This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series Training challenges

It’s an Olympic year – hurrah!  Love all those fit muscular athletes gracing our screens – the tears, the triumphs, the upsets… “But you’re surrounded by fit muscular athletes all the time” complains a friend.  Well, yes I suppose so, sort of.  And what are fit muscular people obsessed by?  “What’s your VO2 Max?”  What is a VO2 max?” Read More

This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series Training challenges

It started with an exercise challenge from a sports magazine – “Wonder if Death by Burpees is as hard as it sounds?”.  A few months later and here we are in a cutting-edge facility in Cambridge University with Adam exercised to exhaustion, wired up to an ECG and having his blood pressure monitored whilst he does “cognitive” tests. What is going on? You see, there is nothing like ramping things up – we just can’t help ourselves.  It’s Kung Fu that does it – you start training after a bit of a confrontation or being bullied by someone, and before you know it you’re in an open category full-contact competition being disqualified for hitting too hard (we still miss you, Dave B).

But back to our very own lab-rat, FWC Instructor, Adam Prout. I was reading in the New Scientist about the brain’s ability to stop you trying before you’ve reached your full physical capacity for work. Hmmm, know that feeling, when you think you can’t take any more, give up and then realise you could have carried on.  Read More

It’s been a mild Winter, but now it gives way to Spring. Time for a change in training. But why?

It’s a reasonable question. Most sports traditionally have an on-season and an off-season. Martial Arts don’t fit into that category. For a start Martial Arts are not sports*. And in the Good Old Days there wasn’t a league table for attackers and defenders, with a champion at the end of the season. In parts of the world which became impenetrable by snow and ice there may have been respite from attack, unless the hordes were already inside the gates. Further South there were the annual floods to keep invaders at bay (or trapped). There was never a reason to stop training.There still isn’t.

Given that Classical Chinese Martial Arts are trained all year round why do we change our training according to the seasons?

It’s about harmony

Read More

“That was almost average” comes the “praise” from Chief Instructor, Dennis Ngo. Hard to hear, but low expectations are the bane of progress. So what are Dennis’ views on averages?

“Until recently, I had two dogs. The combined weight of my dogs was 79kg, What is the average weight of my dogs? Answer: 79 / 2 = 39.5kg – 2 marks please (I showed my workings and included the units). What is wrong with this answer? Nothing, except
that one dog weighed 77kg and the other weighed in at 2kg. That’s the problem with average. Read More

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series Training challenges

“Why can’t you stay rock-solid in a correct horse stance? It’s like a game, every time I turn around you all pop back up again!”  asks Chief Instructor Dennis. And here we go once more with the “how hard can it be?” question. How hard can it be to have an excellent horse stance and maintain it through an entire training session? Or a week-long Instructor Training Camp? As promised last week, Adam tells his story:

“How many times has your Instructor told you your stance is “not quite good enough” aka “rubbish”?

I’m betting not as often as mine. Chief Instructor Dennis has 18 years’ worth of telling me. Tired of correcting our stances (I’m including walking stance here), he told us Instructors to attach ropes to 2 sticks of bamboo about forearm length, and tie (tightly) the ropes around our ankles and the top of our thighs.  With the sticks tied in place you cannot stand up straight and you cannot squat. You have two choices, stay in horse/walking stance, or lie down. This device is why I am standing in the North Terminal of Gatwick Airport booked on a flight to Hurghada for the one week Instructor Training Camp, and wondering what I’m going to say if security ask what’s in my bag. It turns out that sticks with ropes are not on the banned list for Egypt. So now I can look forward to a week of self-directed learning. Read More

Chief Instructor Dennis Ngo has seen many many people start their training and then falter, or take a break and then try to restart.  In this article he explores the mechanisms at work in those first few weeks.  It’s a familiar scenario….you are in class – everyone is doing the same drill. The count goes on and on. How did you get here? Tried a class? Tick. Joined up? Tick. Set aside which day(s) for training? Tick. In uniform? Tick. Feel like you are about to die on the spot? Tick. Think that you would be grateful if you did? Hmmm.

“Your body is the current end point of millions of years of evolution plus a few decades of what you’ve done to it.  And of what you haven’t done.  Even of what you think you’ve done.  And now you’re in class because Evolution called out to you; “Those muscles and tendons and bones are there for a reason.  Get out of your head and into your body.”  You answered the call, rang up your local Fujian White Crane Kung Fu Instructor and here you are, wishing that Evolution had just left you alone.  If it’s a really tough class you’re making up sarcastic responses in case Evolution calls again. Read More

Congratulations! Your child is training at the best Martial Arts classes on the planet, with the Fujian White Crane Kung Fu Club. Is that enough to keep them coming? Let’s ask Richard Wagstaff, FWC Instructor for London South. His very popular children’s classes include many in the 5-10 years age group and he knows what it is like when parents hear:

“I don’t want to go to Kung Fu today” “But I thought you loved it?” “I do, but I feel sick today, my tummy hurts” or “I’m tired, can’t I just miss this week?”

Are they coming down with something?  So you send a text to the Instructor explaining that they are not coming today and then the same thing happens next week. Do they love Kung Fu or is this just another activity they started and want to give up? Children don’t have as many excuses open to them as adults (“Sorry, working late to meet a deadline”) and they don’t always know why they want to give up.

Sometimes they don’t want to give up at all – they really want to know how to carry on.
But young children don’t know how to say that.

Let’s see if we can help them.

Read More

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series Training challenges

It’s not exercise but resisting gravity that gives us big muscles. That’s why astronauts can’t punch their way out of a paper bag when they land back on earth¹.  After a few recent adventures with FWC Hammersmith Instructor Adam Prout, I started to hear, “Ask Adam to do more crazy stuff”. Now, dear students, that is somewhat missing the point.  Adam is not a Crash Test Dummy, he’s a Kung Fu Instructor. Nor is he (totally) reckless. But he loves a challenge. And Britain has an astronaut in space. Let’s put Adam to the test again. Read More

Wise words from Chief Instructor, Dennis Ngo, on being ready for competition. Challenges come in all forms – standing up first in class after 100 sit-ups, making it to class at all on especially tough days, saying the name of your pattern during a grading (in Mandarin), folding your trousers properly, the list goes on and on. But, as Dennis says, “competitions are where the pressure is really on – a chance to find out what you are made of as you stand up alone in front of everyone to give it your best and submit to being judged.  The preparation is most important.  First you take yourself apart – then you train and train and train.  Then you go out and show what you are made of. Winning, not winning, that is merely a by-product of stepping on the mat.” So he didn’t mean taking your opponent apart then? Read More

There are as many reasons for starting martial arts as there are people. If you are thinking of giving it a go then walking into that first class can be daunting. Courage my friend, take that first step and never look back – you have nothing to fear but fear itself. But isn’t the Instructor going to be scary /terrifying/ immortal?

Chief Instructor Dennis Ngo (6th Dan but still mortal) talks about why he takes on beginners in his classes. What’s in it for them? What’s in it for him?

“I have been teaching for more that 35 years.  Although I am approaching 65 I have no plans to stop teaching, and I certainly have no plans to stop training.  I am on a lifelong journey of learning and improvement – I may never achieve perfection but I’m going to die trying.  Given that some of my students have now been training for over 30 years themselves, why do I still say “Beginners Welcome”?  Do I really mean it? Read More