Monday
Jan072013

Bring on 2013!

I'm still buzzing off of the excitement from this past weekend's annual Winter Intensive workshop.  We had students from all over come to join us for this yearly staple of CWT.  I do this workshop every year as a way to get people back into the swing of training after the holiday break.  The outline of the workshop I described in the previous blog post and with the exception of a couple time restraints here and there, I was able to get through most of the material.  Day one focused on chi sau, chi sau sparring and practical fighting whereas day two focused on forms and self-defense on the ground.

It was great as always to see the kung fu family come together and train hard!  Check us out on FB and TUMBLR over the next few days to see more awesome images.

My daughter Maria Isabella also made a surprise appearance in her little Bruce Lee tracksuit :) This year is in for a lot of great events - stay tuned!

 

Tuesday
Jan012013

2013 CWT Winter Intensive Update (Jan 5th-6th)

I’m excited to announce that my upcoming Winter Intensive from Jan. 5th- 6th is my most ambitious to date.  I’m going to split the workshop into three groups by level with a number of instructors assisting me including Sifu Nicole Daniels.  This will allow us to go into the course material in a much deeper way so that the students can see a big jump in both skill and understanding.  The Intensive is open for all CWT and CWT Network students - just email info@citywt.com for more information to register.  As I say every year, this is the best way to ring in the New Year, especially if you have been away from training during the holidays.  This 10-hour weekend will pretty much blast all the rust off your WT and get you right back into the swing of regular practice.  We already have a number of students signed up from all over – Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, CT in addition to our NYC crew.  Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Requirements

Registration

Complete uniform

Necessary training equipment

  • Gloves (highly recommended)
  • Mouth piece (highly recommended)
  • Groin protector, elbow/knee pads, shin pads (optional)

Schedule (both days, four “blocks” total)

11:00am – 1:30pm, 2:30pm – 5:00pm

Workshop Syllabus

Please note that “Beginner” refers to Basic Students from 0-2SG (including students going for 3SG); “Intermediate” refers to Accelerated Students from 3SG – 8SG (including students going for 9SG); “Advanced” refers to Senior Students from 9SG -2 Level Instructor/Technician (this group may be separated as needed based on material). With the exception of technician/trainer/instructor levels & those going for SG9, all SG level students who have successfully completely the entire weekend will advance one grade (including Instructor Training Program candidates).

BLOCK ONE: Fundamentals & Chi Sau

Beginner

  • Tan/Gan/Pak drills
  • Sticking drills on the wooden dummy
  • Simultaneous action drills with a partner

Intermediate

  • First section chi sau review and clean up 
  • Chi sau drills 1-4 

Advanced

  • Individual chi sau programs
  • Chi sau drills 5-6; advanced skill drills

BLOCK TWO: Application

Beginner

  • Attacking Concept in WT - “Offense is the best defense”
  • Interference training – dealing with common “anti-WT” strategies

Intermediate

  • Elbows & knees in sparring
  • Sweeps in sparring

Advanced

  • Chi sau sparring (from seven sections)
  • Wooden dummy supplementary material

BLOCK THREE: Form & Function

Beginner

  • Siu nim tau form clean-up, theory & tips for training
  • Single-arm chi sau progressions

Intermediate/Advanced Student

  • Chum kiu form clean-up, theory & tips for training
  • Chum kiu applications
  • Intermediate wooden dummy material

Advanced (Qualified Trainers & Instructors)

  • Biu tze form clean-up, theory & training methods 
  • Biu tze chi sau program & variations

BLOCK FOUR: Emergency self-defense & WT Theory (for all)

(The fourth and final block will be for all levels together)

Ground emergency defenses

  • The WT Get-Up in its modern & classical variations
  • Chain kicks 101: Application, steering on ground, leg-scissors, tut gerk, huen gerk
  • Shrimping & ground mobility
  • Worst case scenario: Defending head kicks when on ground

Theory (for all) 

  • The seven vital attributes for self-defense
  • The breakdown of programs & theory necessary to understand them
  • Goal setting for technical & conceptual progressions

Certificate distribution, Individual Sifu/Todai photos

 

Thursday
Dec132012

A concepts 'myth buster'

"Dear student, no need to learn WT for 16+ years before I teach you concepts. You're safe from tyranny at CWT"As everyone by now knows (or at least should know) Wing Tsun is not a style that is based on techniques.  Rather it is a fighting system that is based on principles which are reinforced by concepts that make the system work.  For years I focused on the proper understanding of the original WT principles as well as the supporting concepts.  To achieve this aim, I began to learn Chinese, both Cantonese and Mandarin in spoken and written form.  This allowed me to understand the theories firsthand, rather than someone else's translated/interpreted perspective*.  The beautiful thing about WT theory is that it is both profound, extremely applicable and not in the slightest mysterious.

In other words, the theory is neither mystical nor esoteric - at least for those who know them AND practice them.

Shockingly however, an authority on WT is now claiming that the theory isn't even taught until the so-called practician level. That would mean 16 years minimum (but much longer is the average duration, think 30 years) BEFORE one STARTS learning concepts.

