Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Do you Kung Fu?

I love the Kung Fu Panda movies, and now the very good series on Nickelodeon.  So do my daughters.  So much so that they have been begging to watch all my old Kung Fu movies.  It’s been a blast

Last Saturday I decided to teach some Kung Fu.
Now just so we are clear I don’t know Kung Fu, the formally taught Chinese martial art.

However, I really like this quote from the movie “The Forbidden Kingdom”

Jackie Chan as Lu Yan:
“Kung Fu is hard work over time to accomplish skill. A painter can have Kung Fu, or the butcher who cuts meat with such skill, his knife never touches bone.  A musician can have Kung Fu, or the poet who paints pictures with words and makes emperors weep, this too is Kung Fu.”

So if we define Kung Fu as hard work to accomplish skill, Saturday’s training was bursting with Kung Fu.

Class started with an optional 2.25 mile run.  I don’t think class time should be spent on PT training.  I wanted to run and we were training at a park with a nice trail so I incorporated it into my training.  Students are free to join me if they wish.

I like to run before class for the obvious cardio benefits, but also to loosen up and to tire out before training.  That way it is harder for me to slop muscular strength and I must rely on solid fundamentals.

Saturday is all about solid fundamentals, I focus almost entirely on principles and use very few techniques.  Techniques only being used to demonstrate  / test the principle.

This is also Kung Fu.  How many Kung Fu movies have you seen where the “master” has the student do some menial task (perhaps grueling if done wrong) over and over again to drill a specific principle.  Then when the “disciple” can’t take it any more, the master shows the application of the principle in a technique.  Almost magically because the student understands the principle so well he masters (makes it his / her own) the technique.

Another quote from “The Forbidden Kingdom” I like a lot

Jet Li as The Silent Monk (who oddly enough spoke through out the entire movie):
Learn the form, but seek the formless. Hear the soundless. Learn it all, then forget it all. Learn The Way, then find your own way.

A big paradigm shift for me, and the most fun I’ve had teaching lately revolves around helping others find their own way.

You don’t have to do things the way I do them, but you have to do them well, they have to work.
What makes things work?:
  • Structure
  • Movement
  • Power Generation

So, guess what we worked on? 

1ST Exercise
Rowing exercise
Rowing exercise as its name implies looks like you are standing in a boat rowing with oars
It is a subtle form of power generation.  Shifting your weight as opposed to using muscle.

Here is a video

I don’t like this video, it is the kind of granola eating hug a tree Aikido that makes me puke, but it serves its purpose

For this exercise I used the Frankenstein plyoband contraption I made

This also works structure.  You have to be very strong if you use muscle to stretch the bands.  You can't do rowing exercise using muscle.  You can do rowing exercise if your structure is solid.  If your structure has a weakness you will never be able to shift your weight foreward.  Using resistance students instantly saw their own flaws, then were able to fix them.  Much more productive then me saying something they don’t understand over and over again. 

The woman from the video never would have moved an inch.  I’m sure she has been doing rowing exercise for years with cooperative partners.  Even the “hard” variation.  Training with resistance 5 minutes would have taught her more than doing it perfectly with no structure for years.

2nd exercise
Same thing only this time the pulling motion.  More light bulbs go off, more students - Learn The Way, then find their own way

Then pulling against a push, pushing against a pull.  Good times

This blog would go on for ever if I describe in depth every exercise we did, but I hope it can serve as an example for you to do some principle based training for yourselves.

For myself I think I have found a fun, productive way to teach children that won’t have them maiming their siblings or ingraining horrible habits that will get them killed.

I have been playing Kung Fu school with my own daughters.  We’ve been having a lot of fun and Lauren is really catching on (faster than most cops I teach)

The experiment continues – more to follow

Train Hard, Train Smart, Be Safe

P.S. – When we play Kung Fu my Kung Fu name is Woo Ping.  Woo Ping Yo Ass!


  1. Dry fire drils are Kung Fu
    And Gun Fu

  2. I can certainly testify on how well this works. The exercises made the drills come alive. I found out immediately what I was doing wrong and how to correct it. Not only that but it mad eme understand why I was doing them wrong.
    Awesome x 100

  3. Nice Blog!
    I really appreciate your job.

    Kung Fu