Training tips

October 28, 2008

Beginner’s tip: there is an old saying in Chinese:

一膽,二力,三功夫

“First is bravery, second is strength, and third is kung fu.” What it means varies between people, and in fact, differes between level of understanding. On an abstract level though, it means that the most important thing in a fight is a determined mind, the next most important thing is a strong body, and the final thing is skill. If the mind is unprepared, no amount of strength or skill will suffice. And skill alone will not be effective without strength behind it.

Strength training (功) and skill honing (拳) are both essential to good kung fu. Both must be built up hand-in-hand, slowly, over time. Each style has its own focus, and thus has its own methods of training strength and skill. But at the end of the day, any school that lacks methods for one or the other will not be able to produce well-rounded students.

It is for this exact reason that tai chi is only an exercise when taught to the elderly. Without a strength base, a practitioner simply cannot use it as a martial art. Those who have reached the highest levels of tai chi no longer need their hard power. But in order for the soft internal to manifest its full potential, it must be built on top of the external, just as an arch must be built with the supports below it before the placement of the keystone. To continue with the arch analogy, once the keystone gets placed, the supports can be removed, and finally begins the difficult process of removing both ends, until all that’s left is a circle floating in the air. It’s impossible, but then again, the perfection that a circle represents is impossible as well.

Anyhow, a good training regiment will train both power and skill. After learning the ways and methods, developing a routine that would balance the two is the most important thing for a beginner to establish. And establishing a good routine is as essential as establishing a good base.

Some Updates

September 29, 2008

I updated the cast of characters page to reflect some of the new students who have joined PKFS, and to fill in some of the blanks for SKFS and OKFS.

Also, there’s quite a bit of drama waiting to happen at PKFS involving some of the new students, and I wouldn’t be able to talk about it without an updated list of names. Over the past two or so years, Pug has assembled her own little clique among the girls in the school. I’ve long had the feeling that it’s a firecracker just waiting for a spark to ignite it. With Sparky’s recent inclusion into the clique, I have a bad feeling about it all. I’m not going to make baseless accusations; it could just end up being a stupid high school thing despite almost all of the women being well beyond the high school phase. But I’ve seen some disturbing behavior coming from some of the other members over the past several days in response to an incident between Sparky and Shorty. I guess I’ll just have to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

I just realized my post “Green Bamboo Snake” is gone. I wrote it up, hit “publish” and it isn’t that the action didn’t go through, but the post got into the system with no content. This sucks.

I Remembered

September 28, 2008

So I remembered what I was going to say in the post titled “Green Bamboo Snake.” Actually, I remembered the event that I described in the opening paragraph, and from there, it was just a matter of filling in the blanks. The entirety of the post is below.

What I said might appear misogynist, but if recognizing and acknowledging the differences between men and women, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of both, is considered misogynist, then I guess that’s what I am. Of course, the only people who’d complain are women, and as I’ve said, they’re irrational and emotional.

Now, if only I can find time to complete the remaining post I have in the works…

Green Bamboo Snake

September 28, 2008

Over the years, many pieces of what some may consider kung fu gossip has reached my ears. I recently saw CDG and CPG on the busy streets of Chinatown and having nothing to do that particular afternoon, struck up a conversation with them. Because both CDG and CPG are closely involved in the recently-formed loose kung fu community whose members span probably a score or two schools in the New York metro area, I was privvy to several interesting pieces of gossip. I won’t reiterate it here, since most of it is old history–water under the bridge–for those people involved, and I’m not about to bring up old wounds for no reason in particular.

One of the stories did strike a particular chord with me. Before I continue, I must explain several things relevant to the story not immediately apparent. Traditional holds that each kung fu lineage–each pai–has one and only one designated successor. That is to say, the current master picks the next master of the style. There is no rule that says that the current master has to pick the best of his students, and it is often the case that, for a variety of reasons, the master passes over the best for someone he feels more appropriate. Perhaps the best student does not have the entirety of the system, or perhaps the best student is not well suited or unwilling to be the next in line. Regardless of whom, once this person is chosen, the other students are left to their own devices. Some will stay and help train the next generation of students. Others will leave, but without permission from the head of the system, they would be unable to open a school under the style’s name.

The question of succession thus creates a great amount of politics. Many of the students will vie for the position, and once a successor is chosen, the other leading candidates might secede from the system in disgust or challenge the chosen successor. The particular story that piqued my interest concerns the former.

It is a common joke among martial arts masters that the real master is the wife. It is something I have heard time and again. The wives, having a control of their husband’s ears (among other things) in bed, are the most influential people in the school. I don’t mean to be sexist, but at the heart of the particular story is not the students themselves, but the wives of the students whose whispers resulted in the breaking of a long friendship and the falling out between two top students, splitting the remaining practitioners of the style into two camps.

A smart master does not share the intricate happenings of the school with his wife. Masters often do not bring their wives to the school. There are notable execeptions, and there continue to be, especially when the wife is a master herself. However–and this applies for both sexes–people outside the martial arts world at best have a very cursury understanding of it, its rules and etiquette, and its normal practices. To put it simply, they should not interfere. The worst offender is the spouse, and typically the wife, from which speculation and gossip enter the ears of the master. Husbands tend not to be so interested in the dealings of their wife if the wife happens to be the master.

Women are, for the most part, irrational and emotional. It is what makes them so mysterious to men, and hence appealing and exotic. The old saying is that behind every successful man is a woman. There is a great deal of truth in this proverb. The strength of the woman behind the man is directly correlated to the success of the man. Women are men’s greatest strength and subsequently their greatest weakness. A petty woman will utterly destroy her man as quickly as a generous one would make him. Worse yet, a petty or even weak woman without a strong man to temper her will end up destroying her children.