According to this authority, this is when the practician can finally train "their brain"**.  Anyone who believes it takes almost 30 years before one is 'smart enough' to train their brain is massively underestimating the intelligence of the average human being who learns WT.  Especially when this authority was able to grasp most of the concepts (at least good enough to call himself a 10th level) after 12 years.  Of these 12 years, six of the years was under an admittedly subpar instructor in a very traditional way.  If this authority has an "improved" teaching system, why is it taking them double the time to equal half of his skills?  The answer is this is nothing but propaganda.

When this authority admittedly learned the most profound theory during tea-time chats, why is suddenly the very same theory that was taught openly for years now a 'secret'?  Well, it's not!  Students can't even pass the basic student levels without a modicum of theoretical understanding.  Magnetic zone, fighting principles, force concepts are all 'program minimum' at CWT, even if they are not anymore in other schools.  At CWT all students can learn the original theory without misinterpretation, dumbing down or political revision.  If you think the theory is too mindblowing to learn, consider that not counting high school it takes 12 years to become a brain surgeon.  Is your brain so soft that it takes longer than that for you to begin to think about concepts of a Chinese fighting system?  Don't be a victim of bad propaganda.  Dare to be a rebel, a free thinker and not sheep-follower waiting to learn the secret theory that will finally make you good.

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*For example many westerners WT'ers overly simplify concepts like "gong & yau lik" into terms like "hard & soft".  When one understands the Chinese it's easy to see that "hard & soft" doesn't come close to explaining the subtle differences and nuances of forces used (or not used) in Wing Tsun.

**Is that not the most condescending thing one has ever heard?  One needs permission and authority to use their brain in their martial arts training?  

Monday
Dec102012

Five Tips To Improve Your Wing Tsun 

Opinions about how to improve one’s Wing Tsun (or wing chun) vary greatly, but like most things in life, the best indicator is the actual success of the methods employed.  I have been teaching Wing Tsun now over ten years and have produced a number of highly-skilled instructors as well as competent hobbyists.  In these ten years, I have had students from all walks of life, backgrounds and goals.  By now it’s pretty clear to me which strategies, mindsets and goals produce achievement.  I have also seen the unfortunate patterns and attitudes in those who end up going nowhere.  That is perhaps the hardest part of my job, to see talent that is squandered by false paradigms or the dreadful but all-to-common un-rooted “dabbler” mindset.

This list of five ways to improve your Wing Tsun is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive.   I do think it is a good start, especially for beginners to the style.  Let’s begin!

Tip #1: Set goals

At this point most everyone has heard the saying “begin with the end in mind”.  This is very important for the beginner as starting Wing Tsun can be an overwhelming venture.  A beginner to Wing Tsun has to focus on form, basics, footwork, self-defense, dan chi, concepts and of course lots of punching to name a few.  It’s difficult to focus well on all of those things as any one of them can take a lifetime to master.

The most reasonable thing to do is to set small goals or milestones of achievement.  They have to be congruent with the time you have available to train.  If you are a hobbyist in Wing Tsun, then your goals may be more modest than the person who has set out to make Wing Tsun their life.  Either way, goals are the key!

Ask your instructor what things you should focus on first or to help you prioritize.  If you got tired after 50 chain-punches, then a simple goal is may to be able to do that without getting tired.  After you have achieved that, you can set the next goal and so on.  Make your Wing Tsun training the realization of a series of small, but steadily progressive goals.  If you come in with too lofty of expectations you may become discouraged when you fall short.  Everyone falls short from time to time, but keep the big picture in focus and begin everything with small goals in mind.

Tip #2: Take it easy on the YouTube “Tsun”

The information age has allowed the free exchange of information in a way unlike any point in history.  This has both its positive and negative points. One negative point is that people think they can do what their martial predecessors couldn't - learning simply by watching and not much else. 

I would suggest to allow your sifu to teach you what you need to learn, at least first before you look to YouTube.  If you find something online that you think is helpful, by all means watch it and study it.  However you must not do this at the expense of your sifu’s instructions.  You joined your school to learn from your instructor and so skipping ahead in a rush to learn someone else’s version of the siu nim tau, chi sau, etc. may not only introduce bad habits, but it will derail you from the progression your sifu has set for you. 

Try as they may, YouTube will never replace hands-on instructionTry as they may, YouTube will never replace hands-on instructionWe have found in our ten years teaching that the statistically the students who make the least progress are those who are constantly YouTube surfing to learn the next thing.  Barely does a student have a grasp over the mechanical movements of siu nim tau and they are already teaching themselves chum kiu and biu tze from an unrelated instructor.  Unless you like to see your sifu lose their hair every time they need to re-correct your elsewhere-learned techniques, this method is not recommended.  A better suggestion is to ask your sifu what videos they recommend to watch.  YouTube can be a powerful tool if you know where to look.  Ask the experts first!*

Tip #3: Fill your head with good stuff

Rather than inundating your mind with heaps of questionable information from YouTube or Internet forums, try reading books (remember those?) written by instructors in your lineage.  It is nearly impossible to learn anything of quality from a book without instruction from a competent and qualified instructor.  A book or video can and should reinforce what you are learning from your instructor, not replace it.  Especially for followers of the various Wing Tsun (WT) lineages, all the books written by Grandmaster Leung Ting will give you the technical and conceptual foundation you need to make the most progress in this style.  For followers of other wing chun, read books from your own grandmasters or teachers instead.

