Saturday, December 11, 2010

Faster and Higher

As my 4th year anniversary of training at temple approaches, I have been reflecting lately on what these 4 years have meant to me. I have changed so much these 4 years and I have also changed very little. My chi and stamina can be extraordinary at times and other times, like last night, very lackluster. I am still inflexible. I still haven't achieved a middle split or a side split and I definitely haven't kissed my toes. I am afraid to acknowledge it. There is a 4 year plateau. Who am I kidding? There's a daily plateau. How do you break through that ceiling and climb above? Many have quit or left the the temple to pursue other endeavors, training, and start families. Why do I choose to stay? How do I reconcile the many hours I spend a week kicking and jumping? In my mind, it is the best form of exercise; the best form of meditation. Relationships, love, and friends have come and gone from my life. Only One thing has remained constant - my dedication to training at the USA Shaolin Temple. I stay not because I don't have anywhere else to go. I stay because there's so much more to learn.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Keeping Track of Oneself

One of our fellow dorks found this video review on YouTube of Shifu's book, The Shaolin Workout.  I like whoever this guy is -- a former military guy who wanted to get into shape and stumbled across the book randomly and had some thoughtful things to say about it.  He comes off as quite a regular dude.

"vonhismean" says the following at one point:

I'm tired of feeling out of shape.  I'm back to doing this every day, and that's kind of the reason I'm doing this YouTube video....and when I tell people I'm going to do makes me keep track of myself and I feel like other people are watching me....Maybe I'll tend to do better.

Is that perhaps why we sometimes blog?  It's a way to think things out and be accountable to each other, and more importantly, to ourselves.

Anyway, check out his video:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hells, yeah!

Last night an aerial saved my

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life continues

At the end of last night's class, in addition to the triple Amitoufu's we got a little speech that I thought was a good reminder to myself. It went something like this:

Today is October 12. Tomorrow will be October 13. You can go on crying, saying that you hate yourself, that you are not good. But your lives continue. So move forward and keep laughing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kung Fu is Everywhere!

Reading an article about the influence of China in India in the Financial Times this morning, I saw a great photo of a young Muslim girl from the Indian city of Hyderabad learning kung fu:

Here are a few more from the same photographer, Krishnendu Halder of Reuters:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Temple. New Life.

Almost four years ago we moved the temple a couple of blocks down Broadway. With all the help from students and disciples, we finished renovating the space within a few months - almost all DIY. During those months, I spent a lot of nights learning about construction and myself.

Last week we bought a piece of land in the town of Fleischmanns in Upstate New York. The place came with a few run down wooden structures, a big grassy field and a huge forest. This is to be the site of a new Shaolin temple - a place to practice Chan Buddhism and to train Shaolin martial arts.

Over the weekend, I had a glimpse of what is to come. We spent two beautiful days cleaning up the lawn and a couple of buildings. I am looking forward to many more amazing days making the place our own temple.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Heart Sutra

A few of us had taken to memorizing and regularly citing the Heart Sutra earlier this year. I continue citing it in my head whenever I want to slow down and focus. Recently, I happened to read through its translation carefully again. And one more time I thought to myself - what beautiful words they are. I especially like this part:

... in the void there are no forms and no feelings, conceptions, impulses and no consciousness: there is no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind; there is no form, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea; no eye elements, until we come to no elements of consciousness; no ignorance and also no ending of ignorance...

I understand that it's called heart sutra because it's the heart of all teachings in Chan Buddhism.

When I attended a meditation retreat in Thailand earlier this year, I was taught that meditation is a way to achieve exactly the same thing. To realize that all earthly things, tangible or not, are not real. And therefore, to keep my heart and mind empty of distractions and emotions.

This might feel impossible and impractical for our today lives. But to me, just realizing that there's such a teaching helps me to keep my heart flat (more on heart flat in the next post) and put things in perspective.

Life is basically very simple.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Age ain't nothin' but a number

I really enjoyed reading this article from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch about this 62 year old man who continues to train harder every day!

Like fine wine, man improves with age
By Harry Jackson Jr.
Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 12:00 am

If Spartan soldiers still trained today, they'd do it in J.R. Moore's basement.

"I call it 'The Dungeon,'" Moore said.

"They say when you reach a certain age, you're done. Well, I'm stronger now than I was at 50, and I was stronger at 50 than I was at 40. That's what I'm telling people, age is only a number; you can always get stronger."

Step into the basement and find the walls lined with exercise weights and pictures of prize-winning bodybuilders, hundreds of both.

In the midst of the photos are proverbs and sayings. His favorite is "Steroid free since 1947."

"I was born in 1947," he said, laughing.

And while his body is in superb condition, the closest he has come to competing has been as an impersonator of Macho Man Randy Savage, a professional wrestling icon. Moore stands about 5 feet 10 inches and has the same muscular, prize-wrestler build. He still has the replica of the championship wrestling belt.

Every few minutes he takes a drink from a bottle of water.

His meals consist of oatmeal every morning, tuna, salmon and fruits and vegetables for lunch and dinner. He sleeps eight hours a night. "Gotta get sleep," he said.

Although he worked at an earlier age in a gym that closed years ago, he has never had professional training. And he still practices the simple resistance exercises that he used in the '60s.

"I'm old school; I compete against myself," he said. "Every year I try to do more than I did the year before. And the only person I have to impress is me."

Why? "I love it; I just love it," he said, curling up a big, smooth muscle from his left biceps.

With all of the memorabilia, weights, photos and benches in the room, something is curiously absent: no electronic entertainment, no TV, no radio, no stereo, no treadmill or other modern "essential."

"I don't want any distractions," he said.

The closest thing to an exercise machine is a 30-year-old bench-press stand that catches the weights when he's done so he doesn't need a spotter.

He ignores trends. One of his three exercise benches he bought when he was 15.

He likes to experience every move he makes. He spends 90 minutes a day exercising.

"This is training," he said. "... Sometimes I have friends down here working with me, but that's it."

A large, institutional clock hangs on the wall.

"You want to work? Compete against the clock. You can't cheat the clock."

Some of the signs on his wall testify to that: 1,033 pushups in one hour in 1990; 1,261 squats in an hour in 2005; 148 bench reps totaling 4,380 pounds in 2008.

One secret to longevity is to stay healthy, he said. So he rarely lifts more than 40 pounds per arm.

"I never lift heavy," he said. "You have to avoid injury. One little twinge and I stop.

"Repetitions. Just repetitions."

The light reps also take care of aerobic workouts, he said; he doesn't do roadwork.

He demonstrated his warm up: "Here, sit here and for three minutes." As he sat, he punched, not hard, about 45 degrees upward.

"You can do this sitting on the couch watching TV," he said. "You can do this from a wheelchair.

"Here, you try it."

A short time later, not three minutes, he was laughing.

"See that's tough, ain't it? But you made it to 45 seconds, next time, do 50 seconds, and keep going.

"You'll just keep getting stronger."

Moore is not so unusual, other than his intense enthusiasm, said Dr. Scott Kaar, an orthopedic surgeon and director of sports medicine at St. Louis University. Someone who works out continuously will continue to get stronger, he said. "Keep working safely ... avoid injury, and there's nothing that says you can't continue to (stay strong) your entire life."

Start slow, check with your doctor and don't overdo it, he said.

Meanwhile, Moore said he has no plans to quit; as long as he sets his own records, he plans to break them.

"It's my thing," he said. "Everybody should have a thing, something they love."

He took another drink. "People make it so complicated. They say when you get old you go down hill. Well I'm going uphill."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blister-ing Heat

Here's a good article about blisters from The Washington Post that I read just now. I was going to put a picture of a foot with a blister, but really, it was just too grody. Read this so that you can hopefully avoid such nastiness!

Blisters: How runners can avoid or, if necessary, treat blisters
By Vicky Hallett
Thursday, July 8, 2010

This time of year, the heat in Washington is blistering. Literally.

Because high temperatures and oppressive humidity make you sweat so much more, your feet are likely to get wet when you're walking, jogging or hiking. That moisture isn't just uncomfortable; it's also the source of friction. "That's why it's so hard to take off wet clothes," explains Mary Mundrane-Zweiacher, an athletic trainer from Dover, Del.

There's the rub that can result in blisters. According to an article in the June issue of Podiatry Today, the uncomfortable bumps are the most common sports-related foot ailment. They usually fall in the boo-boo category: Although you whine about them, you're probably not going to seek medical attention.

Even if you are able to use an afflicted foot, a blister can throw off your gait. "You're going to try to avoid pain, so you're going to try to run without putting pressure on that spot," Mundrane-Zweiacher says. Landing differently can mess up your body's natural shock absorption system, creating a domino effect of problems up your leg.

That's why Stephen Pribut, a Washington podiatrist specializing in sports medicine, advises you take it easy a day or two after a nasty blister. A short break is unlikely to destroy your training regimen, and you won't risk having to cool it for a much longer time.

The worst-case scenario, of course, is that your blister gets infected and you don't do anything about it. "Then your foot could get gangrene and fall off," Pribut says. That fate is fairly unlikely, since you'd be in enough pain by then to visit a doctor and get a prescription for oral antibiotics.

But doesn't not getting a blister sound like a preferable course of action? Here's how to keep them at bay.


Start by checking your gear. Everyone has probably experienced new-shoe woes at some point: They're stiffer and more likely to rub you the wrong way. Specialty running stores try to ensure you have a proper fit, which will minimize these problems. But even in the perfect pair, you should avoid going too far in your first few runs, says Chris Farley, owner and general manager of Pacers, a local chain.

Sock choice is key as well. "Wearing socks made of cotton with new shoes is a recipe for blisters," Pribut says. Or as Farley puts it: "Cotton is the enemy." Instead of cotton, which captures water and compresses unevenly, go with a wicking fabric such as Coolmax or Smartwool, which makes for a less bumpy ride.

And don't consider going without socks. Farley, an avid racer who has twice cracked the top 10 of the Marine Corps Marathon, can tell you plenty of bloody horror stories.

Trusted, tested footwear can still act up on seriously swampy days, so for those runs, Farley takes extra precautions. His feet get a liberal application of Body Glide anti-chafe balm, and he uses an anti-blister powder to keep his shoes dry. He also recommends toting a spare pair of socks so you can change.

Mundrane-Zweiacher's favorite way to avoid blisters is by monitoring her foot temperature. If she feels excessive heat building up in her shoes, that's a sign to stop. Even though she's a regular runner, the method has kept her blissfully blister-free for years.


Most active people are bound to experience the agony of the feet, so it helps to know how to treat the condition correctly. Ideally, that means doing nothing.

Blisters are basically tears between layers of skin that fill with a clear fluid. As long as they're intact, they're not infected. That can change if you get a hankering to pop the blister or stab something into it. And ripping off the top layer of skin, which might seem like the next logical step, is just asking for trouble. "It's acting like a raincoat," Pribut says. Once it's gone, you're much more susceptible to infection. Plus, it'll hurt like crazy.

A better plan is to ice the area, which can reduce the swelling, Mundrane-Zweiacher says. Then give the blister relief by surrounding it in a doughnut-shaped pad or moleskin.

Draining the blister is a last resort that's best performed by a pro. But if you feel you must do it on your own, don't rely on just anything lying around the house. Sterilizing with alcohol or a flame isn't particularly effective, Pribut warns, so your best bet is to get a needle from the drugstore that's sealed in packaging. Try to pierce just the top layer of skin. Going any farther will be painful and possibly cause other damage.

Then keep it clean, put a Second Skin or Duoderm bandage on it, watch for signs of infection (yellow fluid is bad) and hope for the end of summer.

Friday, June 25, 2010


"Work on your speed!"

Lately I feel like the sentence has been directed at me quite frequently during the basic drill. I thought I got it. It's not that I need to move from one end of the carpet to the other faster. It's that I need to do more kicks faster. And the key to kick faster is to relax. This might not sound sensible but it worked for me. A lot of the kicks that we do are for blocking. The power should be on the way down. With these kicks, there is only a split second that I activate my legs, butt and hip to propel my kicking leg down. Then it's back to being relax into the next kick.

I felt like I got pretty good at it. But of course, training never stops.

Today I was told to work on my speed again - this time with Xubu.

What? Xubu? The empty stance?

Hearing that, I made my steps between stances faster. I almost ran from one end to the other. But that, of course, wasn't what Shifu's speed meant. Speed is never moving from point A to B faster but putting more power into each stances.

Fortunately, I was shown how to do it. I was to snap my arms, body, legs and head from looking back to the front faster. Doing it this way, I felt my stance 10 times more powerful and also about 11 times more exhausting.

I thought I had Xubu in the bag. But no. I need to train harder.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gongbu vs. Warrior I

I have no idea Kungfu and yoga has so much in common! Look at this warrior I pose. It's exactly the same stance as Gongbu! Back foot firm on the floor at 45 to 60 degrees. Back knee straight. Pelvis and body square to the front. Front thigh parallel to the floor. The only difference are the hands, arms and neck.

Gongbu/Warrior I is a wonderful stance and possibly the hardest to do correctly. It strengthens and stretches various parts of hips, legs and ankles. It also opens up the pelvis and chest. With hand-legs-arms coordination, it's also an introduction to self awareness.

For the longest time, I could never make my back knee straight. I thought it was impossible. It turned out I simply didn't tighten the right muscles (specifically my hamstring and butt.) Only when my back knee is straight, I was able to turn my hips and body fully forward.

Now I just have to focus on stepping into the correct Gongbu all the time!

PS. This site tells an interesting bit of why seemingly peaceful yogis named their poses warriors.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kung Fu Dorks Unite! now is on Twitter

We've joined Twitter. Follow us at @kungfudorks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Be flexible!

This odd little clip actually came from my mother. Watch till the end -- it's pretty nutty!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The New Dork

Where are the New Dorks?!

:) Leo

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shaolin, the Original B-Boy

(Reblogged from Angry Asian Man, who grabbed it from here).