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

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“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

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