Kicking, a Journey in itself .

I have always been more of a puncher than a kicker, with me not having the greatest flexibility I tended to use my kicks to smash the knees or thighs, which is probably another reason why I have been drawn to Goju ryu, because of their effective kicking to joints rather than the head. It worked for me I had big legs, and used my strength to power through someone, I knew the principles of proper kicking, but as I couldn’t apply it to myself I thought that my kicks are effective  but will never be that good.

When I went to China my flexibility increased a lot, stretching everyday and being Shaolin stretched will do that to you, but my kicking became a lot worse in China. White Crane does do kicks, but unlike many other Kung Fu systems they won’t teach you till you have done 6months to a year. So through lack of use my kicking became shockingly bad. Shawn was a kickboxer, a really cool guy who I use to bounce ideas off with in China. He observed me kicking the bag and told me my problem is that I knew I was a strong guy with heavy legs. I over relied on this, which meant I was limiting my potential and kicking much worse than I should have been. He went through principles and techniques I had heard and learnt in Goju Ryu before, but couldn’t help on having the same habits. He told me about opening up my hip, pivoting more on my foot and taking the strength out of my kicks and just follow through with all my hip and body weight. I have a tendency to not follow through, because I worry about losing my balance, but Shawn told me that the weight of the big bag or opponent will stop you.

Sure enough it improved dramatically, but alas Shawn left the Kung Fu school too soon, and my kicking got worse again. I suppose as my defence and inch power were improving so much I can’t complain too much about it.

When I returned to England and training, my kicking was terrible, I had great defence but bad habits had reformed with my kicking, and it had taken many months to get my kicking back to how it was prior to China.

There was a period when I was injured after my last Grading (I passed by the way) and couldn’t do my normal strength training, so I decided to work more on Sanchin Kata, I was working on combing the Sanchin power and white crane power together in the punches, using a little hip motion which got me thinking on how to balance it with my kicks. Then I was thinking how Sensei and a blackbelt student can generate a lot of short range power in their kicks, whilst holding it in the air. It wasn’t just hip motion, but they were really opening up the hip, and using it to drive through which automatically pivots the foot.

I was ecstatic, I was really working a lot on my short range defence, feeling more like a Goju Ryu ka and recalling the principles I saw of one of our Sempai’s at a demo they did, which is probably what inspired this new train of thought.

Then I was playing a video game, MGS4, and playing when snake fights like his old school style, with a few punches and cool kicks, and I was getting jealous and inspired. Why can’t I fight like that, that looks so cool. Then it got me thinking, of the best fighting characters I liked, Solid Snake, Jim Kazama from Tekken and Kazuma Kiryu from Yakuza.

Now don’t get me wrong I know my limitations, but combing what I had learnt about Sanchin kicking (A term I named itself as it uses Sanchin principles in my opinion), what Shawn taught me in China and my new found belief in myself from the grading I was practicing my long range combo along side my short range, to try to be more of a complete martial artist. Use the big motions, taking the strength out of my kicks for now and following through I was able to somewhat emulate the type of kicking I have always wanted to do, with more practice I have gotten even better at it, its like the next stage in my personal karate.

Then Ironically when I returned after my injury I had found out that Sensei had been on a similar wave of thought with head kicks, reverse etc. For the last 2 months we have been working on it, and whilst I am not a natural head kicker, and with my body type I wouldn’t use it in a self defence situation I have a new tool in my arsenal and I feel like a real karate man! Be able to do head kicks is so exciting.

In a sparring situation, my big reverse kicks and head kicks are more of a deterrent at the moment, people are aware of my clumsy legs and are getting out of the way, so a weakness has become a strength. With time I am able to make the faster and more accurate, and the journey with my kicking continues.

Where the passion for writing started.

It all started with a dream, no I am serious it literal started with a dream, let me explain.

