Shifu’s Training PrimersĀ 

  1. Kung-Fu means “a skill gained through time and effort” – martial arts, music, gymnastics…
  2. In todays parlance, we use the terms “Kuoshu” or “Wushu” (trans. “National Art”) to mean Chinese Martial Arts. Many however distinguish between “traditional” and “wushu” styles. Wushu adds a gymnastic dimension to many of the movements – all good, but the traditionalists would argue that this may leave the martial side of the capabilities diminished. …A question for each martial artist is to consider capability vs choreography.
  3. Many of today’s MMA competitors consider traditional martial arts as being outdated, with an inability to provide substantive training for students to learn how to fight, and mostly incapable in the ring against those who only train to fight. What resources do you bring to your “traditional” martial arts to refute this?
  4. And my question to those MMA competitors who believe that their application of violence in the ring is the best reason to learn and train, and show others how tough they can be – how does that jive with your philosophy of life and compassion for your fellow man?
  5. Should the training in martial arts include the spiritual points of tenets from religion like the “Golden Rule”?
  6. “Look to the five tools – Punching, Kicking, Joint Locking, Takedowns, & Grappling. Master one and make yourself expert in the rest.” LCF B.E.C.10
  7. Some say the training in traditional martial arts stands on a 3 legged base – forms, fighting, and self-defense – without one the balance is diminished, and the practical combination of the three corners is undermined. (Principle attributed to conversation with Shifu Joe Dunphy)
  8. Further, one source suggests that training in Philosophy adds the 4th leg (Gm Wong Kiew Kit)
  9. What is your Kung Fu philosophy? Does your understanding of Kung Fu span your philosophy of life? Is there really any difference between the practice of Kung Fu and the practice of life? If you do what needs to be done now, and plan for what needs to be done in the future, and occassionally celebrate accomplishments from the past, then this is Kung Fu. The martial practice of Kung Fu is not a substitute for a narcotic to escape reality, nor is it a way to separate yourself from the practical requirements of your responsibilities. It is a way to forge the body, mind, and spirit to improve oneself, one’s family, and one’s community, nation, and world. Live in the moment, and expand the moment to have a stronger possibility for the future.
  10. What is a Shifu (Shih-Fu, Sifu, Shrfu)? Translated roughly, it means teacher/father – and has the connotation of “Learned Man”, a resource of learning for greater knowledge and ability, from martial arts, to music, to gymnastics, etc – skills that require many years of challenging and progressive levels of accomplishment. Many times traditionally the student trained and shared the household of the teacher/father, in order for the student to grow within the martial arts style and his household family and deepen the relationship with the principle teacher. As I learned it, to earn the rank of Shifu means being a life-long student with at least 25 years of training and above 42 years of age – not quite middle-aged, but someone who has depth of knowledge, a high level of proficiency, and the ability to make the martial arts work spontaneously and with a high level of “force”, and the wisdom to seek alternatives to physical force where possible. In a generic sense a Shifu is a “Master” of his/her martial arts; typically when a student trains another to be at the Shifu level, then the generations split, and the Master now becomes a Grandmaster. Lao Shifu is a term that means Venerable teacher/father and is a colloquial term, a term of respect and affection, for someone of Grandmaster rank.
  11. “Avoid (and resolve) conflict. Respect (and preserve) life. Help others in any way possible.” Lao Shifu Steve Clark, Ch’uan Fa
  12. Stance training: Take a stance and be firmly rooted; test the strength of your efforts against resistance. As a tactic, be willing to move your root for better positioning and advantages. In life, take a stand and be willing to endure the pressure that comes with confrontation or conflict. On the other hand, if conditions suggest or dictate, be willing to move off of your mountain to create another advantageous position.
  13. “Stand like mountain; move like river” Tai Chi Classics
  14. Strong root, strong waist, strong technique.
  15. From the ground to the heavens through a spiraling path.
  16. “Extensive study, constant practice” – Chinese poem.
  17. Three secrets of any training: Practice, Practice, Practice.
  18. “Consistency is the hallmark of success” – attributed to many authors.
  19. “Train more than you sleep.” Mas Oyama, Kyokushinkai Karate great.
  20. “Eat bitter every day” – Chinese translation.
  21. “Do this 1000 times, then ask questions.” Gm. Hsu Fun Yuen, Shaolin Kung Fu & Tai Chi
  22. 10,000 hours of training in 10-20 years – one step and one workout at a time. Train in the moment every opportunity and your progress will unfold.
