Brea Shaolin Kung Fu – Bowing
Right hand is clenched, left hand is wrapped around or over right fist.
This is the general martial greeting of kung fu as well as many other martial arts styles. It is known as bowing. A greeting of mutual respect and peaceful intention. The right fist is a sign of rigorous practice and a strong and willing martial ability to defend or attack!
The covering of the open left hand is a sign of virtuous and disciplined wisdom or self-disciplined restraint.
Brea Shaolin Kung Fu – Sparring
Everything that is taught at our school is designed for sparring – for the martial purpose of defending yourself and others and ultimately controlling your opponent(s). The demanding regimen of punches and kicks, exercises, stances, forms, San Shou and Chin Na are all done to not only learn and develop proper movement, but to also sap the student’s energy before sparring begins at the end of class. With exhausted bodies, the student is forced to rely on technique and proper breathing during sparring instead of trying to out-muscle or out-speed his/her opponent. Speed and strength are certainly important to fighting ability – but good technique is superior and sparring when there is nothing in the tank draws it out of the practitioner.
Because sparring is the ultimate expression of our art… spend time thinking about it and studying the higher rank. When sparring, understand that your fellow kung fu brothers and sisters are not going to kill or injure you like someone outside of the school might in a street fight or if they broke into your house. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to try new techniques with them. Learn from both your victories and failures on the mat. Study your forms – what are the purposes of each movement? Pay attention in class when Sifu is teaching techniques. Practice and drill down on movements you are interested in developing during San Shou and Chin Na before implementing them in sparring. Don’t give up if they didn’t work perfectly the first few times. If the movements survived hundreds of years of use in actual combat, there is certainly something to them.
Sparring is the closest thing to real-world fighting we have – without beating each other to a pulp. It’s purpose is to prepare you for anyone outside of the school… both untrained and trained fighters alike. You MUST have the attitude in class that you are training for a potential life or death situation. Imagine invisible opponents in front of you during kicks, single step movements, forms, etc. Do not give up during sparring or cower should you be bested in an exchange. Roll out or do our best to escape or counter the situation before being forced to bow to your opponent to stop. Having purpose and intensity in your training at the school will make you a very formidable opponent outside of it.
Yes, incalculable benefits are derived from this training beyond those of fighting. Much of the valuable philosophy of our martial arts can not be taught and understood with words, but only learned through the resolve of consistent effort and the skills that result from it. Fantastic physical fitness is a given after many years of consistent training. Confidence and character are earned – not given simply by putting on the uniform. All of these are the result of training with sparring in mind.
It’s hard to imagine a class that doesn’t begin with “Dynamic” stretching. This Dynamic stretching is accomplished via stretch, offside stretch, and wall kicks. These stretch kicks are intended to heat the body by circulating blood flow, while at the same time strengthen certain muscles and stretch other muscles to enhance flexibility. As mentioned in previous posts, it’s not recommended to do “Static” stretching (holding stretches) until the body is warmed up, however, this is definitely a recommended post-workout addition. For those of you who might be naturally “tight” or who just want to find something to do before class to get your body moving, below is a sample set of movements designed to loosen various joints often used in training.
These movements are typically done both clockwise and counterclockwise, as performed. The repetitions of each movement can be as many as you feel useful – five each way is a good minimum. As you feel the joints open and the circles becoming easier, make them bigger/wider. First, the toes, ankles and various joints of the feet are moved in gentle and careful circles to essentially massage and get the kinks out (if they are there). As per the video, the same applies with the knees, hips, spine, shoulders, elbows, wrists/fingers, and neck. The warm-up offered in the video is fairly simple and hits the major joints, but their are additional warm-up exercises as well.
A body that is loose and mobile offers its owner more flexibility, functionality, and speed for martial purposes. Just as important, a flexible and supple body delays the onset of old age and its by-products. The older you get, the more attention must be placed on keeping the entire body loose, but strong. It’s a good idea to incorporate exercises like these and the Eight Golden Treasures in your daily morning routine. Even better, find time to add in some kicks, forms and exercises afterwards for a full workout to start your day and keep father time at bay.
When you are told you may test, it is up to the student to determine for themselves if they are up for it – testing is not mandatory. Keep in mind the following:
- Testing is typically held on Saturdays. Paperwork and payment must be submitted no later than the day before the test (Friday).
- Please arrive to the test at least 15 minutes before it is scheduled to begin… probably good to arrive 30 minutes before as a rule of thumb to get ready and warm up.
