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What style do you practice? PART TWO

15 Jul

This is part two, you can find part one of this blog here (CLICK).

So, let’s review… Chinese martial art I am most associated with? Lama Pai I learned from the late Chan Tai San…… Chan Tai San also was noted for Choy Lay Fut and White Eyebrow, which inevitably all his students learned some of.

The very first Chinese martial art I ever studied was Dang Fong lineage Hung Ga. Because of this, I also learned some of Chan Tai-San’s village style Hung Kyuhn and some of his Hung Fut.

In between studying Hung Ga and meeting Chan Tai San, I was in Jeng Hsin Ping’s Shuai Jiao school. There, my senior James Chin taught many of the classes and incorporated elements of the Long Fist he had learned previously.

After Chan Tai San passed away, I went about a decade until I found another Chinese martial arts teacher who I would consider learning things from. Not surprisingly (to me at least) that was most Xingyi Quan and some Bagua Zhang.

Before I did ANY Chinese martial arts, I did Korean martial arts. Considering I received 2nd Dan black belts in both Moo Duk Kwan Taekwondo and Sin Moo Hapkido, I’d say they are something I formally studied.

In my previous blog, I noted that I am ALL of these things, and I am also NONE. Simply put, I can not deny the influences, but I am not contained in any way to a single teacher, a single method or a single tradition. If “pressed” I’d say my Taekwondo gave me the foundation to learn the many kicking techniques in Chinese martial arts. Of course, I’d have to add that my training in contemporary Wushu also helped with these kicks. And I’ve done plenty of Muay Thai training to add to that mix.

My Hapkido training taught me to fall, that was VERY IMPORTANT (and ignored in most Chinese martial arts training). It helped me learn Shuai Jiao. And the join locks helped me learn the various Qin Na in all the methods I studied later, even though today I have abandoned 90% of traditional Qin Na as theoretical and not practical.

My Hung Ga training was an introduction to traditional format Chinese martial arts. However, the irony would be that ultimately I abandoned deep stances, much of the bridge focused fighting, the mysticism of “Qi Gong” and several other aspects of the training.

Shuai Jiao may be the Rosetta stone of my martial arts career. The Chang lineage disregarded “Qi” and “Qi Gong” and most of the mysticism. The short “forms” changed my view on forms practice. That the arm swings in Shuai Jiao translated into locks and throws prepared me to look at Chan Tai San’s method in a very different light. Without Shuai Jiao, I don’t think I would have completely appreciated Chan Tai San’s method.

Chan Tai San’s method, syncretic and grounded in his actual experience in fighting, is the foundation of what I do. It is the skeleton, the connective tissues and the internal organs. Everything else just “fleshes out” the method.

All the training I did in modern martial arts / mixed martial arts did not lead me away from Chinese martial arts. It gave me a different way to look at them. It gave me methods to drill them to make them “real”, to make them practical. It helped me make linkages and connections that otherwise would have been lost. In the same way, teaching people to fight, training fighters, gave me a deeper understanding of what I do and how it really works. That is, I did not train fighters to run a “fighting gym”. I did it as a scientific experiment.

You can check out the result, my “method”, online with COMPLETE ACCESS at https://new-york-san-da-martial-arts.teachable.com/p/nmr-online-curriculum

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“Martial Virtue” and other nonsense people don’t really understand

15 Jul

In one sense, I am happy to report there is much activity in my Facebook group Real Kung Fu Application. However, much activity in that group often revolves around debunking frauds and misconceptions. Once again, because of the “guru” like relationship between martial arts teachers and their students, the students often believe things just because their teacher said so. Clearly, I answer to a higher authority, FACT.

Much is made of “martial virtue” (“Wu De” in Mandarin, “Mo Duhk” in Guangdonghua) in discussions of martial arts. It is often wrongly compared to “Budo”. Not only does “Budo”, the code of what we would commonly call the samurai, have nothing to do with the historical context of China, people also do not understand Budo very much. To speak of Budo can mean to speak of the modern application of traditional Japanese martial arts for physical culture, the distinction between kenJITSU and kenDO. If you intend to mean the code practiced by the samurai, you are for even a more difficult discussion. The code of the samurai allowed them, as higher class, to “test their blades” on innocent peasants, their inferiors. There are many similarly hideous associations with the code of the samurai class that would shock those who intend to invoke it as some sort of MORAL code.

