Three Ways to Train Ving Tsun in 30 Minutes

Often enough I get asked about how to train when you only have a short period of time. After all, not everyone has the luxury of having most of their day to devote to training. What if you only have 30 minutes to an hour for your training outside of class? In part, the answer depends on what your training goals are for the day. Do you want to work on over all physical fitness, do you have a training partner available, or will you be doing your training solo? Here’s three brief answers on how to approach each scenario.

1. 30 Minutes is Good

First of all, actually, 30 minutes is a decent amount of time; you can get a lot done. 30 minutes is perfect for developing good over all physical fitness, which keeps you healthy and improves your Ving Tsun too. You could go for a nice brisk walk, or a run, do some weight training etc. What resources do you have at your disposal? Do whatever exercise you enjoy. 

If you’re training your Ving Tsun, in addition to training your forms which only take a short period of time, (you can go through all three forms in about 20 minutes) what else can you do to improve your chi sau skill?

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2. Train with a Buddy

Well, then, we’re at number two: nothing beats a live training partner. Training with another person is the only way to build your skills under pressure. I’ve seen certain training devices with springy arms etc., that claim to be able to build chi sau skill, but I’m not convinced that these have any benefit at all. Why not? Because these are “dead” devices; they cannot fight back and give you the pressure you need to train your sensitivity and reflexes.

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3. Solo Training of Punching

But what if you’re training alone and still want to build your chi sau skill? This brings me to a third answer to the 30 minute training dilemma.

Well, there are two key practices for you:

  1. Turning punch
  2. Stepping and punching.

That’s it. Simple and direct, just like Ving Tsun. Maybe you were thinking I’d say something more advanced, more esoteric. But no. If you want to build your chi sau skill without a training partner, you can hardly do better than simply turning and punching, and stepping and punching. Both of these exercises can be trained solo. I’ll do my best to break this down for you.

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Turning Punch and Yiu Ma

The turning punch is such a great exercise because it trains the power of our waist and stance. Using what is known in Cantonese as, Yiu Ma training, the turning punch trains us to coordinate the Yiu Ma with our hand techniques; essential for developing powerful punches. Punches made only with the arm or the upper body lack power no matter how big you are. Even a very large and powerful person will always be limited in their capacity for generating power if they don’t develop their Yiu Ma. In other words, the real power comes from the ground, is generated by the legs, then transferred to the upper body and finally to the fist. These parts of the body are known as the six points: ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow and wrist. It is through the coordination of these six points that the turning punch trains so effectively.

Turning Punch and Two Directional Energy

The turning punch also trains us to use what is known in Ving Tsun as two directional energy, in which one hand pulls back as fast or faster than the one going out to strike. Two directional energy greatly increases the speed and power of our strikes. One hand pulling back can use Lop Sau (pulling hand) to borrow an opponents energy while the other hand simultaneously sends out a strike. Coordination of the six points and two directional energy are essential for good skill in chi sau and our ability to use the system of Ving Tsun in an actual self defense situation.

Another way to train the turning punch is by varying the speed and timing of our punches during workouts. Start at one speed, then pick up speed on the next couple of strikes. More like a 1-2,3 rhythm, with the first punch coming out at one speed, the second coming out faster, immediately followed by the third coming out fastest of all.

Stepping and Punching

The next thing is stepping and punching. Many people are under the impression that Ving Tsun does not have very much footwork. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the most effective and powerful steps we have is the triangle step, which comes out of the Baat Jam Do (8 cutting knife) form of the Ving Tsun system.

Fights are dynamic, they move around. We cannot prevail by just standing in one place, throwing punches. It’s essential to coordinate our stepping so that we transfer the power from those steps into our strikes. This again trains the Yiu Ma, because we’re turning, stepping and generating force with the step and a slight twist of the waist. But, we’re also training the ability to chase opponents as they back away, and training to close the gap and attack first, should that be your decision.

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Finally, train sensibly.

Throwing too many punches in the air can lead to a wicked case of Lateral Epicondylitis or in layman’s terms, Tennis elbow, which is not only painful, but can slow down your training because you must take time away from your passion to let it heal. Believe me, not fun at all! So when you train, know your limits, and be careful. Throwing 100 or so punches with perfect form is better than throwing 500 of which the first 100 are perfect and the next 400 sloppy.

So there you have it. Thirty minutes is more than enough time to build your skill if you use it wisely. Pretty simple. Not complicated. Remember the old kung fu adage, “Do not worry about the 10,000 techniques your enemy knows and trains once, worry about the  one technique he knows and trains 10,000 times.

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Thanks for stopping by, Sifu Matt

Check out our new class times!

The academy is now offering more daytime and evening classes to better fit your schedule! Daytime class Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, and evening classes Monday thur Thursday. Call today and start your training at the only Ving Tsun school in Chicago with a direct link to the Ip Man family of the Ving Tsun system.

