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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.

HOW to train (if you want to have fighting skills)

17 May

Fighting must be rational.
Do not be reckless, giving no thought to defense.
“Do not be a caveman”

There are many methods or schools of thought on defense. In the kickboxing structure we first introduce a method we call the “six gate defense system”. The name derives from traditional Chinese martial arts theory that divides the body up into six gates. First, the body is divided down the middle by the center line into left and right. There are then three gates corresponding to the area above the shoulders (“heaven gate”), between the shoulders and the hips (“man gate”) and the hips down (“earth gate”). The six gate defense system involves parrying (redirecting an attack) and shielding (covering up using the hardest parts of the body, the elbows, the knees and the shins). We believe this is the easiest method for beginners to learn. In addition, it introduces students to the idea of getting hit.

The basics of sparring

– Keep your hands UP
And by this I mean thumbs at eyebrows or at least top of fists at your cheek bones. This isn’t boxing. We have kicks, later we have elbows.

– Keep your chin down
Put it in your chest, and “peek a boo” through your gloves

– Keep your head up
Hips in, hips/shoulders/head in one line, head up. Put your head down you are going to be kneed in the face! Or snapped down! Or choked out!

– Stay up on your toes, light on your feet and MOVE!

– Don’t like getting punched? (no one does!)
1. Keep your distance and kick them (kick the puncher)
2. Tie them up

– Clinch with a PLAN!
In the clinch it is the person who is first with the most that wins

– Don’t like getting kicked? (no one does?)
1. block the kick
2. destroy the kick
3. punch the kicker
4. ride the kick
5. catch the kick
6. avoid the kick

– Knee when they clinch

– Don’t forget your “dirty boxing”

– Throw when they knee

– It is better to be thrown than controlled

– Learn how to fall, how to shrimp, and how to get up

Free sparring in the school is not a competition and there are no winners. There should be NO EGO in free sparring and every student must understand that they are responsible for the safety of their partners. Make free sparring all about improving skills and having fun.

At higher levels, they’ll begin to understand that a good sparring session involves times when both partners are actually cooperative, giving a student the security and opportunity to develop new moves. Light sparring will allow you to work on techniques you have not yet perfected. Constantly sparring with full force will only result in injuries, stagnation and frustration and is counterproductive.

Make sure your training partner knows the plan and the pace of your
sparring workout.

Introduce free sparring gradually. Beginning students should engage in no more than three rounds of free sparring per class until they learn to address their fears and adrenaline response.

The first few weeks, basic boxing drills like the “four shields” will get a student accustomed to being hit. Follow up with some of the “live training” drills we’ve already discussed here.

Get comfortable with the idea of getting hit and hitting someone. The earlier you integrate this acceptance, the more progress you will make.

Remember that there are many different free sparring formats designed to develop different skills. In our program we actually use six different formats;

1. Kickboxing sparring with gloves and shin guards
2. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sparring starting from the knees
3. Pummeling for neck control with knees strikes
4. Pummeling for body control with takedowns
5. San Da sparring (kickboxing with the throws but not ground work)
6. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) (standing and ground)

Each format has its own advantages and disadvantages so doing all of them produces very well rounded students. Finally, realistic expectations of your performance are important. You will make mistakes.

A few guidelines for kickboxing sparring
1. Hands up
2. Chin down
3. Up on your toes
4. Do no lunge with your punches
5. After every strike or kick recover your guard
6. “Nothing for free”
7. Do not lean back to avoid strikes and kicks
8. Keep your back off the wall/ropes
9. Attack with combinations
10. Set up your kicks
11. Punch vs. kicks
12. Kick vs. punches
13. Clinch to strike
14. Clinch to throw
15. Knee vs. throws
16. Throws vs. knees

NOW GO TRAIN
NY San Da
NY Best Kickboxing

Steal, steal a lot, and steal from the best…..

28 Sep

The other day a guy who trains with me (and who has an extensive background and trains in a lot of different places) told me that one of the other instructors he knows told him he shouldn’t train with me because I steal stuff…..

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If you know me, you probably already knew that would be my reaction… But more seriously, I have three different responses to this “attack”.

First, of course I steal stuff! I have stated MANY TIMES my opinion that if an instructor claims to have no influence other than their primary art/primary instructor they are either being dishonest or are unacceptably intellectually lazy.

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It is impossible for one person to have all the techniques or the “answers”. Even an organization like mine, where I am friends with and continue to network with many respected fighters, coaches and trainers, we can’t make such a claim. That is precisely why you’ll find us consistently training with others.

