Thursday, May 30, 2013

Calasanz Splits in Two lifting 125lbs on Each Leg




Just watching this video of super flexibility, it is something that has never been seen in Martial Arts before.  Nobody, nobody has done something like what is being done here.  The discipline, the technology, the time, and dedication necessary to prepare the body to be capable of something like that is too much work.  You have to be so precise, you have to know so much about the joints and the muscle.  But before we talk about joints and muscle let us go to the beginning.

When I first saw Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon I walked out and knew I had seen what I really wanted to become.  And then, after coming to America, the USA, I started doing all this crazy training to catch up, to be as good as him.  In only one year I had managed to destroy my entire body.  I destroyed every joint in my body.  I went to I don't know how many chiropractors, and doctors.  They all gave me the same assessment.  "You wore out every muscle, every joint in your body."  And that was after only 1 year. 

You see, back then I was on my own.  I didn't have anybody to hold me back, so I just went for it; training intensely day in and day out.  Nobody held me back.  Now since learning that lesson on my own I do everything I can to make sure my students don't get hurt like I did.  I will tell them, don't over do it.  But of course if they keep going with very hard and very heavy training I simply tell them, "Okay maybe not now but sooner or later you are going to regret it.  It is up to you, you are an adult but I tell you, you cannot be pushing so much for so long on physical arts."  

I understand now that at that point I believed in ankle weights as an effective and viable training tool but also, I did not know yet or understand yet how to use them.  I didn't know what I should do with them.  I hadn't yet developed the science behind the use of ankle weights; but now we have it.

One day I remember, I was training with these guys who were already Gold Medalists or were training to compete in the Olympics.  Watching them and moving around with them it was easy to see that they were faster than me.  Their kicks were faster, but I was stronger.  After witnessing their speed I spent 3 days kicking with two and one-half pound ankle weights on.  In those three days I changed my kicks to be just as fast.  I did that, I changed that in just three days.  The next time I went there I was kicking as fast as or faster than any other student I might confront over there.

That same dedication, that same process, I did it with my punches, throwing punches for 3 days.  I trained everything in that same way.  That year, it destroyed me.  I was over-training my body.  I was over-doing it.

After taking the days, weeks, months to heal from that overly intense training year; going through the proper process, listening to my body, I would make the realization.  I would go back and start listening to my body.  I said to myself, "Wait a minute, I am doing too much to the muscle, now I know how I can do it, this is how it follows."  

This is what I did to be able to put 120 - 130 (I believe I can do 140) pounds on each leg without getting hurtThis is not a thing that any one can try.  If an injury happens doing that, especially with that massive weight it is the kind of injury that will cost you many many years to heal if you are lucky and it doesn't end your career because this is VERY dangerous.

But yes, probably everybody has read about the history about how we have gotten here, how we have come up from so far and made such progress.  All of it has progressed to this point based on science.  By going slowly.  Don't go and try to get a split in one day, something like that, it takes time.  But then again, it is not just time that determines the progress, there are plenty of people working for 10 to 15 years trying to get a split but can never get there because their process is flawed and ends in stagnation.

If you come to me for 6 months and you follow the system closely, my program, it does not matter how tight you are.  I can get you into primarily a Japanese split and a Russian split and it doesn't take too long, especially if you are under the age of 30.  

Even if you give me a guy over 90 years old, as long as he doesn't have a terminal illness I can have that guy completely raised, I can have that guy build every muscle.  I can do that because I have done it.  I have done it and I have done it even with people that are sick.  One of them, John Ryan from a neighboring town.  He had an illness and I brought him from being already 3 or 4 inches hunched over, I brought him to be straight.  One of our more widely recognized trainers, Alex Sascha, from Russia trains very hard and demands a lot from his students and is not afraid to push them far beyond their limit; but within 6 months I had John Ryan go from being ill and hunched over to being capable of taking a class with Sascha.

So the facts is that there are many ways that I can help people.  I can help them one-on-one and train them in person or I can custom train someone through focused instructional videos.  For example, people with love handles I can give them videos of 4 or 5 exercises to take home, watch, learn and perform them on their own.  Someone else says, "Calasanz I want to get a split."  So we start from the very beginning and I give the first video, then the second, the third, the fourth.  By the time you have 10 videos, or whatever, in 10 months you will have the split WITHOUT getting hurt.

But what makes us unique is our approach.  Again, it is scientific, it is based on logic.  Many don't realize its important to train strength AND flexibility.  You will not achieve the same results training just flexibility without the strength or vice versa, you cannot be doing just strength without the flexibility.  If you do too much strength then you just get tight.  So it is a combination of many different aspects being put to work with our system under science.  The science means you have to follow certain processes.  

It's like a pressure point.  With a pressure point you have a circle, then you press for example in the middle, go 45 degree angle up, 45 left, right and so on.  You go pressing all the different points, that is how pressure points work.  Death Touch for example is the same way.  If you want to deliver that shot to a person you have to deliver it specifically to that pressure point.  That Death Touch or impact must be 100% precise, it has to be performed exactly the way its supposed to be done, otherwise it doesn't work.  It's just like doing a bong shou or a tan shou.  One little bit off means your center line or your chi is not applicable, it is not a proper representation or expression of the concept, or of the structure.  And the same dedication, precision and focused attention are necessary in order to train and accomplish something like that split... especially after knowing how muscle can become frail.

I experienced first hand how tender muscle can be when I was a little bit younger.  I would do a lot of pounding, stomping on concrete.  I was pounding one day from 4 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon.  Pounding, pounding with 10 pounds on each leg.  In each class that I taught I would be pounding more than the students I was training.  I remember my last student that day, his name was John Winking.  I am teaching this young guy, 22 years old, and I am pounding and pounding.  The muscle over the course of that day got so warm... its like taking a wire and you twist it, twisting, twisting, twisting.  It gets warm and then it will break.  That is what happened to me.  I over did it and my calf exploded, but again, over time I would fix it.

After that happened I knew what I was supposed to do with the tendon.  And that was when I started combining strength and flexibility training simultaneously into my exercises.  Before that I had the flexibility, but I did not have the strength necessary to manage that flexibility.  Now we have both.  But that is a perfect example.  The explosion of my calf, I've never seen something like it before.  My calf exploded such that it swelled to probably 5 times bigger.  But I knew exactly at that point what I had done, that I had overworked it.

Some of our students they pick up on that very quickly.  These pupils have an understanding of what they are doing and the meaning behind Physical Art.  They can understand the meaning.

(I asked him then...)

How long did it take you to develop to the point to accomplish the ability to do a split like that with so much weight?


(Paraphrased response)

"I would say that to get to that point, if I wasn't working and could completely devote myself to that... I could have reached something like that in 4 years or less.  But working, having to rest, having to be careful.. it can take someone up to 10 years to develop up to that.  You see, if you push too hard trying to get it faster, faster, faster you are going to burn out or get injured.  You will be healing for 2 years doing nothing.  Nothing you can do for 2 years or more, that is a big set back.  This is the science behind it.  It takes 10 years or maybe more but just because I work, and sometimes I am so sore and burned out from doing something like that... Just understand, that when I did that it took me around 5 weeks to just come back and be able to do it again because the muscle is so internally, and the last thing you want is to go and pull that muscle, that going in cold or without developing you are going to get hurt.  So, I would say not working, just doing that, doing a camp or something dedicated, someone working like that trying to accomplish it and safely can probably do it in 2 years.  But again, working teaching on top of attempting that accomplishment it takes longer.  It's like me trying to do this fight.  I could have done this fight in 1990 but I couldn't because I had too many problems in other areas; so now I am building what I need to do to do that fight slowly... But I would love that I wouldn't have to do that, that I could have enough sponsorship that....  I did have enough sponsorship back then but again, too many problems so I have to go slowly, building.  It might even take me another 10 years before I say, 'I am ready.'"


Transcribed from an audio recording of Calasanz

Provided by: Calasanz

Transcribed and Developed by: Alan Wedell

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Closing the Gap

Transcribed From an Audio Recording of Calasanz

When I first came to this country I started exciting people immediately.  I was blocking all sorts of attacks and techniques even from those experienced, well practiced, well established expert instructors and championship fighters.  Those who were in attendance and witnessing me do this were often even confused or baffled.  You see, back then people were so strict to the tradition and the technique of their style that as they would go through their forms or techniques in practice they neglected to focus so much on learning how to be in a fight.  

When a strike comes towards you it is not so important that your form and technique be completely perfect.  It is more important that you actually block the strike.  Taking it a step further, if you go and throw the proper and traditional block during a fight, while it may be the most perfect form and the most perfect iteration of the technique, if that strike gets through to make solid contact then you haven't actually blocked at all.  That is part of Bruce Lee's meaning in his famous quote  when he said, "be like water, my friend". (quote at 4:42)

People would ask me, "How is it that you are doing Karate?"  They were expecting me to block with what they call "middle block" or that I would block by doing a "high block" or whatever.   But no, instead I was doing it in such a unique way that no matter if I blocked like that or not still I would not get hit.  I was doing something that many of them had never experienced, seen or even thought about before.  What was I doing?  Simple, I was doing something called "closing the gap".  

For example, a guy throws a punch at me.  I raise my front leg in front of me, both elbows in to protect my center and both hands open, light and soft to protect my face.  There were countless students and even more challengers who would come at me with a front kick or some other kind of kick but all of them, they would find that it was like hitting a wall.  The knee was up, hands and elbows in the center, fully protected, totally safe, and un-phased.  This is how we built the name of having the best defense.

You see, when I came to this country I had already understood the concept of protecting the center from learning Goju Ryu Karate in the Dominican Republic under the late 'Father of Karate' Tameyoshi Sakamoto.  Little did I know, prior to my coming here, that this was just part of Wing Chun.  When I came here to this country and I discovered Wing Chun I immediately began drawing parallels between the two styles, Goju Ryu and Wing Chun, and I instantly picked up on their similarities.

Going back now, when I was younger, a kid about 115 pounds and standing up across from me was Rafael Martinez.  So there we were; me ready there and Rafael in a karate stance just waiting to unload.  He was at that time like a heavy-weight boxer, very tall and big.  I was standing there looking like just a kid.  He came at me with some sort of kick and at the moment he launched his attack at me I closed up and BOOM! I followed up with a counter-attack.  Every time he attacked I closed up and countered him.  

Following our little bout immediately Rafael Martinez started asking "Who are you?.. Who are you?"  In both excitement and bewilderment.  Rafael told me, "No, no, no you cannot be here getting taught by these guys, these brutal karate lessons, you will kill yourself."  And it was soon enough that he took me to Tameyoshi SakamotoThankfully Rafael saw that I did not deserve to be in the brutal class like that.  

So, the time came that he took me to meet Tameyoshi Sakamoto.  I remember the first time I saw him there he was sitting down just watching the other people sparring.  The first thing he put me to do was to move around with this kid Victor.  Victor was very short but stocky; built like a truck.  Sparring with him that day I learned a lesson I will never forget.  That was the day that I got kicked.  Victor hit me with a kick I had never seen before and simply could not expect at that point of my training.  The kick was almost a Capoeira style kick.  The kick was, he turned around putting his hands to the ground and as he turned he extended his leg behind him, strong and straight.  It was delivered directly into my abdomen and chest with the heel.  That kick hit and landed so hard that even 3 months after I didn't even know where my stomach was in my body.  It was just sore in certain ways... I don't know how to describe it.  3 months after taking that shot someone could bite my stomach and I would not feel it.  He paralyzed my abdomen for 3 months with that kick I mean, it was a shot that could kill somebody, powerful enough to kill anyone, and I took it.  He connected that kick on me and today, all I can say is 'Thanks' because that kick was the best lesson I could have gotten at that point.

As time went on and since I was already just a young kid trying to help and was so competent in working with people they would ask me "Why don't you start teaching?"  Hearing people say this put those other instructors and more advanced students at unease, especially considering the relationships that they had built over the weeks, months, and years of training there.

So, eventually I did start teaching there and after a period of time training this guy, a wrestler, wanted to challenge me even though I was his instructor already.  Everybody showed up there and I had to fight him to decide which one of us was going to take over training the club.  Me or him.  He wanted to defeat me.  His name was Belo.  That day was the last class that Belo ever took in martial arts.  When he came to jump at me I turned around with that same kick that Victor had gotten me with.  But instead of it landing into his stomach, I landed it into his head.  After taking that strike he was bleeding out of every orifice in his head: nose, mouth, eyes, ears.  To my knowledge that was the last time Belo ever participated in martial arts training.

Now, people who saw that kick would keep trying to get me with it, but I had already learned that lesson thanks to Victor.  They could not hit me with it.  Why?  Because of "closing the gap".  Lifting the leg, elbows center, hands up.  Its the only thing that could stop or block that kick... and it was just as simple as closing the gap.

And that was when everybody started really seeing me perform.. somebody throws a back fist, ... close the gap.  Somebody throws a round kick, ... close the gap.  Somebody throws a left hook, ... close the gap.  No matter the technique somebody threw at me, it was a simple solution.  Close the gap.

I remember when the movie Ong Bak came out.  This is very good for you to understand.  I was getting so many calls, everyone said "Calasanz, you HAVE to see this guy!" (Tony Jaa) "The only person we can compare him to is you because of all those kicks!" and because of the way he was closing the gap.  Swinging the leg to block inside, and outside blocking two kicks, then grabbing the guy by the nose.  ... You see, that's the sort of thing you can do with closing the gap that's how much you can do with that simple technique, that simple principle.  

Now, back to the topic.  Closing the gap... there are so many areas.  Just for you to understand... the concept, in principle, has no limitation.  Change the angles, maneuver the guy.  It's fluid and then its just a matter of closing the gap to get inside.  You can do it to any one if you set it up and do it in the right way.  This is why in the 90's nobody wanted anything more to do with me in the ring, because it was so easy for me to hit somebody; that combined with the power I was building through physical art, it was scary.  I would get inside by closing the gap and ...

In the ring, yes it is useful, but even more-so in the street.  These guys, they just couldn't understand what was happening, they didn't know what was going on.  Again... there are hundreds and hundreds of techniques you can perform while closing the gap, it all just depends on how much you see.  Closing the gap is just beautiful in its simplicity.  Even facing a guy with 3 times your training you can out maneuver him with this principle, this concept.  

But what follows after the gap is closed?  Following that of course is counter attack.  But even sometimes just by closing the gap you end up blocking and striking at the same time.  This is the same concept behind Bruce Lee's intercepting fist.  If you really have great balance and great technique and then you use closing the gap, you can be someone very hard, very difficult to deal with.  Especially on the street.  If a street fighter comes throwing wild punches at you there is nothing better to use than the closing the gap technique because it is an easy, easy way of defending yourself, and probably you end up just smacking the guy without hurting the guy and embarrassing him.  

With closing the gap you can do anything, and when combined with the simplicity of Wing Chun it just becomes so natural that at some point you will end up having the guy by his ear or by his nose.  He punches, you close... then you are very near, that is learned from the dummy, this is learned by learning the dummy and it all follows through.  

This is why when you think about Wing Chun it is something still that unfortunately the Chinese try to hide it.  They try to stop it from being taught as a fighting style (like Bruce Lee started to do with "jeet kun do") just because it is so beautiful.  Understand, the Chinese are very bright, very smart, and Wing Chun is indeed beautiful, but it is just as deadly as it is beautiful when applied universally and correctly.  

But then you take a look at the Japanese guys who are preparing for 5 years getting ready for a fight, conditioning the body and really getting ready.  Meanwhile the Chinese are doing Wing Chun forms without contact for 20 years just in case some day they get into a fight on the street.  That is different.  The guy on the street doesn't get ready for 10 rounds.  The guy stepping into the ring, he gets ready for 10 rounds.  Now the Wing Chun guy is going to have problems because now he is in a competition; something he hasn't been training for.  

Wing Chun was not designed, it was not discovered for competition.  It was designed to kill.  It was developed towards efficiency of movement, practicality and intended to be all inclusive using the entire body as a complete, comprehensive and cohesive human weapon without limitations.  A Wing Chun guy overwhelms the average street fighter, but he cannot do that in the ring without further training.  So that is the point.  

Still up to today there are not too many people who speak clear.  This is clear.

If you are learning traditionally you may not be able to step in the ring, but you can dominate any fight on the street against an agitated, normal, everyday kind of guy.  First of all, the guy who wants to fight you on the street probably knows nothing.  You as a Kung Fu guy if you meet a guy on the street that wants to fight he must be stupid or drunk.  If you end up in a discussion with the guy who knows something, with a person like that, with a person who is really a black belt or whatever, or a Kung Fu guy, you are going to end up as friends.

[The conversation would go like..]

"Oh!  You do Kung Fu and you want to fight me?  Are you crazy?!  We don't train Kung Fu to fight!  Let's shake hands.  ...Who is your master?"

"My master is this guy with wild hair in Norwalk, Calasanz.  He is Loco."

"AH!  That is my master!  And you call him loco!  Yeah, I agree with that!" 


 With no other training someone who knows how to close the gap is already defending themselves better than most trained fighters.  It's an amazing concept, a beautiful concept.


Calasanz Physical Art
507 Westport Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06851

Recording Provided by Calasanz

Developed and Transcribed by Alan Wedell