Tuesday, 27 December 2011

moved sites

hi guys

from now on i will be using http://www.monkeystealspeach.com

here you can find all kinds of information about kung fu in china including interviews, translations of texts and theory, traditional training methods and listings of kung fu schools.

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Jade Master

A story my girlfriend told me:

In ancient China, when a jade craftsman would take on an apprentice they had an unusual way of training them. First, they would give the young child a piece of jade. Then, the master would read from a book; explaining the history, different kinds of jade: all the book knowledge on jade available. During the time, the young child would probably not listen, and just play with the piece of jade. after a period of time, the master would give the child another kind of jade to play with; all the while he never acknowledged the jade to the child, just read from the book and let him play. After doing this for several years, upon receiving a new piece, the child would suddenly call out "this piece isn't jade, it's just a stone!" At that time the master knew the child was ready to start crafting the jade, now he intrinsically knew the feel of jade, even if he couldn't explain why he knew if it was jade or not.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Motivation, Goals and Basics

After returning home for the summer with Master Zhou's basics to work on, I've realised I've ignored basics in the past. Now is my time to go right back to the beginning and get everything right. Basics are definitely something that every martial artist needs to train everyday, the bread and butter. Not only do they give you the correct body mechanics, but a serious session of repetition of basics, say doing Yi Bu San Chui (one step three punches) 100 times full power, 10 minutes horse stance, bow stance, stretches, kicks etc will leave you exhausted with every single muscle blasted. I've found loads of subtleties in the movements I had never thought of, a myriad of possible applications just from the most simple of movements.

The difficult thing is motivation. Forcing myself day after day to go through the same routine of the same endless amount of repetition of the same movements is boring, tiresome and horrible. But after a period of time I've started to feel the benefits. My body feels stronger, more powerful, my applications more natural and my forms smoother and nicer.

The only way I've managed to get through, is to set strong goals. Some days I get lazy, I feel like what's the point, I've done this so many times already! The only thing I can do is to remind myself of my goals and push myself through. Needless to say, I feel so much better than the days I give into my laziness, when I feel guilty and sluggish.

After all, this is the meaning of the very word kung fu. In ancient times kung fu wasn't the name of a martial art, it was an accomplishment of skill. Kung fu meant to have attained a high level through perseverance, through decades of training and refining; whether it was to make teapots, paint pictures, sword fight or even to cut vegetables, kung fu was an attainment. Through my constant training and refining, I have come to appreciate people who dedicate them to any skill, people who have that obsessive desire to perfect something. Kung fu is like a sculptor who chips away at the wood everyday, to reveal the beauty within; it's not adding on, but refining and discarding the roughness in your bodies movement.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

New Beginnings

I’ve now trained with my master for two years. Recently, with me living far away from him and him being busier and busier, I’ve become a little frustrated. I’ve been spending long hours climbing the hill behind Ludong University to train alone; it’s been hard to keep my motivation up when I’m not learning anything new and unable to find a training partner.

Right around this time fate kicked in and Kevin Brazier, a mantis teacher and historian/researcher from America, told me he was visiting Yantai to do some training and research for a book he’s writing. I jumped at the opportunity to meet with him and discuss mantis. He began to show me a lot of two person drills and principles of mantis, which I’d never been exposed to before. He also agreed to take me to meet the master he was visiting, Zhou Zhen Dong.

I’d been feeling frustrated with my training, and my lack of progression, feeling that as I’m in China I should be making the most of my time here and getting as much knowledge as I can. The mantis I had been learning was very good, but I wanted to learn more about these principles and two person drills Kevin showed me. The way I had been learning before was more focussed on forms and sanda (kickboxing), and was modified from the traditional mantis. My lineage was from Master Zhang Bing Dou, who had made a lot of changes to mantis, adding a lot of Chang Quan, Xingyi and other stuff into it. It was complex and deep, but I felt it was just too eclectic and seemed to lack a core.

So I met with Master Zhou, and noticed his mantis is definitely the more traditional. It seems to be more built upon a set of principles with core building blocks to help the student progress. After talking to a few of his students, including a mantis instructor from Austria called Nikki, I decided this is more for me and Master Zhou accepted me as a student, provided I start again from scratch. I then spent the next two weeks waking up at 5am to go to the park, training for 2-3 hours, then going to a field with no lighting to train from 7 to about 9 at night. During this time I would just repeat, over and over again, the basic movements. I had learnt most of these, but this time the body mechanics were different, and I was determined to make a good impression. So I would just go up and down, doing the same move over and over until I was ready to drop. It was a tough 2 weeks, and I lost some weight, but I persevered and Master Zhou was impressed.

Master Cui Shou Shan
Master Zhou studied from Zhang Kai Tang, who learnt two systems, Hao family meihua mantis from Hao Heng Lu and Taiji mantis from Cui Shou Shan, one of the 3 mountains of Laiyang, who were three blood brothers famous throughout China for their kung fu skills. Master Zhou had studied in secret from his master during the Cultural Revolution, facing persecution as traditional culture was banned and anyone practicing it was “part of the old” and had to be punished.

Now I have returned home for the summer and I have three months to master these basic moves before I return to China ready to learn more. I’ve explained to Master Zhou that I don’t just want to learn forms (I already know sooo many), I want to get more confident in my fighting ability. I want a strong foundation of kung fu I can really use.

Sifu Kevin Brazier runs the Penglai Kung Fu School based in Florida. His website, http://www.plumflowermantisboxing.com contains huge amounts of research and writings on the history of praying mantis kung fu.  

Monday, 8 August 2011

Interview with Kunyu Shan's Master Guo Xin Min

Master Guo Xin Min is a master at Kunyu Shan Kung Fu Academy, he is the successor of Grandmaster Yu Xian Hua for Jin Gang Li(金刚力), a system of Qigong specialising in developing incredible power. He is the only person in the world to successfully break a slab of marble resting on tofu, and has managed many other feats of power, such as breaking marble with 2 fingers. He is also a master of Ba Ji Quan, Wing Chun and Chen Style Tai Chi. He has studied martial arts for over 30 years, and has much experience, both in performance and combat. He is currently ranked at level 8 in Chinese martial arts, and has created his own qigong techniques, which have been listed by the Chinese Martial Arts Committee. He is also vice-secretary general of the Kunyu Mountain Cultural Research Association.

He teaches Baji Quan and Wing Chun together, and has a friendly, easy going teaching style. He believes it is up to the student to get what he wants from training, and will give students back as much as they put it. His training regime includes a balance of all aspects, mainly concentrating on both forms and applications, with supplementary qigong, power training and sanda/wrestling.

W (Will, me): Master Guo, please could you tell us about your experiences in learning kung fu:

MG: My grandfather’s master was a monk from the Shaolin temple. He taught him several styles including monkey and Da Hong Quan. Then, during the Japanese invasion of China, my father learnt a rare style called Guan Xi Xiao Jia. My family at that time were farmers, during spring and autumn they were working on the farm, winter and summer there was no work, so they had a lot of free time and would hire travelling kung fu masters to teach them for a period of time. You see, there was a very big family in our village, which would bully the other smaller families and were like a mafia, so we learnt kung fu to protect ourselves. My father was very strong from farm work, he used to carry very heavy bags around and operate heavy machinery. He was very skilled at wrestling and locking skills. When I was very young, I saw him fight with someone, and he knocked the man flying several metres! This left a deep impression on me and I knew I wanted to learn that.

When I was very young, I was often bullied, I was the youngest of several brothers and sisters, and my parents were very poor, so I didn’t get much milk as a baby. I was very weak and small, and the other children bullied me. I started kung fu at about 3 or 4 years old, but even at the age of 8, I still couldn’t fight. I spent too much time learning acrobatics and flexibility skills. When I was 8, I started to learn more practical kung fu, and when I was 10 I had my first fight. My sister was being picked on by some much older kids, so I went and beat them up. When I was a teenager I had a lot of fights with much bigger and older kids, and gained a reputation among kids in my village.

