Gung Fu and Me; Daniel

(Not all things require perfection, to have value. This is a communication from Daniel, unedited and in its raw form. Not meant for publication but the message was too beautiful not to be shared. Enjoy);

My friend I thought I ought to say a little about my martial background. I’ll start with this lot below! 

A number of incidents stand out in my martial arts training and informed how I fight and approach fighting today. I say fighting but I haven’t had a street fight since 2004 or a competitive bout for longer than that! The last real proper pressure training was about 3 years ago with Ryan Robinson when I helped him train for the British Light heavy weight cage rage. Apparently he wanted “a kicker”. I always value boxing training. In the ring you learn a lot I think. 

One was an incident at Slough Montem leisure centre during a class when I was paired with two other guys during Lau Gar. I must have been about 18 at the time. The scenario was that we were in a triangle defence and attack against the first guy with a reverse punch against the rib cage turn and the same against attacker two. One of the guys was a big lump and a black sash to boot (I was yellow at the time) and I broke his rib. Now he didn’t yell in pain and the thing was I really really felt like I pulled my punches big time. I didn’t see him in training and months later when he turned up he told me (he wasn’t at all happy). Strange because I was experienced enough to know better than to hurt someone in training. I must say I find disrespect to other students unforgivable. In kickboxing at slough and Thai boxing at KO gym in Bethnal green I came across so many odious bullies and it disgusted me because I have respect for others; hurting someone through recklessness or malice was the very last thing I’d want to do and I felt very bad. The second linked incident was sparring many years later at KO gym I knocked a guy out not cold but he was on his back. The very strange thing about it was that it was so innocuous a punch and I really was pulling my punches. It was like 40% power. (I was disgusted with myself and stopped going for a while actually) I think what I learned though was actually with the knockout it was all about location of the punch. With the fracture again it was about location) No way was I using anywhere near full power. In boxing just before you came over we do this exercise where 5 of us get in the ring one in the middle with opponents in 4 corners. The middleman will attack with the left jab whilst the others defend and we take turns. One guy I dropped to his knees with again what I thought was an innocuous left jab…again it hit that rib cage.

For me the lesson was the position and location of the punch (with the concomitant timing) trumps power. That is why (largely) the moneymaker continues in my view to beat more powerful faster opponents. His shot selection and timing to deliver them. In a fight people are obsessed with the face and utterly neglect the body. Location and timing are key for me. Speed namely the time between points  x and y again isn’t the critical point because it’s cannot be wielded unless through timing. Effective speed requires timing and technique at which point forget it you’re beaten. 

Another incident was in competition (the southern counties kickboxing finals) I got to the final using one kick (my joint favorite shuffle side kick). In the final I lost to a guy who worked out how to defend it and essentially he’d trap my leg with his, but in so doing he caught my thigh. The next day I really knew about it with extensive bruising. Firstly I learnt a lesson that striking at certain areas of the body debilitate. I know many arts aim to strike at weak spots but those weak spots are “vulnerable” areas like the eyes etc. what I discovered by being on the receiving end is that striking a thigh with a side kick punching or elbowing the biceps or just behind the elbow, a shuffling knee to the thigh are just as powerful but I rarely saw advocates of these types of strikes within the Lau Gar, Taekwondo, Karate syllabus.  Another thing I realized from this failure in competition was just how poor a fighter I was. The guy said upon picking up his cup and as if by consolation to me that he’d never been kicked as hard. I laughed! if I wanted to kick hard I could limit all training to hitting a bag. It brought it home how ineffectual I was and soon after I left Lau Gar altogether. The deficiencies I felt were, amongst other things, a lack of realism, lack of integrated seamless attacks, a lack of pressure/realistic training, deficiencies within the techniques taught and so on. 

Interestingly my love for Lau Gar, which I’d trained in since I was 12, was waning …rightly or wrongly I began to feel it wasn’t real kung fu. It was a money making sports enterprise for Jeremy Lau. I didn’t think they gave a shit about any of us students they were merely concerned about the piles of cash. It was a fraud I felt and anyone of us facing a Judo guy, a thai guy etc would have been taken to the cleaners. I also recall about that time reading an article by a practitioner, who for the very life of me I can’t remember the name of, who was being interviewed in martial arts illustrated or one of those main magazines at the time. He was a white guy and an actor as well as practitioner. That’s all I remember. Anyway he was relating a story about my hero at the time Jackie Chan. Apparently , as he told it, JC had said to him hey listen x I know I couldn’t beat you but I think I could beat Benny (the jet urquidez whom of course he’d fought famously in meals on wheels). x had apparently laughed loudly and told him to be real that THERE WAS NO WAY he could touch Benny. The suggestion was that both of them would lose to Benny.  He then went on to talk about reality and fantasy and how “these guys” forget that they are film stars and think they are real fighters. I immediately ordered a training book from Benny the Jet and the Pavement Arena. I was lost. I believed I had wasted all that time in a fruitless endeavour that could have been better employed elsewhere and my faith in my beloved gung fu was lost. By the age of 21 I never returned to Lau Gar and had moved to Taekwondo (same remark) then to Thai Boxing where I felt I’d found home.

