Lessons from the Chinese #2: Fu Jiao (Tiger’s Claw) Kung Fu

Recently I taught a seminar on Tiger style Kung Fu. Betcha didn’t know that “Moe knows Kung Fu”?

This is a classic pose/technique of the Tiger style, called "Tiger Catches the Lamb". The wisdom of this technique is not the capture and claw, but the part of the technique you don't see!

Funny, I have learned in my lifetime more than 10 different styles of kung fu, and the two styles I am always asked about by non-kung fu people are Bak Mei (White Eyebrow) and Fu Jiao (Tiger style). Upholding a promise to my teachers, I never teach White Eyebrow to anyone other than selected students, but I freely share Tiger style with friends. Everyone seems both surprised and disappointed that what I share is fist-oriented, rather than claw oriented. So, at this seminar I taught over the last two weekends, we covered 8 hours worth of fist-based techniques from Jow Ga’s Subduing Tiger set–a core Jow Ga pillar.


The secret to Tiger style kung fu is not in the claw, but the strategy. This, my friends, is a true Kung Fu secret. Listen good!

What makes Tiger style, Tiger style, is mimicking the method that the Tiger uses to attack his prey. Think of what makes the Tiger unique as an animal:

  • he is intimidating and has a predator’s presence–even at rest… everyone who is around him is automatically recategorized as “prey”
  • his grip (claw) and strength are mostly unrivaled (consider that the Tiger has no Lion to contend with in Asia, where these arts are from)
  • he is agile, despite being large, bulky and strong
  • he does not wound; not only does he kill, the tiger destroys and dismembers–and literally rips you apart
  • he is fast and at close distance, there is no escape
  • he is forward-moving and does not retreat. Attack him and he will overpower you and win
  • once he captures you, he pulls you in and mauls you

The fighter utilizing the Tiger style of fighting will have these attributes:

  • strong legs and fast, long-reaching attacking skills
  • powerful upper body that can generate enormous power through motion
  • the ability to attack with combinations of swinging circular punches as well as straight thrusting punches with great speed and momentum
  • skill in grabbing the opponent’s limb once you block it, before he has a chance to retract his arm. This should be an automatic, knee-jerk reaction. As natural as you blink your eye
  • speaking of “as natural as blinking your eye”, snatching the opponent’s arm, hand, shirt–whatever you can reach–every chance you get. In other words, as soon as the opponent gets close enough for you to snare him and attack, do it. Think of how a cat will snatch at a string when it gets close to him
  • utilize a combination of grabbing the opponent and striking him
  • use your blocks as more than just deflections. Block while moving forward and run your opponent over with your own attacks. Just as a Tiger would not lean back and swat an attack, or back up and block, neither should you. As soon as the opponent attacks, seize the opportunity to destroy him
  • batter and ram any part of the opponent you can reach:  punch his shoulders and neck, when he kicks–punch his thighs, kick his body with your shins, if he closes the distance–elbow him anywhere he is exposed, and if he blocks–destroy the arm that is blocking
  • use and develop the clawing attack–rip his face and his arms… punish him. Slap him, scratch him, humiliate, demean, and demoralize him. Take away his confidence and will to fight. This will empower anything you plan to do next, while taking away any power he has

I’m sorry, no descriptions of techniques here! But you can certainly adopt some of this fighting philosophy into your own, and you are truly using “Tiger-style Kung Fu”. Don’t be fooled by movies and Kenpo/Kung Fu people. True Tiger systems use Tiger claw as identifying techniques, but the secrets is that the meat of the system is in the strategy, not in forms filled with clawing techniques.

If you’d really like to learn this skill from me, write me and plan a trip to Sacramento. Give yourself at least 2 weeks to train in person; I’ll show you some stuff. Your skill will never be the same again. It will never be put on the video market, it is a skill that must be passed down teacher to student, in person.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Never Forget That You Are on the BIG Yard…

For those who don’t know, the “BIG yard” is a prison term. It’s what inmates call the real world, the world outside of the one they live in. For the martial artist, we need to never forget that we are here, and not there. And I mean this in many ways.

First, as warriors, we must understand that there is a very thin line that separates us from the criminal–should we ever have to use our craft against our fellow man. Many of us anticipate killing someone. We spend all of our time fantacizing about slicing and dicing people up, and showing others (any others) how to do it. As if all you have to do is extend your hand, as you do in training, and help the guy get back up to do your techniques again. We really have gotten desensitized to the actual outcomes of what we do, and cowardice is forcing many of us who have been blessed enough to learn this art to only think of combat as a life or death fight… and the only option is to kill or maim. This is the problem I have with martial artists who shun practice fighting. They are so far away from friendly contests, that they only know one way:  to talk of death and “me-or-you” fights, and since they never practice-fight, if they were ever faced with the choice of a less-than-lethal fight or a killing, they would choose the killing. This is the thing behind so-called “blade experts” and “blademasters” who don’t address a self-defense situation with a neighbor or a challenge match with another teacher. Talk of killing and you might not have to fight. But get forced into a corner, and if you choose to fight, you’ve only prepared for one thing.

We must think of the consequences of our arts should we ever have to use them. Will I go to jail? Will my opponent die or suffer permanent injuries and damage? Could I accidentally kill him? What if I go too far?  What if my student accidentally kills someone or is too immature to discern between actually defending himself or taking a fight to an inappropriate level?  We or someone under us could end up in the “small yard”…

There is always the threat of one of us being the one maimed or killed. Or someone close to us being hurt as a result of our actions. I remember being in a fight with some guys as a teen who turned around in shame after losing against me, just to threaten to find my younger brother and kill him. I once read a story by a martial arts acquaintance I know from the East Coast who fought a group of men, and while he fought them, one picked up his 6 year old daughter and threw her. I was a witness to an incident where a woman armed with two knives attempted to cut a child while she fought the child’s mother. We may be warriors and fighters, but there is more to what we do besides bringing hell to those who cross us. You must consider the results of our actions, and how it affects others around us. And never think that you are so good, that your defense is impenetrable. If you can get hit with a lucky punch in sparring, that punch could very well have a blade attached to it. How would you feel if you fought an avoidable fight, and some lucky fool knifed you in the spine and paralyzed you?

The biggest thing to consider as fighters is that a death can be the outcome of our actions. Whether we intended for it to occur or not, it is always right around the corner. Some men do not endeavor to study death and its arts. Those men have options that our psyche’s and insecurities will not allow us to own. When we joined our teachers–whether it was to lose weight, or learn self-defense skills, or to secretly become a killer–we embarked on a journey whose mission is to learn to kill or maim. 

Every fighter must keep this very important reality in mind. Often, we do not believe that this is our business. Some of us think we are merely tournament fighters. Some are just trying to give children a safe place to hang out. Some of us are glorified fitness instructors, while others are looking to make people safe. But regardless of why you do this, if you teach the arts of self-defense and combat, death is something you deal in. No matter how passive you try to be, it is a factor in what you do. Make sure your student understand this; as well as understand it yourselves. When you have realized the size and the potential for what you train in to get out of hand, you will take your art more seriously and will understand it more fully. You will allow the life of a warrior to overtake the more trivial interests and parts of your personality and behavior. Your students will guard their tongues as a result of it. You will not engage in unnecessary fighting. For those of us who do fight, we will become more attentive to what we do and will ultimately become more accurate and more careful. You will study and practice ways to yield exactly the outcome we desire in the event we are in an altercation. Only when this lesson is learned, will you continue the path to mastery.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Update: Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter… Feb ’10

If you have recently ordered my book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months, and your mail was returned, it was because our shopping center is under construction and our mail had been on construction hold. Some items were returned undeliverable and some were put on hold and sent back (I did not know to go to the post office to retrieve my mail). We did not receive mail for almost 2 months.

Please resend orders, or if you like, you can either order by paypal on the Offerings page, or this website (which is still under construction):  www.BuildaDominantFighter.com

Thanks for your patience, and I apologize for the confusion!

M. Gatdula

If You MUST Kick High…

This morning in class, we discussed high kicks briefly. I am not a big fan of kicking high in a streetfight, but if you must…

It isn’t completely a useless skill. If a fighter was a poor kicker, then I would certainly advise against high kicks. And by the way, most people–including most martial artists–are not very good kickers. A good kicker can certainly put such a skill to good use, but the natural question to ask is

What is a “Good Kicker”?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

People tend to blur the answer to defining what is “good” and “bad” in the martial arts. Since this is my blog, allow me:

  • Good = effective and efficient in attacking, difficult to counter
  • Bad = ineffective and inefficient in attacking, easy to counter

Easy enough? So, say what you think is good or bad, speed, power, flexibility, balance, blah blah blah… But the bottom line is when this guy uses his skill, does it hurt, and can you stop him. Now, let me elaborate a little more:

  • you have destructive power
  • you can launch your attack quicker than an opponent can react to it
  • once you execute your technique, you are able to follow up that attack quickly
  • you can hit the target you want, when you want to, with the damage you intended to inflict

How about that? So, by these definitions, a man who can only kick to his waist level can be a “good kicker” if he is “effective” when he attacks. A guy who can’t squat but 200 lbs can be a “good kicker” if he can kick you in the ‘nads on cue and you can’t do a thing about it. A fighter who looks completely awful while knocking his opponent out with kicks can make you laugh, and make you cry at the same time. And, yes, if he can kick your nose, your shin, and your jaw–and you can’t do a damned thing about it… he is a good kicker.

