Monday, October 28, 2013

Alignment through Bodily Awareness and Martial Art

It is no secret that Bodily Awareness and Martial Art go hand in hand.  From continued practice any student can develop proprioception, exteroception, balance and grounding to an astounding degree over time.

Hand-eye coordination will become greatly enhanced.  Awareness will be amplified.   Awareness not only of yourself but also of your surroundings will pour in and be reflected through your action.  Confidence will radiate from you naturally through how you carry yourself.

When it comes to Calasanz' Physical Arts exercises these qualities are being absorbed and developed during concentrated and focused training.  Again, you must be careful.  As you train pay attention to your body and the signals it is giving you.  While a bit of "pain" normally accompanies the exertion and eventual exhaustion of muscles and tendons it is important to remain cognizant of what is too much or too far or too incorrect.  Stubbornness, ignorance and negligence will lead to injury.  Train smart.  Listen to your body.  Make adjustments.  Keep your wits about you and do not take anything on blind faith or false belief alone.  Revisit your technique regularly with honesty and integrity towards improvement and perfection.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Martial Arts and the Perfectionist

"Don’t be afraid to correct perfectionists because you feel it will upset them. An instructor who feeds into this is not really teaching. Constant praise is counterproductive and doesn’t help the student learn."

I appreciate martial arts students who want to do everything perfectly. They are usually very committed and hard working.  They sign up for classes ready to train and full of enthusiasm.  Unfortunately, this enthusiasm disappears very quickly.  The one problem is that perfectionists worry themselves to death.  They start off with a very positive attitude, but set the bar so high that they get depressed and disappointed if they can’t meet their expectations often times allowing the slightest error to completely deflate the moment and block reception of the lesson.

Students with such high anxiety also tend to ask a lot of questions and over-analyze the lesson or the techniques.  What happens then is that instead of enjoying their martial arts training, it becomes stressful.  Some don’t want to take promotion tests because in their minds, they are never really ready.  Usually they are of the mind that nothing they do is ever good enough.

I’ve taught martial arts for over 30 years because I love teaching.  I've said it again and again, I don’t like to give up on anyone, perfectionists included.  They can be superior athletes if trained properly.  My best approach is to encourage them to lighten up.  I have to constantly remind them not to be so hard on themselves.

I will limit the amount of questions I allow during a class.  As a sincere teacher and instructor I can’t ignore all questions because some are legitimate but sometimes the barrage of inquisitions gets out of hand.  A martial arts class, however, should not consist of a lot of chit-chat.  Most people want to work up a sweat and learn the art; talking simply inhibits the experience.  Too many questions can also bore and even agitate the other students so maintaining focus on everyone getting a good workout is important.

During open workout sessions,
I specifically direct perfectionists on what they should work on for that hour.  Some students are so self-directed that they show up to an open workout with an agenda of what they want to work on and can keep themselves busy for an hour.  Although, if the Perfectionist needs a plan... Give it to them!  They will rise to the occasion.

Don’t be afraid to correct perfectionists because you feel it will upset them. An instructor who feeds into this is not really teaching. Constant praise is counterproductive and doesn’t help the student learn. Make constructive corrections and tell the student how to improve!

Above all, focus on the overall learning experience!  When directed by a knowledgeable instructor perfectionists have the potential to be, to become, outstanding Martial Artists.  Encourage them to enjoy the journey!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Smart vs. Mindless Training

Taken from an Audio Recording of Calasanz


I have what we call upstairs 'science training'.  I can change someone in one hour.  I can change someone in half an hour.  That is how I developed a name, a good name, with Police Officers and Law Enforcement in general.  There are countless officers I have trained and given them this short amount of time to dramatically improve their job and ability to perform their duties on the street.  It takes me half an hour to teach them how to do the job better in respect to striking, subduing, general appearance, how to look and how to close the gap.  Since the 80's I've been known for that type of intensive training.

Not long ago I took in a student who had been attending lessons elsewhere for the past 6 months or more.  By the time I had spent 3 hours with him he already learned more than what he had gotten over the past six months.

When it comes to this topic, it is different from the subjects of kyokoshinkai and Mas Oyama, but it can be connected based on what it was that made us win those tournaments.  We won those tournaments because of what I could do with a person in 3 months, what I could turn a person into in that amount of time.

What I do for someone in 3 hours other trainers cannot do in 6 months, a year, 2 years, 3 years...  some probably take more than that.  What I can do for someone coming from a soft business school of taekwondo as a 6th degree black belt earned over 15 years or more... I can give that to them in just 3 or 4 hours of 'science training'.  Don't forget, Bruce Lee said, 10 minutes of smart training is better than 3 hours of 'mindless' training or 'dumb' training, however you want to call it.

You see, there is the difference.  You can do an hour of any sort of training without learning anything or you can do something smart for one hour and learn something.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Real Power through Simplicity

The Straight-Forwardness of Wing Chun Kung Fu


In the world of engineering often times the most celebrated solutions are also the most simple.  When it comes to martial art there is none more simple than Wing Chun

Review this video, especially those of you who have studied Wing Chun traditionally.  We love traditional wing chun programs but have also managed to cross the threshold by developing Wing Chun into something practical for more than just self-defense and street survival.

Calasanz studied Wing Chun under Moyat privately investing probably 3 times more than those who just love to talk.  When it comes to Wing Chun, even if you are not an expert or even if you are a beginner, just by taking Wing Chun you are already better than many other martial artists.  No matter what you do, no matter how abysmal your Wing Chun is, you are still getting 90% more than what you would get from any other martial arts school granted you are not making a concerted effort to ignore the lesson or refuse any sort of attempt at understanding the system.


Calasanz built his name by giving lessons to professional fighters who needed it.  You see, Wing Chun on the street is unmatched, but most guys who fight on the street don't know how to fight.  It's easy to win a fight on the street.  Watching a Wing Chun guy take down 10 guys on the street would only naturally make one of the mind that Wing Chun is best.  But again, those guys on the street probably are not good fighters.  So, when it comes to stepping into a ring, or now a cage you encounter a completely different animal.  Now you are fighting a fighter, a gladiator.  Now you are fighting someone who trains to fight.

That being said, Wing Chun designed for competition has to be more than just the traditional.  It has to evolve into something beyond.  While the traditional has much to offer in the marks of technique, body mechanics, spiritual development and general fitness it must be augmented for the cage when faced with the reality of fighting and with the knowledge and input gathered over time in order to participate in evolution proper.  Keep in mind, however, that evolution does not imply greater complexity.  In fact, it may even imply a step in the opposite direction towards greater simplicity.
Jeet Kune Do developed by Bruce Lee for example.  Lee introduced that concept of 'longest weapon attacks nearest target' which is undeniably and obviously sensible yet was strangely overlooked or undervalued for so long until its more recent revelation.  JKD was developed by Bruce Lee because upon coming to America he ran into trouble taking traditional Wing Chun into competition; meaning it needed to be converted into something effective for use in the ring against those trained to fight.  Behold the creation of JKD, behold the evolution of Wing Chun






Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Calasanz' Contemporary Recounts the Past

"I was on the circuit myself for years and was competing in tournaments and that's how I got to meet a lot of people throughout the country.  Some were real while some were just tackin' 'em in there."

An Ex-Instructor Describes His Experience with Calasanz


Over the years we would host tournaments at the local YMCA for forms, fighting, weapons and breaking.  Calasanz would perform in the breaking events to demonstrate his breaking ability which was pretty fantastic.  He performed an incredible amount of breaks.  At the time he did Ed Brown's tournament he did the most amount of breaks I have ever seen at any point in time in my life, it must have been some sort of record.  I believe he broke a baseball bat with his shin and generally, anything I heard about Calasanz I usually took as true because I had seen what he would do and could do in real life.

Ed would run these tournaments twice a year which would draw in the top competitors locally, and more than that.  People would come from all over the North East.  It gave the top competitors quality competition in those disciplines of: forms, fighting, breaking and weapons without having to travel into New York City.  I first met Calasanz at one of these local tournaments.

Calasanz, as long as I've known has always been an innovator when it comes to martial arts.  He was always working on developing new programs and classes; always trying to do something to better the martial arts.  I remember he called me over to his school years ago to have a look at a new class he was running.  He wanted to know what I thought about it.  Today they call it "cardio - karate".  He was an innovator of this and he had it going before all those names came out which I thought was really interesting, and again Mr. Calasanz as far as I was concerned was a quality, was a real martial artist.  He was a guy that just kept doing, kept training, kept making his art and is someone I've always respected.  He teaches martial art as something to be real, not just a place to pay money and get a 5th / 7th / 10th degree belt.

One of the hang-ups I had years ago was that you could have a school and if you were a real "traditional" martial arts instructor you weren't going to make any money.  So a lot of those real teachers left the industry.  The reason was that everyone wanted their kids to look like a black belt.  They wanted their kids to be able to throw 55 different leg kicks.  People didn't want to take the time to do what they needed.  They needed forms, meditation, exercises... the real stuff.

Most places having anything to do with martial arts at that time was more for show and tell than anything else because it was such that in those times you could only survive by teaching a lot of kids, and that meant doing a lot of things that weren't so much the traditional way.  There are still a lot of those places around that want to get 1000 students and keep them coming in for prizes [belts].

There were, however, at that time other instructors that really were teaching traditionally.  I call them traditional martial artists, that really stuck to the old ways.  They knew how a martial art was performed, how it was received and how it was really taught.  I always think of "Karate Kid" you know, 'paint the fence'.  I've always respected that Calasanz taught Martial Art as something to be real.  But let's say you went to Japan to learn martial art.  You would sit outside for months to get in and you would just sit outside waiting to get in.

So there was a difference between Martial Artists even before I was there.  What I saw in Calasanz was a REAL martial artist.  He was always real.  He meant to perfect his craft, always trying to progress it.

He was a for real guy is what I am trying to say.  A good guy.  I really like him.  He was one of the guys that had real fighting going on back then.  He was having full contact fights at his school, [similar to MMA today],  "Friday Night Fights" I think they called it.  It wasn't so big because the laws of the times wouldn't allow you to openly do what they were doing; but I remember that at one time he was trying to get that going.  The boxing commissioner was giving him the hardest time because they didn't want it to take away from Boxing's lime-light.


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