Archive | Self Defense RSS feed for this section

Late night thoughts on DEFENSE

26 May

We can not escape biology, psychology or physics. We must be constantly aware of them and work not only around them, but with them. The “fight or flight” response may be one of the most foundational; but at times flight is not possible and it can be detrimental to combat.

Shielding is probably the most instinctive response in defense. This is not surprising; gross motor skills are always easier acquired than fine motor skills. But shielding must be learned intelligently and correctly. There are correct ways to shield.

Shielding quickly allows the student to also become accustomed to contact. Becoming accustomed to pain and contact is essential to learning defense. Again there are correct ways to learn this.

Against linear / direct attacks, the parry is probably the highest percentage defense. That is, it is probably the easiest defense against linear / direct attacks for most people to learn.

Other methods of defense require awareness of angles of attack, and comfort with moving forward in the face of those attacks. That is what makes them more advanced methods.

The need for balance in today’s martial arts community

28 Jun

For me personally, I “stumble upon” ideas over a period of time. The process for me seems to be that I begin with an idea, and toy with / experiment with it for a relatively long time and THEN, only then, does a more coherent statement of an opinion emerge. I am not sure how the process is for others, but this is how it works for me. I have already been embracing an idea for a few years now, but today I think I stumbled upon a more coherent expression of it after a conversation with a classmate of mine. Today’s martial arts community lacks balance, and a major contributor to this situation is a lack of perspective.


I don’t think it is overreaching to state that the introduction of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) at the very least acted as a catalyst in a process that was already going on in martial arts; the creation of very divergent approaches to martial arts training. Martial artists who had always been interested in practical application welcomed it, and many changed their approaches based upon it. Those who embraced martial arts as physical culture, as a way of life, as a spiritual pursuit or as a method of health maintenance largely had a negative response to it. For the purposes of my discussion here, I am NOT really interested in discussion the frauds, the con men and the fake methods NOR with those who are interested in its performance aspects such as movie choreographers, contemporary wushu stylists, “extreme martial artists” etc.


Based upon many years of producing fighters and focusing on practical application and training, many associate me with the “pro MMA camp” so to speak. I certainly embrace practical training and things like cross training. I firmly believe in keeping the fighting tradition alive. HOW I want to do that and what I mean by “ALIVE” are of course the subject of discussion here.


While I certainly know a lot of fighters and coaches, I also have many acquaintances and friends in the fields of “internal martial arts”, health, movement, corrective movement etc. In fact. I also run myself an extremely large and successful program based not on “fighting” but applying martial arts to health and fitness. As I have tried for several years to explain, I am most certainly NOT opposed to such approaches. What I am advocating is a balanced approach based upon proper prespective.


I see among those who practice for practical application a lot of injuries that are the natural result of such training. I see among those who say they practice just for physical culture or health a lack of martial awareness, which is mentally and spiritually “unhealthy”. We do not have “one argument” here, we have several, different approaches to make sure all are approaching their martial arts practice holistically.

Recently, as I dug out of the back of my mind Chan Tai-San’s “Gam Gong Lihn Gung” (金剛練功) practice and have been practicing it and showing it to my students, I am convinced more than ever the need to have BOTH practical training and training in health and movement awareness.

The Truth of fighting….

16 Jun

If I had $1 for every time someone told me that getting on a mat, in a ring or a cage is “just sport fighting” (or my other favorite term “prize fighting”) I would be a very rich man. Of course, one of my classic responses is to note that if I put you on a mat / in a ring / in a cage, point out the guy who is going to try to punch you in the face, and tell you WHEN (in like 3 minutes) AND you still can not stop him from punching you in your face, how “real” is your fighting ability?


