Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Going Hard at Home

Though this blog is called "Tales from the Carport Kwoon," I probably do at least half of my workouts away from home. My side yard is a little cramped, what with fitness and martial arts equipment and yard tools.

The backyard, though wide open, is where the dogs play. I don't want to have to worry about them while I'm swinging kali sticks or a kwan

In the past, I've done a lot of training in the fron
t yard, especially a lot of my forms work. However, Roxanne and The Tsarevich have taken that over for their garden, which is coming along beautifully.

In addition to the increased space I have when practicing at Rivercrest or Lowry Park, I thoroughly enjoy the out-of-doors, the re
asonably fresh air and a chance to see some of the nature for which Florida is known.

Practicing on my dummy in the Carport Kwoon. It's a little cramped, but it's where I keep all my equipment and weapons.

On the other hand, my Carport Kwoon is better equipped than most commercial dojos. I have everything I need there: bags; a wooden dumm
y: a power tower; weights; and mats. I'm also close to my medicines, both Chinese and more mainstream first aid equipment. And, I have all my weapons and training gear in one place.

I used to do a lot of my weapons and forms training in the front yard, due to lack of space in the Carport Kwoon. But now, my wife and the Tsarevich are turning the front yard into a garden, which means much less space to practice weapons at home. (See photo below).

Tomato and cucumber plants in Roxanne and Vitaly's raised garden, which they just completed in the front yard.

On Monday, I returned to a hard workout after skipping training on Sunday. While The Tsarevich worked in the garden, I went through a good long, rigorous circuit involving: high repetitions of the basics; the ab wheel; several runs each of the wooden dummy and Biu Jee forms; and more than 100 claw pushups, spread out over six to eight sets.

It's a lot different doing those pushups at home rather than the park. At the park, I have nice, soft earth, which is a lot less punishing on my hands. At home, I do those pushups on the padded floor of my kwoon.

I can't do as many in a set on the padded, concrete floor as I can on the grass. However, that small change challenges me. It keeps me fresh as I struggle to maintain my strength and continue my goal of doing 108 pushups in a single set.

For now, I'll continue on the circuit training. It keeps me fresh and constantly challenges my muscles and my metabolism.

And I'll continue to alternate between my Carport Kwoon and one of the beautiful parks in West Tampa.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Playing through the Pain

By Thursday morning I was pretty wracked with pain.

It took a few days of some moderately hard workouts and long walks with a weight vest, but there was no doubt about it: I was hurting!

Knowing I had an overdue practice session with Richard, my sole regular student, I decided to save myself for our workout. Even then, thoug
h, I took it pretty easy. Since my wife and The Tsarevich were both sick, I didn't want to make myself sick. My own throat was starting to tickle, too, a sign of either an illness coming on or my allergies.

Also knowing that I have only a few weeks left before hopefully starting the Masters of Education program at the University of Tampa, I'm determined to cram as much as I can into Richard's head as possible. I have to give him
a lot of credit - he works hard and he has a passion for learning what I'm teaching him.

I started teaching him in 2006, when I used the Northwest Community Church building for classes. Eventually, I gave it up due to a lack of interest. But Richard never lost interest. He emailed me regularly over the next few years, asking when I would start teaching again.

I started again with him last summer. His chi sao has improved greatly and he's almost through the Biu Jee form. My goal is to at least take him through the Biu Jee (Shooting Fingers Form) and the Mook Yan Johng Kuen sets by June. If possible, also to include the Luk Dim Bun Kwan (The Long Pole). I believe that with those sets, he should have enough of Wing Chun to effectively use it in self defense.

The Mook Yan Johng Kuen: The Wooden Dummy Form.

Still in some pain on Friday, I managed to squeeze in a short workout on the river. I've been pleasantly surprised by the increase in flexibility and some shrinkage in my waist. But like Thursday, I kept it short, preferring to focus only on the stretching and the Wing Chun hand sets.