I can hear the cries of sexism now, that women love their children and would do everything to protect them. That is, of course, the problem. Women, being irrational and emotional, have a tendency to be overprotective. Their children then either end up thinking the entire world is full of scary monsters, or not being able to do anything without the assistance and approval of mommy. It is a very unfortunate fact that overprotection in the United States has resulted in the lawsuit-happy, politically-correct, everybody-is-equal mentality among everyone. For example, in the old days, disagreements were settled with fists if they could not be settled with words. Today, they are settled in court, an obvious appeal to a higher authority, that being the government in this case.

In effect, children who are unable to act for themselves, think for themselves, learn for themselves, are destroyed human beings. They no longer hold the essence of humanity, which is the unlimited potential to be and do anything. Instead, they are drones, robots, churned out by an assembly line. Nothing new would be created, nothing amazing or inspiring would be accomplished, because these things involve risk, and success in such endevours require failure beforehand.

But I digress. At the same time, a strong woman, generous and intelligent, will nurture her children to greatness. And for everyone else, hopefully, there is a strong man in the family who will temper the whims of the woman.

Anyhow, my point is, women are not subject to the unspoken rules and etiquette of men. And thus they are able to achieve things men simply cannot. They can show weakness because they are expected to be weak, while a man would be ripped apart by his peers and even by other women for the same actions. At the same time, as much good as they can do with their powers, they can also do wrong, often by convincing the man that he is not subject to the rules and etiquette, and hence should break them.

I end with this poem:

青竹蛇兒口
黃蜂尾後針
兩般皆不毒
最毒婦人心

which roughly translates into: “The green bamboo snake’s mouth and the bee’s venom combined are not venomous compared to the heart of a man’s wife.”

A few words of advice.

September 19, 2008

It seems mildly ironic that I only have the time for this on days I don’t go to kung fu.

The economy has recently taken a dive that people are comparing with the Great Depression of the 1920’s and 1930’s. In my opinion, this is merely the chickens coming home to roost. I maintain that the past half-decade or so of unprecedented economic growth was artificially created by Bush and his cronies to cover up the daily economic loss from the war in Iraq. Three billion dollars a day gets spent on the Iraq war. That three billion comes in the form of loans from other countries, Russia, China, Japan, etc. The US populace will eventually have to pay it off, but more importantly, it means that the federal government is bankrupt, that like the people who max out their credit cards only to see their monthly earnings go back to paying it off, the nation is already broke. Worse yet, because there’s been a trade deficit all these years, not only has the nation been flat out broke, but presumably has been unemployed and spending borrowed money on entertainment.

So this is the chickens come home to roost. That’s what the people get for their failure to elect a good president. That’s what they get for their negligence, their ambivalence, their boneheadness, their ridiculous notion that belief alone could somehow bring about prosperity. Intelligent people are defecting from the Republican party left and right. Anyone with any smarts is leaving Bush and McCain. If only they had done so four–no, eight years ago. The golden age might have lasted longer, and the fall might have been a little less spectacular and a little more gradual. Americans, this is your fault. It’s just too bad that the rest of the world has to suffer along with you. If McCain becomes president, I’m certain people will be scrambling to put as much distance between them and the US as possible, leaving the trash behind to rot in their own handmade beds of shit.

Along the same lines, Obama needs catchy one-liners to promote in the so-called “red” states. Slap a video of people chanting the phrase, or splice together footage of some famous politician saying it, and it will grab people’s attention. This is because the majority of the people there are idiots, and if he advertises a slogan–any slogan–enough, they will start repeating it if only subconsciously. Mix these quick 15-second catch-phrase ads with the more traditional ads about issues in the battleground states and he’ll be sure to win them. To that end, I submit the following phrases/ads for somebody, anybody:

  • Start with Bush’s “Fool me once” gaffe, and punctuate with the line, “Don’t get fooled again!”
  • Show the Republican ads or footage from the 2004 race that say, “Four more years!”
  • “John McCain is more of the same!”
  • “A vote against Obama is a vote for Bush!”
  • (along the same lines)”Don’t vote for Bush. Vote for Obama!”
  • Show Obama fixing up household problems (e.g. cut electricity and have him be the solar-panel installation guy, or flooding in the basement and have him be the plumber), and end with him saying, “You can count on me to fix it.”

Edit: Spelling and grammar. Note to self: don’t publish first drafts.

A Different Kind of Balance.

September 9, 2008

Beginner’s tip: it’s important to practice the left and right side such that the right is equally as strong as the left. Righties should practice their left side more, and lefties should practice their right side more. But being right or left dominant is more than just getting used to the motions of a particular side. The transitions on boths sides should become equally as smooth. This means one has to effectively become ambidextrous, by training the weaker side of the brain to be as strong as the strong side.

I think Obama’s minor slip up wouldn’t be such a big deal if it didn’t have to do with religion, and the other religion wasn’t Islam. If he had slipped up saying he was a Jew, people would’ve probably just laughed at him. Regardless, such slip ups are commonplace for people when they are so focused on a particular idea that it comes out in the middle of talking, usually in such a way as to make sense, but not convey the right message. I have a tendency to do this a lot, and so he has my empathy.

In Brief…

September 8, 2008

I’ve created a new Lego category. It’s important, because I think I mention Lego a lot, and without its own category, that bit sort of falls through the cracks.

Also, I’ve begun retroactivelly tagging my old stuff. I seriously am not interested in rereading what I’ve written, but I realize I might have left a few things hanging, and I think I need to wrap those up properly. That’s it for now.