These people want to talk about “dirty fighting”; stuff like eye gouging and biting, etc. Of course, I wonder, how often do you really practice that sort of stuff? Do you walk up and down the floor opening and closing your mouth to practice your biting skill? Perhaps you are the Asian equivalent of “Fonzie”, constantly extending your thumb to perfect your eye gouge? But in all seriousness, to “fight dirty” you must be IN CONTROL. Control comes from perfecting your basic fighting skills; watch some of the private challenge fights Renzo Gracie released and watch the man on top, in control (Renzo’s brother Ryan Gracie) stop a man from trying to gouge his eyes and then retaliate by biting his opponent’s ear off. You want to talk about fighting “for real”, you don’t get any more real than that.


The year is 2016 but you’d hardly know it talking to some of these people. If Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has taught us anything, it is that if you do not practice clinching, wrestling, fighting on the ground, learning to get out from the bottom and learning to stand back up then all the “striking” in the world may be meaningless.

"Master" of striking is helpless once taken down and controlled

“Master” of striking is helpless once taken down and controlled

Those who argue that a “sport” is more limited than a life-or-death conflict on the street are missing the point. It is IMPOSSIBLE to recreate those life-or-death situations, so how can we best prepare our students for a situation they have never faced before? Consider what you would need to survive a life-or-death conflict? First, you need the tools, offensive and defensive, to get the job done.


Second, you must be proficient enough in the techniques to use them upon an opponent who is knowledgeable, resisting them and also attempting to launch their own attack.


Finally, do you have both the physical and mental condition to engage in a struggle such as this? Will you fall apart under the stress and adrenaline rush, freeze and forget everything you have learned? It has certainly happened in the past to many practitioners. This is a reality very few students studying Traditional Martial Arts (TMA) are forced to deal with in current programs.



Self defense is bull—t…….

26 Aug

The idea goes like this; people who aren’t interested in studying martial arts still need self defense, everyone needs to be able to defend themselves. So for years, people have offered self defense seminars and short term self defense programs. But the sad reality is, most of it is total bull—t. In fact, the entire idea is mostly bull—t.


Consider this, for centuries men who spent their entire lives training to be warriors, who trained with weapons, who went into battle with those weapons, with armor, fought and DIED. It is simple and it is straightforward, no amount of training can totally prepare you nor guarantee your success in a real fight. What is a “real fight”? Assaulted by surprise, by multiple attackers, conditioned criminals, larger, stronger, with weapons? How many people have fallen victim to the new “knockout” trend, where dumb (I mean really stupid) kids just walk up and punch someone?


Harsh reality, the best defense is to not be there. It’s awareness of the reality. It’s situational awareness. It’s not being a deluded dimwit like the 100 lbs woman who was a Taekwondo black belt and “sparring champion” (in POINT FIGHTING) who thought she was such a badass she’d hang out in bars and talk crap to men twice her size. She was found dead in a ditch along the road one day.


Of course, if you are in a profession where your life is regularly threatened; a police officer, a correction officer, etc…. you need specialized training. But without the awareness, it’s fantasy role playing. Note one of the best programs for this sort of thing, called “DIE LESS OFTEN“. I love the name, and the strange look on people’s faces when they first hear the name. DIE LESS OFTEN. It’s fu–ing brilliant. And we don’t have much brilliance in the martial arts community…..

The role of Chinese martial arts in a modern society

29 Dec

To simplify a rather complex history, it is relatively safe to say that Chinese martial arts, like martial arts across the globe, originated as combat method. It was used on battlefields, and then as self-defense method, for dueling/personal honor and other “private” motivations. In China, it became associated with the JiangHu (江湖), literally “rivers and lakes,” a marginalized sub-culture. All this is to say that in ancient China, martial art training was frequently the defense against an often cruel and savage world. In short, the men who originally practiced these methods lived in a world very few of us alive today would recognize or understand.


During the Ming Dynasty, empty hand fighting techniques merged with gymnastic, meditative and other spiritual practices. Teachers began to see connections between Buddhist and Taoist concepts and their martial arts practice. In the modern period, both the New Culture Movement and May 4th Movement also caused the reevaluation of the roles of Chinese martial arts in society. They became physical culture, exercise, cultural preservation, and recreation. All these trends co-existed, intertwined, cooperated and conflicted, and often never clearly vocalized nor with a conscious awareness.


