Monday, May 31, 2010
One of my students asked me if there were any good chisao videos online. Unfortunately, there really aren't many at all. Here are all the ones I could find that were interesting. I am sure there are others that I just haven't seen. Some of them are not really chisao, by the way. I won't comment on the videos individually for two reasons. One, I am trying to keep this blog apolitical so I don't want to ruffle anyone's feathers. Two, you can't really know exactly what someone is doing right or wrong unless you can actually interact with them. So, without further ado.
Ok, that's all I could find for now. Please feel free to list any you feel are interesting to the comments below.
Here is a news report on another foreign wing chun teacher in Taipei, Richard Doell. The news report is more peripheral news due to the rash of Yip Man movies.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Master Lo Man Kam
On Yip Man, Bruce Lee and the art of wing chun
WING CHUN IS A relatively young martial art originating in southern China that was made famous worldwide by Bruce Lee. It is known as a aggressive close-combat martial art without fancy moves or adornments. Despite being as common as dim sum in Hong Kong, it is almost nonexistent in Taiwan. There is, however, one Taipei rooftop that attracts Wing Chun students from all over the world: the school and residence of Master Lo Man Kam. Lo is the nephew of perhaps the most famous Wing Chun master in the world, Yip Man. He has taught Wing Chun for over 30 years, acted as a combat instructor for the Taiwan Investigation Bureau and is the founder of the Lo Man Kam Wing Chun Kung Fu Federation which has numerous branches in the US and Europe.
I interviewed Master Lo at his school one morning surrounded by yellowing photographs, certificates and calligraphy of his own creation. He is a small, older gentleman with a spry step and enthusiastic smile. His size seems appropriate for a marital art reputed to have been created by a woman and known for redirecting power. As he sat down to answer my questions I could hear the thump of one his students on the rooftop upstairs pounding away at the wooden dummy.
Fountain: How did you first get started studying martial arts?
Lo Man Kam: I began studying Chinese gongfu around the age of 13 until around 18 when I started Wing Chun.
F: Why Wing Chun?
LMK: Around the year 1950, my uncle Yip Man [Lo Man Kam’s sister’s younger brother] moved to Hong Kong from. He had been a policeman and couldn’t find work so he began teaching Wing Chun on the rooftop of the Kowloon Mess Union to earn money. Five or six of us started studying there.
F: Yip Man was a legendary Wing Chun teacher. What was he like?
LMK: He was very welcoming and laid back. There were so few students that we all got lots of personal attention. We paid 20HK a month rather than the 5HK that most people paid to study other kinds of gongfu but it was well worth it. Studying with Yip Man required an introduction which also kept the number of students small. I ended up studying 10 years with Yip Man at a few different locations.
F: One of Yip Man’s most famous students was Bruce Lee. What do you remember about him?
LMK: He started studying after getting an introduction from William Cheng, I believe, in around 1956. He studied for a couple of years and then moved on. He liked fighting and moving as fast as possible, but wasn’t the most experienced. I think he learned the first couple of forms while there [Wing Chun has three open hand forms, a wooden dummy form, a staff form and a butterfly knife form].
F: You hear a lot about fights between various styles during that time. Did you ever see any of those?
LMK: Not really. Actually, at that time many people studied different styles of gongfu. We all got along and would talk to each other and trade information. Most people were more concerned with learning than trying to determine who was the “best”. We were more like gongfu scholars than guys trying to outdo each other.
F: What originally brought you to Taiwan?
LMK: I was originally studying electronics and decided to go to Taiwan to be a soldier in 1960. I joined the military and did special forces military training for over three years in Taichung and later became an Army Major. During that training I learned a lot of hand to hand offensive and defensive tactics. I also did a lot of judo and qin-na [joint locks] and the like. I incorporated much of what I learned there into the training that I now do for the police.
F: When did you start teaching and how many students have you had?
LMK: I started teaching in 1975 after retiring from the military. I had a few Taiwanese students and got my first foreign student later that year since I could speak English. Since that time I have had thousands of students from Taiwan and all over the world. I also do a lot of seminars abroad.
F: What do you think is unique about Wing Chun and its training?
LMK: Many martial arts emphasize techniques and forms. Wing Chun is designed to improve a student’s actual reactions. It develops your feeling and ability to react to situations rather than depend on your memory of a series of techniques. Chisao [a form of fast push hands with punching] is non-cooperative so that students learn to react to any situation as it arises rather than simply doing choreographed movements.
It also helps improve circulation and overall health. Since Wing Chun focuses on skill rather than brute force, it can be practiced by anyone of any size at almost any age.
F: Are there other martial arts that you find interesting?
LMK: Of course there are many martial arts that are interesting and effective. Most martial arts are really trying to accomplish the same things, and the basic principles of movement have to be followed by everyone. I try to follow the natural movement principles and go as long and as deep as possible using the Wing Chun way. I don’t have time to use a variety of approaches.
F: You hear a lot about “internal” and “external” martial arts? What is the difference?
LMK: Most are really a combination of both. The external is the obvious part of what you do. It can be measured, copied or taught. The internal is what you are doing inside to make the external actually work. Science can’t measure or determine that. That is the art.
F: How does one go about learning Wing Chun?
LMK: When a student first learns Wing Chun, he or she learns a few movements and a form. The Wing Chun form is not flowing like the forms of most martial arts. It is more like a dictionary that provides the most basic movements. These movements act as “words.” Later the student does chisao with other students. This exercise is non-cooperative and is similar to learning to talk. The student is soon forming “sentences” and later having full “conversations”. Just as every person talks and communicates in different ways, so too does each person learn to chisao and fight in different ways. During chisao, the students also learn to trust the feeling in their bodies rather than their eyes. This improves the fundamental reactions in the body to any new situation. These improved reactions help you when it comes to fighting at the most basic level.
F: What do you think most attracts students to Wing Chun?
LMK: Of course they come to learn to fight. They start out that way, but Wing Chun can change the way you think. Wing Chun looks aggressive, but it is actually an extremely conservative martial art. It teaches you to only hit when you can’t be hit. The philosophy behind it is that you can never lose if you never get hit. I mean, you might see two guys fighting back and forth and trading blows until one goes down. The guy still standing might say, “I won! I won!” Yeah, you won maybe, but…well…look at your face. Winning is not getting hit.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Here is a second extended trailer for the movie with English Subtitles.
I really promise to get off these movies soon.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The first is The Legend is Born: Ip Man directed by Herman Yau with film adviser Ip Chun and featuring a lot of the actors in the last Yip Man movie such as Sammo Hung. (I know I keep writing Yip Man rather than Ip Man, but Ip Man bugs me for some reason and Yip Man is more commonly used.). The film is due out next month and will supposedly be more "realistic" or based on the actual story of Yip Man's life. Here is a trailer.
Then, it gets better. In 2011, Chungking Express director, Wong Kar Wai, will release The Grandmaster. What is The Grandmaster you ask? Its a biopic about an obscure wing chun teacher by the name of....you guessed it...Yip Man. I got to be honest, this is pretty exciting. I love Chungking Express and Wong Kar Wai films in general. The film will be starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi. How can this be bad? Wouldn't be surprised if there weren't any fight scenes at all in it which would be fine by me. Damn, the movies be wing chun crazy right now.
Here is his latest action scene.
Portal gun in real life (not that I have ever played Portal)
How to make youtube videos widescreen
Call of Duty tribute part 1
Ok, that is enough embedding. If you want to see more go to http://www.youtube.com/user/freddiew?blend=2&ob=1 They are all well done and at least amusing. Keep on making videos, Freddie.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Most of us hopefully won't be facing this kind of situation in our lives, but I believe that fighting is about attack. If you are defending, you are not fighting. Doesn't mean that is bad, just that you aren't technically fighting.
I teach that if there is a fight interaction, you must be attacking at all times. The points where you contact the opponent must be moving toward the opponent in terms of pressure at all times. If you back off or change position without attacking pressure, you are not attacking. You have to attack even when you are changing position.
Ok, that sounds like I am saying that if you fight, you just stand up to an opponent and start throwing non-stop punches and kicks. Not exactly.
Think of it like this. You are a body with extensions (arms, feet, head, shoulder, or whatever). You use those extensions to attack the opponent's core. They are your weapons in a manner of speaking. The opponent has these extensions or weapons too. If you bypass his or her weapons, they can attack your core as you attack theirs. If you chase the weapons, they can avoid your attack and still attack you.
In order to avoid this problem, we reach out and attack the opponents core through their weapons. The "weapons", usually the arms, are forced to resist in order to protect the core or the body. Now, here is the trick...the whole reason for chisao training, we try gain better position and collapse the arms, find holes or interrupt balance through constant attacking pressure. There is no need to keep upping the pressure when the opponent uses their arms to defend, you just have to put enough pressure to keep the opponent defending or holding you off. You must always be moving and improving on position. The situation is always changing so you have to have non-stop intent to improve position. To be honest, there is no room for thinking about defense. The defense has to be built into your strategy.
When you do this, you keep the opponent from being able to develop attacks since he is busy dealing with yours. You are also going to where the opponents attacks originate so they are much easier to deal with than they are at full extension.
So what if your opponent is doing the same thing you are? That is where chisao really comes in as you have to learn to take advantage faster than your opponent. You must make faster decisions. Someone can teach you the strategy, but how well you execute it is all on you.
What if the opponent has grabbed your core or you are grappling on the ground? The short answer is that the same rules apply. The long answer is to look at the way good bjj players are interacting. I will try to get into this more later.
The plot doesn't really matter so I won't go into the details. It's Yip Man in Hong Kong. Basically there are three plot points: Yip Man has to fight in order to open a school, Yip Man fights a boxer for the honor of Chinese people, and Yip Man gives a dude a chicken (ok, it's a duck but chicken is funnier than duck) and loves to watch him eat it.
The first thing I want to complain about is something I mentioned when talking about the last movie. I was a little uncomfortable with using a real person that isn't really a historical character and just making up whatever you like about their life and marketing your movie with their name. I let it go in the last movie because it was basically a fun movie but this second one is just a cynical cash grab. So what is next? Made up crap about the relationship between Yip Man and Bruce Lee? Yip Man goes to Hawaii? The whole thing is embarrassing.
The fight scenes are pretty weak. Basically the fight scenes involve a bunch of blocking while punching, rapid chain punches, stupid wire tricks (check out super flipping Sammo Hung), and that silly thing where people are able to keep from falling off something by trying really hard not too or grabbing the ground with their toes or something. Also, Yip Man fights like 50 dudes with knives by spinning a wooden pallet around in second-rate Jackie Chan style.
Everything in this movie is a rehash of the last movie or another movie. There is nothing original in the least. The worst part is the second half that is exactly the Rocky IV movie except with kungfu and boxing instead of just boxing. Sammo Hung is Apollo creed who gets killed by the English man who is the Russian. Yip Man is Rocky obviously who gives a stupid speech and wins over the racist white people with his fists and words. Here are just a few stupid points and then I am done cause I shouldn't be wasting my time talking about this movie.
- The main bad English guy is just called Twister. They don't even bother to give him a proper name. I thought he was going to have some kind of twisty boxing style, but when I heard the Chinese, they referred to him as tornado so I was like, "oh, that kind of twister....did they even use that word in 1950?...What a stupid name for a boxer, especially a boxer from England. Maybe they should have called him the Drizzle if they wanted to have a more appropriate weather theme."
- There is a boxing match at the end and there are fricken ring girls. Somebody check the history on that one.
- I love how the boxer wears boxing gloves because, hey, he's a boxer, but Yip Man doesn't. Yip Man also kicks and elbows and grabs and does whatever he wants to do. Who set up the rules of this competition?
- At the end of the match I swear they play a second rate copy of the original Rocky theme.
- The white people in this movie are all reprehensible characters, the actors playing them can't act and for some reason, they don't seem to be able to speak English correctly and can only yell and growl.
- Old people can fly.
- Here is what Twister says to set up the boxing challenge, "In order to protect my name [you know...Twister] and reputation, I have agreed to fight any Chinese person. Now from what I hear, the Chinese like to use these [he laughs and pulls out a giant joss stick] and I would like to stick to that tradition so I have agreed to fight any challenger for as long as this thing burns. And this is a pretty big joss stick so its going to give plenty of opportunity for any challenger to come forward. But be warned I will not hold back. By the time this thing has burned to the end, there will be no more Chinese boxers, because I will have killed them all. In fact, I don't think we are even going to need to use this thing because I doubt that there is any Chinese fella that has the guts to get in the ring with me." What the hell does any of that even mean? Basically Yip Man comes forward and challenges him and that is the whole end of the joss stick thing. Oh yeah, keep in mind that Twister is saying all this after he kills Hung (whatever his character name is) in the ring.
- Here is the speech that Yip Man gives that makes all the white people stand up and cheer. "Hello, I didn't come here to prove which is better, Chinese or Western boxing. Although people have different status in life, I don't believe that one person's integrity is worth more than another's. I hope that we can start to respect each other. That's all, thank you." What the hell is that? He should of just yelled for his wife like Rocky did.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I must apologize to my 2 or 3 readers out there as I have been sorely neglecting this website. On the bright side, my wing chun classes have been going quite well and I have lots of ideas to write about. Also, I have access to a really nice camera and camera man and my students have been coming along well so we should have some video up soon.
I don't have time to write an entry today so I will just lazily embed some youtube videos.
Here are a few fight scenes that I like in television and movies in no order in particular. Keep in mind that I don't really think that fighting has that much to do with filming a fight scene. But fight scenes have become an art of their own and I think most people who do martial arts appreciate them in some way.
The first is from Deadwood, probably the second or third greatest television series ever. This is the fight between Dan Dority and the Captain. I love the way it tries to capture the time and approximate fighting skills of the time and focuses on raw brutality.
The next is from Rob Roy. I remember liking this movie much more than Braveheart that came out soon after. This is fight between Rob Roy and Archibald played by Tim Roth.
Here is the best Bond movie fight with Sean Connery in his prime.
This one isn't realistic at all, but who doesn't love the duel in The Princess Bride?
Which brings me to what I think is the best fight scene of any kind put on celluloid. This is from Mark of Zorro. It features actors Basil Rathbone and Tyrone Power. They don't make em like this any more.
As for kungfu movie scenes, I must confess there aren't many I like since they often take themselves too seriously and are a bit too stiffly choreographed. I remember liking this one at the movie theater even though it is a bit obvious for this list. It's the fight between Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeaoh) and Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
When it comes to kungfu fight scenes I prefer the ridiculous like this scene from The Magnificent Butcher.
To sum up, I have to finish with my absolute favorite "fight" scene of all time from any movie. If I am flipping through the channels and this comes up, I stop what I am doing every time and watch. I am convinced that this scene will go down as one of the most hilarious of all time. It's like a violent/comedic Zen koan. I can't even make fun of it without watering down the overall effect. Of course I am referring to the fight of tolerance from Steven Seagal's On Deadly Ground.