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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?

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 if you do

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.

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FREE CONTENT – instructional videos and more

8 Jun

If you enjoy my blog, you may enjoy my free content on youtube. At present over 250 videos including instructional and historical. Subscribe to my youtube channel (click).

I also share free content on my official website,

Finally, you will also find on a link to register for my “secret group”. As of this morning, there are now more than 320 “members only” instructional videos that are uploaded in my secret group.

My secret group members have unlimited access not only to all the instructional videos there, but also outlines of all the material including the traditional Chinese names of the techniques with the Chinese characters, members only blog posts and access to question and answer sessions. All for just $1.50 per day (cancel anytime, no commitment). Find our more at

Thoughts on “style” and “tradition”

1 Apr

What was Chan Tai San’s favorite system? What style do you teach? Which style is best? Is it a northern system? Etc etc blah blah…

Before I ever met Chan Tai San, I had done western boxing, had second degree black belts in Taekwondo and Hapkido and had studied Shuai Jiao and Hung Ga.

I learned a lot of things with Chan Tai San, but my primary area of study was “Lama Pai”. What exactly is (was) “Lama Pai”? Western Chinese long arm, Northern Chinese kicking, Mongolian wrestling, Southern Chinese short arm and a good deal of Indian martial art as well. To think of “Lama Pai” as a “pure system” is to miss the point entirely.

I should also note that Chan Tai San studied anywhere from 5 to 9 different versons / traditions / lineages / different teacher’s version of “Lama Pai” so his version was a mix of many things. Of course, Chan Tai San also knew Choy Lay Fut, Village style Hung fist, White Eyebrow, Mok Ga, Hung Fut and bits of a lot of martial arts. Some of them not even Chinese! Chan Tai San was very fond of both Japanese Judo and western boxing.

When we did demonstrations, whether it was Chan Tai San or any of the students, people were always confused. They would see elements of all the systems mentioned on our demonstrations. “Which was it” they wanted to know? It was Chan Tai San’s method, often influenced by what we the students had also done (a lot of my demos were influenced by my Hung Ga background as well)

Was Lama Pai Chan Tai San’s favorite system? NO. I can safely say that Chan Tai San’s favorite system was “take my fist and smash your face”. He was also pretty fond of “Kick you in the nuts”.

Of course, he had a lot of variations upon these systems. I still teach variations of “take my fist and smash your face” and “kick you in the nuts”. I was already teaching my own versions of these systems when Chan Tai San was still alive, and he was pretty supportive of my versions.

People don’t get who I am and why I am the way I am. They wonder (aloud) why I “left Chan Tai San’s teachings” when in fact they have no idea what Chan Tai San’s teachings were about. Only my hing-dai (training class mates) get it, because THEY WERE THERE. Even a lot of them don’t get it, because they were busy drinking the kool-aid….

Lion’s Roar Martial Arts, documenting my version of the Chan Tai-San lineage is available on (click)

Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?

7 Dec

The Chinese martial arts community is often compared to crabs in a barrel; the analogy being that members of the community will attempt to negate or diminish the importance of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, spite, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress. Having just returned recently from a relevant sermon at my church, I rather like the following quote;

“Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?”
– John the Baptist

When it comes to martial arts, we aren’t simply talking about business competition. People come to martial arts instructors to help them, they put a lot of trust in them. A dishonest martial arts instructor can not only steal people’s money, they can ruin their lives, destroy their confidence and teach them things that can physically harm them. Martial arts, like some other similar communities, has its fair share of cults. So I personally have no qualms about calling out frauds and con men. It is an admittedly unpopular position in our community; it’s “rude”, it’s “aggressive”, it’s against “we de” (martial virtue)… No, actually that’s all crap. If someone is a fraud or a con man there is nothing to defend.


My teacher, the late Chan Tai-San, certainly has a number of legitimate representatives. I am friendly with many, perhaps even most. The ones I am not particularly friendly with, I certainly have no problem giving them their proper due. That is never the issue. But if you expect me to not call out someone selling made up crap as the material my teacher taught you have a serious problem.


