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Reorganizing the MANY faces of the “Truth Project”

17 Sep

First there was this blog… And, of course, there is my Youtube channel.

The “secret group” on Facebook still exists. But we’ve faced challenges as we produced more content than their servers could handle (who knew?). This led me to setting up numerous offerings at https://new-york-san-da-martial-arts.teachable.com/, including the “Chan Tai San Archives” with rare footage you can not find any place else.

Of course, my most recent project has been a weekly Podcast, the Lion’s Roar, focusing on the discussion aspect of what I now call the “Truth Project”; The Lion’s Roar PODCAST (CLICK)

My personal branding website, www.SifuDavidRoss.com/ has existed for quite a while, but now it will be the official “hub”; i.e. there are links to ALL of my activities there now and I will be more and more directing people there. As a reminder, if you never opted in, doing so gets you a 100% FREE San Da instructional by two of my black belts!

#kungfu #chinesemartialarts #chantaisan #lamapai #martialarts #shaolin #wutang #taichi #siulam #wingchun #masters #dimmak #history #pushhands #chisau #brucelee

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Forms practice in the martial arts

12 Sep

The podcast on “forms” is available right now at https://www.patreon.com/thelionsroar

Forms? Under various names in different traditions, form practice remains one of those topics that will generate not only a varied but also very heated discussion among martial artists. What role do forms play in martial arts training? Is it an outdated idea, whose purpose has passed us by?

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I’ve certainly learned my fair share of forms; in systems such as Taekwondo, Karate, Hung Ga, and Lama Pai. I even picked up forms in places I only briefly studied or from friends; Dragon style, Praying Mantis… One of the greatest ironies of my life is, when I first heard about Chan Tai-San, I initially thought I’d just pick up a few “cool” forms from him and that would be it. Oh how wrong I was on that count.

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In retrospect, my martial arts career had just as much training WITHOUT forms; the western boxing I did at the PAL, the few months of Judo I did as a child, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, all that mixed martial arts (MMA) cross training…..

So, what can we say about forms training? Is it “practical”? In what sense? Or is it, like an outhouse, a function of a more primitive society, whose use we’ve long outgrown?

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We can start with the most obvious; forms practice is NOT “fight training.” You can know a pile of forms, practice them daily, be excellent at them, and have NO ABILITY TO FIGHT AT ALL…..

While many people hold what they assume are “traditional” forms (many practice sets that have been SIGNIFICANTLY MODIFIED in very recent years and/or are actually very recent inventions and yet hold them to be “ancient secrets”) very close to their hearts; there IS a very strong argument that forms exist because martial arts were often practice by illiterate or semi-literate people and they were the best way to “catalog” the contents of a particular tradition. In this context, we ask if they are still relevant in an age when most of us can read and write and we have advanced storage systems. Most of us even carry a video camera with us wherever we go!

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Of course, there is also something to be said for the fact that forms require us to perform the basics of our system hundreds, perhaps thousands of times. It is a sneaky but effective way to make us do those repetitions that many of us would normally avoid. I learned over 50 hand sets under Chan Tai-San, and in them I must have done the basics “fist seeds” hundreds of thousands of times!

If we view forms in this regard, there is something to be said for them. That is, if we also accept and assume they will be accompanied by just as much hands-on, practical, two person drilling. I’d suggest the challenge for the modern martial artist if finding the time to do this; today in traditional schools we more frequently see a lot of time devoted to solo technique practice and forms practice with very little time devoted to “alive” partner practice.

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I’ve long suspected that forms practice has served another purpose. When I think back to those hours I spent with Chan Tai-San, him performing a technique, and my copying his movement, to remember the sequence and then replicate it over and over again. I was involved in movement study. I was learning to move, HOW to move, HOW to acquire new skills. I know that later in life, studying other things, many instructors found it fascinating how I could just watch something and then pick it up. This applied to ALL of Chan Tai-San’s senior students. I remember when YC Wong did a seminar in New York City, teaching a Pek Gwa set. Chan Tai-San’s seniors all picked up the set the first time YC Wong walked them through it. YC Wong commented that usually it took him 2 to 3 hours to teach this set, and we had all learned it in about 15 minutes….

