I am always amazed at how we humans are so attached to our ideas and opinions of reality when in fact they have little basis in reality. We have certain ideas that we think are real and actually matter to our lives when they are just contrivances that we have somehow cast as real in our lives. The Zen master Bankei addresses this in one of his lectures when he talks about how some people are attached to the vessel they drink out of rather than the content. They are so sure that the vessel makes the drink when in reality it is only our mind that makes such attachments. I am sure there are those that might be able to tell the difference between wine sipped from fine crystal versus porcelain but they are few and far between. We are not bloodhounds. For years now I have only used one cup to drink beverages from be it coffee, water, wine or juice. I make no pretenses about being able to tell the difference because I can’t. I know that other vessels feel differently but I don’t think they have any effect on the taste other than psychologically.
In what seem like a fairly mundane example of this I would like to tell you about one of my experiences with this. Years ago my youngest brother’s friends would come to my parent’s house and visit. They would sit and drink beer and play cards. They each brought their own six pack of beer because they each had there own very strong preferences of what they drank. Each would only drink their own certain brand of beer. One night I took each of their beers and put them into glasses that were numbered on the bottom and challenged each to pick their beer. They were certain they could do it. There were five different beers in five different glasses and none of us could see the number on it. I took the test too even though I was not much of a beer drinker. After we were finished we compared notes. I got 3 out of 5 beers right mainly because I did not like Genesee because it was too sweet and thought Coors light had no taste. I forget what the other beers were. Not one of the other participants got their beer right, not one! They were very surprised and you might expect that this would cause some self reflection and reevaluation of their opinions. It did nothing of the sort, if anything, they were annoyed at the challenge. Recently a major micro brewery decided to go to cans over bottles to save money. Their customers were in an uproar but they did a double blind study on it to see if they could tell the difference between canned beer and bottled. Before the test the participants were absolutely sure they could tell the difference but the results were shocking, they were wrong over 75% of the time.
It might be understandable how the ordinary folk might be fooled but what about the true professionals, surely they have it right. Here is a more drastic example of this type of self bias. Researchers did a comparison of Stradivarius violins and cheaper models. The Strad is the holy grail of violins and musicians pay millions of dollars to own one. They did this experiment with concert violinists. Only 7 out of 17 participants got it right. Here is the audio story on this experiment: http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/01/02/144482863/double-blind-violin-test-can-you-pick-the-strad
Another strong example of this is the taste test conducted with real wine somaliers. Somebody snuck in a bottle of Two Buck Chuck, the wine sold at Trader Joe’s for two bucks, among the pricey wines ranging from $15 to $50 a bottle. Two Buck Chuck came in tenth out of forty wines or so. There was a lot of outrage over this test. I think if you served the most expensive wine and TBC but swapped their bottles most would pick the expensive labeled bottle even though it was full of cheap wine. Clearly there are bad violins, lousy beers and cheap wines that don’t measure up but the majority of time it’s our bias we carry and not the reality of the moment.
In my field as an audio engineer I have encountered this many times. When I ask those with great preferences over microphones or speakers to do a double blind test they almost always fail. When they fail the test do they then reevaluate their positions? Hell no, they give all kinds of excuses on how it was skewed and often get angry with me. We have no idea on how we are so bound to our opinion of things not realizing that they are just that, opinions with no basis in reality. The odd thing is that when we are proved wrong about the ability to make these discerning decisions we don’t change out attitudes, we don’t want to give up our attachment to our opinions no matter how often we are proven wrong. This is an odd aspect of the human mind. We cling to what we believe rather than what we could know.
A politician is confronted with blatant contradictions in their beliefs over the years and somehow they dismiss it. Religious teachers are presented with massive contradiction in their own belief systems and they ignore it somehow. It is not the truth that wins out with us but our opinion of the truth. Now I hear Jack Nicholson’s voice ringing in my head, “The truth, you can’t handle the truth.”