Make no mistake, I know as much about Chan Tai-San and his method as anyone, and significantly more than most. I spent decades with him, virtually every day, traveled with him, taught his public classes and translated for him. I confess, it amuses when people who were never there are suddenly experts on the subject. There are students or students of students who think they know something, THEY DO NOT.

Chan Tai-San's public class from early 1990's

Chan Tai-San’s public class from early 1990’s

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Life with and without Chan Tai-San….

14 Jul

July 12. 2016 would have been Chan Tai-San’s 96th birthday, and in response someone asked me a very interesting question. In essence, they asked how exactly Chan Tai-San effected me personally when he was alive, and how effected I was once he passed. I generally think that people have misperceived how Chan Tai-San conducted himself, thinking that martial arts “masters” must act in a certain way, based more on bad movies than real life.

public class

I not only learned awesome martial arts from Chan Tai-San, my relationship with him really did establish me in the Wu Lin. I already had training, and I had already had a certain reputation in New York City’s Chinatown prior to meeting him; but that reputation was not positive and I was definitely an “outsider”. Chan Tai San put me in charge of his public classes and introduced me to the world as his disciple. He opened a lot of doors for me.


In running Chan Tai San’s public classes, I was training almost everyone in the system’s basics and I was given a rather free hand. I’d even say that if I wanted input, I had to ask for it! I vividly remember learning methods and drills only because I had asked a question and received them in response. There are still people around who were there in those days, and they can confirm that training included a lot of conditioning, a lot of two person drilling and sparring. I was also the person who made the decision to attend our first NACMAF tournament; where we placed equally in empty hand forms, weapons forms and sparring.


Like many traditional teachers, Chan Tai San only directly trained a small circle of his most advanced students. He full expected and accepted that from that circle, his own students would teach the larger group in his name. Not only was I leaving New York to attend graduate school, Michael Parrella was already planning to open a location in Long Island. At the same time Steve Ventura returned from living in Florida and opened a location in Manhattan with the help of Stephen Innocenzi. So there were several locations you could learn Chan Tai San’s methods, but not directly from him. He supervised and was there to offer advice, but he definitely ran a “loose ship”.


My personal interests have always seemed to lean toward application and fighting. Experiences while I was away in graduate school, and the major changes in the martial arts world in general, resulted in my trying my hand at training fighters for full contact venues. A lot of people seem to think that was some sort of a “break” with Chan Tai San? But Chan Tai San had himself fought in organized fighting competitions. He fought in the Guangdong provincial sparring championships, in several military sparring contests and even in several western boxing bouts. Not only did I have the “freedom” to train fighters, it was something Chan Tai San actually found personally interesting.


Chan Tai-San officially retired more than 16 years ago. The few years proceeding that retirement, he was not that active either as his health had deteriorated as a result of diabetes. Which is to say, some people with “opinions” were infants or yet to be born when most of this happened. Chan Tai San actually attended many of the events I brought my fighters to; if anyone really thinks that Chan Tai-San did not enjoy watching people associated with his name win full contact matches then they did not know him very well.


Of course, once he retired and after he passed away I was “free” to do anything I wanted. I did a lot of cross training, but I always remind people that Chan Tai San did TONS of cross training, had studied many methods, had many teachers and even done the “Baai Si” ceremony with more than one! In addition to Choy Lay Fut, Lama Pai and Pak Mei, he was extremely fond of western boxing and Japanese Judo.


Furthermore, I had already trained in other martial arts PRIOR to meeting Chan Tai San, he was fully aware of that and never had a problem with that. In fact, he told me that it figured into his decision to have me teach his public classes. Go figure….

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Today is Chan Tai-San’s birthday

12 Jul

July 12 is Chan Tai-San’s birthday. Today he would have been 96. It is a chapter of my life that is hard to explain to people if they were not there. Yes, in some ways it was “cool” like some sort of kung-fu movie. In other ways, it was quite a wake up call about what Chinese martial arts were most definitely NOT. I was a very lucky person to get to study with Chan Tai-San, I think about him every day and despite our complicated relationship, I still think about him every day.


