Typhoon Philippine School of Martial Arts Presents: Jow Ga Kung Fu in Stockton, California!

I am pleased to announce that we will be holding a weekly class in Stockton, CA, for Jow Ga Kung Fu.

We meet Sundays at 8 a.m. for two hours, and the tuition is $30 each class. Ages 13 and older. Contact me for more information.

Visualize Your Enemy (For Mani Bean)

This advice is for all you Kung Fu/Karate/Tae Kwon Do/Kenpo stylists. Of course it was inspired by one my little protégés, Mani “Bean” (because she’s a minor, I am going to use her nickname), who is a very serious 12 year old. Mani has probably racked more fights—point style and with contact—than most grown men reading this blog. No exaggeration, Mani fights at least twice a month, from as far away as Buffalo , NY (my old stomping grounds) to Los Angeles , CA. But even with this vast amount of experience, she is still a work in progress and still attends classes religiously week after week. If you search Youtube for “Typhoon Martial Arts”, you can see some of her fights, and will be able to follow her progression from point fighter to technical brawler (lol).

Lately, Mani and another student—Bry-Bry—had asked to focus on Kung Fu forms (which is really not my forte, but I’ve spent close to 30 years learning and practicing them). So, to accommodate this request, I started a forms-only program at my school, and opened my curriculum to those who wish to be a part of it. In this class, students don’t have to follow the forms list the way I prescribed it in my curriculum. I am teaching whatever comes to mind, but students must follow my directions, and take what I offer—I am not taking suggestions. It’s something very similar to what my teacher offered certain students; that he taught what came to mind, and much of it was not on the curriculum posted on the wall of the classroom. In the last 6 months, I have taught the following Jow Ga forms:

  • Faa Chune (Flower Fist)
  • Siu Hung Chune (Small Hero’s Fist)
  • Siu Fu Darn Do (Small Tiger Broadsword)
  • Mui Faa Cheung ( Plum Blossom Spear)
  • Sern Tao Gwun (Double Headed Staff)
  • Teet Sid Chune (Iron Wire Fist)
  • Fu Hok Sern Ying Chune (Tiger – Crane Combination Fist)
  • Gung Lik Chune (Building Power Fist)
  • Je Ma Dao (Horse Cutting Lance)
  • Ng Long Gwun (Fifth Son Staff)

Some of these forms are over 100 years old. Some are unique to Jow Ga ; some are self-contained systems-in-one.  But the lessons that I am imparting at this time is not the deep lessons contained within the forms because that would take more time than I have allotted for my students. We are studying the “ma pi” (hair and skin)… that is, the performance, of the forms. So, today, while working with Mani, I was giving her some easy-to-remember tips for the performance of forms (not that I’m an expert at it, but I have learned a thing or two over the years) that I would like to share with you, while documenting what she and I discussed. If you perform forms, I think you will find this article very helpful and informative.

Rule #1:  You are practicing a FIGHTING skill

And don’t you forget it! It is not dancing. It is fighting. Forget the guys who question the validity of Kung Fu (or Karate, blah blah blah) forms. Train as if it were. Too many people get so much into the performance of the form, it becomes a dance. But when these forms were created, they were to document the techniques of a system. So rather than hand down a book (as many teachers did) that listed the names of techniques (Twin Serpents Searching for Pearls>>Grabbing the Opponent’s Collar>>Breaking the Collar>>Tiger Recoils to Strike Again>>Lifting the Sky… names of the opening of our first form, Small Tiger) that read like a poem—they could pass down a routine (called a Chuan Tao) with coded sequences that contained all the techniques. You would still need a teacher to decipher the movements, but at least the system could be passed to the next generation pretty quickly.

Lately, forms under many teachers have become diluted with meaningless technique that looked good in performance or in theory, but had no deeper levels of wisdom buried in them. I have seen famous systems take on a mysterious aura, but the teachers truly had no wisdom or ability. And the main problem is that they have forgotten that these techniques are for fighting, not performance. Much of what is contained in my own Jow Ga system was not meant to be demonstrated in public. But recently, I have seen much of it on Youtube. Youtube! A FREE outlet! Anyway, another topic for discussion….