Here is a list of books I recommend for all newbies to Wing Tsun, and the order of which I recommend them is also the order I recommend to read them (all books authored by Grandmaster Leung Ting):

  • Dynamic Wing Tsun – a classic, “self-instructional” with footwork explanations and fighting techniques from the student grade programs.  A perfect complimentary book to your training. 
  • Wing Tsun Kuen – the so-called “bible” of Wing Tsun.  A must-read for every Wing Tsunner.
  • Siu Nim Tau – the first and arguably most important form with important insights into the background and training of the form.

When it comes to some of these books, I just ask that the reader to please look over the somewhat outdated format of some of them as well as the occasional political or Chinglish diatribes. If you get passed that you will see a wealth of knowledge there.  In addition to the previously recommended books, I would also suggest reading the editorial articles written by Sifu Kernspecht at www.wtwelt.com

Tip #4: Practice reasonably

Like the beautiful poem “Desiderata” by Max Ehrman states, “Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself” - and I find this a powerful point.  Martial arts should enhance your life, not detract from it.  To train to the point of constant injury, you are doing yourself a massive disservice as well as delaying the ability to continually train.  Don’t allow yourself to get upset either if you fall short of your goals.  Build yourself up slowly and steadily, never fear moving slowly forward as it is much better than not moving at all.  Don’t compare yourself to others for their reasons to train and their goals may not be your own.  You are responsible for your training as you are for your happiness.  Keep your practice and its effects on your life in check.  This is just martial arts after all.

Tip #5: Don’t be an un-rooted dabbler! (No one likes those anyway)

Seek to be an expert, a specialist as opposed to a “jack-of-all-trades”.  If you delve deep into your practice of Wing Tsun through introspection, intelligent questioning, reading, and of course good old-fashioned hard practice, you will reap many rewards.  At least that’s what our ten years of teaching has taught us.  The ability to dive deep into your practice will also help to make you confident in your abilities and will also allow you to understand Wing Tsun at a level that the “dabblers” never get to.

Dabblers exist in every martial art and in every field outside as well.  In most fields, and martial arts especially, dabblers rarely if ever accomplish anything of note in any style or school - and this is apparent as they’ve been to every school in town.  If you train in a martial arts school then you undoubtedly know a dabbler or two.  They are the ones who train in "this" school but wonder about “that” school, love “this” style but wonder about “that” style.  They want to learn Wing Tsun but also MMA, kickboxing, knife-fighting, BJJ, JKD, Ameridote and yoga.  They have one foot in this martial art, and another foot in another one.  As a result they do nothing of note in any of the schools they are interested in.  This is due to the fact that they constantly believe the solution to their lack of skill (because they won’t admit laziness or unseriousness) is learning something else.  First they thought Wing Tsun would make them a fighter until they realized they need to train hard.  Then suddenly they think that another martial art can do it easier.  There is not a single martial art from karate to tai chi that can be mastered without putting in the rooted effort to master it.  These people often believe they have an “open mind”, but what they have in reality is an un-rooted mind**.

To make a long story short, don’t be “that” person.  I certainly have more to say about this because I believe this problem is the biggest barrier to success in martial arts. What I tell my instructors who have frustration due to teaching such a dabbler is this, "don't worry, that dabbler will be the same guy in the next school he joins, and then again in the next school after that".

By the way, this is not a matter of training a single style versus multiple styles.  A number of our hard working students also train in other styles and that is not a problem.  It’s a question of having a serious and respectful attitude for all the arts*** one decides to take on.  If you follow one or more styles then commit yourself to excellence, not accumulation.  No true expert of a “single” martial art like Wing Tsun or “eclectic” martial arts like MMA or JKD has an un-rooted mind.  An open mind however, is always welcome and needed for success.

Happy Training!

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*On a related note, I’m running out of fingers to count how many times a student tried to teach themselves how to do a kettlebell swing online only to wrench their lower back.  The first 15 minutes of proper kettlebell class taught by a qualified instructor could forever prevent a lower back problem.  The same can be said for improperly learned WT moves online and potential disastrous results in combat.

**The term “un-rooted mind” and not confusing it with an open mind is an idea and concept that was coined by my good friend and movement mentor Dr. Mark Cheng.  The credit must all go to him!

***To be fair I don't want my students who train in another martial arts school to go on and on about Wing Tsun in someone else's school - it's disrespectful both ways.

Monday
Nov262012

"Seeking the Bridge" magic book authored by CWT student

Amazing to see how multi-talented so many of my students are.  The magician John Born, one of my Astoria branch students, just authored a new book on magic entitled "Seeking the Bridge" a tribute to his being a WT devotee.  John is a very talented magician and has gone on to create his on principle of magic that he calls "bridging".  Honored that he made a cool connection between WT and magic.

To find out more about John, please visit his website: http://www.magician-newyorkcity.com/