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 10 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

This entry is part 9 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 8 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 7 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