Also on Thursday, I finally tracked down all my Yau Kung Mun DVD's. I even found that Holy Grail of YKM DVD's, the video of Sigung Garry Hearfield teaching Don the Say Mun Bagua Kuen.
Not only is that DVD a great source of information, but I do derive some pleasure watching Sigung Garry harangue Don over his forms.

In addition to maintaining everything else, my goal for this week is to begin work on the Say Mun Bagua Kuen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Doing a Little Bit Every Day

Practicing the Wing Chun Biu Jee (Shooting Fingers) form at Lowry Park near my house.

One secret to maintaining a training regimen is to do a little something every day.

Since I began preparing for the International Chinese Martial Arts Championship in Orlando, that's what I've kept in mind. Even if I just do a little exercise, even if I just get outside for a little while, then I feel like I did something and I don't get discouraged.

Weekends are usually the hardest time to train, especially now that I'm a parent. My wife and son both demand my attention. As a result, unless Don comes by for one of our early Saturday morning sessions, I don't usually do anything on weekends.

So on a spur of the moment, I decided to just take a walk. There's a one-mile loop that goes around Lowry Park. I invited the Tsarevich to join me. He brought his scooter and I put on my weight vest.

We repeated that on Sunday evening only with his bike.

The weight vest is definitely one of my better fitness investments. I've always felt so much stronger after accompanying The Professor (i.e.,
my old man) on one of his death marches through the Sierras. I don't get out there anywhere near as much as I'd like, so hiking around the park with a weight vest is about as close as I can get to a backpack trip through the Minarets, Desolation Wilderness, the Wind River or any of the other trips I've done with the Professor.

Come Monday, I felt some soreness in my legs from those short walks. Even carrying 20 extra pounds makes a big difference.

That day, I packed up for Rivercrest Park to squeeze in a workout before picking up The Tsarevich. I marched down to the docks carrying my long pole, my water bottle, a Thai pad (for hitting) and my camera. The latter was in case I saw the manatees again.

I haven't seen the manatees again, but Vitaly pointed out this baby alligator sunning himself on a rock at Lowry Park today.

Following a long and leisurely stretch, I began a work on some hard Wing Chun basics consisting of the individual punches and kicks.

Feeling pretty winded in the hot Florida early afternoon, I pushed it through with five runs of the Biu Jee form. I also meant to do five runs of the Luk Dim Bun Kwan, but only made it through three of them before I had to pick up The Tsarevich.

Tuesday, I took my workout back to Lowry Park. I thought I'd gotten a little too much sun the previous day, so I wanted a place to practice with lots of shade. Beneath the oaks near the big picnic area, I ran a circuit consisting of basic techniques, claw push ups, and five runs each of the Biu Jee and the Luk Dim Bun Kwan.

My sifu's grandmaster, Sam Kwok, demonstrating the Luk Dim Bun Kwan form.

Going through that pole set makes me laugh. So many people think it is easy to learn to effectively use a weapon. They don't realize that any weapon, from a pocket knife to a nine-foot oak pole, is added weight. That means it takes more energy to use it than to use bare hands.
The Luk Dim Bun Kwan is easily one of the most punishing weapons I've ever studied. It takes full-body strength to control that pole, to thrust and strike effectively with it. After five runs of that set, I felt it in my entire body, but especially my legs.

For today's workout, I got a little discouraged. I meant to focus on Yau Kung Mun Kung Fu forms and techniques. However, I misplaced my master video tapes and all except for one of my Yau Kung Mun DVD's. That DVD I did find didn't include Don doing his versions of the forms. Not only are those versions more familiar to me, but Don did a better job of shooting them than whomever did that tape of the guys in San Diego.

I felt discouraged, but determined not to let it ruin my day. Instead, I returned to the Carport Kwoon, which looks better than it has in months. I decided to continue to focus on my Wing Chun techniques. Taking advantage of the increased space as a result of my cleaning last week, I devoted most of my time working on the dummy. It's a big change going from practicing individual basics on the air to doing those same basics, alone and in combinations, on the dummy. It gave me a sense of the type of spatial awareness and timing I would need in the Chi Sao competition. It also gave me a helluva workout.