When fighters advise against kicking high, they are assuming that the high kick can be easily countered and won’t be “effective” in combat. But if you are one of the few who can kick faster than the wrestler can shoot for legs–and you can break his thigh with that kick–go for it. Just make sure you are better at landing kicks than he is at countering them. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have used high kicks to fight a group, and I have used them to fight a guy with a pipe.

Here’s a simple mathematical formula for you intellectual types:  Better at what you do >  better what he does = success.  Better at what you do < better at what he does = you get your butt kicked. Or taken down…

I understand that some of you will prefer kicking. Aside from what we normally know as “good kicking”, like flexibility and stuff, focus on developing your kicks to be faster, kick harder and more accurately, and retracting your kicks better.  Only then will you be effective at using high kicks.

There is one other item I did not discuss in detail, and that is learning to counter the counters to your kicks. One would think that this would be already figured out, but it usually isn’t. Add this to your training and you could be on your way to being a real-life Tony Jaa on the street. Hope I’ve given you plenty to ponder over.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Merantau – The Silat Movie

Move aside Tony Jaa, we’ve got another guy to share the spotlight with you.

His name is Iko Qorni, and he has just released a movie with Silat as the art featured. I haven’t seen it yet… I’ve got family working on getting me a copy (IA soon!). When it comes, I will review it for you all. He is billed in Southeast Asia as the “Muslim Tony Jaa”, but I think there is enough room in the world for two new superstars–especially if they are both putting out great movies!

So, I am looking forward to getting my copy (although I don’t speak Malay I hope there are subtitles!). Here is a trailer, I hope you like it!

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Streetfighting Clip (How to ASK for Trouble)

I think the moral of the story is “don’t ever underestimate an old man”.

But it could very well be “if you ask for trouble, you’re going to find it”.

The young man in this video really did ask for trouble in the wrong place. Race politics aside, he deserved the ass-whipping he got. He “F-ed” with and gambled against a fiesty old man who still had a few tricks up his sleeve, and lost big time.

I think some of you will get a good chuckle out of this one. We might want to take a second look at the fact that some martial artists go looking for fights when they really shouldn’t. Talk all the trash you want, but remember that some tough-guy actions could really buy you some trouble. If he had beent the one to win the fight, he would have been looking at jail time and no sympathy at all.

Either way, he gets no sympathy, and gets to play the fool over and over and over to millions of viewers on Youtube, LOL.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

The Forgotten Side of the Filipino Fighting Arts, pt III (The Ambush)

First of all, notice that I skipped “part II”.

That’s because I am still working on part two, and have decided to write this section first. I am talking about the method of fighting known as the ambush.

So, Eskrima styles often deal with the duel, as this is the method used to train fighters. The duel is one-on-one, mutual combat. The skills needed for success in the ambush rely on what is developed in duel combat. The ambush is quite different. This method of fighting is more brutal and violent than the duel, as the purpose is to kill or maim the opponent. It is also not mutual, as the opponent should not be expecting the attack… or the type of attack you will employ. Ambush-style fighting relies on the element of surprise and concealment, and this will be at the center of your fighting strategy. And example of such a style of fight is to engage in what appears to be an empty handed fight, and then produce a blade and attack the opponent with it without his knowledge.

Here are some tips for using this style of fighting:

  • fighters are often good for about 2 – 3 minutes of good, aggressive fighting. Play the less aggressive opponent, and allow the opponent to do all the work. Shield yourself well, and move a lot, allowing the opponent to tire himself. Once you notice his oncoming fatigue, turn up your attack and finish him
  • move evasively, forcing the opponent to chase you. Once he is in pursuit, stop your running, and aggressively attack him. Many fighters cannot quickly switch from offensive mode to defensive mode, so take advantage of this lull in his concentration–while the opponent adjusts to the change of roles
  • pretend to not want to fight. Put your hands up defensively, as if you did not want to fight, and walk away. This passive posture will lower his attentiveness and alertness, and he will follow you passively as well. Quickly attack him and he will not be ready
  • fight in short combinations, or one strike at a time. Once he is used to this pace, he will more likely attack in shorter bursts as well. Once you notice this, attack in longer, violent combinations–up to 10 or more strikes in the combination. Overwhelm your opponent

The Ambush style of fighting is more suitable for street combat than the duel style of fighting we do in our classrooms. This style of fighting will allow you to overcome any physical advantage opponents–even multiple opponents–may have on you, as they must be ready to use their weapons and physical advantages in order for them to dominate you. There are many ways Eskrima fighters can utilize this style of fighting that are a perfect complement to any style or system. You might consider finding a way to work this method into your curriculums.

Thanks for visiting my blog.