- The “Second” will provide instructions to the testing class prior to the test. This is your opportunity to ask questions and inform the second about anything they need to know (i.e. need to leave early, forgot sparring equipment, an injury, etc.)
- Students taking the test are welcome to attend the class following the test.
- Do not ask for results of the test. Sifu will provide them do you in due time.
“80% Of Success Is Showing Up.” – Woody Allen
Whether you like or dislike Woody Allen and his body of work, his success as a comedian, actor, director, and playwright can not be denied. His quote above should motivate you both in and outside of the school. He went on to say, “People used to say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen. All the other people struck out without ever getting that pack. They couldn’t do it, that’s why they don’t accomplish a thing, they don’t do the thing, so once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening. So that was my biggest life lesson that has worked. All others have failed me.”
If you want a high level of fighting ability, robust physical fitness, constant self-improvement, self-confidence, and more – then show up to class. Using this principal of “showing up” will also serve you well in the other important areas of your life.
Paranoia: an unreasonable feeling that people are trying to harm you, do not like you, etc.
A little paranoia is a good thing to have. A healthy amount will keep you aware of your surroundings, mindful of those who might mean to do you harm, and prepare you to act in the event something unwanted happens. An unhealthy amount of paranoia will likely require medical attention as you can’t think or focus on anything else. A little paranoia will keep you prepared for the unexpected.
As always, the lessons you learn in class are applicable to real life. When classmates are swinging weapons around, you need to keep an eye on those weapons and not get too close if you can avoid it. If a student comes in to train and seems off, be particularly focused and careful when you begin practicing San Shou, Chin Na, or Sparring with them. If the class is full and everyone is tightly packed for Kicks or Forms, keep an eye on where everyone is so you don’t hit them and they don’t hit you. Little lessons like those and the many more you learn in class can really benefit the student outside of the school.
Outside the school, if you’re in a place where the energy just doesn’t feel right or you hear something that seems off, take preemptive action and keep your distance or simply leave, especially if you’re with friends or family who are not trained. If someone you don’t know interacts with you and you sense they don’t seem very balanced emotionally or mentally, be careful. You don’t need to talk with them – feel free to walk away – while always keeping an eye on where they are. Even if you’re out having lunch at a restaurant, try to find a place to sit where you’re back is covered and you have a clear view of the entire establishment. These are just a few examples of a little paranoia.
Be aware of your surroundings and the people in it. Although it may take a little time and energy, it has the potential to keep you and your loved ones safe.
“I can’t seem to fall asleep after training in late classes. My body just doesn’t want to shut down.”
This is not an uncommon thing to hear between classes and there are a number of reasons one might have that issue. Unfortunately, the medical community has yet to come to any conclusions as to why it’s difficult for some to fall asleep after exercising at night. It does agree, however, that to fall asleep, both mind and body must be in the right place – one of relaxation and comfort.
The issue is that kung fu training greatly stimulates both the mind and the body. Learning new things and giving 100% focus on making them work correctly requires significant mental energy. Sparring, san shou and chin na also require a great deal of concentration and increases the hormones’ cortisol and adrenaline in the body, which is our way of coping with higher levels of stress. These hormones can keep the body in the “fight or flight” state long after class and prevent easily falling to sleep.
The strain of hard physical exercise found in training can also keep the body humming long after class is over. This is typically an issue for those not in peak physical shape – their heart rates simply don’t return to normal rapidly enough. In fact, beginners or those just getting back into training may find there heart rate still high long after class is over. This rapid blood flow can impact getting the body in a place of “relaxation and comfort”. However, this issue will gradually go away as you get in shape and the exercise will provide a better night’s sleep once you finally conk out. If you’ve maintained a consistent training schedule and have gotten in good shape, training at night and falling to sleep afterward is typically not a physical issue – it’s probably more of a mental one.
Here are a few ideas to help you on your way to easy slumber after evening classes:
- Have a small meal before and after exercise. Be sure each meal has a good balance of proteins, fat, and carbohydrates. Obviously, don’t eat anything high in sugar or caffeine.
- Cool down after class with gentle stretching.
- Warm green tea is good to drink post-training as it can calm the body and possesses L-theanine, which induces relaxation. It can also help sleep quality, but look for low-caffeine teas when looking at options.
- Meditation is also something to consider to help get your mind and body in the proper state.
At the end of the day, those people who work out (be it early in the morning or late at night) will have a deeper and more meaningful sleep than those that don’t. Also, sleep is incredibly important for recovery for those who regularly train.