martial arts rant pt 2

By the way, one of the most profound things said to me in recent years was by this artist we had the chance of meeting a few years back when picking up a painting.

He was finishing his degree and going back to school in his forties. He was reflecting on the students in the class, who when posed a question had an insatiable desire to answer the question. And to be right. When really the professors often asked open-ended questions as well as questions where folks just don’t know the outcome. There may not be one. If there is one it might not always be the answer. Who knows. Point being, no one, he felt, could really sit with the silence of considering the question.

Anyway, this artist identified the driving emotion behind these incessant questions as fear, namely fear of the unknown and said, “Isn’t it great when you don’t know?”

Isn’t it great when you don’t have the answer?

 

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martial arts rant

I love exploring martial arts. Love doing it, seeing it, learning about it, reading about it, etc. and then every so often I read comments that make my blood boil. About the utility of Move X or Style Y, etc. I hate it. It takes all the fun out of it for me. I realize that this is just some folks way of processing and I know I’m not exempt. I just wonder if we can take a second to turn off the analyzing parts of our brains for two minutes to enjoy.

The more I become exposed to, the less I’m convinced that the practice of martial arts is very practical. Not to say that you couldn’t use some of the mindset and techniques learned in emergency situations. I’m just sick of reading through the commentary where long or short time practioners seem to either ask “gotcha” questions or “sell me on it” questions. So not interested in that because I feel like the person asking the question usually has their own ideas formulated anyway. They just want to see your thought process of rationalization of your own perspective. Stupid. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

This is the same in other realms. It doesn’t have to be martial arts. It seems like if folks can’t find an immediate “purpose” for doing something that goes beyond it being enjoyable, they think it’s useless. Can we not have joy in our lives anymore? If it doesn’t meet some other requirement do we throw it to the way side? 

I see these requests for a justification on why incorporate X. Why can’t you answer your own question by experimenting and exploring a little bit? What does it do for YOU? Not asking everyone including your teacher for their opinion. It’s not even a good discussion topic. Isn’t it always generally good to learn as much as possible?

I know I need to increase my tolerance for these type of questions and responses. But I sort of feel as a teacher, guide, and mentor, it’s not necessarily your responsibility to be the hype woman or man for your area of knowledge. I do believe that people feel called and compelled to explore various things and that whole saying about the teacher appearing when ready. So why push and force the process?

Of course, I have times of being impatient towards the process as well. I sometimes ask things that are so open ended and yet esoteric, that if my teachers and guides have responded to me it’s usually disappointing and at very best sobering. You know it’s funny, but recently I was describing my tendency to do this not with just martial arts, but in life, and the lady I was speaking to said, “but you’ll never know! Not really anyway.” And she said it with such joy that I felt like, huh you’re right, it’s it refreshing to not have an answer? 

I think not knowing, FOMO, and imposter syndrome are very real things that prevent us from doing a lot. I play goalie with myself on questions and putting stuff out there all the time. Perhaps to a fault because I realize later while ranting that I actually have a lot to say about a given subject. Maybe the frustration comes from inherently knowing how frusrating it is to be in the dark and how you sometimes want to latch onto anything in order to make it seem more certain.

What if instead of spending hours, days, months, years justifying and analyzing and trying to map out everything, what if you just did and learned by doing it? Maybe this doesn’t apply to everything but I always feel like there’s baby steps you can do that turn out to be explorations themselves. And then if we were all gradually taking small steps towards figuring shit out, what would our questions and conversations look like then?

Modifications to the Kung Fu Boot Camp Workout

Okay, so something totally amazing happened…

Someone actually tried my workout out and gave me feedback!!

WHAT.

So, obviously, I’m excited about that because she gave really great feedback too. Here’s the revised Kung Fu Boot Camp Workout with these modifications in mind.

Warm-Up Stretch — hold with micro extensions where possible for 3 breaths each

  • Laughing Buddha (cactus arms)
  1. back bend
  2. Side bends (R & L)
  3. Forward bend
  • Horse Stance
  1. Hands behind head, stretch opposite elbow to outside knee (R & L)
  • Bow Stance (warrior)
  1. Extend (R & L)

Shake it out

Cardio Warm-up 

  1. 20 double jump-squats with hands raised above head, then touch down to floor on the bend (as a modification, you could do 20 horse stance flat foot squats)
  2. 10 push-ups (modify on knees if needed)
  3. 10 alternating bridge kicks
  • Lay on back with knees bent and push up hips into bridge while kicking leg out and away, then lower down. Alternate kicking legs.

4. 10 bridge throws

  • Push up into bridge position and stretch arm and hand across to opposite shoulder to touch floor as if throwing someone off you. Alternate arm touches.

If bridge kicks and throws are too hard, replace with 10-20 bridges

5. 10 sit-ups with cross punches

  • Keep non-punching arm in guard by head for punches. Extend punching arm across outside of  the opposite knee. Alternate to other side.

Second Stretch and Loosening  — hold for 3 breaths on each posture with micro extensions where possible

  1. Center splits
  • Stretch forward
  • Right
  • Left

2. Butterfly

Stand for joint mobilizations — 3 full rotations one way and then the opposite direction

  1. Hip circles
  2. Lift leg rotate hip/leg in circle L
  3. Knee circles L
  4. Ankle circles L
  5. Toe grasp L (like you’re trying to pick up something on the ground with your toes) x 3
  6. Repeat 2-5 on the R
  7. Shoulder circles L
  8. Elbow circles L
  9. Wrist circles L
  10. Finger grasp L (like squeezing dough) x 3
  11. Repeat 7-10 on the R
  12. Neck circles
  13. Neck No (look R then L like shaking head No)
  14. Neck Yes (look up then down, like shaking head Yes)
  15. Neck ear to shoulder (bend neck to bring ear to shoulder, alternate)
  16. Face
  • Roll eyes, look RL/up-down/diagonally up/diagonally down
  • Scrunch face , open wide

Shake it out

Striking Practice 

Take a fighting/sparring stance with feet a little more than shoulder width apart front and back, side to side. Knees gently bend. I start with left leg forward. Hands are in guard.

  • Jab L x 10
  • Cross R x 10
  • Jab-Cross X 10
  • Elbow L x 10
  • Backfist L x 10
  • Elbow-backlist x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side with right leg forward

Kicking Practice

  • Knees R x 10
  • Knees L x 10
  • Front Snap on RL, start slow breaking movement into knee and extension x 10, then fast coordinated movements x 10
  • Side Thrust x 10 RL
  • Round House x 10 RL, make sure to take a step out at an angle with standing legend throw arm back on same side as kicking leg
  • Combo: Knee-front kick, knee-side thrust, knee-step-roundhouse x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side

Combo Practice

  • Jab L, Cross R, crouch/duck, step L, Roundhouse R. Do this slow x 5 and fast x5.
  • Switch sides
  • 1 minute each side

Break – 1 minute

Form Practice – Tiger

  • Start slow move by move
  • Modify jumps to kicks if needed
  • Repeat and practice broken down combos-sequences
  • Put it all together and practice gradually gaining speed

Last Cardio Blast

  • 10 burpees
  • Front Snap Kicks x 10
  • Alternating Tiger Palm Thrusts in Horse Stance x 50 (ideally with yell on last 20)

Cool-Down

  • 1 minute deep breathing/visualization

 

Other Ideas

Shorter Total Time

So, for a 30 minute workout, you could do the pretty much do everything before the combo practice and skip that, tiger, and the cardio at the end and go to the last deep breathing minute/visualization. You could probably take out a lot of the joint loosening and mobilizations too, leaving yourself with just neck circles, hip circles, and arm circles. Though if you’ve been feeling really tight, I’d recommend doing those mobilizations at some point. I know it’s weird but the eye stuff and face stretches help a lot if you spend a lot of time behind a computer/looking at screens, or if you don’t blink enough. Trust me, it’s a thing.

For 15 minutes you could do the warm-up stretches and the cardio blast at the beginning and call it a day. Maybe reduce the number of bridges to one set of either one of those bridge variations or just bridge itself.

Partner Work

My friend had some good feedback that the combos, striking and kicking practice are really good to do into the bag. I absolutely wholeheartedly agree with this and it would be SUCH a good work out. I guess I would just say if you and your partner haven’t worked with pads, that might be something to take a class in. Like perhaps go to a muay thai class. Working into pads would totally increase the intensity of this workout, however, so go slow before you go fast.

All right! Well, that’s it for now, so enjoy and let me know how this worked for you!

Maybe I Said Too Much!