In discussions about Chinese martial arts, “martial virtue” is similarly frequently offered as some sort of moral code to indicate “higher aspirations”. Of course, this ignores all the immoral things that martial artists in China engaged in. Even the legal occupations, the “four staff”, were marginal and rooted in random violence for the most part. Your teacher may have told you Chinese martial arts had some sort of higher moral code, but let’s look more closely at the facts;

Failure to understand the real history of Chinese martial arts, and the cultural context it existed within, lead to these misunderstandings. “Martial virtue” was not constructed as a moral code in the Western sense. Rather, it was created simply as part of an attempted structural shift from marginalization to social acceptance. I will quote in detail from my book “Chinese Martial Arts: A Historical Outline”

Another group of martial artists sought to remove themselves
from the milieu of violence altogether. While they could not
pretend their vocation was literary, they could follow the example
set by herbalists, bone setters and skilled artisans. They could open
martial arts academies (Wu Guan), refuting their associations
with the itinerant JiangHu sub culture. They could claim social
acceptance as teachers of a recognized trade.

In a society with clearly defined (and limited) social constructions, you also have “templates” towards some social mobility;

The change in orientation also resulted in changes in the
terminology. The man who opened a school was now said to have
hung up or put away his staff (Guan Gun). Ming Dynasty
sources, which also influenced Korean and Japanese martial arts
traditions, had often referred to the techniques of empty hand
fighting as Quan Fa. A small but subtle difference can be
seen in the adoption a new term, Quan Shu.

William C.C. Hu has suggested that the original designation
for such men, “Wu Shu Lao Shi” was also rather
utilitarian. A new term evolved, “Shi Fu”, though there were two
variations on this new title using different Chinese characters. The
first variation, had also been used as a
complimentary term for a Buddhist priest. However, it was used in
recognition of a physical, not literary, accomplishment. Thus, this
term could also be used for a chef, head servant, tailor, or other
artisan. The second variation, combines the
character “shi” meaning to initiate or teach with “fu”
meaning father. The second variation connected the new traditions
with ancestor-worship and Confucian values relating to familial
lineages and paternal authority.

To have parallel Confucian structures required lineages,
histories and hierarchies to be created. Since many of these martial
artists had been at best semi-literate, these creations were more
often based upon myth and legend than historical fact.138 In order
to establish yourself as a Zongshi, the inheritor of a lineage,
a recognized ancestor or founder (Shi Zu) had to be
established. More often than not, there was no real historical record
and a method was simply attributed to a famous general such as
Yue Fei, a mythical Buddhist monk or a wandering Daoist hermit.
When these invented lineages were finally put into print,
subsequent “histories” simply copied previous account without fact
checking them.

Similar to Confucian scholars, a shifu was supposed to be a
person of high moral character who cultivated his virtue, but in this
case martial virtue (Wu De). A shifu was not employed by
others and did not teach for a contracted sum of money. They were
free to choose or refuse students. They could also adopt disciples
through the “bai shi” ceremony. This ceremony not only
entered the disciple into a formal apprenticeship, it allowed the
shifu to demand from the student the same loyalty and respect that
a father could demand from his son.

Perhaps I should have highlighted the “supposed to be” part, because that is NOT how things most frequently played out.

As should perhaps be expected, gaining social acceptance and
complete assimilation into the wider society was a slow and
imperfect process. Vestiges of their origins in violence remained in
the practice of the challenge match. For many martial
artists, maintaining the respect of his peers was also important.
One method a would-be instructor could use would be to issue a
challenge and defeat several local fighters before opening one’s
school. Until it was declared illegal by the government in 1928, it
was relatively common in especially southern China to see public
duels.

Another popular method of making a name for oneself was to
challenge an already established instructor in hopes of defeating
him and earning a reputation. It was, as Joseph Esherick noted, an
extension of the itinerant culture where upon meeting one martial
artist would challenge the other to a test of fighting skills.140 Thus,
even a well-established instructor still had to prove himself and the
effectiveness of his method on a regular basis. As Donn F. Draeger
and Robert W. Smith noted, “challenges were a central part of a
master’s existence and could not be refused.”141

In the context of challenging an established teacher, it was
certainly a gamble. Some of the most popular and successful
schools were the ones where such challengers were frequently
beaten senseless and left out front for everyone to see. Indeed, an
instructor who routinely beat such challengers was sought out by
all segments of society; the military, the local militias, landlords,
secret societies, local commoners and even the elite who had
become to view the martial arts as an esoteric hobby.

Of course, as other parts of my book detail, many martial artists also remained affiliated with sectarians, criminals and revolutionaries. Which is to say, they were not all that “virtuous”.

What style do you practice?

10 Jul

If in some case you were not already aware, I have a group on facebook called “Real Kung Fu Application” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/practicalkungfu/). We discuss some interesting stuff over there, and as I moderate it, the trolls get removed pretty quickly. Anyway, right now there is a running discussion that began with the question “what is your martial art”?

The responses have been pretty typical; I’d characterize them as predictably falling into two categories. The first is the person who will answer in a fairly strict way, identifying themselves with one, perhaps two methods. While not always, I tend to think that sometimes this is indicative of a trend in martial arts to think “inside a style”, and often disdain things that are not “part of the style”.

The second response is to literally list every martial art you have studied. In this day and age, with the availability of martial arts instruction, this can reasonably be a fairly long list. But my question would be, does that list really represent what you do? More importantly, WHO YOU ARE?

In one sense, I could say I do “Lama Pai” as I learned it under the late Chan Tai San. But, to be honest, I’d have to quickly qualify that statement. Chan Tai San’s “Lama Pai” came from at least three lineages that used the name “Lama” and elements of the related “Tibetan” or “Lion’s Roar” martial arts of Tibetan White Crane (Pak Hok Pai) and Hap Ga Kyuhn. It was also pretty much impossible to be one of Chan Tai San’s seniors and not learn at least some Choy Lay Fut and White Eyebrow (Pak Mei / Bak Mei).

Before I trained with Chan Tai San, I formally studied Dang Fong lineage Hung Ga and Chang lineage Shuai Jiao. Well, again, in the sake of “honesty”, I was in Jeng Hsin Ping’s Shuai Jiao school, where my older classmate James Chin certainly included elements of his Long Fist training in our basic training there. I also had an informal but rather close relationship to the Seven Star Praying Mantis people. Stephen Laurette introduced me to Chan Tai San, and to his senior classmate Chiyu Ho. Chan Tai San’s wife was also Sifu Chiu Leun’s cousin.

Of course, prior to all that Chinese martial arts training, I did Moo Duk Kwan Taekwondo and Sin Moo Hapkido under the late Pong Ki Kim. As I said, if you live long enough, you can reasonably have a pretty long list of martial arts credentials. OOOOOPPPSSSSS, what about AFTER I trained with Chan Tai San? Once he retired?

I have been rather vocal about the fact I was very pleased to learn some very high quality Xingyi Quan and Bagua Zhang in recent years. That’s certainly Chinese martial arts, and it has certainly influenced me. But then, we have all that “modern” training also? Where do we throw that? How do we even list it? Modern martial arts is “mixed martial arts” (MMA) and is a wide combination of influences.

The point of this blog? I am ALL of these things, and I am also NONE. Later I’ll explain this in more detail. In the meantime, check out my “method” online with COMPLETE ACCESS at https://new-york-san-da-martial-arts.teachable.com/p/nmr-online-curriculum

Fighting as a path for development

26 Jun

To begin with, we must accept two basic fundamental truths. First, very few people practicing martial arts are going to use fighting as a path for their development. But I will also explain that this may not be as important. Second, most people who end up fighting are NOT going to end up using it as a path for development. These are the challenges in understanding the role of fighting in the larger picture of martial arts practice.

