Thank you for stopping by. We hope you enjoy the videos. Please share them if you do.
Thank you for stopping by. We hope you enjoy the videos. Please share them if you do.
Today’s post is really all about the video.
Because let’s face it, who is reading anything any more?
Easier to watch or listen. Ah yeah , multi tasking… sometimes it is okay.
Anyway, we will make this brief.
Here is a thing we talked about yesterday in class. It’s not the first time and sure as shit, it won’t be the last.
So the question is, once we can stop trying to emulate movie kung fu as a model for real self defense, can we learn to practice our art with great and focused intention to be a little better every time and specific to ving tsun, to do simultaneous defense and attack? Because WHY do two moves when you can do one?
Want to try it? Come in and try a free class. Ask questions. Bring your best game. We got this.
The best defense? Good daily training.
Thanks for reading.
Sunday, March 3, 2019
Last weekend was the first of four training camps at the academy. There will be one each season. Last weekend was the winter camp. Next will be spring, summer and fall camps. I put these on so students can have two full days of total immersion in the practice of the art of Ving Tsun. Two solid days of six to eight hours spent in deep practice. No phones. No Distractions. Just ving tsun.
When I’ve trained like this in my own practice, I’ve always gotten better. A LOT better. Sharper. My skill grew noticeably. So I knew that by creating an experience like this that my students would have the same experience. And they did. Many good questions came up that, when answered, took everyone in the room, to a deeper level of understanding. We went through all the forms in the system and went very deep in our practice.
In the camps, I try to give students an idea of how I train. I don’t do six to eight hours every day, mind you. But I do get in a good three to four hours every day. Students ask what I do with that time. Is it all ving tsun? Sometimes, yes. They ask, what else do you do?
Well. That’s complicated. Certainly a lot of time is spent polishing my Ving Tsun. But, I do many other things as well.
It’s my belief that a martial artist should be fit and healthy. It does take a certain level of fitness to perform any martial art. But being fit and healthy is its own reward. One of the major benefits of Ving Tsun practice is that it helps us get to that more fit and healthy place, physically and mentally.
In fact, every single master I’ve ever been around here in the US, in Hong Kong, or China, says that kung fu practice is first and foremost meant to be a health regimen. It’s meant to protect us from physical violence, yes, of course, but even more to protect us from poor health.
It’s time for strengthening the body as well as the mind. Daily practice of forms, weapons, sparring, chi sau; all of these will certainly help keep you fit and healthy. But a practitioner should do more to enhance what they are doing in the kwoon. (school)
Things like cardio work, weight training, go a long way to help not only with performance in martial arts, but fitness training also has other benefits like fighting depression. As we age, we lose muscle tone and strength, bone density, joint function, and so on. Exercise in the martial arts and in the gym fights all of these.
For me, daily and weekly routines, encompass many forms of exercise to keep me fit and healthy. In addition to my my daily Ving Tsun practice, I do my best to walk 10,000 steps every day. Every week, I incorporate two sessions of weight training at the gym, I do three or more HIIT (High Intesity Interval Training) cardio sessions. Some days I swim. Some days I run. One way or the other, I’m always moving. In fact, aside from my daily meditation practice (which I highly recommend for everyone) I really can’t stand sitting around.
I love all forms of movement and exercise. I believe these are keys to a happy life. At 51 years old, I weigh what I did in high school and am down to the same pant size as well. I feel like I’m 25 again. And I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
I’m always moving. In fact, before I sat down to write this, I went through all of my ving tsun forms. I can’t wait to be done writing because I want to do more, go for a long walk, or do more work on the wooden dummy…anything that will get my ass out of this chair and moving.
Sometimes, people are taken aback at my level of activity and ask where I get the energy for it all.
I follow a whole-foods, plant-based diet.
I feel that it’s an optimum form of nutrition that gives me all the energy I need. I love eating this way. I eat almost zero animal products. There’s the occasional bit of cheese or chicken or perhaps fish, but 95% plants. Lots of fruit.
I always get asked the same question: But where do you get your protein!?
That’s no problem.
Everything we eat has some protein.
Some of the largest, strongest animals on the planet don’t eat anything but plants, so I’m not worried. We can get all the protein and nutrition in this way of eating. The science is out there. This mode of eating reduces and prevents and can reverse several of the major health issues plaguing western society which eats a standard American diet (SAD) comprised of junk food, fast food, soda, etc. and which causes health issues like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive issues and a serious killer, obesity.
Eating plant-based is also better for our planet. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of pollution and a major contributor to global warming. If you are a person who cares about what’s happening to our planet, like me, know that making the change to a more plant-based diet makes an immediate positive impact beyond our own personal health.
