introduced me to Chan Tai San, but also exposed me to many of his Praying Mantis classmates under the late Chiu Leun.

Of course, Chan Tai San’s social circle was the stuff of legends and I met and interacted with a lot of them. But I continue to “get lucky”; recently we trained with Taiwan’s Luo Dexiu.

For whatever strange reason, I also got interested in “fighting”. This led me to meeting a whole other sub set of extraordinary people. ME, the little sick kid that wasn’t necessarily supposed to live and was supposed to be a cripple?

Sifu David Ross NSFW blog…

13 Aug

People approach martial arts like religion, perhaps with even more devotion in many cases; so suggesting anything counter to their dearly held beliefs, especially any criticism, frequently causes violent reactions. But just like religion, when you have holy cows you never question there are consequences. There can be SERIOUS consequences.

Yesterday on Facebook I posted a new response to the now infamous “Taiji vs MMA” challenge fight that was not a fight (it lasted about 10 seconds). The response, a video with comments, was actually from a well respected Taiji person with excellent credentials, but the inevitable ensured. It follows a predictable pattern, ALWAYS. First, the unqualified claim that Chinese martial arts is indeed effective in fighting, and to say other wise is ridiculous (i.e. like the five stages of grief, the first response is denial). Second, when confronted with logic and requests to provide evidence of their claim you get ANGER. Gosh darn, it really IS like the five stages of grief, isn’t it?

So, predictably, you get to the third stage; BARGAINING. There are SOME people who “do it right”. Maybe they are mythical monks. Maybe they just don’t feel the need to prove their skills. You (general, to no one in particular) just have not met/encountered a “real master”.

After a few hours of consideration (and a few cups of coffee); I think the problem is more nuanced and more difficult. When I think back to growing up in the martial arts community in New York there were indeed Chinese martial arts schools and there were indeed good teachers. Teachers who understood how their systems worked and who could fight.

The first problem was, you could be aware of these schools and yet they were still very hard to get the training. They were all in NYC’s Chinatown. Unlike the average karate, taekwondo or judo school you didn’t just show up and sign up for classes. There were both language and cultural barriers.

Of course, I should also mention that NYC’s Chinatown is a maze of Tongs, associations and street gangs. This was especially true in the “old days” which were supposed to be the “kung fu age”. And, sad as I am to report it, more than a few of the schools and their teachers were involved in these things.

The point here is simple. The high quality people were probably ALWAYS the minority. They were hard to find, hard to convince to train you and then of course there the nasty fact you’d have to devote your entire life to studying with them.

Make no mistake, there were (are) a number of non-Chinese who also learned these real skills. Some learned them in NYC’s Chinatown. Others learned them in Hong Kong, or Taiwan. Unfortunately, upon consideration, most of them that I know of also seemed to learn from their teachers the same qualities of eccentrism and reclusiveness. Or, another way, a lot of us are simply a–holes….

So, when the real people abandon the community and the discussion, what is left is the charlatans and the snake oil salesman. And unfortunately, Chinese martial arts seems to attract these types in droves. And martial arts students seem eager to buy their bullsh-t. Sad but true.

Chan Tai-San kung fu in America

10 Aug

In the United States (mainly the New York City area) the late Chan Tai-San taught a lot of people. When he first arrived, he mostly taught in schools belonging to other teachers; 7 Star Praying Mantis, Yee’s Hung Ga and Fu Jow Pai most prominently. He taught their students so they were not really his students in that sense.

Once Chan Tai-San was able to arrange to have his own locations (first the Church that eventually burned down and then the Chan family association building), he was able to teach people who could better be considered his students. Of course, virtually everyone who was training with Chan Tai-San had also previously studied.

After the late Stephen Laurette introduced Steve Ventura and myself to Chan Tai-San, a group that more resembled full time students of Chan Tai-San began to form. Laurette, Ventura and I all trained with Chan Tai-San at the same time. As others came, mostly through advertisement we were doing for Sifu Chan, they also trained with us. So everyone training at the same time created a kind of cohesiveness.

As I have said previously, after an article on Chan Tai-San and Lama Pai appeared in Inside Kungfu Magazine we set up true public classes.

So people still ask me, “did person X study with Chan Tai-San”? There a lot of people who studied with Chan Tai-San in various permutations. But there are also a LOT of people who studied with Chan Tai-San’s students who now want to lead you to believe they are direct students.

“How much did they learn from Chan Tai-San”? In many cases it is impossible to say exactly, but keep in mind that Chan Tai-San did not speak English. If a person doesn’t really speak Chinese, that should raise a few flags.

“Why can’t they explain the applications or demonstrate the same things”? You’d have to ask them that. Of course, people perform things differently, have different interpretations, but there was a LOT of material that Chan Tai-San stressed with his real students.

People have short memories, and everyone likes to tell stories, so it is inevitable that stuff like this happens….

