Be A Victor Against Your Will

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu - Lao Tzu

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu – Lao Tzu

“With the fruits of victory desist;
Never seek to break a beaten foe,
And flaunt no prowess with the victory,
Assert no strength, show no pride;
Be a victor against your will
A victor who will not dominate.”

Lao Tzu (604 BC – 531 BC) Ancient Chinese Philosopher and Author.  Tao Te Ching, V. 30 (Moss Roberts Translator)

In the News….

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School - In the News

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School – In the News

An article featuring Sifu Robert and a self-defense class he’s running in Laguna Woods was recently on the front page of the Laguna Woods Globe (Thursday, March 13, 2014).

“Kick It!”

By Jennifer Karmarkar – Staff Writer

Laguna Woods ~ Master Charles Robert darts nimbly among the lines of students, like a dancer choreographing a waltz.

Casting his eyes on their stretch kicks, he fine-tunes their form.  “Relax your shoulders,” he instructs one woman.  “Don’t bend your front knee.” he cautions another.

Later, Robert pairs up participants to practice the ancient escape technique of Chin-na.  About a dozen had turned our to preview the new Kung Fu Self-Defense Class at Clubhouse Six.

The eight-week session begins at 10 a.m. today.

Sponsored by the Recreation Division, the hourlong class teaches participants the basics of Shaolin Kung Fu.  Students will learn stretches, kicks and forms as well as self defense strategies such as hand strikes, escape techniques and leverage over brute force.

Classes are designed to flow at the pace and skill level of each student, building upon what they’ve learned.  By the end of the session, students will have increased their balance, strength, and endurance substantially, Robert said.

“They will also have the concept of self discipline, and what it takes to get better at what they’re doing.”

As students’ ability increases, so will their confidence, Robert said.  “They walk as if they know what’s going on.  They’re alert.  Typically, bullies don’t like that.”

For many residents, this class is their first foray into the martial arts.

“As you get older, young thugs want to pick on you.  They think you are easy prey,” said Stanley Skinner, 65.  “This is a way to defend yourself and your loved ones, and keep them safe.”

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School - In the News

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School – In the News

Barbara Bennett, 71, an avid hiker and camper, said she is taking the class to learn to defend herself in the wilderness.  “I want to be sure I’m safe.”

Shaolin Kung Fu emphasizes technique and ability, rather than power, which is why it’s ideal for seniors, Robert said.  “The movements don’t have to be extreme, but it still increases strength and endurance.”

Originated 1,500 years ago in the Shaolin Temple in Henan, Shaolin is considered the premier martial style in China, and is practiced worldwide.  Based on the Buddhist philosophy of nonviolence, the intention is not to kill your opponent, but to stop them from harming you.

Before and after sparring, opponents pay respect to on another by placing their left hand over their right fist, symbolizing knowledge over aggression.  The’s followed by mutual bows.

Robert began his Kung Fu training in 1979 and has won gold, silver and bronze medals at the International Praying Mantis Tournament in Yantai, China.

He touts Shaolin-style Kung Fu for its “live and let live” philosophy.  “It’s not just beating up people; it’s how you live your life, how you interact with others and how you do things.”

Classes will be held in the Clubhouse Six Main Lounge from 10-11 a.m. Thursdays beginning today.  For information or to register call 597-4273 or visit the Recreation Division Office in the Community Center.

Contact the Writer:

949-837-5200

jkarmarkar@ocregister.com

A Little Paranoia

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.

San Shou – Punch to Hit!

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu San Shou

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu San Shou

San Shou is the practice of taking martial techniques embedded in the forms and applying them against attacks from a somewhat cooperative opponent.  Its purpose is to learn how various techniques are employed, practice those techniques over and over again in a relatively controlled environment with various partners, and eventually introduce those techniques into free sparring.  San shou integrates forms and sparring.

In the beginning of san shou, your attacker throws a right forward bow punch to your chest.  Your job is to move your body to block the punch and counter the attack.  Now, when you’re just starting san shou or learning a new technique some leeway is given to the defender and they shouldn’t be afraid of getting hit.  As your experience increases, the attacker’s job is to lightly tap the defender in the chest if they miss the block!  In fact, the attacker is doing the defender a disservice by not attacking at full speed with the intent of softly hitting his/her chest.  The defender needs to know their defense was not good enough and they need to focus on their blocking technique next time.  If the attacker does get through the defenders defenses, then both should stop, and bow in recognition that the defender got hit.  The defender switches to become the attacker and they continue.

As students move up in rank, san shou gets more advanced and attacks can come in any form to any part of the body:  punches, elbows, pushes, kicks, grabs, double-movements, etc.  Again, the attacker must do their best to connect with the defender to ensure he/she is prepared with proper defense and counter.  With the exception of learning or practicing new techniques, the attackers intention’s are to “get in” on their opponent to help them learn their technique, but certainly not to injure your kung fu brothers and sisters.  There is no need to block an attack that doesn’t even come close to connecting.  Clearly, an attacker outside of the school isn’t going to stop his punch a foot away from your body – he’s going to try his best to hit!

