Category Archives: Martial Arts

Southern kung fu, mostly, but who knows.

Repost: What Is ‘Chi’?

In private correspondence today, I’ve been discussing with an old friend the subject of what practitioners of Chinese martial arts call ‘chi’. It’s a puzzling topic — and so, having no time to write a substantial post tonight, I’m posting a link to something I wrote on this subject about five-and-a-half years ago. You can […]

Who Knew?

I haven’t written about martial arts in a while, but coming across a silly little article in Popular Mechanics prompts me to do so today. The article begins with some fawning hyperbole: Forget all those broken boards and crumbled concrete slabs. No feat of martial arts is more impressive than Bruce Lee’s famous strike, the […]

Ooops!

My goodness, I’m getting sloppy lately. I gave the wrong link in the previous post (now fixed). Apologies to all. The link I meant to post is here. (Same bloody song.) P.S. See also the internal power of the late Xingyi master David Chan, here and here. This is the real deal, folks. (Thanks to […]

Not Too Shabby

I’ve been too busy to post much of anything at the moment, so for now, just a quick martial-arts link: a little Hung-Gar jam from a capable-looking practitioner. What this fellow is doing here is a conglomeration of forms from what appears to be the Lam Sai Wing branch of our system. There’s some Fu […]

Fists

In the days since the Zimmerman verdict, I’ve had a lot of conversations with liberal friends* in which they complain about the use of lethal force against the “unarmed” Trayvon Martin. Most of these people have no experience whatsoever with the use of hands, elbows, and forearms as weapons, and imagine that nothing really serious […]

Goodnight Nurse!

I haven’t written much about martial arts lately, but tonight I do have a brief and instructive item. As I sat catching a bite at a local saloon last night, I saw what has to be one of the most stupendous UFC knockouts ever. It was administered to 38-year-old Rich Franklin by the 40-year-old fighter […]

Be Very Afraid

I haven’t posted anything about martial arts in quite a while, so I thought I’d share this clip of some truly remarkable practitioners. Hat tip: Matt Blazon.

It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Ging

I just ran across an old article by my sigung for many years, Master Yee Chi Wai (aka Frank Yee). It’s a discussion of the many varieties of ging, or internal power, that are cultivated by the advanced Hung Ga practitioner. The Hung system, in which the student must endure years of grueling stance and […]

Into The Sunset

Here’s an item for those of you with an interest in martial arts: the last surviving master of the Sikh fighting system shastar vidya. It’s sad to see these cultural relics dying out. Good to see, at least, that Llap-Goch is still alive and well.

Feets Of Fury

In case you’ve never seen it, here’s some of the best martial-arts choreography ever filmed: Jackie Chan and Ken Lo giving it hell in Drunken Master II.

William Chung, 1935-2009

It is with the profoundest sorrow that I must mark the death of Grandmaster William J. Chung, who was my kung-fu master for many years. He had been suffering from cancer, and collapsed at his home in New Jersey a few days ago. Attempts to revive him failed.

It’s A Wong Story

When I began learning southern Chinese kung fu toward the end of 1975, there were still very few Chinese masters who were willing to teach “roundeyes”; my sifu at the time, William Chung, and his sifu Gin Foon Mark, were among the earliest to do so. But the one who first opened the door, as […]

Ox Tale

Today was the annual Yee’s Hung Ga Lunar New Year parade, in which our dragon and lion-dance teams make their way along a circuitous, miles-long path that covers just about every block of New York’s Chinatown. It’s a long day of physical effort and deafening cacophony, and by the end we are all completely worn […]

What Is ‘Chi’?

From our friend Jess Kaplan come links to two YouTube clips, both of which show two chi-gung practitioners — one a Tibetan giving a martial-arts demonstration, and the other a Javanese healer. What we see in each is quite extraordinary, and will certainly tax the credulity of skeptical Westerners.

Gung Hey Fat Choy

So distracted have I been by a little melee (now ended) in another corner of these premises that I have neglected, I am sorry to say, to wish all of you a happy Lunar New Year. It is the Year of the Ox; may the markets be bullish. Yee’s Hung Ga will be taking to […]

Show Of Power

Having posted some video clips of Kwong Sai Jook Lum Praying Mantis master Gin Foon Mark a couple of weeks ago, it seems only fair that I do the same for the system I’m involved with these days, Tang Fung Hung Ga. Here, then, is a video (forgive the odd camera angle) of our own […]

Master Class

We’ll carry on with our meditations on free will shortly, but for tonight — it’s been a very busy weekend, with no time for writing — we have, for those of you with an interest in such things, some videos of the great Southern Praying Mantis master Gin Foon Mark, taken during his recent visit […]

Ratted Out

Sorry to have been off the air yesterday; a busy afternoon led to an evening at the theater (we saw a spellbinding production of Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music). By the time we got home a post was simply not in the cards. I shall have to make a similar […]

Whipped

I was hoping to have some time for a meaty post tonight about that article by Steven Pinker, but I didn’t get home from work until eleven this evening, and I’m just too tired to spend a couple of hours writing. So, having mentioned “chi sao” in one of yesterday’s posts, I’ll just share with […]

Sticky Situation

Having spent the morning judging brown- and black-belt tests out at the Clifton, New Jersey branch of Yee’s Hung Ga, I’ve got martial arts on my mind today, and thought I’d offer those of you who have an interest in this stuff an informative video clip.

Tempest in a Teapot

We note with grave concern that the legendary Shaolin Monks, the state-sponsored Chinese “wushu” outfit, have got their saffron-hued knickers in a knot over some incendiary remarks made by an anonymous commenter in an online forum of some sort.

The Kung Fu Bug

I haven’t written about martial arts much lately, but I thought I’d like to give readers a glimpse of a kung-fu style they may not have heard about: Southern Praying Mantis. Although I have devoted myself pretty much exclusively to Hung Gar for the past twenty-five years or so, the sifu I studied with when […]

Points of Interest

Today was a long day down at the kung-fu school: junior testing all morning — which means that we instructors sit and watch some very nervous beginners wobble and fidget their way through the Gung Ji Fook Fu Kuen and Fu Hok Cern Ying forms — followed at one p.m. by a five-and-a-half hour Dim […]

The Real Deal

I call attention to a new link on the waka waka waka sidebar; it is the website of one Gin Foon Mark, one of the greatest living masters of southern Chinese kung fu.

The Iron Wire

At the apex of the southern Chinese Hung Ga system of kung fu is the Iron Wire form, sometimes referred to as the Iron Thread. It was created by Tit Kiu sam, one of the legendary Ten Tigers of Canton, and its main purpose is to cultivate internal power.

The Iron Wire is practiced under controlled tension; it derives its name from the feeling one has during many sections of the form that one is stretching an imaginary cord between the hands. Each movement is carefully synchronized with the breath, and at many points in the form there are particular sounds that the practitioner must utter. These sounds are intended to direct the breath (or “chi”) to various organs and muscles. If performed incorrectly or without understanding, this combination of moving tension and controlled breathing can, in fact, cause serious harm, and as a result the form is taught only to advanced students.

Lubber Chicken Circuit

Well, I’ve been slacking off again. Rather than sitting home hammering at life’s persistent questions, I spent the evening at the Yee’s Hung Ga 32nd Anniversary and First Annual Awards Banquet, at a restaurant on Elizabeth Street in the heart of New York’s Chinatown. Along with the copious distribution of engraved plaques to various honorees, the four-hour bacchanal featured kung fu demonstrations, laudatory and exhortatory orations, lion dances, a celebratory proclamation issued by no less than Hizzoner the Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg himself, and ten courses of Cantonese food. A splendid time was had by all.

Pressure Points

In times of stress, our breath tends to rise in the chest. The shoulders lift and tighten. The jaw clenches.

Over the past thirty years of kung fu (and other inner work), I’ve devoted a good deal of attention to this. When I watch inexpert students sparring, the signs are always there, and always the same. The students are nervous: they are putting their skills to the test, and they might receive a painful blow at any moment. Also, their egos are on the line, and they are being watched. I can see the tension in their shoulders, the stiffness and jerkiness of their movements, the quick and shallow breaths, the lack of connected power in their techniques.

The Lion in Winter

Today was the Big Day that comes once a year, when all the branches of Yee’s Hung Ga convene in Chinatown for the New Year parade and lion dance.

Miller Time

Tonight, I must confess, I am suffused with a mellow glow of self-satisfaction. I have described, in an earlier post, my interest in southern Chinese kung fu. I began in 1976, at the age of 19, to study the Lam Sai Wing Hung Gar system under the tutelage of the formidable William Chung, and was awarded a black belt in 1982 or so. But due to various circumstances, which are beyond the scope of this post, I was forced to withdraw from my study with him a few years later, and spent the next nine years practicing on my own, teaching a bit, and attending to life’s other clamant demands, which included establishing both a career and a family. By 1993, however, I was yearning to refocus my martial-arts studies under the guidance of a qualified master, and was lucky enough to meet, in my own neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, one Peter Berman, a Hung-style expert who had learned the Tang Fung Hung Ga system under the renowned master Frank Yee, and I began to reapply myself to the demands of this fierce fighting style. Although the two systems are very similar – Lam Sai Wing and Tang Fung were “training brothers” under the legendary Wong Fei Hung, a hundred years ago or so – they have diverged a bit, and I began “from scratch”. My progress was slowed by the many demands placed on my time by work and family, as well as by several nasty orthopedic injuries, and by the difficulty of the style itself. But my previous training was a great help, and I made my way slowly through the system’s lengthy and complex empty-hand and weapons forms.

Today, at age 49, after more than twelve years with Sifu Berman, and with knees creaking, I completed my final test – the Ng Lung Ba Gwa Cheung Spear Form – and attained the rank of Jo Gow, my second black belt, twenty-five years after the first.

Southern Style

Visitors to this site (they already number in the tens, in just a few short months) may have noticed the “Martial Arts” link category over in the sidebar. As of this writing there are four links, of which three-quarters seem to be about something called “Hung Ga”, or “Hung Gar”.

So what’s the deal? I shall explain.