The counter argument, the flip side, is that many people can NOT learn this way. Years of Chan Tai-San’s students trying to run their own schools demonstrated that many people aren’t only unable to learn this way, the ONLY way they can learn is by a slow, almost painful, “dumbing down” of the material.

And, of course, this still does not account/negate the fact that for fighting, you STILL need those hours of hands-on, practical two person drilling and sparring.

Sifu
http://www.nybestkickboxing.com

Random Thoughts PODCAST is LIVE

10 Sep

First podcast now available at https://www.patreon.com/thelionsroar

The new PODCAST to accompany the blog

9 Sep

A new kind of martial arts podcast by author, educator, combat sports coach, and martial arts master Sifu David A. Ross, David has trained over 40 years and spent three decades helping the public have a better understanding of real martial arts and helping thousands of individuals achieve their goals and live their dreams. The beauty of his vision is that it is NOT just for those who want to compete or be a champion; he has proven time and time again that REAL MARTIAL ARTS are for everyone and everyone benefits.

Lie, sit, stand, walk and run: “internal” in steps…

9 Aug

Generalizations and/or stereo types are ugly things, but often they have some truth to them! Western minds tend to want things categorized. The Chinese mind often seems syncretic. So, in theory, Buddhism and Daoism should be two separate, distinct traditions. Yet, in China, things are never so easily defined.

In Indian traditions, such as Yoga (but certainly NOT limited to “yoga”), you see “stillness” in essentially three stages; lying on the ground, sitting and standing. In Indian Yoga, it has been said that of the two most difficult Asana (positions) to master on is the corpse (lying on the floor).

“Savasana” or the corpse posture

The corpse position, to lie on the floor, appears so simple. It is an excellent example of how hard “stillness” is, how true stillness is probably impossible and probably not even what we really want. If you have done “Savasana” (usually at the end of a Yoga class) then you probably realized that you didn’t really stay perfectly still. Your body “settles,” readjusting which is probably an ideal thing for it to do. As long as you stay “in the moment” and focus on that settling, you should feel your entire body. You should learn awareness of the entire body.

In this asana, the object is to imitate a corpse. Once life has departed, the body remains still and no movements are possible. By remaining motionless for some time and keeping the mind still while you are fully conscious, you learn to relax. This conscious relaxation invigorates and refreshes both body and mind. But – it is much harder to keep the mind than the body still. Therefore, this apparently easy posture is one of the most difficult to master.
– The Illustrated Light on Yoga, B. K. S. Iyengar

It is often said that the Chinese dislike being on the ground. This is to suggest the plethora of standing practices and the relative scarcity of practices sitting and lying upon the ground. If we follow the initial suggestion that Chinese nature is to avoid being on the ground, we might wonder if those practices came from the “outside”, particularly from Buddhism that originated in India. Certainly, several versions of “18 Lo Han” exercises include lying, sitting and standing. Yet things often understood and labelled “Daoist” also have these exercises. The Chinese mind is syncretic, and the culture defies easy categorization.

By comparison the lying practices, there is certainly no shortage of moving practices. You might even argue that some “martial arts” such as Taiji Quan are no longer even martial arts anymore, but just moving internal practices? At this point, for this article, we mostly want to focus on two things; balance and perhaps sequence?

There certainly must be a balance; you must practice lying, sitting, standing (“stillness”) and moving. It does NOT appear any particular grouping or order is really necessary. Rather, in Daoist fashion, you must “feel” your way to the correct practice for yourself and that practice inevitably MUST change as you change.

Finally, there must be balances between “soft” and “hard”, or, in another consideration, their must be “flexibility” in these practices.

“Internal” in a modern context? (AKA “no Qi, just me”)

8 Aug

Do you know how airplanes fly? I certainly didn’t, until my friend who is literally an aerospace engineer visited me in Washington DC and in the Smithsonian explained to me how they work. It didn’t just amaze me, it gathered a large crowd who stopped and stood for his entire explanation!

Imagine that you were able to take an airplane back to Medieval Europe. Would most people understand the physics of it even if you explained it to them? Or, would they think it is some sort of “magic”?

Most of the things we think of in Chinese martial arts as “internal”, obviously people developed these movements (they did NOT descend from Heaven on stone tablets!). They “felt” things while doing them. They experience changes, actually “improvements”, as a result. But did they understand the anatomy and the physiology involved? The answer should obviously be NO! As a result, they explained them in a language they created to try and explain them; Qi, Shen, Dan Tian, or Chakra, Prana, etc etc….

Even access to modern science has not changed the way most people approach this stuff; people still think you develop “chi” (“qi”) from standing practice and that the “power” in strikes, etc comes from that “chi” or “qi”. The reality of course is that standing practice teaches you body awareness. Body awareness is essential to properly using your body. The proper use of the body generates power. As Luo Dexiu stated to us at a seminar, the power isn’t developed by standing, the power is already there! You “find” the power by standing practice, not develop it.

Today, many of us (myself included!) may not have the scientific, anatomical or medical knowledge and training to identify the processes at work in our practices. In that sense, we are similar to our ancestors who could describe movement and say they felt “something”. However, as modern human beings we should be different in that we can understand there really is no “chi”, no “prana”, no “chakra”, no “dan tian”, no “magic”. We should certainly be more intelligent and advanced than the ignorant, superstitious “boxer bandits” who thought martial arts could be a form of magic that could make you invulnerable to bullets!

Of course, for some people denouncing “chi” is heresy. To some it makes us “haters”. Some think it means we completely discard the practice. NO. Not at all. The practice indeed persisted because it produced benefits, improvements, etc. I’d suggest we would be better served to look at it from a modern, scientific perspective. But at the very least, we shouldn’t be passing on superstition as fact.

Equipment and format matters

25 Jun

FIRST: You have to understand that even if an event is not a “real fight”, it is the best, most reasonable way to train to fight. I have covered this a LOT (I have covered it to DEATH). Search “randori” or “real fight” on this blog and you will have to take a few days to read it all. Until you reach that point in your mind, the rest of this blog will likely not impact you.

Unless you were there, considering the current state of things, it is hard to explain to people that in the 1970’s and 1980’s Taekwondo was a pretty hardcore art. When I first started, only a mouth piece and cup were required. Kicks, especially to the head!, were expected to be full contact, they even told you that if they were not they would not score. Picture Kyokushinkai without the knee strikes and SUPPOSEDLY without the low kicks* and you’d see old school Taekwondo. Not surprising if you know Mas Oyama was an ethnic Korean.

* “Low kicks” were “illegal”, except when they weren’t! A round kick to the thigh followed immediately by a jumping round kick with the other leg was NEVER called. Other old school Taekwondo tactics involved stepping on the opponents thigh!

If we are going to discuss headgear, I have to confess I have a very uneasy relationship with the subject. I used to be a HUGE PROPONENT OF PEOPLE WEARING HEADGEAR. In New York, I was butting heads with a lot of early Muay Thai promoters who said “they don’t use headgear in Thailand”. First, for the most part these were amateur matches and in Thailand it is most professional. Second, I had very strong feelings about headgear because I had been active in the old school full contact Taekwondo when the “summer of death” happened; three US students died from head kicks.

Headgear is NOT a replacement for proper defense. And frankly it has only one real application, to prevent those “secondary impact” deaths. That is why I despise the “face cage” headgear which doesn’t really protect the fact and doesn’t have the proper padding to prevent “secondary impact” death.

IWUF Sanshou required headgear, but with the grappling element most of the “Big 6” teams quickly learned that only some headgear were appropriate. Pretty much everyone ended up using the “open face” USA boxing approved models (above). NOTE it is “open face” so you still need defense, real defense, but it has the USA boxing approved padding specifically for “secondary impact” death prevention.

We tried using headgear in an early version of our amateur MMA, it never worked out. When we teamed up with the late Paul Rosner and the USKBA to pitch amateur MMA to New Jersey, we did so with no headgear. The debate about the pros and cons continue as in this article about Olympic boxing dropping headgear. It seems the tide of EDUCATED opinion is that other things insure fighter safety.

