Training with Sifu Chris Collins

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Footwork, The Drive, Break-In and Break-Out

The 3 things in the title of this blog post are instrumental to understanding a “fight” or a way to train in preparation for a fight or encounter. It’s crucial when developing yourself entirely, instead of tunnel visioning into being a one-dimensional fighter or forms master.

Many people talk about becoming a complete fighter, meaning taking the 4 Olympic disciplines and forging them into one dynamic fighting method (Taekwondo, boxing, wrestling, judo). However, the real importance is the three things I mentioned above.

FOOTWORK

Having great footwork means you are mobile, that you have control of your body and the ability to direct or re-direct force and power at any given moment. It means you understand how to control angles and use them to enter. Entering is by far the most important aspect to fighting. This is where you bridge the gap between non-contact to contact or long range to medium range. You must be able to control the distance in order to have an effective entry to your opponent. As well as being able to thwart his assault by adjusting the distance to your needs centralized or angular.

THE DRIVE

The “DRIVE” is something only a WingTsun man can understand. It is the ability to maintain pressure and force when transitioning from one attack or counter to another without releasing your drive and forward momentum. Basically staying in and not allowing any freedom. This is the part that takes years to master and without it, you will never be able to flow or perform “LATSAU”. It is in WingTsun that we have the freedom to move without performing drills or one-sided unrealistic continuous actions against a non-moving assailant's arm (that you so often see from other styles). Or you see those with superior physical traits able to control the fight with those traits staying at the medium range going from contact to no-contact continuously throughout the fight, reactions for the hard worker.

BREAK-IN, BREAK-OUT

This is the part that is seldom trained, mostly because practitioners and students are lazy and trust too much in the science of the system than in the reality of combat. Once we use our footwork to gain entry, we maintain our drive in order to keep our opponent stifled and unable to mount an assault. However, the world is not perfect and neither are we. Therefore, we must learn to break in and break out. That means if you are unable to thwart his or her attack you need to break out. Whether you do it centrally or angularly will depend on the circumstance. This will not be attacking the attack as we are taught, but it is an option that is sometimes necessary if we are not able to deliver on time. We may be behind the time or early. This just means we have 3 moments to deal with an attack. Early, on time and late. Because that is reality. So, when you break out you still maintain your momentum (or springy nature) in order to break back in. From here, it is obviously the cycle again of the 3 things I mentioned at the top of this post.

If you do not train in this manner, you will get torn up with tempo and distance breaks that will frustrate you and ultimately become your downfall. Because I will not fight your fight, I will fight my fight. Remember, fighting is about dominating another human being. There is no greater victory than to physically dominate your opponent in a fight. Because no matter what he says, no matter how smart he is, no matter how well he can do something else,  when you dominate in hand-to-hand combat or in weapons combat, all the missing skill sets and imperfections will not be able to hide. That is why we really train. Because you do not want to be dominated and if you do not, then you must dominate, which brings me to “self-defence”. You cannot perform self defence against an attacker unless you are running away from the confrontation. How long can you defend against an aggressive attacker. You cannot, you must attack. If you want to train self defence, then I suggest you go to the nearest track or football field and run 1 mile as fast as you can until you can do it in 4 minutes flat. Your assailant cannot do that, therefore your self defence will be a success guaranteed. However, if you cannot run, you must realise that this person or persons attacking you are attempting to dominate you in a way that will leave you psychologically scarred for life. That is when you make the decision to turn the fight around, to dominate them. That means, you must train with intensity, aggression and continuity. Otherwise you are lying to yourself.

People always try to put a different spin on martial arts in order to make it more acceptable to the public or gain students from different communities. You can still have fun and enjoy the company, but at the end of the day you are trying not to be hit and trying to hit. This again boils down to dominating or being dominated. I choose the first option.

I hope to see you in class soon and I respect your decision to be real with yourself.

Do As You Say and Say As You Do!

I would never put someone on a path I did not follow myself or experience. It's important when teaching to understand the importance of that statement.

Often, we presume what we learn is truth. We have so much respect for the person teaching us that we sometimes fail to question what we are learning. Much the same, with our superiors. We fail to question our authority and merely do as we are told. Like drones without a soul.

I am not saying that you should be questioning your chain of command and get yourself into trouble every time you disagree with your orders. What I am saying is, when you are learning, you are a student, take it in and learn it well. Make sure you can actually perform the technique and understand its concept. Then, begin to question. That is what makes you understand.

“You know, but do you understand?”

I am never one to slander another style or tell you that this particular style is the BEST! I will simply point out what I feel it does for me and how I have benefited from it and how I believe it will benefit you.

Any system that tells you that you need more than a few years to learn it, well, they are full of shit. Now if you had said “Master” the system, then I could understand taking 12-15 years. However, to learn it and then be able to explore for yourself the small intricacies of what youʼve learnt. Letʼs not take the Mick and put you on a decade of learning tuitions or adding special condensed sub-categories.

Please take the statements about MMA and cage fighting in comparison to your style and blah blah blah as to why it isnʼt in the cage and lock it in a box and throw it into the ocean and never speak of it again. If you want to be a fighter, then be a fighter. That simple. Whatever you learn, if you are taught well and you train hard, you can put what you learn into any arena, street or cage. If you do wingtsun/chun or kali or karate and
you canʼt throw a bloody hook or uppercut, then you have a learning curve. If you canʼt adjust your straight punch when you have 12 or 8 oz. gloves on, then you need to punch more. And if you say that you will not go in and kickbox with him because if you really used your wingtsun/chun kicking then you would break his knees, I will slap you...

I regularly train with cage fighters, kick boxers, boxers, grapplers, kung fu practitioners. It doesnʼt matter. You have to find a way to make what you use work. That's the fun of it. Finding out how to use it. Sure, you have to adapt a bit, modify this and adjust that. It's all going to just make you better at understanding yourself and what you are capable of doing. Not just doing the ever predictable motions that confine you to a set of  learning after 10 years. I get punched in the face, I get choked. I get to a point where I feel like my arms will not move and my legs have no energy. That's what will set you apart from the pack. When you see and feel yourself getting faster and smoother, reading the angles, breaking distance and improving your cardio and your stomach is getting flatter while you age is getting older. Then... well done. Keep it up and keep your mouth shut.  Just train and if you want to fight, then fight. Explore and become better than yourself, yesterday. It's a wonderful feeling once you get around the corner and you feel better. Believe it!

This blog is not aimed at anyone or for anything or anyone I spoke to recently. I just thought that I havenʼt put up a blog in a while and wanted to keep you inspired and hopefully keep you entertained while reading my blog.

Straight Lines and Intersecting Lines

All too often, we get too comfortable in what we do and forget that what other people do can be just as functional, speaking of course about martial arts.

When I first started boxing, I learned how to punch on straight lines. By this, I mean the jab and the cross. Very simply, I was taught to use my jab with a pop and bring it back. This will keep my opponents distance in check and also set up my next punch, here it is the cross. It’s a fast simple combination and it is on a straight line. My body is still in control and I am not falling over due to trajectory, like many martial artists think.

The reason why I bring this up is that I see my WingTsun, Wing Chun brothers train simply for the jab and then train simply for the cross. When in fact it is a combination and you have to understand when it is for distance (peppering) or it is to set up the cross or hook, etc. There is a timing issue that needs to be met by you.

WingTsun teaches us to always move forward, attack the attack. However, there are times when it may be necessary to check the jab before entering, which gives you a moment to read the follow up. Keep in mind, the jab does not stay. As I said earlier it pops out then it is gone and will have something else in its place. So, it is strategic as well as tactical. Remember, it is a mastery of all ranges not just close quarter.

The next time you are with your training partner, work that jab and cross to him in a straight line with speed and distance control. I am sure you will see how truly difficult it is to get to close quarter using your WingTsun skills. Therefore, before you get all excited about doing chisau, make sure you learn and train long enough to bridge the gap successfully from long range to medium range.

Notice that the title of this blog is straight lines and intersecting lines. Well, I just covered in short the straight line regarding a jab and a cross. However, with the intersecting lines, let’s talk the queen’s rules hook and the modified hook, the upper cut and the body shot (lower modified hook). All too often (again), when I see my WingTsun or Wing Chun brothers working their medium range defences, you see the big hay maker being thrown as the reference to a hook or wide punch. However, this is only the drunk guy in the bar with no experience or the long range hook to break down the guard to set up for an uppercut. Although training against this singularly may seem easy, remember to train it in combination against other punches like the jab or cross.