So now I'm off to located those DVD's. It could take me a while, but I'm determined to find everything I have on Yau Kung Mun and Wing Chun.

Lastly, I'll be returning to eBay next week. I've got a lot of comics, paperbacks and LP's I'll be posting on there, as well as selling locally on Craigslist.

If you're into comics, go ahead and email your wish list to heykidscomics(insert symbol for "at" here)tampabay.rr.com. If you're into stuff from the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and 00's, give me a try. I've got more than 3,000 I'll be willing to part with.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Still Training" or "Whipping Out My Pole for the First Time in Years"

I have been training. Honestly. I just haven't had time to write about it.

For the past couple of weeks, my main activity has been cramming for my Florida Teachers Certification Exam for Middle School Science. I've
read that study guide through at least three times. Yesterday, I spent four hours reviewing it.

My only breaks for the past couple of weeks have been housework and training. For the most part, my training sessions were short and intense.

Today, I had a little more time than usual for practice. I decided that to keep my mind fresh and relaxed I wouldn't do any studying the day befo
re of the day of the exam. Since the test is tomorrow, that meant I had extra time to train.

Following a relaxing morning of sleeping late, I drove to Rivercrest Park along the Hillsborough River. I brought along my luk dim bun guan, a
Thai pad which I've been using as an improvised sandbag, and my camera. The camera was in case I saw those manatees again.

Well, the manatees never showed, but I got in a goo
d 90 minutes of stretching, forms and basics.
Following a good stretch, I went out on one of the docks overlooking the Hillsborough River. Not only do I enjoy the fresh air, but the wood decking is a lot easier on my joints than training on most other surfaces. That's something to consider for all martial artists if they want to have a long training life.

It's also a link to the past. Many of the classical southern Chinese kung fu styles, particularly Wing Chun and Hung Gar, were practiced by
sailors. The Red Boat Opera Troop traveled from town to town on rivers and canals in Southern China. Their performances were also a perfect cover for their anti-Manchu activities. Their Kung Fu training served them well, no only in performing stage combat, but to fend off river pirates and actual Ching spies.

Other sailors, who traded with the Japanese and Okinawans, shared their Kung Fu with the native peoples, giving birth to the predeces
sors of Karate.

Practicing by the river gives me a feel for thos
e old masters.

My main Wing Chun sifu, Hunter von Unschuld, demonstrating the Wing Chun pole.

I was pleasantly surprised how well I've done going through my basics and my forms. Lately, I haven't trained as hard or as often as I should. I strongly suspect my commitment to practicing Hung Gar Kung Fu last year did a lot to prepare me. Hung Gar is a very demanding art, especially the forms I practiced: the Gung
Gee Fuk Fu Kuen (Taming the Tiger Fist) and the Dai Pa (Great Fork Trident).

A demonstration of the Hung Gar Tiger Fork. Practicing with this really kept up my strength during the Year of the Tiger.

After running through the basics and the three hand sets of Wing Chun, the Siu Lam Tao, the Chum Kiu and the Biu Jee, I closed with three runs of the Luk Dim Bun Kwan, AKA the Wing Chun pole.

I expected that would be much more difficult than it was. Unlike the other Wing Chun sets, it uses the classical stances of Chinese Kung Fu, particu
larly the cat and the horse stances. Also, a nine-foot pole can give you a helluva workout if you're not used to it.

I can only say "Thank God, I did my Dai Pa last year!" All that training with such a heavy weapon did a lot to prepare me for the Luk Dim Bun Kwan.

"It is like a finger pointing to the moon." An instructor can only point the way. It is up to the student to follow the path and see where it takes him.

P.S. If you check out Dojo Rat, he has a great blog post today about the importance of solo training. As a martial arts student and instructor, one thing I've learned is that to be a good martial artist, you have to be self-motivated. You have to be willing to train as best as you can on your own between regular classes with your instructor.

