Without reality, martial arts are meaningless….

5 May

Some people ask me, “how did you get involved in all this fighting stuff”? As if Chan Tai-San was teaching us all how to play checkers? I usually refer them to an album of pictures of Chan Tai-San teaching us fighting technqiues as a start. Then I usually suggest that if you really go back in time, all traditional martial arts were once about fighting.

Returning to an often discussed topic, today of course people do martial arts for a number of reasons. And MANY have almost no interest in “fighting”. And, as I have often stated during seminars, in my books and in this blog, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH DOING MARTIAL ARTS WITHOUT THE FIGHTING ASPECT. The key in all of this is another topic I frequently discuss here, TRUTH. Train with truth, and you can never go wrong. Train without Truth and you invite countless problems.

If you are not training to fight, engaging in that training which can be rough, which produces both blood and sweat, and which results in injuries, it is a real problem to think you can fight just because you are “doing a martial art”. We have seen this time and time again, especially in the age of videos and social media. We see how the worst lie is a lie you tell yourself; we see people who have absolutely no fighting skills stepping up to fight!

For better or for worse, I was frequently the person who accepted challenges when Chan Tai-San’s school was still active and accepting them. I was raised in that “culture” and accepted many of them. Am I claiming I can not be beaten? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Am I claiming I was a “great fighter”? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

And that is a HUGE DIFFERENCE. You won’t find me telling stories about street fights in which I took on multiple opponents. You won’t find me telling stories about fighting some “master”, beating him and taking the keys to his school. You also will note if you look closely that I do not issue challenges. Nor do I step up to accept random challenges. For example, I wouldn’t be the guy to go to Xu Xiaodong to fight him to “prove” something. NO. I accepted challenges when it was necessary to do so, in context.

I have always accepted challenges knowing full well a few things. First, there was no guarantee I would win. All I knew was that, having trained realistically, I’d likely have an opportunity to demonstrate some skills and do some damage. But I also knew full well that anyone can lose any time. Very skilled professional fighters have lost in mere seconds, everyone has a bad day. Second, I knew that the next day I’d likely be nursing at least some injuries. I’ve had bloody noses and I’ve had broken noses. I’ve had stiff necks, sprained ankles, micro tears and nagging pains. I know the reality of fighting. I know is it NOT a Shaw Brothers’ kung fu movie.

When I train fighters, I train them not just for the match they will KO someone, but also for the match that they will be KO’ed. I’ve celebrated both victories and sucked up loses time and time again. But, again, as people training with reality, training with TRUTH, we understand the meaning and significance of these events.

Those that do not train with this reality and with Truth do themselves a great disservice and expose themselves to dangers they will be incapable of understanding.

Perspectives on the role of fighting in “martial arts”

3 May

The pioneer of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in China, Beijing based Xu Xiaodong, recently engaged in the following “match” (if you can even call it that!) with Wei Lei, the founder of the so called “Thunder Taiji Quan”.

The brutal truth is, for those increasingly rare individuals who have been involved in the relatively small circle of Chinese martial artists that have remained practically oriented, this was hardly a surprise at all. Nor were the inevitable responses across the internet. The prevalence of Chinese martial artists who lack any basic fighting ability, many little more than con men and frauds, and of those who bury their heads in the sand and refuse to address the problem is a long standing problem. It is not at all new;

(Chinese martial arts) … are in a chaotic state, thus the people cannot know what course to take. Summed up, they have abandoned the quintessence and kept only the scum, nothing more. Although the martial arts of Japan and the boxing of Western Europe are one-sided, they all have their original points. In comparison to an ordinary boxer of our nation, they are countless miles ahead. The people should be very ashamed of this.
– Wang Xiangzhai (王薌齋)

However, let me clarify. If Xu Xiaodong had walked into a park and challenged people doing Taiji Quan for simply exercise or recreation he would, in fact, just be a jerk. NO, Wei Lei claimed he was a fighter, he engaged in ridiculous demonstrations of his “application” and stepped up to show Xu that his Taiji was an effective fighting method. That a man who clearly had zero combat skills stepped up to fight sadly reminds me of another debacle in which lying to yourself is the worst of all lies.

Is there anything “wrong” with doing martial arts without doing “fight training”? ABSOLUTELY NOT. However, I am an advocate of the philosophy that even if you train just for health or recreation, you still train “martially”. The two paths are really inter related.

In this vein, we note that in response to Xu Xiaodong’s statements, Chen Zhenglei who is one of the main leaders of Chen village has now made an official statement in which he claims that Chen style Taiji Quan is now NOT about “fighting” but rather its about promoting health and a way of life. Which is fine, except that we pretty much all know that the circus and carnival tricks promoting Chen style will likely continue.

Click here to read an excellent debunking of the above video and more statements on Chen village’s propoganda.

