Sunday, August 30, 2009


I have to work on some computer issues I am having so I am posting from an Internet cafe. Here is something I wrote a little while ago about the subject of "vulnerability".  Thanks to Dan for sending this my way.

Why being vulnerable is important

If you want to think about it simply, two people are in a struggle. If you struggle to win everything, the stronger person wins. If you are the weaker party you have to negotiate. Wing chun is about that negotiation. If you are the stronger party, you don't need it. You need it when you are outgunned. When you are outgunned a good negotiator tries to identify exactly what he or she wants and is willing to sacrifice anything to keep the important parts. In wing chun, we don't want to get hit or give up the control of our balance.

In order to get what I want, I will give up ground (you can push me), I will let you win any struggles that don't result in my getting hit or losing control of my balance. As a matter of fact, I will go ahead and allow you to do as much as you want to do and edit out the parts that result in my getting hit or losing my balance as delicately as possible so as not to cause you any discomfort. That is the cooperation part. The more I allow the other party to be free and do what they want, the smoother it will go and the freer I am to move. So only interrupt their movement for important reasons like if you are going to get hit otherwise.

All this leads to the vulnerability issue. Vulnerabiltiy is just a fact, you are imperfect, weak and can be hurt. Hiding that or locking up or pushing so as not to seem vulnerable will keep you from doing the above. You hide the reality of the interaction from yourself so you can't really feel what is going on and get what is in your interest. It is sort of how socially awkward people often try to hide their weakness and emotions because of their incorrect belief that allowing the flaws to be obvious will result in their being rejected.

This is why I often suggest that people chisao, or hit on girls or dance with the assumption that what you do is wrong, terrible, inadequate...just accept it and yet continue to "play" and be fully in the moment. How do you do things when you aren't worried about the outcome? When you are free to feel and react as you want? Most things are beyond controlling so you have to let go.

To me, this relaxing and letting go is what "kungfu" or being in the zone or effortless mastery or whatever is all about. You let go of fear and expectation and yet fully participate and then the real "you" starts to emerge. It's pretty cool.

I also see you can see this same fear play out in many different venues. People don't take risks because they could die. They don't follow the career they would like because they might not make money. They lock up rather than fight because they could get hurt. They don't talk to the girl because they could get rejected.

All the things that lead to people not putting themselves out there tend to happen anyway in my experience. Run everyday and you will still die, don't fight back and you will still get hit, people who get their colons cleansed die too. The real problem is that if you don't let go and let yourself express itself, who are you and what is the point of your life?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What wing chun is and what it ain't

Anyone who has taken my class knows that I would really prefer to call what we do something other than wing chun. The reason I do call it wing chun is that otherwise people may think I am one of those guys that did a little karate, a little jujitsu and a little wing chun and just combine it in some willy nilly way and call it Will-fu or something. Yuck.

Wing chun is a fighting and training system created by one or more people (I will leave the details of that statement to all those budding kungfu scribes). Most versions involve 6 forms, two weapons and chisao. Chisao is a training method that essentially helps you train fighting in a non-cooperative manner without constantly getting punched in the face.

From studying wing chun, you may discover better ways to move your body, you may learn better ways to generate power, how to relax so that your speed and reactions increase. You may learn better ways to interact, lead, follow, use your opponents energy. I think it is important to remember that all of these things are not wing chun, they are simple physics. For me I try to follow the physics as closely as I can. As you observe the physics you will see simple principles emerge and you will begin to notice the principles at work in other activities such as social dances like tango or in wrestling. I think it is important to do things the "wing chun way" only as far as it corresponds with reality. If it doesn't, dump it. I am sure that many will say that using whatever works IS the wing chun way.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sticky hands

When people talk about Wing Chun, they ofter refer to being "sticky". It seems to me that a lot of people use this word but don't seem to know what it means. If two people are moving their hands together in some kind of cooperative or coordinated movement. That is not being sticky. If two people who have studied Wing Chun for many years do chisao so they move in kind of Wing Chun style patterns, that is not being sticky.

Sticky is when you are moving toward a person with your hand, arm or other body part, and they want to stop you so they resist, they now have no choice but to move with you in another direction since they resisted getting touched or hit, they are "sticking" to you. Another way to think about it is you put the person in the position of having a choice, they can get hit or stick to you. Either way, you "win".

If you continue to keep your pressure aimed at them, they will continue to stick to you. Constant forward force or perhaps I should say steady forward force is required to be sticky. If the person pulls their hands back or moves backward, this forward force will result in you walking forward. I am not trying to be critical, but I don't understand how chisao is performed or how people can stick if neither person is generating forward force.

Chisao can be performed without this forward force, but it becomes a reaction time drill rather than a truly interactive drill. Without the forward force, whoever moves fastest will win. With the forward force (generated at the feet), better wing chun skill will prevail (ha!, what a silly word).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


After you get comfortable standing with as little effort and tension as possible it is time to move around. Walking may seem easy and something we can all do, but many people do it in an unnatural or inefficient way.

Gravity pulls your body down so there is no need to push down when you walk. If you push down against the ground, your body will pop up which is inefficient. The "trick" is to push your foot in the opposite direction in which you wish to travel...back to go forward, right to go left and so on. Also keep your body relaxed but straight and try to push your pelvis rather than upper body. The last most important thing is to pay attention to what is around you rather than your legs or your body and breathe naturally.

Exercise 3 - Skating
Stand on one leg and relax. Don't try to keep your balance. If you fall just trade legs. Now, push your pelvis and trade legs. Keep the upper body relaxed and perpendicular to the ground. Make sure you don't bounce and that your head stays at the same height. Keep your attention outward and stay relaxed and move in all directions at varying speeds and rhythms.

Guide to the martial arts

About twelve years ago, my friends and I had a weird informative/humor website called Expo Extra and I wrote an article making fun of Kungfu around Taiwan. It was just for fun and was kind of an inside joke so I didn't expect many people to read it. Well, this being the internet, it seems that stuff never goes away. I made a couple of jokes at the expense of various kungfu teachers which I would never do now. I have nothing but respect for any of the people I named in the article so I hope no one took offense. Just a little folly of youth. I took out all the direct comments about particular teachers and left in the jokes. Here it is. I apologize if anyone takes offense because at the time, I thought martial arts were often pretty ridiculous....I still do, but could probably make better jokes. 

Kung Fu is Kung Fu, It's Not Child's Play 
by Will Mounger

The reasons why Western folks come to Asia are myriad (well, there's at least three or four, does that count as myriad?), but one of the most interesting and pathetic reasons is to study martial arts. Unfortunately, inscrutable Asians rarely reveal their secrets to outsiders, and finding the right art and teacher can be as difficult as finding a clean shirt on laundry day. So to expedite you on your quest, Expo Extra offers the following as an introduction to the world of martial arts.

Aikido is the art of semi-circular dwarf tossing, except that regular sized people are used instead of dwarves. The art was created by Morihei Ueshiba after he became such a proficient martial artist that he declared, "I'm such a badass, I don't even have to hit people anymore. I'll create a martial art just to rub it in everyone's faces." Aikido became popular worldwide after Steven Segal hit the silver screen and threw more people than have been thrown since BA Barracus' stint on the A-team. 


Boxing is a man's sport and a great way to get in shape. It's also a lot of fun until you get hit. We here at Expo Extra had big plans in the past to have some boxing matches. The problem was that we are a bunch of wusses and should have chosen a different combat art more suitable for wusses such as Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, or archery. After we forget how bad it hurts to get hit, we may start boxing yet again, so give us a call if you are interested, tiny and frail.


In response to arts like Aikido and Judo, where you flip your opponents, Capoeira is content to say, "I can flip my own damn ass, thank you very much." You don't really learn to fight from Copoeira as much as jump around and boogie. If you do it for a long time, however, your muscles get bigger and people will probably not mess with you quite as much, unless of course you are short.

Drunken Fist 

Insert your own drunken bar brawl joke here.
Gracie Jujitsu

Damn, those Gracies are baaaaad. Not only that, they're good looking too, especially Hickson and Hoyce. This family is almost single-handedly responsible for turning the exciting and wholesome pastime of fighting into two guys just rolling around on the floor for an hour.

Jeet Kune Do 

The style of no styles was created by the one and only, Bruce Lee. What a great idea! If you want to create a martial art, just make up a name and say it combines all the different martial arts. Nothing can defeat Jeet Kune Do! It's invincible! Why didn't we think of that?


Don't bitch-slap your woman, bitch-ippon sonagi her ass. See how long it takes her to get you a damn beer after that. What I'm saying is, if you want to flip people, Judo's the way to go. If you don't want to flip people, perhaps you should broaden your mind, you punch-happy fool. We haven't seen too many places to study Judo around Taiwan. That seems odd given all the Tae Kwon Do places. I mean, where the hell was Korea while Japan was occupying Taiwan. I tell you, some people have no sense of history.


Known as Krotty to its practitioners, this martial art involves a lot of standing around in uniforms, bowing and performing useless rituals called "forms". After you waste enough time and money, you get a different belt color. Whoopee-freakin-do! Luckily, this martial art also teaches discipline and focus to hyperactive little kids. Hasn't anyone ever heard of a little something called Ridilin for gosh sakes! How come every little Karate gi wearing little kid in Taiwan has a black belt? Do they even have reds, blue, and yellow belts? If I studied karate, I wouldn't let my sensei promote me. I would become a badass yellow belt and kick all those black belts' asses. Think you're so cool in your black belt. Bam! Don't mess with the yellow belts, baby. They rule!


You remember when you were a kid around Christmas time, and you would take those wrapping paper cardboard tubes and fence with your brother or friend until you actually hit him and were left with this useless floppy dick thing. Well, in primitive places like Taiwan, they don't have those tubes (or Christmas!) and so are forced to use bamboo. Bamboo hurts so they have to wear all this expensive armor that looks pretty cool. They can sit there for hours just whacking each other in the head, back and forth, back and forth. Damn we're glad we were born in a developed country!

Muay Thai 

Oh those silly, primitive Thais. They are so backward as to think that learning to fight is merely a matter of training hard and hitting hard. Where are the pressure points, the forms, the grandmasters, we ask. It is fun to laugh at their childlike understanding, but not if there is an actual Thai boxer present. If you are interested in this sport, you should rent Kickboxer or Kickboxer II to watch Jean-Claude Van Damme and that guy from that Suzanne Summers sitcom (Step by Step?) to show you how it's done.


Little is known about this secretive art and we certainly wouldn't want to spoil that. It is a well-known fact, however, that only a ninja can kill a ninja.

No Holds Barred Wrestling 

The UFC, vale tudo and other no holds barred events have proven that if two big wrestlers who can punch and kick go at it in the ring, one will surely win.


We're not quite sure how to make fun of a French martial art, but we'll try. It's sissified…uhhh…brie…we saved your asses in WWII…rude, kickin bastards…aw crap, I can't do it. I love the French and I always will.


Sumo is the most useful of all martial arts in that it teaches you how to get people out of your way. This is a skill that comes in handy every day, especially in a city like Taipei. The principles on which the sport is based are also irrefutably logical: if you want to get people out of your way, get fat, wear a diaper and push real hard. Expo Extra will continue to sponsor beach sumo matches whenever we are at the beach, drunk and bored.

Tae Kwon-Do 

This is the retarded neighbor kid of martial arts. People feel sorry for it, but are not above giving it a slap or two on the head if it gets in their way. Tae Kwon Do originated in Korea and spread all over the world because, heck, people love to kick! We were going to imply that only homosexuals studied Tae Kwon Do, but a lot those gay fellas fight pretty good, and they certainly couldn't have learned that from Tae Kwon Do. If you want to study this martial art, extend your finger and ram it in your eye until the urge goes away.

Tai Chi 

Even though Tai Chi is slow and practiced mostly by old people, it's a really effective martial art. No, really, you just don't understand the principles, man. You should try push hands with some of those old masters, dude, they will kick your ass. They would kick some ass in that UFC thing, but they're above that, man. You just don't get it, you use your opponent's energy against him, man. I don't even know why I talk about this stuff with you Neanderthals-you just don't get it.

Tiger, Crane, Snake, Dragon, Monkey, Eagle, Mantis, etc. (Kung Fu) 

Didn't you ever hear that expression, "Fight like a man, dammit?" Maybe, you should take it to heart. Seriously though, don't you think it's a bit much when one of those monkey fu guys does a form and pretends to pull a bug out of his hair and eat it? Do we really need that? I mean, you get the idea that it is supposed to be a monkey from all that jumping and rolling around. Do we really need the little "grooming" move.

Wing Chun 

Wing Chun is the style that Bruce Lee studied before he became a squealing martial arts legend. It can best be described as an advanced form of slap boxing or perhaps patty cake. According to legend, it was invented by a girl. According to reality, it is practiced by girls.


Wushu is the "Lord of the Dance" of kung fu. Its practitioners are on a never-ending quest to find the perfect pair of aqua and/or magenta pajamas.

Getting started with relaxation

The first step to doing wing chun, or really anything, and moving naturally is to first just “be”. What that involves is relaxation. We need to engage the body as little as possible. Most people are unaware of the tension they carry around all day that affects all their movements and interactions.

Relaxation is one of the most important concepts for learning wing chun or any other skill. Everything must be as effortless as possible from the beginning. If not, later when movement is involved it will be jerky and less effective and smooth. Basically you will reach a point where you stop improving. So first we need relax as much as possible while doing nothing.

Exercise 1- Let go
Lie down on the floor or a bed and relax all your muscles. Now tighten up your all your muscles and let them go again. Pay particular attention to tightening and relaxing the face, jaw, neck, shoulders and upper back. Now wake up your mind as much as possible and pay attention to what’s around you…the smells, sounds and what you see. The point is to take the body as close as possible to zero effort or maximum relaxation while the mind concentrates on the environment as much as possible. This may sound simple, but it is very important to actually do it a few times (or for the rest of your life). Next try doing the same thing while sitting or in other positions.

Exercise 2.- Standing
For this exercise, I just want you to stand. Standing requires muscles to hold you up and to keep you balanced. What we want to do is figure out how to use as little effort as possible while remaining standing. Stand and start relaxing until you start to slump. Now, imagine that there is a string holding the top of your head up for you. Let go of as many muscles as possible until you start to slump. Think of your body as a Jenga set that is precariously balanced and delicately move your bottom over your feet and your chest over your bottom and your neck over your chest and your head over your neck. The more all these areas are in alignment, the more balanced you will be so you can relax more. Later, I will talk about the wing chun stance and how that can help you relax even more and why it is the way it is.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Class information

Thanks to all for the class inquiries.

Maybe the best way to tell you what we do in my classes is to tell you why I started teaching or what led me to do so. I studied all kinds of martial arts when I lived in the US like Taekwondo, karate, aikido, judo, and thai boxing. I always felt like I was pretty good, but there were plenty of people better and I kind of leveled off and stopped improving somewhat. When I came to Taiwan, I studied wing chun under a famous teacher. I went there 6 times a week for about 3 years slowly improving. I liked wing chun but I just didn't think many of the wing chun people I met had ever actually fought or could even really defend themselves. I then totally changed my approach when i got injured and changed my way of thinking about wing chun and fighting and the basic way we control our bodies. This changed everything. Suddenly, I got better very quickly and everything was easy and relaxing. I spent the next 3 years trying to teach the other people I trained with how to do it but I met with a lot of resistance. I got bored and began studying jujitsu and going around to other martial arts schools and trying to find people that were skilled. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for and a couple of people asked me to teach them.

I started teaching them about 8 years ago and I wasn't a very good teacher. I just tried to tell people what I was doing. Then I tried a different way and experimented while I tried to improve my understanding of everything related to movement, interaction, and fighting. Now, my classes are going very well and the students are seeing a lot of improvements.

So what the heck are we doing? The best way I can say it is that to do any athletic endeavor from basketball to marital arts to dancing well, there is a "natural" or athletic way to control your body. 99% people use an inefficient or "unnatural" way. What we do in my classes is first learn how to move this way. Then, we learn how to have physical interactions and the basic principles that work in interactions from wrestling to dancing. Then we learn to fight. Here we start with chisao from traditional wing chun because it is a great exercise when done properly. Then we move on to the whole spectrum of fighting but in such a way that it gets into the body and becomes instinctive.

For those interested in the classes, I can guarantee that you will learn some very interesting or amazing things about how the body and interaction works. I can't guarantee that you will get in great shape very quickly. The beginning stuff has to be done slowly so that you don't revert to old habits. After a couple of months the pace will pick up greatly and it will become better exercise in the traditional sense. The stuff you learn will apply to the way you walk, the way you play music and dance and many other areas. While we will talk about this stuff occassionally, we concentrate on fighting.

Also, as far as learning to fight or practical skills, that will be fairly slow as well, the easiest way to get up to speed quickly if you want to defend yourself is take about 6 months of thai boxing or wrestling. What we do will take a little more time, but will totally change the way you move and/or fight. I am not trying to make people fighters, I am trying to make them incredibly talented fighters. That isn't easy so, depending on the person, it can take some time.

As for other stuff, I have around 12 students right now. Two-thirds have studied many forms of martial arts for many years and most of the others have no experience and sometimes little interest in fighting in general (they like the movement stuff). We are all very laid back and joke around a lot and all get along well. We all love martial arts and talking about stupid stuff but really can't stand hippie dippie qi talk and arguments about which style can kick ass or lineage or any other kungfu nerd type stuff. We are just regular guys and girls.