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Second, if you really think I “stole” stuff, ask how did I do it? How did I learn it, integrate it into what I do and how am I able to teach it? Let me put it another way, the instructor in question told my “friend” (won’t even call him a student) that I stole stuff from him (well, it is quite a funny story there, but that is another blog). My friend told him basically, “yeah, but he understands it better and explained it to me better.” So, I ask you, who really “owns” it? The person who thinks they “had it first” or the person who really understands it?

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Third, how do you “own” anything for me to steal it? Does anyone really think there is one technique that only they and their teacher have? Human beings all have one torso, one head, two arms, two hands, two elbows, two legs, two knees and two feet. The reality is, NO ONE OWNS TRUTH. You might as well accuse me of “stealing” your air!

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This stuff is really the product of small minds and insecurity. Never be afraid to attend a seminar or go to another school to train and learn something new. Take every opportunity you can to train with the best. If a famous fighter or teacher is coming to your town to do a seminar, or is a reasonable traveling distance from you take that opportunity. Don’t be afraid to “steal” and don’t be concerned with what others may say. The “purity” of certain traditional martial art traditions is not only an obstacle to your advancement; it is in fact a myth!

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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TO BE CONTINUED

Teaching is a constant revision and expansion of methods

5 Feb

“Teaching is a constant revision and expansion of methods based
on a training program which is systematic and progressive”
– Donn Draeger, 1962

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Some of you may already be familiar with the concept of a “rotating curriculum”. Here, I’ll explain not only how it works but also address aspects and features unique to a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) program. These are suggestions based upon my personal experience. Each instructor will have to determine for themselves specifics and make modifications based upon their unique circumstances.

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The rotating curriculum concept is not necessarily a new idea, but it has gained popularity and is now used by most commercially successful schools. First, let me explain how it works. Then we can discuss why we use it and the benefits. Using a rotating curriculum, the whole class is working the same material.

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The most popular model is to set up six “semesters” of two months each. Since the sequence is not what is important here, let’s instead label the semesters with letters.

Semester A is January/February
Semester B is March/April
Semester C is May/June
Semester D is July/August
Semester E is September/October
Semester F is November/December

It’s up to the instructor to determine what material will be covered in each semester. Most instructors will want to mix up different skills in a semester; i.e. certain boxing drills, kickboxing drills, throws, and self defense techniques per semester. In a traditional martial arts program, each semester might include learning one form.

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The example above is simplified and intended only to help you grasp the concept. Another suggestion is that you might want to offer separate programs for striking, clinching/wrestling and your ground / Jiu-Jitsu, in which case you will develop separate rotating curriculum.

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The key to this concept is that EVERYONE will be learning the same material during that semester, whether they joined that month or three months ago. Most traditional instructors initially have trouble with this concept. They can’t imagine a student who has been studying for 6 months learning the same material as someone who just joined that month. It’s something you’ll have to get used to, but experience will show you that this sort of program works.

For traditional martial arts programs, belts and/or ranking figures into this arrangement as well. In a year period, a student progresses through six semesters and, if you are using a belt system, you can award a belt after successful completion of each semester. You’ll probably immediately observe that if you implement a rotating curriculum, two students with two months’ training (in most martial arts systems, the equivalent of a gold belt) may not know the same material. The student who joined in “Semester A” at the end of two months knows different material than the student who joined in “Semester D”. I am also aware that in some systems, like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, belts are never “given away” and even the first rank of blue belt is considered an achievement.

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In response to those concerned that a rotating curriculum “waters down” or “cheapens” rank, I offer a different perspective. Remember that under a rotating curriculum, after a year of training each student will all know the all the same techniques. In my opinion, these are the sorts of benchmarks we should be worried about. After a year, whether you call it “first level” or “blue belt” or “star spangled red belt” a student should have the basics of your program. A rotating curriculum will make sure this happens.

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Let’s start examining why this happens, why having a rotating curriculum allows us to organize our classes better and make sure everyone is learning the material correctly. Think about the traditional model of teaching. When a student joins, the first thing he learns are punch #1, kick #1 and block #1. So “Joe” joins your school in January and by February he has learned all those techniques. It’s time to teach him punch #2, kick #2 and block #2. However, in February, “Mike” has joined the class. So in February, according to the traditional model, you have to teach “Joe” the #2’s and “Mike” the #1’s. March rolls in and “John” has joined. Now you have to teach John the #1’s, “Mike” the #2’s and “Joe” the #3’s….

In reality, you’d all better hope you have a lot more than one student joining a month. In reality, you may have 12 people in class, representing four different groups. Do you have three other instructors so you can run a mini-class within a class? Do you have four different time slots to teach the different groups? The answer to both is probably not. Nor would you want to. You’re dividing up your resources and you’re dividing up your energy. You’re also denying your students a diversity of partners to work with. If you use a rotating curriculum, everyone in your school gets to work together. This also means your students can all become friends. This adds to the excitement and enjoyment of their classes.