If one says they just do martial arts for health, enjoyment, as physical education, more power to them. If they then claim they can still fight, shame on them. The man who enjoys racquetball doesn’t think he can replace his racquet with a sword and become a warrior!

Only in the martial arts!

27 Apr

Only in the martial arts! At least that is how it seems. But we have definitely seen con men and scams in so many fields. Of course, this is a blog about martial arts, so we focus on that community.

Like many con men, Gus Kaparos has changed the name he operates under yet again. He is no longer “Green Cloud Kung Fu” and is now “Long Island Martial Arts Training Academy”. As you might expect, the “stories” have changed around yet again.

Gus Kaparos has also been busy yet again hiring lawyers to harass people who spread the truth about him and trying to get videos like the ones above removed. Of course, the best defense in court is the truth. And fungus dies in sunlight. So as I have promised, I will not let the truth be hidden.

Others (I am guessing former students he ripped off) are also not letting him off the hook. Visit the blog at https://guskaparosgreencloudkungfu.wordpress.com/. It exposes the countless lies he’s told about his past, his accomplishments and the countless lies he’s told the martial arts community and worst of all, his students.

Thoughts on “style” and “tradition”

1 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wu Lin should be a community, but often is just crabs in a barrel

30 Mar

The “Wu Lin” (“Mo Lam” in Guangdonghua) is a term that gets thrown around a lot in Chinese martial arts circles. It is supposed to be a community, but anyone who has spent any time in this community more often than not refers to the old “crabs in a barrel.” That is, the mentality of thinking best described by the phrase, “if I can’t have it, neither can you.”

If you’ve been in this community, I really don’t need to explain it to you. The obvious observation is that it is this mentality that has really held back Chinese martial arts. And to NO ONE’S BENEFIT!

Yesterday, I posted a blog praising and referring people to an old friend who does a different system and runs a separate organization. Some people were actually confused by that? But I support a lot of schools and organizations. I frequently take my students to seminars held by other instructors in other schools.

We got to all sorts of seminars, “modern” MMA seminars and traditional Chinese martial arts teachers. We had a wonderful time with Luo Dexiu of Taiwan. I’d recommend him (and HAVE!) to anyone!

And you know what is “funny”? I am not just showing some new fangled modern idea. My teacher had exactly the same mentality. And he also bemoaned the decline of Chinese martial arts because people were too busy being “crabs in a barrel”.


Jeng Hsing Ping’s Shuai Jiao (Swai Jiao)

29 Mar

Articles about Chang Tung Sheng / Chang Dong Sheng (常東昇) and his method of Shuai Jiao / Swai Jiao (摔角) appeared in English language martial arts magazines as early as the late 1970’s but they appeared in a surge in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. A famous teacher with a verified record of fighting matches, including winning the 1933 national guoshu examination matches, most people who practiced Chinese martial arts were very interested in him and his methods.

I had been fortunate, my first Chinese martial arts training in southern Hung Ga had included correct instruction in joint locks, sweeps and throws. Of course, I was already a second degree black belt in Korean Hapkido, so I was knowledgeable and interested in grappling aspects. So when I saw a flyer for Shuai Jiao / Swai Jiao classes I investigated.

It is hard to imagine, but this was a time before the internet. Most Chinese martial arts schools didn’t advertise. They were NOT in the yellow pages. It was frequently word-of-mouth or personal introductions. I was not really sure how long Shihfu Jeng Hsing Ping had been in NYC, but there I was, in a Jeng swai jiao class.

If you understand how most Chinese martial arts schools are administered, it should come as no surprise when I tell you that while the school was Shihfu Jeng Hsing Ping’s, most of the instruction was done by his senior student(s). In particular, during my time there I was taught by James Chin. James was not only Shihfu Jeng’s disciple, he was also a very skilled student of Long Fist. He had trained in the legendary “5 Tigers” school which in New York City had a reputation almost like the Jing Wu! Again, just pure dumb luck, I found quality Chinese martial arts.

I claim no rank at all in Shuai Jiao / Swai Jiao. Another teacher from a different school DID offer me some rank, which I was not interested in. HOWEVER, I consistently tell people the time I spent at Shihfu Jeng’s changed my life. Of course, people know that it was there I met Stephen Laurette who introduced me to Chan Tai-San. Laurette also was a 7 Star Praying Mantis student and introduced me to the system and many of his classmates.

But I also must stress that learning Swai Jiao from James Chin prepared me for learning with Chan Tai-San. It gave me a new appreciation and new angles to look at things. It showed me the grappling that is integral to Chinese martial arts, but so seldom really addressed and trained.

James Chin just put up a new web site at https://www.swaijiao.com/. He has some books and some instructional material that is either already available or will be available soon. I STRONGLY RECOMMEND THEM ALL. Perhaps more importantly, if you are in the New York area and have been looking to learn a very real, very complete Chinese martial art method, seek Shihfu Chin out. The Jeng school is authentic and deep. It is the kind of Chinese martial art that is seldom seen and, sadly, which is dying out.