  23. A Kung Fu teacher must have confidence in his ability to fight, and the resolve to overcome the trials and confrontations offered by his students(i.e., he must be able to inspire them to greater things).
  24. Add flexibility to your rigidity, to achieve agility.
  25. One thing that masters of any field have in common, according to Malcolm Gladwell – 10,000 hours of passionate and creative pursuit of knowledge to define and refine applications.
  26. Establish a 100 day training plan with 100 – 200 hours of planned effort of intense training.
  27. “Plan your work, and work your plan.”
  28. Plan and follow through on short-term goals of 100 days, intermediate goals of 6 months to 1 year, and long term goals of 5-10 years. As a teacher, do not forget to keep your own training as a priority as you bring your students to higher levels of achievement. As a recent arrival in a new organization, consider the same steady and ongoing contributions.
  29. What tools do you bring to avoid conflict or create conflict resolution? How do you show respect, and what do can you do, if necessary, to preserve life? Can your martial arts be inspiring and creative, and if only necessary, be menacing and capable of physical violence or self-protection?
  30. Exemplify respect for oneself, respect for one’s teachers, and respect for the community and world in general.
  31. Keep the excitement strong in young students to improve discipline; keep the discipline strong in experienced students to improve excitement.
  32. Basics are the strength and foundation of your martial art. The relative level of difficulty of your individual basics may increase, but the basics must always be a part of any training regime.
  33. “As stone sharpens steel, so one man sharpens another.” Sifu Chris Facente, Lai Tung Pai
  34. What is a student’s commitment? Be early to every class, attend every class possible, practice outside of class regularly. These are the only expectations until the student’s commitment is verified by action.
  35. Avoid making expectations of your students’ progress; they will progress as they adhere to diligent practice.
  36. Create challenges for your committed students.
  37. “If I draw one corner, surely the student can draw the other three.” Confucius
  38. What is a student’s challenge? As an instructor or teacher, determine to make the student’s mental and physical strengths and areas of interest exceptional, and their areas of weakness or disinterest mission-capable. Keep that in mind, as you continue on your path.
  39. Create conversations through the students analysis of techniques – question to instill curiosity and to inspire further training.
  40. Inspire students to add motivation and challenge to each others training; if you accent the positive in physical, mental, and spirit-ual achievements, then it may go a long way to having them do the same for their younger brothers and sisters and students.
  41. Remember that your own individual training can continue and should continue as you train your students. “To teach once, is to learn twice.”
  42. When you raise the bar for your students, be sure to stay a step up!
  43. When the student offers tacit or direct resistance to the teacher’s methods, can this student be destined to be qualified in the style?
  44. Advanced training must undergo the same methodology as basics: Practice, Practice, Practice (see number 2).
  45. “Commit to be fit”, even when teaching and other activities demand a lot of time. Even a little Kung Fu everyday goes a long way.
  46. When the student can not determine the inequities of his own style, how can the student see the value in other ways?
  47. The classics say, “100 days Fist, 1000 days Broadsword, 10,000 days Straightsword” – which plan is your longterm martial success linked to?
  48. Seated concentration exercises, including form visualization, will benefit the mind/body links.
  49. “Avert misunderstanding by calm, poise, and balance” – from Chinese Fortune Cookie
  50. Still the mind, and all motion will be apparent. As the “moon on water” makes no preconceptions or conclusions, how does the energy of others or even self-distractions affect you? At what point is your calm and stillness side-tracked?
  51. Compare the “empty mind” set to the “monkey mind”. How does your training reflect the presence of either? Do you hyper-focus or do you dabble? Which techniques and/or principles draw your attention away from your goals or which do you devote yourself to?
  52. Is each moment of your life a new experience, or is it being compared and contrasted, and perhaps limited to all of the moments from your past?
  53. When the student only sees the value of his own style to the exclusion of others, how can he be adaptable to ways not yet known?
  54. Hsin, Yi, Qi, Li – from the Heart (passion) to the Mind (decision) to the Energy (directed electrical flow), to the Work, all things are possible. Hsin – Yi, Yi – Qi, and Qi – Li, is the three internal aspects of the Six Harmonies.
  55. “Zanshin means nothing more than having a tranquil heart and no longer allowing oneself to be overpowered by things. If the heart is tranquil, then reactions are clear.” -Chozan Shissai
  56. Train the mind, and train the body; then go past the constraints of the mind and body in resourcefulness, capability, and initiative.
