Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cheng Chuan Kung Fu Roots and the Calasanz System

Expression is an essential component to getting your martial arts practice to “come to life.” I recognized this early on in my training and chose to study dance and gymnastics so that my martial arts would have an “expressive” and “energetic” quality.  I wanted this to come across, not only to those watching my performances, but more importantly, to myself. I knew practicing these forms of self-expression would take my forms within martial art to a whole new level.  I also ventured into other martial art styles in search of this “energy” and was fortunate to have found it in Cheng Chuan.

Cheng Chuan is a style of kung fu that is characterized by smooth, extended and fluid movements.  It is called a long range fighting system as opposed to styles like Wing Chun for example which focuses on close quarter combat or short range fighting. The system is rich in forms, weapons, and self-defense, as well as throwing and locking techniques known as Chin Na.  Cheng Chuan includes acrobatic, spinning, jumping kicks as well as fluid, circular arm movements. It is the expressive nature of Cheng Chuan that drew me to this style.  I devoted many hours to studying Cheng Chuan and it eventually became a great influence on my own martial arts style known as The Calasanz System.

Cheng chuan was a perfect supplemental art to my traditional karate training.  I liked its extension and its fluidity.  This is the exact quality I wanted to bring to my kata practice.  Martial arts students that have had no dance or performance experience tend to be stiff and dull in their kata practice until they learn how to make their katas come to “life.” So I encouraged my students to also adopt the essence of Cheng Chuan in their forms.  I’ve trained many dancers and they knew exactly what I was talking about. 

While my students performed traditional karate forms, I always encouraged them to adopt the principles of Cheng Chuan…long, flowing, extended movements. Years ago, I sent a group of students to Mas Oyama’s Kyokushinkai tournament.  This was their first time competing in a tournament so we couldn’t waste any time getting them ready.  Some of them were dancers so they were able to learn a kata rather quickly.  Many of them scored 1st place in their division because we incorporated the beauty and grace of long, extended movements and the essence of Cheng Chuan. 

Strategically, applying Cheng Chuan principles to karate katas was a good move for this tournament.  If any of you are not familiar with the Kyokushinkai style, it is one of the hardest styles of karate that you’ll ever encounter.  I say this with great respect for the style and its founder, Mas Oyama, a great martial arts pioneer.  I often sent my students to the Oyama tournaments because they were fair and honorable competitors.  I was looking to create contrast in the eyes of the judges, who had spent the day watching one hard style kata after another.  I was sure that the ability of my students to deliver these katas with rhythm and grace was a winning combination. 

Since that day, we followed the same formula. Shortly after the Oyama tournament, I sent one of my students, who had never competed, to one of the biggest point tournaments in New England.  He competed in the black belt division, incorporating the same philosophy…elongated, fluid and expressive movements that won him first place. 

I also found Cheng Chuan to be a great form of physical exercise.  Its forms practice improves coordination, flexibility and cardiovascular health.  When done under the watchful eye of a competent instructor, Cheng Chuan also helps strengthen the joints and tendons.  This type of training develops flexibility and overall support around the bones and muscles, which is especially important in avoiding injuries.

Traditionalists once frowned upon exploring and experimenting with the essence of other styles or forms of physical expression.  This is now the exception and not the rule as more martial artists seek to expand their skills.   Incorporating something new into your martial arts routine can transform a routine kata into an inspirational, uplifting form of movement. 

The Calasanz System™ has logically incorporated some of the best techniques to take your martial arts to a whole new level. If you’re stuck and feel the need to progress in your art, Calasanz has the innovative vision to tailor a whole new training program to your specific needs.

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