Of course, the original intent, unrestricted combat between trained fighters was never completely severed from the tradition. Nor did it really lose its utility. Our society has remained violent and is still inhabited by professional criminals. Street effective self-defense skills remain a relevant aspiration for all people, regardless of their age, sex, social condition or profession. In a minute I will also discuss another important role keeping our fighting skill plays in the larger picture.


All this is to say, that in today’s modern society, martial arts can indeed be seen in a larger picture. Once, only as fighting skills for the able-bodied men who could endure the training, today martial arts can offer benefits such as the improvement and maintenance of health, the development of ethics and virtue, self-discipline and confidence. The training can benefit everyone, regardless of age, sex or physical condition. However, I must stress this point. It must retain its usefulness as practical self-defense.


When a student joins a martial arts school, regardless of their other interests or goals or whether they say it or not, they expect to learn to defend themselves. They trust their instructors with their lives. How often have we heard about martial arts students being seriously injured or killed in street confrontations? The answer is all too frequently and this is unacceptable. It is unethical and immoral to advertise self-defense training without offering instruction that accepts the reality of true self-defense.


Additionally, for all their talk of spiritual development, etc., those who embrace the mystical and ignore the practical application fail to understand that martial arts without the fighting aspect is an empty practice that leads to self-delusion. Taking a thrashing and learning ones real skill level is in itself a Buddhist lesson. A hard one, but an important lesson none the less. Insecurities hide behind elaborate facades that are best torn down by live training. Nothing crushes the ego more than knowing your real place in the grand scheme of things.

NY San Da
NY Best Kickboxing

Nothing lasts forever… 組合老和新技術方法

22 Dec


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….

Everybody wants to rule the world….

12 Oct

Is the “tears for fears” reference too old? Well, f–k it, it came to me in a wave of inspiration. Today’s wisdom? The internet sucks, but it’s all we got….


I’ve said it before, the internet deludes everyone into thinking that their opinion is valid and encourages them to share it as if it is some sort of truth. The problem is, the internet hasn’t changed the reality of the world, i.e. that most people are just plain ignorant. Take note! NOT STUPID! Ignorant, as in not properly educated…..


Traditional Chinese martial arts (i.e. kung fu) people never leave their caves. They think everything they do is unique to their style and that they have learned secrets. If they can’t fight now, it’s ok, because in 10 more years they will then have learned the right secret or developed enough “chi” to be a great fighter!


Mixed Martial Arts people think that all the traditional arts are plain crap. They forget that everything they are practicing comes from a traditional art. Most aren’t old enough to remember that “in the day” traditionalists did in fact fight, full contact. They never met some of the legit deadly bad-arses who were in traditional arts “back in the day.”


Mixed Martial Arts also feeds the “fan boy mentality” and the “young punk” ethic. They think it is cool to be disrespectful. They think everyone has to be young or they don’t count. I can’t even count the number of times that someone tried to insult me by calling me OLD. I am OLD because I SURVIVED. I survived Leukemia at age 6. I survived cancer TWICE. I survived being in gyms where predators thought I was the smallest guy and likely the best victim (they were wrong). I survived life. Being old isn’t an insult to a warrior ….


The truth is always elusive, and it’s always in some gray corner going unnoticed. I learned plenty of valuable and completely practical stuff from my traditional teachers. I IMPROVED that stuff by opening my mind and cross training and studying with more modern, MMA based teachers. But I laugh when people fail to realize the base of what I do and teach is TRADITIONAL….


I was teaching before there was such a thing as “Mixed Martial Arts” and I am not teaching much differently really. We lost Chinese language and silk PJ’s. Yeah, we lost weapons and practicing forms… but anyone who knew me in my “kung fu days” knows I wasn’t a big forms person or a big weapons person. I learned a lot of weapons from Chan Tai San, but I REALLY only learned a few, in the sense of really being able to use them…. and that was more than most kung fu people ever did…


Today is not your day, tomorrow isn’t looking good either

20 Sep

*** WARNING **** Today’s blog post will seem like I am off my meds. It will certainly be politically incorrect and full of foul language! Be warned…


I am angry. A good part of this is the fact my uncle was just diagnosed with terminal cancer and probably has a week to live. But to be perfectly honest, these ideas always float around in my head. Being angry just took energy away from the “filter.”


I have a major issue with people who don’t act like adults and don’t take responsibility for their own actions. And I hate people who sign up for a class and then biotch and moan that it’s hard, they are sweating, they are hot, etc… are you f–king kidding me? You come in, tell us you want to “get in shape” and then don’t want to do anything or sweat? I honestly believe it is a growing trend, I see it gettig worse, not better…

And of course, the internet makes everything worse. Now you can talk s–t from behind the safety of a computer screen, most of the time completely anonymous. And some fool came up with the idea that everyone has a “right to an opinion.”


I repeat, BULLSH-T

Let’s get this straight, you took a “class” somewhere under whodafckknowswho and learned complete crap, but you’re convinced we got it wrong because the “other guys showed it this way.” Maybe grow a few brain cells, I’ve been teaching for 25 years now, training almost 40, and trained with some of the best people in the world, period… Maybe, I know it’s hard to wrap your tiny mind around the concept, what we are showing you here is correct and you were taught crap before.


Some “modern combative self defense” guy (well, actually a LOT OF THEM have been here) was talking about hwo “deadly” he was. He got KO’ed in sparring by a relatively soft single cross. When we woke him up, he rattled on about how “in a real fight”…. dude, in a real fight, I would have stomped on your head after I Ko’ed you….


Ah, but everyone’s entitled to an opinion, and someone exposed this relatively stupid idea to gamma rays until it became the incredible hulk of stupid. Now everyone on the internet is a f–king expert.

– I’ve seen guys on youtube comment on how Dan Gable and John Smith are doing stuff wrong

– I can’t even begin to tell you how many bad “instructionals” are out on the internet, horrible ways to “defend” against stuff, retarded ways to hold pads…. and, of course, my favorite, guys just copying a video they bought and trying to sell it as their own…

PS: If you have ever paid any attention to me, the one thing I ALWAYS say is that everything I do I stole from people better than me…. yeah, I STOLE IT…. because I’m smart, I looked at who was the best at what they did, learned stuff from them, and use it


I am ranting at this point, so let me summarize

– If you don’t want to work, don’t come to class
– If you dont’ train hard, don’t complain you can’t achieve your goals
– If you want to train here, listen to what we are teaching you
– Stop before you talk, better yet, just STFU…..

Coming soon, some better quality blogs, I promise
In the meantime, here is some stuff to watch

It’s all wrestling…..

7 Jun


“It’s all wrestling”. That’s what a good friend, a Judo/Sambo coach told me a long time ago. Some of it is “jacket wrestling”; Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Sambo, Shuai Jiao… Some of it is without a jacket; Folkstyle, Freestyle, Greco-Roman. Some of it is standing and/or about pinning. Some of it has submission technique (Catch-as-catch-can). But it’s all wrestling…


I did Judo for a very short time as a child. I can’t say exactly why I didn’t go for it, maybe because I was a kid who had seen Bruce Lee movies and wanted to do flying side kicks? The picture of the late Pong Ki-Kim doing a flying side kick certainly got my attention when I started training with him. Of course, he also taught Hapkido, a Korean version of Jiu Jitsu, and that was the first wrestling/grappling I did seriously. I earned a second degree black belt in Hapkido.