One of the benefits to attacking your opponent at full speed, but with only a light, non-penetrating power is the development of distance and sensitivity.  Both require much practice to develop and both are vital to advancing in sparring.  Distancing is crucial for being able to successfully employ techniques with proper contact and power.  Sensitivity is important in that it provides the ability to increase or decrease power as needed while the counter is being employed.   Distance and sensitivity are also benefits to proper counters to san shou attacks.  These features of san shou begin with the attackers intention to lightly hit the defender.

Sticky Hands

qinna-old02One very important concept in kung fu, particularly chin na is something called, “sticky hands”.  The idea is that as soon as someone makes the mistake of grabbing onto you, they’re stuck to you like a fly on a spiderweb typically by your hand(s) pressing their hand to your body.  Even if they try to escape – it will be too late.  Applying a chin na technique quickly follows “sticky hands” and your aggressor at this point is probably wishing he could get away.  By the time the chin na movement is completed he is wincing in pain and likely begging you to let go.

The key to “sticky hands” is to smoothly press your opponent’s hand onto your body (wherever you’re being grabbed) and continue to “smoothly” execute your chin na technique.  Successfully applying a chin na technique requires a good deal of time and practice to learn the technique and master the joint locking, footwork, power, weight, etc. that goes along with it.  However, chin na is a very practical aspect of your martial art and the first step to making it work is understanding the concept of “sticky hands”.

Breath Through The Nose

It will be heard many times in class, “Breath through your nose!”  There is good reason for this – both from a western and an eastern standpoint.

Western medicine offers a number of scientific reasons why breathing through the nose is superior to breathing through the mouth.  Nasal breathing provides better air filtration than oral breathing due to its cleansing passage through the nostrils and sinuses.  Additionally, the nasal passage warms the air as well as lubricates it so as to lessen further damage to the throat.  You will notice a big, big difference between breathing through your nose or your mouth when training in the cold or when you have a sore throat or laryngitis.

Eastern medicine and most Chinese martial arts suggest breathing through the nose exclusively – although there are some styles that exhale through the mouth.  There are a number of reasons for breathing through the nose.  It is thought that the regulation of your internal energy (chi) can only be accomplished when your breath has been regulated properly via nasal breathing.  Controlling your breath thru the nose when overly exhausted (such as holding stances for a very long time or doing a thousand kicks) or when excited is necessary to control your energy and avoid stomach cramps that often come from breathing through your mouth.  This is particularly important in sparring or in an actual fight as nasal breathing assists in withstanding attacks to the abdomen.  Should you get kicked in the stomach while breathing through your mouth, you are in for trouble.  Whereas, breathing through your nose (with proper training) provides more protection.

You should still train with a congested nose due to sickness or allergies.  Although it will be difficult, try your best to breath through your nose anyway.  It may require focus and effort, but it is often the case that the congestion is gone by the end of class if you get lost in your training.  If the congestion is too great, bow out of class to blow your nose and hurry back.  Then, try again to focus on breathing through your nose.

Minor Injuries – A Blessing In Disguise

In the course of your training, it is highly possible that at some point you will come to class with some kind of pain from a minor injury.  Maybe you slammed your knee on a coffee table or jammed your fingers playing basketball.  Maybe in the last sparring class you banged your shin pretty hard.  No matter how careful you are, how well you sleep, how nutritiously you eat, there will be times when you will have to train when in pain.  Before taking class be sure to tell whoever is instructing about your injury.  In fact, use common sense to decide whether you should even go to class.  Realize, however, that it usually makes sense t0 train with minor injuries as you will likely be removed from part of class that might aggravate your injury and given something else to do that furthers your training.  Training with a minor injury (although painful) is often a blessing in disguise.

Training while injured can be a blessing in two ways.  The first revolves around what you did (or didn’t do) to get injured in the first place, especially if it occurred in class.  Many times the pain was caused by doing something incorrectly.  Perhaps you didn’t defend property or you executed a poor offensive technique or counter technique.   Maybe you fell wrong or weren’t listening to your body. Analyze the injury’s cause and learn to not do it again.

In the real world, there is no guarantee that you will have all of your weapons available to you in the event of a contest.  The second blessing is learning how to spar and apply techniques without the use of one or more hands and/or feet.  Students can sometimes become stagnant with their training and focus too much on their dominant side’s hands or feet techniques.  Damaging one of the dominant weapons forces you to learn and utilize techniques with the other hand or side of body.  This also forces you to utilize your entire body differently as all our techniques require the whole body to move in synchronization.  In san shou or sparring, put your damaged hand behind your back to protect it and do what it takes to defend yourself one-handed.  Be prepared to defend yourself with what you have – understanding you only have one hand, utilize your feet and leg for defensive movements.

If you have a damaged leg or foot, you need to decide if you want the damaged one to be your rear, weight-baring foot or your forward, non-weight baring foot.  Whatever you do, take care not to haphazardly use the damaged leg in some kind of technique that will injure it.  Proper footwork is key to move out of harms way and counter when you are damaged.  Should you train like this until your appendage is healed, these new techniques will likely stay with you as a part of your “arsenal” and you will agree that the damaged body part actually made you a better martial artist.