Shoveling Snow can be training too!

When it snows out, many people complain that they will have to shovel. They say that their backs hurt and that it’s exhausting. Well, we’re getting hit with a snowstorm right now. I, personally, look forward to it!

Why? Because, as a kung fu practitioner, I no longer look for the easy way out. I like the challenge. I like the hard work. My shoveling job isn’t small by any means. It’s about 70 feet across the front of the house for the sidewalk, 40 feet down the path to the front door, and another 80 feet from the street to the garage. It will probably take me over an hour of shoveling if there is a foot of snow. But how can we make this into more than exercise?

We can turn shoveling into exercise by using our foundation and using movements from our staff or spear training. The mabu and gung bu stances are going to be essential. Thrust and “bong” will be utilized. White bird and black bird will also be used with every shovelful. What are these? Well that will take a lot of explanation…

Starting off, hold the shovel like a staff. Place one hand on the rear, and another about three feet away from the rear. Step into gung bu and thrust the head of the shovel into the snow. Then to lift, sink into your ma bu stance, and “bong,” by shoving the rear hand down, while simultaneously “white birding” (which means curling your wrist toward you). This will flick the snow behind you and to your side. Repeat, and switch sides often.

By shoveling like this, it will actually save your back, while strengthening the muscles we use in Kung Fu. It will also reinforce your stances, of gung bu and ma bu. It will further increase your coordination of your arms and legs when you flick the snow to the side. I hope you give it a try!

I will be looking to post video or images of this soon!

Essential Skills of a Kung Fu Teacher

A lot of people watched “Karate Kid” movie before, and saw Jackie Chan taught Jaden Smith to repeat a simple movement many, many times, so they probably think Kung Fu teaching is a physical repetition method. After being a black belt for two years, I started to learn how to teach, I found out Kung Fu teaching is not just training physical movement. It emphasizes moral development as well as physical training, stressing values like respect, courage, tolerance, and reverence for life.

The very nature of Kung Fu training is a long process of character building. Wholesome qualities like endurance, perseverance, discipline, loyalty, and a calm disposition are prerequisites for progress, especially at higher levels. All these qualities, acquired through Kung Fu training, are transferable to daily life. Kung Fu skill is not the only qualification to become an effective Kung Fu instructor. You need to have many other skills to teach besides technique; for example: observation and communication. Since everyone knows technique is a very important component of being an instructor, I will emphasize the importance of observation and communication at following paragraphs.

I would discuss observation first, I think it is a key component of teaching and will help me to know a student better before teaching him/her. Since students are come from different backgrounds and have their own experiences, observing without judgment or action can let me find a better approach with them. This also will keep my mind open, and gain more useful information and feed back of what I am teaching. For example, when a student is doing incorrectly on a stance, I should look into the reason “why.” If it is because the person does not understand the meaning or usage, I should explain that in more detail on the stance. If it is caused by his or her own body’s ability, I should look for an adjustment on the stance that will allow for gradual improvement, such as a higher “Pu Tuei”. Observing other instructors’ teaching styles will help me to gain more knowledge and experience. In order to do it, I just come to assist other instructors’ classes, and listen and watch how they are handling the class.

Effective communication when teaching martial arts is paramount to ensure the message is received and understood by the receiver in the manner that the sender intended it to be. This is especially important in martial arts as the information is often technical and complex and involves a large group of people. Communication of teaching martial arts is both verbal and nonverbal. Verbal communication skills are: speaking slowly, clearly and with confidence, and at the level of your audience, changing the pitch and volume of your voice to emphasis key points and having brief periods of pausing when communicating. Effective body language is the nonverbal communication, which can help more of what we are teaching. Examples of body language include: Eye contact, Feet apart, Uncrossed legs, Smile/laugh appropriately, and affirmative head nods.

I am still missing many other important aspects in teaching, some of which I am not aware. Therefore, I will keep learning from instructors, peers and students, so it can improve my experience and help to me to contribute my knowledge back to the school.

Instructor YiFan Zhou

My continuing journey at Wu Tang Kung Fu

From my last essay, my journey has just begun. All that I had learned before I became a black was a tune up for what I would be learning. Being A Black Belt in our school means a lot to me. It means that you had to sacrifice so much and pay your dues to be considered one of the best. That doesn’t mean that you have to stop learning and just think of yourself as being too good. You are expected to improve spiritually and physically in all aspects of your kung-fu life. I look at my two masters Alex Chang and David Chiang and I am amazed at how hard they work and it inspires me to work as hard and even harder. I did a lot of soul searching and endless nights thinking of what I wanted to do and how was I to be portrayed as a martial artist. What I learned is that there is so many things to learn but I don’t have the time to do it all. So I will choose those forms that can help me become better and stronger. I realized that not only knowing forms is important, but also the applications that goes in to every form I have learned. So now, I go back and retake another look at these forms and make it my own. It will take to another direction a better outlook on forms in general.

Then the Baji class started and I thought that I could never do this. I saw what the other Black belts did when I was a yellow belt, at that time I just wanted to survive. But Master Alex was teaching and I was comfortable with him. Having done Bagua with him for three years, my mind was at ease. I knew it was going to be hard but I was prepared to take a new challenge. Alex taught us a lot how to deliver power from any direction or stance you are in. It comes down to breathing and bringing the chi to the point of contact. With breathing you must also fix your structure–because with a perfect stance you can overcome almost any situation. I knew that my stance needed work and didn’t know how to fix it, but in this class I found my answer. Now its up to me to work on it and improve myself in all aspects of kung-fu.

The most important things that I have learned after earning my black belt are breathing and structure. Now it’s my goal is to fix them and do the best that I can. There is no need to learn too many forms. There are not enough hours in a day to practice everything. I don’t want to one of those guys that learn so many forms but have no substance. I want to be better than anything else right now and everything will take care of itself. I want my peers to consider me to be a martial artist, not a novice. It is important to me for all you guys to think of me as an artist not a person who just do forms.

Then something else came into my lap. I started to be an assistant instructor with Taison Okai on Friday nights. I saw a different side of myself– I wanted to teach and I found out that I enjoyed it. I saw how those kids were doing and it got me upset. There was chaos in the class and nothing was being done right. So Taison and I took it upon ourselves to change the astmosphere in the school. We made a conscious effort to put discipline into all the kids. We made structure a key role in our approach and following orders a must. This is a place of learning not a playground; you come to kung fu to learn. We can throw some fun in once in a while but the key point is skills. When I was offered to take over the Sunday class I was honored and scared. It was a big responsibility and I didn’t want to let my Masters down and myself.

In teaching I saw many different things. I saw all my faults that I had when I was starting off. I saw all my stances were wrong, my movement was not correct, and my approach where I had the will was lacking. I learned that all those kids have different personalities and needs. Each comes here for different reasons and must be treated as such. I see those who have the heart of warriors and dragons, and those who don’t have natural ability give it their all. I also had seen those who are here just to waste time, no matter how hard you try. I also found out how to manage time and the situations. I learned how to devote time to those whom need my attention and those who don’t. My approach to teaching is quite simple, I need them to concentrate on what they are doing and give it their best. They don’t have to be perfect the first time out, but learn from their mistakes and get better the next time. I want to see all these kids become black belts one day and be much more than what they are now. I will give it my all until they don’t need me more.

Thank You
Instructor Patrick Jurakhan

Teaching – It is another form of learning

Teaching is one of those subjects where there is an entire canon of literature, and yet you will never learn anything if you don’t do it yourself.

Teaching at Wu Tang for me has been a journey, and I have only been teaching for about a year. Of course, there are things I learned along the way on how to teach, but what has really fascinated me is the concept of teaching and how it affects the teacher himself.
I have always had the highest respect for people who do something for the course of their entire lifetime. To me that signals that that they have a love of the activity, and at the same time that they are still getting something valuable out of it. The fundamental question that I have been asking myself is – what makes a teacher want to teach for the rest of his life, and not get frustrated and quit somewhere along the way?

You see, when I first started teaching, I enjoyed it because it was something new, novel and different. But then as time goes on, there are always frustrations and obstacles that a new teacher has to deal with. Why isn’t my class behaving better? Why are they not improving like I want them to? How do I make them want to learn? And what in God’s name do I do with the problem students who never seem to want to do anything you tell them to?

I felt as if I was chipping away at a brick wall or as if I was lost in a maze and I didn’t have a blueprint to get out. I would go to class and try my best, but then I had no clue if it was working, nor what the right teaching method was. It was times like this that I felt like teaching class was a burden, and something that I felt obligated to do just because others (students, other instructors, etc.) were relying on me.

Then Master David Chiang brought it to my attention that teacher’s should be getting something out of the experience as well. That’s when I realized that a teacher is in reality a student, in every aspect of the word except for the label. If a student is frustrated and can’t improve, he will quit – if a teacher is frustrated and can’t improve his class, he will quit. If a student doesn’t learn anything, he will get bored and become demotivated – if a teacher doesn’t learn anything, he will only follow the routines of the class. If a student is afraid to make mistakes, he will never get better – if a teacher never makes mistakes by trying out new things, he will never be a better teacher.

It is funny, because in Chinese martial arts, we hold teachers in high regard (as we should). However, we forget that the transition from student to teacher is not a binary one. A new teacher has to make mistakes, a new teacher has to have guidance, because in reality he is still a student learning something – the subject matter may be a bit different, but the same concepts of motivation for a student apply for the teacher as well. In fact, there are many times where I would have given up teaching if I hadn’t been given guidance from others (and I’ve only been doing it for less than a year).

I like to think that the teacher and student are both walking along the same path – only the teacher is a few steps ahead of the student. However, if the teacher isn’t constantly learning, isn’t exploring, isn’t motivated like the student is motivated, the relationship between student and teacher is a dying one. Because the student isn’t following somebody who is dynamic, who is constantly growing and evolving.

I think the point of this essay is to just to emphasize that being a teacher is actually multi-dimensional. If teaching is important to us, then we will need to maintain our desire and motivate to teach. And in order to do that, we may need to go back to being students again. In the same vein, when we train new teachers and introduce them to teaching, we must understand that we have to treat them as new students – have to give them guidance, encouragement, motivation, and feedback. And I’m pretty sure that even somebody as skilled as GrandMaster Marlon Ma still views himself as a student of the art.

Sifu Robert Kuan

The Wu Tang Approach To Teaching Kung Fu

In the Wu Tang Martial Arts system, our instructors do not just train people to become elite fighters, but turn them into the future leaders and teachers. Without knowing how to teach, you will never understand your techniques. If you cannot explain when, why, and how a movement is used, then you do not understand all aspects of the movement yourself. Therefore, in order to fully comprehend all physical and cognitive aspects or martial arts, one must teach.

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