Stances

All Kung Fu styles have their strengths, but one they all share is strength of the lower body, or leg strength.  They all employ low stances so as to be able to root themselves for offensive as well as defensive movements.

The twelve ton tois that we train are actually sets of movements which are designed to work on your stances.  Ton toi means thunderkick in Chinese.  Low stances gives a practitioner a lot of jumping and kicking power as well as excellent cardiovascular training.

So lower your stances!

Massage and Your Martial Arts Practice

Brea Shaolin Martial Arts - Massage

Brea Shaolin Martial Arts – Massage

Therapeutic massage in China has a very long history.  An ancient book dating back to first century AD says, “if the body is benumbed as a result of the blocking of the jingluo (or meridians), it may be cured by massage.”  Massage departments were established in the Imperial Court during the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581-907 A.D.)  Further development took place in subsequent dynasties.

Massage falls into the broad range of traditional Chinese medicine practices that have a history of thousands of years, which can’t/won’t be discussed in detail here.  Massage is a sibling of acupuncture, herbal medicine, qigong and exercise, and diet that make up Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It’s historical purpose is not simply to relax muscles and relieve stress, but to be an integral part of a complete medical system.  It’s goal is to cure diseases, both acute and chronic, by relieving symptoms and attacking the root of problems.  Traditional Chinese Massage treats not just sports injuries, joint and muscle related disorders (including dislocated joints), and minor broken bones, but also internal chronic disorders.   The ancients found massage as a method to treat atrophy, paralysis, digestive system disorders, and more.  Commonly known in the west, Acupressure is just one of the techniques of Chinese massage where pressure is applied to acupuncture points.

Your kung fu practice will likely benefit from consistent massage – be it administered by yourself, a western massage therapist, or a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.  When sore, explore the sore area of your body by pressing and massaging the areas surrounding it.  You will likely find one or more places that help release pain and pressure.  If possible, find a qualified Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and find out for yourself how advanced Chinese massage can be a valuable piece of your overall health.

Late To Class

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu

A point of etiquette when coming late to class.  When joining class after it has started, go to the back of the line when bowed in unless Sifu tells you otherwise.  Stay at the back of the line until that section is over.  For example, when joining class in the process of doing kicks, go to the back of the line until kicks are over.  When they are over and the class is directed into forms or something else, go into your normal place in line based on your rank.

Fighting Foundation

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Martial Arts

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Martial Arts

Stances are a critical part of technique.  A student must learn proper balance of body both for defensive and offensive ability.  Before any technique can be mastered proper body posture and a mental attitude must be present.  This is a required foundation for ability in technique.  It grows and changes as a student pursues it.

The Key To Tai Chi

Brea Tai Chi Martial Arts

Brea Tai Chi Martial Arts

The Key To Tai Chi

By Jeffrey Reulbach

Everyone is aware that keys unlock and open doors.  Within every martial art there are keys that open doors to the highest level of skill in the style.  The key to unlocking the door to those higher levels of skill in Tai Chi is referred to in Chinese as sung.

Sung is usually translated by the word relax.  The concept of relaxing in Tai Chi does not mean to become limp or to recline.  To be loose or open are more closely related to the idea of sung.  When doing an empty hand form, push hands, sparring, weapons, or chi kung (energy work) the relaxation must be in total.

Of course, reaching a high level of sung doesn’t happen in an instant.  Developing the true relaxation of Tai Chi that enables the artist to be soft and yielding but not limp and weak is progressive.  To gain the real skill of Tai Chi self-defense you have to be relaxed in mind and body.

Relaxing the body means that you must free it of all unnecessary tension.  In other words, you have to use only the amount of muscular exertion needed for any action.  For example, when doing a push or palm strike the arm doesn’t get real tense or stiff, it remains soft but firm enough to get the job done.  To accomplish this means you have to pay very close attention to the movement in order to feel tension.  To get rid of tension in the body, you have to focus on loosening and opening the joints.  The relaxed tendon is an important part of issuing internal force.  Gaining the kind of sung in the body necessary for higher level skills calls for reeling tension in the joints, especially at the shoulder, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles.  In addition, excellent physical posture and alignment with gravity aid in the development of physical relaxation.

Mental relaxation is the other side of the coin needed for skill in Tai Chi.  A sung mind is open and yet extremely focused.  Relaxing the mind also means to rid it of unnecessary tension.  The idea of getting rid of tension in the mind means that it only concentrates on the task at hand in the present, which means it is free from the shackles of the past and the anxiety of the future.

To rid the mind of tension, visualization is very important when doing a form.  Tai Chi is often referred to as “swimming on dry land” because of its appearance and the fact that swimming is a relaxing activity.  Applying the image of swimming means that you imagine you are moving through water, feeling the sensation of the water’s pressure on each movement.  The imagined water, over time, produces a buoyant feeling of floating and flowing in movement, and a calmness in mind.  Although there are other excellent visualizations, the “swimming on land” is extremely effective for releasing tension and developing sung.

Turning the key of relaxation in Tai Chi has many positive benefits.  It makes more use of your parasympathetic nervous system producing a calming effect.  The increase in relaxation helps to combat stress-related illness, which is a primary reason why so many turn to Tai Chi in the first place.  As a martial artist, relaxation gives you speed, heightened awareness, and the ability to adjust to an attacker smoothly in a self-defense situation.  The key to Tai Chi will not only benefit internal martial artists, but anyone who is willing to unlock and open the door.

The Health Trinity

Health TrinityTwo of the primary reasons to train in martial arts is to develop martial ability and supreme physical health.  As you can imagine, the development of kung fu skill and personal fitness go hand in hand.  The more you train, the fitter, faster, stronger, more supple and enduring your body becomes.  Although there are many factors that come into play with everyday health and wellness (genetics, stress, environment, etc.), there are three major factors to health and continuing development of kung fu:  Sleep, Nutrition, and Training.

Sleep may seem like an obvious addition to the Health Trinity, but one out of five people in the country get less than six hours of sleep at night.  Most people (not all) need seven to eight hours every night.  It is particularly important when you train in martial arts as your body requires deep sleep to recover from the wear and tear of hard training.  Muscles need to repair themselves.  The occasional sprains and bruises associated with training need to heal.  This is accomplished most rapidly when a consistent 7-8 hours of sleep is had.  Should eight hours not be in the cards or simply not enough to feel rested, take a nap and catch up – it’s absolutely crucial to stay on track for both optimal health and progress in your kung fu skills.  You will learn the hard way by lingering injuries and lackluster performance if you don’t.

Nutrition is also a very important factor for developing optimum health and martial skill.  You might have adequate sleep and train consistently, but if you’re skipping meals routinely or eating meals that are nutritionally barren you will eventually find yourself sick, injured, or exhausted – likely a combination of them.  Think to yourself, “My body is my temple” and feed it appropriately.  Nutritionally dense foods like vegetables, fruit, meat, and nuts/seeds should be the staple of your diet.  Hard training will likely make you more hungry than normal.  Listen to your body and feed it what it needs, but again, try to minimize the foods and beverages that have no or low nutritional value.  You should know what these are, but if you don’t do some research on the internet or pick up a few books.

Training is the third of the Health Trinity.  Kung fu training offers its practitioners a variety of benefits including the development of full body physical strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination, release of tension and stress, among others.  With adequate sleep and excellent nutrition, students can make the most out of the time they spend training and eventually increase the number of hours they spend training each week.  The more you train, the better your kung fu will get and the healthier you will become.  After some time training, you will become extremely attune to your body.  Listen to it.  Push as hard as you can for as long as you can.  Train multiple hours a day, if possible.  It’s not meant to be easy.  However, listen to what your body is telling you and take a break when needed to recover.

Lacking any one of the three components of the Health Trinity negatively impacts the other two so do your best to stay on course with proper sleep, nutrition, and training.  Staying on track with each of the three will accelerate both your expanding fitness and martial ability.

Kung Fu Wisdom

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Wisdom

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Wisdom

When you have envisaged a goal and created its attainment on the plane of mind, nothing can stop you from realizing that goal but the creation of your failure on the plane of mind.

There is no such thing as failure unless it is accepted.  There is no such thing as defeat unless it is accepted.  There is no such thing as evil unless it is accepted.