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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.
Believe that You Can. Decide that You Will
I hear a couple of phrases from students on a regular basis:
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.
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.
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.”
We are launching a new series of intensive training programming for our students in 2019; a series of seasonal, intensive weekend long training camps to take your ving tsun to a whole new deeper place.
Each camp will be unique and will have a specific focus including not only the physical aspects of Ving Tsun but also the ethics and morals, the Mo Duk as well as the place of meditation in your kung fu practice and much more. The first full weekend camp will be in February 2019.
As a lead up to all this, we are offering our students a mini-version in December which includes the following challenge.
The idea is to take the challenge for the months of October and November, then come to the training camp with your discoveries and questions. And I guarantee you will make discoveries AND have questions.
At the camp we can all discuss and learn and take our knowledge to the next level.
So, here is the challenge for October:
Train your Siu Nim Tau each and every day.
Only once, but EVERY DAY.
Each hand in the first section for one minute.
That’s it! Do it every day and see where it takes you.
Like I said, I guarantee you will be amazed at what you learn.
Take notes, write things down In your notebooks and bring it in December to the training camp.
Want to get to the next level in your Ving Tsun practice? Here is the way.
Take the challenge!
At the first of the month in November I will let you know what the challenge will be for next month.
Keep the fire burning.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for stopping by, Sifu Matt
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.
It was a great night. The play was wonderful and sharing martial arts info with true enthusiasts was a lot of fun.
We talked about the origins of ving tsun – myths and likely realities.
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!