W: Can you tell me about your qigong training:

MG: My parents wanted me to have a good education, but I always wanted to do kung fu professionally. When I was 14, I became a student of a qigong master. He taught me Shaolin Nei Jia Yi Zhi Chan (少林内家一指禅shaolin 1 finger zen). I would stand in horse stance for at least an hour, with bricks on my arms. I sweated so much, there was a huge puddle underneath me, and in winter my whole body would steam. Sometimes I would even stand like this for up to 4 hours, and I could feel the Qi shooting out of my fingers.

Then, when I entered high school, I changed to learn Jin Gang Li, which included martial arts, as Yi Zhi Chan was just developing qi. In 1992 I lived with my master, first I would stay with him in the holidays, later I quit school to study full time. I would do qigong in the morning and free fighting in the afternoon. After 1 year, I began to help my master to teach. In 1999 I travelled overseas to teach and perform kung fu.

W: Your teaching focus is on Baji and Wing Chun, could you talk a bit about them:

MG: In 1995 I felt like I wanted to learn more kung fu, so I travelled around looking at different styles. At that time I started Wing Chun. Most northern Chinese would make fun of Wing Chun, saying it’s for women and it lacks strength, so I was already biased against it. It wasn’t until 2000, that I was invited to teach some bodyguards in Guangdong, that I really came to appreciate it. You see before I was young and liked beautiful forms.

My master often travelled to Hong Kong in secret during the revolution to exchange ideas on kung fu there. So the lineage I teach is a mixture of mainland and Hong Kong Wing Chun. The big difference people notice in my Wing Chun to what they learn in the west is there is an extra form, which comes before Siu Lim Tao. This form is called Shi Er San Shou (十二散手12 free hands), this form gives the student the fundamentals of wing chun, it is 12 principles for combat, which are practical and easy to learn. For most of my short term students, I will teach them this form. In Guangdong they say if you just want to learn self defence, this form is enough.

In the south of China, they use upper body techniques, but I am a northerner and my foundation is northern, so I like to use my legs a lot more. Traditional Wing Chun says kicks must be low, but I think that if you are good with your legs, high kicks are good too. In street fighting, low kicks are more effective, but in the ring, high kicks are better. Also, you can use a low kick, and then follow up with a high kick. They flow together. This is something I have added to the wing chun I teach.

Baji, however, I liked straight away. It’s strong, powerful and vicious. Wing Chun took me several years to appreciate. Wing Chun is like a gentleman’s art, it’s very reserved and humble. A Wing Chun fighter won’t move so much, and will act humbly. Baji is like a demon, it’s vicious, strong, and proud. So, it depends what mood I’m in as to what I practice, if I feel calm, I train my Wing Chun, if I’m excited, I train my Baji. Baji uses much more of the body than Wing Chun. In fact, Baji, Wing Chun and Taiji, in essence are very similar. Beginners can’t see that, but we all have the same body, there’s only so many ways of issuing power and moving it. In Wing Chun, we use the principle of leverage, in Taiji, it’s called Yin and Yang. They are both the same. In Baji, there are a lot of elbows and takedowns.

My Baji comes from Wu Lian Zhi, native of Meng County in Hebei. He is the oldest generation still alive. Our lineage is Wu Shi Kai Men (wu style “opening the door”) Baji. In fact, our basic zhan zhuang, or standing posture, is a horse stance, with the arms held one bent up, one bent down in the figure for the character (wu), the surname of my master.

W: Can you talk a little about the relationship between traditional forms and modern Sanda (散打kickboxing)

MG: Many young people in China really like Sanda now. But after they train for several years, they often feel they want to develop more. This is where traditional forms come in. Forms were created by old masters by taking their fighting experience and condensing into a form, like a catalogue of fighting techniques or strategies. So a fighter can research the forms to find fighting techniques suitable for them.

When you want to get a higher level, you can learn Qigong or Taiji. A lot of Sanda fighters get injuries; qigong training can help your body to heal faster, also to make it stronger and more resistant to injury. Many people who just practice hard kung fu get problems later in life, arthritis etc. I have a friend who was an iron head performer. He broke a concrete slab with his head one time and suffered a serious head injury. His face became partially paralysed and the doctors couldn’t do anything. I taught him qigong and he practiced for up to 8 hours a day! After breakfast, he would just do standing postures, and wouldn’t finish until dinner! After a period of time, his head had healed fairly well.