But what I am really talking about here is that the intersecting lines are the short range hooks and body shots. Once your opponent has bridged the gap with his jab or cross, he is then at a medium range to throw his hook. This can be a devastating blow (probably the most in boxing) and the one you see very little of when WT or WC brothers and sisters are training their defensive structure. Remember that you also have hips and momentum. Use it! So you too must break the line.

By line, I am speaking of the imaginary one that runs vertically along your center. Also horizontally, but in this case I am speaking of the first. This, in my opinion is why you don’t see very many WT or WC practitioners with the fighter's gaze, but I am a firm believer in the methods and practice of WingTsun.

So, whatever WT or WC school you are in make sure you emphasize these topics and train them. You must control the distance and the momentum. Suffocate your opponent but also realize the danger in his striking.

Close Quarter Combat Seminar in Sweden

I was asked by Chief Instructor, Sifu Patrik Gavlin of the VingTchun & Escrima Headquarters in Sweden, to teach a seminar on Close Quarter Combat. He had visited me in Hong Kong a few months back in which he and a couple of his students trained with me for a week after which he asked me to give a seminar on my understanding of the WingTsun and Pekiti Tirsia Kali system.

I spent about 5 days working with the instructor level students on their chi-sau and strategic and tactical approach to combat. I was really forcing them to utilize their footwork and hips more than they are used to doing. With them I did not breakdown the sections so much, since they do quite a bit of that already. Instead I impressed upon them the need for conceptual understanding and implementing those concepts. I feel that at those times it's better to do than to say.

After the five days of intensive private training, I spent three days giving a large seminar to the other instructors and students of the VingTchun Association in Sweden. I split the students into three groups, basically working the beginner students on entries. I believe this to be crucial in developing students into functional fighters or functional self defense.

With the intermediate groups, I focused on teaching them to understand the need for fundamentals, especially when it comes to the exchange. Often times this is where you lose the technician. During the exchange and more importantly during the transition of attack and counter-attack, it is the most important time of your learning process.

Close Quarter Combat Seminar in Sweden with Sifu Chris Collins

The advanced students and instructors, I focused on teaching them to attack the attack. This is the true meaning of counter-attack. After that we also worked on some breaking and other destructive means to disable your enemy. I think they really enjoyed that part.

I am happy to say that I will be working closely with Sifu Patrik and his Association on a yearly basis to help make them their very best. It is my honor to spread the work and teachings of my masters, GreatMaster Cheng Chuen Fun, GrandMaster Leung Ting , Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje Jr and Tuhon Rommel Tortal.

Film Choreography

I cannot express in words how happy I am to part of this new project. It’s a feature film, with a lot of hardcore action. Expect to see everything from guns and explosions, to knives, blood, fists and bone breaking scenes. I finally got myself into a role I can be proud of to call myself an actor. Not only that, but I also get to have a hand in the fight choreography and action choreography, another passion of mine. No stunt doubles here, I will be performing all my own stunts and even my own dialogue, hahaha. I will be showcasing WingTsun Kung Fu, Pekiti Tirsia Kali and some very realistic firearms scenes. Not to mention some high flying acrobatic parkour (my foot is better, so rooftop jumping should be a breeze again). The filming will be in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the United States, so expect to see some famous landmarks.

I feel lucky to be working with a visionary movie director, a stylistic director of photography mixed with a good old Hong Kong action director. A can’t lose partnership. I cannot give any more details about the movie, but i promise to keep you all in the loop as it unfolds.

Stay tuned for more updates as we start shooting this month. I will be uploading some pics and behind the scenes action. Once the website is up, you will be able to follow us as we make this breathtaking movie.

Sifu Christopher Collins with His Students
 

Accuracy

I would like to start off by congratulating Rommel Tortal on becoming Tuhon Rommel Tortal by The Grand Tuhon Supremo himself, Leo Gaje Jr. After spending another memorable week training with Rommel, I wanted to take this opportunity to speak about concept and crossing over. When I say concept, well just scroll down to the other blogs. When I speak about crossing over, it's a concept all PTK practitioners know all too well. Hand, knife, stick, one or two, its all the same, just understand the importance of drilling yourself on the fundamentals and building that infrastructure. This past week of training was enjoyable for me in that we did just about everything you could mix into any 3 or 6 hour session, from hands to knives to sticks, to doubles, to carambits, to knife and stick. I really enjoyed it. For those of you that take part in my classes, you already know that our sessions are quite overwhelming and cross over a lot. For those of you interested in what it is I focus on in my classes, it's this: one mind, any weapon, any situation, any style. I combat you with close quarter mentality with hands, edged or impact weapons. We are standing up, we are on the ground, we are using weapons and we are pushing ourselves. We are new here in HK, building this mountain. So, come and join us, become a complete weapon, by understanding how to wield a weapon.

Sifu Christopher Collins and Tuhon Rommel Tortal

While I am here, let’s continue. Accuracy. Crucial part of your training. Often students just learn a bit of a drill then they are off sparring. Well, sparring is good, however, it's better to first learn your mechanics and your accuracy before going at it freely. Take your time and make sure you are accomplishing your objectives before following up or moving on. If your objective is to disable an arm, make sure you are training to get the most out of that movement. If your aim is to break or hyperextend, make sure you are in the right place and not just going through the motions in order to be fast. If you are going for the kill shot or vital point, again, take your time and work on your lines. An elbow is a great example, if you have good mechanics and accuracy with the elbow, your opponents will fall quickly. If not well fed or accurate, you will fall quickly. Train hard, take care!!!

Accuracy - Sifu Christopher Collins
 

Training Hard and Training Smart

I have a difficult time putting this concept into action, as I am sure many of you also have this problem. If you came up the way I did, you already have a mass of injuries by the time you hit your 30’s. Hence most professional athletes retire in their mid 30’s. Let’s breakdown why this is happening and how you can prevent it in order to prolong your career or the practice of your passion.

  1. Stress on the joints
  2. Impact on the joints
  3. Rubbing of the joints
  4. Knowledge and rest

These are the four contributing factors to why we walk around with ice packs, anti-inflammatory pills, shots, pain killers and a grudge towards anyone healthy and injury free.

Many of you may know all of this but if not, I hope to help you understand the cause and the prevention of these problems.

Let us begin with stress on the joints. First and foremost you have to remember to stretch and heat your body before any physical activity. Stretching is more complicated than you may think. Bending over and touching your toes isn’t really what I am going for here. The most common problem in athletes or martial arts practitioners is in the shoulders, the back, the elbows and the knees and ankles and wrists. Please remember when you stretch, you are stretching or loosening the tightness on individual tendons and muscles surrounding the joints. Not the joint itself. Example would be the shoulder. We work our shoulders more than any other body part. It takes on the stress, the pressure and the impact. So in order to relieve the tightness which is the first contributing factor in shoulder problems we want to warm our body. What I like to do before a good long training session when I was in the states and had a car was to turn up the heater and put on a sweat top and listen to some music for about 15 minutes prior to walking in the gym. Then without sitting down and greeting everyone I would begin to stretch the triceps, stretch the deltoids and stretch the neck. Stretch those parts for at least 2 minutes each. Then you want to work through your range of motion. I am only speaking about the shoulder at this point. Do this without any resistance. Rotate your arms in all directions bending and extending. You are letting your body know what is about to take place. It’s harder to injure a loose joint than it is a tight one. If you are doing chisau for instance, you are putting constant stress on the AC joint in your shoulder. If you are a grappler or jujitsu practitioner, you are also having a constant rate of pressure on the joints in different angles. If you are a weightlifter, you are putting incredible amounts of stress or pressure on the joints. At this point in my career I try to stay out of the weight room, but if you feel you must continue, reduce the amount of time you spend working your shoulders, because you are working them extremely hard already when you train in your martial art. Better to work more on your grip and your forearms. It will have a better impact on your progression than doing 100 reps of shoulder presses. People tend to work their shoulders more for how it looks than how it will benefit in their training. It will only slow down your movements.

Now, let’s talk about impact. This is, in my opinion, the worst of them all and likely the reason I have so many problems with my shoulder. Growing up playing football was the number one cause I am sure, due to all the impact of shoulder to shoulder hits. Power lifting into my late 20’s was another cause, my obsession with being strong really damaged my AC joint. Basically, any pushing, pulling or pressing motion (bench press, shoulder press, push ups, pull ups, etc.) will create stress on the joint and doing it explosively creates the impact. The one cause that topped it all off was the heavy bag. I spent way too many hours on the heavy bag. If you can, spend more on the mitts or straight up sparring. My problem was going to the gym in the morning and lifting weights, hitting the bags in the afternoon and sparring or doing chisau and grappling in the evening. It doesn’t take a genius to see that it is all shoulder stress and impact on my shoulder joint. You will end up doing two things to that joint. One is the constant inflammation which will reduce the space between the bones, two is the reduction in cartilage in that space between the bones, and three is the contact of the two bones in place of the cartilage which can lead to surgery in which they will shave the clavicle bone to create space again. If you are going to have heavy impact training, be sure to give yourself time to recover from any stress or pressure training. Preferably, not in the same day and whatever impact motion you will be doing try to move the arms and body first with no resistance and then with a bit of resistance to prepare the joint for impact. Resistance bands are great for this and for you “muscle heads” that does not mean trying to use the most resistant bands to build muscle. It’s just a way to give the joint some elasticity and firmness before impact.

Rubbing of the joints is where you have the initial inflammation and the reduction of cartilage from the stress and impact and now you are basically grinding the bones together. This is most common in chisau practitioners. Because you are twisting your arms against your opponents in order to deflect force or “give in” to an opposing force. It doesn’t help when you decide to share your time of chisau with kali or escrima training, because you are trading the rubbing for the impact. It’s a no win situation, I’m afraid.

OK. Now that we have identified the contributing factors in joint pain and I have spoken about some of the preventive means prior to these workouts focusing on either of the contributing factors. Keep in mind you have to be very consistent in how you maintain your joints and your body. I talked to you about heat prior to the workout; don’t forget ICE is as equally important. That means within 15 minutes of finishing each of your workout sessions, you need to ice that joint. It will reduce the inflammation and hopefully alleviate some of the pain you will feel the next day. Inform yourself about the body and its mechanics before it is too late and you find yourself always in pain. If you are young and think you have to work through the pain, you are mistaken. It will only get worse and harder to cure. Seek professional advice and do the preventive therapy. It will prolong you for many years.

Rest is the hardest part for those of us that make a living at what we do. Try to maintain a schedule throughout the year. Much like a fighter. If you train hard for 3 months in preparation for a fight, you need to take at least a month or two with a little less intensity before hitting it hard again. Doing 14-16 hour days of training for a number of years can and will take its toll. Be smart, be consistent and stay informed by being preventive and seeking professional therapists as often as you can.

In response to all the questions about cortisone and anti-inflammatory drugs, the cortisone can only be used a few times and you must space the shots out. Only take it when you really have to. Maybe 2 or 3 times in a year would be maximum. The anti-inflammatory should also be taken only for short spells. If you know you are going to do some serious training with relation to the 4 contributing factors, take it before hand. Not always after the fact.

The last bit of advice is this; just because you rubbed some numbing agent on your arm or took the anti-inflammatory doesn’t mean you should train like the Tasmanian devil. The problem is still there and will be worse off as you go. You just have to tell yourself to play it smart. I am all for going past my limitations in everything I do. But if I could have done a few things differently, such as inform myself more about my body and how it will respond, I would be even better off than I am now. At least I get to help you by giving you a heads up.

Train hard. Stay safe and keep the drive.

Footwork and Coordination

It’s amazing how these two topics are so often overlooked. Personally, I place these two topics very high on my list of what I need to focus on to reach my potential, as a fighter and as a martial artist. It shouldn’t matter what system you follow or discipline or sport for that matter. You need footwork first and foremost. To give you an example, the first 20 minutes of either my own personal training sessions or my teaching sessions (group or private) is focused on footwork. The key word here is “work” footWORK. It is tiring to say the least. It requires you to understand how to control and adjust to different ranges in combat, whether armed or unarmed. It is the dynamics of human anatomy. We take our human anatomy and align it through movement, utilizing our body mechanics. We then become dynamic by utilizing our footwork and change the distances and the levels, creating a multi-dimensional battlefield.

A simple way to explain this would be, “To draw a square with one hand, a circle with the other, and step in a triangle.” That would be footwork and coordination. For many of us this is easy and for many of us this is hard. It is important to realize that this should be emphasized in every training session. Take time to analyze people’s footwork. Weak footwork is a weak work ethic, therefore easy to dominate in combat, due to their limited mobility. Limited mobility equals weak angles, predictable timing and minimal explosiveness and endurance.

Coordination is a very difficult thing to teach and in many cases either something you are born with or not. However, there are ways to increase you levels of coordination, therefore increasing your confidence at any level. Many times, as a martial artist, those with limited coordination are the ones unable to control their power or intensity in training. Remember, everything is a give and take. In training, you may want to slow down your intensity or reduce your power and focus on your coordination or sensitivity. Likewise, you may want to alternate in order to balance your growth. I do believe that those who focus on the coordination in the beginning are able to develop speed and power with little difficulty. However, those who focus on speed and power in the beginning find it incredibly difficult to build the coordination into their toolbox. Feeling frustrated they give up and throw their belief in the speed and power due to their inability to become coordinated.

Now those are two topics that I mentioned I focus a lot on. However, keep in mind that you should be focusing on more than that. Try incorporating these topics below in every training workout and see what you come up with.

  1. Speed
  2. Agility
  3. Balance
  4. Coordination
  5. Accuracy
  6. Power
  7. Strength
  8. Explosiveness
  9. Cardiovascular endurance
  10. Stamina

Concept Based and Technical Methods

While talking to my students yesterday after training, I was asked a few questions about various systems of martial arts and their teaching methods as well as my own teaching methods or philosophy.

I first explained to them, that in my opinion, you have concept and you have technique.

Let’s talk about concept. Nowadays, many systems are saying they are concept based. OK, that’s fair. I believe WingTsun to be a concept based system. I also believe Kali to be concept based. However, to call yourself concept based, I think you must have a solid understanding and ability to apply technically. You can say, system ABC is a reality based system which focuses on aggression, fighting multiple opponents, staying on your feet and is also designed for combat (armed and unarmed). WOW! I believe you, now show me. This is where you see a guy defending a singular attack and going ballistic on a fellow with many different methods. Many times it looks as if this person is simply using a technique from many different styles of fighting, or just throwing any number of far from perfect execution of strikes and throws and locks, etc. on a non-participating foe. I am sorry, but that is not mixed martial arts, reality based, and it certainly isn’t a concept.

You see, in my opinion a concept must first come from an idea. This idea develops into a theory, a theory based on a set of principles. These principles must derive from much research, and development science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge" - a body of reliable knowledge that can be logically and convincingly explained), and physics (from Ancient Greek: φύσις physis or "nature" - a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through space-time, as well as all related concepts, including energy and force).

Now, with these principles in place, through research and development based on science and physics, there is a theory. This theory is further developed into a philosophy, a way of life or a way of practice and the pursuit of wisdom. To continue, much like earlier times, you then have Doctrine, from this philosophy. This doctrine becomes law. Now, from this idea, you have a newly formed government. But let’s just stick with martial arts and stop at philosophy.

So you see, in order to arrive at your newly formed conceptually based system, or to take a conceptual approach to your current system, you must first take all those steps necessary in its development. Simply being able to punch is easy. Being able to punch with true force and energy (physics) and continue that level is difficult, to say the least. To top it off, you also need to spend even more time learning the specific techniques to go along with the idea, principles, theory and philosophy of the system. Not just buy videos of other styles and put them in your library for you to check them off in your future system of combat.

Now, let’s talk about technique. In the above mentioned system ABC, I talked about borrowing of technique from another style or fighting system. It is absurd to think you can mix techniques on an adhoc basis without actually learning the true context of this motion and its true rule. Not just parrot fashion. It takes years to perfect a technique and even more years to find its place within the grand scheme of things. I truly believe you must be able to apply technical superiority before you start to implement your personality or idea on this matter. Technical superiority or understanding is the roots of any concept or idea. Because you are able to apply with such efficiency or with such force that you understand how to apply the principles.

This was my answer to parts one and two. In short, you cannot gain conceptual understanding or teach it without technical superiority. You most certainly cannot be teaching it if you have technical superiority with zero conceptual understanding.

The third part was my teaching philosophy. It's simple - teach everything I know or nothing at all to my students. Teach only what I know and understand and nothing else. I do not believe it takes a decade to learn WingYsun. I don’t believe rolling on the floor 80% of the time is practical. I do not believe training unarmed is enough.

I believe weaponry will teach you to respect range and distance, entry and retreat. I believe that if you are going to teach ground fighting, you had better focus on a good shoot and a good defence to that shoot. I believe the entry is the most important aspect to fighting armed and unarmed. It is your most vulnerable point. I believe you need to train all 5 distances or ranges, not just one or two. I believe in maintaining one theory and one set of principles, but believe them to be alive and adaptable. I believe that once you grasp something and are able to apply, that is when you should open your mind and your vision to what else is out there, but not until then. I believe in solid punching and solid kicking, explosiveness and sheer desire to being able to get physical. I believe in learning slow and grasping the idea early on and before any contact, rather than the other way around.

Finally, I believe your ego can get in the way of becoming better than you are so leave it at home.

Understand Culture to Understand the Arts, Understand the Arts and Understand You

It’s nice to discuss these points with friends, colleagues and teachers. Yesterday, I was sitting with a friend talking about martial arts, fighting, competing, and culture, internal and external power. Something I think a lot about.

We started off with age and durability past your prime. Now of course there are always going to be a few out there that defy the odds of aging. For the rest of us, there is reality. Take kickboxing for instance (Thai style); it is a very destructive fighting system, one that will most certainly turn your average person into a fighting machine, but it’s not one that you really want to stick with past the age of 30. The reason is simple, you spend those years destroying your opponents and destroying your body. Many of the people I know that are professional kickboxers or just enthusiasts have severe and reoccurring injuries. Most of them are taking shots of cortisone regularly and others go more extreme into morphine to cope with the pain. This is why my belief that Muay Thai is for the young and strong.

At some point in your life, you need to realize that only having external power is not enough to sustain throughout your life. You must balance the internal once the body begins to weaken with age. This is why I believe it is important to find a system that is soft, one that teaches you how to balance the internal and the external power. WingTsun is a system that has a very good balance of this idea. A good example is Ip Chun, an 84 year old man that still does chisau with his students. There of course are other systems with equal focus on this theory, such as Kali.

In order to truly grasp the idea of internal and external, it is important to understand the culture in which these arts originate. For example, we have temperature gauges in our bodies which tell us when we are getting too hot or too cold. Many foods have the ability to warm us and cool us. This is not because it is hot or cold, it is due to what is in the food and how it reacts to your body. This effects circulation and blood flow. Knowing how the body works and how to make it stronger will ultimately give you the power you are searching for in your training. Not just protein shakes and vitamin C.

Another topic that was covered was competitive fighting, MMA and reality. First understand that whichever is your goal, try to stick to one for at least a few years. If you are learning martial arts to be a fighter or to protect yourself, then focus on that. Because what you do in the street is very different to what you do in a ring or cage. You have to be quick to act, no hesitation and if you are training in a competitive setting you will surely miss all the opportunities that are presented in a street fight setting and find yourself in a world of hurt. Alternately, if you are focusing on competitive fighting, then you need to switch gears. Understand that you are entering a sport environment and making comparisons between your kung fu and “reality based system” is not a logical subject to dwell on.

Competitive arts have flourished because it is organized in a structured environment for entertainment. From striking based systems to grappling based systems. The striking based competitions will always flourish due to the inbred love of boxing and children targeted semi contact tournaments. The spirit comes alive for competition. The MMA’s recent popularity is merely a merger between the grappling arena and the striking arena and with the number of high school and college wrestlers out there, they will never be short on fighters. Since boxing has not been able to solidify itself in school functions as strongly as the wrestling, it will always be playing second fiddle. Wrestling will continue to dominate the sport. The only thing keeping you from being tackled to the ground is a punch or a kick (in simpler terms). Now, I enjoyed fighting because of the confidence it gave me, but quickly realised my body cannot take this type of abuse for very long, no matter how tough I believed myself to be. Wrestling dominates the MMA scene and wrestling takes a lot of energy. You create a lot of torque and momentum and find yourself nursing many injuries from too much force on tendons; as soon as you lose your youth and strength, you quickly realize how ineffective you have become. It requires a lot of strength to wrestle as well as explosiveness. Combine the wrestling pros and cons and then add the kickboxing pros and cons and you get a strong destructive exterior with a lot of injuries. Balance these points and you should be able to have a long martial arts career that touches on competing, self protection, health for the body and mind, interior and exterior balance.

All in all, don’t get hung up on just one aspect of the martial arts. Yes, one major part is about the fighting. Learn to fight, learn to protect yourself. Build confidence through competitiveness, etc. But you should also be putting in your head longevity. Think about your future and the health of your body and mind. Once the fighting stops and the tournaments are not longer something your 35 year old body can do, then what. For many, it is depression and a feeling of lost. Not knowing what else to do. This is why it is important to understand that learning martial arts is about how to live. How do you exist on this planet and be better at being you. A better you in all aspects.

Anyway, this post is not a revelation or an epiphany, just a conversation between friends. It is however something you should think about in your martial arts quest.

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