Using the Mirror

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu - Using the Mirror

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu – Using the Mirror

The mirror can be helpful for developing your kung fu ability.

Before or after class, you typically have time to practice anything you like:  kicks, stances, forms, chin na, san shou, etc.  By paying attention in class, you see how higher rank perform certain movements.  Perhaps you had a movement that was taught or corrected in class by Sifu.  The mirror let’s you judge for yourself just how well your movement stacks up.  Is your technique well balanced?  Are your stances low and strong?  Are your kicks and punches fast and sharp?  Is your posture correct or are you leaning, tense or just off?  The mirror and your honest judgment will give you the answers.

During class, the mirror is helpful in a different way.  Like the above, you can measure how high, fast and powerful your kicks are getting, how your stances compare to the rest of the class, etc.  However, during class, the mirror can be used when being taught new movements and greater details of old movements.  You can see multiple angles via the reflection and see things you might not have seen otherwise.  The mirror can also provide you with better peripheral vision to ensure you don’t hit or get hit by others.  It can even help you see others if you get confused or stuck – hopefully that doesn’t happen.

The mirrors can do all of that for you and more – the only thing you need to do is use them properly (i.e. not a great idea to look at yourself in the mirror when sparring and definitely not when you are standing at attention).  And one more thing, clean the sweat off of them after class every now and then.

A Low Ceiling

Brea Shao Lin Kung Fu - Low Ceiling

Brea Shao Lin Kung Fu – Low Ceiling

One very effective way of lowering your root, creating power, and becoming more effective in sparring/fighting is to imagine that the ceiling of the room you train in has been lowered to about a foot or two shorter than your height.  An actual room like that would be hard to come by, so you’ll just have to visualize it when you train.  You would literally have to lower your head and bend your knees just to get in the room.  Imagine it.

When practicing kicks in this room, your stances will have to start low so your head doesn’t hit the ceiling.  When executing the kick, your stances must then stay low – don’t pop up!  This means you must sink your weight throughout the entire kick.  This will help your kick become even more powerful.  It also makes you difficult to sweep to the ground if your kick is caught as your center of balance – your root – makes you very heavy to the opponent and you have much greater balance.

Practicing single-step movements and forms in a room with a low ceiling also requires a great number of changes so as to not bang your head.  Let’s disregard movements that require standing at full height, jumping kicks, etc.  Focus on the majority of the movements that require stepping, turning, twisting, switching stances, punching, kicking, etc.   Like with the kicks, performing these movements with such low stances will create enormous power and stability.

During sparring, San Shou and even when implementing Chin Na, keeping low will provide a new perspective to your training.  Don’t mistake keeping low with being slow.  Your legs will burn for some time by keeping so low and that might seemingly slow your movements down.  Realize, however, that it’s only temporary due to your legs being gassed.  As you continue with this type of training, you will become incredibly stronger, your body looser, and those two things will help you move far quicker than before.

This new way of training will likely have an almost immediate impact on your skill level.  You will become a much more solid and smooth martial artist.  However, this type of training takes a good deal of focus and willingness to suffer – your legs will undoubtedly go through a great deal of growing pains.  But, if you care about progressing in your kung fu, it’s worth the pains.  In class, take a low stance in kicks, single step, forms, etc. and use the mirrors to try to maintain the height of your head through whatever you’re working on.  If you’re not in a position to look at a mirror, simply envision yourself doing what you’re doing and keeping your head on a level plane.  Do not bend your back to make this happen.  There will be times when movements dictate a higher or lower stance, so allow for them when they occur.  Otherwise, try to keep low, stable and supple.

Crescent Kick

The Crescent Kick (or Outside Crescent Kick) is a specialty kick that is limited to attacking an opponents head and arms/hands.  For this reason, it must be practiced as high as possible to ensure speed, power and balance.

Crescent Kick

  • From a forward bow stance, move your weight forward onto your front foot and turn the hip of the back foot across the body.
  • Pick up the back foot and with a generally straight leg, bring it up towards it’s opposite shoulder.  As it approaches the top of the shoulder bring it across the body and back down.
  • The non-kicking foot naturally turns and grinds into the ground – mostly on the ball of the foot.
  • Both hands should be hit at about head level to prevent potential injury to the lower back.
  • Contact is made with the outside of the foot.
  • Always try to deliver 100% of power and speed to each kick during practice, as well as kick as high as possible.
  • Power, speed and balance are generated from proper form, strong “core” and leg muscles, and a relaxed body.  Those characteristics are attained by practicing the kick thousands and thousands of times.

Side Kick

The Side Kick is one of the most powerful kicks in our arsenal.  Due to its form and power, this kick is difficult to block and is best avoided by moving out of range or to the side of the kick.   The Side Kick’s targets can be as low as the foot and as high as the head.

The Side Kick:

  • From a horse stance, move your back foot forward behind and in front of the forward foot.
  • Place it down with the heel pointing toward the target.  As you are shifting weight forward onto that leg, pick up the knee of the forward leg.
  • Kick out the foot of the forward leg and counterbalance by gradually moving your torso backwards.  At full extension, the body should be a straight line towards the target.
  • The higher the knee is lifted, the higher the kick can go.
  • Contact is made with the heel of the foot and at full extension of the Side Kick – the heel is higher than the toes.
    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu - Heel
    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu – Heel
  • Always try to deliver 100% of power to each kick during practice, as well as kick as high as possible.  If you can kick high with power and balance, then you can certainly kick to the lower and mid-range targets with confidence.
  • The Sick Kick is effectively used at a downward angle to crumble an opponent to the ground.
  • Power, speed and balance are generated from proper form, strong “core” and leg muscles, and a relaxed body.  Those characteristics are attained by doing thousands and thousands of them with purpose and a pursuit of perfection.

Turn Kick

The Turn Kick is typically one of the more difficult “beginner” kicks.  I use the word beginner because it’s simply one of the kicks taught to new students.  It may take years to gain proficiency with this kick, however.  The kicks range is typically from knee to head.  It can be thought of as the leg’s equivalent to a hook punch as it is coming from the side.

The Turn Kick:

  • From a forward bow stance, move your weight forward onto your front foot and pick up the knee of the back leg.  As you are shifting weight forward, TURN (hence the name Turn Kick) the waist to parallel the target while releasing the kick and extend the leg completely (avoid cutting the kick short.)
  • The non-kicking foot turns and grinds into the ground on the ball of the foot.
  • The hip of the kicking leg is forward of the hip of the standing leg – the hips are parallel to the target.
  • The same arm as the kicking leg counter-balances the kick by going the opposite direction of the leg.
  • The higher the knee is lifted, the higher the kick can go.
  • Contact is made with the ball of the foot.
    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Kicking - Ball of Foot
    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Kicking – Ball of Foot
  • Always try to deliver 100% of power to each kick during practice, as well as kick as high as possible.  If you can kick high with power and balance, then you can certainly kick to the lower and mid-range targets with confidence.
  • Power, speed and balance are generated from proper form, strong “core” and leg muscles, and a relaxed body.  Those characteristics are attained by practicing the kick thousands and thousands of times.

Heel Kick

The Heel Kick is often learned in conjunction with the Snap Kick.  Much of the action of both kicks are the same.  There are a few differences surrounding the purpose of the kick.  As the Snap Kick is like a straight punch, the Heel Kick is like a push.

The Heel Kick:

  • From a forward bow stance, move your weight forward onto your front foot and pick up the knee of the back leg.  As you are shifting weight forward, release the kick and extend completely (avoid cutting the kick short.)
  • The hip of the kicking leg is forward of the hip of the standing leg.
  • The higher the knee is lifted, the higher the kick can go.
  • Contact is made with the heel of the foot.

    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu - Heel

    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu – Heel

  • Always try to deliver 100% of power to each kick during practice, as well as kick as high as possible.  If you can kick high with power and balance, then you can certainly kick to the lower and mid-range targets with confidence.
  • The Heel Kick is often effectively used at a downward angle to crumble an opponent to the ground.
  • Power, speed and balance are generated from proper form, strong “core” and leg muscles, and a relaxed body.  Those characteristics are attained by doing a whole lot of them in class day in and day out.

Snap Kick

The Snap Kick (or Back-leg Snap Kick) is likely the first “fighting” kick a new student learns.  Although it is one of the less complicated kicks to learn, it is very powerful and effective in a fighting situation.  Like most kicks, it can be delivered to targets as low as the shins and knees and as high as the head.  It is the leg’s equivalent of a straight punch.

The Snap Kick:

  • From a forward bow stance, move your weight forward onto your front foot and pick up the knee of the back leg.  As you are shifting weight forward, release the kick and extend completely (avoid cutting the kick short.)
  • The hip of the kicking leg is forward of the hip of the standing leg.
  • The higher the knee is lifted, the higher the kick can go.
  • Contact is made with the ball of the foot.

    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Kicking - Ball of Foot

    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Kicking – Ball of Foot

  • Always try to deliver 100% of power to each kick during practice, as well as kick as high as possible.  If you can kick high with power and balance, then you can certainly kick to the lower and mid-range targets with confidence.
  • The Snap Kick can also be “double” kick, where the first kick is targeted low to the shins or knee and immediately followed up with a higher kick to middle or high targets.
  • Power, speed and balance are generated from proper form, strong “core” and leg muscles, and a relaxed body.  Those characteristics are attained by doing a whole lot of them in class day in and day out.