What is at the core of the kids programme?

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Every week here at the Kids Kung Fu classes we open our doors to the ever growing number of excited children. Unlike the adults they bound into class with what seems like endless energy and enthusiasm; you could become tired just watching them. They line up to bow to the teachers and training begins. Now the question you may ask is ”What’s the training all about?” Sure we train physical fitness and martial technique but what lies at the core of the kids programme?  Well we like to compare every child that joins us to a seed and as we know each seed contains limitless potential. With this in mind we dare not water down the teachings we present as it would be similar to restricting the quality of sunlight and moisture the seed requires for healthy growth. Some may say the concepts and fundamentals we teach are too much for some children to grasp. However, here at YMAA we refuse to dull the edges of these most important tools, taking time to work with every child irrespective of their ability. My own three children are growing at a steady pace and I hope like myself you wish to bring out the very best in them all. After all its not long before they become the dreaded teenager’s and we lose this opportunity to greatly influence their development. So while we are here lets encourage them to push their roots as deep as possible and build a good foundation for healthy, strong growth. Allowing them to become the tall, towering trees we know they can become

 

A Different Type of Weaving

Students often complain that due to their busy life styles they find it hard to accommodate training outside of the class room. To put this into perspective a Chinese boxing practitioner should put in a minimum of two hours a day to gain any real progression in the art.

Fifty percent of this training time should be spent on the basic fundamental building blocks: such things as basic stances for strengthening legs, gaining improved rooting and better overall balance. Excellent flexibility through warm up and stretching exercises. Quickening reaction time by drilling techniques and working with dynamic body workouts. Using bodyweight and anaerobic exercises to increase muscle, joint and bone strength. Taking part in realistic partner drills and sparring to establish a good sense of both distance and enemy.

Of course all this is fine if you’re living in a retreat centre under the watchful eye of a kung fu master or perhaps in a Buddhist temple on some isolated mountain range. However, the average person lacks the stability afforded to those that live far from trappings of modern living: job, car, house, friends, partner, children, gym membership, yearly holiday, bank loans. All of which are spawned from the matrix that is called, not with out its degree of irony, civilised society.

So we find ourselves working the nine till five and seeing more of our boss than we do of our loved ones. Struggling to find enough spare time to meet with friends, enjoy our favourite pass times or tackle anything else on that ever growing ‘to do list.’  It’s no wonder that finding even ten minutes to condition your wrist for the rigors of chin na training becomes an impossible task.

The answer is not easy but, like most things in life, it’s through hardship and perseverance that we gain the most rewards. The words that fit are ‘life style change’ but these are bandied around all the time and in fear of losing your attention let me quickly explain what I mean: your fundamental training must be weaved into your daily activities if you are to stand a chance of keeping any remnants of your modern life and in turn gain progression in your Chinese Boxing.

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Let’s take an example: Due to the nature of their work cooks are often depicted as great fighters in the kung fu films. They can be found standing for great lengths of time lifting heavy pots, chopping, peeling, stirring, tenderising, kneading etc. The by-product of which is body conditioning that builds the foundation for a superior kung fu practitioner.

Now I’m not asking you to quit the day job and take up work in some antiquated kitchen void of electricity and the modern utensils that come with it.  However, look at your daily activities and ask yourself how can you integrate your fundamental training into what you already do?

Here are some ‘weaving’ examples of my own:

I’ve been told that I spend longer than most brushing my teeth; clocking up over five minutes at each sitting. Here I find an opportunity to ‘weave’ my training into a daily activity. So in the morning, during half the brushing, I stand on my left leg and hold the golden rooster stance, working both balance and leg strength. Then repeat the same for the remaining brushing time on the right leg.

During the week I work the nine to five office job. Meaning the hour lunch break, as long as I’m willing to eat the sandwich at the desk, allows me to fit in forty five minutes of training each day. However, on top of this, being the only male in the office every department regularly asks me to move heavy boxes into the store room. Here, choosing not to use the step ladder, I practise my power or jing manifestation by firing the boxes onto the shelves.WP_20130624_003

In the evenings at home I’ve become very quick at preparing bread dough. After putting the kids to bed I take the prepared dough and kneed it for ten minutes before baking. This is something I’ve always enjoyed and the by-product isn’t just fresh bread and happy family members; my hands, wrists, arms and upper body get a good workout and conditioning.WP_20130514_028

Obviously my examples don’t suit everyone but everyone has opportunities in their day to weave: If you travel to work on the train remain standing during the journey and practice your balance and rooting by trying to remain upright without the aid of the hand rails. While waiting for the train choose to go through your stretching exercises on the platform; you may be surprised to find that other people ask to join you. Keep a soft rubber ball in your pocket and regularly squeeze it in your palm to builds up great grip and finger strength.

As you can see the possibilities are endless but you must make these changes part of your life. Weave them into your daily activities until they become so instinctive you forget your even doing them.