For me this is a fascinating area of study. Years ago I had my comeuppance with a famous audio engineer. I had stated that I could tell the difference of the sound of varied audio boards and he took me up on it and played me different examples. I failed miserably and it really deconstructed my entire view of my craft. I was really inspired by this to try to see things more clearly and accurately. Sadly, when I do these tests with other people they are not in the least bit amused and are often angry with me. Rather than feeling informed or educated by it they feel they lose face. I don’t think it’s a matter of losing face at all but the exposing the vagaries of human consciousness. Our minds do not perceive things correctly and our beliefs make us cling to things that are specious at best. When you begin to see the problems with your consciousness you can begin to do something about correcting it.
There is a very interesting book on this topic called The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. It’s quite a good read and it might really change the way you think about things.
you knew I was going to use this picture
When you try to teach Zen, kung fu or anything of real value you present it in parts. You can’t present the whole thing because it is incomprehensible to the student. So each student takes what they can and digests what they can. It is like learning the many tributaries of a river and where they lead but not knowing it's source. In music it’s like learning notes and chords and all their variations so you can play songs. When you just know songs you just know by rote but not from the source; you are just repeating or reciting what you’ve been taught but you’re not creating. It is necessary to begin this way but eventually a greater picture must develop. A student who just gets technique after technique or lecture after lecture is just compiling information and not getting to the source. It is the task of the teacher to get the students motivated from within, to create a welling up of essence that blossoms into a new awareness in the student. This is very difficult to do because most students of anything want to cling on to what they’ve been taught. They want to recite their truths or techniques to prove to others what they have learned. They want to accumulate belts and awards as evidence of their knowledge.
There are teachers that parcel out techniques, bit by bit, like they were precious pieces of gold. They don’t want to teach the ‘whole’ thing, give away the entire system because then they have nothing that separates them from the student. There would be nothing that gives them rank or superiority over them. They would lose their prestige or their throne. They do this out of fear because these lessons/techniques are all they have. These are very poor teachers indeed. They themselves have not plunged into the depths of their art and therefore cling to what appears on the surface.
What the real teacher is trying to do is to light that fire within that drives the student to their own fulfillment. One day as the student follows the tributaries, streams and rivers they will all start to merge and he will look up and find himself facing the ocean, the source. He will be amazed and overjoyed, inspired and alive with all of the possibilities that lie ahead. He will dive in
and become the ocean. He will no longer carry techniques or lessons; they willbecome him. He will want to share this awareness not hoard it. And he will struggle to pass on what he sees while his students do not see it. He sees that
we stand at the ocean facing the shore wondering where the ocean is.
If all you have is a hammer, in either mental or physical skill, then you are severely limited in how you can solve problems. There are many ways to steer yourself out of a situation with varied skill sets and techniques but once you introduce a hammer there is only one way out. What you bring to it is what is reacted to so think about what your skills truly are. If you only have a hammer then all things will be hard. Assess yourself and develop more tools.
There is this strange mind set in martial arts that somehow amassing a large amount of techniques equals knowledge of the art. Somehow gathering all this information makes you a master just by virtue of having it all, it’s like thinking owning all of Shakespeare’s works makes you a playwright. There are those that go from school to school and teacher to teacher to gather these techniques and they feel this somehow makes them skilled fighters. They have the twenty mor saos, eighteen beggar’s hands and thirty six gao siu’s and a plethora of other techniques and know the exact nuanced time each is to be employed. They think their specific knowledge of these things makes them superior to other martial artists. Well, real fighting doesn’t work this way. It is fast and dirty with little or no time for nuanced technique. In my own practice I have found that initially
you need to do something devastating before you can do anything refined. Lately in Philadelphia there has been a spate of muggings with groups of young thugs attacking people randomly. There is no time for a specific beggar’s hand or gwok siu. The reaction to the attack has to be immediate and devastating. There is no time for setting a mantis stance as someone comes in on you; they are all coming in on you at once. You have to be fluid and deadly to survive.
This is a situation that is personal to me and that and I take very seriously. I had a student years ago that was a fine young man and diligent practioner of martial arts. He knew every hand there was and had the classical name for them. He used to tell me if an opponent did this type of attack he would do a dragon fist crossing the cloud technique or some other flowery thing. I used to tell him that it never works that way and he needed to develop a simpler, more direct and ferocious style of fighting. He could continue in his art but needed to distill it to a few simple and effective motions. He never quite bought what I was trying to tell him but none the less practiced hard. One night on his way home he saw a fight break out in a park in his neighborhood. Three guys were beating up on one guy and he went to help. In seconds he was taken down and stabbed. Tragically he died later that night. It was a great loss to his family and all of us. He was doing a good deed and died for it.
I don’t know of the specifics of the fight but I fear that he tried, as he often did with me, to bring his bag of techniques to it. There is no way to know if there could have been a different outcome but I will always wonder about it. Mastering a few hands that will serve you in any situation is much more valuable and vital than a plethora of them. An army trainer recently said to me that he finds a few techniques that really work and drills them literally thousands of times with his recruits. It becomes the core of their motion and very effective. So beware of gathering information over developing knowledge; the difference can save your life.
It has happened again to me and it is always amazing. Someone had come to me to ask about learning kung fu and while inquiring about the training asked, “ so….how long until I can teach it?” What? Where else do you go to learn something and before you even start it ask when you can teach it? Can you imagine going to a football, basketball or baseball coach and asking when you could teach it before you even studied it? Do people go to a music lesson for the first time and ask the instructor when can I teach this? It is a truly bizarre phenomenon in martial arts that this happens. When someone comes to a guitar teacher it is because they want to learn to play a guitar not teach it. It is the same with other disciplines; you’re there because you want to learn it. Somehow in martial arts people want to learn the art solely to be the teacher, the revered one, the respected one, okay, but how about being the skilled one?
I’ve been asked this question for years and it always stuns me. It shows a lack of desire to learn the art and a huge desire to have the trappings of the art. It’s about decorations and not about substance. I had a Zen student do the same thing recently. I asked what their intention was in studying Zen and the answer was so they could open a small monastery somewhere that they would be the head of. It wasn’t to seek enlightenment, bestow compassion or to fully understand their nature; it was to be a head of a temple. In over forty years it’s the first time I’ve ever heard this and I find it to be very strange. On the other hand years ago I met a fellow that was talking about doing a particular martial art and I asked him how long he had studied it. He puffed out his chest and said, “I don’t study it, I teach it!” It was like this was supposed to communicate to me what a great person he was or whatever. To him it was an accomplishment but to me it was an astounding admission of ignorance. Teriyuki Okasaki Sensei, the Shotokan master, once said to me that Americans goal is to study to get a black belt and end it there but the Japanese know that the black belt is just the beginning and start their real training there.
The best teachers I’ve had in my life were those that continually grew and learned. They never stopped developing or maturing and they were a deep fountain to draw from. Then there were all of those other teachers I’ve had and we’ve all had …. ‘nuff said.
There is a phrase that is rarely used in martial arts, religion and spirituality that could shed light on many problems and practices. The phrase is simply ‘why does this work?’. Why does one thing produce another and do you truly know that it does? I was once speaking to a very devoted Korean karate student and he was telling me about watching his master hit a makiwara board over and over again till his knuckles bled. Evidently he would do this for hours at a time and be in a trance like state. I asked the student why he did it and he replied, “Because it develops spirituality”. He told me that his master had done this for decades and I asked him, “Why does it develop spirituality”? He had no answer. I have heard this idea for many years in the martial arts community that somehow severe physical discipline will somehow magically produce an insight into the Tao. There are many myths surrounding Bodhidharma and the development of kung fu at Shaolin temple but many scholars refute these tales as being completely fabricated long after Bodhi’s death. In all of my studies in Chan (Zen) Buddhism I have never had a religious scholar mention kung fu associated with Bodhidharma though one once said, “there is nothing in Chinese history he is not accredited with doing, he probably invented the noodle too”. I think that the origins of the spirituality connection might have arisen from this association, real or fabricated, between the two.
I do not see any connection between physical discipline and spiritual development if the philosophy is not inherent in the physical teaching. If there is not an overt and clear teaching of the philosophy in the physical discipline it will not just arise out of nowhere. Hitting a makiwara board over and over again might produce endorphins that could be mistaken for spirituality but that exercise in itself will not produce anything but tough knuckles and eventually arthritis. Standing in a horse for hours or lying extended between boards might toughen the body and discipline the will but it does not dissolve the ego. If somehow enlightened behaviour or deep insight arises out of physical discipline then Arnold Schwarzeneggar and the Navy Seals should supplant the Dali Lama. I have met many incredibly disciplined professional athletes in my work from pro-boxers to WWE wrestlers and I didn’t see anything particularly awakened about them. If anything they were so attached to their physical form as to be out of balance with the rest of reality. For many their entire identity is attached to their body. I’ve never heard them claim their training would enhance their awareness or awaken them either. Somehow Eastern thought is now inextricably linked with just doing a martial art. Even the Samurai masters of old came to study Zen as an adjunct to their martial training because the physical alone was not enough. On the other hand martial artists today will practice bashing each other’s brains in for hours and then either stand in a horse for extended periods or sit full lotus and claim that it will bring them closer to the Tao. Why? Why would a prolonged horse stance bring spirituality? Why, does sitting and meditating bring you awakening? There are religious extremists that meditate to settle their minds and steel their wills before they commit heinous acts of violence so what then what does meditation do what is inherently good about the practice?
These are real questions that really need to be addressed by anyone who wants to develop a deep sense of connection with the universe. Doing kata or practicing scales on a piano does not produce real fighting skills or inspired playing. It does prepare the body for what the mind must develop. Just quieting the mind in meditation is like doing kata but never applying it to real life. This idea of stilling the mind and just being empty was addressed by the Chan master Lin chi (Rinzai in Japanese.) Someone had commented on the great masters who reside in the woods with still minds and he replied, “Shave pated sh*t sticks!” He thought them to be useless and self deluded; just empty vessels roaming about. The idea of just ‘not thinking’ is a really prevalent though poor understanding of Eastern thought in the same way that thinking physical training will develop you spiritually is.
There is another dimension to physical training that must be understood. Anyone who has trained for years knows the wear and tear it takes on the body. The difference between being twenty four years old and thirty four years old is amazing. When you are over fifty the differences are much more stark. As you age you are acutely aware of the vulnerability of the body and its fallibility. The type of energy that moved you when you are young is not the same type of energy that moves you when you are old. As you age you hopefully have developed an expanded awareness of not only what you are doing but mainly of what your opponent is doing. If you are engrossed in your own physicality you will not be aware of your opponent. You can train and harden the body all you want but it does not make you more aware of your surroundings. Spirituality develops when you have trained the body to its peak and then let go of it. Like any instrument it is there to express the art but must be lost to the artist. Any great musician loses awareness of their instrument in order to produce a song at its fullest. A great guitarist can make a poor guitar sound good but a poor guitarist will make a great guitar sound bad. It’s what they bring to it. A great martial artist is developing an awareness that is beyond the normal physical means and gains a greater holistic view of the world. He does this by mastering and then overcoming the physical and simultaneously developing the spiritual. To simply rely on the physical supporting the spiritual is a dead end street for the physical always decays.
Physical discipline enables you to overcome your weaknesses and desires. If you are so concerned about your comfort and desires you will never see beyond what your body dictates to you. If you are so concerned about your fitness you will not be aware of the source of your being. It is when you overcome these attachments as simply gratifying but not satisfying that you might glean a view of a deeper reality. At this point all that is left is the mind to cultivate and then let go of that too. Here you must face the core of your being. When you defend yourself who are you defending? Who/what is this self that disciplines the body? It is from this root that true development happens.
How Einstein got so smart!
This morning we lost a great teacher, uncle and brother. Sifu Louie Jack Man passed away. He will be sorely missed by everyone in Phildelphia's Jook Lum Family. It was an honor to know him. Please keep his family in your thoughts.