Then about 4 years ago I started at Tokei London Bridge BJJ. I was sparring in my first lesson with an Australian dude I was at that time rather strong! Even more foolish though! I didn’t know a single technique but I just overpowered him. he couldn’t get me in any dangerous position. Eventually I got him on his back and with my right hand grabbed his top. my arm was hanging out there begging to be armbarred and as per the script his legs came up and he applied it. thing is like you I can pull my own weight up with one arm and I’m not sure what my max bicep curl was but at least 40kg on my right arm without the strict form. so I curled him up. off the ground. of course in curling him the lactic acid killed my arm leaving it absolutely vulnerable to the move he was trying to execute. worst because my arm was engorged with blood and sore from the effort I couldn’t feel the effects of the pressure on my arm. I tapped out but too late. I’d hyperextended and the ice went straight on. lesson sort of learnt but not entirely. the lessons I learnt should have been twofold. firstly and I think I have learnt this , is that you are only as strong as your weakest link (which was inter alia grappling knowledge) and that manifestations of ego are unprofitable. I think I learnt the former lesson better than the later. it’s not that I’m an egoist. it’s just that I’m highly competitive. it’s not that i’m trying to conspicuously show anyone anything it’s that internally there is no debate…I must go on! indeed its not so conscious at all. it’s just that I DO. I suffered when I was training with Ryan because I damaged my throat when he had me in a strangle hold from behind. hopefully I’ve learnt now. I think I have but only by working through the logic that if I over train I damage myself often permanently which affects my effectiveness

but it’s been in real fights that I’ve learnt the most about myself. I was attacked in Cyprus when I was 20 by 5 guys who took umbridge at me being with a Cypriot girl. as the club ended and we spilled out a car pulled up sharply and all the doors opened. I was surrounded and invited to go down a street “for a one on one”! I refused. they attacked. somehow they grabbed my arms and in pulling away I really hurt my shoulder. anyway I survived but what I learnt is that I was a coward. a scared little boy pretending to be a martial artist. I didn’t have the mindset you see. I could be a bully in the ring or on the mat in competition (where I think the presence of medics and refs delimits the fear) but I didn’t have the martial sprit. I was a coward. not only that but I didn’t have the techniques. all those years of training were in my view wasted. what that taught me was real meditation and active practice  is required to acquire a martial sprit. that the martial sprit is the most powerful technique we could ever develop. the writings and lessons of the samurai are the most powerful source of understanding the necessary mentality and I wholeheartedly subscribe to it. without that mentality our techniques are dead. it takes constant mediation and quite some melding of who you are, I think. 

just to say this writing perhaps makes me sound like I think I’m the hard man. for me it’s strange I have always been happy to say I lift this , move so fast can achieve such and such whilst retaining humility. logically to me I always felt so what the so and so could break a board. Bruce Lee gave the perfect retort to that logic in enter the dragon. so what the I can push such a such a weight. all that means is I can push x weight! I never made me a great guy, wouldn’t give me longevity nor ensured a legacy. it was in no way germane to the issue of fighting. equally having a powerful kick or punch didn’t equate to being able to execute those techniques. also having fought some very tough guys and not fought but been in contact with even tougher guys I knew for every tough guy there’s a tougher one out there. above all internally I always recognized the coward with. the scarred boy who didn’t shut the fucking mouth of that Liverpudian squady who was being racially abusive. the child within scarred when assaulted. It’s that mentality that martial arts should have affect but didn’t because I HAVE A FORM OF TRAINING BUT proved false to it’s power. Fear and courage. fear is not an opponent by any means. it’s essentially. not dealing with it is the problem. so I hope I don’t sound like I lack humility if I do let me know if you are anything of a brother. It helps me none to lack awareness and humility is an aspiration to me. i’ve always preferred to talk of humility rather than ego. the word ego is in my opinion overused as a term of art rather than description. often those propounded a lack of ego, if that is even possible, demonstrate the highest egocentrism I have noticed.

where am I now? nowhere. was I ever anywhere? I don’t think so. I am the opposite of you whilst being you. I loved, ate, breathed slept kung fu. I trained constantly. It was my answer. but whereas fate would place before you THE REAL, THE AUTHENTIC. a master of an elder, older time I trained with swindlers. I endured for over a decade. but it was only partly luck that you came across Sifu. only partly luck. part of it was destiny. not that i believe that it was written in the stars just that by virtue of the HEART CONDITION with which you approached study the chances of you meeting a bona fide master increased exponentially. you found what in your heart you sought. whilst I sought high kicks and Belgian flicks you sought an answer to the tragic event of the glassing. your sincere search eventuated with meeting sifu….you endure still. but I will return not for me so much but for my children. the difference is that they will learn the real. physically but above all mentally. the sprit of the samurai. I’ve always bulked at the term martial artist. i never wanted to be one. I wanted to be a fighter a warrior not an artist. but I see the answers in different places these day. I understand the tea ceremony…or I am some way to understanding it. I realize the benefit , profit and virtue is the waiting. 



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: