Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Fellow Kung Fu Dork Jaka emailed us a great tip this afternoon. He suggested rather than throwing our used feiyues into the trash that we recycle them by bringing them to a Nike store, especially since there's one located a block away from Temple at 21 Mercer St. While this blog makes no specific endorsement of Nike sneakers or the company as a whole, reusing/recycling products such as sneakers instead of letting them go to waste by sitting in a landfill is something we can definitely get behind.

Supposedly, the recycled bits don't all go towards ridiculously-priced sneakers (though these are pretty hot); they are also used towards building synthetic surfaces and padding for courts, tracks and playgrounds.

Important Note: Nike can’t recycle shoes with metal parts, so be sure to cut off the eyelets on your feiyues.

You can read more about the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program here, and maybe you too can find somewhere nearby to drop off those grubby shoes!

Remember, every little action we take can make a difference, whether we use reusable water bottles during class, wash our uniforms in environmentally-friendly detergents, or find alternate uses for those pesky plastic grocery bags, like for stretching!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Wonder of Epsom Salt

I remember the first time I took an epsom salt bath.

Scratch that. The bath itself was unremarkable.

I remember the day after I took an epsom salt bath for the first time. My muscle soreness significantly and magically decreased as if I had spent 2 weeks recovering. I was hooked. Cartons of it later, I finally did my research (aka googling).

Image source: Warwick Salt

Turn out epsom salt is not salt salty?

English is so weird. It's like when I learned that there's no coffee in coffee cake...

Epsom salt is Magnesium Sulfate compound. Magnesium helps the function of muscles and nerves and reduce inflammation. Sulfate helps body absorb nutrients.

And best of all, our bodies can absorb both of them through soaking.

You can read all about it at Epsom Salt Council.

Apparently, there are more ways to use epsom salt than just soaking to reduce muscle pain and bruises. It can remove splinter, exfoliate skin, volumize hair, feed plants, reduce constipation, etc.

I have no idea a $3 carton of something can do this much. Now only if it would totally get rid of my all-over muscle sore not just reduce it, the world will be perfect.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Front crescent kick followed by back crescent kick, an exercise for my behind

I was pulled aside last night while doing Quianbaitui Houbaitui. I always had problem with this move since the first day I learned it. Over time, I got worse and worse at it. Yesterday, I had an opportunity to re-learn to kick from Heng De, Heng Jing and Shifu himself.

My problem was with the back kick. With my right leg, I turned my body too much that I couldn't maintain a sidekick position. With my left leg, I didn't extend enough that my body is too upright and I couldn't extend my legs and hips....

To practice, I was told to hold on to a column, kick like Biantui, maintain my upper body position and continue kicking with my hips and butt...

It looked really easy but it's not. After about 3 wiggles (or my so-called kicks), I could hardly hold my butt up. I started to wonder whether my butt was that weak. I watched Miao Shi, who's visiting from the Austria Temple, and she looked like her butt was in pain too. So it's not just me.

I should continue doing this exercise to strengthen certain muscles and get used to sideway extension.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

2009 Retreat in Mexico!

Those three days went by so fast I don't know how to summarize them.

Actually I do...

More Chi! Train Harder!

The first evening we got to the monastery we were greeted and shown our simple but clean and comfortable rooms. The weather was nice and cool. A couple of hours later, it was time for dinner in a large dining hall. We were served a lot of fresh tortillas and delicious spicy food, buffet style, cooked by monks in the monastery.

The next morning, we were woken up at 5:30 with a loud gong to start training at 5:45. Because there were so many attendants (110 people!), we were divided into 3 groups: Qi Gong, beginner Kungfu, and not beginner Kungfu. I went with the Qi Gong group to wake up my bones.

We had breakfast at 7:30.

For two hours after nine, we trained Qi Gong and Tai Chi (in a beautiful grass lawn under a brilliant sun!).

Then lunch.

Then I passed out.

At 4:30, we trained Kungfu for 3 hours. I repeat 3 hours of Kungfu!!! I must say I was impressed with all the chi. Even after those exhausting 3 hours, a lot of people kept practicing and stretching! Me? I was done.

After Kungfu, we sat in a circle around Shifu and he told us stories and philosophies.

That night's dinner was the most delicious meal ever...

Day 2: Scroll up the the 3rd paragraph and repeat.

Day 3: Scroll up again, shuffle the paragraphs and read.

We finished up day 3 with Shifu giving all the attendants certificates and us taking group pictures - this was where we busted out our best moves posing.

Through out the whole retreat, we were very warmly welcomed. We were given gifts, taken out to towns, and treated with very special water. All of us even got a ride back to Mexico City. Our brothers over there are super nice and awesome!

Here's one of the things we learned:

I still can't completely decode my own drawing so maybe you can help me...

P.S. If you are curious to see what we did in Mexico before and after the retreat, see pictures here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Train More. Think Less.

While having lunch after training today, we buzzed in two of our long time Shaolin brothers - Hannah T. and Chris E. Chris came to say goodbye before moving to Ohio. We had a mini Buddhism class talking.

We discussed how most injuries happened when you started thinking. How your body is smarter than your head. The conclusion is that while training - don't think - just do it.

But is this true?

Training is action meditation. But what's meditation? I think it's being present and focusing on the action, and the surrounding. Thinking about a meal after training isn't part of the meditation. I understand that. How about thinking about the space between the person in front of me and behind me in the line? Or how I should always keep my weight on the standing leg while kicking? What does that count as? Is that part of meditation? Is the goal here to have nothing in your head at all or some sensible things are OK?

I think it is. I think any positive thoughts involving the present is my meditation.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Roll with it, baby!

Tonight's class started awkwardly for me -- a last minute trip to the toilet at 6:59pm (I had to pee!) ensured I missed the opening Amituofos. I washed my hands and dashed out quickly to get in line only to experience a moment of fear -- Han started off class with somersaults galore. Ever since tweaking my shoulder sometime last summer, I've been loathe to do anything that might injure my shoulder further. But with the rushed start, I didn't have much time to deliberate. I knew I didn't want to begin by chickening out and going to the side, so I went for it. I rolled and rolled and rolled myself into dizziness. Wheeeeeeee! It was kinda exhilarating, doing one after another down the carpet. We kept doing different versions of somersaults, and I kept pushing myself, and by the end (or at least until we started the next basic), I was delighted.

We maintained a good pace throughout class, doing all kinds of combos that Han seems to favor. Then she threw the pork chop pads at us and told us to partner up. Everyone quickly formed pairs, leaving me and Jian as the last couple. I have to admit, I then experienced my second moment of fear that evening. Well, maybe not fear, but definitely hesitation. I instantly recalled one time when some of us dorks decided to go on an outing to a fencing school, and being paired up with him and getting clobbered! If you don't know Jian, he is built like an ox in stature and sometimes in temperament in that he will persist and not let up. =)

So, Jian held the pad first and we had to futotui our way down the carpet. He proved to be a most excellent partner despite the height differential, encouraging me and giving me helpful pointers all the way. He coaxed me into audibly injecting chi with every kick, and I went with it, yelling and kicking hard. It too was great fun, especially hearing the others call my name. Thanks so much, Jian, for your chi!

Sometimes, you have to just shrug off your inhibitions and Roll with it, baby!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Absence makes the blog grow duller

While I searched for an old post for reference in my last post, I found this lovely poem from Heng Cheng. And since we haven't been keeping up the chi here, I thought I would republish it:

Oh KFD Bloggers! Where did you go?!
Your posts entertain me and work is so slow.
I know that you’re busy. You all have real lives.
Boyfriends and girlfriends and fake baker-wives.
But I know you’re still training; I saw you last night!
Yet no posts appearing? Now that just ain’t right!
I’m sorry; forgive me. I shouldn't complain.
But there’s something so lovely in sharing your pain.
So turn off the gchat, and turn off the phone,
And come back to blogging, I feel so alone!
It might not be pretty. It won't need to rhyme.
Just mention caijiao and we'll have a great time!

Fresh Wave for my Sweaty Uniforms

I don't know about you but I have been battling this mildew in my training gear especially the t-shirts.

My latest discovery is Fresh Wave - odor neutralizing all-purpose cleaning additive. Thanks to Heng De's Mom.

I used it twice - adding a cap to my normal laundry. I think it works! My uniforms smell noticeably less. The thing is quite pricey. But I will do whatever it takes to smell like roses.

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Daoxiaomian place!

Another guest entry from Heng De.

Ok for those of you who don't know, Zhou found a Chinese noodle place on the South corner of Doyers and Bowery that's fantastic. They have hand-pulled noodles, knife cut (daoxiao), and even pan fried. I don't know if they have any vegetarian broth but the pan fried gives options for vegetarians (Leo was asking about this).

Their Daoxiaomian is better than the one on Eldridge I think, but I haven't tried their hand-pulled noodles yet. The restaurant is a lot cleaner than the other hole-in-the-wall daoxiaomian places, and the service is also extremely friendly. The first time I went with Shifu, they went and got beer for us from a place around the corner. They also offered cilantro without us even asking for it. They even serve you tea, I think it's jasmine (it's sweeter than what you normally get at restaurants).

I went there Saturday and the girl recommended I try the soup with tendon and tripe instead of just beef. It was like number 1, but with the different broth and daoxiaomian. I liked it a lot more. And it's only $5!

I asked, and she told me the place closes at 10:30, so I suggest we add it to our list of after-training dinner spots.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fashion Do - Feiyues When Not Training

I saw this picture in The New York Times Travel section this weekend. The article was about how affordable Portland is. The picture was to point out that Portland can be easily navigated by bike. But it's not the bike that caught my eyes, it was the shoes.

From NY Times

Most of us have more than a few pairs of Feiyues at home - probably a good pair for training and multiple holey and raggedy pairs. I wear these old pairs sometimes on weekends when I knew I would be doing some kinds of Kung Fu (almost every weekend). I once wore it to a physical therapy session and got a compliment ("They are cute!")

So as a self-appointed fashion guru, I say wearing Feiyues casually is a DO.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Post-Testing Speech

I like the speech we got after the testing session this year. It went something like this.

  • Our basics improved. (Yay!)

  • But we need to train harder on the Level 2 basics especially the jumps. We need more air and jump higher! (More Chi!)

  • Confidence is the key in life and training. Be relax and slow when you need to. Be fast and explosive at other times - just like doing forms. If we go at the same pace all the time, we either get out of breath or no Chi.

  • Mistakes are bad and good as long as we know what they are and learn from them.

  • Keep training what we know when we learn new things. We got two analogies here. One was bricks in buildings. If we don't have bricks, we don't have buildings. The other was syllables in sentences.

  • Something about "I am handsome"....

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ceshoufan Craziness!

Sometime last summer, I somehow tweaked my right arm/shoulder rotator cuff area. I'm not entirely sure how I did it (perhaps practicing kung fu, carrying luggage, or monkeying around), but it's one of those nagging injuries that keeps hanging around because it's pretty impossible to avoid using whatever muscles/tendon(s) are inflamed, kinda like the infamous Shaolin Butt Sword. Anyway, pretty much at the end of last year, I decided to put a personal moratorium on ceshoufans, figuring it wasn't the best thing in the world putting all my weight on a gimpy shoulder while doing a cartwheel.

My progression through learning the Level 2 basics since the beginning of November finally came to a point where I could no longer avoid doing ceshoufan. I had put off learning Bawang Zhaikui (jump with backwards punch and cartwheel), but it then became the last one on the list. So, after a few times of awesome Eric working on loosening my arm muscles and being faced with having to learn Bawang Zhaikui if I ever wanted to start learning Xiao Hong Quan, I bit the bullet. I then did my first shaky cartwheels of 2009 this past Monday. Scary!

And it paid off -- at the last part of class, during forms practice, Shifu sent Lukas and then Carlos to start Xiao Hong Quan. Emboldened by having done Bawang Zhaikui earlier in line that evening, I asked Shifu if I could join them. He first asked if I had finished learning the basics, and I could honestly answer yes! So he allowed me to join the new Xiao Hong Quan-ers, and I triumphantly ran across the carpet to start the new form.

During last night's energetic Level 2 class Han had us do Bawang Zhaikui as well. But she added a nice challenge, which the competitively friendly bunch ate up -- if we did the ceshoufan with both hands, we had to do 10 v-ups (kinda like sit-ups, but you're lifting your legs too). A one-handed one required only 5, and if you did the holy aerial, i.e., no hands, then no v-ups! Man-oh-man! People were giddy, trying to avoid doing all ten v-ups. I found the chi so infectious, I went right into it without too much thinking, figuring my gimpy shoulder wasn't really doing all that much in terms of weight distribution anyway, so I kept that hand off the ground. And it worked! I did my first one-handed cartwheel (albeit wobbly) ever! I tried it again, and succeeded once more on my third try.

This is probably the first instance where I can think of an injury actually helping me achieve something. Maybe I'll have to screw up my other shoulder just to get the aerial. =P

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about how every time I tell Shifu about an injury he just says "no problem. train harder." I know that we are supposed to work through the pain, accept it and use it to make us stronger but most times it still distracts me.

I'm still dealing with my shin splints. They're getting better by the day but there are definitely days where I don't warm up enough and they really hurt. It's the kind of pain that seeps into my subconscious and affects my confidence. The other day I got sick of the pain holding me back. I was so frustrated I felt on fire! It was my turn to do Xuan Feng Jiao. I took a deep breath took my strides and launched! I have no idea how well I did the kick but I felt on FIRE!! I could feel my Dan Tian pulsating! I had energy in every part of my body! I was relaxed but had an incredible desire to move! My turn came again and again and again. I didn't want to stop. Then we stopped jumping and moved onto the next move. At that moment I realized that my shins didn't hurt anymore. Shifu was right!! I trust Shifu's advice implicitly but I don't usually understand it until much later. In the immortal words in Rick Moranis in Spaceballs "when will then be now!?", I wish I got his lessons a bit faster. Now when Shifu yells "FIRE" at us I'll let loose the nitros and CaiJiao until I puke!

Everybody Hurts

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tornado Alley

I don't usually get to lead Level 2 lines. There are far more talented and chi-tastic people who should be up front. Last night, in Level 2, I found myself up front. Nothing was particularly special until we got to 旋風腳 (Tornadoes). It was my first time leading while doing a tornado and for some reason, I felt an unbelievable build up of chi. So, I said, "What the heck! I'm gonna bring it!" I wanted to see how many tornadoes I can do in a row. First time down the line, I got two, third time down, I got three. I lost count how many tornadoes I did. I was in Tornado Alley and storms were touching down all over the map. What I do remember is kicking myself in the teeth(they still hurt by the way). After a few times down the line where I was combo-ing 3 tornadoes in a row, Hwalan, who led class, stopped everyone and said, "Leo, can you show us what you're doing?"

I then proceeded to break down my technique for the tornado and show how I was able to get it using exercises and drills I've developed for myself. As all of you know, I've been tornado obsessed ever since I started Level 2. In order to perfect it, I've been doing my drills over and over again. They have helped me create the storm and I hope I was able to share it last night.

There was one final lesson I forgot to mention to class. And that is, "You gotta want it! You gotta really really WANT it! Every time you fall, you are getting closer to learning how to fly!"


Monday, March 16, 2009

Can't Help It! - Second Anniversary

If you ever wondered what the heck people yell out while training, I have a history for you - at least one of them.

Can't Help It!

I can't claim to come up with the phrase. Shifu did. But may I say the dorks popularized it because we can't help being so beautiful?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Kip-Up

I make no exaggeration when I say, "the kip-up epitomizes my existence." Let me explain. Ever since I was a child, I have wanted to do the kip-up. I was exposed to Kung Fu at a very young age and Kung Fu soap-dramas was all I watched. They always did amazing feats with their bodies but there was one move that always astounded me, the kip-up. To go from being flat on the ground to standing on two legs in a mere flash. To be defenseless and then all of a sudden, ready for battle. I tried on my own many times with my tiny body. I flopped helplessly over and over again. I thought it must be magic. I gave up.

When I started training at temple, the fiery desire to do the kip-up was ignited anew. I saw it on the list of moves that you get to learn in Level 2. I couldn't wait to learn it. I passed the test for Level 2 almost 1 year ago which means I've been trying to do the kip-up for almost a year. This past week, I got it.

There's a split second where the mind must erase all doubt. Only then will you be able to get up. That infinitesimal fraction is the most important thing. It is the division of greatness and mediocrity. The whole world is in that space and in that time. I could spend lifetimes there and not even begin to bear witness to its genius. It is through that darkness can you then be bathed in light.

The journey of learning the kip-up has been absolutely wonderful. New challenges, new thrills, new paradigms have been enveloped by it. These days, I can't wait to fall down, so I can kip-up back up again.

"In rain during a dark night, enter that darkness." -Shiva


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This Is Why I Train

It changed over the year. At the beginning, it was to stop thinking - for at least two hours during class. I was obsessed with my doomed relationship and self-pity. I was on a verge of depression. I learned to be present and mindful of things around me rather than just stayed in my own head.

And then I got over it.

I opened up and got to know more people at the temple. I realized I did not have to pretend to be accepted and liked. I could have friends I liked and liked me back for who I was in New York City! At the time, I trained because I was lonely. I wanted to make friends. I learned to open up and be comfortable with myself.

And then I started liking myself. I didn't need to be around people to not be lonely anymore.

Then it's because of Kungfu. I kept training because I wanted to be good. I wanted to kiss my toes and do all kinds of cool things other people can do. I liked learning and pushing my body to do things I never imagined doing. I remember the first time I did Ceshoufan. I had a surgery on the left shoulder not more than a year prior. I was mortified. But I did it. I liked the rush I had after the class - the feeling of accomplishing something difficult. I learned to be humble and confident at the same time.

And then that stopped too. I have been training only in Level 1 with the same routines over and over. I hardly do anything new anymore. I learned to find ways to improve what I know. I keep telling myself I can always learn - not a new move or a new form - but about myself. But that sometime wavers.

I still keep training at least 3 times a week. And I ask myself - why? What do I like so much about being there that even crumbling knees cannot stop me?

I think it's the positive energy - the chi. It's infectious. It makes me a positive and happy person. Maybe I do believe that through training I will one day understand myself. Or maybe I'm just addicted to pain.

Why do you train?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pushing the Limits

Pushing the Limit is a NY Times series of articles and multimedia profiling athletes who confront an opponent that must be mastered, not beaten.

I found this week's article really encouraging. It is about a runner that has gotten better with age, not worse. Matt Carpenter's training philosophy is similar to ours. "Go out hard; when it hurts, speed up."

Link to Article

Saturday, February 21, 2009

All My Remedies

I can't imagine the days that I am free of knee pain. I have been living with it for so long. The pain level fluctuated over the years depending on how much I trained. I tried all kinds of magic potions and nothing seemed to work. This is like a curse. It's like "great flexibility comes with great pain."

My first knee pain was accompanied by a lower back pain in the middle of learning Erluquan. I went to a chiropractor. He said I was fucked. My built-for-child-bearing hips weren't straight and therefore screwed up my knees, spines and neck. I kept going to have my spines adjusted and popped for about 3 months with neither lower back or knee pains going away. So I stopped.

Then I went to an Orthopedist. He felt up my knees for about 2 seconds and pronounced my knees Chodromalacia and gave me a prescription for physical therapy for 3 months. So I went to a physical therapy for 3 months during which I hardly trained at all. The therapist ordered me not to do anything i.e. no walking on the beach, no wearing flipflops, no high-heel shoes, no swimming, no biking, no long walk, no running, and no kungfu. I listened to him 75% of the time. I exercised my knees and iced them half religiously.

After the 3 doing-nothing months, I went back to my orthopedist. The pain still didn't go away. He sent me to an MRI. The result showed that everything was fine except that I had huge inflammation under both kneecaps. So he injected Steroid into my knees. The pain went away completely for 3 days and came back when I went back to training.

I stopped going to that doctor.

Not all was lost however, I found out that my problem was the inflammation under the kneecaps. I just have to get rid of it. Patricia (Heng Zheng) told me about Arnica Gel - a homeopathic that helps reduce inflammation. I started using it religiously. It's great for bruises and other kinds of swell but not my knees. I also started using knee braces while training. They reduced impact on my knees a bit during jumping but they are very cumbersome for moves like Xiebu or Zhengtantui.

By this point, my knees are so swollen that I could not bend my knees totally. I grew up sitting with my legs folded and squatting. I could not do either of that anymore because it would hurt too much. I was losing my Asian squat...

I started taking Glucosamine with Chondroitin and MSM -- without any pain reducing result. I also got into a habit of taking Ibuprofen before training so that I could do certain knee-crunching moves with out too much pain.

Recently, Natalie told me about FlexNow - a supplement made from Shea Butter - that she took and had successful anti-inflammation result. So I started taking that too.

Shifu suggested that I stop using knee braces, stop jumping and do more stretching and kicking. So I did just that. In the past two weeks I only trained Level 1 classes and got out of the lines when other people jumped.

Currently, with all these supplements in my body and no jumping, I think my pain level went down a notch. The pain is still there especially when I walk down the stairs. I still can't totally fold my knees but my Xiebu becomes a little more comfortable. So I guess I'm heading toward the right path.

During my last 2 years combating this knee problem, the only time that I was totally pain free was toward the end of my India trip. I did not train at all for about 5 weeks. I had no problem running up and down steps. I hope it doesn't come to choosing between training and my knees. Hopefully, I will find a middle ground where the knees can make peace with Kungfu.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pubu Bootcamp

I was asked to teach Pubu last night. So automatically, I taught my students like how I was taught - rotating arms and jumping into it on one side, then rotating arms in reverse and jumping into another Pubu on the other side. And of course nobody understood what I was doing.

Shifu told me to show my poor students slowly. I did. And got extremely confused. Eventually, Shifu laughed, told me to stop and showed me how to do it.

And here's how: see page 196 to 197 in The Shaolin Workout.

Start with arms by your sides and feet together, body up straight. Cross your arms like when you start Tsabu or Fanyao - right arm on top. Rotate until the left arm is by your ear and right arm by your thigh. Eyes follow the right arm. Cross the arms by your sash and lift your left foot. Go into Pubu on the left.

From there to go into the next Pubu, keep your back foot in place. Come up from your front foot and take a step so that your feet are together. At the same time cross your arms with the left one on top. Rotate to the left until the right arm is by your ear and left by your thigh. Tug arms and lift the right foot. Eyes follow the left. Go into Pubu on the right.

Repeat on the other side.

A few pointers that Shifu gave us: cross arms at your sash height - not at your chest. Lift your leg high and point your toes before going into Pubu. While in Pubu, keep your body up and reach pass your front foot. Chamber the other hand in fist at your waist.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pain is weakness leaving the body!

On Wednesday, I engaged in kip-up madness. Because of a tweaked right shoulder, I've been avoiding using my arms to assist in propelling me forward. I think I made some significant progress, thanks to Jian's pointer that I use more of my head to push myself up. Scratch that, I know I made some progress because man, have I felt it in my abs, neck and back muscles lately. I almost didn't train tonight's L2 because of my stiffness, but happily, Mo urged me on. Glad I did cos it loosened me up, I think, but then again, I'm sure I'll feel some other pain tomorrow, like maybe in my hips due to learning biantui. :)

Here's a video I found on YouTube showing how to do a kip-up using no hands. I plan on watching this a million times. And then practicing it a million more.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Poppin' and Lockin'

Poppin' and Lockin' - the sound my hips make when I do CeTiTui (my bad De) and WaiBaiTui! Ever since the one day in L2 when Shifu had us practice CeTiTui with a partner holding our hips in place I've been focusing on alining my hips properly. An unfortunate side effect seems to be my hips being slightly out of socket now. Small price to pay I guess for correction... I assume that eventually they'll just slip back into place once the motion becomes normal but for now I guess I've got a new instrument to play with.

More Chi!!
Pop Harder!!

Friday, January 2, 2009