I have always had my head in the clouds, been a deep thinker and always making up fantasy stories in my head for my own entertainment.  As a late teen I had put that behind me and was getting on with sixth form, when I had an epic dream. It was my first epic dream, and it was so inspiring i had to write it down, then I tried to add back story and extra characters to it. It wasn’t very good, but the dream had inspired me to write.

Over the years through university I had more epic, and epic dreams, alot of my writing was me writing the dreams down, and comparing them to my own day fantasy’s and trying to create my own stories. To me dreams can be as real as real life experiences, not in the sense that they are real worlds, but it is an experience your mind or soul goes through, I am scared of snakes and crocodiles not because of what had happened to me in real life, but what had happened to me in a dream.

Most of my creative writing stems from my real life imagination nowadays, but it was the dreams that helped me gain a passion for writing, and 6 of my epic dreams are in fact the history to my fantasy world on Venus.

Goal as a writer

One of my goals in life is to become a writer, I have always had a very active imagination, full of colour and massive. When people ask me do I want to write a novel, they are usually in for a shock. Each world I have created (at least in my notes and my head) are massive, with a need for alot of detail, I have a novel series idea based on Venus, one on Angels and demons, one on Modern day Templar knights and one about parallel worlds. As friends have told me, even my simple stories have a huge complicated back story. I feel any book I will write needs alot of substance, and to feel that the world itself is alive.

How White Crane Kung Fu Has developed my Karate

My personal karate has obviously changed from my three months of training in China, some of the changes were pretty obvious, whilst others completely surprised me.

Starting with the obvious training every day from 5.30 in the morning till 5 in the evening had obviously left me pretty fit, my stamina improved, energy I was running two or three times a day and spent my lunchtime usually doing an extra training hitting the weights. I was conditioned well against blows, as white crane spends the majority of its time conditioning the body to be as hard as rock, there can be no weak spots as an attacker can hit you anywhere on the body.

The obvious aspects of the White Crane kung Fu style I was learning had become integrated into my motor skills such as its extremely short range power generation. I want to make one thing clear styles like Wing Chun and Goju Ryu are close ranged fighting, but White Crane takes this to the extreme of virtually face to face, where you only have an inch of space to generate power to deal with an attacker with maximum force. What makes this impressive is that whilst Wing Chun and Goju Ryu generate their close range power from the stance and the hips, White Crane doesn’t, it generates from a strong stance and by connecting all the muscles in one motion. Sifu Yen use to say it’s like splashing water you have to use your lats and other muscles to generate this relaxed power. It takes a very long time to be able to generate this power, let alone understand how you are doing it.

8 months later I am still able to deliver this inch power, that helps me not only in sparring through disrupting or winning the battle, but also because I can disguise when I am about to fire it out.

The two traits that really surprised me was my new found speed and my increased defence. The way I use to spar prior to China was just to go forward, rely on the strength on my punches to make my opponent go backwards, whilst having the ability to absorb the blows, as my muscles were a little to heavy and therefore slow to block or deflect any attack. So in essence my defence was basically rocky balboa style. Post-china there was a big difference, whether it was from White Crane Kung Fu or my one week of Baji Quan (my last week of training in china before I went travelling around China) where the key to the style is relaxation) helped me to speed up my punches, and learn that I don’t need to put all my strength in a punch to make it work, being relaxed had increased the power of my punches, with less effort, more energy and the ability for me to fire out more punches.

But it was and still is my defence that shocks me, some of it has to do with the increased speed and relaxation, I am able to do more combos in a shorter amount of time then I could. Also being lighter, much lighter meant that I couldn’t rely on just absorbing the blows like I use to, which meant I wanted to rely more on speed. My defensive speed has increased a lot, but it isn’t down just to my knew found defensive speed.

Let me try to explain it like this, I started to incorporate my of a Kakie style of defence, which when introduced in sparring is similar to the Wing Chun defence. But I never did that in china! I didn’t do that much sparring, because I wanted to focus and spend as much of my time on White Crane as I could, I really loved it there, I wanted to absorb as much as possible. Then if I wasn’t sparring, and we weren’t practicing kakie, or Wing Chun type drills, then how did this aspect of my karate develop tenfold?! The answer I realised was its basics, the basics we had to practice every day, which students of other styles mocked because it looked boring compared to what they were doing. The basics are similar to Karate and Wing Chun basics, but the two limbs are acting in unison together, part of a big circular wheel. You’re not only practicing short range attacks, or short range blocks in a drill, but most of the time they were a strike and a block at the same time. This Unison of the limbs, I am sure is the main reason why I now not only have a good defence, but now I have an instinctive defence system in my muscle memory.

All those endless drills actually paid of, I know the reason why my defensive reflexes have improved so much, it shows to me that practicing the absolute basics time after time helps you to build on the blocks of what you have been learning. You are never too advanced to do the basics.

A brief Synopsis of my time in China-its is only the beginning

I will probably write a few posts about my time in China, it has had a profound influence on me, from what started of as a 6 week adventure, quickly grew into a 4 month life changing experience. Luckily I saved alot of my weekly emails that I wrote for various people, so I can always use them as a guide to describe in further detail of China.

From training 5.30 in the morning till 5.30 in the evening, to partying at the weekends in Taining, to falling into a waterfall, jumping of a pier because I had to represent Britain against the mad Germans (great Blokes), to flying down a mountain side on top of a crazy log lorry driver, praying to every god that could exist that I will live, to having the craziest nightclub experience in San Ming. So many more things had happened, and I haven’t even mentioned the crazy things that happened in Beijing or Shanghai!

I loved the people I lived with in the Kung Fu school, I was heartbroken when I had to leave them, I loved meeting new people on my travels with Ronny, to meeting a Chinese Girl in Beijing, and spending time with her in Shanghai and Hangzhou.

I can’t forget seeing the terracotta army, seeing the shanghai skyline on a boat, and perhaps the most stilling moment for me, when Ronny and me went to the Great Wall, walked along the old section and just absorbed the view with an Israeli girl we looked after. It was the most peaceful experience of my life, Ronny said he had never known me to shut up for so long, ha ha. Only for it to be ruined by a bug Yank who acted like he owned mount Everest. But that’s another story

 

Exploring other martial arts, whilst still training in the path of Goju

I have found the martial art for me, Goju Ryu karate, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying others, I love the culture and the beauty behind these arts. Sometimes it’s just curiosity, sometimes its I feel like I am lagging in a certain area of my own Karate, not Goju itself but in terms of my strengths and weaknesses and what I need to work on. I find it fascinating comparing martial arts, but when I try another martial art I am solely focused on that art during the class, as I feel it would disrespect the other arts, I am like a kid in a candy shop I want to try loads!

Since training in Goju Ryu, the martial arts I tried out pre-china was Capoeira, White crane in the UK, Muay Thai, tai chi. The martial arts I learnt in china was White crane, Shaolin Kung Fu and Baji Quan. Then when I returned to England I tried Kenjutsu and Wing Chun.

This post will deal with the ones I tried in the England as the ones in china have become a huge part of my personal martial way, and deserve their own post.

I tried to study Capoeira and Goju Ryu at the same time, it was great fun, I thought it would help develop great strength, better kicks and help me to become flowier. The main problem was the drills, they made my head feel like they were in a dish washer, and I actually didn’t mean to quit the classes, I was actually focused on study at that point.

So before I went to China to learn Fujian White Crane kung Fu, I tried out Fujian White Crane kung Fu in England. Before you ask they were completely different, they may come from the same province, but their attitude, approach and style was different. Whereas my Sifu in China was beyond excited that my style was Goju Ryu, because White Crane influenced it, he loved comparing my kata to his forms and pronouncing white crane, he often had me sit by him during eating out in the local village. The teacher in England was the complete opposite, saying that he doesn’t know about other martial arts, doesn’t care White Crane is everything does everything end of. The comparison is shocking, my Sifu has spent his whole life studying White Crane, but loves observing other martial arts, he and the other teachers embrace Martial arts. While I did learn a lot from the teacher in England, he told me that I had to give up Goju Ryu, pay membership the next class and with the fees triple that at a normal martial art. He said the wrong thing to me.

I wanted to try it to work on being more flowing and relaxed, pre-china I was always very tense and static in my movements, and wanted to try the ancestor art to see if it would help. The moment he told me to give up the art that not only I love, but had made some real good friends and so much more, with my grading coming up (I was a blue belt, going for my Purple 4th Kyu), no chance!

Next I tried Muay Thai boxing, I wanted to work more on my sparring, and I loved the session, they are fit bunch of guys, and they were impressed with my karate fitness, I would of carried on with the classes with Goju but an injury I sustained meant I didn’t return to martial arts for several months, and needed to focus on Goju ryu at that point.

Next I tried Tai Chi, I had a friend who was feeling a bit depressed at the time, and I tried to help make her feel better about herself, so we did tai chi together. Plus I figured it could help with me needing to be relaxed.

Post-china I tried Kenjutsu, which is Japanese sword training, and while it was a nice class, they had their own group they were trying to develop.

Then I tried a few Wing Chun classes, before I discovered Goju Ryu, I was thinking about doing Wing Chun, so a few months ago I got to try them. I did like what I saw, fast hands, relaxed position, their sticky hands drill (like kakie), I was more excited about my last lesson in Wing Chun when I discovered similarities between not only White Crane and Wing Chun but also Goju ryu and Baji Quan!! White Crane is said to be the ancestor style of Wing Chun, which was great to observe and discover, that the main martial arts I wanted to study in the past all have a connection, and a certain running theme. But with that said as many similarities as there are, there are twice as many differences, which makes them more unique, with Goju Ryu being developed in Okinawa from Naha Te.

I will probably continue to explore other martial arts alongside Goju ryu, some just for fun and some to see if  it help me work on a aspect I may be lagging in.

Inspiration for travelling

I have always wanted to travel and see the world, to explore the Amazon, to train with the Shaolin or the Samurai, to meeting tribal people, to meet cultures of all kinds. As I grow up there are more places I want to explore, and for different reasons, Okinawa to see where the birth place of karate started, to having a wild time in Rio.

My Dad is perhaps one of the biggest inspirations for my need to travel. He spent a whole year travelling through Europe, north Africa, India and the middle east with his then girlfriend, his best friend and his best friends girlfriend, in a hippy van that he customised for a long period of travel, with its own water purifier and extendible attachment for extra room whilst sleeping, that was several decades ago.

To this day he seems to be defined by his experience of his great adventure, with many of his great tales stemming from that period of his life. The many adventures he had, the danger he faced, the beauty he saw and embraced in the world, I believe that it was this journey that helped develop him into the man he is today.

My mother has been another inspiration, of perhaps a different kind, she is from New Zealand and travelled in her early 20’s, to England, where she met my father. She is also a well travelled person, but hasn’t been able to do as much as she has dreamed of. If I ever get the money to, I hope I can lead her to some of the places that she has always wanted to go to.

At one period in my life I gave up on my dreams, which is as anyone knows me is not a good sign. I let life get to me, and I have had to slowly rebuild myself from that point. When I discovered that you could train in China and a cheapish price, and that my friend from karate was planning to go, I was hooked I had to go! It was a dream that I had since I was a small boy, but stopped believing I could. Despite my families fears of me being in a strange country where you do not speak the language and with its own many dangers, my mum helped me to realise I could follow one of my dreams, so I went to China!

My 3 months of training in the Fujian province, and my three weeks of travelling with my best friend (who I met at the Kung Fu school)to Xian, Beijing and Shanghai, has not only been a dream come true, but has helped transform me, define me in ways I don’t yet fully understand. Most of that is for another post.

I want to say, thank you to my dad for inspiring me, and thank you to my mum, for helping me to finally live one of my dreams, it has given me the belief that not only I can, but that I will follow more of my dreams.