  57. Be an active member of your school and organization. This is the public relations avenue for your self, your school, and the martial arts in general. To participate in demonstrations and tournaments is not making a public spectacle, not self-aggrandizement, and not about showing off one’s skills. Demonstrations and tournaments are suitable vehicles to introduce the martial arts to the general public. Your future martial brothers and sisters may be in the crowd. Your Shi-Fu’s active participation, in combination with your personal involvement can insure the continued success of your school and organization. The whole is stronger than the sum of the individual parts.
  58. Tournament and Demo preparation has a two-fold benefit; one, it helps bring the schools skills to the public and offers incentive and excitement to potential students, and two, it creates a time-dependent focus to assist the student in motivation for achievement with specific goals in mind.
  59. Occasionally seek to weave your communities of effort together, through school-wide demonstrations, and give the long-term students the reins to direct their own productions.
  60. After each school endeavor, whether it be a demonstration or tournament, individual or group, ask for a written report by the participants based on the successes and failures of the presentation and the insights and observations gained by each individual.
  61. After attending a seminar from another teacher or style, make a pact to practice the new information, form, or technique for a year in order to evaluate its integration with your primary style. If it has no efficacy after a year, then store it for possible later use.
  62. While attending a seminar from another teacher or style, make a pact that you will learn and then be able to demonstrate or utilize at least one technique on Monday morning, to ensure a short-term benefit from the seminar. Practice as much as necessary while under the teacher’s tutelage to add refinements; and then be ready to ask apporpriate questions to go one step further.
  63. After at least a year of diligent practice in the above mentioned idea, consider rewriting your own style when an opportunity comes along to upgrade or expand your technique armamentarium.
  64. Some would say that contemporary martial training is divided into 3 parts – cultural arts, combat sports, and self-defense – why doesn’t your training in your “art” include all three?
  65. As an instructor, senior student, teacher/student, use your interest in one of these three aspects – cultural arts, combat sports, and self-defense to drive the training for your students, but realize that your potential and even present students may need your guidance in the other two to round out their own skills. Prepare yourself to offer more possibilities in a well-rounded program, especially if you have kids and less active adults as students along with others who can enjoy all of your training recommendations.
  66. Create a bar graph or a pie chart depicting your percent capabilities in a facet of your martial arts, in the fighting ranges, for example. A graphic interpretation may show you quickly where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
  67. Bravery is a facet of mindset – how are you preparing to cultivate your courage? In other words, what challenges have you prepared for yourself this week, this month, this year, this decade…?
  68. Courage is a direct result of acting in the face and possible incapacity of fear. To find or have revealed a fear to oneself, may be the opportunity to challenge oneself to subdue or even conquer that fear; confidence and maybe even an unknown vocation/avocation may be born.
  69. Warrior Weekend Challenge Training is a suitable environment for offering opportunities to greet hardship, fatigue, and mental duress, in a collegial atmosphere, with martial arts being just one vehicle to inspire the spirit and mind of the participants.
  70. Warrior-Scholar training empirically will require an ongoing look at progressively more technical martial arts books and principles. Start with magazines and monthly columns to read current topics of interest and then slowly add famous books of tactics and/or strategy. By reviewing the thoughts of other teachers and authors, you may gain further insight into your own quest for skills and even add to your technical understanding within your style.
  71. Train your Black Sashes to be your replacements for ongoing classes and critical events. And then give them the opportunities.
  72. As in the tactics of “opening the window”, give small insights based on profound principles to your dedicated students, in order to have them investigate the view and pursue the options.
  73. The term “Training” implies much more than the refinement of the physical aspects of the martial arts… at what point does your “training” become applied to the resolution to learn more about your weaker areas of expertise, or to teach more effectively, or to become self-reliant in seeking your own path, rather than depending upon your teacher(s) for his/her overarching guidance? Do you walk the path suitable for your own destiny?
  74. At what point can you nudge, disengage or release the student to find their own path?
  75. Must a viable training/certification program for instructors and teachers have a defined endpoint for all students, or can it selectively create various outcomes for the individual students without compromising the entire program?
  76. At what point, can a student leave a teacher and continue to be on good terms for future contact?
  77. At what point can a teacher allow a student to return to restart training with a new focus on the outcome?