There’s an ill wind blowing at a time of great sadness. I experienced this wind years ago when Grand Master Lum Wing Fay died in 1991. Before his death his inner circle of students was well known and undisputed. His lineage was clear. Immediately following his death the vultures descended claiming to be his chosen ones with the ‘real’ style. They claimed backroom promises and secret lessons. Now that Lum Wing Fay Sifu was no longer there to confirm or refute their stories they could boldly assert their claims. Before his death they made no such claims and afterwards they shouted it to the world. There are many schools that have arisen from these fellows even though the true descendants of Sifu Lum have disavowed their validity. This is not unique to Jook Lum. It has occured in many Wing Tsun and other schools when a master has passed. Even in my Zen studies it happened after the death of a great teacher; suddenly someone came forward claiming to being his chosen successor. It's always after the teacher is silenced this happens.
Now, unfortunately, Sifu Jack Man Louie is gravely ill, and again you can hear the flap of the vulture’s wings. Sifu Louie is one of the most honest and forthright men I have ever known. He has never bragged or promoted himself in anyway. He never got involved in politics and was heartbroken with what happened after Lum Wing Fay’s death. He spoke often about his dismay over the braggarts in this style and how much he disdained their grand standing and posturing. He knew there would be those that claimed his legacy too and spoke to those of us in Philadelphia about it. He entrusted only one student here in Philadelphia with his personal artifacts so that his intentions would be clear. He told his Philadelphia kwoon often whom he considered his true students and warned of others who would make that claim. Though many visited Sifu only a few students actually spent years with him and it was these students whom he respected the most. Once at a meal with Sifu Mark Foon, myself and several members of his Philadelphia kwoon, he openly lamented over the state of Jook Lum today and how there were those claiming to be his students who had only used him for status as they did with Sifu Lum. He could hear the wings flapping even back then.
Now that he can no longer speak there are those that are suddenly speaking for him. There will be more. They will make claims about their descendancy though they have never featured him outright at their schools or on their web sites. They did not help him financially over the years nor did they represent him in his New Year demonstrations. They will make many outrageous claims about Sifu Louie’s intentions though he never voiced them to his closest students here. What they dared not say before they will now say with impunity for they can hide behind Sifu’s illness. How terrible this is to happen to such a good man of honor and dignity. Now the dust will rise from their wings and they will get louder and louder as this dear man grows more silent. They already gather overhead awaiting their time to make their proclamations loudly.
Those who have been with Sifu Louie for decades, have shared their homes and meals with him and who have sat at his bedside know the truth regardless of what will be claimed in the coming days. We hope for a miracle that Sifu Louie survives this and will set the record straight but the chances are small. We honor him by our loyalty and friendship but mainly by being like him and not entering into the fray of the impending vulture’s wings.
We are not instinctive creatures which is why we are so helpless as children. Within a short amount of time after birth many animals are able to fend for themselves in some capacity, but we take many years. We have no innate ability to forage for food or to hunt. It is this intrinsic ability of animals that caused the development of the animal styles of kung fu. If we could somehow develop their instincts we could then protect ourselves from our core being. When we learn anything it is initially a cognitive process; we do it with our brains and intellect. We move and condition our body as if we are in the control room that is our brain, observing what we do. From this detached vantage point we make decisions about our training and our goals. We look at our punches from a distance, mentally judging them as "good" or "bad." So we have this sense of a self, a person that is doing or controlling the punching or kicking that is apart from the act itself. There is a separation between the mind and body; there is that which observes and that which is doing the action. From this standpoint:
- I am looking at myself doing my punches.
- I am consciously aware of what I am doing and I am making choices.
- So in effect I am punching.
