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!


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