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.


  1. Thanks for the comments. And the link to the DojoRat Blog - kinda cool.

    Is Tennessee considered a third world hell-hole?

    Talk with you soon.


  2. Hey Don,

    I guess the parts where there's coal mining might be in rough shape. Otherwise, I like Tennessee, especially in the Smokies.

    Well, have a good one.


  3. Hi Sean, interesting post. What lineage is your Wing Chun from?