Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tan Tui Lessons

On the left column is a list of the martial arts blogs that I read on a semi-regular basis. Among them is Kaimen, which is written by Ted Mancuso at Plum Publications.

Aside from being a great resource for Chinese martial arts books and videos, Mr. Mancuso has written several articles on Tan Tui that are featured on his website. He has now taken it a step further and placed short instructional videos for each of the 12 roads on his website.

Take a look here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Too easy...

This is a bit of an old story, but just another reminder as to why you shouldn't underestimate your youth students.

About six months ago, one of my 11 year students proudly told me in between drills that his parents bought him a cellphone. A little thrown off by the non-sequitur, and a little surprised still that kids have phones, I say to him "Man, you're 11. You don't need a phone. Who are you going to call?"

Not missing a beat, the student replied with a dead-pan "Ghostbusters."


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

the evil san-setsu-kon

A few years ago, I was really, utterly, and intently into nunchaku. I was Bruce Lee and Michelangelo rolled into one. I absorbed almost every resource I could find on the subject. I have a duffle bag full of different styles of nunchaku: foam, alumnium, wooden, plastic, micarta, tapered, non-tapered, pencil-thin, ultra heavy and a custom pair of cocobolo nunchaku that would break just about anything out there. The only one I still haven't bought are the muge nunchaku that are allegedly what nunchaku looked like in days of old when they still served as horse bridles.

If you have ever looked thru the AWMA catalog, or at the ads in Black Belt magazine, then you have surely seen the "San Setsu Kon." It looks like this:

Now, one could literally translate san-setsu-kon to three-sectional-staff, which is where the confusion ensues. This is what most of us know as the three-section-staff:

I just know that song is going to be stuck in your head all day now... :)

But that's not a san-setsu-kon. A san-setsu-kon is like a freak baby from the nunchaku factory with a third arm. Like one day, they had an extra stick, and someone with a perverted sense of humor said "ehh, drill some holes on the end of that pair and add the stick. We'll call it an ancient weapon and add $10 to the list price."

So, I bit the bullet a few years ago, and decided to buy one. Never having seen someone actually USE the weapon, I thought it might be fun to try and put something together.

Now, my second year in college, I took a philosophy class. How is that relevant? Well, the first time I tried to use this evil nunchaku freak, I found myself becoming overly ambitious and hit myself in the head hard enough to remove any knowledge gleaned from that class. I then proceeded to hit myself in the babymaker hard enough to put down the san-setsu-kon, and spend the next 20 minutes developing a form that revolved around laying on my back and using an ice pack as a shield.

I don't pick it up very often, mostly because it really requires a fair amount of space to work with. What I have found is that:

1. Don't even try to use it like a three section staff. It flat out doesn't work that way.
2. If you like flexible weapons work such as snaring, grabbing and locking, you will really like this weapon.
3. It twirls in a fashion somewhere between a nunchaku and a chain whip. Once you figure out which nunchaku transitions work and (more importantly) don't work, it becomes easier.

There's not a whole lot of youtube help out there on this one, but this guy does a decent job.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hagakure Quote

"There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything." -Hagakure (葉隱)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

There's a little Master Wong in all of us

Depending on how conservative your workplace is, you may not want to watch this clip at work, especially with the sound on...

The first time I watched this clip, I watched it with the sound off, which is something akin to watching The Wall with your eyes closed. Watching it muted, I was impressed by his strength and power generation. I was also impressed by his student/target taking so many shots on camera without complaint.

So, imagine my surprise when I watched it with the audio a week later!

First off, aside from my biases not expected an English accent from Master Wong, I was surprised to hear his strong language. In fact, I stopped and scanned back to replay a section to verify what I'd heard. Master Wong had caught my attention. And now I was laughing quite a bit. It's now an inside joke with my students to "f'ing taaaaaaaste the power!"

I've been known to use the occasional swear word in class, which is problematic when teaching in the YMCA, so I try hard to keep it in check. I do appreciate his sense of humor though.

His skill and presentation aside, I can't help but remark on the fact that his assistant is getting clobbered. Gear or not, he's gotta feel that. It makes me think of my teaching style, and how other instructors I know feel the need to dispense great amounts of pain on their compliant partner. I've seen instructors seriously injure their students, cause brief flashing pain and sometimes just hit them for the sake of hitting them.