Four Keys to Good Kung Fu

Four Keys to Good Kung Fu

People ask me all the time, “Sifu, what are the keys to being good at kung fu?”  

My standard answer is always the same, realized after many years of being on the path to mastery myself. (Whether there even is such a thing as mastery, is still an open question. As most people tend to use the word, inferring achievement of perfection, a stopping place past which further development doesn’t exist, I tend to think not. We may keep getting better over time, but mastery? Well, I don’t know about that.) What I have learned, is that there are four things that you must have to be good at Kung Fu.

1. Training

By training I mean being trained in the system of your choice, with a good, qualified teacher. A real honest to goodness sifu, not just someone who plays at being sifu on YouTube. A real sifu can act as your guide in so many ways. The term sifu (whether your teacher is male or female) means “Father” and just like a good parent, a good sifu will have your best interests in his heart and not just be after your money. 

He will guide you through the trials and tribulations of long term kung fu study. Most kung fu styles, especially Ving Tsun, must be passed on directly and personally from sifu to student. I have travelled 7,800 miles (one way) for the last 14 years to be by the side of my sifu, Grand Master Ip Ching. at least once per year, sometimes more, to experience that close personal contact. Sifu once told me, “Ving Tsun is a very personal art and that is how it must be taught. You must take time to touch hands in chi sau with the student so they can learn how it feels when it’s done correctly. And you can guide them through the movements and show them correctly how they must be done. If you don’t chi sau with your students they will never get any better.” 

So, you can see that being in close proximity to a qualified sifu is critical to your successful progress and development in kung fu. With this understanding, now you can know why it’s a complete waste of your precious time to try to learn from any YouTube sifu. You don’t know them personally, nor they you. For newcomers to any art, it’s challenging enough to tell a good sifu from a bad one, even when meeting them face to face. It can be hard to know what questions to ask them to make a good determination. What’s their character and their knowledge of the art? On Youtube, which is only a monologue, not a true dialogue between sifu and student, who can tell? A Youtube sifu may have very questionable understanding of the art itself, only instilling you with poor understanding and bad habits, which once learned are hard to get rid of. It’s the same with trying to learn from videos or books. 

Without being around your Sifu to pick up the nuances of the art, all you are doing is imitating movements. And, that’s not kung fu; that’s imitation. You see, kung fu is about an exchange between sifu and student. Because the exchange with the sifu is every bit as important as the technique, I’ll write another article on how to go about finding the right sifu in the future.

2. Commitment. 

This aspect is crucial. In order to have good kung fu you must commit to both the art and the teacher. You must give 100% to get 100%. This means being willing to jump in with both feet. Trust your sifu and trust the art. If you don’t have the commitment, you won’t put in the effort needed to have truly good skill. Give yourself up to the study. Make the time, even if it mean that other things in your life may have to go by the wayside. You have to be ok with that. 

Kung fu is a life of discipline, routine, hard work, effort and sacrifice. As I typed this up on my iPad, when I typed the word “sacrifice,” the auto correct kicked in and typed “scary face”, so having a scary face is important as well, according to my iPad. )

3. Practice, practice. Then? “Practice more!”

I have a friend in Hong Kong named Albert. He’s my Sihing, or older kung fu brother. His skill is out of sight; one of the best in the world as far as I’m concerned. He’s been involved with Ving Tsun for many more years than me. How serious is he? The man straps on safety glasses when he does Chi Sau; so there ya go. Whenever his students come to him with a problem or trouble in their Ving Tsun, he has a standard answer. He adjusts his glasses and says, “You must practice more!!!”

It’s the same answer I’ve gotten from Sifu Ip Ching many times. For a long time this answer use to frustrate me to no end! It seemed like he was dodging the question. Every problem I had he would say, “Practice more!” How could it be? How could so many questions all have the same answer? Impossible! Infuriating! Of course, because it’s true. And now I find my self saying the same thing to my own students. “You must practice more! ” 

If you’re in kung fu then you probably already know what I mean by all this. If you’re new, well then, understand this: To have the ability to really be able to defend yourself you MUST practice. Self defense skill requires ongoing training. It’s not a, “10 easy lessons and you can defend yourself,” kind of thing. A daily practice regimen is essential. Carve out the time. Attend class! Skill never has been nor ever will be, built by sitting on the couch watching TV, not even watching the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball while eating chips and salsa, one of my favorite pastimes. 

Kung fu skill can’t be built by watching videos or making them. Nor by many of the other things that occupy us in this technological time, this information age. If you are a sifu already, still you must practice. Many times when people start teaching, they figure they don’t need to practice anymore. They think they have mastery. Actually, I think that as teachers we have to practice harder. The sifu should be the hardest working person in the school. But that is for another post. 