As always, best wishes and go train!

Closed minds are NOT part of traditional martial arts

15 Mar

In the past, I’ve suggested (and even demonstrated) how some popular Wing Chun moves that are usually interpreted as strikes or blocks might more logically be grappling movements such as arm drags and arm drag counters.

You can certainly understand people getting upset when someone attacks their method; the internet is full of one group talking about how the other group is hopelessly lost and their stuff will never work. But is suggesting that something you do is MORE than it first appears, and that what you do has even more applications, isn’t really reasonably an “attack” upon what you do, is it? None the less, parties with torches organized to lynch me.

I have suggested that many of the kneeling positions found in Chinese martial arts are actually leg attack takedowns. That isn’t even a novel idea of mine; it is well discussed and known in Shuai Jiao (Chinese wrestling).

Fujian Dog Boxing remains a relatively rare method, though now you can find it online on youtube.com, etc. Many of its positions are for throws, trips and ground fighting.

So I never quite get why people get upset when you suggest that traditional methods might be MORE than what they first appear to be? And my next reaction is, please do NOT wrap your self in the flag of “tradition” to justify those positions. “Traditional” was originally about men who fought to survive and we have countless stories about how the person who found a new method or new way to do things prevailed in combat. So stop it, just stop it.

Truth is hard, but it is still very important

14 Mar

To understand Chinese martial arts history requires understanding multilateral relationships; between the participants (the martial artists themselves) and the “observers”. These so called “observers” were imperial officials, men responsible for suppressing rebellions, and also frequently those that associated with the martial artists but were not in essence martial artists themselves. Religious sectarians and secret societies had many uses for martial artists, the educated were frequently fans of martial arts and practiced them casually and amateurishly, and later religious figures such as Daoists and Buddhists found new meaning and importance in them.

These multilateral relationships mean that Chinese martial arts history is by nature multi-disciplinary. We have history top to bottom, history bottom to top, social history, military history, religious history, and even feminist historical perspectives. Of course this complicates the process. But by the same token, if we don’t accept how difficult the process is, we are destined to come to some simplistic and very wrong conclusions.

There were indeed several generations of supposedly intelligent, well trained historians and political scientists who relied upon poor translations and followed very questionable lines of reason. IN my book I note how several were such slaves to their preconceived notions they made mistakes that should have been immediately obvious.

Along comes Joseph Esherick who states what should have been obvious; a sectarian who practices martial arts does NOT equal to martial arts being a sectarian practice. The same formula applies across the spectrum; a religious person who does martial arts does not make martial arts a religion. Along the way, Esherick also demonstrates that we have long relied upon the documents created by the “observers”. We call the “Big Sword Society” that because so many documents refer to them that way. But what did they themselves call themselves?

Upon closer inspection, we MUST note that martial arts began separate from and devoid of many of the elements we now associate with it. With the idea of “qi” came first the language and later the ideas of Daoist religion, then mixed freely with Buddhism. You can see positive results from this evolution. Or you can see how it inevitably led to superstition, and ultimately the disastrous Boxer Uprising. It led to the “woo” we see today.

We can legitimately discuss how early martial artists did NOT have many of the features we associate with martial arts. The idea of “lineages” CLEARLY comes from the Chinese opera tradition. The idea of master-student relationships come from both the Opera tradition AND their experiences with religious sectarians. All of these ideas ARE well documented and accepted by serious academics

How much Taiji Quan is a product of Daoist religion remains a subject open to, and worthy of debate. IF, and most IF, we confine “Taiji” to the developments in Beijing after Yang arrives to teach. Would have been fun (and useful) to engage in THAT discussion

We could even question how much Daoist religious ritual circle walking influenced the martial art of Ba Gua… and counter balanced it with an examination of the “Ba Gua Rebellion” and/or discussion of the Ba Gua QUAN that is well documented LONG before Dong. Perhaps another day?

Can I help you? I think I can!

6 Mar

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Lama Pai Kung Fu classes in New York City

24 Feb

At http://www.SifuDavidRoss.com learn more about the Chan Tai San Lion’s Roar Lama Pai Association secret group on facebook. Unlimited access to instructional videos.

If you are not in the New York Tri-State area and still want to learn the material being offered in the new association program, now is your limited time opportunity! Only $39 per month with no commitment gives you UNLIMITED ACCESS to the material.


Author, educator, combat sports coach and martial arts master; David A Ross has spent three decades helping the public better understand real martial arts. An adopted disciple of the late master Chan Tai-San, one of China’s national treasures. Close to three decades teaching and coaching, both champion fighters and regular people who just want to achieve their goals. The trainer of three world champions, twenty national champions, and many regional and local title holders in several forms of combat sports.

Sifu David Ross has spent decades developing a holistic martial arts education, combining the best martial arts with his own, unique “pillars of truth” world view which has helped thousands of people to achieve their personal 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.

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