I hope by now you are starting to understand the idea of a rotating curriculum. I also hope you are starting to see some of the advantages.

HIT SOMETHING! Solo practice has limits….

28 Jan

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The heavy bag
The heavy bag is the most basic piece of training equipment. Its primary use is to allow the student to practice their striking and kicking techniques at full power and to become accustomed to the impact. However, when properly utilized, the bag can also be used to teach distance, timing and footwork. The following points should be kept in mind when practicing;

 Don’t stand square in front of the heavy bag. Use your fighting stance, keeping one shoulder in front of the other.

 Don’t stand in place in front of the heavy bag. Move in both directions around the bag.

 Since you do not have to worry about injuring a partner, use full speed and power.

 Picture the heavy bag as an actual opponent with arms and legs. Identify actual anatomical targets on the bag.

 The most effective fighters visualize oncoming attacks and defend as well as launching attacks.

Muay Thai pads
Muay Thai pads are strapped to the trainer’s forearms and allow the student to practice both striking and kicking techniques in combination while developing focus, accuracy, distance, reaction time and footwork. The trainer may also use shin-n-instep guards and various kinds of body armor that will allow even more variety in the types of techniques being practiced. With the exception of actual free sparring, working with the forearm pads is the most realistic practice a student can engage in.

After an initial period of learning how to hold the pads and getting familiar with the format, it is time to start interactive pad work. In addition to holding the pads for the student to attack, the person holding the pads will also attack so that defense is incorporated into the training.

Leg Kick Shield
1. Jab, right round kick (leg)
2. Jab, right round kick (leg), cross
3. Cross, right round kick (leg) (“double wind”)
4. Foot jab
5. Foot jab, thrust kick
6. Foot jab, right round kick (leg)
7. Right low kick, sprawl
8. Skip knees
9. Foot jab, thrust kick, side kick, back kick
10. Foot jab, side kick, back kick

Beyond the basics, there must be variety

24 Jan

An instructor must keep a close eye and a direct hand on the training of students. It is easy to fall into a set pattern, but such patterns mean the student will not have have well rounded training, will not learn the entire system and most importantly will not have the proper live training to apply the techniques.

A student learns a technique in isolation, then with resistance (on equipment such as a heavy bag or a pad), and then with a partner they learn the defense(s). Once the basic defenses are learned, it’s an instructor’s responsibility to constantly break down and rearrange the techniques into different combinations.

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A proper defense drill not only introduces the technical defense, it also conditions the student for the reality of fighting. It must condition the student to become familiar with contact. Begin with very limited and simple drills; I have a drill I call “four shields” which begins the process of learning to get hit.

Basic drills progress to more free form drills, approaching sparring. We call these “survival drills”

Parrying, shielding, slipping and ducking will progressively lead to clinching and/or “shooting” (takedowns involving seizing the legs). In particular, the shielding drills lead well into both neck and body clinching and these methods are extremely functional methods of defending against a better striker.

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However, I believe equally in the importance of footwork as a form of defense. Be careful not to stress clinching to the exclusion of evasive footwork. Evasive footwork is also an excellent defense against those trying to clinch.

* ESSENTIAL RULES FOR DEFENSIVE FOOTWORK
– Never move backward in a straight line, use lateral movement
– Do not “run away”, stay in range to counter
– Move to your right against an orthodox fighter
– Move to your left against a “south paw”

Let’s examine the most basic boxing drill; parry vs. jab.

First, make sure the structure is correct. Both students have to be in the correct stance, the correct execution of the jab, the correct execution of the block, etc.

Second, the drill must be done with movement; you don’t fight standing still so don’t drill that way.

Third, even though this is a partner drill there is impact; the punch is thrown to actually connect and is actually blocked.

Fourth, all the basic drills will eventually be practiced with appropriate counters so that the students are used to the resistance (counter attack) of a real opponent.

Fifth, introduce every drill within context. Explain both why the technique is used and when it is used.

It is important to understand that all drills have “two sides”. Doing parry vs. jab isn’t just about defense. Every jab needs to be thrown correctly, i.e. you are practicing your jab as well. Of course, drills are not sparring and there is NO EGO. Never injure your partner doing drills.

NOW GO TRAIN!
SIFU
www.NYBestKickboxing.com

Six Gate defense and how to train it

8 Jan

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Fighting must be rational.
Do not be reckless, giving no thought to defense.
“Do not be a caveman”

There are many methods or schools of thought on defense. In the kickboxing structure we first introduce a method we call the “six gate defense system”. The name derives from traditional Chinese martial arts theory that divides the body up into six gates.