When learning Wing Chun from Hunter von Uschuld, I could only train with him at most once a week. He lived about 30 miles away from me and to get to his home, I had to drive on some of the worst roads in two counties.

And while learning Yau Kung Mun and Hung Gar from Don Weiss, I've had to contend with his regular, extended work-related trips to various Third-World hellholes.

But as hard as it is to be separated from our instructors, we modern martial artists have some huge technological advantages. For example, it doesn't matter if Don's at home or on the road, I can almost always reach him via email when I have questions or need suggestions.

We also have video and DVD's, both commercially available and homemade ones. We can capture our teachers, seniors and classmates in action to preserve their forms and techniques.

And yes, we can also travel farther and much easier than martial artists of the old days.
But the important thing to remember is that our instructors can only point the way. It is up to the actual students to get off of our asses and do the actual work.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Back to the Beginning with Training and Bloggin'

About three years ago, I started with the idea to have a training blog on Myspace.com. I would chronicle my preparations for the 10th Annual International Chinese Martial Arts Championship. My goal was to try for the Southern Style Grand Championship and by sharing my progress, I would hopefully entertain, inspire and inform others while also keeping myself accountable.

I trained hard on my lunch breaks, doing multiple reps of my weapons sets and my empty-hand set. I still have scars on my hands from the iron rings I wore on my arms, to provide added weight to my arms when doing the forms. The rings gave me some hellacious blisters, but I was just too stupid to know when to quit. I also skipped lunch for several weeks, preferring to go to the college gymnasium and squeeze in a good training session.

But immediately following my return from a fantastic week of camping, hiking and rock climbing in California with my son, The Tsarevich, and
my father and step-mother, I got the axe from my job. Just another victim of cutbacks in higher education, they told me.

It took the wind out of my training. Knowing that I had only a limited time until my salary and benefits ran out, I decided to forego the tournament that year.

That was three years ago. I've continued training with a lot of the usual ups and downs, chronicling them here with you, my friends. I occasionally drifted off into other subjects, like the stupidity of taking guns to political rallies and Disney's purchase of Marvel Comics.

I also shared excerpts from my novel, "Taming the Tiger."

Lately, I haven't done much with this blog while I focus on illustrating "Taming the Tiger", as well as continue in my efforts to get my writing c
areer off the ground.

All that is in addition to some family struggles.

Well, my financial situation still sucks! I'm now focusing on hopefully going to grad school at the University of Tampa to get my Masters in Education degree. If I get accepted, I'm looking to start a new chapter in my life as a science teacher.

But despite my finances, despite all that I have going on, I'm looking to enter the 13th Annual International Chinese Martial Arts Championship in Orlando. I'm doing this because, based on what I've seen at other INCMA tournaments this year, there will be three events for Wing Chun practitioners: Wing Chun Hand Forms; Wing Chu
n Weapons; and Chi Sao.

I took 2nd place in Chi Sao in 2005. I've been wanting to go back and try for the gold for more than five years.

But now, I find that they have forms and weapons events for what is pretty much my core art. No matter what, I will go. Somehow, someway, God willing, I will go to that tournament and compete and win the Wing Chun events.

Of course, I'll also enter the Over-35 hand sets and weapon events, using Yau Kung Mun/Bak Mei Kung Fu sets. Hey, I didn't spend a shitload of money three years ago for a top-of-the-line kwan dao only to have it sit and collect rust!

Now comes the hard part. No, I'm not talking about training. That'll be a bitch, but that's not what's killing me.

No, it's the fundraising. I estimate it will cost roughly $300 to $350 for entry fees, transportation, a new Wing Chun pole, videotaping
fees and spectator admission for my family. I have been trying to sell off large parts of my personal library for no other reason than to make some room in my house.

But whether the government and the media want to admit it or not, we are in a depression. That stuff just ain't selling right now. And most of what I had that was worth any value, I sold to help pay for my son's adoption.

So as I return to this blog and some heavy training, I'm going to appeal to you, my friends and readers. I new I'd never get rich off of blogging, especially about something as personal as my own training and fitness regimen. That was nev
er my intent to make any money off of this.

