“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
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
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
Welcome back to the FWC Cambridge Mug Challenge. It’s challenging and it involves mugs. There seem to be a lot of scientists in this update, but such is the nature of the FWC Cambridge Club. Instructor Karim Daoud has been goading his students into ever more efforts both in their training and in using some ingenuity to meet these challenges (a link to the original list is here). Read More
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
“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
The formless takes form.
Watching my incense burner I see the intangible solidity of smoke pouring into the cup.
Any disturbance and the cup empties.
The form vanishes.
Kung Fu is not a solid but a movement.
“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
“Once upon a time there was a human being. This human being was dutiful, educated, courteous. This human being came under attack and had to fight or surrender. This human being took what was already known and came back to fight another day. “I will surrender if you can beat me.” This human being was Fang Qi Niang.
I wish I had known her. I often think of her.
She founded the White Crane System of Chinese Martial Arts. She was unbeatable. She taught great warriors, tacticians, generals. They defended the South of China from invasion over and over again. A Chinese woman from 300 years ago. She probably had bound feet. She was probably small and light. She had Filial Piety and pursued the men who killed her father. She married another martial artist who was her student. She could have walked this earth without leaving a mark. She was a genius.
She was unbeatable but she felt pain, she cried, she bled, she laughed. She could have surrendered.
She did not. She was a human being.
You are a human being too.”
Celebrate International Women’s Day – it’s a day for humanity.
Sharon Ngo – Human Being, Woman, and Fujian White Crane Kung Fu Instructor