Q & A: Kung Fu Returns to the Academy

Q: Tell me about the new Kung Fu class that you’ve started.
A: It’s nice to be doing this again. We took a hiatus from teaching Kung Fu for a few years and now we’ve started an entirely new class from the beginning. The times, so far, are 6:00 on Thursday night and 10:00 on Saturday morning. So it’s one of the few Saturday morning martial arts classes for adults.

Q: What exactly are you teaching?
A: It’s classical Kung Fu. We’re teaching in small classes, rarely more than eight students.

Q: What do you mean classical Kung Fu?
A: Kung Fu is a beautiful style recognized throughout the world mainly due to the movies. Consequently, some teachers learn a bit then add the name of Kung Fu to whatever else they offer. But the style we teach is completely traditional. We will be teaching movements and techniques from Shaolin, Praying Mantis, Muslim Fist and more.

Q: And what is a typical class like?
A: We do a bit of workout, then formal sequences called sets (some of them centuries old), self defense training and also applications.

Q: What’s the difference between self defense and applications?
A: Self defense is a practical approach with immediate results like building strength, improving speed, learning to get out of a choke. Applications are your overall skills like coordination, body control, but also strategy and artistic expression. Sometimes they even work on things like the movement of energy in the body.

Q: Who teaches the classes?
A: I teach the Saturday class and Linda Darrigo, a top notch practitioner of Kung Fu and Tai Chi, teaches the other class. We confer on the curriculum. The two of us have more than seventy years practice, so even though this is a beginning class, nothing is  dumbed down.

Q: Can a beginner come to this class, even if they have little training or not a great deal of natural skill?
A: Yes, first it is important how the studio and student interface. We try to make sure it’s a good fit. Natural talent is relatively unimportant. Much of Kung Fu is counter-intuitive. So coming in as a total beginner is perfect, no problem. But expect to surprise yourself.

Q: Is it a monthly curriculum where you can only start at certain times?
A: No, what we have is a new system, kind of a breakthrough. Everything is completely classical, but since we are not giving any belts or rank, anyone can join at any time.

Q: Since one of your teachers is a woman, I guess it is appropriate for both men and women?
A: Kung Fu is fine for men and women, for older and younger people. This class happens to be adults only, and if someone came to me at 60 or 70 I might suggest Tai Chi, but basically anyone can learn.

Q: What do you like to see as an average stay? If a person joined would you expect him or her to stay a month or two?
A: Due to the sophistication of the art we hope people–again assuming it’s a good fit–will stick around for about a year or so. For instance, people call us up and say they are in town for a few weeks and would like to train. We don’t even allow them to come to the class. You learn a lot here, so some practice and tenacity is important.

Q: You hear a lot of claims about how martial arts will do this or that for you, help you concentrate better and improve your discipline or whatever. What can martial arts do for you?
A: There’s a reason that Zen abbots used to tell their disciples to go out and learn martial arts, but to be honest, it’s too hard to explain. Simply put, a student should gain some things here. First, even if they don’t like our school, they will know what Kung Fu is. And they will have experienced a great art. The movements are so unusual that they will shake out old habits. It’s not so much what they will learn, as what they will clear from their fixed patterns of movement. People do experience amazing changes when they study martial arts, but each person is unique.

Q: It sounds like you give people a lot of instruction for their money. Is it very expensive?
A: No, in fact we’re about 25% lower than the national average. For once a week, it’s $55.00 a month; for twice a week, it’s $85.00 a month. And you can go back and forth from once to twice a week. As I said before, it is strictly an adult school and if we sense that people aren’t serious, we won’t teach them.

Q: So people in your classes are pretty dedicated?
A: We have a great community with wonderful people: doctors, teachers, trades-people, artists. There is no emphasis whatsoever on competition. My students study for themselves and their passion is self-generated.

Q: It sounds like the school to join!
A: (Laughs) Well, it’s like falling in love. You don’t necessarily fall in love with someone because your friend referred you. There is no accounting for resonance. But, if you want to fall in love with real Kung Fu, then we are a place you might think about.

After we talked, Ted realized he forgot to mention that the first interview and class are free!
You can call 475-1429 to set up an appointment for this.

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