The fight game is a dirty business, with an emphasis on the “business”. A very frequent occurrence is that whoever manages a fighter will get them a string of easy matches to “pad their record”. A record of 7-0 or 10-0 may SEEM like a great record. It may set up a “title fight” and/or “big money”. But do you want your first real test of your training to be the “big fight”?

In my school, when I train people to fight, I do it for one reason only: a path for their development. As not only the coach, but the manager, of course I must protect the fighter. But I also can not just “pad” their record. It is (or SHOULD be) a carefully constructed path by which the student is gradually challenged and forced to develop new skills. Particularly when you are talking about amateur vs. professional, you want to see a fighter have at least one “bad match” where things do not go right. You want to see the fighter keep it together and adjust. Not necessarily WIN mind you, but at the very least adjust. That alone is a HUGE task that most amateurs fail.

In my time training fighters, I frequently got push back because this is the path I took; “slow and steady”. By their very nature, fighters are young people, they see nothing but their strengths, they fail to see their weaknesses, and they are impatient. I’ve had fighters with ONE FIGHT ask about “sponsorship”. I’ve had many ask “when am I fighting for a title”.

The fight game is a dirty business, as I have already said. That is precisely why I am never really that concerned with “title fights”, especially where amateurs are concerned. Ready for the “dirty secret” about “title fights”? There is a fighter, they sell a lot of tickets. They are popular, so not only do they sell tickets to their family, friends and classmates, they attract others. The promoter likes them, maybe is even friends with them. At least 7 out of 10 times, a “title fight” is the promoter setting up a big fight for that popular ticket seller. I mean “set up” exactly as you probably think I mean; finding someone that they know will not likely beat the big tickets seller. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t happen that way (I have PERSONALLY ruined that plan at least three times with my fighters), but usually it does work.

I had a fighter named Miki, from Denmark. He was doing very well in American kickboxing matches for a local promotion. One day, we got the call for a “title fight”. Miki was excited, and said we’d have to train hard. I told him we’d train hard, we always train hard, but I told him that under the circumstances, assume it was going to be a pretty done deal he’d win the title. Miki won the title, he loved the belt, but he agreed afterwards it was the easiest of his fights… go figure.

Now, I always train my fighters hard. I train my amateurs like they are professionals. I’ve had many get mad at me for “holding them back” but for me, it’s a development path. I don’t care about wins and loses. I could easily arrange wins, I even helped promote shows. That was NEVER the plan. I’ve had coaches from other teams tell me in amazement that I agreed to certain hard, maybe even “impossible” matches. But I wasn’t looking for “wins”, I was looking for fighter development. I’ve celebrated with fighters who just lost, because they did their best. And I’ve screamed at fighters who just won, because they “coasted”.

However, I also think this approach is why we’ve also gone out of state, fought on other promoter’s shows, against the promoter’s fighter / favorite, and won. We took the fight knowing, and not caring, about the odds against the “win”. We went to fight.

For those who never want to fight, there are advantages to at least training with fighters and/or in a school that has trained fighters. You are going to get real, tested technique. You are also a lot less likely to fall into some sort of “cult” where propaganda has to replace Truth to build up a shaky foundation.

Finally, I am always amused when people confuse “a trainer of fighters” with a “champion fighter”. I know two of the world’s most accomplished Muay Thai champions who have had gyms in the US in excess of ten years and NEVER produced a high level fighter. Being a successful fighter doesn’t mean you know what it takes to be a successful fighter, or know how to teach those skills to others. Several of the most successful coaches in combat sports don’t exactly look like the current UFC champions, most don’t have particularly impressive fight records, and at least one has NO FIGHTS. If you want someone to train you to be good, the question is not how good the teacher is as a fighter but rather how good is the teacher at teaching others to fight.

