Last Sunday, I got a double-treat: my teacher, Adam Hsu, is in town for a couple of weeks and I had the opportunity to not only see and spend time with him, but to make his Long Fist Kung Fu class available to my own students, most of whom had never met him. Of course, there is always a bit of trepidation presenting your students to your teacher: will they look good to another and more experienced eye? Will my teacher take me aside and, without sarcasm, ask what the hell I have been teaching them? Will my students look at my teacher’s instruction and wonder what the hell I have been teaching them? Will they like him more than me? OK, admittedly, not all of these are mature concerns, but, even after 50 years, it would be a lie to say they don’t exist.
I won’t keep you in suspense: my students filled me with pride as I watched them working out with vigor, trying new things while applying themselves even more intently to the familiar ones. They followed routines they had never seen, exercises they had never attempted, angles they had never considered and, of course, lots of training we practice weekly at our Academy. Each was beaming at the end of the two hours.Continue reading →
Join us for the Kung Fu Tai Chi 25th Anniversary Festival and tournament in San Jose on May 19-21.
We don’t get out much—certainly not as much as we would like—but this year we are showing up to celebrate Tiger Claw’s Anniversary, by attending the festivities, including the Grandmaster’s demo on Friday night, the Saturday and Sunday tournaments, and the 8th annual WildAid Tiger Claw Championship on Sunday. Plum’s entire crew (yes, all three of us!) will have a table with some of our exclusive books and DVDs, and we hope to meet face-to-face with you—our customers, readers and friends.
Of course, the weekend itself will bring its own excitement. Tiger Claw is well-known for their professionally-run events. Additionally, Kung Fu Tai Chi is pleased to announce its cooperation with the International Wushu Sanshou Dao Association (IWSD) as they are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. Finally, this year’s Friday night performances will highlight a special roster of traditional masters, many of whom do not perform regularly.
If you are in the area, or thinking of travelling to visit, drop by and see us.
A demonstration and workshop on the fine art of choking was a change in schedule for the Saturday morning Kung Fu class last week. Black sash instructor, Mike Gruber—highly knowledgeable about Kung Fu, and an expert Judo player—opened the class, demonstrating basic chokes and strangles (not the same thing). He explained that knowing how to execute chokes would render them much less worrisome for the recipient.
At first everyone looked around, nervously, to see who would volunteer to be the first victim. But, once we started practicing the clear and safe instruction offered by Mike, everyone breathed easier. Next we pulled the mats out and worked anti-choke defenses from the ground. As predicted, key moves using the ground to neutralize chokes boosted confidence, not to mention effectiveness.
A good presentation is made great by clarity and simplicity, and Mike showed a systemized presentation increasing, for teachers as well as students, their knowledge and tactile experience with this valuable martial skill.
Year after year, Narrye Caldwell’s annual Chinese Astrological analysis has been one of our most popular and requested topics. We are happy to once again offer it here.
All Chinese wisdom traditions, including medicine, divination, astrology, and feng shui, are systems of pattern identification that guide us in adapting gracefully to change. A world in flux is assumed; it is the one constant feature of life. Astrology is best viewed as a tool to discern where we are in the shifting cycles of time so we can adjust our expectations accordingly and therefore, from the Chinese point of view, cultivate longevity by not wasting our qi trying to swim against the current.
Last year’s current schooled us all in crisis management as the Fire Monkey’s erratic impulsiveness and dramatic flare produced an unprecedented bit of theater in American politics. Continue reading →
Linking Fist from Adam Hsu’s popular children’s text.
We are happy and proud to teach one of the best beginning Kung Fu forms: Sifu Adam Hsu’s Linking Fist. This combines elements of traditional practice with modern methods of instruction. The entire form is 16 movements with not one repeated. These take you through kicks, punching patterns and crucial stance training. A great beginner’s form!
Today I celebrate fifty years in the martial arts.
It has been long enough now to seem natural that it became my fate or, at least, a “way of life,” as everyone calls it. People ask me what could possibly be the attraction. I have to tell the truth and admit that I always believed that some human activities are as linked to us as the appetites and emotions we consider define a human being. It is true that, through historical changes, the aliens among us have warped some of these foundational approaches. But activities like dance, story-telling, religion, philosophy, love and celebration are all “arts” in ways that pre-date the commodity market we presently call society.
It is true that all too often “the winners write history” suggesting to us that the answers lie in understanding what came before written history. The next great empire will be built on the sands of still unexploited cultures where ancient insights (that really are insights) may be bulldozed beneath the machinery of necessity. It is in times like these we need tend to those things that the future may see as “useless,” things like kindness, contemplation, harmony.
Fifty years is a blink compared to these timeless pursuits.
We couldn’t resist posting this clip here for a number of reasons:
Here, at the biggest Baji Quan (Baji style Kung Fu) convocation in the world, your great-grand teacher, Liu Yun Chiao, is honored with everyone in the hall doing the same exercise we do here at the Academy
The teacher chosen to lead all these students and instructors, many generations of practice, is your grand teacher, Adam Hsu (Hsu Ji).
The front line of this grop is crowded with famous instuctors of this art.
Here, at the Academy, you are part of a hands-on tradition from many generations.
I hope everyone is practicing and having a good time. Many schools go through a re-calibration when the head-instructor is away. But this is actually an important time in martial training, when students are face to face with one another instead of relating through the teacher. I hope the consequence is kindness, cooperation and camaraderie.
I know that this sounds a bit hokey, but it took me a long time to see that harmony—such as I’m talking about—is not just some passionless dream. Harmony requires dynamic rather than static balance. I don’t know that “character” can be trained, but I do know that it exists and often martial practice can reveal its grain and color.
It’s my hope that we get strong enought to remove some armor, rather than just polish it.
Nowadays, everyone seems to want a practice. But the fact that martial arts practice has a path all its own may result in some disappointment to those seeking a casual gym-style experience. Such deep practice can render unexpected results. The art establishes a special relation to the body, leading to some confused feelings. I thought that it might be a benefit for students to recognize some signposts on the journey. Phases like those below do not follow a given sequence but, with the proper amount of practice, they will come.
1.Great Expectations You may find that in the first few months you make strange mixtures of advancement . For instance, you are quite fast but your left hand seems to have its own brain.
2. Bruce Lee Resurrected More permanent progress will occur when you just wake up one morning and discover that, overnight, you have become 300% better than when you turned in. Was it a magical night? Did you drink ancient Shaolin herbal formulas? Martial progress is rarely a straight march. Skills develop at inexplicable moments. Do not to worry about keeping up to the new standard.
Next October, I will celebrate my 50th year in the martial arts.
When I started studying, I had no idea or plan to make this a lifetime practice. I joined up for the same reason a lot of 16 year olds do: I was getting bullied at school and I wanted to learn some self-defense. Wait— you mean it took me 50 years to learn to defend myself? Am I just a slow learner, or did I find something else to keep my interest all these years? Honestly, the answer is “both.”
I had learned all the self-defense moves I’d ever need by the time I was voting age (it was 21 back then;) Continue reading →
Everything starts with basics. And when you are young and/or just beginning a long term study of expertise, whether your taste runs to the piano or the basketball hoop, there is always a sentinel line of basics to be crossed before you get to the “good stuff.”
But the surprise—slow and sometimes disappointingly painful—is that there is no end to the study of basics. When you have learned the most exotic parts of some discipline‑let’s be obvious and say martial arts, for instance—and mastered the strangest weapons, you will put them away, at least for most of the time, and return to basics.
Of course, part of martial arts learning resides in traditional choreographed forms. We at the Academy, take this one step further and teach classical forms for two people (partner routines) such as the San Cai Sword.
In the film clip below, long-lived and famous Muslim Kung Fu teacher Wang Zi Ping instructs some young students in traditional combat, then performs the Golden Dragon Double Sword form that he invented. Enjoy this vintage film.
Rod Oka, long time student here at the Academy, passed away on the third of this month. He had been fighting pancreatic cancer for about a year.
During his time with us he had studied Shaolin and Tai Chi. In both arts he brought a combination of martial spirit and good humored comradeship. He literally raised the spirit of a class just by attending. While training to refine his martial skills, he was a long-time master of puns, funny ideas and questions about how much damage could be done to students other than himself.
Rod was fearless in volunteering his fellows to improve the classes overall knowledge. Many times he would suggest, “Could you show that arm wrench on Harvey (or Robert, or whomever). Being of Japanese ancestry he preferred to be known as “The Craw”, somewhat confusing since Rob spoke perfect English as his first language.
Rod was one of those people who evinces kindness, concern that is as immediate and pure as mountain water. His air of respect for the art, his fellow students and himself was a constant addition to our community.
Speaking for myself, Rod Oka was the kind of student that makes a teacher want to go to class.
I won’t say he will be missed because I think he will be with this school, always.
Traditional kung fu schools are not known for being pretty. Most martial artists can report a long history of working out night after night in basements, garages, parking lots, and warehouses. I taught my first Tai Chi class 30 years ago in a high school cafeteria. My current Tai Chi sword class meets on the basketball court at the park, which we often share with local kids shooting hoops. None of these places would make it into the coffee table books that highlight model feng shui homes—you know the ones, with their cascading water features, peaceful gardens, meandering paths, and elegant front doors. Continue reading →
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