“Dojo Rat”

May 18, 2010

Received an email from a gentleman, John Titus, who runs a blog named “Dojo Rat”…… click here.

I browsed this a little and …. really… nice….

But what is with the “rat” ???

And now, a Taiwan documentary reporting on the past and present status of traditional CKF; I recommend this to anyone interested in the migration and evolution of TCKF after leaving the motherland…..

Back in 2007 when we did our TCMA gathering in Penang, I had Singing Crane teacher Ruan Dong (Changle China), Feeding Crane teacher Liu Chang I (Taiwan), Wuzu teacher Xiong De Lu (Sibu Sarawak) and Taizu teacher Teo Choon Teck (Singapore) for breakfast the morning before the event and the same topic was discussed.

Comparing notes on how the various Fukien/Fuzhou styles progressed after leaving China and interestingly, this Taiwanese documentary theme parallel what we observed that morning.

The ups and downs of TCMA in Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore went through an almost similar pattern…..

Many are suggesting that the future of TCMA lies with Sanda; getting exponents from diverse styles to agree to a standardized set of rules and compete; like the Lei Tais of old without the “kill”.

Select and stipulate traditional forms for competition was another idea tossed around.

I got to admit that these will benefit TCMA; organized MAs have been proven to fare better and these days, generally MAs training is really more a sport/recreation than a mean of survival.

Having said that, I am also aware of many old schools that are unwilling to take part in any of these which they view as “compromising” even when faced with the threat of extinction due to their harsh training regimen eschewed by most these days.

Then like I said before, the truth is always somewhere in the middle.

Yes, the old ways are important as a cultural heritage but in order to attract the new generation, you got to “repackage” it.

And it’s this “repackaging” that we got to be real careful.

You need folks who really know to know whether things are right or not, you change the form and shape but not the spirit ….something like that.

Okay back to the Taiwanese documentary….. In part 1 the commentator said that 3 of the major southern arts that resettled there are Golden Eagle, Southern Monkey and Crane….

I am a little disappointed that the Liu’s family Feeding Crane is not included….they must be one of the most visible Crane arts these days……

3 leggged Tiger.

December 30, 2009

Another remark here, with the mainland now more connected with the rest of the world and easier flow of info, back and forth, many hitherto only read about styles are beginning to come out in many TV programs and d-i-y online video sites.

If like me, you frequent these sites, you will know what I am talking about. Even around here, every Saturday afternoons I was told, there is a “Super SanDa” series that is beamed to this region…now all I need is one of those TV satellite dishes…. You know, those ugly looking thing that I am sure are magnets for lightning …. Nah ….I can live without sanda, super or not hahahaha…..I definitely don’t need to attract lightning…

Annnyway………you often hear the term “village style” being used in forum discussions etc ….and have you ever stop to ask what is a “village style”???

So, I suppose there must be an equal and opposite “city style” for every “village style” mentioned?

Or is this just another way of saying “I have never heard or seen this style since it was never featured in any popular movies, magazines , books and most importantly, it is not on Youtube! And my only knowledge of CKF is delivered in those medias”…… or the term is a convenient category for anything that I know next to nothing about?

Well, every style got to begin somewhere and something tells me it is probably in some quiet environments that the founder can focus on developing his/her art; most movies would have you believe that it is some mountains, temples or in a sparsely populated neighborhood – you don’t need busybodies peeping ……

Ooookay, I am going to stretch and say that most styles had a “humble” village beginning and some take their arts to the big cities, military or other institutions and from them acquire that “city” status and probably, fame and fortune. Other just remained in the communities where they started with no city ambitions – hey to each his own, go with the flow, the way of the Tao blah blah blah…..

My problem is when folks belittle “village” styles; please remember for every city, there must be 10 fold that number of villages.

Again, bear in mind what Bob said:-

Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.

Or worse, something you know absolutely nothing about.

Here from a village style, a form named “3 Legged Tiger”…..

This is a topic that was first discussed over a dinner in Penang; the week that Chas and I visited…..

With some 8 CKF masters invited, so what else would we be talking about except traditional kung fu?

One master brought up the subject of authenticities and how these days many are just unethically misleading by calling what they teach “authentic” CKF and using whatever names they feel like.

With the easy access of info online, many are just cutting and pasting and putting their own brew to the public as the original thing; when you ask them for lineages and ancestries, you can bet your last dollar that you either get a lot of smoke or hear their contention that these are irrelevant.

The master then went on to say that if the table was turned like for example you are caught selling Rolex, Nike, Prada or Apple knock-offs, you will be liable for all sorts of violation penalties….as we all know.

So what is the difference, he asked? Who is to say that it is acceptable to just plagiarize cultural identities and not brand names???

And even more disdainful is that now you have some of these cultural counterfeiters turning around challenging the very people who created the art forms for originalities!!!

Picture me going to KFC and telling them I am more “real” because I managed to uncover the Colonel’s secret recipe book he left behind during one of his visits, real or imagined, to Asia…..ludicrous is an understatement here right?

Yet this is happening everyday – go to any forum and some websites and you are going to find all sorts of mavericks telling the world that they know better than the founders and their legit descendants.

Then you also got some who are attempting to “amend” the history of CKF disregarding the fact that they are many writings/documents that are passed down through the centuries within clans and families, something that is still very much alive in proper CKF families everywhere…..

Well, what can I say???

Except maybe that we live in a different time and nothing surprises me anymore, really.

And that I’ll walk my sunlit path and these folks can walk their single-wood bridge …….

Here’s an old pic that you see some White Crane sites displaying……

Folks, many of the descendants of those in the pic are still around and these days, they are making themselves heard.

The bigger picture.

December 21, 2009

Back to the topic of forms, principles and concepts …..

I’m sure there are those out there who think that I am overstating this whole issue; fighting is fighting and all you need to bother with is techniques.

Martial arts training are learning to counter punches, kicks, grapplings and someone wielding a weapon and so on and so forth…..

Well, if that is your sum total of experience and knowledge then I got to say that you got a long, a very long, journey ahead of you.

Could also probably explain why there are those who feel that “forms” are superfluous… to them these are nothing more than many techniques done in succession, so what is the point?

Might as well do technique singly and do away with all the ceremonial movements and postures that are from an “alien” culture in the first place; hey who cares about overthrowing the Ching to restore the Ming right? Why bother to do techniques thrice, what has the 5 elements got to do with fighting and who care about the red boats …and so on.

I really don’t know which is true, that these learning folks did not attain that level or the person teaching them doesn’t have it either.

Most CKF systems begin with a concept; it could be to reproduce the ferocity of a devouring tiger or the unfathomable power generation of a bird as big as a crane to enable taking off into the air.

So when I say implanted in forms are concepts and principles, this is what I am trying to explain; many of the “techniques” are not “fight” techniques per se.

They could be there for you to train for the power you need to make your other techniques more efficient or learn to breathe and move to enhance power and speed.

This is the part of my Kung Fu research that makes it fun; looking into the “DNA” so to speak from the founder.

A family could be real old and extended but the DNA should remain the same even if it crosses mountains and oceans.

Earlier on when I spoke broadly about “flavor” distinctiveness, this is precisely what I am getting at.

If you been around TCMA long enough, you’ll know. Every style has its own “personality” that is expressed, some in a very noticeable way and others, only seen by trained eyes. Regardless, its there just like I remember a study done many years in Singapore by some language department from a local university there.

The purpose was to compile and study how different dialect speaker pronounce Mandarin in their own “special” way. I was curious and later found out that to the experts, they could tell your dialect group by the way you speak Mandarin; something that I thought was far-fetched.

Now years on and more traveled, I am beginning to see the truth in that premise.

Got a CCTV documentary here to share with all of you; “sifuwu” extracted some of the forms from this documentary and uploaded them onto youtube as “Hequan” or “Crane Fist”.

Personally I think for those of you, who understand Mandarin, you really ought to watch the whole episode.

Apart from history, relationship to Southern Shaolin, this is by far the best documentary about elemental principles and concepts of Fukien White Crane to have crossed my path.……….

And hey, if you listen to one of the Sifus in the clip, you’ll hear him pronounce “quan” as “qun” …..

Guess what is his dialect?

More than the eyes can see.

December 19, 2009

If your opinion of forms is nothing more than techniques stringed together like a techniques cache, you’re not wrong.

On the other hand, you are not 100 percent right either …..

Forms exist for many objectives besides the obvious.

Using my Fuzhou Cranes as reference, forms are there to teach you principles and concepts first gestated by the founder.

The principles/concepts could be fighting stratagems, power generations and flows etc etc…techniques are products of these.

In Fuzhou Crane we are taught 12 main principles and the 12 forms taught focus on these core principles; there could be overlapping in some forms but the format is to cover at least one per form.

And every form is supplemented by the “kuit” or “poem” which facilitates the comprehension of the purpose of the form.

One of our form trains you to move into the fourth gate the moment your opponent advances and if you were to interpret the form the conventional way, it makes no sense.

Every technique in that form is executed from both the inner or outer fourth gate position and this becomes very apparent when you move on to the 2 man drill after learning the solo form.

Many traditional teachers are careful with whom they pass these knowledge to and even within the same school, not all receive the same knowledge.

I know I know, some of you are thinking that this is a very archaic and outmoded way of teaching but when it comes to teaching knowledge that could harm limbs or lives; you want to be really cautious.

Got a clip here for you and I think this is from Fuqing Shaking Crane.

Look at some of the movements in the form; they don’t look like “fight” techniques right?

But after spending so long a time in the Crane arts, I will tell you that they are there to train some qualities that only an insider would understand.


Answering an email.

December 14, 2009

Before I start gulping Carlsbergs …. Got to take care of this ….

Got a mail asking me where to find San Cheen Do’s Ershiquan or 20 Fists, the Wuzu form?

Well here you go:-

Musings on a raining day….

December 14, 2009

So I am in the middle of moving, 3 days away from my birthday and it starts to pour …..Where is all that water coming from!!!

So how old will I be hahahaha ….well if according to the Chinese “Men turn into a dragon at 40” then I will be a 10 years old dragon – a baby really hahahaha…..

You know what they say about birthdays; a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future …oh no, that’s New Year’s resolution …but hey since this is December month and the New Year is around the corner I might as well.

Got a mail from Wayne (Hinton) a few days back and he wrote “what if I find out I am going (read die) soon, would I had done things any different?”.

The answer is no.

I remember a very good childhood friend saying this to me once “if you do it don’t regret and if you are going to regret, don’t do it” …. Huh ???

Why can all words of wisdom be easy, straightforward and not Da-Vinci-coded?

I spent almost all my life pursuing a “ghost”; sometime you see it and sometime you don’t kind of “specter”.

A “specter” that is Fuzhou White Crane Boxing that has tested me in staying power, patience and all the ups and downs trying to get to the nucleus.

What is White Crane Boxing?

I guess I will never know for sure and that’s the part that makes it exciting for me, every little finding is fresh and motivationally moves me on.

All I do know is this – that my teachers/elders and seniors, recognizing my quest, charted out a Kung Fu journey for me, a journey that includes Shaolin Fukien Lohan, Grand Ancestor, Fuzhou Ancestral and Singing Crane.

Maybe after spending their entire life in the Crane arts, they know something that I don’t…….

Got a clip here that I compiled using materials from various sources and you’ll see Wuzu 28 (Singing Crane got a form with the exact same name), Taizu and something that I totally love; an old Sifu doing some brilliant Lohan.

The opening salute is so Ven. Sek’s Saolim Lohan … uncanny!!!

Annnyway, since it going to be my birthday … you know where to send the Carlsberg….hahahaha (read use the “Paypal donate button”.)

I will buy the Carlsberg here hahahaha….

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me ….. awww never mind!!!

Rain rain go away, come back to me another day ……. Hahahaha…..

5 and 20.

December 12, 2009

Strictly speaking, most CKF styles in existence are in one form or another “mixed martial arts”.

If like me, you believe that Shaolin is the birthplace and cradle of CKF then you must also believe that Kung Fu existed long before Shaolin.

Many styles ended up in Shaolin all over history and there were a lot of mixing and matching that took place.

Shaolin might have started with some “base” techniques and forms but to this were added many other battlefields tested methods introduced by various personalities throughout its long history.

Then there are styles that announced their mixed parentages in their names like Tai Sheng Pek Kua, Ying Chow Fan Zi….etc etc ….

Hey, even traditional styles like “MingHe” or “Singing Crane” is a cross between Shaolin Lohan and Fujian White Crane…..

So, it is not something new really.

In the 70s and 80s, during the heydays of CKF in this region, many Kung Fu teachers added non-Chinese systems into their conventional CKF curriculum.

All for various motivations; some I presume is to make their school more “marketable”.

So it is not unusual to walk into a CKF school and see students dressed in “Gi”, doing Karate like techniques, TKD kicks and learning to throw on cushioned floors.

Or the school is done up like a Muay Thai gym and a big part of training is focus mitt hitting in pairs.

But most of them kept their traditional identities, in one form or shape.

I studied Southern Tai Zu (Grand Ancestor) under the banner of “San Cheen Do”, a fusion style founded by my teacher Sifu Teo Choon Teck.

Sifu Teo or Ah Teck did both Tai Zu and Wuzu (5 Ancestors) and together with his brothers who were accomplished Karate and Judo practitioners, they started “San Cheen Do”.

Besides the beginning forms which are, more or less, conceptions of the Teo brothers, San Cheen Do at the core is Tai Zu with a little Wuzu integrated.

So for those of you who understand Fukien, San Cheen Do is all Sam Chien, Si Men, Ngo Kuan and Pway Huat …….

Ah Teck did maintain one Wuzu form intact in his teaching syllabus and that is “20 Fists” or “Ershiquan” in Pinyin.

I posted a clip earlier of some San Cheen Do students doing this on stage and here is another clip of the same form.

Can’t say much about background of these folks except that I suspect they might be from the mainland.

There, they like to identify Wuzu as “Heyang Wuzu” ………..

Oh no, not another one!!!

December 10, 2009

So you think I am exaggerating when I said that Crane arts are multi-layered?

In all my years of collecting CKF materials and in particular Crane related, I’ve found variegations that, literally, know no bound.

Apart from the 20 over styles and sub-styles recorded in Taiwan, the equal number in SE Asia (so far) and now with more access to materials from the mainland, I am starting to see diversifications that I’ve only but heard about from Crane elders and seniors.

And there I was thinking the great divide is between Fujian Cranes and Fuzhou Cranes that splintered into a variety of Cranes that later left for outside of mainland……

Now the emerging picture is that even within Fujian Cranes, there are many branches each with their distinctive features to keep researchers busy for a long time….hahahaha…..

So when you read about Karate and Wing Chun having relationships with Crane, the 6 millions dollar question is which Crane are we talking about?

In the absence of proper documentations, simply by comparing the arts might not be so simple after all.

Say you’re taught that your style is an off shoot of Yong Chun White Crane and you start comparing what you do with the “mainstream” YC White Crane from Fujian and you find big incongruities between the 2. What are you to conclude?

Wrong transmission of info in your family line maybe?

Or could it be that you’re looking at the “wrong” YC White Crane ……..

Take a look at this next video I found, Yong Chun White Crane that is a strong shade off the regular YC White Crane that you might encounter.

Just look at that elaborate opening salute sequence … I am almost sure it’s telling a story of some sort.

Now I just got to find the right people to enlighten me on this………

Arrh …..love it…….