Just remember that what you are doing is for fighting, and your performance will have to reflect that fact. If you are performing for judges, they will recognize (if they know what they’re doing) the fighting spirit of a form, and will respect it as such. Forget trying to do it faster. Forget wanting to add tumbling and jump kicks. Forget points for difficulty—this ain’t gymnastics or performance aerobics, Fancy Boy—you are practicing an art which was created to enable you to cripple opponents, crush their windpipes, dislocate a hip, hyperextend an elbow. A fight. Visualize your enemy while performing, and then do the darn thing as if he were right in front of you.

Rule #2:  Practice until you no longer have to think about your next move

This holds true for any art or skill in the art. We must train until the strikes, hits, blocks and parries, kicks, and Chin Na attacks happen thoughtlessly. There is a saying, that mastery is the level where you have forgotten what you learned. It is in line with the saying that one knows a skill so well he can do it in his sleep or do it with his eyes closed. There is no way around this requirement. You must know the form like you know the back of your own hand. This can only be accomplished with an infinite number of practices. When you have achieved this level of ability, only then will your form be considered “good”. Other than that, you are merely dancing, and have an equal chance as the next competitor of winning. Back-flip means nothing if you can’t keep your chambered hand stuck to your rib cage. Practice alone won’t help you. We need perfection.

Now, this isn’t to say that simply practicing will make one perfect.

Come on, kids, say it with me:

Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

You must learn and commit to habit all the small details and finer points of your form. Doing your form 500 times is ineffective practice if each of those times is performed with high stances and the back hand flopping around. It is the reason many of the so-called “champions” must add acrobatics to their routines:  they are not skilled enough to impress with solely the strength of their martial arts ability, so they must wow audiences with breath-taking jumps and displays of athleticism. Sorry, but only cheerleader wannabes and soccer moms believe that XMA performers can fight (along with 9 year olds). But display strong technical skill, with flawless footwork, stances, crisp and sharp strikes and blocks, and good speed and power—and you will win over the champions. That is, of course, unless you have judges who don’t know what good martial arts looks like. And that is what turned me off of open competition. We have former 12 year old black belts who are now 30 year old shopping center dojo owners trying to judge a form of a 100 year old system he’s never heard of, and awards “difficulty points”, as if this was some type of cheerleading competition. Ridiculous. But if you have solid Black Belt judges, even if he is unfamiliar with your system, he should recognize flawless technique. This is how you win with skill. It is the reason I prefer Chinese-only style tournaments over shopping center dojo competitions that actually think Polynesian is a martial arts genre, and all Chinese martial arts, like Wu Shu and Hung Gar belong in the same division.

But stick to your guns and master this skill and it will take you a long way, even if you have to leave the open circuit and do specialized ones. Even if the only thing you do with your skill is to share them with the few Masters you may meet later in life. But every martial artist who learns forms must have mastered the basics in their lifetime.

Rule #3:  Stance and footwork must always look like practice

When you first learned your stances, you strived to get them perfect. What happened to that? You have good stances when you were standing still, maybe even when practicing some movement. But chances are that eventually you would learn more complex (so you thought) and “advanced” skills, so those “basic” skills were relegated to things you only did when you showed another beginner how to do them. Wrong answer.

Stances should always be apparent, visible, and present. Every move while performing a form, must look like a different pose. If we took a picture of you at any point while you performed a form, you should look as if you posed for it. We should never catch you out of position, and you should transition smoothly from stance to stance. Smoothly and quickly. That camera should be exhausted trying to catch you between moves. If I can watch a picture at any point, and I don’t know what stance you are in, your form is not a good one. There should be a clear difference between horse and forward (or bow). A cross/hook stance, and a forward stance. A crouch and a horse stance. Every single movement has a corresponding stance. Make sure that happens, kiddo.

