Archive for the Teaching Topic Category

Radio Free Asia Interview with Master William Kwok

Posted in Kungfu, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Teaching Topic, Wing Chun with tags , , , , , , on January 28, 2017 by wingchunamerica

Happy Chinese New Year Everyone!

rooster-2017CombativeCorner contributing author Master William Kwok was interviewed over the holidays (Dec.11th & 18th, of 2016) on Radio Free Asia (a sister radio station to Voice of America).  Since the interview was in Cantonese, Sifu Kwok enlisted the help of his student, Ji Chen so that we may benefit as well.  The topic of the interview is on martial virtue and  martial arts education.  Enjoy!  

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[Presenter] Dear audience, welcome to Radio Free Asia’s Sunday Special. Today’s topic is a little unusual. Those of you from the southern country, the Cantonese speaking region in particular, should have heard of Wing Chun. Today, we are delighted to have with us a Wing Chun Master William Kwok Wai Yin, who will share with us his experience in the United States, of promoting the traditional Chinese martial arts culture in general and teaching Wing Chun in particular, and the challenges he has had to grapple with in the process.

[Chirpy music plays]

[Presenter] Master Kwok, thank you very much for accepting our interview today.

[Master Kwok] The pleasure is mine.

[Presenter] I have noticed that you have quite a unique background. Nowadays you are devoted, on a full-time basis, to the promotion of Wing Chun, both the techniques and the philosophy of it, mainly in the United States. But you have a much broader background. In your past incarnations, you were a university lecturer and a corporate manager, among other things. What is it that triggered this decision you made, as if out of the blue, to pack up your career in the business world and start pursuing your dream in the martial arts universe?

[Master Kwok] I have been very fond of martial arts, of exploring them, since I was a kid, and was fortunate enough to be exposed to a great variety of kung fu back then. However, when I got to the age of 35, give or take, by which time I had been a teacher and worked in a corporate environment, I started feeling, well, especially in the context of American society, that the headroom I could grow into was rather limited. That was how I was feeling from a personal perspective. At the same time, I wished there were a goal I could strive towards in my life and I began wondering what I could do. Initially, kung fu was my part-time occupation, something I did in my spare time. That was only a short stint. Eventually, I asked myself, ‘Why don’t I just take the plunge and make it my bread-and-butter job?’ First of all, the job I had at the time was respectable, desirable in the eyes of the world. It was a personal thing. I felt unfulfilled. What really made me tick was martial arts. So, in 2007, I decided to become a full-time kung fu instructor. Me being a Chinese, teaching kung fu as a Chinese and contributing to the promotion of the Chinese culture was for me an honour. There were a lot of benefits to be had by teaching martial arts, be it physical, spiritual or otherwise. Many students found that studying martial arts at our school helped them improve their performance at work. It was such a joy to know that I was able to help people by teaching Wing Chun, which I enjoyed practising myself in the first place.

[Presenter] Speaking of Wing Chun, I actually came with a bag of questions. Could you please share with us the history of Wing Chun? I myself have watched a great many kung fu films from Hong Kong. In fact, it’s known to many that Wing Chun was created by a woman?

[Master Kwok] Let me explain. According to the books I have read since childhood and what my sifu told me, the legend has it that Wing Chun was indeed created by a lady – a Buddhist nun called Ng Mui. Ng Mui passed it on to a female disciple Yim Wing Chun. Yim’s husband, Leung Bok Chau, subsequently named this style of martial arts after his wife.  This story is controversial, as a lot of people say this is not the real history. As far as I know, the history of Wing Chun became a little clearer when Grandmaster Leung Jan of Foshan came onto the scene. It was widely known that Foshan Jan’s kung fu was formidable and he made a name with his Wing Chun skills. Grandmaster Ip Man received instruction from Leung Jan’s disciple and took Wing Chun to Hong Kong, which was then a British colony, a more liberal and multicultural destination. From there, Wing Chun spread to the rest of the world. The fact of the matter is, a lot of people are spending a lot of time researching the history of Wing Chun to investigate its genesis, to find out whether Wing Chun was indeed invented by female practitioners.

[Presenter] Compared to other styles of Chinese martial arts, is Wing Chun one of the younger systems?

[Master Kwok] In fact, Wing Chun goes back two to three centuries. I don’t think it’s that young per se. What defines Wing Chun is its emphasis on scientific principles and logic. Since it’s said to have been invented by women, it’s unlikely to be one that requires such physical strength as is necessary to engage male opponents in a contest of brute force. Rather, it explores an efficient approach to the art of combat based on the center-line theory, on principles of physics, whereby a physically weaker person has a chance to take on a stronger opponent. So we have the paradox of the less powerful overpowering the more powerful – that’s the approach of Wing Chun.

[Presenter] Your teacher is Grandmaster Wan Kam Leung of Hong Kong, founder of Practical Wing Chun. Why does the word ‘practical’ feature so prominently in his style of Wing Chun?

[Master Kwok] Being practical is the aim of our lineage. Grandmaster Ip Man took Wing Chun to Hong Kong and a great many outstanding disciples emerged under his instruction. Bruce Lee was one of them and so was Grandmaster Wong Shun Leung, aka King of Talking Hands. Grandmaster Wong was a very dynamic, highly motivated martial artist, very keen to hone his techniques on an ongoing basis. He earned the nickname King of Talking Hands after he pondered over what he had learned from Ip Man and then applied it in contests against other styles, the purpose of which was to improve his Wing Chun skills. My teacher was among the early students of Wong Shun Leung and, as such, was influenced by Wong’s idea that continuous progress and enhancement was key to martial arts. So he started making incremental improvements to the kung fu skills he had acquired. He observed other styles of martial arts and analyzed Wing Chun through the prism of physics. By and by, he developed a more practical system. As a result, in the 1990s, Grandmaster Wong Shun Leung baptized my teacher’s style as ‘Practical Wing Chun’.