This is not how animals do it. A cat does not have a mind that is separate from its body. It does not objectify its body parts to know it has claws or that it is made up of different organs. It does not work on making its muscles bigger, because it has no sense of itself as a combination of parts like we do. When the cat fights, it just fights, completely and wholly engaged in the act. It did not consciously train itself to do this. It is its instinct to do what it does. It is not "Fluffy-the-Cat" that is fighting, it is just the pure act of fighting. In this sense is has no claws; it is the claws and everything simultaneously. It fights wholly committed with everything it is and without doubt. We, on the other hand, must train ourselves to make this mind/body meld. This idea of harmonizing mind and body is unique to humans; animals do not have this dilemma. The separation that our mind creates is very difficult to overcome, but it is achievable. It is what happens to anyone who has mastered their craft; they disappear and become the craft. They are unaware of what they are doing while being perfectly aware of it. The action and the actor are one in this aspect. In practicing any technique you must lose the technique to become the technique. The only way to trust in what you do is to become what you do. Your hands will not be flailing about, but will be alert and intelligently engaged. You will move from your core being and not from your mind. The Chinese often refer to this as 'reacting from your spine', in other words, your brain is not involved in it. If you do not fight from this core then you will be self aware in the fight. Besides being separate from your own body you will now be separate from the opponent’s motions. You will be in a constant mode of reacting to them rather than moving as
them. You will know you are "Jack fighting Bill" and be aware of how you may get hurt. When you master technique it must dissolve into you. Your awareness will not be bound by consciousness or thought. You will move freely and completely.
The cat has no claws; it is its claws. The cat does not fight; it is fighting. We must train so that we have no fists or legs. We must have no body and no mind. “You can only fight the way you practice”
That title might sound like a ridiculous thought, but it really is how a lot of people train in the martial arts and they may not be aware of it. There is an intrinsic problem in studying the martial arts no matter what the style. It has to do with how the brain processes information. There are these misconceptions in the arts that somehow something mystical will happen when we are in a real fight and some warrior instinct will arise within us allowing us to vanquish our foes. We believe that the training we do in the kwoon or dojo is going to apply to the streets, but in actuality it normally does not. This is not the blame of the student or the school, but of the brain itself. I had a few instances in my life that crystallized my view on these false ideas we hold. Several years back there was an article in a major Philadelphia paper on female black belts asking them about real life experiences. The reporter asked several of them if they had ever been accosted and when they replied 'Yes' he asked, ‘What did you do?' Pretty much all of them responded that they screamed and then tried to get away. I found this very peculiar that their reflex action was not to strike or fend off, but to scream. This is pretty much any person’s reaction so why do you need a black belt? One time a student visited my workout space with his friend and was pushing the friend to learn kung fu. He told him that he might need it if he or his family was attacked and that he had no fighting skills. The friend did not want to study kung fu and proclaimed, “I know if I ever get attacked that what I need will burst forth from me and I will defeat anyone. I have faith in myself and my religion that I will prevail.” He was clearly very agitated by his friend pushing him and I could see him getting emotionally revved up. Out of nowhere he sprung across the room and attacked our 75lb heavy bag. It was poorly tethered to the floor and ceiling and we always had to reattach it. This fellow attacked it chaotically with his elbows and fists flying in a frenzy. I guess he was trying to show us his great ferocity. The bag broke off the floor tether, which was no surprise to us, tilted back and then came forward top first. It caught this guy under the chin and lifted him off the floor. Then the bottom came swinging back up and nailed him in the groin sending him sprawling on the floor a few feet away. He was knocked down —almost out—by an inanimate bag. He lay there stunned, eventually getting up to simply leave the room. His faith that things would magically go right was probably somewhat compromised at that point.
I have heard long-time martial artists’ state, “Every master knows that when the time comes the ability will spring forth." I completely disagree with this. It’s like never playing tennis against someone and saying “I know when I get on the court with another player I will be able to rise for the occasion." It’s not going to happen. There are several reasons for this, with the most important one being the biology of the brain. What we learn cognitively does not manifest itself when we are under duress. There is no cognition when being attacked thus the female black belts screamed; it was a reflex. This is why so many people say they were stunned when an attack happened. It is outside the realm of normal life and reasoning. You can practice hitting tennis balls delivered by a machine all you want, but it does not prepare you for a real opponent. You can develop certain skills and techniques, but not the reflexes you need in a real match. Our reflexes are wired into us and not part of the cognitive process. The fight or flight response is located in the back of the brain while the cognitive learning centers are in the front. When we are under duress our brain reacts from the back of the brain, not the front. All of the learning we did in the front is not accessible under those conditions. Learning to block and punch in a controlled fashion is fine to get the motion down, but unless you practice under real stress it will not be there when you need it. So many times you see people that look great in the school, but when they are attacked they start flailing away like they’ve never learned anything. This is because they have not drilled themselves to the point where it becomes a deeply ingrained reflex, no longer a matter of cognition. Fear rules the brain at this moment.