The Revolution IS online! (just a reminder)

14 May

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The Cult of Bruce Lee

18 Feb

In the martial arts, there is nothing more “sacred” than Bruce Lee. There is no way to objectively discuss him, every conversation that is anything but blind praise sets the internet on fire. Yet, as part of the Truth project, here I go again!

First, for everyone whose knee jerk reaction to any discussion of Bruce Lee is to respond “he made the martial arts popular”; while it may be true, it isn’t that simple either. Bruce Lee was of course a man trying to promote himself and build an acting career. He wasn’t above playing to biases and misconceptions. Some of the biggest misconceptions about the martial arts originate with Lee, his writings and his movies.

Bruce Lee quotes and memes flood the internet. He is, pardon me in this, credited as a deep thinker. The reality is Lee was a philosophy major. He was exposed to a lot of thought that certainly effected him, but wasn’t necessarily his own! Lee took famous Buddhist teachings, such as “At First, I Saw Mountains As Mountains And Rivers As Rivers” and paraphrased them to make his points about his view on martial arts. While other people’s ignorance, especially his family posting his personal notes without annotation after his death, isn’t directly Lee’s responsibility, it is still true that 50 years after his death people still are being corrected on the origins of much of his so called “thought”.

Just as much of “Bruce Lee thought” is not actually his own, much of his technical material also has other sources. As stated, Lee is not responsible for his family publishing his personal notes without annotation after his death, but the clear result was many were not credited. “Tao of Jeet Kune Do”, the title itself absurd and demonstrating a complete lack of basic understanding of both martial arts and Chinese language, initially failed to credit boxer Edwin Haislet and fencer James Castello as sources of both illustrations and text. At my last review, it still doesn’t credit the French Savate book that Lee also copied, nor the illustrations taken from both a Judo text and Gene LeBell’s grappling book.


Of course, if you really want to see violent reactions on the internet, ask questions about Bruce Lee’s actual, personal martial arts skills? I don’t know, and honestly I am not making a claim one way or the other. However, it would be naive to not recognize that certain people owe their fame, the success of their schools and the success of their seminars to the fact they were associated with Lee. It is not unreasonable to suggest that these people are NOT the most unbiased, reliable source. “Bruce Lee was just a man, he was a good martial artist, but nothing special, now pay me $350 for my Bruce Lee seminar“….

Was Bruce Lee really the god of martial arts some of his fans make him out to be? He was, truth be told, famous for being a movie star, not a martial artist, not a “fighter”. Did he drop his hands because in film, you want to see the star’s face? Perhaps? But we certainly have a lot of footage of him training with bad form, hands down. Is it “blasphemy” to discuss this? I wasn’t even aware there was a church of Bruce Lee ™?

From an objective viewpoint, the video we have of Lee hitting a bag at his house is full of technical errors. To be clear, it wouldn’t even merit discussion if it were not constantly displayed as evidence of Lee’s skill (?). The justifications presented when the technical mistakes are brought up borders on the absurd. Isn’t it fair to just ask, WHY? Why must people present Bruce Lee is the Jesus of the martial arts world?

Was Bruce Lee a “fighter”? Not at all in any conventional sense. He made his living making films, and teaching martial arts privately. And there is nothing at all wrong with that, except that certain fans must make it out differently. We are frequently told that Lee lectured on the deficiencies of traditional martial arts and was challenged by someone who did Karate. Lee beat the man. Is it wrong to point out; we don’t know who this man was, we don’t know how much training he really had, we don’t know if he had any skill at all. There is a big difference between “Bruce Lee vs the 5th Dan Karate master” and “Bruce Lee vs the guy who took six months lessons at the YMCA”, is there not?

Bruce Lee engaged in an amateur boxing tournament while in Hong Kong. We certainly know boxing influenced Lee. But the tournament is often offered as yet again evidence of fighting skill? Again, we don’t know very much about this event, so it doesn’t really tell us all that much. I will say, Golden Gloves tournaments are organized in many cities in the US, but winning them in certain cities like NY, Chicago and Detroit mean a lot more than winning them in other cities. Which is to suggest that we not put too much weight on a small event held in Hong Kong that we have no footage of nor know much about.

Where we do have footage, the oft cited “rooftop fights” we have learned that legends grow in time often out of proportion with reality.

The kung fu troll in 8 easy lessons

25 Jan

If you belong to my Facebook group Real Kung Fu Application, you saw some house cleaning recently. Two rather straight forward posts magically brought the kung fu trolls out of the woodwork. Of course, this also let me REMOVE THEM.

Really, they had already shown their true colors from the beginning. That’s because they all inevitably exhibit the same characteristics time and time again. There are probably the top 8 easy ways to spot the kung fu troll.

1. Their Facebook profiles might as well be Russian news bots. Their icon pic is often something obscure, or a small grainy picture you can barely make out. They is virtually nothing explaining where and with whom they train (much more on that later), there may be a few still pictures of some poses straight out of “kung fu theatre” and there is most definitely NO VIDEO of them doing martial arts.

2. They usually show up in a discussion when they either comment about something that is NOT being actually discussed, or insert some ludicrous claim that immediately demands addressing.

3. After they make some mind boggling absurd claim like “I killed 10 guys once in a fight, I used my spear” (!) they will immediately get upset when questioned. They will then REFUSE to provide context, explanation, or most importantly EVIDENCE.

4. They will say they practice some martial art NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD OF and act like it’s world famous and should instantly bring them not only credibility but reverence.

5. Most often, they will when questioned refuse to identify their teacher. If not this situation, they will name some one no one has ever heard of, act like they are the most famous teacher ever, and then refuse to provide more information.

6. Inevitably, they will continue to make impossible, absurd claims. They are world champions, but often in secret events that they can’t talk about. They’ve beaten big name fighters, but can’t talk about it (it’s secret). They got “black belts” in 27 styles, some in 8 months or less! the longer you listen, the more they sound like the scripts to grade C martial arts movies.

7. Often a closer look at their Facebook profile will show they have at best a highschool education. If the profile doesn’t outright tell you this, their grammar, spelling and disregard of dumb stuff like facts and science are usually the next big hint. Now, there are ton of fine people who ONLY have a highschool education, but there IS a strong relationship between lack of education and buying into fake things.

8. And, of course, when they can’t provide any evidence, can’t keep up with a discussion and are called on the many inconsistencies in what they say, they have nothing left but the INTERNET CHALLENGE! These have several variations, though often they involve promises of money (of which there is no evidence it exists), uniform considerations, footwear rules and finally a complete absence of practical logistical considerations like “you live in Texas and the person you challenged live in Sweden”.

I promised eight, you got eight, but I will conclude with another observation;

No one who has real training in a real martial art under a real teacher seems to believe these sorts of things, and doesn’t ever act this way.

Asking for a little help…..

17 Jan

I admit I feel awkward asking for this help. But when I’ve coached other instructors and owners, one of the most important lessons I’ve stressed is the need to ask for help when you really need it. I came home last night and realized I need some help.

Help NY San Da pay their real estate tax

As any business in NYC, part of our lease includes our proportionate share of the real estate tax increases. I usually set aside a little money every month towards what I ASSUME will be the bill each year. This year, I was shocked by how high the bill is. Honestly, I shouldn’t have been, the city makes a lot of it’s money bucking up these taxes. Totally my fault 😦

Anyway, I need to pay this to keep the gym open, and while I had the original amount set aside, I am still short. If you can help me out, I’d appreciate it

Help NY San Da pay their real estate tax

More from the OMFG file….

12 Jan

If you follow this blog or follow me on Facebook, you probably know that more than once I’ve discussed the weird, inconsiderate, rude and outright A-holes that wander into martial arts schools. I believe my last blog on the subject was “Advice on how not to be that guy”. Honestly, things have been rather calm here lately, but then last night I got the worst person EVER! And that is saying a lot!

How you can be a jerk literally every second you are in a facility boggles the mind? This person literally did every single thing I am about to highlight in this blog.

1. Showed up late. We ask you arrive 15 minutes before we start. You have paperwork to do, you have to change, we don’t want to rush you. But we do want you to not miss the warm up and we want you to go through the whole warm up because we literally walk you through all the basics like stance, hand position, footwork and basic strikes.