So I very humbly ask you, my friends and readers, if I have said anything here in the past three years that entertained, informed or inspired you, if you feel you'd like to return the favor, to throw a little money in my hat via my paypal account at rsledig(insert symbol for "at" here)tampabay.rr.com.

In return, I will keep you all informed of my training progress. I will also let you all know how much I've collected and publicly thank anyone who does contribute on these pages. You will know how every cent you've contributed has been spent.

Also, if you are in the market for old comic books, LP's, rare books and paperbacks, keep checking here, too. I'll be linking to my eBa
y and Craigslist postings with great deals for collectors. And, if you happen to have any wish lists for old Marvel, DC or independent comics, email me at heykidscomics(insert symbol for "at" here)tampabay.rr.com.

Thanks for your support!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another Year of the Tiger Draws to a Close

Hi folks. Yeah, it's been a while. It's been an interesting fall and believe me, I haven't been idle.

Starting in August, due to requests from several people, I revived the Hand2Hand Chinese Kickboxing Club. It was off to a decent start with a
couple of regulars.

The New Logo for the Hand2Hand Chinese Kickboxing Club ((C) Copyright 2010)

Then the pneumonia hit, taking me out of action for several weeks.

In the fall, I decided to get back into shape and work hard on the basics. I narrowed my focus to five things: Stance training; the Yang Taijiquan long form; the Yang Taijigim (sword set); the Gung Gee Fuk Fu Kuen of Hung Gar; and the Dai Pa (Great Fork) of Hung Gar.

I chose those forms based on the advice of two of my teachers: Chan, the Medicine Man and Don Weiss.

Chan was the guy who supplied me the ingredients for my dit da jow, and was the medicine expert at Oceanic Trading Company. I don't know for sure if he ever studied Kung Fu. He always denied it when I asked him. But he always gave me good advice on training.

One of our typical conversations went like this:

Chan: You should always do your Taiji, even if you just go through the form once, before you do your Kung Fu practice.

Me: Thanks, Chan. Why do you recommend that?

Chan: I'm not a Kung Fu teacher. You should speak with your sifu about it.

Though he played it mysterious about his own martial arts background, I have to admit that he never steered me wrong.

So this fall, I made it a point to do my Taiji sets before any other sets or hard practice.

Meanwhile, Don Weiss set this year's goal in both of our training to do the Gung Gee Fuk Fu Kuen set at least once a workout. The form's name can be roughly translated as "Taming the Tiger in an 'I'-shaped Pattern Fist."

The reason was two-fold. First, I've been writing a novel called "Taming the Tiger." The novel is completed and I'm now working on the illustrations for it. Also, it was in honor of the Chinese Year of the Tiger, which began in February 2010.

(To read excerpts from "Taming the Tiger," Chapter I Part 1 can be found here. Chapter I Part 2 is here. Chapter VI is here. And Part of Chapter VII is here. )

I've kept that resolution. Earlier in the year, and recently, I followed it with a run of the Dai Pa, or Tiger Fork set from Hung Gar.

During the summer, I took time off from that set, though I continued to include the Gung Gee Fuk Fu Kuen. Suffering from some chronic pain in my right knee, I temporarily removed forms from my practice repertiore which included duckwalking or knee drops. Since there is some duckwalking in the Dai Pa set, that meant it had to go.

Chuck Berry, doing his famous duckwalk at 2:19. I had to take a few months off from doing that. (No! Do not fast forward to the duckwalk! Watch the whole damn video! Show some respect to one of the greatest rock gods to walk the Earth!)

But following the time off, as well as by working my stance training, stretching and using various traditional Chinese and modern medicines, I can at least do the duckwalking again.

A somewhat different version of the Tiger Fork set than I practice, but it shows the knee drops and duckwalking I was avoiding during my summer practice.

As of today, I've got two weeks left before the Year of the Tiger gives way to the Year of the Hare. During that time, I intend to continue with the pattern I started in the fall until the New Year's Celebration on February 3.

