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.
Kung Fu Vultures
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.
A Cat Has No Claws
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:
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”
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