CUE DRAMATIC MUSIC…. 3, 2, 1 … I am done with the fight business!!! Well, NO, not really, I have people alredy scheduled to fight in the New Year. But if you know me you know that my emphasis has changed over the past few years. I used to have 20+ active fighters and we went to events every weekend. We sometimes traveled across the country and were everpresent in regional combat sports. The past few years, I have had a few fightes and we do events every few months, mostly all local.
Nothing lasts forever. In fact, if you live long enough you should probably expect a lot of changes in your life. In the 1980’s I was looking for the right Chinese martial arts sytem. I trained with quite a few good teachers, and eventually settled with Chan Tai-San. To say I am a lucky man to have trained with Chan Tai-San is an understatement. He was a unique person who taught me incredible stuff. I was completely dedicated to Chan Tai San and between 1989 when I published my first article about him until 1994 I was tireless in promoting him and his system, Lama Pai.
In 1994, I began training fighters. I pick this date because it was the year we promoted a Lei Tai (platform) style Sanshou fight for the USA WKF organization and we put a student on the platform in an organized full contact fight for the first time. I wasn’t happy with the result and the UFC had already caught my attention. I began figuring out (yes, literally trial and error) how to train fighters. Initially, I was also interested in “proving Chinese martial arts.” This was the early MMA era, the “NHB era,” actually, and everyone was in the “us against them” camp mentality.
I would say that I quickly outgrew this thinking. I did indeed find tons of totally useful and practical stuff in Lama Pai (and other Chinese martial arts), but I also wanted to learn western wretling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Truth be told, we were already influenced by Muay Thai. No martial artist, especially kung fu person, interested in any full contact wasn’t aware of Muay Thai and influenced by it. I quickly stopped caring where stuff came from, just that it worked. I put together a very nice collection of material from different sources and we did very well in all fighting formats.
However, as I told one of my classmates under Chan Tai San recently, I feel I have nothing left to prove. 19 years of producing fighters who have done very well, I can safely say I know what works, how it works and how to train it. I have sorted out the real Chinese martial art from the nonsense. I have found what works well with it (wrestling, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, etc). I am increasingly now thinking about legacy, tradition, and the next generation.
In March, I will be teaching a “kung fu class” again. That is to say, teaching the material I now know is valid, having trimmed not only the “fluff” but also some unnecessary repetitions and having settled on a few “handsets” instead of the more than thirty that Chan Tai-San taught in his lifetime. I see my new vision as a combination of “old” and “new” methods and I think something quite valuable will come of it….