Three Reasons Why Traditional Kung Fu Training is Important Today

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Is this you?

  • Sometimes the fast pace of life feels like too much?
  • Stress at work can really get to you?
  • You’ve thought about learning a martial art but are put off by “gladiator academies” and competition?

Here’s a short video of Sifu Matt Johnson talking about why he practices and teaches ving tsun kung fu just as it was taught to him by Sifu Ip Ching.

If you were nodding yes to any of the above, perhaps our school might be right for you.

Give us a call or email to arrange a visit where you can ask Sifu Matt questions, observe classes and even try a few for free.

773-301-6257 Please leave a message with your name and number so we can call you back.

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Sunday Siu Nim Tau

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Sunday Siu Nim Tau

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.

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.

My answer?

Simple.

Diet.

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.

Matt Johnson and Ip Ching

 

Sunday Siu Nim Tau

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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

 

JANUARY 27

Iron is full of impurities that weaken it: Through the forging fire it becomes steel and is transformed into a razor sharp sword. Human beings develop in the same fashion.
Morihei Ueshiba

Kung fu training is a transformative practice. Over time it it has a unique way of transforming our character. Not only have I seen this in many, many students, I’ve seen it in myself.

Through the time spent training and teaching, I’ve seen lazy people who used to give up easily, transformed into people with strong determination. They are no longer lazy. I’ve seen fearful people become more brave. People that lacked self confidence become strong, empowered, and confident.

The transformation that occurs takes place over time as a person practices; as the days turn to weeks, the weeks turn to months, and the months to years. The fire of training forges our spirits, our bodies and our minds, in the same way fire forges steel.

Training forces us to go onward to face ourselves: our fears, prejudices, anger, etc. It shows us where our triggers are and in this process, doing the inner work that’s necessary to grow and get better, not only as a martial artist, but as a person as well. This is how kung fu training enriches our lives and makes us better people.

So, when people ask me if I’ve ever used my kung fu, my answer is simple, “Yes,” I tell them, “I use it every day.”

Weekly Siu Nim Tau

Weekly Siu Nim Tau

January 20, 2019

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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

 

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:

Violence:

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:

Of motion

Of time

Of energy.

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?

 

No One Here but the Fighters

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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.

 

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.”

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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.

 

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.