After that, I'll be focusing on the International Chinese Martial Arts Championship, scheduled for July 8 through 10 in Orlando. I'll write more on that and my training goals in a future post.

One last thing. As I said earlier, I've revived the Hand2Hand Chinese Kickboxing Club. Our new class schedule is as follows.

Wing Chun Kung Fu and Jeet Kune Do Concepts: Tuesday, 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Filipino Tribal Arts and Southeast Asian Fighting Arts: Thursday, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Taijiquan and Qigong; Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

All classes are held at Al Lopez Park (formerly Horizon Park) at 4810 N. Himes Ave., Tampa, FL. Workouts will be held in the rear of the park, across from the dog park, south of the big playground.

FIRST TWO WEEKS ARE ABSOLUTELY FREE! For more information, contact me at hand2hand@tampabay.rr.com.

POSTSCRIPT: Nearly two weeks ago, a federal judge and several innocent bystanders were killed, and several others, including a U.S. Congresswoman were wounded, at a public appearance by Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

If you've been following this blog, you'll know I predicted something like this would happen, as well as the reaction of various pundits and politicians to use this incident to call for more restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.

Believe me, I really hated being right. In the meantime, I want to say to the Teabaggers and others who brought guns to various public forums last year, THANKS FOR RUINING IT FOR THE REST OF US!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Taming the Tiger" from the 7th Chapter

Hi all! I'm back again with another excerpt from my novel, "Taming the Tiger." In this chapter, Charley Batchelor starts to use his artistic talents to create a manual of Hung Family Kung Fu.

Al and I arrived at his house immediately after school on Tuesday, just as we planned. Simo greeted us in the kitchen.

"Albert! Charley! How are you?"

"Fine, Simo," I said, giving her the salute. She smiled and saluted right back at me.

"I have something I'd like to show you, Simo."

"Yeah, Mom," Al added. "You gotta see this. Charley's an artist."

I smiled, and tried not to blush as I put my backpack on the dining room table. I pulled out the sketchpad with my notes and diagrams from the weekend. I opened it to the pages with the sketches of the ceremonial bow.

Simo looked inside. I scanned her face for any reaction, but her expression never changed. She flipped the pages, looking over my pictures and text describing the horse stance and the various punches. Lastly, she checked out my failed attempt at showing the applications of the fighting techniques within the ceremonial bow.

I didn't really want her to see that. Those were nowhere near complete. I would have rather waited until she or Al could help me with getting those right.

Her face relaxed as she closed the sketchbook.

"Very good, Charley," she said. "I think someday that you should put together a training manual for Hung Family martial arts. It would be a great honor to have you do that."

My eyes opened. I started grinning. I wanted to laugh, I was so happy to hear her say that.

"But first," she added. "You need to develop a good understanding of our family's art. I think writing and illustrating a training manual for us would be very good for you to help with that endeavor.

"In China, we believe that you cannot be a true gentleman unless you are versed in the arts of the pen and the sword," she said. "You are already on your way with the first and I look forward to having Albert help you with the second.

"Now get into your exercise clothes and train!"

I saluted Simo and followed Al into the garage. We changed our clothes faced each other. After the ceremonial bow, Al told me that we would not do any warm-ups.

"Class time is very precious and very short," Al said. "I hope you're practicing at home and not just drawing pretty pictures. You will need to keep up on your basics and your exercises on your time. Most of our time together will be spent learning new techniques. As soon as we complete our horse stance training, we have a lot of new ground to cover. I hope you're ready and I hope your shoulder is better.

Al set the kitchen timer and placed it on the table behind him. As we settled into our stances, I felt confident that I would do well. After all, the horse stance and my stretching exercises were the only things I could do while my shoulder recovered.

It didn't seem very long into our time before my legs started trembling. I've come to expect it, but I didn't think it would happen so soon. Shortly, I could almost feel my heels want to rise off the floor. My back muscles started to tighten and contract.