Another thing that I seem to have arguments with about people is shin padding. Muay Thai people frequently say “they don’t use them in Thailand” while STILL missing the obvious fact that are professionals. Also, most of the time those are not tournament fights. They are single matches. Personally, I LOVE tournaments. I know they build the best fighters. But they are also on their way out.

IWUF official shin pads were pretty meager. At best you hoped they prevented cuts. So one of the major challenges in international competition was to keep your legs as intact as possible with these little pads over the course of 3 to 6 fights over two to three days. That is, again, tournaments make tough fighters, IF YOU SURVIVE. People who made it through those events are some of the toughest fighters I know. I also know guys who got so badly injured they never fought again, and THAT is a consideration.

Honestly, not sure why people are opposed to shin padding. Most combat sport is always going to be amateur level. Do we really want to see amateurs get so badly injured? The shin padding issue is NOT one of making your kicks less effective, if anything, I can kick HARDER and more often with shin pads on. When a certain coach tried to pressure amateurs to fight “like the K1” a lot of the coaches, not just me, noted that not only was K1 paying VERY GOOD MONEY (and this event was paying NOTHING), but K1 got progressively less interesting as an event progressed because injured fighters (and these were the world’s BEST PROFESSIONALS) kicked less. Even from a promoter, spectator and/or sport point of view, shin padding is better.

Chest shields are a completely different matter, one that could take up even more space!

Using the technique of ruthlessness (殘)

6 Jun

Today’s martial arts community is certainly full of “positive thinkers”, “do good”-ers, “feel good”-ers and “don’t worry”-ers. At some point, a lot of martial arts people adopted these sorts of things as a theme in the martial arts? This may be especially true of Chinese martial artists, in particular the granola chomping, tree hugging so-called “internal stylists”.

Of course, there are also those elements that represent the “dark underbelly” of the Chinese martial arts; with origins in the Jianghu (江湖), bandit gangs, red pole enforcers, and other disreputables. While these elements were the target of early 20th century efforts to revise and remove them, they were never totally successful. It is probably not a coincidence that they survived (flourished) in contexts where being able to fight were still important; police, military and of course criminal activities.

It is said that when Wong Yan-Lam erect is wooden stage in front of the Hoi Tong Monastery (海幢寺), “Either the challenger was maimed or killed. (Wong) was a master of using the technique of ruthlessness (殘)”. Ruthlessness (殘) remains one of the four essential theories of Pak Hok Pai and I’ve certainly seen it referenced in Hap Ga as well, but in my personal experience it is most cultivated in Lama Pai lineages. I have frequently and openly discussed my teacher Chan Tai San, but I also had an opportunity to study with another Lama Pai instructor. That instructor by comparison actually made Chan Tai-San seem like a boy scout! Tha is to say, while I was interested in the material he was offering, I was never comfortable around him.

Ruthlessness (殘) is an important part of traditional training, and pretty much essential within traditional training to combat effectiveness. I certainly used it in early fighter training, especially when we were still training for Chinese style tournament fighting. But make no mistake, it is a double edged sword. If you’ve ever felt a martial artist was abrupt, angry, opinionated, rude, etc etc you were probably correct! And it was probably related to some degree to ruthlessness (殘). I suspect it accounts in some part for many of the dark, brooding and at times unbalanced martial artists we’ve seen over the years.

I pondered this tonight after I (not physically) threw someone out of my facility tonight. Oh, make no mistake, they were a rude arse whose inflated sense of self-importance merited their removal, but there were probably (definitely) better ways to address it; ie I responded how we used to back in the “old days” or the “Chinatown days” when martial arts schools weren’t quite schools, they were more “social clubs” and their business was not necessarily signing up new martial arts students.

In any discussion of “traditional” vs “modern”, training to fight, incorporating modern training and/or “combat sports, one point really can not be escaped. Ruthlessness (殘) was an essential part of traditional fight training and it had many drawbacks. It was not a “scientific method”. It did not work with all (most?). It created negativity in the individual and the culture. By contrast, modern training not only produces more predictable results, in has less “side effects”.