I remember the first time I sparred with a boxer. I was very fast and had great technique. I was stunned at how aggressive he was and how he was only intent on hitting me. Most martial artists train to defend themselves, you know, it is after all the art of self defense. By having this attitude of defense enable the attacker the upper hand, because he controls the fight. I have said for decades there is no such thing as self defense; it’s self offense. When they attack you attack the attack. Defending against it puts you behind the motion. The psychology in these two positions are entirely different. So when this boxer came at me he was not being the least bit defensive. Naturally, he easily overwhelmed me and knocked me down. I was trying to defend and then offend. There is a real time lag going on here. It was stunning and quite depressing to me how easily he defeated me. He later said to me, “When I fight I expect to get hurt so I am going to hurt you first." When he attacked me I was trying to understand what was happening rather than just fighting reflexively. I did not have a fighting reflex; I had fighting learning but had not gained any reflexes. It caused me to really reconsider my training and to find ways to improve it. It was quite clear to me that those who just practiced under controlled conditions folded under uncontrolled conditions. Violence on the street is fast, unpredictable and chaotic. As my dear friend Sifu David Sun says, “There is no such thing as a clean fight”. If your training has not sunken to the core of your brain you will not be able to standup under this type of onslaught.
So what do you do? After you have learned your techniques and the mechanics of fighting then you need to up your training with someone you trust. You also need multiple partners with varying physical characteristics so you get diversity in your opponents. People of different sizes fight very differently. When you do this they must come at you aggressively and fiercely with no prescribed plan. You will find right away that most of the things you trained to do will not have the allotted time
to complete. Your fighting will be sloppy and panicky. That’s okay, this takes time to develop. You will also be scared. No sane person isn't. Mike Tyson used to cry before his fights and he is one tough character. I was working on an HBO fight last month in Mississippi. One of the fellows on this job is an ex-athlete and we were talking about the fighters. I mentioned the thing about Tyson. The guy I was talking to is at least 6’7” and easily 260 pounds. He is huge, really huge. He told me he played football for years and that before the games he said, and I quote, “I got tears in my eyes”. I said, “So you cried too?” He thought for a minute and said, “Yeah, I guess so”. Fear is natural so don’t be ashamed if you’re fearful about fighting; you should be. Also, in the beginning you must get used to the fact that you are going to get hit many more times than you will block or evade as this training sinks into your consciousness. Anyone who claims to have never gotten hit or that they are un-hittable is living on some other planet than Earth. We first learn by losing and it happens in every sport. You can practice running with a football all you want, but when there’s an opposing team it is truly a different game. It is by training under the stress of real game conditions that you really learn what you are doing wrong. You get knocked down a lot before you learn your mistakes. It is the exact same for martial arts. You cannot learn by standing next to the pool, you have to jump on in and do it. It is not till it becomes reflexive that it really works. All the theoretical concepts fly out the window when you are in the pool because now you are not worried about swimming, you are worried about not drowning. I was having dinner with a buddy of mine who has two purple hearts from his tours of Vietnam and he made the comment, “all the training in the world does not prepare you for when that first shot comes at you!" For this reason when I teach I always stress the real pressure aspect of fighting. After a student has digested the techniques I slowly ramp up the pressure on them. They are often quite humiliated and dismayed at their lack of ability but over time they develop true skill. Eventually their reactions will come from their core and not their mind. They will not even be aware of what they are doing while they are doing it accurately. They will not be doing an art; they will be the art.