While doing kung fu in NYC’s Chinatown, I stumbled upon Shihfu Jeng Hsin Ping and his Shuai Jiao classes. A number of his students had originally done Judo, we alternatd between working with the jackets and working without them. We also learned a lot of standing joint locks, seeing how Shuai Jiao had been associated with the Taiwan Police Academy for decades at that point.


My good friend and mentor, Mark “it’s all wrestling” Tripp, got be to focus once again on Judo, taught me some sambo, and introduced me to to western wrestling ideas. Of course, when the UFC started and the wrestlers started showing up, I became even more interested in western wrestling.

I got extremely lucky when I attended Team Quest’s first MMA camp. This was back when Randy Couture was still there, we learned also from Matt Lindland and Jiu Jitsu whiz Robert Folis. Folis even showed us some “rubber guard” (and back then I had no idea what he was talking about)!

I continue working western wrestling, again with a Greco-Roman flavor. I found it particularly well suited to blend with the Muay Thai clinch for MMA use. And, yeah, when you get down to it, Muay Thai’s clinch is also wrestling!!!


If you aren’t practicing wrestling and clinching, you are not learning to fight. And it is an ongoing activity. There is always something new to learn. There are variations upon variations.

Don’t forget your basics; push, pull, pop, pluck, drag, pound, snap, fake, pummel, hand fight, oh, the list just goes on and on….


What is “self defense”?

29 Dec

I do believe there is a place for basic “self defense” for casual people who don’t want to do “martial arts”. By this, I mean you offer them;

1. Awareness; avoid it, de-esculate it, escape.

2. Adrenaline response. Introduce some adrenaline because it is your enemy. “Self Defense” as it is involves big gross motions, simple stuff, threat elimination, and RUNNING LIKE HELL.

Face it, not everyone wants to train. So offer them some “tricks” and some advice and maybe they won’t ever face any real violence. But “self defense” in this country, in this time, in this society has become a joke and dillusion.

I had a guy who is a “black belt” in one of those new “fad” modern self defense systems. Why he is training with us I have no clue? Well, the other day after sparring, where he was KO’ed, he was attempting to justify his experience.

HIM: “if I could have only used my elbows or head butts”…..

ANSWER” You were KO’ed by punches. In fact, as soon as we started punching you curled up in a ball in the corner.

If I can land punches at will on you, don’t you think I could have elbowed you as well? Or pushed you down in the corner and soccer kicked you in the head? Or knee’ed you in the face? If you can’t handle my relatively controlled so called “kickboxing” offense, what do you think would happen in a complete no rules assault where I wasn’t being “nice”?

Let’s deal with something that should be obvious. NOTHING is a real fight, period. Unless you scatter the ground with crap and broken glass, get a gang of buddies, use concealed weapons, and beat the hell out of eachother, with a curb in your school to smash teeth on, you aren’t going 100%…

We are talking about degrees of realism. The fundamental tension is between safety and rationality in training vs. the realism of a potential threat. When you put on boxing gloves and do drills, you aren’t going 100% and trying to kill eachother, and it isn’t a real street fight BUT….

1. You are hitting with a lot more power than most “one step” and other pre-arranged drills that some “traditionalists” do.

2. The punches are being thrown in real range (ie if you didn’t block them, they’d hit you).

3. The punches are being thrown as they would be (ie actual angle and positional relationship) in a real fight

I have bad news for the “self defense” guys, with gloves you can go harder than you can without, without getting injury, which means you can do it more, and more often.

Whether you are aware of it or not, you are inducing adrenaline response. Basicly, most students forget 1) how freaked out they were doing the drills the first time and 2) how we did the drill a lot slower and lighter the first time(s).

After a few weeks, you are actually going harder and faster, and are more relaxed doing it. If you took someone without the previous training and dropped them in the middle of say, a three week experience person at this drill, they’d be lost. But the change is subtle over time so you often don’t see it.

Being able to do it in something APPROACHING realism is “aliveness” and it is the key to whether something is going to work or not.


%d bloggers like this: