Ahh, the Olympics – the tears, the agony, the falling down, and that’s just the winners. But what does it feel like to put in the training? We think we know as we put in a fair bit. But let’s try something new. Instructor for London South, Richard Wagstaff decided to test his aptitude at the triathlon. Would his Kung Fu training help him?  And with the Brownlee brothers in his sights, at the back of his mind simmered an ancient emotion – sibling rivalry.

I love the three disciplines of the Triathlon.

Followed cycling since watching Greg LeMond battle with the legendary Bernard Hinault in the Tour de France in the mid 1980s. Been a regular swimmer –  ever since my Father’s promise of £10 for swimming my first width of a pool.
Even went through a period in my younger days of getting up before 6am to make it down to the pool before work to put in some serious lengths. Running is something I have learnt to enjoy more recently. First started going for gentle jogs in preparation for the infamous FWC Crete training camp early morning run and hill sprints (after which breakfast never tasted so good). Since then I have used running as a great warm down and mental release following a hard training session on Sundays with the Chief Instructor, Dennis Ngo. Read More

Instructor’s phone shows: New text message – The class was great, but I don’t think I can commit to the training right now.  Cue Instructor wondering why an enthusiastic beginner has given up before they’ve really started. But we know. It’s an open secret. Many, many people drop a new training regime because of muscle pain. Not injury, but the pain known as DOMS – acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. They will rarely say so, overwhelmed by a world of Shame/Blame/Pain after finding out that they are not fit as they thought, not as strong, not as tough – what were they thinking of when they tried a Kung Fu class? never mind Tai Chi..(how can that possibly hurt??).

And it’s not only the Beginners. Committed students who have been training for a couple of years can suddenly find it hard going if they are sleep deprived (new baby?), under stress (new job?), or have a change of routine (new house?). And this is where if it works for you, chocolate milk as a recovery drink can get you over this hump.

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“I’m shaking under the bright lights.  Sweat is pouring off me.  My clumsy fingers fumble with the cellophane, tugging at the packaging, trying not to drop it but get it out and stab the box. In it goes and I take a long pull through the straw. Blessed relief as the sweet chocolate milk begins its journey through my exhausted body.  It’s the end of two hours of intense training. You know what it feels like – squats, patterns, combinations, leg lifts, press-ups, patterns, two-person combinations, stance work watching the mirror to make sure your head isn’t higher than the person in front (why are the front row so short?). And at the end of it all (well, just before weapons and sparring get underway) I allow myself a carton of chocolate milk.” Instructor Sharon Ngo is here to tell you all about the latest in fitness addictions. Read More

“If I had wanted to be a performance artist I would not have started training in Traditional Chinese Martial Arts”. Well that all sounds reasonable until you look into the history of Chinese Martial Arts. And then you realise that there were many occasions on which performance was required, and this was not only on the battlefield. We have said it many times in class – humans are primates and as such we are primed to respond to body language, and by extension “performance” of movement. Maybe scientists have only recently discovered that gorillas sing to each other, but we have long known that performance is a form of communication. And so Instructor Dave Courtney Jones asked his students to be involved with the Big Dance project, co-operating with the Counterpoint Dance Company.  Dave takes up the story of how they got on with their biggest performance so far…

Dancing in the dark

“It’s pitch black. I am sat in the Lilian Baylis Theatre at Sadler’s Wells looking down at the vague silhouettes of my students as they stand motionless in horse stance, positioned across the darkened stage. Read More

There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between cycling and Kung Fu. Several of our students have written about how their Kung Fu training benefits their cycling. But here we meet endurance cyclist Pete Kelsey, who takes it even further. Hundreds of kilometres further. Several times a year. In all weathers. With no back-up. Now that’s endurance.

How did I get here?

“It’s 4am as I wheel my bike out in the pre-dawn gloom and set off in the direction I’ve just come from. I’m 380km into a 630km ‘Audax’ event, a long distance cycling challenge. Not for the first time I wonder how exactly I ended up here. Read More

“Could you write something about the health benefits of Tai Chi?” the Editor of Calibre Quarterly magazine asked Instructor Richard Wagstaff. “No problem”. And here it is: Fighting Spirit. Yes we all agree that 65-year old Chief Instructor Dennis Ngo looks “impressive” (in the words of the Calibre Editor). Whilst preparing the article, discussions turned to people’s perceptions of Tai Chi as for those who were not “up to” the hard style of Kung Fu. Why don’t I just come out with it and say “mature” or “older” or “middle-aged”? Because, leaving aside considerations of acceptable language and the implied stereotypes, these are labels that don’t provide any useful information. I like the word “grown-ups” – you are a grown-up when you think you are and remain so as long as you wish.

One of our Grown-Up Students, Jill Steen, did not start training with us until she had been a grown-up for quite some time. She is really making up for any lost time (if you call having a successful and interesting life “lost time”). Jill trains several times a week and has travelled with us to China, Egypt, and Crete. During training camps she gets up in the morning and goes on the dawn pre-breakfast runs. Jill has twice competed in China at International Martial Arts competitions (as in the photo above). In China competitors are grouped by age and there is no lack of competition in the older age categories.

Jill takes up her story here – and it all started with a leaflet coming through her front door…. Read More

Hurray! We’ve made it all the way to Summer. As we train all year round Summer training brings its own challenges. It is not in fact everyone’s favourite time for training. The heat gets to some, then there are the allergies, the quest for a tan, the food-filled lazy days of family holidays. Fear not, here’s how you can get the most out of our British Summer and max your Kung Fu and Tai Chi skills. Read More

“How hard can it be?” is one of our favourite questions. It prefixes many of the training challenges we have done, and is based on presumptions of strength and fitness that we (almost) take for granted.  But physical condition should not be. After the vanities of testing VO2 max a couple of weeks ago, we spent some happy time at the next training camp testing all those who wanted to give it a go. Nobody beat Instructor Adam Prout’s score of 74 (with grumbles from the purists insisting it’s not a “proper” test) though the youngsters now have boasting rights about their “superior” scores. But “how hard can it be?” is a different question for people who are mostly glad to breathe without too much difficulty. And so here is Tim Rutherford-Johnson’s account of his Kung Fu journey with FWC London South.

“Breathing and eating. Maybe two of the most important principles behind Kung Fu. OK, sinking lower in your stance first, then breathing and eating. For most people it’s a simple place to begin: breathe deeply, eat well; learn to generate and direct your energy as a consequence. Everything else can be built on these basic foundations.

Not so much for me – I have cystic fibrosis. Read More

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series Training challenges

You may or may not consider this to be good news but according to the British Medical Journal skinny thighs are bad for us¹. People with skinny legs have higher mortality regardless of other factors such as their BMI, whether they smoke, or have high blood pressure. As someone who struggles to find jeans that fit my horse-stance thighs without leaving a gaping space around my whip-power waist I realise that this may mean wearing unfashionable jeans for longer. But, as they say, “Size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts.” So if you want to know what all that leg-strength can do, here is FWC Instructor Dave Courtney Jones with an update on what he’s been doing with his.

“Further to writing about my secret jumping habit back in January, I have been continuing my work on the Kung Fu Art of Weightlessness since. For you Fujian White Crane Kung Fu students, jumping will become a part of your daily life round about the point you learn fifth pattern (if not before), and is a major factor in developing that elusive weightlessness that every Kung Fu stylist wants to achieve.

This year I have (after two, or is it three, years’ work?) completed learning the Luohan Golden Staff pattern, and jumping features large in it. Realising that my pattern was never going to cut it unless I improved my leg spring power I started working on my jumps with renewed vigour Read More