If you think I’ve helped you, you can help me out

4 Aug

I put a lot of free content on the internet. There is this blog. There is my Youtube channel. There is my public facebook group. I enjoy sharing information with people, I actually sort of see it as a “calling”.

Usually, I don’t ask anything in return. And honestly now I am not expecting anything, BUT IF YOU CAN, please help my gym. Click the link below


We recently relocated and renovations were more expensive and took longer than we ever planned. So I’d really like to be able to replace my bags, but I came up a little short.

I can even sweaten the offer a bit, donate $50 or more and I’ll send you an autographed copy of any of my books! Email me at info@nysanda.com if you do


Tim Cartmell on Xingyiquan’s Five Elements

2 Aug

Source: Tim Cartmell on Xingyiquan’s Five Elements

Thoughts on “pure system” vs “cross training”

26 Jul

Among my students there is a widely known concept, based upon my own experiences with the late Chan Tai-San. We would ask Chan Tai-San, “Sifu, is it this or this”? “Is it a throw or a strike”? “Do we do it this way or this way”? And the answer was inevitably the same; YES.

In life, things are seldom black OR white. There are a lot of shades of gray. Yet in the martial arts world, many people cling to absolutes usually to their own detriment. Such is the case of those who, for lack of a better term, look for “pure system” vs those who embrace “cross training”.

The approach of the “pure system” person is that all the material, all the answers, are already there. Certainly, a real system passed on correctly (Chinese martial arts) will have “ti, do, shuai, and na”; a well rounded complete approach. Of course, we could argue (observe) that most traditional systems do not have anything resembling the modern approach to ground fighting. We could note the long history of Chinese martial artists against Muay Thai fighters (and now MMA fighters). But I’ll return to this in a minute.

Today, “cross training” is a very popular approach. Cross training embraces ideas such as Western boxing to improve hand striking. Muay Thai or Savate to improve kicking, wrestling to improve the clinch, etc etc. One thing is certain, the various “source methods” are all very effective at producing fighters. The question remains, the central problem, is “cross training” just meaninglessly random? How should it be approached correctly?

My own approach or “take” on all this? My students and those who have come to train with me all know that anything I teach I can simultaneously “source” to BOTH traditional Chinese martial arts AND other non-Chinese (often “modern”) methods. Yes, there is probably nothing in “modern” methods that can’t be found in traditional Chinese methods. Yet, let us also be brutally honest, there are VERY FEW people in traditional Chinese martial arts today who can demonstrate with practicality many of these methods.

The late Chan Tai-San taught me a tremendous amount. But part of my appreciation of his methods was based upon other training I had done before meeting him, both Chinese and non-Chinese methods. Furthermore, more importantly, I would NOT be who I am if I had settled for the training I did with Chan Tai-San.

For me at least, “cross training” allowed me to appreciate and IMPROVE what I had learned from Chan Tai-San. What we know as “arm drag” exists in a lot of Chinese martial arts, most notably as a push hand (Tui Shou) tactic in Taiji Quan, but learning how Western wrestlers drill it improves your understanding and execution without question! Chan Tai-San certainly taught me side kicks and back kicks, but training in Taekwondo and Savate gave me new ways of approaching and training them! At bare minimum, boxing gloves gave us better ways to train the powerful strikes of Lama Pai.

Keep up with my products, seminars and coaching programs at http://www.SifuDavidRoss.com

Also find me on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sifudavidaross/

Some thoughts on failure….

10 Jul

I am a failure; let me highlight the many ways I am a failure.

My health has since childhood been a roller coaster ride and I have failed to maintain a steady weight. I do not have the body of a “martial arts master”, especially if your idea are men like the late Bruce Lee.

My school is never going to make me a millionaire. I almost closed twice in the years I was open. In fact, I tell you, I do things that I know make it not as successful as it could be.

I haven’t always been the best instructor / sifu; like my own teacher I have had moments of anger and times when I was insensitive to certain students.

On the other hand, I’ve been a relatively good son, a relatively good husband and I am trying to be the best father. I brought my daughter into the world, which made my wife, my mother and my father happy.

My school may not make me a millionaire, but thousands of people have been there, learned something, it has helped them achieve at least some of their goals. I have students that have been with me 20 years. Others may not be in class now, but they remain a part of my extended family.

I have kept alive the memory and the teachings of the late Chan Tai-San.

My own teachings have reached not only my students, but others. People have written to tell me I influenced them, some even saying I have changed how and what they practice.

So am I a failure?

I was very fortunate to have both my grandfather and my father as role models; men who defined success in ways very different than many. Different, not better. Certainly, in some ways HARDER. But I am still happy who I am (most of the time). I know I had reasons why I made most of the choices I have in life.

Some thoughts on “defense”, impact and pain

9 Jun

A brief and simplified outline; First, get used to pain

Second, learn basic methods to defend

Third, get used to impact

Fourth, learn the theory….

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