There’s also the matter of the animals we eat. As I’ve gotten further into my zen practice, my compassion for all living beings has grown. I see now the suffering the consumption of meat causes. If I can do my part to help by reducing my intake of animal products, I will.
Don’t take my word for it.
Take the time. Do the research yourself. It’s all out there, in books and on-line. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
I confess, it took me some time to make this change. It wasn’t an overnight thing. But I did the research, and over time I made changes in how I lived and ate and I felt better and better as time went on. My ving tsun performance skyrocketed. For me, there’s no going back. It’s a win on all fronts.
These are my choices.
Everyone has to do what they feel is right and best for them.
So, this is my daily life these days. Lots of ving tsun practice and lots of general exercise. And lots and lots of plants to eat.
Hopefully, this lifestyle will keep me practicing and teaching the art I love and have been so fortunate to learn, well into my advanced years.
Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to be fit and healthy too. So you can practice more of whatever martial art you love, and to be the best you can be.
What is the driving force in my life? the art of Ving Tsun.
And like I said, I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
And days off ? I take Sundays off. Sometimes. Occasionally. Okay, so a few times a month. Or a year… Okay, so almost never.
Thanks for reading.
See you in class.
Thanks for reading
I’ve taken up photography.
My wife is a wonderful photographer and she’s showing me the ropes.
I’m not good at it just yet but I do my best and I’m having fun. And the fun? That feels like the most important part right now. I have this great Fuji X100 and I admit, I feel like a guy who’s got great car, a Ferrari, but doesn’t quite know how to drive it yet.
There’s f/stops, shutter speeds, “film” speeds. I do a lot of experimenting.
Then there’s this whole business of looking, of seeing.
It’s interesting learning what takes my eye, what makes me want to take a photo of something. To learn that and to learn about photography in general, feels a lot like the learning process of kung fu training. You must have what’s known as beginner’s mind, a concept from Zen practice. Beginner’s mind is a state of keeping the mind in a fresh, learning, open state. It’s about forgetting or putting down what you thought you knew about something.
This kind of mind can be applied to anything and everything.
With beginner’s mind, you cast away assumptions, prejudices, any preconceived ideas.You’re always in a place to take in new information. In Zen practice, it’s always a process of going back to beginner’s mind.
Students hear me say all the time that in order to be good at kung fu you must always go back.
Back to the start.
Back to the fundamentals.
You must also go back on the inside.
Do the inner work on yourself, on your ego. On all the mental things that will keep you from getting any better. You may have fear, anger, lack of confidence, a fragile sense of yourself or an overblown sense of yourself.
If you can’t go back into yourself to do this deep inner work, you will never get better at the physical techniques.
Unexamined internal life holds us back.
Our ego holds us back.
These character issues? Ditto.
Because that’s the process. Train the physical skill long enough to get good, then go back: back to the beginning or the basics, and back into yourself.
Going back is key. Those that do the inner work find themselves not only better at the techniques, but becoming a better people as well. And THAT is what martial arts training does best. It makes us better people. Better physically and mentally. Better members of society.
And now, I’m going back again. This time to learn photography. And I’m fine with that because I trust this process. I’m very curious and don’t know where photography will take me. Maybe I’ll be able to show my pictures some day. But that’s down the road. Right now, I’m enjoying the journey.
I’ve always enjoyed the process of going back. I’ve seen the results in my Ving Tsun and in my life. Ving Tsun teaches me something new every day. And it will teach you too if you’re listening and looking.
January 20, 2019
Thanks for reading,
When you understand one technique, you know one technique. When you understand a concept or a principle, you know a thousand techniques.
I found this in one of my old kung fu notebooks. It was something I’d written on a Hong training trip. To be honest, I don’t remember if it’s something that my Sifu said or what. But I know why it’s in there and I know what it’s talking about.
It’s talking about the fact that ving tsun is a concept or principle-based system of kung fu. As opposed to other systems which have vast collections of techniques. Ving Tsun doesn’t have that many techniques. As for hand techniques, there’s only 18 or so. Only eight kicks. All very simple and and all easily learned.
So, with so few techniques, what makes ving tsun work? For us practitioners, how do we know what to do and when to do it?
To understand this we have to realize that ving tsun operates on principle and theory. Because it’s not a collection of techniques it works differently. Everything relies on principles. We talk about thinking in the “ving tsun way,” based on these principles.
Ving Tsun is not a this technique to counter that technique way of dealing with an attacker. Ving Tsun doesn’t think this way. In an approach of technique vs technique, things only work when they go according to a specific plan; as a series of actions practiced in the safety of the school.
Students are encouraged to think: When this attack happens then I do attack number 20, and so on.
But fighting is not choreography.
Self defense is not dancing.
Because the minute that first punch is thrown, everything else, all your dance moves, all your choreography, goes right out the window.
The only thing you can truly rely on is your ability to respond, built from your forms practice, from your sensitivity, built in chi sau, which is what we train in ving tsun.
What we train in chi sau, is how to put the technique into effect, in the moment, based on conditions right then and there, not as part of some pre-imagined dance choreography. Because unless you a stunt guy in an action movie, where all goes according to plan – that shit don’t fly. If the attacker doesn’t do exactly what we expect, in a technique vs technique system, we’re screwed. But in a principle based system, like ving tsun, we can prevail
We sense, even if we have not been touched directly, personally by violence, that it’s the very nature of violence to be unpredictable.
For good measure, here’s a definition of violence from the dictionary we keep at home:
behavior or treatment in which physical force is exerted for the purpose of causing damage or injury, intended or kill …
So, let that sink in.
Let’s go on.
You never know when or how someone will attack you. It’s all just an estimation. So, if you train in a this technique vs that technique approach, you are setting yourself up for potential disaster in a real violent situation in the real world.
In ving tsun we have a formula that guides us. This formula tells us what to do. That is what we train: the formula of ving tsun. The formula is a set of concepts.
For instance, the centerline principle:
The principle state that the shortest distance between you and your opponent is from the center of your body to the center of your opponent’s body. That’s where a lot of vulnerable targets lie, along this line throughout the length of the body, which can be found in the space as wide as the eyes throughout the torso.
Another principle is of economy:
We train to do nothing that’s not absolutely necessary in a violent encounter.
We don’t jump around. We don’t move until we need to.
That’s not to say that ving tsun doesn’t have foot work or movement, quite the opposite. We have it but it’s very economical; Tight. Intentional.
In ving tsun, we train not to clash our brute force against our opponents’ brute force. Why not? Because clashing force against force will ALWAYS favor a bigger, stronger opponent. As your attacker will almost always be bigger and stronger than you because that’s how they pick out a target. It’s just logical. So going force against force is a zero-win game.
This is where the beauty of ving tsun really shines. The formula tells us that it’s better to redirect the power coming at us every time. This principle says it’s ALWAYS better to deflect than block a violent force head on. Every single time.
This is one tiny micron thin slice of ving tsun theory. There’s so much more of course. But we can start here for now.
Principles like this can save your life. Better than any basket of techniques based on imagined events in the future.
I’ll take theory and principle every time.
How about you?
Humberto, by day he works at UPS. The rest of the time, he trains ving tsun and keeps very close ties with his family.
Humberto is a senior student at the school. He’s been studying here since about 2011. Originally he came because he made a new year resolution to be more fit and because he’d seen the original Ip Man movie which really inspired him; seeing Ip Man being so focused and relaxed in so many really challenging situations.
After the film, he did his research and looked for ving tsun schools. After his first visit to the school, the atmosphere just felt right and he decided that this was the place.
What keeps Humberto going? He says that every day there is something new to learn; Maybe adding to something you already know but you add something new to the puzzle.
He says, “I enjoy training. I came here to learn to fight but in time that changed. Now I see that isn’t about fighting really its about having a humble soul, having inner strength.”
Today his main focus is helping beginners to come up in the system and to complete his own training. He says this helps him be better too. He says, “When you know something and you teach it to another person, it’s like you get to teach yourself twice, which always helps.”
The things he learned here transfer to the rest of his life. Accepting when things go wrong, he learned not to panic but learn there’s always some way to fix the situation, just like in training and chi sau.
Sifu Matt introduced him to meditation too and that was something he’s stayed with since day one because it makes a difference in his kung fu and in his normal, every day life.
Every year he renews his resolution to train for another year, to stay in shape, to defend himself if necessary. He really loves that Sifu Matt doesn’t hold back in the way he teaches him and everyone else. He always shows him the right way in training.
“I never thought I’d be helping out in teaching but when Sifu asked me to do it I said I would try my best and now I help others learn and advance in their own practice. Its an honor to help out like that.”
Glad to have you with us Humberto.
Thanks for reading,
Thanks for watching!
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January 13, 2019
Every Sunday a little something for you to keep in mind.
LET GO OF MASTERY
Mastery of an art
Whether martial or writing
Is not what I seek.
I seek nothing.
There is just practice
….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?
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.
We are very excited to have our YouTube channel up and running again.