We achieve this by practicing most of the time, one movement at a time. For me and mine, I call cadence. For other teachers, they will choose 4 – 6 techniques in sequence, and have you do just those techniques for 20 minutes. Either way, however you do it, make sure that you have mastered the stance, as it is integrated into your form’s footwork.

Does any of this sound familiar, folks? FMA people? Heard me say this before?

Yes, it is because this is one of those universal truths of martial arts that transcends style. Learn it, commit it to memory. Tattoo it to your forehead…

Rule #4:  Every strike must be thrown hard enough to injure; every block executed with enough power to stop a real punch

Every punch, strike, hit, kick, grab, pull, push, block and parry MUST be executed in a way that it would injure a real person if they were hit by the one you just did in the form. Every block must be thrown with enough intent that it would stop a real attack.

If that sounded redundant, it was meant to. I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining it any further than that. If you need clarity, print this article and take it to a teacher, and ask him to elaborate. This rule is so self-explanatory; it is amazing that almost every forms competitor I’ve ever seen on the open circuit violates it. I would have to say that most of the teachers and sifu I have witness violate this rule as well. But it needs no clarification if you guys have half a brain.

So, there you have it. thekuntawman has just given his 2 cents worth on the subject of forms. Mark your calendars, people! This won’t happen for a long, long time. If you follow and implement these four rules, I guarantee your success on the circuit for forms competition.

And none of it involves screaming at the top of your lungs, wearing sequin, or landing in a split. And before I go, let me introduce her to you:



Thanks for visiting my blog.


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.

Lessons from the Chinese

jow ga shrine
Jow Ga Shrine in Guandong, China

Last night I was talking to Sifu Howard Davis, a Si Hing (older brother) in my Jow Ga Kung Fu family, about the state of the skill level in our system 20 years ago versus today. Howard was lamenting the fact that although each generation seemed to improve from the last–until the 1990s, when it seemed to slide backwards–our system has a generation of developing students who have no relationship with the previous generation. Many of them actually believe that the previous generations have nothing to offer them, yet when they encounter a member of the older generation, they are amazed at our skill level. This is despite the fact that the newer generations had the benefit of more research, improved, efficient innovations, modern training tools and methods, and an increase in competition. I had noticed that it was true of the other arts, disciplines, and schools as well. In my mind, this is highly true of the Filipino martial arts. Not just here in America, but in the Philippines as well.

Now, I know that some feelings may be hurt by my saying this, but compare the overall skill of today’s expert to those of earlier generations… (be honest!)  There has been a great amount of skill and knowledge lost, in spite of the new technology.

I’d like to share one reason-one lesson-you can learn from the Chinese martial arts community, that even today’s Chinese martial artist should learn from his own art’s past. I believe that if you can incorporate this lesson into your own set of martial virtues and culture, you will see a great improvement within one generation.

dean chin
My Jow Ga Master, Chin Yuk Din Sifu

Not everyone in my Jow Ga family would admit this, but my Kung Fu master, Chin Yuk Din Sifu, had favorite students. Sure, tons of people came through Sifu’s doors and trained. Some even trained for years, but only a few can ever say they had training directly from Chin Sifu after the mid 1970s. There were several reasons for this (a topic for another post, btw), but the main reason is his understanding of the idea of the “Level 5 Leader” (again, a topic for another post). Anyway, Sifu taught only a few classes, and most of the time he taught was before or after classes, when the school was closed. I was one of those few who had received a lot of instruction from him because I hung around Raymond Wong, who was perhaps Sifu’s closes student. Although I was privileged to learn material that was not on the official curriculum, training was not similar to what you’ve seen in the movies. See, Sifu taught 5 – 10 techniques at a time (or less), and then he was done. Majority of training was spent in practice, while Sifu sat in the office sleep, smoking his pipe, or talking to the old heads. If you were one of the few who had Sifu’s attention, you were expected to be in the school 3 – 5 days a week and you’d better not rush home immediately after class! Saturday and Sunday class was from 10 – 12 p.m., then there was a sparring class from 1 – 3 p.m. Lucky for me, we had “Black Belt Theater” on Saturdays from 12 – 2 p.m! So after class we’d go into the office to watch Kung Fu movies, then back into the classroom to train.

This culture was not just for Dean Chin/Raymond Wong groupies. There were cliques within Jow Ga walls, and the leader of each clique thought the same way Sifu did:  train with me, then you should come to class every other day too. Everyone hung out at the school. Yes, some people, more than others, but there weren’t many students who only attended once or twice and went straight to the subway. Most of the students trained in the school more than twice a week, and then came on days when there was no class to work out anyway. As a result, most Jow Ga fighters–even beginners–were far above average in skill and physical ability. Sifu often checked attendance cards and would tear you a new one if you hadn’t attended classes enough.

In a nutshell, being a gymrat was expected of you; it was the corporate culture of Dean Chin’s Jow Ga. Dean Chin’s “Kung Fu man” ate, lived, breathed, and slept Kung Fu.

It isn’t just Jow Ga. Students training daily–even living at a martial arts school–is a *very* Chinese characteristic. Many Kung Fu schools in China have dormitories. Everywhere, students leave work or school and go to their Kung Fu masters before going home. You see, for these students, their martial arts is not an activity, for them it is a lifestyle.

So, can this work in a Western Society? Surely we cannot expect our students to spend all their free time at our schools. Can we duplicate the skill of a daily, full-time martial arts student in our own guys, who only train 2 or 3 days a week? Can we get our students, with their busy lives, careers, and family obligations, to spend more time training? Is it possibly to get our students to train with a passion like their seemingly fanatical counterparts?

Jow Ga co-founder Jow Biu
Jow Ga co-founder Jow Biu

Well, yes, yes, yes, and… yes.

To make it easier on my editor, I’m going to try to use a bulleted format:

–  Everyone wants good skill. and just like rowing long distance, the closer you get to the next island, the harder you will row. When your student see results and they see the light at the end of the tunnel, they will train harder. Basically, you will have to create the culture of rigorous training and skill attainment so that students will both achieve results and also realize that they are getting better. Most martial artist students do not believe that they will ever be one of the best, and this is why they don’t try too hard. For them, it is an impossible feat (in their minds). Students who believe that they are excelling will make the transition themselves from good to great!

–  You must designate times for free practice. In my school, we have 30 – 60 minute gaps in the schedule to encourage free practice. Often in class, you can have the students train themselves. This creates that culture of self-motivation we were talking about.

–  Make good use of training time. In an hour, your students can throw 150 strikes at 30% power or 1,000 strikes at 80% power. They can perform 10 pushups per class or 100 per class. You are the teacher; you control whether they train as if they were in a seminar or in preparation for a full contact fight. The better they get, the more serious training will become a part of their vocabulary. Even if they only saw you once a week, skill will increase greatly. Remember, as the teacher, YOU control how good they get.

–  Motivation and interest often comes from two places:  proficiency (self-realization of it, at least) and achievements and rewards. Too many schools, in my opinion, overemphasize achievement as a motivator for retention. I don’t believe that this is a good thing (or even that it works) because even the commercial schools are bottom-heavy and basically throw the Black Belt at students to get them to graduate. No one uses skill because it is too difficult to develop and most teachers lack the knowledge to make every student a good fighter. But if you can duplicate your skill level (or exceed it) in your students, they will push themselves to the next level. And you won’t even need to give false praise and premature promotions to get it.

So, what lesson did we learn, kids?

You need a tradition of creating gym rats–students who train, train, train and train some more. Use improving skill as a motivator to get students to work harder. Allot time for open (self) training. Always train them hard so they will get used to it, and really see a jump in their skill. When they see their skill and strength improving, you students will work harder and see their own success through.


Thank you for reading my blog… Please comment and check with us regularly!