Consistency in Kung Fu training, no matter the style, is an absolute must.  But rather than going on about all the pros and cons of the subject, let me explain it in the form of a story that was often told by Grand Master Cheng:

Once many years in the past, there was a very famous old Kung Fu master who knew his time had come.  So he called his three oldest students to his bedside to tell them the greatest secret of Kung Fu.  He bid the eldest of the three to kneel down close, and with his last ounce of chi, whispered the secret into the student’s ear.  And right after that he died.

The eldest student sat upright with a combined look of amusement at what he’d been told and deep sadness over his good teacher’s passing. The other two student’s had a combined look of sadness and great anticipation over what the greatest secret of Kung Fu was.

“Well!”  they finally blurted out, “tell us, what was Master’s secret?!”

The oldest student looked blindly at them and said, “Keep Training!”

The Student’s Search

Those who are looking for a school of Chinese boxing, whether it encompasses weapons or not, will need to set certain specific goals in their own mind before beginning the search.  It is not hard to find a school that teaches the modern concepts, but the old traditions offer a greater challenge for the modern exponent.  The first step is to find the school, the second is to be accepted, the third to endure the training, the fourth to retain the humility as the skill develops and the fifth to bear the responsibility of the knowledge when you are skilled.  This path represents a lifetime’s study in a chosen skill, for there is a Chinese saying by Kang-hsi, “If you reject iron, you will never make steel.”

Two-Man Forms – Choreographed Showmanship or Martial Skill?

To begin with, we should make a distinction between the more modern made-up wushu type two-man forms and the traditional two-man forms.  The made up ones are strictly for show, mostly using gymnastic skills.  The two-man forms for training exercises in the traditional arts place great emphasis on practical fighting skills.

For many styles, two-man forms were developed due to the aggressive techniques employed in their fighting methods.  This would make practicing techniques at speed dangerous, especially for beginner and intermediate level students.  The intention of two-man forms, just as in any of the other open-hand or weapon forms, is to practice the forms at fighting speed and power.

At first, the forms are taught slowly and at minimum speed and power until the practitioner’s skills increase.  This is a part of the arts that might look easier than it is, for the blows and speed are aimed at the correct targets on the opponent.  Should a practitioner fail to do the movement correctly is could easily result in a dangerous injury.

This forces both practitioners to use their skills to a high degree.  The movements must function equally between the two practitioners in speed, power, and application, not just in order to continue the form, but also so that one or both don’t get hurt.  And through constant practice one builds quick and controlled reflexive movements that could easily be used in real life circumstances.

The Path

Boy:  Master?

Master:  Yes?

Boy:  What is Shaolin Kung Fu?

Master:  Shaolin Kung Fu is the unity of Zen and the Martial Arts

Boy:  How does one achieve this unity?

Master:  By dedicating yourself fully to the practice.

Boy:  Master?

Master:  Yes?

Boy:  Will you take me to the Shaolin Temple to watch the training?

Master:  Of course.

(The master takes the boy to the Shaolin Temple)

Boy:  Master?

Master:  Yes?

Boy:  I think I understand now.

Master:  Yes?

Boy:  Shaolin Kung Fu builds moral character, strengthens the body, and celebrates life.

Master:  Yes.  You need only practice with all of your heart and all of your mind.

Proper School Etiquette

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School

Throughout the history of China, the cultivation of a good moral character has been foremost in society.  Confucius (551-479 B.C.), one of the greatest teachers in ancient times, practiced and taught etiquette, instilling in his people the importance of respect for others and for the self.  This is especially recognized by martial arts practitioners, as they understand how important more character is in developing martial skills.

Many different things have been written over the years with respect to martial arts etiquette.  Regardless of the small differences between the various styles, one point is universal:  all agree that martial arts will not be taught to anyone who is of bad moral character.  This it is important to actively cultivate a good moral character as part of your Kung Fu training.  This is the core of your etiquette training.  Specific etiquette practice in the school is not only mandatory, but essential to anyone who wishes to devote themselves to a martial art.

Northern Style Shaolin Kung Fu – YOUR style – has some very simple rules that must be followed at all times.  They stem from a hierarchy that acknowledges respect for those who have more experience than others.  All of these are generally learned as a part of your class or by observation.  But since sometimes details may be overlooked, the following is a list of etiquette tips that will help you.

  • When adjusting your uniform or sash turn your back to the instructor/highest rank until finished.
  • The proper way to bow is to open your left hand and place the palm of it over the fist of your right hand.  Your eyes should be straight forward and your back should be straight.
  • Always bow whenever your instructor, or a higher belt gives you instructions.
  • Response to your instructor should be swift and crisp!  That means move when you are called up or going to sit down.
  • When entering the training hall, wait to be “bowed” on to the floor or to the dressing area.  NEVER cross or enter without permission.
  • When your instructor is in the office and you wish to speak to him, always knock and await permission to enter.  NEVER enter the instructor’s office unless you have been invited and NEVER enter if no one is present.
  • Street shoes or tennis shoes are not allowed on the mat.  Only bare feet or cotton bottom shoes are allowed on the mat.
  • Extra articles such as shoes, shirts, gym bags, etc. are to be placed in the storage area provided.  NEVER leave these articles lying around in an unorganized manner.  This creates an unpleasant image and should be avoided at all times.
  • Absolutely no talking during class unless you are specifically asked to respond to a question or teach by the instructor.
  • Remember the studio is your studio and should be maintained in a fashion similar to your home.  The organization and cleanliness of the studio is a direct reflection of your inner self and should be maintained in a respectful manner.

Following these basic tips is appreciated and will contribute to the enjoyment of your training at the Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask (before or after class only) a senior belt.  They will help you.  Remember, the new student is watching you for proper etiquette.  You are responsible for perpetuating the details and respect for your art.