The Revolution is HERE (NMR)

28 Apr

This is a REPRINT but quite relevant to my “New Martial Revolution” (NMR)

Perhaps no story related to Chinese martial arts is more famous than that of Bodhidharma, also known as Da Mo (達磨), at the Shaolin monastery. Traditionally credited as the transmitter of Chan Buddhism to China, there are many, often conflicting, accounts of his life. According to Tánlín (曇林), Bodhidharma was a South Indian prince and the favorite son of the king. However, he was not interested in a life of politics and instead chose to study with the famous Buddhist master Prajnatara and become a Buddhist monk.

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In the Chinese martial arts community, it is said that upon his arrival at Shaolin, Bodhidharma was disturbed by the poor physical condition of the monks, and thus instructed them in techniques to maintain their physical condition. He is said to have taught a series of external exercises called the “Eighteen Lo Han” and an internal practice called the Sinew Metamorphosis Classic (“Yi Jin Jing”). According to this legend, this training ultimately led to the creation of Shaolin Kung Fu.

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As with most such stories in the Chinese martial arts community, the legend of Bodhidharma cannot be taken at face value. Academic martial arts historians have shown the legend stems from a 17th-century qigong manual known as the “Yi Jin Jing” and its authenticity has been discredited by the likes of Tang Hao, Xu Zhen and Matsuda Ryuchi. According to modern historian Lin Boyuan in “Zhong Guo Wu Shu Shi” (中國武術史):

As for the “Yi Jin Jing”, a spurious text attributed to Bodhidharma and included in the legend of his transmitting martial arts at the temple, it was written in the Ming dynasty, in 1624 … and falsely attributed to Bodhidharma. Forged prefaces, attributed to the Tang general Li Jing and the Southern Song general Niu Gao were written … This manuscript is full of errors, absurdities and fantastic claims; it cannot be taken as a legitimate source

The legend of Bodhidharma cannot be accepted as literal history. That does NOT mean it is neither significant nor instructive in many ways. Most stories in the Chinese martial arts are better understood as allegorical; creating single figures to represent larger issues. The legend of Bodhidharma once again presents us with a classic “chicken or the egg” question; in the Chinese martial arts, what is the exact relationship between practical combat training and movement training for awareness, health and fitness? And perhaps even, spiritual practices?

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Bodhidharma arrives at Shaolin and finds the monks in poor physical condition, too physically weak to properly engage in their monastic duties such as meditation. He thus instructs them in both “external” and “internal” (two terms, distinctly Chinese, of which of course much more can be said) exercises to improve their health. In the eight path structure of Indian yoga, physical conditioning (Asana) and breathing (Pranayama) are in fact seen as proper preparation for meditation (Dhyana). It is not unreasonable to assume that Bodhidharma, an Indian, brought with him an Indian understanding of the relationship between physical conditioning and meditation and taught it to his Chinese disciples.

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So, as the legend instructs us, the conditioning / health / spiritual came first and THEN the martial arts developed later, right? Perhaps not! From the “Shaolin Disciples Union” own website;

Perhaps drawing on the martial arts training he would have received as an Indian aristocrat, Damo devised 49 exercises to develop strength, flexibility, balance and mental focus.

Was the training the Shaolin monks received based upon Indian martial arts (combat) traditions? Once only whispered about but seldom seen, the Indian martial art of Kalaripayattu should raise a lot of questions for students of the Chinese martial arts. In Kalaripayattu, we see elements of both “external” and “internal” yet the tradition maintains no such division. We also see movement which we may have initially identified as “yogic” as not only conditioning for combat, but as actual applicable combat technique. Finally, in attempting to define “yogic” we must be aware that the British actively attempted to suppress Kalaripayattu as it was a martial (combat) art. The art survived in some part by affiliating itself with and passing itself off as Indian health and/or spiritual practices.

In the earliest times known in history, the object of athletic exercise was the destruction of life. The hunter and the warrior were the ideal athletes of those days. But it so happened that these men, in pursing their hardy, outdoor life, now in vigorous exercise, anon in lazy repose, found themselves in the enjoying the same splendid health of body and activity that belongs to the wild animal … While they lasted, the exercises of chivalry produced two effects, physical and mental. Physically, they produced graceful and vigorous bodies; mentally, they tended to courage, generosity, and truth.

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These are the words of Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery, a figure largely forgotten but recently resurrected by a republication of his “Self Defense for Gentlemen” by Ben Miller. Monstery clearly understood and actually engaged in the practical use of martial (combat) techniques. He was a master swordsman that had fought under twelve different flags and had engaged in more than fifty duels with a variety of weapons. Yet he also understood and embraced their application for fitness and health. Nor should this come as a surprise considering he was educated at least in part at the Central Institute of Physical Culture, located in Stockholm, Sweden. The institute was founded by Dr. Pehr Henrik Ling. Dr. Ling was not only a master fencer, he pioneered the teaching of physical education in Sweden and was a founding father of Swedish gymnastics.

shaolin-warrior-monks-of-the-1920s

If we return our attention to China and the Shaolin monastery, we note that upon the founding of the monastery, some thirty years before Bodhidharma arrived, two of the original Chinese monks, Huiguang (慧光) and Sengchou (僧稠), both had exceptional martial skills. For example, Sengchou’s skill with the staff is even documented in the Chinese Buddhist canon. We then note that Bodhidarma ‘s own Chinese disciple, Huike (慧可), was also a highly trained martial arts expert. There are clear implications that these three Chinese Shaolin monks, Huiguang, Sengchou, and Huike, had been military men before entering the monastic life. Perhaps this explains not only the presence of martial arts at Shaolin, but suggests that exercises used to condition military men may have been adopted for monastic life.

The New Martial Revolution (NMR) is here…

27 Apr

I am about to go LIVE on Facebook and will repeat much of what is said here. But the blog will keep it well beyond the LIVE video. I spent the past two days downloading and re-editing videos because, YET AGAIN, I “crashed” my secret facebook group. Three times now I put up so much instructional video in there that even a huge corporation like Facebook’s servers couldn’t handle it(?).

I already frequently put up clips (for free) on both my timeline and in my “closed” but public/free group Real Kung Fu Application but editing a bunch of videos allowed me (motivated me?) to put up a lot this morning. AND THAT IS WHEN IT REALLY HIT ME.

I put up stuff that, to me, should be obvious, that everyone should know. Sadly, a lot of people are NOT learning this stuff. Even worse, many in Chinese martial arts in particular are mis-led to believe a lot of the stuff I do is somehow not Chinese martial arts. In short, I am astounded, shocked, confused, disgusted and saddened by the shallow experience of many so called “teachers” of martial arts.

When I say “believe”, or rather “do not believe”, I am saying based upon my EDUCATED OPINION based upon 40 years of training (often with very famous teachers), 30 years of teaching (as of July 2018), and most importantly evidence and science!

I do not believe in “internal” vs. “external”.

I do not believe in “traditional” vs. “modern”.

I do not believe that considerations such as “I do not want to fight”, “not everyone wants to be a fighter”, “I do it for health”, “I do it for recreation” etc etc justify the manipulation and watering down of training.

I do not believe, I REFUSE to believe fairy tales and lies.

So what DO I believe in?

1. Train with real technique. Whether your interest is self defense or “fighting”, recreation, health, etc you DO NOT teach or train anything but 100% real technique. If you teach, you teach it CORRECTLY. This includes teaching body awareness, fundamental concepts and real power generation.

2. Train with real awareness of self; if you are an amateur fighter don’t think you are a professional world champion. If you train for health, don’t think you are a fighter. Understand and accept who you are and WHAT you are.

3. Train with the dedication and intensity that martial arts were meant to be trained with. This DOES NOT mean dedicating you life and spending countless hours like people like I have done. It means that even if you do a one hour class once a week, that class should be real training with real conditioning. The watering down of martial arts, and especially the LIE of “no muscle” and other associated “internal” nonsense is a FRAUD.

4. Train martial arts with a real understanding of its real origins and its real original purpose. Then, and only then, can you understand and appreciate its other applications.

5. Train with an open mind, train with a progressive attitude and most importantly embracing logic, fact and science.

THE NEW MARTIAL REVOLUTION IS COMING….. Exact details coming soon

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