vegan wushu

December 6, 2006 at 10:59 am | Posted in Active, kung fu, Martial Arts, qin na, wu shu | 4 Comments

so, this past weekend, as a gift to myself, i took a qin na intensive course with world renowned dr. yang, jwing-ming. to be honest, beyond the saturday afternoon “drive-in movie kung fu flick marathons” i haven’t been interested in “pop-culture” martial arts. honestly, how often does someone pull out a sword on you to take your wallet? (not to mention, when you watch those flicks notice how the hero is drastically out-numbered but beats 100 cats as they un-strategically “lunch room” line up, one after another, to get served). yeah, yeah, i know it’s just t.v., but even when i see styles taught i wonder, “what if they were in my neighborhood, would they just get jumped”. well, not if they are vegan – we all carry our carrot nun-chuks and celery sticks to a gun fight! but qin na (also, chin na) caught my attention a few reasons.

for one it was too practical to ignore. the main idea of this art is to neutralize attacks from your opponent. secondly, this master-teacher is very knowledgeable about the art. dr. yang -the keeper of the shaolin white crane, long fist, taijiquan (tai chi) and a list of other traditional chinese healing modalities – is a scholar with over 30 publications (and over 40 DVD’s) to his credit – all of which serve as “biblical” references to the broad martial arts community. qi gong: secret to youth was my first experience to his literary “kung fu” and i instantly became his imaginary student. lastly, he has a non-traditional teaching style that allows participants to learn key concepts without having to spend a lifetime in solitude. so you can walk out of the class and apply things immediately (if need be -don’t go looking for trouble).

when i arrived on saturday morning, i found both advanced and novice disciples of diverse backgrounds seeking to be enlightened by this 60 year old pugdy man. an alumnus of purdue (ph.d mechanical engineering), dr. yang built disarming jokes within the foundation of every technique. if some of the names of the moves were crazy: “ice cream with peanuts” and “fat lady shakes her butt in the face of the enemy”. in my naive avidity to demonstrate the effectiveness of my newly learned style, i politely asked (with my hands) to try it on him…all i will say is-bad move.

devoid of the super-human acrobatic feats often associated with chinese martial art system, chin na focuses on control of one’s attacker through deceptively relaxed movements. in fact chin, means “to seize or catch”, while na, means “to hold and control”. although a complete system unto itself, chin na is only one leg of chinese martial fundamentals: kicking, striking, wrestling, & seize-controlling. due this fundamental characteristic, chin na is praised and adopted to compliment many martials art systems.

chin na employs joint locks, pressure point manipulation, and an in depth understanding anatomy and physiology. if this sounds a bit like ju jitsu, or any other martial art, it should. chin na concepts are a fundamental part of many martial arts, especially japanese and other asian systems which were greatly influenced by chinese martial traditions -(chin na has been called the grandfather of “aikido“). according to dr. yang, “…almost every martial style has chin na” in it, especially, other asian martial arts that where greatly impacted by chinese techniques. yang estimates that over 700 techniques exists: “what i know are about 150 to 200…nearly 70% of these originate from white crane style.” the remainder of his chin na vocabulary is from the eagle claw and tiger claw traditions.

in his oeuvre, analysis of shaolin chin na: the art of seize and control 2nd ed.” (he autographed it for a brother) he presents an extensive thesis covering history, historiography, ethics, injuries and healing, and fundamental body training –miles ahead of other manuals i’ve experienced, which tend to be nothing be a monochromatic “pictionary” of two people facing each other in the most uncomfortable poses. he humble informs the reader that this information is based on experience and that there may be better ways; furthermore, the readers is also encoruaged to explore and create techniques (and exercises) which works better for them. the five general catagories he discusses covers are: dividing the muscle tendons, misplacing the bone, sealing the breath, blocking the arties, and cavity press. since it was my b’earthday, i copped the dvd too, which is turning out to be a huge help in guiding my training and remembering the more complicated techniques.

in the unintimidating, learning rich environment of his workshop, students were eager to help each other. in addition to the 17 techniques we learned, i believe i’ve found an interesting area of martial arts (and science) that i can develop and use to improve other (not so martial) area of my life. it was a dope birthday experience.

dr. yang is a kind hearted pioneer cultural exchange recently established the ymaa retreat center, a remote training facility in cali, where he will spend ten years training a select group of 17 year old students, starting in 2008 (sounds better than being drafted). for more info peep his site:

update: the 2007 jan/feb issue of shaolin kung fu has a really good article on chin na entitled, shaolin grappling qinna” by the venerable shi guolin and shi yanju. there are some great tips on training including safe ways of building arm and finger strength. while these world renowned monks (located in queens, ny) are noted for their strict traditional methods, there are some impressive photos of shi guolin lifting a 10 gallon deer park water bottle –yes the ones you place upside down into the office cooler. and for all of my fellow martial artist who tote the carrot nun-chuks there’s also an informative article entitled, shaolin kung fu & vegetarianism” by shi xingxiao. let me know what you think.


update 2: the november 2006 issue of inside kung fu has an article entitled “the mechanics of chin na”. the author, zhao d. yun discusses the basic physics and biomechanics of the art including rotational motion and most importantly levers. “in chin na, the lever arm is that which forms the straight-line axis from the point of application of force to the object to be moved (or ‘load’). the distance between the point of application of force and teh pivot point (the fulcrum) is called the ‘force arm.’ the distance between the fulcrum and the load is called the ‘weight arm.’ the mechanical advantage of the lever relies on the relationship between the length of the force arm and the length of the weight arm. if the force arm distance is increased with the length of the weight arm remaining the same, the mechanical advantage is increased.”

he divides chin na techniques into two catagories, first class levers and second class levers. In first class levers, “the fulcrum between the load and the force”, whereas, the second class “has the load between the force and the fulcrum”. during this past semester, this article made my physics studies more interesting. but honestly, i needed to read over sections more than once to get a “surface” understanding of it all. it was not until i took my chin na workshop and read over this article that could begin to really appreciate the valuable information he presents. yun is so adamant about understanding these fundamental concepts he notes, “One will have difficulty reaching the deep levels…without an understanding of the physical principles aspects…movement adn technique”. both yun and dr. yang agree that understanding these fundamentals allows a practitioner to create and discover new ones (much like most things) however, dr. yang furthers this by encourgaing students to learn qigong and to develop jin (whipping power). i’m interested in taking qigong workshops, especially after reading . for more of zhao d. yun’s scholarship on chin na, check out his book, practical chin na.



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  1. i went too! i’m just waiting for one of these misguided and lost youth to step to me so i can pu the seize and control down on ’em! mwahahahahah!!!!

  2. don’t hurt’em…LOL. we should get up on a practice so the 17 styles of ‘whip-a-kid-butt’ stays fresh in the memory banks.

    also, i was checking’ out the book and while we spent the entire two days learning technique, there are some fundamental training (i.e. tendon stretches and strenghtening exercises) and healing techniques (for those boo-boos) that we should know. lemme know what’s good.

  3. let’s practice on monday – at the latest!

  4. Just checkin in from CT. I went to that seminar which was great. Sharpenin my Qin Na skills and makin friends with NY neighbors is always a pleasure.

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