Archive for December, 2011


Posted in Health, Martial Arts, Training, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2011 by chencenter

What is a martial art besides, as Bruce Lee put it, “An expression of the human body in a combative form?”  And what “true” level can we consider ourselves if we neglect to train the physical?  Below are two lists (male & female) that (as of 7/19/2011) reflect the minimum fitness requirements for the 3 ranks in FMK.  The first number denotes red.  The second, blue.  And the last number, black.

All exercises are meant to be done in under 90 minutes.

Flexibility Requirements

Middle Split (inches from ground): [10-19] 12-8-4, [20-34] 13-9-5, [35-49] 14-10-6, [50-64] 15-11-7, [65-80] 16-12-8

Bent Over Reach: 2 fingers touching the floor, 5 fingers “, head touching knees

Arms behind back: 7 o’clock position, 8 o’clock position, arms parallel to the floor

Flexibility Requirements

Middle Split (inches from ground): [10-19] 10-6-2, [20-34] 2-4-6, [35-49] 12-8-4, [50-64] 13-9-5, [65-80] 14-10-6

Bent Over Reach: 2 fingers touching the floor, 5 fingers “, head touching knees

Arms behind back: 7 o’clock position, 8 o’clock position, arms parallel to the floor

Freddie Lee’s Fitness Test

Jenny Lee’s Fitness Test



Article by: Freddie Lee & Michael Joyce

Should We Condition Ourselves To Take A Hit?

Posted in External Arts, Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2011 by Sifu Freddie Lee

Recently I read a post on Tim Larkin’s blog entitled, Conditioning to Take a Hit, and it gave me some things to think about.  Ironically, contributing author Freddie Lee was just finishing a YouTube video on fitness/conditioning/sparring with his FMK Todai.  I would suggest everyone read the original article first, followed by myself and Freddie’s input on the subject.  The world is full of varying opinions, but before you engage in any conditioning program, we at the Combative Corner hope that you are doing it for the right reasons and in the appropriate manner.

Coach Michael Joyce

There are two sides to conditioning; the obvious physical side, but also the understated psychological one.  Naturally, as we grow, the more we experience the more acquainted we become with pain.  Many of us martial art fanatics have images of Shaolin monks hardening their bodies to resist virtually anything; including direct strikes to the throat or groin.  Obviously from a health and injury prevention standpoint, this sort of training is ill-advised.  This is just my personal opinion.

As citizens of this modern world, it is not necessary to condition ourselves as a sports combative athlete would.  However, if you’re a person who has experienced very little in the realm of pain, it might be a good idea to “harden” your body-mind to withstand (at the very least) a moderate amount of striking (like what is pictured above).  The body can be “trained” to withstand a great deal, but it is the mind that must be “hardened” as well.  This conditioning can (in my opinion) best be trained through proper training drills, whereby the mind is not focused on quantity or of boring repetition, but of situation-like “give-and-take” between you and your partner.  Proper state-of-mind in self-defense helps in the production of courage.  Courage, along with the grit of “I can give as good (or better) as I get” will help to produce the positive results you wish to see in the fight.  Physical conditioning (as in “proper fitness & health”) should serve as your basis.  It should go without saying that the fitter you are, the more capable your body is to performing well under the extreme demands of a fight.  However, it should be understood and understood firmly that “Conditioning” involves a holistic approach and should be a skill-set that is slowly built upon.

Comment below if you have any questions or need any clarification

Sifu Freddie Lee

The main form of conditioning should be in overall fitness training, that is the healthiest. As far as conditioning in taking hits, forearm development through repetitive contact during normal training is required for men & women. The arms will be blocked & parried in self-defense situations & a Martial Artist must be able to withstand this natural contact. Fact is, men & women will need to harden their forearms to take damage so that their center line or vital areas of their bodies do not take the damage instead. Shoes will protect the feet so men & women don’t have to worry about developing shin strength like some competition fighters, this is optional, but I do not see it as too healthy if done with too much force as you are breaking down the bone & I wonder about the long term effects. Forearm hardening development I see as healthy as you are simply hardening the muscles, & the women I have trained have shown that they are more than capable of withstanding a decent amount of force while developing this part of the body.

As far as the center line is concerned, purposefully striking the vital areas of the body such as the face, throat, neck, sternum, groin area, etc. is not healthy & not advised even for the experienced Martial Artist. The abs can take hits in a healthy way as long as it is done progressively & periodically. Ab hardening in the form of somebody delivering slight force to the abs with a palm strike or exercise ball can serve to help the practitioner develop proper breathing methods to withstand real strikes. Proper breathing techniques will prevent the individual from getting their wind knocked out of them. So I would say, for serious Martial Artists, ab hardening is necessary, but it has to be done in a safe way. Never at full force, progressively from soft to hard, & to be done periodically. Once the proper breathing is developed, then simple ab exercises are more than sufficient & that type of contact training is no longer as necessary.

If men or women cannot withstand a decent amount of force to their forearms & abs, they cannot realistically expect to survive deadly confrontations of self-defense. Replace those forearms & abs with the vital areas of the body, & you will see there is no way they will be able to withstand these serious attacks. Of course we do not want to break noses, give black eyes, have broken teeth, broken ribs, broken knee caps, & things like that, that is obviously unhealthy training. But it shall be expected, your forearms & abs should be developed. The palms need to be developed in order to deliver an attack that will be sufficient to stop an attacker. Fist development can be optional as they can always use the palms. Fist development can be unhealthy if done improperly. Elbows & knees are naturally very strong, so not much concentration needs to be focused there aside from proper technique.

Comment below if you have any questions or need any clarification

Article by: Michael Joyce & Freddie Lee


Happy Holidays from Us! Sincerely, CombativeCorner

Posted in News with tags , , , , on December 24, 2011 by Combative Corner

It has been a great Year! 

Since we began on April Fool’s Day of last year, we have had the privilege to get interviews with many of the finest teachers and martial artists around today… Geoff Thompson, Rener Gracie and Chen Huixian (just to name three!).

It has been our goal here at the Combative Corner to be your “go-to” resource for top-notch articles on the martial arts, self-protection and personal wellness.  It was also our goal to provide said information in an honest and very giving manner.  We hope that in your eyes, we have accomplished this.

There are many things that we should be excited about in 2012!

Article ideas are always bountiful and we will do our best to get more of them out to you and in a timely manner.  A few reasons to keep the CombativeCorner bookmarked will be for the 2012 interviews.  We have on our list: Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming (popular teacher & author), Glenn Hairston, and UFC  6 Champion Oleg Taktarov.  I (Michael Joyce) am also, personally excited for the (possible) interview with Chungliang, Al Huang (a big influence on the way I teach and express my taijiquan practice)

From all of us at the Combative Corner, to all our loyal readers…

Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year,



“Fight Science” : A No-Holds-Barred Review

Posted in Martial Arts, MMA, REVIEWS with tags , , , , , , , on December 14, 2011 by chencenter

Before I begin this review of Fight Science: Mixed Martial Arts, which was aired in January 2008 on the National Geographic Channel, I’d like to state for the record that I’m a fan, teacher and (naturally) a critic of the martial sciences.  It’s this last characteristic that I’d like to clarify.  I’m not the type of critic that gets pleasure from casting shadows on people, styles, or anything of the kind.  Personally (and the teacher in me) sincerely hopes that it’s moreso seen as “casting a light” than anything else.  There is a creed that every teacher should follow:  teach from the heart [with love]…teach the truth [without ego, without secrets, with honesty]…and become an example of what you teach.  Now, with that said…

Fight Science is a television program in which scientists and martial artists work together to discover the mysteries of the artform, the capabilities of the human body and the damage that the human body can cause with various striking techniques.  The latest episode of Fight Science featured four of the most prominent fighters of the Ultimate Fighting Championships: Randy Couture, Bas Rutton, Tito Ortiz and Dean Lister.  The questions were the obvious ones: how do these Mixed Martial Art (MMA) athletes compare to the average person, traditional martial artists, how much force/damage are they able to inflict and how is it possible that the human body can produce such results.

I’m not going to spoil the results for you.  You can watch and enjoy the program on your own.  However, I wouldn’t have decided to make this a blog entry unless I had something to say….


NO STYLE, OR STYLE: We, the masses, obviously know that MMA is now a pop culture phenomenon.  It is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and clearly gives society a clear view of “what works” in an actual, real-to-life hand-to-hand combat (ok. minus the gloves + several rules governing safety).  Fight Science clearly made MMA fighters out to be the pinnacle of athletic excellence and implied MMA as the most effective “style” (if you call it a style).  Can MMA be a “style” when it’s just a combination of effective, battle-hardened techniques?  Isn’t this just what Bruce Lee did with Jeet Kune Do, but vowed never to refer to as a “style?”

Who,… What…umm…Who again?:  Exercise scientists tested these MMA stars on crash test dummies rigged with state-of-the-art, pressure measuring sensors.  When these researchers spoke to us (the audience) in terms like pounds per square inch (for the knowledgeable) and “concusionable” (for the less knowledgeable…[and ok, “concusionable” isn’t a word.] ), they neglected to give actual results.  How did these traditionalists (i.e. boxer, muay thai boxer, taekwondo “so-called experts”) fare result-wise?  Who were these so-called traditionalists and how close did they actually come to these MMA phenoms?  Not revealing this information only softens the argument that these MMA athletes are superior.

The Remark:  There was a remark regarding fighting as “a game of chess” in which a fighter uses strategy to plan several moves ahead.  I’ve heard this analogy before and think it’s utter nonsense.  Fighting is nothing like chess… it’s actually more like ping-pong.  Fighters simply react.  They react with a conditioned response forged by countless hours of training.  Fighting is not a sport that requires a great deal of intelligence (as the show implies).  Intelligence helps (don’t get me wrong)… but genetics, training, desire and the dent of hard work makes a much greater impression!  It’s like in the movie Top Gun when Maverick says (regarding an aerial dogfight), “You don’t have time to think up there…if you think, you’re dead.”  The instructor follows up by adding, “That’s one hell of a gamble with a 30 million dollar aircraft.”  My advice… don’t think like chess…. otherwise, “Yeeha, Jester’s dead.’

MMA less dangerous than boxing?  Hmmm…. okay, I see the logic.  The higher-ups are trying to justify MMA as being a less risky hobby/sport/profession than boxing due to lack of repetitive head trauma.  Avid fan of both here…. university graduate…umm…still not buying it.  Let’s look at these fighters at the end of their careers and count their aches, pains and nervous disorders shall we?  I’ll bet my pinky-toe that more MMA fighters are carried away on stretchers, visited the hospital more times and much more likely to become paralyzed when compared to the sport of boxing.

MMA fighters are saints… yeah…. I said it.  Ok, that’s a lie.  Ok, I’m going to do what a teacher should do and tell the truth.  There are some gentlemen in the sport.  “some”… not many.  The ones that spring to mind are George St. Pierre, Carlos Newton, Cung Le, Rich Franklin and (my favorite) Kazushi Sakuraba.  Apart from these examples…examples of stellar sportsmen… there are nearly twice as many ego-driven, barbarous “thugs.”  I understand the mindset of fighting “in the zone”… but a true martial art professional knows when his opponent is “out of commission.”  Hint… if you are a fighter and you see your opponent’s skull ricochet off the campus and limbs stiffen straight, don’t hit him again. He’s not faking!

Brain over Brawn: “MMA fighters are brain over brawn,” says the legendary Randy Couture.  (I roll my eyes sarcastically)  Well,… yes Mr. Heavyweight Champion.  My opinion is… in the UFC, don’t always bet your money on the bigger guy, however, it hasn’t been a true “David vs. Goliath” since the early days of UFC when they threw in a sumo wrestler.  But let’s face it…  Royce did a great job fighting at a natural weight of 170 lbs (give or take),  but he’s been doing jujitsu since he came out of the womb.  The reality is this…if you are under 200 lbs, plan on making the opponent miss… a lot.

Final Note:  Martial arts are more than mere strikes and arm-bars.  There is often neglected a spiritual side to the martial arts… and it is this side that I hope all martial artists are able to find.  Our goal as teachers is to help guide our students towards self-knowledge.  Our goal as students is to find meaning and bliss behind what we do.  I said once (3 years ago), that if I had it to do all over again… I would have become a fighter.  I wanted to fight in order to promote taijiquan as a legitimate fighting art and thereby draw more students into my studio (we all must make a living).  But that was all a fleeting thought.  My heart is in teaching and in spreading the art of Chen Style Taijiquan (among other things).  And although I think I can handle myself with a few of those guys, I’m not a big fan of being bruised…or bleeding for that matter.   And also…look at the statistics, even the “champion” and “hall-of’-fame” fighters lose one-out-of-four fights.  I’m content with my record of 0-0-0.  That’s undefeated, baby!

Final words,… Much respect to all martial artists, Mixed Martial Artists and Traditionalists alike.  Gracious bows to those masters that choose to fight honorably.

Overall review of this particular episode:  2 and a half stars (out of 5).  “I wish they didn’t sugar-coat the fighters and the UFC as much as they did.  The show and the athletes can stand on their own merit.  The animated skeletons, Bas Rutton’s comical remarks and the desire to write this review (having watched the entire show) were the only things that kept me from flipping the channel.  I can still hear Bas saying (about his biceps), ‘they’re not marshmellows.’  Did I mention he makes me laugh?”

Extended Question to Readers:

What was your take on the show?  Did I miss anything?  Do you disagree with anything any this review?  Anything you’d like to add?  (Don’t forget to mention if you’re a student, teacher, fan, fighter, or all-the above)

Michael Joyce

Article originally posted on Feb. 1 st, 2008


Roundtable Discussion 015: Seminars & Training

Posted in Roundtable Discussion, Training with tags , , , , on December 11, 2011 by Combative Corner

We asked our author panel consisting of five professional martial art teachers this question:

“Do you make attending seminars a part of your training? If not, why?  And if so, briefly explain why and ONE workshop/lecture/camp you went to this year that was the most beneficial.”

Michael Joyce  |  GTS / ChenCenter

While tremendous gains can be made through solo training, nothing can substitute another set of eyes and, more importantly, another individual with experiences and perspectives unique from your own.  We are continuously learning, experimenting, but as someone once said, “We all see the world through our own distorted Coke bottle.”  Although we might think that this or that technique is completely fool-proof… nothing is.  Discovering new ways, or more efficient or effective means with dealing with a scenario or technique often demands the experiences and insights of another; this is where seminars and workshops are highly beneficial.

Personally, I try to visit between 2-3 workshops a year.  Cost-wise there are constraints (mainly because I’m a licensed therapist as well and must also pay for Continuing Education).  But if you want to be “competitive” in a market and (at the same time) feel confident that you are doing everything you can to succeed in your trade, seminars/lectures/workshops are a must!

In 2010, I visited two workshops that helped me immensely.  As someone with a passion for the ground-game, I was thrilled when both Ryron and Rener Gracie made a trip so close to my hometown in North Carolina.  Both Brandon and I attended these workshops and their respective articles can be seen here : A New Passion and Secret to GJJ Mastery.  While it is impossible to choose between between these two tremendous teachers, all I’ll say is that I love and am continuing to work on perhaps the most important element of control, the super-hooks!  [Article on this coming at some point. Stay tuned!]

Freddie Lee  | Freddie’s Modern Kungfu

No. I have children to care for, a wife to spend time with, & a school to run. While I am running the school, it is my science lab. Discoveries & creations are made, this is much more valuable than any seminar in my eyes. I teach people that the truth is within themselves, not within outside resources.

Robert Lara  |  Four Winds Aikido

Yes! I do! I do as much as I can. From youth my Judo Sensei told me to respect all arts and use what you can. Seminar’s with Sosa Sensei were.. well a turning point for me. Big time in my life. At that moment I knew I would train Aikido and I would be a Sensei. That was my dream. So without Seminars I never would have met Sosa Sensei and may have never had a chance to train Aikido again. I say go to them with an open mind. You never know. You could find your art or your path in the arts.

T.J. Kennedy  |  Hybrid Fighting Method

Attending seminars whenever I have the opportunity to do so is an integral part of my training. Seminars allow you to learn potentially new skills, from a different perspective than your own, as well as network and train with a variety of different people.

When I attend some seminars, I find them useless and a waste of time. Other seminars, though, have proven beneficial to my training and combat preparedness.

One example was the Luke Holloway seminar that I hosted in Canada back in September of 2011. I got to get a glimpse of his RAW COMBAT. Although what Luke teaches differs from me, it is highly compatible, and has also helped to fill in some gaps and/or expand my training to further limits.

I am fortunate to have him back here on December 17th and 18th again for some more valuable training.

Johnny Kuo  |  I-Liq Chuan

Attending seminars has been an important part of my training. I have found several benefits from learning in a seminar environment. Seminars have provided an opportunity to meet and train with teachers with whom I would not normally be able to interact. It was in seminars that I was able to meet and train with Zhu Tiancai, Yang Jwing-Ming, and Sam F.S. Chin. None of these teachers were close enough for me to attend their regular classes. Going to a seminar allowed me to tap into some of their knowledge and delve into their arts.

I’ve also met a good number of martial artists at seminars whom I would not have met otherwise. Seminars provided a common learning environment which allowed me to interact with martial artists from different backgrounds and with different perspectives. Without attending those seminars, it would have been easy to fall into a rut and continue training in a cloistered world. Those interactions helped expand my understanding and forged bonds of friendship.

These days, life keeps me too busy to attend as many seminars as I used to, but I still feel seminars are a useful learning tool. Attending seminars is the primary means by which I get feedback on my training. Since I don’t live near my Sifu, seminars are where Sifu can assess my progress and give me pointers on how to advance my skill. Seminars are also where I get a chance to cross hands with my gongfu brothers and sisters. Expressing martial arts skills requires touch feedback, preferably with as many skilled people as possible. Seminars allow me to interact with more people and get more opportunities develop the feel for the art.

Brandon Vaughn  |  Sanshinkai Karate

Running a karate school full time doesn’t leave me much time to focus on my own training, at least not to the extent that I would like. This is especially true when it comes to exploring other styles that I have an interest in. Attending martial arts seminars gives me the opportunity to learn more about other styles as well as meet other martial artist and instructors. This year I had the opportunity to attend a couple of seminars that I enjoyed immensely and learned a lot from. I absolutely love learning new things and the more I learn the more knowledge I have to pass onto my students. This makes it easy to keep my classes fresh and exciting.

The seminar that I actually found most beneficial actually didn’t involve self defense, weapons, or kata but teaching. It was Dave Kovar’s Instructor College that my wife and I attended at the 2011
M.A. Supershow in June.

%d bloggers like this: