Archive for pedagogy

Sifu Lee on Children & the Martial Arts

Posted in Day's Lesson, Martial Arts, Miscellaneous, Peace & Wellbeing, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , on August 8, 2013 by Sifu Freddie Lee

Children Kids Class Education KindergartenI cannot force my children to practice Martial Arts.

That is against the Tao. 

If it comes natural, let it be, if it does not, let it be.  My children will have to exercise, practice good hygiene, eat healthy, and sleep well.  Those are necessities that they have no choice in fulfilling.  We live the healthy way, so my children have no other choice but to follow.  The fridge is only filled with healthy foods, there is nothing else to eat.  It is either eat healthy or starve.

They are forced to brush their teeth and take showers even when they don’t want to, it is a necessity of health and wellness.  The lights go out at a certain time so they have no other choice but to sleep when it is time.  They exercise because there simply is nothing else to do.  We have no cable TV to watch.  We have movies, but movies get old.  They play online games, but eventually they have to stop and move around.  They want to go to the park to play, when they go to the park, that is the beginning of their physical training.  Even at home they are very active running and playfully wrestling.

Activeness is extremely important.  The must be active.  But as far as formal exercise training, like in the beginning stages of Martial Art training, I do not force but I encourage.  They know they will make us happy when they participate, knowing this encourages them to get involved.  I also notice that when other children are around taking the training serious, they tend to get more involved.

Freddie Lee pinterestBrandon loves playing XBox 360.  We have an agreement that if he practices Kung Fu for 1 hour, he can play Xbox, and this agreement is working wonders.  It really motivates him to get involved with the training.  Angelina naturally loves to train and does not need video games as a motivation.  Brandon and Angelina enjoy spending time with me and that is what makes them want to participate.

The kwoon is also separated from our home.  Taking them to the kwoon creates a separate environment that also motivates them.  Staying at home all day makes a child want to get out and be somewhere new.  The kwoon becomes a quick getaway to do something exciting and different, this helps a great deal.  Keo does get involved as well, but he is not as motivated as Brandon and Angelina because he is still a bit young and does not have as much energy as Brandon and Angelina.  Jet is the only one that is unable to participate in anyway because of his extreme lack of focus and attention span.

I see that it is very important not to force the children to learn Martial Arts; they will learn when they are ready.  If they experience great struggle in life, it may encourage them to learn when they wonder why they are having such a difficult time overcoming these struggles.  Sometimes it will take a child getting bullied or beat up in school in order for him to realize that he needs to take action and get started in something like Martial Arts to defend himself when necessary.

It is of absolute necessity that children learn to be healthy and nonviolent.  If they are able to live a peaceful life, they may never find a need to learn Martial Arts at all.  But if they are surrounded by struggle and conflict, Martial Art training may very well end up becoming a necessity.  It depends on each child’s circumstances.  It is not right for a parent to force a child to practice an Art that he/she does not enjoy.

If he would rather play the drums or read, let him do so.  But no matter what he chooses, he must find time to exercise.  Exercise is something that I will always enforce, because him refusing to do so is no other reason than just pure laziness.  When a child is being lazy, you must teach him the way to combat this laziness and become active.  When a child is continuously active, Martial Art training will come on its own natural way that is unforced.


Sifu Freddie Lee

Freddie’s Modern Kungfu. Chicago, IL.

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The West, Still Not Ready | Sifu Lee

Posted in Day's Lesson, Miscellaneous, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2012 by Sifu Freddie Lee

When Bruce was alive, he knew that the West was not ready for real Martial Arts, he was disappointed with the progress of his kwoons, so he decided to close his kwoons to go into acting. Over 40 years later, right now, the West is still not ready for real Martial Arts. I love teaching Martial Arts, but it is almost impossible making a living doing so if you teach it the way that it is truly meant to be taught, I’ve decided to go into field of personal training to make a living. The masses of people just want to lose weight, gain muscle, feel & look good – few of them truly wish to learn real art. Out of 100 people, you will be lucky to find one that has the Martial Spirit within.

People can be taught but they must be ready to listen.  Many are not ready to listen. I love to give, but if I give too much, I will go out of business. Martial Art is not meant for business.  I am truly experiencing the struggles of how to get a Martial Art school to stay completely pure & uncorrupted. You work so hard to find people who have the Martial spirit within them, but then they have no money to pay. Then you find those who have much money but then they are far from being ready to enter into the realm of Martial Arts.

You have to reach out to the right people, but the right people are often times thousands of miles away. I will try to last as long as I can, but eventually I may have to once again become more hidden, working a job to make ends meet, while keeping the spirit of the Martial Arts within me, hidden from the mass of society. The mass of society is not ready for what I have to teach, & during the course of my lifetime, I may never see a time when they are ready. The truth is meant to be hidden; it cannot be exploited & mass produced.

Martial Arts requires thousands of hours of study & training.  How can anyone progress rapidly if they must pay for every hour? It is like a child who must pay you by the hour in order to raise him until the age of 18, he will have to repay you for the rest of his life, or at least take care of you for 18 years in which to break even. It takes time to develop into a Martial Artist, but who has the time to wait? Bruce could not wait. By waiting you are slowing your own development, but forging ahead you are leaving loved ones behind, finding the balance is a difficult thing. I know if I forge ahead there is nowhere to go – Bruce already taught me this. By waiting I can be of great assistance. But I will only wait for those who show appreciation; I will not wait for those who do not appreciate. Some people are ready, some people are not, those who are not, I will not force. When they are ready, they will show me, they will not just tell me.

The pressure is on to make me perform. Without the pressure, I will find no need to perform. Why try hard if you are already living comfortable? When your living conditions are rough, that forces you to work hard, when you work hard you grow. This kwoon can only grow through hard work. Nothing comes easy in this commercialized world. The masses are constantly being bombarded by negative advertisements that it makes it very difficult to see the positive.

Sifu Freddie Lee

[via FMK’s Facebook]

Teaching Kids & Big Kids (Adults)

Posted in Day's Lesson, Miscellaneous, Philosophy, Teaching Topic with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2012 by hybridfightingmethod


You learned in kindergarten.

That is the common maxim touted since I first found myself IN kindergarten.  Being in Ireland right now writing this, I am inspired to reflect upon my past world travels.  In 2000-2002 I spent time teaching kindergarten in southeast China.  My mentor back then, Alex Abdulnour, told me something about teaching kids that I hold very close to my heart to this day.  I believe that this same thing is applicable to teaching adults, as adults are just kindergarteners in bigger clothes.

Apply these concepts and you will become a much better instructor.

He said the following –

They want to know how much you care before they care how much you know.

This I find to be absolutely true.  You need to care about your students.  They can sense when you don’t, or when you are being disingenuous.  Relationships are like bank accounts.  You have to make a deposit before you make a withdrawal.  Before you can expect anything from your students and from people in general, you need to invest and show them you genuinely care.

Have a plan prepared for them or they will have a plan prepared for you…and you won’t like their plan.

Make sure you have a guideline going into class or you will be sorry you didn’t.  Dogs can smell fear.  Students can smell unpreparedness.  You don’t have to stick to the plan exactly – but have at least a skeletal structure in place to navigate your class.

Make them laugh.

Elicit positive emotions and make them feel good.  If you do this, they will connect the concepts you offer with positive emotions.  If you make your students feel good while learning, they are more apt to remember what you taught.

Think to yourself what teachers you remember fondly?  Did they care about you?  Were they prepared?  Did they make you laugh and feel good?

Also, as with everything, be a critical consumer of information (another tidbit given to me by Alex).  Take what I say, and weigh it like you should all incoming information.  Include the concepts in this article into your teaching, and you will have far more success in empowering your students with the information you are communicating.



Teaching Tai Chi Effectively | John Gough

Posted in Taijiquan, Teaching Topic, Training, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2012 by Combative Corner

I learned a very valuable lesson early in my teaching career.

My first class started off as a roaring success. It commenced with twenty students in a hall too small for this number.  However I was delighted with the response and all progressed just fine.  I had a few drop out, as expected, and the class settled at a consistent fifteen. We had started in the September and as we approached holiday season and the long break the atmosphere in the class was very upbeat, so much so the group organized a picnic for our last class. We all had a ball, and everyone was returning the next year.

So on the first class of the following year, all excited, I stood in the hall with three students.

Where had I gone wrong?

After much talk and beating of breast, and analysis, I reached the conclusion
that while the students had enjoyed themselves, however, they had not taken ownership of their Tai Chi.  My challenge!! How do I encourage my students to own their Tai Chi?

Now I would like to share with you something I call, “The Cement“- “Winning the confidence and respect of your students.”

This is the glue that keeps my classes together and everybody winning.  It is easy to say but not so easy to put into action.

This is how I work to achieve it.

I try to Listen to what my students are saying, not only to me but particularly to their fellow participants.  I try to Listen with my ears, eyes, heart and mind, not only to what they are saying but also to their body language, for this really tells me what their real attitude is.  I work to be open and honest in my dealings and what I say at all times.

I Involve my students in as much of the process as possible and encourage them to have their input.

I Encourage them as often as possible and always use positive comments.

I Praise them as a group and especially individually, as this helps them to feel good about themselves and works to build a culture of a positive and welcoming environment.

Laughing often, builds a happy and enjoyable classroom

A Consistent Teaching Method

The Progressive Stepwise Teaching Method works well for me and my students have given me good feedback on my teaching style.

Lead by Example – Practice —

As their teacher it is my responsibility to ensure I am as good as I can be.  If I can get into class before my students arrive I practice.  I want them to see me practicing and I invite them to join in where possible.  Some make a point of coming early so they can.

So how has all of this worked for me?

Well I have started a number of classes since the awakening and I am teaching approximately ninety to one hundred students per week across the TCH menu in Yang and Sun styles, a little qigong, and my classes are located in community halls and private and government organisations.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my experience with you.

I encourage all of you to enjoy your Tai Chi journey and that of your students. (original video)

John Gough

[Transcribed via Dr. Paul Lam’s YouTube Channel]

[Edited & Posted by: Michael Joyce]


You Can’t Teach Experience

Posted in Day's Lesson, Philosophy, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , on June 3, 2011 by chencenter

I just finished reading a terrific blog by a therapist friend of mine (Geoffrey of Stay-Tuned Therapeutics in Flagstaff, Az) and it motivated me to write a similar post of my own.

What an important topic! And unfortunately it is just this, the lack of “experience” that continues to be the bane of our ‘proper’ professionals.  It truly IS what separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls.

The fact of the matter, as a ‘Coach’ (which is what I prefer my students call me) I see ‘experience’ as being that which puts most people off… that which leads them to a place of discouragement.  Within one lesson (whether it’s taijiquan, fencing, etc) I’ll inevitably see “The Look” cross over their face… a face that once held a consistent gleam of excitement.

One of the reasons I call myself ‘Coach’ is because I’ve always found it most suitable to what I do.  “Master” always had a distasteful ring to it.  I  remember my first encounter with one of my favorite teachers of all-time, Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming (YMAA), and as a sign of respect I called him “Master Yang.” He just smiled and said, “Call me Dr. Yang, or Teacher,… but call me master and I call you slave.”  Still funny to this day.  Anyway, I digress…

We, as teachers, ‘coach’ our students in a particular thought, a way of doing something, we re-align their bodies to be more bio-mechanically sound and we (hopefully) motivate them and inspire them to practice and refine their skills… but it’s always been helpful to remember that –

Experience is what you get when the teacher walks away.

And for all those students out there that wish to be Jet Li in just a few lessons, or if you’re the intellectual that watches YouTube instructional videos, but never calls up a friend to actually work the techniques… experience is never gained, the brain is only momentarily stimulated and given a false sense of capabilities.  Lesson for today/weekend:

Let’s get some experience.

Michael Joyce


Let us hear your thoughts, questions and insights at the CombativeCorner by posting your response below.  We can also be contacted on Facebook or Twitter

The ‘Real Taiji’ : A Lesson in Epistemology

Posted in Day's Lesson, Internal Arts, Taijiquan, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , on March 29, 2011 by Combative Corner

Epistemology, means, well, you know: the study of knowledge.

In terms of being real (and discovering the real in RealTaiji!) consider 3 concepts:

  1. Input/Output
  2. Purposes of Beliefs
  3. Experience is Knowing


We each own various ways and vast potential for bringing information from the World into our bodies and minds. We gather information through sensory systems.

We see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and a lot more. We sense heat, weight, pressure, speed, locations of limbs in space, balance, and more. Each sense offers various ways of focusing intensely or softening and opening-up to a wider range of sensation.

While we gather input in various ways, we only output one thing: tension.

When we talk or gesture or walk or practice Taiji, all we can do is tense our muscles. Relaxation is not-doing; i.e. when we don’t tense, we do nothing. Actions roll between doing and not-doing, literally. Again, remember, this is way down: we’re focused on the nervous system.

It’s very physical: any implications or abstractions you might draw from this fundamental reality may be true too, but abstractions ride on this physical detail. (By the way, I’m not manipulating language: do and not-do reflect how our nervous system physically works.)

Relax: you’ll see more.

Purposes of Beliefs

From a physical reality perspective, beliefs limit our sensory input.

Like a fine strainer, beliefs provide existential relief to systems that would-be or could-be overwhelmed by too much sensational input. (Is that a belief? An experience?)

Beliefs are great at first. They develop naturally. They seem, at first, to keep us safe. And then, they inhibit, limit, and prevent experiencing what’s real.

Beliefs create internal tension.

To see more: relax.

Experience is Knowing

Many forces, the internet, educational institutions, your Mom and Dad, and more…insist that information is power. But we know better. Information is more like a map, a road-sign, or a clue.

When we get real, we realize that experience creates knowledge….

Does attacking beliefs and beliefs systems cause turmoil, relief, or wonder? Let me know by leaving a note…

Either way, I hope studying knowledge…and releasing the hold that tension has on your senses…brings brilliance and vibrancy to your Real Taiji.

About the Author: Steven Smith is the owner of RealTaiji.Com and the online learning aid, Peeking Over The Fence.  Steven Smith teaches people to move with exquisite power & fluid elegance…get access online and visit pristine Montana landscapes.

– Original article posted by Mr. Smith on his website, RealTaiji.Com on Nov. 2nd, 2010.  Re-posted with his permission.

One-On-One with Sifu Lee: Belt Rankings

Posted in Martial Arts, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2011 by Sifu Freddie Lee

The aim of all arts, including the Martial Arts is meant for creative self-expression. In art there is no better or worse, there simply is the unique expression of ones soul. All judgments of better or worse are subjective in nature. Movies and books are works of art. One can never say that there is an all time greatest movie for all people. All people have their own subjective judgments on what they think is good or bad, same as in books. Same as in painting, same as in drawing, same as in Martial Arts.

These judging individuals argue on what is the greatest Martial Art style; the truth is that there is no greatest Martial Art style. There is only the unique expression of an individual’s way of fighting.

If we are to speak of what are the most effective hand to hand unarmed combat techniques, then we must approach it scientifically and discover which techniques would be most effective for each individual. One technique may work well for one person but not for another. It is up to the individual to discover what is effective for himself.

There cannot be an adequate belt system to represent the level of expertise of a Martial Artist. Every belt system will always be flawed. The true essence of Martial Art is the integration of the physical, mental, and spiritual. In order to reach elite status as a Martial Artist, one must come close to perfection on all three aspects. One who becomes extremely proficient on the physical, such as fitness development and self-defense techniques may be extremely lacking in the mental and spiritual aspects of development. This individual would not be considered an elite Martial Artist no matter how great his physical technique may be because he would be lacking in the moral and character development in which to properly use the techniques for the betterment of society.

There are only 3 categories of development of a Martial Artist. That is the beginner, the intermediate, and the advanced. Colored belt rankings serve absolutely no purpose other than the enhancement of one’s ego. If a Martial Artist is advanced on the physical, he simply needs to display his Martial Art technique and physical fitness physique and an onlooker would be able to decipher whether or not this Martial Artist is advanced in his Martial Art ability. An advanced Martial Artist displaying his black belt around his waist shows nothing to the onlooker about what this Martial Artist is proficient in.

The legendary Bruce Lee used to say that if you wished to see how good a boxer is, you watch him box. Likewise if you wish to see how good a basketball player is, you watch him play basketball. If you wish to see how good a swimmer is, you watch him swim. If you wish to see how fast a man can run, you watch him run. As you see in most sports, it is based on performance, not based on the color of a uniform; the color of a person’s uniform has no bearing on the ability of the person underneath the uniform. In Martial Art this is the truth, a black belt can never adequately represent the level of expertise of a practitioner.

Imagine a Karate practitioner who has reached black belt status by physical fitness development and technique efficiency by the year 2000. His instructor gladly certifies this practitioner with a black belt for his hard efforts in development. Now imagine if this student completely stopped all physical activity and gave up Karate for 9 years. In 2009 he can still wear the old uniform with the old black belt, but that does not mean that he is currently an advanced practitioner. He may have been an advanced practitioner in the past but the past is over and it is no longer in existence, there is only the current moment and in the current moment he is far from advanced but has become a beginner all over again.

And that is the inadequacy of all belt rankings. You may be advanced today but what about one month from now, what about 1 year from now, what about 5 years from now? Belt systems of rank can never adequately track ones level of performance. Mike Tyson used to be a great boxer, but he is no longer the greatest. Michael Jordan used to be a great basketball player, but also he is no longer the greatest. If there was to be any system of rank in any Martial Art, there should be a yearly re-certification, that way it would be much more adequate in the representation of a practitioner’s level of skill but in most Martial Art systems this is not the case. You have many practitioners who use to be great. Who use to be able to jump high, who use to be able to do 120 pushups in 1 minute, who use to be able to run a mile in under 5 minutes, who use to be able to defend themselves from any opponent no matter the size. But the past is not what is important, what is important is the Now, the current moment.

If a Martial Artist cannot show you his advanced ability in the current moment, then he has simply ceased to be an advanced practitioner of the Martial Arts, no matter how many years he has claimed he has practiced or how many black belts he has to display.

If someone is strong in the chest and can bench-press a lot of weight, in order for him to prove this fact to you, he simply has to do it and have you observe. Then you will see that he is strong, him having a certificate stating that he is strong means nothing. If a teacher is a good teacher, watch him teach and you will then be able to decide if he is a good teacher based on your expectations. If a person claims to be a good and peaceful individual, observe his actions and way of living, then you can determine if his claims are correct, him simply stating that he is a part of a certain religion means nothing.

Beethoven and Mozart did not have certificates stating that they were great musical artists. People simply listened to their music and were astonished and knew that they were something great. Einstein did not have a certificate stating that he was one of the greatest scientists to ever live, he simply displayed his unique creative insights and proved his theories to be truth, once the truth was discovered, people knew he was someone great. Pablo Picasso did not need a certificate stating that he was a great painter, he simply expressed his creative abilities and onlookers knew that he was someone great.

If you have innate talent, then you have innate talent. If a woman can sing well, then she simply needs to sing in order for others to be aware of her talent. A certificate stating that she is a great singer will not make her singing any better. If a person is a great dancer, he simply needs to dance and you will see his talent. A person can be knowledgeable and wise without a college degree. A person can be ignorant and stupid with a college degree. Certifications serve no practical purpose in the world of art. The world of art transcends the purpose of certifications. In the business world, certifications may serve their purposes in properly organizing a civilized society but one must not confuse the world of business with the world of art.

Therefore you can encounter an elite practitioner of Martial Art with no belt rankings to display and you can also encounter a novice practitioner of Martial Art who possesses the highest-ranking belt. In the world of business and commerce, money speaks, and certain Instructors of Martial Arts may give into the temptations of receiving higher pay by giving a high ranking belt to a novice practitioner who has an open wallet. Some practitioners are so concentrated on obtaining the highest-ranking belt that they forget the true purpose of the Martial Art. Some advanced practitioners even obtain the highest ranking belts and then come to the mistaken assumption that there is no longer any room for improvement, and from that point they start to regress.

A person can obtain knowledge and wisdom through self-motivated concentrated research without the need of attending a public University. A person can run a marathon on his own individual will without the need of joining a community operated marathon that charges an unnecessary fee. A person can be a world class sprinter without entering into competitions to display his ability.

A true Martial Artist is an Artist who does not need any certificates or belts to display his level of expertise, his simple expression and practice of art will automatically display something great, that is if he is great.

Sifu Freddie Lee

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