Thank you Master Guo for sharing your knowledge and experience with us!

For more interviews like this visit www.monkeystealspeach.co.uk

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Interview with Shaolin Master Shi Xing Long

Shi Xing Long, aka Master Wang is a 32nd generation Shaolin master who teaches traditional shaolin kung fu and Sanda. He has a very deep knowledge of traditional shaolin and modern sanda. He has come number one in several national Chinese sanda tournaments, as well as China-Korean martial arts tournament, but he gave this up after suffering a serious back injury. He has mostly recovered now, which he puts down to Shaolin Qigong training. During his injured period, rather than wasting time, he dedicated his time to reading and researching Shaolin manuscripts given to him by his master. I first met him about two years ago when I first came to Kunyu Shan academy to learn Mantis. My first encounter with him was when he taught a Buddhism class every Friday evening. Often I was the only student who turned up, so we would discuss Zen and its connection to martial arts, as well as his own personal experience about life at Shaolin Temple.  

He views kung fu as a way of improving people’s lives, to make them a better person, to be tougher, more confident, more polite etc. It extends to every aspect of life, not just fighting. I have seen many people change after spending some time training with him.

Master Wang was born in Shanxi province, into a very poor family. His grandfather was involved in kung fu and encouraged him to enter the temple for training at a young age. In the beginning, he was very naughty and had no interest in learning. His master would often beat him or make him spend 2 hours standing facing the wall. After his second year, he became much more focussed, beginning to mature and understand the training better.

His master was Shi De Qian, who has passed away now. He was one of the most knowledgeable masters of Shaolin in the modern times. I managed to talk to Master Wang about his experience at Shaolin temple: learning kung fu, training with his master, and some lessons in life he learnt there….

Shifu, please could you tell us about your master, Shi De Qian:

Learning kung fu was very bitter. You had to have perseverance. Our master would test each student; he would watch them carefully during class. He wanted to find the ones with the most potential. Those students he liked, he would take his free time to give extra training and theory to. He was very traditional, and made sure we understood the theory and applications of all the forms. You have to really think about this, to do a form is easy, but you must take your own time to contemplate the features of different forms, to understand them.

Our master was like a father, he would teach us about all aspects of life. He said we have to be men, At that time we knew how to respect our master, to help him teach new students, give him more free time. Because respecting the master is also a kind of kung fu.
Master said, as a man, you must be able to face all kinds of difficulties. Now we are older, and live in society, we slowly realise what he was teaching us. Things in life are really like our master told us, and we must be able to face these challenges.

What was it like learning kung fu in the temple:

When we learnt kung fu it wasn’t like how people learn it now. We learnt from monks, but we had to rely on ourselves to study. We all started from basics. After mastering the basics we spent a lot of time on forms. Our master made sure we understood the theory behind the forms too.

As there were many students, we all had to prove ourselves worthy of learning the higher knowledge. We were all from very poor families; we had no choice but to succeed. Also, as life was in the temple, there were no distractions from the outside world, before I was 18, I have never seen an MP3 player, and I didn’t even know what kind of clothes I would wear if I went out, as we wore our training uniforms all the time. We had to dedicate all our time to kung fu, we didn’t think about going out to play or whatever, we just cared about training hard.

You must have a lot of insights from life there, could you share some with us:

Well, training kung fu is not just about fighting. It’s about being a better person. It’s about learning to master yourself. For example, when we hold stances, it’s really tough, you want to give up. But you can see everyone else is doing it, and maybe the master will hit you if you stop. This doesn’t just give you strong legs; it gives you a strong mind. You can’t just go through life giving up at the first sign of discomfort, where will that get you?

All kinds of training are like that, when we train, we train our minds, and our spirits. Training is tough and painful, but as kung fu practitioners, we must be tough, be able to go through this difficulty, then we will be able to take on any challenge life can throw at us.

For more interviews like this, visit http://www.monkeystealspeach.co.uk