First, the body is divided down the middle by the center line into left and right. There are then three gates corresponding to the area above the shoulders (“heaven gate”), between the shoulders and the hips (“man gate”) and the hips down (“earth gate”). The six gate defense system involves parrying (redirecting an attack) and shielding (covering up using the hardest parts of the body, the elbows, the knees and the shins). We believe this is the easiest method for beginners to learn. In addition, it introduces students to the idea of getting hit.

* ESSENTIAL RULES OF DEFENSE
– Keep your hands up, your chin down and your body erect
– In 6 GATE METHOD, stand your ground, don’t back up
– Small movement produces greater result (don’t overextend)
– Movement is continuous (don’t hide in your arms)
– Block actively, not passively

Teaching the 6 Gate Defense System with the basic strikes and kicks
In the beginning, the easiest ways to teach defense is to teach the basic striking and kicking techniques with their corresponding defenses. They can be introduced progressively, each round adding another attack which also introduces basic combinations. In each round, the student both attacks and defends. Normally we use three minute rounds with a one minute rest.

Lion’s Roar Martial Arts: The Master Text (click here)

Lion’s Roar martial arts, the legacy of Chan Tai-San

3 Jan

Learn more about my martial arts method with my new book Lion’s Roar Martial Arts

I describe my method of martial arts as “Lion’s Roar San Da” (獅子吼散打拳法). “Lion’s Roar” was 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.

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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 a modern, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) approach.

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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 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 more than 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 tricks 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?

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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 “technique.” 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.

Learn more about my martial arts method with my new book Lion’s Roar Martial Arts

SIFU
http://www.NYBestKickboxing.com

On the proper training of martial arts skills

2 Jan

Interested in learning more about my method? Check out my newest book Lion’s Roar Martial Arts: The Master Text

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Over the years, I would say I fluctuated between being a hard core “traditionalist” and a progressive. It is too complicated a story to sum up in a few sentences, but for the purposes of this blog, I will state that I began the process of creating what is now “Lion’s Roar San Da” around 1994. Among the things that people ask me is not only how I created the training program that I currently use, but how I have had so much success in training people to fight.

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People have been taught that each martial arts system is special and unique. The “fundamental training” / jibengong (Mandarin) / gebongung (Cantonese) is special to that system, etc… However, having trained in both Asian and Western / European martial arts, from Chinese and Korean to Russian and French, from traditional to modern “combat sport” I really do not believe that to be true.

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We are all humans, our bodies only work certain ways. Combat is combat, only certain things work in real combat. A prime example is wrestling. Every culture on the planet has developed it’s own wrestling tradition and ultimately they develop the same tactics and techniques. There is more in common and similar in real martial arts than differences. Differences are just “marketing.” In a competitive market place, a teacher looking for students wasn’t going to say what they taught was the same as the teacher across the street. They taught a unique system and the secrets could only be learned after years of training (and years of paying dues).

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Developing my “system” or training program was actually pretty easy. I sought answers to the problems of combat, i.e. kicking, striking, clinching, wrestling and ground fighting. Obviously, certain traditions had more developed approaches to different areas, but every martial art offered answers to the many problems of combat.

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The only problem, and it ultimately turned out to be only a small one, was sifting through the material to find the real stuff and separate out the “fluff” and useless crap. To that end, I developed a rather straightforward and simple approach.

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After an initial period in which the basic techniques are introduced in isolation, they will be drilled using the following live training principles. If training follows these guidelines, you will be able to discover which techniques are both practical and functional, and a majority of the student body will see appreciable benefits in a reasonable amount of time.

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Guideline #1: “Structure”
The foundation of the program is learning the proper position and the proper execution of the techniques. Most of the problems students have in applying technique are found in the incorrect execution; the wrong position, the wrong distance, the wrong angle, etc.

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Guideline #2: “Movement”
Since an adversary will not stand in one place during a real fight, all the drills must incorporate movement to replicate real conditions. This includes, but is not limited to, footwork, real distance, distance control, level control and head movement.

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Guideline #3: “Impact”
While many traditional martial arts place a heavy emphasis on doing techniques without impact, the reality is that hitting an adversary is quite different from hitting the air! Our program includes a significant time devoted to working with various pieces of equipment so the student becomes familiar with the feeling of impact and develops power and focus.

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Guideline #4: “Resistance”
Each drill must include or simulate the resistance (or counter attack) of a real opponent.

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Guideline #5: “Context”
Each drill must include context; why the technique is being used, when the technique is being used, how the technique is being used, etc. This also includes discussion of our basic theories such as “leaks”, “continuousness”, “gates”, “bridges”, etc.

Interested in learning more about my method? Check out my newest book Lion’s Roar Martial Arts: The Master Text

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