So, in my last post, I was just having some fun and thinking, “oh hey, you could do a little 10 minute tiger-inspired internal practice too”, so I made one up. It’s towards the bottom of the post. Then, I was musing that I feel like you could practice this after a hard workout, now I’m having this internal debate. Oh wow, bad pun…

Okay, so first of all, I suppose I should clarify that by “tiger-inspired” I just meant that the names of some of the postures or movements are named after tigers. I have no clue whether tiger external stuff relates to tiger internal stuff and what tiger spirit is to begin with. Maybe confidence and stealth, I guess? That’s what I think of with tigers.

But then, I was like, oh, this little internal practice thing I made is pretty good. Like for me, I actually get a lot out of it. I don’t get any more out of it than other practices I do, but it is kinda fun to try things that aren’t currently in my repertoire.

I feel like maybe I implied it’s better to practice after an intense workout in my last post though and I think all I really mean to say is that when I’ve tried it out, it sometimes is easier for me to relax a little bit more because it’s such a different feeling than exerting, extending, flexing, etc. I just like that I can distinguish the contrast a bit more sometimes and being so tired, I am in this mode where I really don’t want to have to work hard anymore anyway, so I feel like it’s kind of a treat to be able to relax.

But yeah, hope folks know you can do internal energy cultivation practices anytime, anywhere, and with a couple focal points it really doesn’t matter because if you’re doing it right (and enough over time), you’ll feel something.

I think that’s maybe clearer??

Maybe like mud haha!

My “draft” Kung Fu Bootcamp workout

I’ve been my own Guinea pig lately with some of the martial arts based classes I’ve been constructing. So far it’s been going well and I have a rough template for each one I want to present to beginner audiences with broad experience with fitness and perhaps limited exposure to martial arts.

The program I tried the other day was for a Kung Fu Boot Camp. The class is designed as a cardio workout that also builds your confidence and spirit. I figured it’d be cool for corporate groups or team building situations where you want a one-off “feel the burn” type of experience. So I definitely had been feeling it during the workout since I’d been mainly doing Ashtanga yoga  lately(also badass and hard, but in a different way). I hadn’t been doing as many explosive jumps, kicks, and strikes — which is a whole nother animal. Woo! So hard. I’ve been feeling it during the last 2 days in my hammies and hips especially.

Anyway, if you’d like to try it out and let me know what you think, that’d be great! Below are the notes for the 60 minute program, but you could easily modify this to 30 minutes and I will also offer some suggestions for a 15 minute program too. Granted the notes below are incomplete in that at the very least, you would want someone to show you the tiger form, but you could always skip that or add your own form to the end. I would also say while I thought this was hard, there are probably some serious athletes who would have no problems with this. And in that case, that’s cool, you’re probably beyond the scope of what I can provide.

Btw, this program below and all my thoughts are just that,guys. You should obviously talk to your doctor and get a good teacher and do all those kinds of things to protect yourself before attempting any of this stuff. You know yourself and your body best.

Put on your favorite high energy music or enjoy the pure sounds of silence/nature/traffic, etc. whatever suits your fancy!

Warm-Up Stretch — hold with micro extensions where possible for 3 breaths each

  • Laughing Buddha (cactus arms)
  1. back bend
  2. Side bends (R & L)
  3. Forward bend
  • Horse Stance
  1. Hands behind head, stretch opposite elbow to outside knee (R & L)
  • Bow Stance (warrior)
  1. Extend (R & L)

Shake it out

Cardio Warm-up — do this sequence below twice

  1. 20 double jump-squats with hands raised above head, then touch down to floor on the bend (as a modification, you could do 20 horse stance flat foot squats)
  2. 10 push-ups (modify on knees if needed)
  3. 10 alternating bridge kicks
  • Lay on back with knees bent and push up hips into bridge while kicking leg out and away, then lower down. Alternate kicking legs.

4. 10 bridge throws

  • Push up into bridge position and stretch arm and hand across to opposite shoulder to touch floor as if throwing someone off you. Alternate arm touches.

5. 10 sit-ups with cross punches

  • Keep non-punching arm in guard by head for punches. Extend punching arm across outside of  the opposite knee. Alternate to other side.

Second Stretch and Loosening  — hold for 3 breaths on each posture with micro extensions where possible

  1. Center splits
  • Stretch forward
  • Right
  • Left

2. Butterfly

Stand for joint mobilizations — 3 full rotations one way and then the opposite direction

  1. Hip circles
  2. Lift leg rotate hip/leg in circle L
  3. Knee circles L
  4. Ankle circles L
  5. Toe grasp L (like you’re trying to pick up something on the ground with your toes) x 3
  6. Repeat 2-5 on the R
  7. Shoulder circles L
  8. Elbow circles L
  9. Wrist circles L
  10. Finger grasp L (like squeezing dough) x 3
  11. Repeat 7-10 on the R
  12. Neck circles
  13. Neck No (look R then L like shaking head No)
  14. Neck Yes (look up then down, like shaking head Yes)
  15. Neck ear to shoulder (bend neck to bring ear to shoulder, alternate)
  16. Face
  • Roll eyes, look RL/up-down/diagonally up/diagonally down
  • Scrunch face , open wide

Shake it out

Striking Practice 

Take a fighting/sparring stance with feet a little more than shoulder width apart front and back, side to side. Knees gently bend. I start with left leg forward. Hands are in guard.

  • Jab L x 10
  • Cross R x 10
  • Jab-Cross X 10
  • Hook L x 10
  • Uppercut x 10
  • Hook-uppercut x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side with right leg forward
  • Switch back to left leg forward
  • Elbow L x 10
  • Backfist L x 10
  • Elbow-backlist x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side

Kicking Practice

  • Knees R x 10
  • Knees L x 10
  • Front Snap on RL, start slow breaking movement into knee and extension x 10, then fast coordinated movements x 10
  • Side Thrust x 10 R then L
  • Round House x 10 RL, make sure to take a step out at an angle with standing legend throw arm back on same side as kicking leg
  • Combo:
  • Knee-front kick, knee-side thrust, knee-step-roundhouse x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side

Combo Practice

  • Jab L, Cross R, crouch/duck, step L, Roundhouse R. Do this slow x 5 and fast x5.
  • Switch sides
  • 1 minute each side

Intermediate Technique Practice

  • Double front snap kick x 10 RL
  • To modify without a jump, front snap kick R followed by front snap kick left x 10.
  • Change sides.

Break – 1 minute

Form Practice – Tiger

  • Start slow move by move
  • Modify jumps to kicks if needed
  • Repeat and practice broken down combos-sequences
  • Put it all together and practice gradually gaining speed

Last cardio blast

  • 10 burpees
  • Front Snap Kicks x 10
  • Alternating Tiger Palm Thrusts in Horse Stance x 50

Cool-Down

  • 1 minute deep breathing/visualization


This whole thing should take 60 minutes depending on how long you repeat the tiger form. I would recommend at least 3 times, slow, medium with combos broken down, and then fast. Notes on the form are available in this book, though if you haven’t seen it in person, it’s not going to do much for you. I suppose the same could be said of the striking and kicking. You really do need a good teacher so that you don’t hurt yourself.

If I wasn’t teaching this to total beginners and was doing this for myself, I personally would supplement this with two tiger xingyi fists presented here after finishing this whole program. Not that it matters when you practice internal, but if you were in the mood you could add a 10 minute internal practice that’s sorta tiger related, listed below. I would just keep in mind that while it may look simple it’s actually really advanced and you won’t get internal results if you approach the internal practice below with the same mindset or training goals as the boot camp above. Totally different things. But here’s an idea of something using drills from my teacher’s books.

Some “Tiger-y” Internal Ideas

  1. Quiet standing – 1 min
  2. Santi inner activation (See Aiki Singularity or Tanden Revolution) R and L – 1 min each side
  3. Tiger 1 xingyi (see video linked above) – maybe 4 or 5 steps turn around and do the same thing x 4
  4. Tiger 2 yi quan (see this video) – 1 min each side
  5. Xingyi tiger’s mouth quiet standing – 1 min
  6. Quiet standing with straight wrists – 1 min

This would take about 10 minutes and help you to feel and cultivate internal energy (if you do it the way my teacher lays it out). I really agree with him that you really need to separate in your mind how you approach these two very different practices. Each can teach you something useful, but it’s super different. In fact maybe you don’t want to practice internal forms after doing something so physically inclined like the beginner tiger form referenced above.

But I will say that SOMETIMES, for me personally, because you are so physically tired after doing an intense physical workout when you can fully switch over to “internal mode”, so not using a  lot of physical force or tension and relaxing fully and consciously, I sometimes get a more pronounced internal experience. I’m not sure if this would work for everyone, but a couple students at the old kung fu school did get results that way too. More on that in a future post perhaps. I’d better stop now before I accidentally mislead people!

Anyway, for now, just enjoy the workout program. Probably past students will be able to get the most use out of it. Let me know what you think if you try it and if it is too hard, let me know so I can make modifications.