What's more, I started pouring sweat. I blinked repeatedly as drops ran into my eyes, burning them. The sweat mixed with tears, both to flush out my eyes and out of the pain in my eyes and my leg and back muscles.

I could see Al was also starting to feel some strain, too. It surprised me as he made it look so easy last week. His legs were still rock steady, but sweat poured down his face and soaked his t-shirt and sweatpants. He hardly blinked even as the sweat ran down his forehead and cheeks. I'm sure some of that sweat was also mixed with tears as I know the sweat must have burned his eyes as well.

But Al never let on it bothered him. At least not until the timer went off.

"Aaaaaahhhhhhh!" Al said, standing straight up. I followed.

"How do you feel?" he asked.

"Pretty good, but it seemed harder than the last time and I've been practicing over the weekend," I said.

"Well, we did 15 minutes!" Al said. "I've been neglecting my horse stance. Since I've been training you, I've had to work on all kinds of things that I haven't worked on in a while."

Fifteen minutes. I was amazed. Surprisingly, my legs didn't seem as tired as I thought they'd be when I got out of the stance.

From there, Al took me into the basic kicks. A snap kick, with the toes extended; a front "stomp" kick with the heel; A sidekick, also with the heel; and a roundhouse kick, with the lower shin.

By the time we were done, the ground of the garage was soaked. Our sneakers slid in our own sweat. The windows on his garage were completely steamed over, almost like someone took a shower in there.

That's what it felt like, too. I knew it would be in the 50's on my way home tonight, but inside that garage it felt like summer.

"Now, we're going to start on the first form of Hung Gar," Al said. "It's called, 'Gung Gee Fook Fu'. It can mean 'Challenging the Tiger' or 'Tempting the Tiger' or as Mom prefers it, 'Taming the Tiger.'

"Now stand next to me and do what I do."

I took a position next to and slightly behind him. We both faced the mirror, so I would be able to see what he was doing from both the front and rear.

Standing there, I followed Al through a series of dynamic tension exercises. We thrust our palms forward with the fingers upward and the edge of the hand facing away from our bodies. The air hissed from Al's mouth and I could see the muscles flexing throughout his entire body - his back, his shoulders, his arms. In the mirror, I could see his chest and ab muscles flexing beneath his shirt. It reminded me of some of the exercises I'd seen Bruce Lee do in magazines and movies.

Turning his palms upward, he curled in his fingers to make a pair of fists. Suddenly, he pulled those fists back to his chest. His back arched forward. He looked almost like Muhammad Ali doing his rope-a-dope pose.

Opening his chest, his bent arms flew to his sides like a pair of saloon doors flinging open in a western movie. His hands were in the bridge hand position from the ceremonial bow.

Using dynamic tension, he pushed his arms out sideways, like he was trying to stop the walls from closing in on him. Each time he used dynamic tension, his face turned red and the air hissed slowly from his mouth.

After three reps, he thrust both hands open and out to the side. After doing the dynamic tension, my hands felt very light and very fast, like a rubber band snapping. Then, clenching the right fist and making the bridge with the left hand, we repeated the ceremonial bow.

"Have you got that?" Al asked.

"Yeah," I said. Even though we only did a few moves, it took a lot out of me. Going from normal movements to dynamic tension then back to normal movements takes a lot out of a person.

"Is that the whole form?" I asked.

"Oh no!" said Al, laughing. "That's just the beginning."

"Oh," I said. "Then why did we do the ceremonial bow twice?"\

"Because we're very polite," Al said. "Hung Gar is the most polite form of kung fu. We'll also do the ceremonial bow at the end of the form, too. Just in case anyone missed it the first two times."

I waited for Al to make another joke. Then I realized, he wasn't joking.

"I told you before, Hung means 'upright and moral,' " he added. "That's the most important thing in Hung Gar. And if you can't be upright and moral, then you have no business here.

"Even when you leave this kwoon, Mom and I still expect you to behave in a manner that will show us both respect, especially her!" Al continued. "And because you're our student, we have an obligation to make sure that you behave in an upright and moral manner."