Sifu and few others trained with sifu’s sifu (aka Sigung) this past weekend. Due to other commitments I could not go. The next trip is slated for the end of winter and I’m going to make a serious effort to attend.
Besides some refinements on Gong Li Quan it sounds like the bulk of the material covered was the soft methods from Praying Mantis. We reviewed some of these in warm-ups and line drills last night. Granted, it was only one class and we barely touched on the seminar material, but one basic premise I learned is that soft is used to set up a hard technique. It also sounds like a good portion of the soft methods rely on footwork. For example, last night we worked on a retreating stance with Mantis claw and also a side step palm block with hard strike. It sounds pretty basic but coming from a taekwondo/karate paradigm I have to say just the little lesson last night was hard enough!
After a year-and-a-half of Qinna and about six months of Mantis I now can see why Tae Kwon Do is considered a hard art. Getting soft and using your softness effectively is very hard (pun intended). I often wonder if it’d be easier for me to pick up something like Goju Ru Karate which, like Mantis, is classified as a hard/soft style.
Goju Ryu shares its roots with other styles of karate developed over the centuries from the fighting arts of China and rooted through Okinawa. Many of the school’s movements are very soft, as in Chinese Kempo.
At least with Goju Ru I’d have a better familiarity with a lot of the hard karate concepts. In Mantis even the hard is done differently than the hard in Tae Kwon Do. Whatever the case, I sort of see this time as a transition period for me. At the very least it’s a good introduction into getting softer and it also starts to fill another martial deficit I have.
This week is forms week so we did not (or will not) dig too deep into the soft methods. It sounds like there were a lot of form refinements at the seminar too. Before I could even work on Gong Li Quan I had to review Tam Tui and pay particular attention to my stances. By the time I got to Gong Li Quan my legs were well on their way to fried. As for Gong, well, there were enough refinements to really throw me and probably set me back a few weeks. I was on track to probably learn the rest of it this week. After last night I can see that I’ll spend all of this week trying to remember all the corrections. The good news for me is that I’m so new that I’ll probably have it easier than some of our veterans who are now set in their ways.
Related to the above image, these last few weeks have seen an exodus of sorts in both Kung Fu and Qinna. I really think it’s a combination of factors:
- The poor economy
- The Midwest’s attraction to sports-type competition
- The fast food mindset vs. the traditional approach to martial arts
Sifu was wondering what he could do to attract more people. Part of the equation is attracting them but the other part is keeping them. We had enough trouble keeping members at my old Tae Kwon Do school. It would seem that many who were turned off by the traditional approach were still kept interested due to all the competition opportunities. Also, chasing and preparing for that next big belt test is also a good motivator. Still, even in TKD, we had a pretty high attrition rate.
There are very few opportunities in the Midwest for competition in the traditional Chinese arts. In addition, I’m learning that this type of competition is still frowned upon by some. Worse still, schools offering authentic Chinese arts are few and far between. So it’s not even possible to compete within a collection of schools. When you factor all this in with the now pervasive MMA mindset you end up with a challenge keeping students.
Lets face it: I’m in a part of the country that subscribes to the NASCAR mindset. Most in this area are attracted to the flash-bang of MMA and they also think it’s cool to own a uniform than looks like something a race car driver would wear. I’ll have to think about it but I’m not sure what advice I can give sifu.