Martial Arts – Much More Than Fighting

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Martial Arts

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Martial Arts

“Most people view martial arts from a very limited standpoint and see martial arts training as a way of fighting only.  Do not be deceived – martial arts is much more than simply training in fighting techniques.  In fact, the physical aspect is the least of the goals.  Those who view martial arts this way are far from enlightenment.”

Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), founder of Niten-ryū style of swordsmanship.  The Book of Five Rings Trans. D.E. Tarver

Is Kung Fu Easy?

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu

First, carefully consider the question.  We are not selling you a product, but rather giving you an opportunity through good training to develop yourselves mentally and physically in a multitude of ways.  Martial arts training improves:

  • Physical Strength
  • Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Body Control
  • Mental Focus
  • Awareness
  • Self-esteem
  • Calm
  • Patience
  • Toughness, and
  • Stress Relief

Each student will come in with his or her own strengths and weaknesses.  The training we offer is focused on making our students’ weaknesses strong and their strengths even stronger.  Nothing is ever attained without effort and a student will surely find his or her training both mentally and physically challenging, but then if you are seriously invested in good training, isn’t this what you are looking for?

The Day Of Your Test

It’s test day.  Hopefully, over the prior few weeks you have practiced and re-practiced all that you will be tested on.  On test day, however, there are a few things for you to do and know to help you have a successful test:

  • Be sure all of the testing paperwork is turned in to sifu well in advance of the test day.
  • Do not talk to sifu or any of the examiners.  You are to ask questions to the “second”, the black sash who are running the test.
  • Arrive at the test early (say 30 minutes) to warm up your body.  Stretch, do some kicks, practice forms, don’t be afraid to break a little sweat and get the blood flowing.
  • Try not to stress too much about the test.  Hopefully, you’ll be fully prepared to excel on your test, so simply do what you’ve been practicing.  If you’re not prepared, there’s nothing you can do about it on the day of your test so simply relax and do your best.
  • Line up in order of rank just prior to the test.  The second will instruct you if this is your first test.
  • Bowing properly is very important.  When called up, stand at attention, bow to the second and then to sifu before taking your place on the mat.  When instructed to sit down and rest, bow to sifu first, and then to the second before returning to where you were sitting.  Think of it like entering a room for testing and the second is a guard to the door.  You first bow to him or her – sort of like asking permission to enter the testing room.  When finished, you bow to sifu first on your way out the testing door, and then to the second before sitting down.
  • Students are to follow the directions of the second.
  • Mistakes.  Of course, you want to make zero mistakes during your test, but if you make an error there is a protocol to follow.  Stop, bow to the second and request to begin the form over.  If it’s granted (which it typically will for those testing for lower ranks), return to where you started the form, relax yourself and when ready to begin again, stand at ready position and await instructions from the second.  Those testing for higher ranks (brown and up), don’t have the luxury to start over.  They should just continue with their form the best they can or just bow and return to the starting position if totally blanked on a form.
  • While putting on your sparring gear or adjusting your uniform, be sure to turn your back to sifu just like in class.
  • Sparring is typically done with higher rank, but may be done with those you are testing with.  It is your responsibility to attack them and do your best to use as many techniques as possible to successfully get in on them.  Do not be disheartened if you don’t connect with the higher rank.  Be sure to defend yourself as best as possible when they counter your attacks.  You are not expected to best a higher rank, but you are expected to try hard to utilize speed, power, control, and, most importantly, technique suitable for your rank.
  • Forms must be done with as much speed, power and proper technique as possible.  Stances should be low and no hesitation between movements.

Do your best and enjoy the experience.

Scaling Of Classes

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu

All classes at our school are scaled – beginners learn and practice what is appropriate for beginners and more advanced students learn and practice what is appropriate for their rank.  Besides the obvious reason of this is how it was done traditionally, there are a number of reasons for this progression.

First, it certainly does not make sense for students in their first week at the school to do the same level of work as the most senior students who have been training for years.  The new students would become overwhelmed and exhausted – perhaps question why they signed up in the first place.  By the same token, if the more advanced students had the same workload as the new students they wouldn’t be pressed enough to fully develop their bodies and skills.  Thus, students can expect to be pushed more with less rest and more intensity after each rank is attained.

Second, there is another purpose for the lower rank resting (besides catching their breath).  It is important for them to watch class and observe what the higher rank is doing.  They will clearly be able to see the different speeds, powers, balance, etc. between the various ranks and hopefully learn and be inspired to advance themselves..  Movements, forms, and techniques they will soon be learning will be done before them and will help in their learning if they choose to pay attention.

Third, like most things in life, the basics are the foundation that all advanced skills are built on and without a sound foundation of basics the more difficult aspects of kung fu won’t come.  Therefore, new students must put in a good deal of practice in the basics to develop competency.  Once they have demonstrated ability to properly execute what they’ve been taught, then the student can move on and learn other techniques that may seem more awkward and demanding.  Should students learn too much, too fast there is a chance that they can forget details of the movements taught or even the entire movement.  There is even a chance of injury.  This is why there is a natural progression of learning and development at our school.

Always keep in mind that the basics must always be drilled and that more difficult and advanced aspects of kung fu come in time.  Don’t mistake more advanced looking techniques or forms as more advanced kung fu.  Being able to properly execute techniques – be they “beginner” or “advanced” in sparring with relative grace and ease is the ultimate expression of kung fu skill.

Circle Kicks Before Class

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Circle Kicks

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Circle Kicks

If class hasn’t officially begun 5-10 minutes after the hour, then it is the responsibility of the highest rank in class to start circle kicks.  There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The highest rank should run through all the kicks they know until class begins – starting with the more basic kicks and moving to more advanced.  These include:  stretch kicks, off-side stretch kicks, snap kicks, heal kicks, turn kicks, side kicks, outside crescent, inside crescent, back leg side kick, hook kick, back leg hook, double side, jumping snap, double snap, pema, outside pema, back leg spear, front leg spear, saltong, back leg saltong, rolling, and all sorts of combination kicks, etc.
  • Call out what kick is to be performed before starting.
  • If the class has a lot of people in it, form two lines for circle kicks
  • Should there be lower rank in the class who don’t know the next kick called out, then provide them an alternate kick that they do know.  For example, if they don’t know a hook kick, have them do a side kick.
  • If there is a very new student who knows only a few kicks, the highest rank asks the next highest rank to take the new student off to the side to work with them on what they know.  If there are many new students in the class, then have them sit at the side and watch.
  • When all kicks have been performed, start doing single step movements.  After all the single step movements have been performed, move into tan tuis.  When all tan tuis have been completed, check with sifu for direction.

Failing a Rank Test

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School

When you are told you may test for the next rank, it means that you have learned sufficient forms, techniques, and skills to potentially pass that test.  However, there are two things you need to do to pass.  The first is to prepare yourself in the weeks and months prior to the test by attending class regularly and practicing those things you will be tested on.  The second is to perform well at the test.  Without the former, the latter can be quite difficult.

If you don’t prepare and you don’t do well on your test, you will not pass and get the next rank.  It doesn’t mean you are a bad person.  It simply means you weren’t up to snuff on the day of the test.  The purpose of the test is for the student to perform under a stressful situation that requires exactness, concentration, and execution.  Those three attributes are exactly what are required should you need to defend yourself or others outside of the school.  The higher the rank, the more that is expected of you and the better you must perform to pass.

At some point after the test, you will be told what specifically you did or didn’t do that caused the failure.  Take this constructive criticism with you to your next class and the classes that follow and try to work on the areas of weakness.  It is important to come back to class strong and continue your training.  Remember, this is not a reflection on you as a person, just a reflection on the quality of your movement during the test.  Lastly, and most importantly, kung fu is a way of life that can keep you vital, vibrant, and strong the rest of your days.  Rank tests are only a part of your training.  Consistent, hard training will take you as far as you want to go.

Exercise – Good For The Brain, Too!

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu

Most students feel absolutely invigorated and refreshed after a vigorous class.  Scientists are finding that physical exercise – like those in done at our school – combats stress, facilitates memory function, delay dementia, and assists brain cell growth and development.  Given kung fu’s physical demands of strength, explosive speed, balance, agility, flexibility, and coordination, kung fu may very well be the perfect exercise for not just physical health, but apparently brain health, too.  Below is an article found on the internet that goes into a little more detail:

Physical Exercise for Brain Health

Physical exercise is not only important for your body’s health- it also helps your brain stay sharp.

Your brain is no different than rest of the muscles in your body–you either use it or you lose it. You utilize the gym to stimulate the growth of muscle cells, just as you use a brain fitness program [1] to increase connections in your brain. But you can actually get an additional brain boost by donning your sneakers and hitting the gym. The benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have positive effects on brain function on multiple fronts, ranging from the molecular to behavioral level.

According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia[2], even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions.  Exercise affects the brain on multiple fronts. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the bodily release of a plethora of hormones, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells.

Exercise stimulates the brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new connections between cells in a wide array of important cortical areas of the brain. Recent research from UCLA [3] demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain- making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.  From a behavioral perspective, the same antidepressant-like effects associated with “runner’s high” found in humans is associated with a drop in stress hormones. A study from Stockholm [4] showed that the antidepressant effect of running was also associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

The Golden Duo: Mental and Physical Exercise  

The usage of physical exercise in conjunction with BrainHQ brain training [1] increases your chances of increasing cognitive functions within parameters, including time of exercise and style of exercise. Interestingly, differences between exercise styles, such as opting for cycling over running, is associated with an enhanced brain function during and after working out.  Ballroom dancing, an activity with both physical and mental demands has had a higher impact on cognitive functioning over exercise or mental tasks alone, indicating that the best brain health workouts involve those that integrate different parts of the brain such as coordination, rhythm, and strategy.

Tips for Choosing The Right Physical Exercise

In general, anything that is good for your heart is great for your brain.  Aerobic exercise is great for body and brain: not only does it improve brain function, but it also acts as a “first aid kit” on damaged brain cells.  Exercising in the morning before going to work not only spikes brain activity and prepares you for mental stresses for the rest of the day, but also produces increases retention of new information, and better reaction to complex situations.  When looking to change up your work out, look for an activity that incorporates coordination along with cardiovascular exercise, such as a dance class. If you like crunching time at the gym alone, opt for circuit work outs, which both quickly spike your heart rate, but also constantly redirect your attention.  Hitting a wall or mentally exhausted? Doing a few jumping jacks might reboot your brain.

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Source URL: http://www.positscience.com/brain-resources/everyday-brain-fitness/physical-exercise

Links:

[1] https://brainhq.positscience.com/pscweb-link/start

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12595152

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15159540

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15769301