Archive for July, 2010

The Corner Welcomes Sifu Freddie Lee

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 30, 2010 by Combative Corner

Attention Combative Corner Readers:

New to The Corner is Sifu Freddie Lee, a dedicated martial artist, physical/spiritual instructor and all-around-swell guy.  Last night, I had the opportunity to Skype my newfound friend and welcome him to the team face-to-face.  It truly is a splendid thing when you meet someone who shares a very similar philosophy towards both the martial arts and the martial code.

Sifu Lee is a resident of Chicago, Illinois, a former Illiniois State Police Officer, a graduate of Purdue University… but these things don’t even touch on who he is.  To know him, you best experience him for yourself.  He operates his website FreddiesModernKungfu.Com and is a prolific uploader of martial art, fitness, nutrition, and spiritual (to name a few) vidoes on YouTube.  [His Full Profile]

Roundtable Discussion 003: Mentor

Posted in Roundtable Discussion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2010 by Combative Corner

Six martial artists, from six different disciplines were asked,

“If you could train with any instructor/athlete/guru/etc (living or deceased) for a day, who would it be, and why?”

Gray Cook

JOHNNY KUO –  I had to think long and hard about this question. The simple answer would have been to pick my sifu Sam F.S. Chin, but I already get opportunities to train with him. Instead, I’m going to venture into the realm of physical therapy and pick Gray Cook.

I have a long-standing interests in strength and athletic training in addition to martial arts. The thing that carries over between those interests is functional movement. Any physical activity (sports, martial arts, or daily life) involves moving the body. Due to the sedentary nature of modern life, a lot of people don’t seem to move very well; people have tight muscles, immobile joints, weak muscles, weird movement compensations, poor proprioception, or just plain can’t fire their muscles in a coordinated fashion.

Since my primary non-work passions are movement based, I notice these movement dysfunctions all around me (and with myself also). As a teacher, I often have to correct movement patterns so that (a) the students don’t injure themselves and (b) the students learn what efficient and functional movement feels like. It’s not unusual for me to encounter a student with dysfunctional movement patterns beyond my ability to readily diagnose or correct.

I like hanging out with physical therapists and body workers because I learn so much about how the body is supposed to work and pick up little tricks for diagnosing and correcting poor movement. I realize there will always be students whose movement issues are beyond my abilities to correct, but I’m always striving to learn more and reduce the number of cases that elude my abilities.

Helio Gracie

ADAM DAVIS Being the Jiu-Jitsu fanatic that I am I would train with Helio Gracie, the founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He took the ground techniques (ne-waza) from Judo which could be applied using leverage and momentum by a smaller guy, like himself, on a larger man and molded them into what is now the complexity of Jiu-Jitsu. Gracie would be the best person for me to train with not only because of his knowledge of the martial arts but also because of his views on the relationship of life and competition. He saw competition as essential to training due to the exercise, diet, and sportsmanship which came with it. Fighting for sport is what BJJ became known for as a result of Helio Gracie’s ideas and it was always my dream to meet him after I read a book about the origins of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Unfortunately, Helio Gracie passed away on January 29th, 2009 at the age of 95. He lived an extraordinarily healthy life (I heard stories of him tapping out Ricardo Arona while he was in his 90’s, rumors…maybe) and left an extensive family, full of world champion fighters, to carry on his legacy. I have been fortunate enough to train with a couple of his children (Royce and Rodrigo) and my experiences with them assure me that Helio Gracie, at any age, would be the best person to train with.


ROBERT LARA SENSEI -If I could train with any teacher at anytime in history for one day it would have to be under Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei. The founder of Aikido. The reason why is because he founded the art that I live my life by. The art of peace. I know in just one days time with O’Sensei you would learn more of Aiki. In body,mind,spirit.

Some of my teachers were students of O’Sensei. And the stories they tell of their training under O’Sensei are so great. You won’t find most of those stories in books. These men and women who trained direct from the founder who are still with us are living treasures in my view point as they are links to the living teachings of O’Sensei.

The time I would love to train with O’Sensei is during the last years of his life. His Waza was so strong. Yet fluid and fully controlling. And upside to training in the internal arts is as you age you only get better at Aiki waza because you do not have the physical strength to over power. These are just my humble view points and I respect all arts.

Lao Tzu

SIFU FREDDIE LEE– I would love to meet and learn from Lao-Tzu.  Author to the “Tao Te Ching.”  The truth contained in the text is penetrating, that short simple text transformed my entire life and really got me to see the deeper meaning behind Martial Arts and life.  Bruce Lee died at an earlier age but there is still a decent amount of wisdom left behind from him of where you can grasp his spiritual essence, same with many sages and Artists.  But Lao-Tzu, there is very little known about him, I would be very interested in seeing his day to day way of living.  Applying the unique wisdom he had in a world filled with confusion.


Jet Li

SENSEI BRANDON VAUGHN– I’m gonna have to go with Jet Lee for any living person. I think it would be an awesome experience and he seems like a really great guy who would be nice about showing you how much more he knows than you.



Alan Watts

COACH MICHAEL JOYCEI approached this question from a practical point-of-reference.  Being that the duration of said event is only a day, my choice is based on someone I could have a deep and meaningful conversation with over tea.  Alan Watts, the British philosopher and writer was (and continues to be) a huge influence in how I came to understand myself and my environment.  Say what you want about the man (he had his eccentricities), but he was both brilliant and articulate.  He had a way of describing things, and opening people’s minds to concepts that, to me, made “only good sense.”

I often contemplate our existence, who we are, and how it is best to live.  I am forever grateful to Alan Watts, and to his son Mark (who is now the curator of his father’s works) for being so prolific and giving.  Alan Watts has a free podcast that is available for subscription on Itunes.  I suggest everyone give it a try.  That is, however, if you wish to view the world and yourself with great clarity.

Instantly Add More Energy To Your Practice

Posted in Martial Arts, Training on July 21, 2010 by Combative Corner

My message to my tai chi class last week was a simple one:


What I got was exactly what I had suspected, a classroom of “free movers.”

Many of you readers have gotten a better understanding of what Tai Chi is through our last article.  If you didn’t read it, maybe you should (Tai Chi, Kuo.)

In tai chi, there’s an outside and inside awareness that happens simultaneously.  We don’t move with our intention focused inwardly as in meditation.  We seek to harmoniously bridge the two: the internal component (ie. breathing, mental focus) and the external (ie. structure, balance).  The result becomes something grande, something unique, and special.  What you create becomes your tai chi chuan (taijiquan).

Through the course of practicing tai chi chuan, and experiencing (or placing more intention) on the “relaxed” element of tai chi, my students shortly fell into the second pitfall of practice and one that I witness in nearly every class I teach [at least at some point].  What many fail to notice about themselves is that their brow line maybe straight and rigid, or the corners of their mouths are pulling downward.  To a worse extent, perhaps their jaws are clinched in deep concentration about what movement comes next.

As Al Chung-liang Huang said in his book, Embrace Tiger, Return To Mountain,

Tai chi is the experience you have as you are searching.

We do not search with our eyes.  We don’t even search with any real eagerness to learn.  Instead, we allow (through doing) an understanding to arise.  This understanding, I have found, does not come easily when focusing directly (as one would when looking through a microscope).  We must broaden our focus and lighten our psychic load. We must SMILE.

Find the way for you.  What gives your practice substance has much to do with your state of mind going into it.  Our energy, or even our sense of fulfillment is not going to come by “moving for the sake of moving.”  To reach a higher level (particularly in the art of Tai Chi), I feel that it’s crucial to let go of your tension (as best as you can) and by giving the universe a much deserving smile*.

-Coach Michael Joyce

of ChenCenter.Com

* It’s not suggested that one smiles by showing the teeth, but rather smile by turning the ends of the mouth skyward… like the subtle hint behind the painting of Mona Lisa.  But everyone is different and if you derive a great deal more pleasure, energy and fulfillment by smiling like Ace Ventura… by all means.

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