2. Asked if we had wraps, yes we do. BUT he wanted to “borrow” some wraps? Who would ask to borrow wraps? Would you like to borrow dirty underwear?

3. Disappeared into the locker room. He was already late, so we needed him to change and get onto the mat. He disappeared into the locker room, so…..

4. He then walked on the mat late. OK, you are now really late, you are missing the warm up, you are missing the instruction, but, ok, finally you are on the mat, EXCEPT

5. After disappearing in the locker room and walking on the mat late for class, he announces he now wants to buy wraps. I am the only person working that day, I am running the warm up, but I manage to run off the mat, throw handwraps at him, take his money (of course he wanted to “pay afterwards”! Do you know how many times I’ve NOT been paid by “pay afterwards” guys?), make change and get back on the mat.

6. So I am back on the mat, running the warm up. This guy is now wrapping one hand. He misses almost all of the warm up.

7. The few times he stops wrapping his ONE HAND, he decides to completely ignore what the entire class is actually doing and does something that I can safely say I can not identify?

8. We are done with the warm up. I tell everyone to find a heavy bag. At this point, he decides to wrap his other hand. He misses entirely the first two rounds.

9. 40 minutes into the class, he has finally wrapped his hands and decided to join class. Everyone is on the OUTSIDE of the bag rack hitting bags. He decides to stand INSIDE the bag rack. he also keeps changing which bag he is hitting.

10. Needless to say, the remaining rounds he does not pay attention to any of the instruction, does not do the actual rounds, and does his own thing, which is unidentifiable.

11. Of course, at the end of class he asks about advanced classes, sparring and “fighting”

The evidence of a higher being is the fact I have yet to kill one of these people. I am of course joking…..

Belts, ranking and other thoughts on organizing martial arts

6 Dec

As I have announced, one of my biggest projects has just launched! The Lion’s Roar martial arts curriculum is now being presented online at https://new-york-san-da-martial-arts.teachable.com/p/nmr-online-curriculum. It is a combination of new footage with re-edits of previous archival material. It will present new material each week and will eventually be an entire system online.

Probably one of the first thing you will notice when you visit the page is how I have organized the material into “belts”, AKA “ranks.” Let me be perfectly clear; this is a completely arbitrary arrangement, not to be taken as Truth in any way! All you have to do is read one of my most famous blogs, “Capturing truth in a bottle?”, to know I do not think you can really “organize” Truth. Yet, just as the blog describes, this is a form of expedient means. And, frankly, it will also make it easier for those already in that frame of mind to absorb the material.

There are some “interesting” stories in the martial arts world regarding rank. One stated that in the “beginning” there was only white belts and black belts. I strongly believe this is metaphorical. But it does serve that purpose. Making us consider what ranking really means? What is a beginner? What is advanced?

In the late 1970’s, before I even met the Shuai Jiao people, I read an article in Black Belt magazine that claimed that belt ranking came from Shuai Jiao. It IS a form of jacket wrestling and belts ARE worn. A white belt is clean, the student hasn’t really practiced much yet. Yellow comes from wear and sweat. Green is from grass stains. Brown is from the dirt, when the grass is worn away from the practice area after years of drilling. Black is the accumulation of all the blood, sweat and dirt…

There is probably some reliable evidence that Judo’s Kano invented the first real belt ranking scheme. He also apparently used the method the Brazilians are still using; white, blue, purple, brown and black. Was there a significance to these colors? I don’t know. Anyone out there?

In the Korean martial arts, they were really big on applying concept to the colors. I was originally ranked and taught the belt colors as

– White representing purity
– Yellow, representing a seed responding to the light of the sun
– Green, that seed actually growing
– Red, that plant reaching for the brightness of the sun
– Brown we were taught meant danger, ie you have technique but not necessarily good control

I am not sure I want to tell you that the ranks I just created for the online program mean anything. They either do or they don’t; and it doesn’t really matter either way

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