[Presenter] Master Kwok, most of your students are non-Chinese, am I right? Is it very different from teaching Wing Chun in Hong Kong? When non-Chinese students came to you, did they already have some rudimentary knowledge of the Chinese culture? Did they at least know what Chinese martial arts are and what Wing Chun is, which motivated them to seek your instruction in the first place? Or did the Ip Man movie franchise bring them to you, like ‘Wow, Wing Chun looks awesome, let me find out more.’

[Master Kwok] My students come from a diverse range of ethnicities. Over 70 percent of them are non-Chinese. They cited different reasons when they first came to me. Some had practiced other styles of kung fu, but were very interested in Wing Chun. Or maybe they wanted to find out more about Wing Chun, Practical Wing Chun in particular, after reading about it. That’s one category of students. There are others who had watched Ip Man the movie or some other martial arts flicks – of which we have no shortage in the cinema these days – and were motivated or intrigued by them, so they wanted to know more about it. That’s another category.

[Presenter] Back in the olden days, there were times when challenging one’s rivals by gatecrashing their schools was considered cool, to shame the rivals and destroy their reputation. Are there such things going on nowadays, like beimo (duels) or challenge matches?

[Master Kwok] In this day and age, exchanging knowledge and skills, comparing notes, taking part in some form of competition, getting to know each other – that’s something we still do. But the culture of gatecrashing challenge is an undesirable, anachronistic legacy from the past, in our opinion. I once analyzed the phenomenon of gatecrashing challenge and the motivation behind it. In some sense, what the challenger wanted was to find out what your style of kung fu was all about. This is less common nowadays, because you can access some information, like video clips, about whatever you want to investigate: ‘Ah, I see, so this is how that style of Wing Chun or Karate works.’ You get to have a basic knowledge of these things through the media, so there is no need to challenge someone just to find out about what he practices. The next question is: Does this happen to my school? Some people tell me that they want to see what I teach. I say to them, ‘You want to find out? By all means. Just come for a trial session.’

[Presenter] You were saying earlier that Practical Wing Chun places a premium on scientific principles and incorporates scientific elements into the system. What do you mean by scientific principles? Are they the same as those expounded by Bruce Lee? Does it mean you apply the notions of sport science and explain to your students how each punch should be controlled and delivered based on such principles?

[Master Kwok] Let me give you an example. It is said that power should be generated from the ground. What exactly does that mean? It’s open to interpretation, depending on your perspective. I have my own reading of it: Okay, power is generated from the ground. Let’s just look at the stance that serves as our starting position and how a punch is executed. I’ll let the student experience, first-hand, the force of his own punch, how his foothold on the ground supports the transmission of the force through his body structure. My teacher has evolved Wing Chun to what we have today, the system of Practical Wing Chun, through continuous improvements. My job, which is simpler than what he’s done, is to explain to my students how it works using the concepts of physics and body mechanics. For instance, when you are in this stance position, your body structure is straightened. That’s just an example…

[Presenter] This is how you explain it…

[Master Kwok] Indeed, I can explain it using sport science. It works because the student can feel and experience it for himself. I can’t lie about it.

[Presenter] You were saying that modern-day martial artists tend to be more inquisitive, asking teachers all the whys and wherefores. But in the olden days, when your teacher told you to stay in a stance position or to punch in a certain way, you would just do it, no questions asked. You would just do as instructed. Am I right?

[Master Kwok] Yes.

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[Presenter] So today’s methodology is totally different and so is today’s mental approach.

[Master Kwok] Indeed, totally different. My teacher leaves no question unanswered. But those who are a little older than him – normally, the students wouldn’t have the guts to ask questions. This is true of other styles of kung fu. This would result in some students going off the course in their understanding of the moves their teacher had taught. ‘As our teacher taught, so we learned, period. When I have students of my own, if they ask me why this why that, I’d say: This is how it is! This is how it always has been!’ But what used to work may not necessarily work now. Take 100-meter sprint for example. I compared how sprinters ran in 1956 to how they ran in 2016, six decades apart. In the past, the sprinters leaned forward slightly, but nowadays, the world’s best sprinters keep their torsos straight without exception. This is a result of research over the years. This applies to swimming as it does sprinting. That’s how records are broken. As martial artists, we should also keep on exploring, to find out how we can perform better. This is where we are going. But the older-generation practitioners did it differently. Maybe it’s to do with their level of education or the culture of ‘shut up and just do it’ or the scarcity of resources that was holding back the development of knowledge. Martial arts follow the same trajectory of development as sport science.

[Presenter] Master Kwok, you brought up the issue of Oriental people versus Western people, saying that alongside the trend of Chinese people adopting Western values, a lot of Westerners have come to embrace the quintessential Chineseness. I know nothing about martial arts, but am interested to dabble in them and learn some techniques. Mine is not a common case in Hong Kong. But in America, most of the instructors of Chinese kung fu, including but not limited to Wing Chun, are Westerners. I stand corrected, but I, being Chinese, consider Chinese martial arts inherently linked to the Chinese culture. It follows that maybe one is better off going to a Chinese master if one is to learn Chinese kung fu. What do you think of this? Am I wrong?

[Master Kwok] In fact, many of the non-Chinese teachers of kung fu are excellent. There is now a whole legion of Westerners teaching Chinese martial arts. In my opinion, qualities do vary among them as they do among Chinese instructors of kung fu. It all comes down to the individuals, how good they are. We consider lineage quite important, too. Lineage, or the ‘family tree’, was very much emphasized by the older generations.

[Presenter] You are a Chinese living in America. What I wanted to find out through this interview is: What challenges have you encountered and what opportunities have you seen in promoting the Chinese martial arts culture there? Given the broader educational context of America and that of Hong Kong, how do you do it there? How do you run your school there? The experiences must be quite different. Could you please share with us the challenges you face?

[Master Kwok] I don’t think the difference is that big. As I said earlier, we are living in a globalized world. The difficulties one encounters in Hong Kong are similar to those in America. I say that because many places in the world are Westernized now and the Western-style competitive sports are put on a pedestal in places like Hong Kong. The traditional martial arts from the East are more focused on self-improvement. It doesn’t mean the competitive aspect falls by the wayside, but relatively speaking, there’s a predilection for self-improvement at both physical and spiritual levels. Given the prevailing trend that glorifies competition, winning, and medals and trophies, I have the difficult job of having to explain that the main aim of kung fu is not competition or winning a trophy in an open contest. We are not going that way. I need to explain to them the difference.

[Presenter] I read an interesting news story earlier today that I’d like to share with you. You tell me what you think.

[Master Kwok] Go ahead.

[Presenter] This is pretty new, came out today. It happened in the America. After an MMA match, one of the fighters, feeling good about the rounds he had fought, was confident he had won the match. But the judges named his opponent as the winner. He suddenly got very agitated, turned around and punched the ring girl. He is supposed to be a martial artist – fighting in the ring is also a form of martial arts – but how could he fly off the handle so easily and hurt someone in the process? Does he serve as an example of what martial artists shouldn’t do?

[Master Kwok] The biggest problem facing the development of martial arts is the absence of martial ethics in the martial arts curriculum. You’ve heard of Yin Yang, haven’t you?

[Presenter] Yes I have.

[Master Kwok] The unity of the opposites. Balance between Yin and Yang has to be manifested in everything. Martial arts, being martial, are arts that have the potential to hurt people. So the techniques are there to cause damage. That’s the antagonistic part. You need to balance it with ethics, to control the damage you may cause. The problem now is overemphasis on the technical part. MMA is all the rage right now. It started in the Western world. The Western ideology does place a premium on competitiveness: I must triumph, I must win, I must come first. Stories like this really upset me. When the general public hear about such an incident, they would lament the violent tendencies of ‘kung fu men’, that they show no sportsmanship, lashing out when they lose. This guy does not represent all martial artists, but such behaviour tarnishes the image of other martial artists and gives the public the impression that martial arts are violent and there is something wrong with them. These people only make a display of their technical competence, but such competence is not balanced with ethical values. Take for example a country that has a large arsenal of nuclear weapons. If they press the button at the slightest provocation, like what happens in the world of martial arts, the whole planet would go up in flames. Without balance, it’s dangerous.

[Presenter] Thank you for your analogy with nuclear weapons. Come to think of it, physical power is exalted in the American culture, in the broader global context. It finds expression in the arms race, in how military might is glorified in the likes of G.I. Joe, in the slogans of winning and being the tough guy. This is very hard to reverse. It is entrenched in the collective psyche. When you teach kung fu in America, how do you inculcate your American students with notions of martial ethics?

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[Master Kwok] In class, my students pair up to spar. I teach them to respect their opponents or training partners during the spar. This is crucial. In a drill, for instance, one student throws a punch and the other student practices his countering techniques. Through this process of exchange, they come to realize that my aim is not to hurt the other person and I need to consciously exercise self control. This is how they develop the ability to control their power. I would say, ‘When you throw a punch, you do it in earnest, but you don’t want to hurt your training partner. He’s the only partner you have. If he gets hurt, he would have to stay at home resting and you would have no one to practice with.’ That’s how I explain to them sometimes, by cracking jokes like this, to remind them that they should be more careful because there’s an element of danger here. That’s how I work on them, hoping they would get it eventually. I do my best to explain. If I see a good movie that has a good message, I would encourage them to see it so they can be positively influenced. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to the receptiveness and mental attitude of individual students. Why do I stress martial ethics? Because whether or not you have martial ethics affects more than just you. As I have said, while learning martial arts, you learn to respect your training partner, respect other people, by putting yourself in their shoes, by considering the consequences of hitting and hurting them. There are many things at stake. But it’s up to the practitioner to search their heart and find out if they have a natural urge to uphold such ethics. They need to know they do have a choice. They might not be aware that they had a choice. They may have thought that when they were cornered, there was only one way out. But I want them to know this may not be the case.

[Presenter] You currently have three closed-door disciples, don’t you?

[Master Kwok] Yes I do.

[Presenter] Are they all non-Chinese, are they all Westerners?

[Master Kwok] That’s not the case. They are from a variety of ethnicities.

[Presenter] Is it because you suddenly realized that you had admitted so many Western students, so you wanted to balance the mix with a few Oriental people? Or did you go purely by their abilities and their eagerness to learn?

[Master Kwok] Balancing ethnicities doesn’t come into the equation at all, because the American society is open to all racial and ethnic backgrounds. My decision to admit a student depends on his interest, on whether his heart is in it, and on the level of rapport or emotional bond I have with him. Take for example the disciples I have right now. They include Chinese kids who grew up here, Hispanics, African Americans and white people.

[Presenter] They are all male?

[Master Kwok] Males, yes. In fact, there will be four more joining the ranks of closed-door disciples in the coming year.

[Presenter] Plus one… that would be me, if you don’t mind me recommending myself. (Giggles)

[Master Kwok] (Chuckles)

[Presenter] Rest assured that if I went to New York, I’d definitely seek an audience with you, Master Kwok.

[Master Kwok] Thank you. So this ethnicity factor is of little significance, because I have no trouble communicating with them – everybody speaks English. What really matters is the rapport we have and that the disciple is keen to learn, to carry the torch and pass on the culture. I see this as of paramount importance. We have to be compatible, on the same page; there is rapport and loyalty between us. More than a decade ago, thanks to some serendipitous circumstances, I had the pleasure of meeting one of Bruce Lee’s foremost disciples, Dan Inosanto, who is now in Los Angeles. I had a nice chat with him once and he told me something that turned a light on in my head. He said, ‘Teaching is the highest form of learning.’ I could very much relate to that myself. I once taught in a university. When I was preparing my lessons, I had to figure out ways and means to let my students understand what I wanted to impart to them. This process required a thorough grasp of the subject matter on my part in the first place. For me, Mr. Inosanto’s message was loud and clear and made so much sense. In my own martial arts school, I encourage more experienced students, senior students, to mentor and advise their junior peers, through which they can learn a lot of things as well.

[Presenter] Do they listen to you and subscribe to this idea of yours? Do they not question why they have to waste time practicing with the juniors when they have gone past their level? Don’t they see it as a waste of time and effort? Shouldn’t they be practicing with people who are at a higher level?

[Master Kwok] There may be some who think like that, but most people understand this. Because I say to them, ‘Yes, you want to learn from the seniors who are better than you, but why should they be interested to practice with you?’

[Presenter] Yes, I do realize it’s a paradox, what goes around comes around.

[Master Kwok] Exactly. In fact, most of my students are aware that you benefit as much from practicing with peers at the same level as you would from practicing with seniors or juniors. Every partner offers you something unique and you can learn something different. My job as a teacher is to remind them and to see which way each of them is going. Some of them misinterpret the word ‘teach’. I have noticed that oftentimes, when they teach new students, they tend to get very talkative, shooting off their mouth nonstop.

[Presenter] What do they talk about? Theorizing?

[Master Kwok] Theorizing, yes. They over-explain.

[Presenter] That’s what goes on in the real world, too, interestingly enough. Usually those who talk the talk can’t walk the walk. That’s true of what goes on in the real world. That’s so interesting. I wonder why.

[Master Kwok] There are many dimensions to teaching and learning. I try to set them an example to show why nonstop talking doesn’t work when you try to explain something. You must learn to listen. The person you are trying to help may already know what you are saying, but he doesn’t understand the underlying principles, so if you keep scratching the surface, he still can’t get the explanation he is looking for. Maybe you are not a good listener; maybe you try to impose a uniform approach, regardless of the fact that personal approaches may vary. On top of the learning chain is the master. Then there’s the senior students and junior students. The challenge here is to enable the students, especially those who have been with me only a short time, to understand their responsibilities when they interact with junior peers. The highest form of learning is knowing how to teach. In the case of some students, when they reach certain levels, I might say, ‘Okay, you, Level 5, pair up with this Level 2 student and practice away!’ Initially, some of them are baffled and wonder why they have to go back to Level 2 and practice the techniques associated with that level. ‘I am Level 5. If I practice with him, he stands to gain at my expense.’ What they don’t understand is that one can learn in a great many different ways. When a Level 5 student explains Level 2 techniques to a Level 2 student, he is actually recalling, marshalling and re-organizing what he remembers of the Level 2 techniques.

[Presenter] Could you share with our audience some basic moves of Wing Chun? I know nothing about Wing Chun, but I have heard of certain routines or forms, san sau, chi sau, etc. Could you tell us a little bit about its basic system?

[Master Kwok] There are three forms in Wing Chun, namely, Siu Lim Tao, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze. One starts with Siu Lim Tao. This first form contains a great many moves. One of the first hand forms is called Kau Cha Sau, crossed arms. The center-line principle is at the heart of Wing Chun and Kau Cha Sau helps locate the center-line. The other techniques that we learn subsequently are derivatives of this Kau Cha Sau. That’s why a beginner must practice the forms in earnest. After mastering the forms, you practice individual techniques taken from the forms, called san sau, standalone moves. When you become reasonably proficient with san sau, quite good at the techniques, we let you move on to chi sau practice. With chi sau, your hands and arms are  in contact with those of your opponent. You sense your opponent’s force by picking up tactile signals and adapt and change accordingly. Adapt and change with what? With the techniques that you acquired through san sau practice. Put simply, the techniques that we apply in chi sau come from san sau, which in turn is derived from the forms. Therefore, although we seem to be practicing different things, they all point to the same source. Only the methods differ. Chi sau is interesting because change comes into play. The forms give structure to the techniques, but it’s change that brings the techniques to life. There is a fixed range of techniques, but the nomenclature associated with their varied combinations is extensive. Why did I bring up the topic of chi sau? Because practicing chi sau shaped my own outlook on life. I came to realize that there might be more than one fixed, exclusive solution to any given problem. When I approach a problem in a certain way and it doesn’t work, I know I have to modify my approach. In life, when we come up against some difficulty or problem, there isn’t just one way out, there are many possible solutions. You need wisdom or experience to change tack and solve the problem via an alternative route. This is what makes chi sau interesting.

[Presenter] Wing Chun relies heavily on hands. The lower limbs are stationary, locked in a stance, no kicking. Is that right?

[Master Kwok] That’s a misunderstanding. (Presenter giggles.) Where does this misconception come from? Siu Lim Tao is a static form, in which motionless stance is maintained. But when you get to the second form, Chum Kiu, there’s a lot of footwork actually. But why do people get the impression that Wing Chun is a hand combat system? That’s because when you first start, you learn the first form, Siu Lim Tao, which predominantly involves hand moves. Many people learn the form and realize that hand techniques are an important part of Wing Chun. Some people may quit before they progress to the second form, before they learn the footwork. Hence the wrong impression that Wing Chun is all about hands. But Wing Chun’s footwork is very effective.

END OF PART 1

(For more info: newyorkwingchun.com)

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Crash, Smash, and Dash – KTC

Posted in Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2016 by hybridfightingmethod

Kennedy Tactical Concepts LogoIn a modern day attack, we have no control over any of the variables, except one; our own response. But even that is impeded because of our limbic system, thrusting us into a mode of “fight or flight”, causing adrenaline to course through our bodies, making any sort of complex thought or movement extremely difficult. If you were ambushed from behind, and turned to find three attackers and one of them with a knife coming at you – your own biology would make it next to impossible to formulate a plan in that moment. It is because of this that we created a 3-step physical roadmap to follow in just such a situation – CRASH, SMASH, and DASH.

It is this skeletal frame that we attach all of our physical tactics to. Through our drills and simulations, we apply this roadmap to several different contexts, hardwiring us to respond in this way regardless of the stimulus.

CRASH

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-8-42-59-amIn most modern street attacks, when the assailant actually INTENDS to hurt or kill the victim, the assailant does not allow the victim to see the attack coming. This is called an ambush. The assailant has a significant advantage at this moment, and it is at this moment that it is crucial for the victim to remove further opportunity from the assailant to cause continued damage.

Author and self-defense instructor Rory Miller suggests a “golden standard” for a response to this type of attack in his book “Meditations on Violence,” which would:

  1. Improve the victim’s position
  2. Worsen the attacker’s position
  3. Protect the victim from damage
  4. Allow the victim to damage (or control) the assailant

In Urban Defensive Tactics, we have developed our “Trinity Block” (based on instinctive movements under threat) into a multi-tool that meets all of the criteria in the “golden standard,” allowing the victim to weather incoming attacks while crashing into the assailant, thereby beginning to flip the script in the situation.

SMASH

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-8-43-12-amUsing the Trinity Block to crash into the assailant and close the gap, we then utilize Urban Defensive Tactics’ uniquely applied Combative Controls as a means of gaining anchor points from which to apply our close-quarter offensive tactics.

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DASH

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-8-43-53-amWhen sufficient damage has been done to the assailant such as to create a legitimate opportunity for safe escape, we run to a safe place where we survey ourselves for physical damage and contact the appropriate emergency services.

T.J. Kennedy

Kennedy Tactical Concepts

Gracie Survival Tactics – The Inside Scoop

Posted in Jiujitsu, Martial Arts, REVIEWS, Safety, Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2016 by bradvaughn

The Non-Lethal Techniques Every Law Enforcement Officer Should Know

by Brandon T. Vaughn  01/06/16

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Over the years my position/role/career as a martial arts instructor has offered many opportunities and experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. The most recent of which took place last month, November 16th through the 20th, and took me back to California, a place I first had the pleasure of visiting two years ago when I participated in the Gracie Academy Instructor Certification Program in 2013.

My second visit to California would also be connected to the [Gracie] Academy, only instead of Torrance, this time I would be going to Pleasanton, a suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area approximately 25 miles east of Oakland, CA. I decided to take advantage of a formal invitation to all CTC Certified Instructors to assist and participate in any upcoming Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) Instructor Certification Courses. Eager to get an inside look at this program only available to active or retired law enforcement and military personnel, and in desperate need of a vacation (even if it would be a working one) I jumped at the opportunity. I’m glad I did. It was an incredible opportunity to learn the GST curriculum first hand, meet some of my fellow CTC Instructors, and get some “mat time” with Ryron Gracie himself.

 

Adapting To Meet A Changing Climate

GST - Vaughn teaching 2For those of you who aren’t familiar with the program, Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) is the Gracie Academy’s Defensive Tactics Program for Military & Law Enforcement Personnel. Created by the Gracie Academy to meet the ever changing needs of their clients, the GST program is itself an amalgamation of two earlier combative/defensive tactics programs. Gracie Combatives, an intensive course based on the most effective techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu developed for the United States Army, and G.R.A.P.P.L.E (Gracie Resisting Attack Procedures for Law Enforcement), a non-violent and court defensible program developed for police officers. Both of the aforementioned programs were originally developed by Rorion Gracie, eldest son of Gracie Jiu-jitsu founder Helio Gracie, and creative mind behind the UFC.

Since it’s inception Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) has been taught to countless Federal, State and International military and law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Secret Service and the US Border Patrol. During my five days assisting with the GST Instructor Certification Program I was able to meet men and women from a wide range of agencies and hear many of their first hand accounts of situations that they have found themselves in while on duty. As well as some of their concerns with the level of self-defense training that their agencies currently have in place.

 

The Road To Certified GST Instructor

For law enforcement or military personnel (active or retired) wishing to learn Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) for their own continuing education, the complete 23 lesson course is available on www.GracieUniversity.com via online streaming video. However, if you are an officer wishing to implement the GST program at your department or agency the only way to do so is by completing the GST Instructor Certification (Level 1).

The Gracie Academy teaches anywhere from 5 to 10 of these instructor certification courses a year varying by location. Some are hosted by the Academy itself  at their main location in Torrance, CA while others are hosted by various agencies around the world or by individuals within those organizations. The particular course I volunteered to assist in was hosted by a member of the Pleasanton Police Department with the actual training sessions taking place in the gym of a local high school.

The week long course began at 8am Monday morning and started with Ryron Gracie giving a brief history of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, including its creation, their work with the US Army and the development of Gracie Combatives and how working with the military and law enforcement over the last 20 years led to the creation of the techniques that we would be learning over the next five days. He then moved seamlessly into the first of eight techniques that we would cover that day, setting the pace for the rest of the week. Ryron would teach a technique, using either myself or one of the other four instructors that were there to assist in the course, then when he was sure that everyone understood the technique he would release them to practice the technique with their partner. At this time the assistant instructors would walk around and observe the participants doing the techniques, offering feedback and making any necessary corrections.

Day two and three began with the class reviewing all the techniques that they had learned the day before while. After the review period, which lasted anywhere from 10-15 minutes, we would move on the block of techniques that would be taught that day. The training sessions ended with a series of fight simulation drills in which the participants would combine several techniques from previous sessions with the ones that they had just learned, thus building their muscle memory and making them more familiar with how the individual techniques can be used in any possible combination.

While the first three days were dedicated to the learning of the GST techniques, day four was dedicated to instructor training, where the participants learned the most effective ways to teach the GST techniques to their colleagues when they return to their individual agencies/departments. The fifth and final day of the course consisted of a final evaluation to test the participants overall comprehension of all the material covered during the previous four days.

The GST Advantage

GST - Vaughn teachingWhat sets Gracie Survival Tactics apart from other defense tactic programs currently being taught to law enforcement and military personnel is it’s lack of reliance on striking techniques (ie. punches and kicks) which may not be effective against an assailant who may be physically larger or stronger or who may be under the influence of a substance that dampens their ability to feel pain. Instead, all the techniques in the GST program are based on leverage, timing, and efficient use of energy. This means the techniques can be employed effectively regardless of gender, size or athletic ability.

With the number of fatal police shootings reported to be nearing 400 nationwide in 2015, and allegations of excessive force at an all time high, GST provides law enforcement officers with a much needed alternative to relying solely on their firearm or secondary tools (ie. baton, stun gun, pepper spray) in situations where the use of deadly force could have possibly been avoided. The GST curriculum also address the high rate of instance where law enforcement officers are shot in the line of duty by an assailant using the officer’s own firearm by including weapon retention techniques in the curriculum as well as a variety of effective techniques that allow an officer to get back to their feet and create distance in the event that they end up on the ground underneath an assailant.

 

A Fear Of Change

With a seemingly endless list of benefits and advantages, it’s hard to imagine that all law enforcement agencies aren’t already taking part in the Gracie Survival Tactics program.

From conversations I had with some of the men and women participating in the GST Level 1 Instructor Certification Course, I learned that one obstacle the newly certified instructors will encounter when trying to implement the program in their own department may be the very officers that they are trying to help.

Whether it stems from an over reliance on the tools they have at their disposal or the lack of continued fitness requirements after they graduate from the academy, some officers seem resistant to any self-defense training outside what is mandated annually by their state. When you consider that 40% of officers that are shot in the line of duty are done so with their own weapon, it would seem that all law enforcement officers would be eager to learn any technique that, would not only teach them how to retain their weapon, but also how to subdue a suspect without the use of their firearm or auxiliary weapons.

Another obstacle that new GST Instructors may have to deal with is a natural resistance to change. Either from the administration or from their department’s defensive tactics instructor, in the event that the GST Instructor doesn’t also serve that role. Strategies on how to address these and other common concerns are included in the support materials that each course participant receives on the final day of training.

GST - Group Pic Sm

 

Final Thoughts

Gracie Survival Tactics is quickly proving itself to be not only a valuable resource for law enforcement officers, but to military personnel as well. As I am writing this article, the United Nations Security Service has become the most recent agency to adopt Gracie Survival Tactics.

My experience at the GST Level 1 Instructor Certification Course in Pleasanton, CA was like nothing I have experienced before and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to not only assist, but to participate in the training as well. As a martial arts instructor I’ve had the opportunity to teach students of all ages how to defend themselves. Even if learning self-defense was not their primary reason for enrolling, it was still a skill they acquired while working towards whatever their personal goals were. Having said that, I have to admit that there was something exceedly rewarding about working with individuals that will most likely be using the techniques you are teaching them a regular basis.

Brandon Vaughn

Certified GJJ CTC Instructor

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The 8 Energies and 5 Movements of Taijiquan

Posted in Internal Arts, Martial Arts, Taijiquan, Teaching Topic, Training, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2015 by chencenter

Chen Xiang demonstrating the Hunyuan 13 Shi set at the 2015 Hunyuan meeting in Beijing, China. The 13 in the name refers not to the number of movements but the 13 techniques: 8 energies (ba fa) 掤 peng, 捋 lu, 挤 ji, 按 an, 採 cai, 挒 lie, 肘 zhou, 靠 kao, as well as 5 stepping methods (bu fa) 前进 qian jin (advance forward), 后退 hou tui (retreat/ draw back), 左顾 zuo gu (glance/step left), 右盼 you pan (glance/step right), 中定 zhong ding (central fixed).  Video by: Douglas Martin

The martial art of Taijiquan is based on 13 principles (8 forces+5 movements).  All movements of Taijiquan are built upon these principles & are used in various combinations within each posture, transition and application.  Please watch the above video of Master Chen Xiang and watch this superb demonstration of these principles in his form which he calls the Hunyuan 13 Shi.  Those familiar with the internal arts may notice the other (somewhat hidden) stylings of Qigong, Bajiquan (Eight Ultimate Style Boxing), and Shuai Jou (Chinese Wrestling).  For the people interested in the culmination of these principles and power it garners should check out this older video of Chen Xiang testing fajin (explosive power) at Stanford University.  [link]

FORCES

  • PENG– refers to the outward (or upward) expansion of energy.
  • LU– often referred to as “roll back,” Lu is the ability to absorb, yield/deflect incoming force.  There are 3 characteristics of Lu are: Yielding (Jan), Merging (Ian) & Adhering (Nien)
  • JI– is often thought of as a “forward press,” however it also best described as a “squeezing out of space.”
  • AN– is a downward movement of energy, best translated into “(relaxed) sinking.”
  • CAI– (Tsai) translated into “downward pluck,” Cai is a combination of Lu and An.
  • LIE– (Lieh) Lie or “Split” is a combination of Peng and Ji.
  • ZHOU– Elbowing. In Chen style, elbows are overtly shown in all angles, with a coiling effect.
  • KAO– when the arms are bound/distance is too close to punch, we can use a “Shouldering.”

MOVEMENTS

  • JIN– Advance forward
  • TUI– Retreat back
  • GU– Gaze/Step left
  • PAN– Gaze/Step right
  • DING– Center-Fixed

 

 

Women’s Self-Defense – The 3 Distances

Posted in Safety, Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Videos, Violence, Women's Self-Defense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2015 by chencenter

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Distance management involves controlling the space between you and your potential attacker.  In this video, Michael brings to our attention how understanding personal boundaries can help to provide the necessary tools needed to defend yourself in a violent (or potentially violent) situation.

When training, think about the various ranges:

  • Conversational
  • Cautionary
  • Close (Danger) 

Remember that what is considered “conversational” in normal, every-day encounters with friends and loved ones is not the situation we are talking about!  These ranges are for situations when your intuition has already told you that something is wrong and that an action-plan is needed.  By training these distances and adding the proper state, posturing, verbal de-esculation (if possible/if time is available) and bridging… we’ll likely be much safer in the real situation.

Please note: These ranges and action-plans (future video, coming soon) is built with the female in mind.  Often, when males fight other males, other cues, posturing and state changes are more beneficial – speaking primarily of what I call the “Aggressive Fence”  (others may call it “ballooning”).  There will be a separate article and video on that in the future.

MICHAEL  & JENNIFER JOYCE
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A New Channel for Women’s Self-Defense

Posted in Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Videos, Women's Self-Defense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2015 by chencenter

You all know me as someone passionate about spreading the message of empowering women.

That’s one thing that “Real Men Do” (shout-out to She-Jitsu!)

I want to introduce you all to our first video of our Outfoxxed Self-Defense channel.  Lot’s of great videos coming up!  And be sure to tell your ladies about it!

Please LIKE and SUBSCRIBE

MICHAEL JOYCE

OUTFOXXED.COM

Push Hands: Learn to Fight, Not Push

Posted in Internal Arts, Martial Arts, Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Techniques, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2014 by Combative Corner

Eli Montaigue Mountains Push Hands

By Eli Montaigue of WTBA ©2014

Push Hands, is probably one of the most misunderstood training methods in Taiji.  Most schools of taiji teach push hands for the sake of doing push hands, to beat other people at push hands.
Taiji is about learning how to defend yourself in a fight. Pushing is not fighting.  No one is going to come up to you in the street and try to push you over. They are going to punch your face in, then kick you while you’re down.

I know people who have been training in push hands for many many years, and they are very good at “push hands”. If I play push hands with them, we are of equal skill etc.
However, I have been taught to hit from push hands. With these same people, when I start to put in any kind of strikes, they have no idea what to do. Because they have only trained in how to push. They might for example push me a little off balance, which makes me react with a strike. Followed by “you can’t do that, we’re doing push hands!” This only applies to a beginner doing push hands. Of course they must do it in a certain way, to learn certain principles. But if two advanced Taiji practitioners are doing push hands? You can do what you want. You can stand there and kick me in the groin, or head but me in the face. If I cannot stop you? My push hands is not good.

Eli Push Hands 1

picture 1

Ok, so how and why do we train push hands?

First up, stance!
Most schools of Taiji teach Push Hands from the same stance as they would use in the Taiji form. See picture #1.
This is a big mistake! The large stances in the form, are there for 3 main reasons. 1, to build heat in the legs to help the flow of Qi. 2, to strengthen the legs. 3, to stretch the legs. It is for health and exercise, and is in no way meant to be used for fighting.

The big stance in push hands teaches us many bad habits.  My father Erle Montaigue, use to teach big the stance to beginners, then he would advance them onto the small stance later on.
This is how he was taught.
However, after years of teaching, he found that the big stance, although easier to learn, was teaching the student nothing but bad habits. The big stance gives you a false sense of balance. What use is it to be able to hold your balance in a big stance, when you can’t fight from a big stance. In a small stance, you are more
mobile, you can protect your groin and knees, and you are
training yourself to be able to fight from the stance you’re already in when walking down the street.
The only way to deliver force from a small stance, without losing balance, is to use the same muscles as you would to strike. Via twisting of the waist, compression and release of the spine.
Thus training your body how to strike with power.

Eli Push Hands 2

picture 2

In a big low stance, you will be more likely to be training your body in the best way to push.

There are no pushes or pulls in Taiji, as they do not have a place in self defence. Unless your opponent is standing on a cliff edge!
{See picture #2}
It’s like if you were doing 500 squats every day and
hoping it would make you a faster runner.
You have to train the muscles for the work you want them to do. When we hold a big stance, this causes us to get into a forward backward weight change.
The pusher comes forward, the receiver evades by sitting back. See picture #1 again.
What’s the first thing you learn in self defence?
When someone attacks you, don’t sit back! You are
putting yourself in a vulnerable position. See picture #2.
In a small stance, when we shift the weight, this causes us to evade to the side, maintaining our forward intent. This now changes the intent of the pushing, from you attack and I defend, to you attack and I defend by attacking! In every attack there is defence, and in every defence there is attack. Basic Yin and Yang. See picture #3 and #4. Notice the closer proximity of the players, and that in Lu #4, it is applied with an intention of sitting to the side, rather then sitting back as in Pic #1.
This means you can maintain forward intent, and truly evade the attack. Sitting back does not get you out of the way of an attack. The closer lateral evasion also puts you in a
position to re attack.
The mind set is most important in Push Hands. Even if you are doing a pushing movement, you should have the body structure and intent of striking.

Eli Push Hands 3

picture 3

Eli Push Hands 4

picture 4

Hard or soft?
Ok here is where a lot of people get things wrong. Ever heard the quote “Steel wrapped in cotton?”.
This means we should seem soft on the outside. It does not mean we do things in a soft manor.
Anyone who tells you that you can defend yourself without using any substantial force, has clearly never been put under pressure.
What we do however is to structure the body so, that we have to use very little strength to get great effect. This is what P’eng training is all about. We learn this first in single Push Hands.

For example, when I do Push Hands with a beginner, but someone with much bigger muscles than me, their arms will get sore before mine. To them it seems like I have really strong arms, not that I am all soft and jelly like. But in fact my muscles are not stronger, it’s just that I am structuring my body so that I only have to deal with half the pressure.

The pressure of the incoming push, should start soft for the student to learn. Too much pressure in the
beginning can cause the student to use bad technique. But be sure to increase this to as much pressure as you can develop, as someone attacking you is not going to do so lightly!
From the receiving part, well you should use as much pressure as you need to. As you get more advanced, this amount will get less, as you will learn to move your centre around the force coming in.
Very soft training has it’s place, this teaches us to “listen” with our hand.
But to have this as your only practice? Well that would be like learning to kick without being able stand on one leg.

When I was learning push hands, if I did something wrong, lost my balance, or opened my guard etc,
I did not get pushed over. I got punched in the side of the head! Or kicked in the groin!
Two advanced Push Hands players should look like they are having a fight, not like they are dancing.

Eli Push Hands 5

picture 5

Ok now onto attacks.
In the beginning, for students learning the ground work for Push Hands, we do some “pushing” attacks. This teaches the beginner how the hold up a strong guard, stay grounded and move their centre out of the way of the
incoming force.
Then the power speed and aggression of the attacks are increased gradually, till they are full real attacks. Any type of attack can be put into push hands, from a practical cross punch, (see picture #5) to a silly back spinning kick to the head. It is most important not to see Push Hands as a competition!
It is a training method. Yes you try your best to hit the other guy, so you could say that you are trying to beat him. However, what you have to do in your push hands, is to use all types of attacks, not just the ones you’re best at. For example, if I was competing, I would only use the techniques that I knew were best for me. But this would not give my partner a very rounded training.

I would never throw a back spinning kick in a competition, because I know it is not my forte.
Same with grappling, I would not use this if I wanted to beat the other guy.
But I will use them in training, so that my partner gets to train against them. I still throw the attack as best I can, trying to catch my partner out. But knowing that due to the fact that I am throwing an easily defeated attack, I will most likely be the one to get hit. I have tested this one many people. They only train practical attacks, then they get hit by the silly attacks, because they are not use to them.

Eli Push Hands 6

picture 6

In defence though it is different. You see if you attack, you are not reacting, you have made a conscious choice to attack. But if you are defending, you are reacting to
something your partner is doing. And when you are training your subconscious to react, you want to train it in the most practical way that will be best for protecting yourself in the street.

Your first reaction in a situation should be to strike.

It is the quickest and most likely way to protect yourself. See picture #6. In my opinion, other methods such as arm/wrist locks, sleeper holds etc, should only be used when you know you have control of the situation. Perhaps there is a drunk guy in the pub, you have some mates there, you know there’s no real danger. So you would try to take care of the guy without doing too much damage.
But someone breaks into your home and catches you off guard, you have to protect your family. So your first reaction should be to strike. This is why we practice our locks and holds from the attacking part of push hands.

So to consolidate, if you have been training in push hands for anymore than a year, but don’t feel comfortable when someone is throwing punches at you, then your push hands has not done its job.
As I said at the top, what use is a training method that only makes you good at doing the training method.

Eli Push Hands 001

Eli is a guest writer for the CombativeCorner.  If you enjoyed this article, please check out the others that he’s done for us.

10 Questions with Eli Montaique

Standing Three Circle Qigong

Special thanks to Francesca Galea, Leigh Evans, and Lars-Erik Olsen, for appearing in the pictures

Proof read by Francesca Galea
Written by Eli Montaigue 04/12/2014

© Eli Montaigue 2014

____________________________________________________________________


eli montaigue profileEli Montaigue is a man of many talents.  He’s the chief instructor of the World Taiji Boxing Association, inherited from his late, legendary father-teacher Erle Montaigue and also the lead singer of the band Powder Monkeys.  Originally from NSW, Australia he currently resides in London, England.  Intent on spreading quality martial art teaching, he conducts many workshops throughout the year, locally and internationally.  For more information, visit the WTBA website at www.taijiworld.com

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