When we were young

250px-SupermanWhen we were young we became heroes: dressing up as our favourite protector of the peace and squashing the injustice of the evil doer. Whether we became superman or batman it was through our innocence and pure heartedness that we cared not for what others thought, believing only in the idea that we could also achieve the heroes’ greatness.
However, life and society have a terrible way of conditioning us to settle into the predetermined comfort zone far from the hero’s cape. We live in fear of what our peers may think of us and we continually look for approval from others no matter who they are or what they believe in. We worry about how many friends we have on facebook and what we need to do to maximize the ‘likes’ we receive. I’m not interested in the middle ground, I’m not looking to get the most ‘likes’ or say the right things to please the majority. I’ve chosen to pick up and run with this idea of greatness that we left behind all those many years ago.
There will be many who will join for the short term; finally giving up because their bodies will tire, they will dislike what is being asked of them or they will refuse the changes the art form brings. My interest is not with them my energy and time is dedicated to those whom are truly devoted, those who never really took off the cape.
You will become faster, stronger and gain practical fighting technique. You will learn why you are not breathing properly, make improvements to your posture before it is too late and connect with the ground so you can move your body correctly. Conditioning will occur externally as well as internally. Your wisdom mind will gain the upper hand on your emotional mind. You will tap into the internal elixir, build its power and gain longevity. All of these are great things and we all have the potential for greatness, its up to you how far you want to take it?

Pure of Heart

Whenever my children are bold or caught doing something they know is not right I always explain to them about the importance of being pure of heart (poh). If you were fortunate enough to be my neighbour you would no doubt hear me shouting ‘poh’ at the kids through an open window or over the garden fence.Kidskungfupoh The dictionary description of pure hearted is: of a person without malice, treachery, or evil intent; honest; sincere; guileless. Of course just saying this isn’t going to inspire the child to take the right path; the idea grows through example and continues guidance from those around them.

YMAA Gorey aims to equip the young student with many tools for life like this concept of ‘poh’. For example, martial morality is a huge part of their training and introduces them to concepts such as humility, righteousness and loyalty.
So in class they may well learn how to generate powerful kicks or how to weald a deadly sword but they will also understand how their words, and how they choose to use them, can also be weapons.

Horse vs Monkey

 

Reading a book recently, called the ‘Chimp Paradox’, has got me thinking about the Chinese concept of the emotional mind and the wisdom mind.

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The monkey, with its flighty, erratic nature represents the emotional mind; while the horse, with its calm and steady constitution represents the wisdom mind. The goal, achieved usually through mediation, is for the horse to grow in dominance and gain better control over the monkey. This self improvement technique allows an individual to remain centered and focused in all situations. Particularly helpful for the martial artist who finds himself caught in the heat of battle.

The book itself wasn’t really for me but it did bring up some interesting points: Firstly the author paints a very simplistic image of the human brain by dividing it into seven different sections: frontal lobe, temporal lobe, limbic system, parietal lobe, brain stem, occipital lobe and cerebellum. He then takes the frontal lobe and limbic system and asks us to simplify their functions: the frontal lobe works with logic and truth and represents the horse or human mind, the limbic system works with impressions and feelings and represents the monkey or chimp mind. Interestingly there is medical proof showing that thinking calmly and logically increases the blood supply to the frontal lobe and thinking irrationally and emotionally increases the blood flow to the limbic system.

So what wakes the monkey and increases the blood flow to the limbic system? Let’s take an example: Sarah is travelling to work in her car, as she does every morning, when someone cuts her up nearly causing an accident. If Sarah just dismissed the incident and wrote the person off as a very bad driver she would be using the horse mind and getting on with her day. However, Sarah’s monkey mind takes over causing her to increase her speed and drive only inches from the other car shouting and gesturing abuse at the driver. She keeps this up for the next couple of miles until the other driver pulls off waving her goodbye. When Sarah finally gets into work she’s still frustrated from her earlier encounter and continues thinking about it and discusses it with her colleagues. Even on her journey home that evening she is still annoyed and looking for a similar driver to take her aggression out on. It’s not until she is at home very tired and talking things over with her husband, who suggests that she should just forget about it as its not doing her any good, does she let it go and allow logic and the horse mind to take over.

From the example given I don’t want you to think of the emotional mind as a negative thing; it is neither good nor bad we just need to learn how to use it constructively. To gain this understanding we first need to know how the monkey interprets the world: the author tells us that it uses jungle instinct and this built in mechanism safe guards the perpetuation of the species and self survival. An aspect of this mind that we will all be familiar with, as it’s shared by all animals in the animal world, is the flight, fight or freeze instinct; in our example above Sarah chose fight! Other common aspects of the jungle instinct include the drive to attract a mate, have sex, establish territory, search for food, find shelter etc

The horse mind, on the other hand, is looking for self fulfillment and interprets the world through logic by establishing truths and facts. Among its many drives are happiness and success which are usually gained using ethics and morals.

One of our many goals here at YMAA Gorey is to manage the monkey by harnessing its strength and power when it’s working for us but neutralizing it when it is not. The horse is the key to this and can manage the monkey to eliminate unpredictable and irrational thinking such as unnecessary worrying, the habit of saying things in the heat of the moment, over eating, not exercising even though you really want to etc etc.

The list is endless and I’m still using the horse mind to remove my own obstacles that previously stopped me from achieving the things that now bring me happiness and success.