Recently during a training session I had the fortunate opportunity to be reminded of some basic martial maxims.
The class focus was on in-fighting techniques to take-down and control tactics. In this case it was elbow strikes to standing arm bar take-down. With a few repetitions of the said techniques I decided to show the arm bar escape (re-establishing leverage via pulling in your elbow close to your body or vice versa and then rolling out).
After successfully escaping the arm-bar exercise my student/partner went into continue mode which became an impromptu grappling match. I chose to slap in a guillotine in half guard over acquiring full guard (mistake #1: position over submission), after which he eventually powered out.
He then slowed crawled towards the wall with me in tow in half guard. At this point I am thinking that this would be good for me as I would be able to use the wall to get up (ie wall walk). Instead of heading perpendicular to the wall, my partner positioned us parallel to the wall and beside my wavemaster tower bag. Now I am stuck between the wall and the tower bag which meant I had no room to reposition or sweep (mistake #2: not fully analysing or recognizing the situation of potential hazards/obstructions).
At this point I had no leverage and no room to work my bottom game which left me to rely solely on strength on strength tug-of-war for wrist control. Suffice to say it was exhausting (mistake #3: under-estimating my partners strength and ability - ground game).
After a few minutes of wrist control war, we reached a stalemate, bumped fists and resumed the class lessons.
Opposed to letting my ego get bruised, I recognized that these lessons were required as it was a needed wake up call to shed the complacency. I realized I was not fully prepared - yes it was just an exercise, but I should be ready to respond and react on the fly.
What I took away - always train at 110% and be ready in all situations in the gym and the street!
Best regards - forever learning.
It's been a year since my last post, as I have decided to dedicate this post to my late father who was my inspiration and role model.
Bak Mei is known for it's power generation via luk ging, sei ngoi ging, and baat ging so I've decided to make a video breaking down a simple technique to showcase words to action.
Our focus will be the Arrow punch (Jin Choi). It is called Jin Choi for the fact that the stance looks like an archer holding a bow preparing to loose an arrow.
The power of the arrow punch comes from the turning of the hip verses just utilizing the shoulders as you would in a boxing jab. the fact that you are perpendicular to the opponent when the punch hits allows you to twist your hips to facilitate the torque to the strike therefore increasing the power of the "jab".
As always, actions speak louder that words. Enjoy the video.
Further to the subject of power generation as it pertains to this arrow punch as a "power jab", I've been recently asked by some students the differences in ging (power). I will start off by first differentiating between strength (lik) and power (ging). Simply put muscular strength is blunt and dull while developed power is sudden and sharp.
ie. punching with shoulder vs punching with the waist/hips.
Bak Mei Ging (Power) is classified into the following:
LUK GING (6 sectors of kinetic bridging) aka kinetic chain of biomechanics:
They are gek, yiu, bok, sau, geng, and nga (legs/stance, shoulders, arms, neck, and teeth). This means that all these parts must be coordinated & integrated to allow proper force emission.
SEI NGOI GING (4 internal dynamic forces) / kinetics:
ie. fau, chum, tun, tou (float, sink, swallow, spit).
This refers to how power should be produced and exerted.
BAAT GING (8 manifestations of force) / Kinematics.
This refers to when luk ging and sei noi ging are properly performed and is given proper direction.
They are: bin, got, waan, jong, chung, taan, sok, and pun (whip, cut, pull. crash, rush/charge, flick/bounce, rope, and coil.
As you can see there is much more to Bak Mei than just the external motions. It takes time to become proficient at each level before you can move forward. Meaning that you must understand proper alignment (luk ging), before you can properly practice sei ging. Luk ging and Sei ngoi ging must be understood and properly performed before you can execute baat ging.
Dedicated to Edward Wong, love you always.
1948 - 2011
Bak Mei kung-fu is a style that functions best at the close quarters distance. With that being said, a Bak Mei practitioner needs to close the distance to employ their tools. For a successful execution of Bak Mei techniques an understanding of the 3 distances (saam gwaan - which is long range, mid range, and close range) is required along with having the proper counter measures if an opponent attacks with their longest weapon, which would be the leg (ie the longest limb of the human body).
An answer to an incoming kick is the Boi Jeung (literally back of palm), which is one of the many tools a Bak Mei practitioner can utilize to counter a kick, close the distance, and jam/disrupt the opponents attack. With the Boi Jeung two basic permutations can be used. The first method would be a simple stop hit, and the other would be used as a kick catch into a sweep.
As actions speak louder than words, here is a link showcasing the stop-hit for a kick:
followed by the kick catch into a sweep:
While Bak Mei is not known for having a large variety of kicks, the kicks that are present in Bak Mei follow the same principals as most Southern Chinese Martial Arts in which the kick is kept low targeting either the lower or middle gates.
Another defining point of Bak Mei kicks is that they are hidden, meaning that the kick is either masked behind a feint/deception or a hand strike to distract away from the kick. A loose analogy would be that the kick is like the snake in which the strike is fast and that there is no warning.
The areas to strike with the kick in Bak Mei are usually focused on the legs, knees, groin, and abdomen.
Some signature Bak Mei kicks include daang gek (nailing kick), tek sa gek (sand flicking kick/groin kick), and chuun sum gek (piercing heart kick).
Food for thought: "A kick to the head is like a punch to the foot"
Enjoy the attached video clip showcasing the daang gek (nailing kick).
Among the many virtues of martial arts an essential trait is patience (Yun). Patience is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances to allow one to persevere when under stress or strain which is very likely to be encountered in martial endeavour.
As a martial arts practitioner you may at times find it difficult to grasp new techniques or perhaps you become frustrated while working on existing skills. Patience with oneself allows you to overcome such obstacles giving you the persistence to continue and get the technique right. Patience can also provide you with the fortitude and mindset of: no matter how menial or boring the drill is, you recognize and appreciate that the effort and quantity invested yields a great improvement of quality on current skills.
