No One Here but the Fighters

So, confession time, we are definitely stealing a line from the great David Mamet movie, “Red Belt,” which if you haven’t seen, we highly recommend. It’s a story about the struggles of a traditional martial artist to survive in the world which devalues tradition but who ultimately comes to prevail in the same way he teaches his students to prevail.

There’s a great scene in which the instructor is working with a woman who had been raped, teaching her how to successfully turn the knife on her attacker.  He says to her, to affirm her status as a fighter not a victim, “It’s alright. There’s no one here but the fighters.”

l1120093photo by Hillary Johnson Photography

This is Matt Johnson, the teacher at the Ving Tsun Self Defense Academy. He first started studying a martial art at a very young age as a solution to intense bullying he experienced at school.

When he found ving tsun, finally, he felt all his questions had been answered in looking for an art that was complete and comprehensive. He discovered what all serious traditional martial artists eventually do, that the art would refine not only one’s ability to prevail physically against external threats but also refine the inner person to be gentler, calmer, more patient, disciplined and determined. He learned we can prevail against the inner and outer enemies.

The practice or path of ving tsun is a Way, in which the whole person comes to be cultivated, following a code of conduct and martial ethics which guides all aspects of behavior. The idea is to be a better person in the world. Be of service. Do no harm.

Many people think training in a martial art is first of all about the fist. And yes of course, there are very practical applications for all that self defense training but more important is the inner work. The fist is the way in, the beginning, not the final destination.

All students who walk through the door here are fighting a variety of battles in their every day lives. It’s part of who we are as human beings. Everyone has stuff going on; struggles of all kinds professionally, personally, spiritually.

Here at the VTSDA Sifu Matt works hard to teach ving tsun in a way that helps each student learn to prevail not only physically but in all these other areas of life too; to be able to deal with whatever comes along the way with more grace, grit, determination and resilience.

So here too, it’s alright. There’s no one here but the fighters.

We will introducing you to more of the students from the school in this series, we call, “No One Here but the Fighters.”

We hope you enjoyed reading this. If you did, please feel free to share. You can follow the school here and receive our blogs each time we publish, as well as on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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Sunday Siu Nim Tau: The Backstory

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In Ving Tsun we have Siu Nim Tau, the first form, which can be translated to Little Idea or Little Beginning. It’s from this first form, this little idea, that everything else in the system comes.

Every week Sifu Matt offers these blogs, these little ideas, as reflections from his practice to help support yours.

Thanks for reading,

Sifu Matt

New Training Videos for Week Two: 2019

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One of Matt teaching the second form to a student. 

And…

Matt doing chi sau with a student.

 

Thanks for watching!

 

If you like these videos please feel free to share them.

 

Sunday Siu Nim Tau: A Little Idea

January 13, 2019

Every Sunday a little something for you to keep in mind.

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LET GO OF MASTERY

Mastery of an art

Whether martial or writing

Is not what I seek.

I seek nothing.

There is just practice

Daily

Unending

….this is the  Way.

     – Shinzen (David Nelson)

 

The above speaks to the importance of routine and letting go of the idea that we will attain some elusive goal as if it were an end point. We must let go of the idea that we will attain mastery. Instead, it is the dedication to steady work, the love of the steady work, that is the path on a day by day basis.

WHAT WOULD THIS LOOK LIKE?

Simply, routine.

Routine effort is key. Without it we wander, aimlessly wander through our day. Having a routine keeps us on track, centered, and moving ahead. Seeking nothing other than to stay on the path we have chosen for ourselves. This is how we progress. This is how we get better at what we do. Be it writing or martial arts, drawing or painting, photography or music making. Whatever it is, practice is the way. Practice is the path and the destination. We aim to get better but release the idea that there is a final goal, a day, a moment when we say I’m a master now. I can stop working so hard.

In fact if we are lucky, we may be like the famous Okinawan karate master, Gichin Funakoshi, who, the story goes, was very old, yet still teaching, sitting on his bed doing a simple block over and over with deep concentration. He shouted, I think I finally understand this block!  He loved the hard work, practiced every day with discipline until his final days.

We must make an everyday routine. Something we show up for no matter what. No excuses. This is the discipline.

Want to get better at something?

Show up. Do the work. Do the same thing at the same time, day in and day out. This process of intentional practice is the Way.

You don’t have to practice for hours on end. If you have that kind of time, great, but if you don’t and an hour is what you have, use that hour well. If thirty minutes is what you have, use those 30 minutes like the precious minutes they are. That’s enough time when you do it every day.

Every day.  That’s the challenge.

I’m fortunate. I’ve made kung fu training, ving tsun, the center of my life. I have the time to devote to it. I’ve made it my job. I must practice every day to keep my skills up and so I can do what I tell my students they need to do. Anything less would be hypocritical.

And yet… sometimes even I fail at sticking fully to my routine. And when this happens, it shows. Maybe others don’t notice but I do. The sharpness I want in my ving tsun isn’t there.

But because I’ve made a routine of daily practice, this doesn’t happen often. Sometimes, I realize I actually need to take a day off. I listen to the body and give it the rest it needs and this becomes part of the Way. Because I have this daily discipline, this routine, when I fall of the path, I feel it acutely and my dedication, my habitual energy of practice pulls me back into routine. As a result, I feel happier, more content knowing I am being true to my Way.

You can do this too. If you struggle with creating and sticking to a routine, ask yourself what do I need to do to shift this? Do you need to put it into your calendar? Do it. Do you need to tell a friend or a training partner your plans so you can help keep each other on the path? Then do that.

When you choose a Way for yourself you are making a powerful statement about the kind of person you want to be. Dedicated. Disciplined. Ready to do the hard work for its own sake. This is the Way.

When the Way is Open, Charge Ahead

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We are very excited to have our YouTube channel up and running again.

Here’s a short video to start things off.

 

Believe that You Can. Decide that You Will.

Believe that You Can. Decide that You Will

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I hear a couple of phrases from students on a regular basis:

 

I can’t.

And –

I’ll try.

 

What they don’t realize is that when the say these kinds of things they’re only defeating themselves. What we think becomes reality.

 

When we think we can’t do something, no matter what other stories we may tell ourselves, we make failure become reality. It’s a vicious spiral of frustration.

 

There are variations on this sad theme:

 

I can’t find the time to practice; I’m just too busy; I’ll try to get into class; I can’t make it in to class, etc.

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On the flip side, if we tell ourselves that  we can, and we will, that becomes our reality and we make real progress in our ving tsun.

 

It’s a fact that kung fu takes a lot of deep practice. That’s what kung fu means – hard work over  a long stretch of time, like a lifetime. It takes daily practice. In order to have good skill, a practitioner must change this mindset around their practice.

 

If you think with a negative, I can’t  mindset you’ll just keep finding things to fill your time, and you won’t practice. You can’t, “FIND” the time, you must “MAKE” the time. Change the I can’t into I can and I will.

 

I will make the time for my daily practice.

I will make it to class today.

 

If you are always waiting to find the time to practice, you never will. You have to MAKE the time to practice. Set your intention in your mind. You might ask yourself, how you’ll feel if you don’t do your practice. Because it’s all a matter of priorities. If it matters to you, you will MAKE the time to do it. All kinds of things come up that you don’t have time for, and yet you do them. Think about it. How do you want to spend your time? What kind of person do you want to be? Ving tsun has the capacity to transform every aspect of your life for the better but you have to do the work, wishing won’t make it so.

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Practice of ving tsun must be a daily thing you do, like brushing your teeth. Finding the time is self defeating. Make the time. Make that commitment to yourself.

 

I also hear phrases like this during practice:

 

I can’t do the technique.

I’ll try to do my form better.

 

Again, if you believe you can’t, you will never try harder.

 

Kung fu practice is hard. It does take a lot of time and effort. Don’t make it harder on yourself with these self defeating phrases.

 

My students hear me say this all the time:

 

“ If you want to have good ving tsun, you must take the I can’t and I’ll try out of your vocabulary.”

 

It’s true. See for yourself.

 

Remember Yoda’s famous line, “ Do or do not. There is no try.”

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THIS WEEK IN VING TSUN

Lots pf great training at the school last week. Here are a few snap shots of what folks were up to. Notice, the notebook! Taking notes is a really good idea.

 

Also note the long pole, which is very advanced practice.

 

Photos by Hillary Johnson