The first time I saw Chan Tai San, I didn’t even know who he was, much less that I’d spend a good part of my life with him. I had heard some things about him around Chinatown, particularly during the brief period I was lion dancing with the Dragon style. Some of the people there had tried to get Chan Tai San to teach them Pak Mei (white eyebrow). Later I would figure out that a friend had actually been telling me about Chan Tai San, but he had told me that there was a teacher from “Taiwan” when really Chan Tai San was from “Toi San”.


At that time in my life, I wasn’t interested in finding a teacher. I had studied Hung Ga and Shuai Jiao, and had bits and pieces of material from floating around Chinatown for years. I was actually making some money lion dancing, though the politics of the place meant I wasn’t really learning any martial arts there. I already had my own group of students, and I never really imagined how meeting Chan Tai San would change my life so much.

tiger claw

So one day I was sitting in Tin Yik, a restaurant that no longer exists but in which at the turn of the century Sun Yat Sen had tea there while collecting money for his cause in NY. It was a little place, and mostly Chinese, but I always managed to order and it was the sort of place that if you sat and BS’ed they didn’t care. A lot of the people who studied in Chinatown knew about the place and ate there.


Old Chinese men arguing was nothing strange here, but one guy was louder than the rest. He then suddenly stood up and proceeded to run through a line of movement. Now, I know it was Pak Mei, but at the time I just knew it was some sort of Kung Fu. After demonstrating the movement, he apparently must have felt he proved his point. The guy he was arguing with sort of put his head down, and Sifu Chan actually slapped his forehead. As I would later learn, when it came to martial arts, Chan Tai San was ALWAYS right, and he wasn’t shy about telling you, showing you and pointing it out afterwards.

cts bccs

At this point, Steve ventura, who was eating with me, had pulled our friend the waiter over. He was a man I’d get to know over the years and call “uncle”. I didn’t know either at the time, but he was a relative of Sifu Chan’s. He did Taiji and Tan Teui (spring legs) in the part every morning. His Taiji was his own synthetic form, he’d studied with like 20 different guys including version of yang, chen, wu, hao and li…

CTS chan kiu

Anyway, my “uncle” as I would learn to call him, told us he was a famous teacher who had just arrived from China recently. He told us the name, which only sort of stuck, we were dumb foreigners who didn’t speak Chinese at the time. But he also told us he spoke no English and wasn’t exactly interviewing for students. A little crest fallen, I figured it wasn’t mean to be…. of coure, I was wrong

Is your martial art “shallow”?

3 Jun

Are you my friend on FACEBOOK? Do you follow my fan page “Sifu David Ross”? Perhaps you follow my Youtube channel? You might have noticed I actually have a second Youtube channel with a slightly different focus. Well, people who do often ask me why I give away so much free content?


When I began training, back when I was doing the Korean martial arts of Taekwondo and Hapkido under the late Pong Ki Kim, I often heard that one of the problems with martial arts was that once you got your black belt there wasn’t a lot more to learn? I didn’t believe it back then and rather quickly saw one of the major problems. Pong Ki Kim set up a class for the black belts, but many of them had forgotten the foundation material as they had worked their way from belt to belt, test to test. We ended up spending more time reviewing the requirements from white to black belt than we did learning new material.


Training with the late Chan Tai-San I saw the same problem, perhaps exasperated by the fact there were language barriers. Chan Tai-San was a walking encyclopedia of Chinese martial arts, particularly their training and application. But people frequently lacked the basics and the understanding to progress with him.


So, returning to my initial statement, why do I offer so much free content? The easiest answer is because I have so much material, I never feel I will run out of material to demonstrate or teach. In fact, I frequently worry I will never have enough time to teach it all!

drag three

Four books, and more then ten instructional DVD’s (which you can find at and I have barely scratched the surface. Every day I think of something else I want to film, and I frequently get to it! So my “challenge” to you all is, ask yourself, can you say the same thing? And if not, is it because your training to this point has been shallow?

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