4. Patience

This is a biggie. Many people these days simply don’t have patience. We live in a fast food culture. We want what we want and we want it RIGHT NOW! Look at how fast everything in our lives is. Fast cars, fast computers fast food; nobody has patience for anything anymore. We want it yesterday. One thing I can say for sure is, this impatience won’t help you have good kung fu. There is an old kung fu story which tells about a student who went to a masters house to learn from him: 

“Master,” he said, “if I work extremely hard how long will it take me to master the art?”  

“The rest of your life,” said the master. 

“I cant wait that long,” said the student. “I’m ready to do anything to learn. I want to become your most devoted disciple. I will as train as hard as you say and do anything you ask. How long will it take?”  

“Perhaps ten years,” said the master. 

“But what if I work extra hard? What if i train night and day then how long?” “Oh, maybe thirty years.” 

“Thirty years! First it was ten, now thirty! I don’t have that long! Master! I’m willing to do anything! How long?” 

The master looked up from what he was doing. “In that case, you better stay with me the rest of your life. A person who’s in as big of a hurry as you are, cannot learn anything quickly.” 

Here’s one thing I tell every student at some point. It’s the same thing Ip Ching told me. Simply this: Have patience in your search for perfection. Don’t worry about it. Just practice. Just practice and try to be a little bit better than you were yesterday. Over time, perfection will take care of itself. If you have patience.

So there you have it. Four keys to what we’re all looking for; top skill in kung fu. Of course these aren’t the only things we need, but they’re some of the things that through my own experience, I see as very important. I hope you can learn something from this.

Kung Fu Life

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I’ve been involved in one form of martial art or another for a long time now.

36 years to be exact. Not very long. I feel like I’m still just a beginner in a lot of ways.

For the last 26 of those years, I’ve devoted all my time and study to the art of Ving Tsun. Looking back now, I realize that what started out merely as a means to stop bullies from picking on me, became along the way, something much bigger and more important. As a kid I was skinny, not strong or tough at all; exactly the kind of kid bullies look for. One day, I said to myself, that’s enough!

So, in the beginning it was just the fighting that attracted me, learning to stack ass and take names. And I did pretty well at it. Over time, I’ve stacked a lot of ass and taken plenty of names. But one day I realized the silliness of it all. I also saw a deeper truth: I was at risk of turning into a bully myself with my new found powers. I thought there had to be more than just learning how to throw a punch and hurt someone. Hell, you don’t even need kung fu to punch someone in the face. So what’s it really all about then?

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In my quest to find that out, I’ve talked with many kung fu teachers in the USA as well as Hong Kong and China. Especially I’ve had long talks with my own guide of the last 14 years, Master Ip Ching in Hong Kong. ONE thing keeps coming up with EVERY master I’ve talked with. ONE thing that keeps coming up over and over again. And that is, that kung fu is not about fighting. In fact, Sifu Ip Ching said just last April, to one of my students during one of our annual visits to see him, “when a person learns kung fu and practices for a while, you don’t ever want to have to use it, and will do whatever it takes to not have to use it.”

So, what’s it all really about then?

Well, I’ve decided to share with you all what I’ve discovered so far and what I continue to investigate regarding that question through weekly blog posts. You can come along on this kung fu journey, and learn with me each and every day I teach and train. The journey is ongoing. Day by day. Moment by moment. One training session at a time. I’ll share what I’ve learned: from my Sifu in Hong Kong, from teaching my students to walk the path, from watching as they make their own discoveries, and from what I’ve discovered through the hard work of daily training.

Some posts will be short. Some longer. Not all will be about the system of Ving Tsun directly, but many will. Some posts will be about the nuts and bolts of the Ving Tsun system and how to train and understand it correctly, and some will be more about the journey of a man doing his best to live what Sifu Ip Ching calls the, “Kung Fu Way of Life.”

So, I invite you to come back each week to read the blog. Perhaps I can help you understand what this journey is all about, and help you to live the “Kung fu life”.

Sifu Matt

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Ving Tsun Meets Shakespeare

Sifu Matt and some of the guys went to see Rok Teasley, a student at the academy, perform in MacSith. After the show, Sifu and the students did a little demo for the cast.

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It was a great night. The play was wonderful and sharing martial arts info with true enthusiasts was a lot of fun.

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We talked about the origins of ving tsun – myths and likely realities.

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Red Boat Opera and how ving tsun if applied to MacSith would have made the play way too short by making the fight scenes happen too darn quick!

We also shot a little video, 8 short clips, which you can catch on YouTube.

Thanks so much to Orion Couling, director of MacSith and Rok Teasley for inviting us in. Break a leg you guys!

 

A Few More Training Pictures

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Another Night of Training + An Interview

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