It is equally important to have patience for others whether one is a student or an instructor. This equates to tolerance conveyed to fellow training partners who may not be as skilled as you. Patience should also extend outside of the training halls because not only is it wrong to just lose your temper and strike out at someone because they bumped into you on the street or looked at you the wrong way, but it is against the martial code of conduct. As an instructor you may be demonstrating or explaining certain details in high repetition. Therefore patience for trainees is paramount as you must recognize that students learn at different rates and allows you to comprehend and appreciate the differences in the individual student.
In conclusion while the aim of martial arts is the delivery of swift and powerful strikes, it is equally as important to issue patience to others to endure complications or annoyances with ease and provide you with a means to make the appropriate choices. After all it is a respectable demeanour which defines a proper martial artist.
Diligence is a mainstay of any professional, academic, or athletic, endeavour, especially true in martial arts. Only through determined application of work ethic can you have significant results in martial performance.
In the ancient martial tradition of Mo Duk, one of the main criteria for a teacher choosing a student, is that one must be devoted to martial arts, be willing to learn wholeheartedly, be ready and willing to “eat bitter” that is to endure hardship, which will bring an increase of quality.
Hard work encourages in students’ greater discipline, concentration, conformity, and spirituality, so naturally when training Kung fu, the greater the work ethic the greater the martial skill. After all ‘Kung Fu’ directly translates to Work Hard.
The last word of Buddha was “strive on with diligence”.
A common trait amongst "rookie" practitioners of martial arts is a desire to collect as many techniques as possible. There is no inherent problem with increasing ones arsenal however it does affect martial ability when insufficient time is spent on fundamental techniques. What this means is that learning techniques without putting in the proper amount of time, effort, and attention will equate to poor quality of the technique itself.
It is of utmost importance that we strive for excellence in one or two techniques at a time, in this way a practitioner can devote the needed length of time to practise the technique and its proper execution and to furthermore develop and increase its power.
Like the classic quantity versus quality, it is not how much a practitioner learns but it is the absorption and retention rate of the technique that is critical. With regular practise and continuous effort individual moves can be improved (increase speed and precision), maximized (add power) and maintained.
At the end of the day to be an efficient martial artist it is not how many moves you have in your arsenal, it is how well you trained and developed the individual technique!
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
- Bruce Lee
Students of martial arts dedicate themselves on countless hours of hard work in and out of the class to improve their martial skills and self growth which often leads them to promotions to higher ranks (be it by belt, sash, patch, etc). However once a practitioner reaches the black level rank, there is a danger of a plateau of skills as they will find they spend so much time at the same rank and in the same class leading them to the thought of “that is all there is” and in turn can lead to the relaxing of their training.
Remaining comfortable in any atmosphere creates complacency and stagnation. Worse than idling and decline of skill, some practitioners will fall into the black belt trap of sitting on their laurels, off on the sidelines critiquing and commenting on their junior ranks and engaging in the classic do as I say and not as I do hypocrisy, all the while losing their skills and fitness level.
To prevent getting caught in the trap, a black level practitioner should keep growing, improving, and evolving by setting new goals, to constantly challenge themselves, and by changing up their training regime. It is important to also remember where you came from and what it took to get to where you are.
Black level practitioners can best represent their system by being at the top of their game. Set the standard by maintaining your skills and level of fitness to refine your martial art. Lead the way and lead by example by “getting in the mud with the grunts” as no type of training regardless of how menial or basic you think it is, should be too lowly for a black level martial artist. After all it is those basic foundations that provide cement to your overall structure!
Earn the respect of your juniors, peers, and senior ranks by continued hard work and dedication. Honour your lineage, roots, and your art. Don’t stop, stay sharp!
Gung Hei Faat Choi!!!
In martial arts the main goal of a practitioner is always self improvement. While there is a plethora of apparati, drills, and aids that are available to assist a martial artist achieve this, there is one tool that allows for the greatest amount of improvement of techniques, and the development of reflex, speed, and timing, that tool is the focus pad/mitt. Pad work allows a practitioner to hone their precision, efficiency, power, cardio, speed, timing, and combos by working with a pad holder (called a feeder) through a series of drills where you can execute single techniques or a sequence of strikes done at full speed and power.
Focus pads offer a greater number of options in training rather than a speed bag or heavy bag which are only stationary apparatus and thus cannot simulate the dynamic nature of combat. Whereas a skilled pad feeder can move and hit you back. Exercise drills you can do with pads are many: ranging from perfection of a pre selected combo, sharp-shooting with a specific punch, or going free style to work reflex by reacting to the pad feeder with evasions, blocks, or parrying his attacking pad and countering by blasting back at his target pad at full force. This manner of pad sparring allows you to close up gaps in defence, execute proper and precise techniques under pressure, and attack without worry about injuring your training partner as you are hitting the pads and not the person.
Other drills you can perform could be focused on cardio by going all out on the pads in a set amount of time leading to increased endurance and stamina. Or instead of the usual hand dance you can liven up a form/kata by having the pad feeder move with you to provide striking areas. You may also do a multi opponent scenario by having two or more feeders attacking you to simulate surprise-ambush situations and really test your skills.
Overall the versatility of focus pads and mitts are a great way to hone all your natural weapons from your hands, elbows, knees, legs, head butts, and shoulder checks. Through imagination, ingenuity and creativity, you and your training partners can expand your training with unique, realistic and challenging pad drills and scenarios. This will enhance and improve your martial arts abilities by leaps and bounds; making focus pads a valuable and important staple in pragmatic training!
Best of the seasons greetings to all, keep safe, and train hard.
Ed Wong, 7th gen. Bak Mei
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