In any other environment, this would be met with complete shock. But in the dojang? You see some evil smiles and giggles. Is it how we cope with seeing our fellow students getting thrashed?

Why do we as instructors feel the need to punish the volunteer? Is it to prove the effectiveness of the technique? Is it to prove OUR ability? Is it to show why we're at the top of the dojang food chain? Is it a way to give passive-aggressive revenge on a student who is annoying you? Is it any, all or none of these things?

I can't say in your case. And I'm not trying to say that demonstrations need to be free of contact pain or slight (albeit controlled) risk. I just want people to think about why they demonstrate the way they do. If it's for some of the reasons I listed above, maybe you should think twice before landing the punch.

Side note: Master Wong has an extensive curriculum on Youtube that he shares for free. If you're interested in Wing Chun, check out what he's doing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Youtube Treasures

I recently read a post out on the tubes which talked about using Youtube to further your martial arts training. And I completely agree. Once Youtube hit the scene, I knew that martial artists would take this medium to heart. There are lots of GREAT things to watch online.

Like this!

Oops, wrong bookmark! I mean, typo, typo!

Damn it I just can't type today...

Ah, that's better, and certainly more on-topic for this blog (we'll save musical animals for another time.) This is a great example of some of the material on Youtube that people are willing to share with the world. Great example of taking a form that some of us fall into the habit of mindlessly repeating and making us really think about what's going on.

Over the last 3 years, I've become very interested in the Asai style of Shotokan, specifically the relaxed snapping movement. Andre Bertel is kindly continuing to spread this message after the passing of Asai and is making it more and more accessible by sharing on Youtube. I'm probably never going to make it to New Zealand, but now I've been exposed to a different way of thinking that I can work with and try to make my own.

So get out there on Youtube and search for someone, embrace what is different and new and learn something.

And maybe watch a few cute cat videos too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

WHAT did you say?!?!?

Remember that Bill Cosby show "Kids Say the Darndest Things?" If I recall, it was supposed to be about the cute things that kids say. Turns out, kids say some pretty nasty things. Sometimes intentional, and sometimes without realizing they've offended.

Last night in class, I decided that my green belt youth were performing their ho sin sul with little to no enthusiasm. Already, my level of annoyance is reaching "Who thought Jar-Jar Binks was a good addition to the script?" type levels. So I pull aside one of the moms in class who assists with teaching. I tell her that I'm going to grab her for a one-step and I want her to put on the ground as forcefully as possible. She looks at me briefly, excitement mixed with slight confusion. "I'm serious," I say, "I want you to bury my ass in the mat."

She complied. In fact, she planted me so vigorously that I have mat burn across the side of my head. All of the kids were duly impressed with this example of how hard work and intensity will pay off in self-defense.

All of the kids, that is, except for one.

"Wow! I can't believe you let yourself get beat up by a GIRL!"

Now, my anger was approaching "Hey guys, let's go catch the sequel to the Matrix; it's going to ROCK!" levels. As Samuel Jackson eloquently stated in Pulp Fiction, I was a mushroom cloud laying-MFer.

Kids say the darndest things.

I quickly informed him that not only was he NOT funny, but he'd just insulted every girl in the class many of whom worked far harder than him, and that he owed them all an apology. They begrudgingly accepted, but I think he was scared of his next - most likely female -- partner. I don't know if it was the fact that I was truly angry and practically on top of him telling him this, or if it was because my head was bleeding, but he seemed quite scared.

After class, I thought that perhaps I was too hard on him, that I let my anger with the situation overflow into what could have been a positive learning experience where we'd all hug it out under a double rainbow and unicorns would fart gold wrapped chocolate candies. I also thought I could have just ignored it rather than give him any sort of attention. In retrospect, I'm glad I came down on him.

In this case, I think ignoring him would have given his comments a tacit endorsement, as would laughing it off. And quite frankly, I have too many girls in my class to abandon them.

This has been part of my latest set of pet peeves in class: kids who laugh at other kids when they mess up, fall over during a kick, do the wrong move in a form, etc. It's probably an even bigger pet-peeve than not giving 100%.