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.
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.