Showing posts from April, 2009

Demonstrating to a class

When I demonstrate something to a class, I will occasionally invite an attack of any kind, not knowing how my demonstration will work out. Why do I take this "risk"? Because it adds pressure and ensures that I am staying honest to the students and myself.

Me demonstrating kicking in the "melee range" - see from about 2:45 onwards.

I will also frequently allow the students to demonstrate on me, knowing that I'll cop a smack that I would otherwise be handing out. Why? Because again, I know it will keep it honest and real. The other risk with this approach is that I loose any veneer of "invincibility" which an instructor can manufacture by always being the one dishing out blows. Again, this is a big "loss", yet I do so because I don't want to rely on "veneers".

Me demonstrating a throwing technique. Note from 1:57 onwards where I allow a student to demonstrate on me.

How do you all feel about demonstrations to a class? For example, s…

Gorillas in the midst: the question of wrist grabs

In my view people sometimes get caught up asking the wrong question: ie. a question that contains one or more false assumptions which serve to distract you from seeing the full picture.

Consider the following video as an example. Watch it carefully and see if you can answer their question correctly...

An episode of "Sleek Geeks" featuring a memory/concentration test.

It is my strong feeling that wrist grab defences are subject to a similar "distracting question", namely:

"Why practise defences against wrist grabs when they are not realistic attacks?".

This question contains a number of false assumptions that serve to distract you from the otherwise obvious "gorilla". What are they?

First, this question assumes that applications proceeding from a wrist grab are always intended to teach a defence against a wrist grab attack. In my opinion the primary purpose of wrist grabs is to put you in the correct range for the application of a technique in a ba…

"Free" tuition

I am sometimes surprised by how those in Generation Y expect things to be given to them for free, rather than appreciating that the world doesn't owe them everything.

Consider this young fellow who, in relation to one of my Youtube videos, asks me to "please make a video explaining how to master that footwork step by step".

You'll see in the comments that I politely declined, citing the difficulty with "video teaching". However I don't think he got the hint that his demand for even more free information was quite cheeky (ie. "Your existing free video isn't detailed enough - please give me much more. For free, of course.").

All this from a person whom I couldn't differentiate from a bar of soap.

The video in relation to which the request for more detailed free instruction was requested - click on the video twice to access the comments.

I note that in the comments on a related clip someone else has offered to give him free tuition over th…

The art of checking


The art of checking is widely misunderstood and I thought it would be worth spending a bit of time discussing it.

The most common method of checking is a slap like motion to your opponent's forearm, usually following a deflection of an attack. An example of checking can be found in the sequence of photographs on the left which is taken from an arnis/escrima/kali based drill:

An initial deflection is made using one arm (here the right). The left arm then slaps the attacking arm (ie. "checks" it) allowing the arm that did the initial deflection to counter-punch.

However, why would one ever bother doing this? Some would argue that the "check" is a "passive" movement that might have been more easily utilised as a strike in itself. Accordingly some have argued that the practise of drills that involve such checks is foolish and even dangerous. Consider the video below:

An instructor giving a strong argument against the use of the "checking…

Memories of Taiwan: encounters with spirituality

It was Wednesday afternoon in my first week in Taiwan and I was emotionally exhausted. That morning I, among others, had undergone a traditional "bai shi" ceremony where I was accepted as an "inner circle" student of my teacher Chen Yun-Ching. Every facade had cracked; my attempts at maintaining a composed, relaxed front had proved laughable, and even Master Chen's normally inscrutable exterior crumbled as he knelt before the picture of his father and bowed three times, openly shedding tears. Then, with every one of us bai shi, he had the handkerchief at hand.

Before me was my good mate "Little" John Scott who so endearingly wears his heart on his sleeve, tears flowing freely. By the time my turn came I resolved to keep some semblance of both my and Master Chen's composure, holding back hot tears behind my eyeballs; pressure vessels about to explode.

In the afternoon I felt so spent I didn't bother to note where we were going. All I knew…

Applying forms in combat

I would like to make the following observations on the subject of applications and forms, gleaned from my recent trips to Taiwan and Hong Kong:

My teacher Chen Yun Ching and my senior James Sumarac were at pains to point out that what they demonstrated as applications of forms were merely examples. Forms don't teach applications - rather they teach certain principles. Isolated applications make you aware of how these principles might be utilised in combat - they do not provide an exhaustive treatise on how they should/will be utilised.

The reality is that you are unlikely ever to string together any chain of movements from a form, however you can extract the principle of the movements if you study them sufficiently and correctly. In practice this means applying a small part of a form sequence here or there - and perhaps more importantly it also means learning to avoid those techniques being applied to you.

Part of the reason why applications exist in the form of xing/kata/hyung/…

More lessons from Hong Kong

Today I decided to head off to Kowloon Park where many of my martial arts colleagues assured me there would be plenty of good gong fu / wushu to watch.

Events did not proceed as smoothly as I had hoped; I wanted to get there as early as possible, so rather than take the ferry from Central to Kowloon, I decided to take Hong Kong's fantastic MTR. What wasn't so fantastic was my map-reading skill; the mistake I made was thinking that the "Kowloon station" marked on the MTR summary map was actually near Kowloon Park... Let's just say it wasn't. I exited into a strange world of massive concrete monoliths joined by surreal sky-bridges; a neatly paved and minimalist, futuristic landscape with nary a person to be seen. This was not Kowloon Park...

Luckily I chanced upon a resident of one of the surrounding apartment blocks; a pleasant ex-Singaporean who was going for his morning exercise. Without hesitation he went out of his way to walk me through a maze of buil…