The Kung Fu Bum, Redefined (Made in China) pt II

18 07 2014

This article is a continuation of this article. When you get a chance, go back a read it, I’m sure you will find it educational.

The Kung Fu Bum is not an outdated lifestyle, as many school owners will claim. It is not useless or foolish. I was taught this as a young man with a school of my own. I rubbed elbows with some martial arts millionaires as well as small school owners like me who were making a pretty good living. I found one thing in common with all of them that I just couldn’t swallow:  They made excuses for the mediocrity of their students and would blame it on the times.

Can you feed yourself with your martial arts? I can.

Most people walking through the door don’t have the discipline needed to train the way we used to.

A system needs representatives to exist. There are many GREAT Kung Fu men with no students.

I disagree terribly.

If you aren’t willing to miss a meal for Kung Fu, you don’t deserve to say you’ve Mastered it. No more than a man who says he loves a child, but is unwilling to work at McDonald’s or miss a meal to feed him. Kung Fu must be sacrificed for to achieve the higher levels, and many teachers were unwilling to sacrifice to learn it. As a result, they have little more to offer students besides certificates, forms, and the chance to dress up in “Chinese” clothing and drop names and philosophy. There are levels of understanding in the martial arts and the problem is that many who do the Chinese Martial Arts have their priorities in the wrong place, and we are speaking out of place.

You have Forms guys trying to talk like fighters.

You have traditionalists who put down fighters.

We have Lion Dancers disguising what they do as “Martial Arts”, when it’s only “Martial-like” Arts.

You have Chinese style McDojos dressed up as traditional Kwoons and pretending to be one. Many go so far as to invite emissaries from China and take frequent trips to rub elbow with “the Chinese” in the hopes that what they do looks more credible.

(Don’t get hurt or offended, please. This was only meant to define the roles of various types of Sifu.) I could go on.

We have Sifus who consider Chinese Chinese arts good, and non-Chinese Chinese arts okay–regardless of skill level.

We have students who will only study in a school if it’s dressed up to look like an MMA gym.

We have students who will only study in a school if it looks like the set to a David Carridine sit-com (sorry, bad joke)

And here, we arrive at my point. The true Kung Fu lifestyle is not a thing of the past, nor is it something that can only exist in China. Good Kung Fu should be strived and sacrificed for–regardless of who you pay to get it from. The Kung Fu Bum is actually not a bum at all. On occasion, a Kung Fu Man (which is what I call him) has been able to navigate this economy to find his place, professionally, as a Kung Fu expert. In the days of old, Kung Fu men became soldiers, security men, body guards, taught soldiers and police. Today, the process is more complex, but this is still the option for a Kung Fu man besides simply opening a school. Or a Kung Fu man who does open a school would just have to figure out the formula to success using his art–without watering it down, as many claim you must. Once you learn the art, develop the skill, you must then find a way to transform that art into a marketable, sustaining form of income. This, in turn, will allow you to spend more of your time in a Sei Ping Ma and in front of a punching bag–rather than a desk–and continue to see where the potential of your Kung Fu skill will take you. Kung Fu need not be a burden, and it is as valid a path as any academic endeavor. Should you pursue Kung Fu the right way, even those called Martial Arts “Masters” will admire your skill, rather than your wallet or reputation.

I have some suggestions. Stay tuned. In the meantime, please see our “Offerings” page and donate $19 to receive a copy of my mini-book “Make a Living with Your Backyard/Garage/Community Center Dojo”.

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.





The Kung Fu Bum, Redefined (Made in China)

18 07 2014

In my archives, I have a booklet entitled, “Stuff I’d Like You to Know”, which was given to any new Jow Ga student I took during the 90s and early 2000s. In those days, my school was a Filipino Martial Arts school, and I only taught Jow Ga privately. In the booklet, I introduce my new students to the life upon which they are about to embark–as this is not a class, I tell them… it is a lifestyle.

In it, I have a section about the Kung Fu Bum:  A man, who, while perhaps highly skilled in Kung Fu, is a loser in life because he defined himself by the martial arts and neither completed his formal academic education nor pursued a successful career. This is a man who foregoes study in college to study martial arts, who often attends classes free because his Sifu sees him as a great protegè although he cannot pay tuition. We all know them; often they are vagrants who still live with family or parents–but when it’s demo time or sparring time, even his class mates who are doctors and lawyers envy him. I was a Kung Fu bum, but I found a little financial stability by opening a school. Few of us martial arts bums do, however–so I did my best to persuade my students not to follow in my footsteps and choose life over martial arts.

Boy, was I wrong.

Kung Fu, it turns out, is a way of life. Not all paths lead to financial prosperity, and that’s okay. Not everyone measures himself by homeownership or what kind of car is in his driveway. If this art is to flourish and prosper, someone will have the carry the torch of the Masters before us and undertake the burden of a Kung Fu gatekeeper. All of this, in spite of the fact that some of us will sleep in our gyms and have to skip a meal when it’s tuition time. I may draw criticism from many of my own brothers by saying this, but when you are gone from this Earth, styles will mostly be remembered by the heroes who represented this art as a Tiger in the jungle–not by the many smaller animals who sat as prey in his presence. This is not to say that those of us who have many students are insignificant or less credible as Kung Fu men. There is room for all types of martial artists in this community, and there is room for all degrees of knowledge and skill on a system’s family tree… There is a role for everyone in every system, including the Kung Fu Bum.

Like it or not, martial arts must be trained daily and full time to reach its potential. I have a Si Hing who is criticized by other Si Hing for talking some of the younger generation to forego college for martial arts. I have my opinion about his approach and his motive, but I am also thankful that he introduced me to this idea, as many have done the martial arts for years and have never known the feeling of being dominant over most others in their presence. There are many Kung Fu men who are simply called a “Master” because they have many years in the system and have many students and grand students. Yet there are still some men (many unnamed and largely unknown) whose skill shadows those Masters, and they serve as role models to those who knew them. Some of your Si Gung and Si Jo were such men. They died penniless. They were not famous. But they possessed skill that most in the martial arts have never witnessed in person or in the media, and the stories told about them as myth were, in fact, true. We didn’t get these martial arts greats by some guy practicing a few hours a week after work. These men developed such a level of skill because they didn’t have a traditional career; to them, the martial arts was not a hobby, not a job, not a business–it was a calling.

When your Master said that you would be lucky to have 2 great students in your life time, he wasn’t speaking of “good” martial arts students… he was talking about the Kung Fu Bum. Or, as you will one day call him:  A Master whom you would hope to one day be as skilled as.

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.





Execution of the Kung Fu Form

11 03 2014

Some people confuse the terms “execution” of a form versus “performance” of a form.

In Sifu Dean Chin’s Jow Ga, we don’t perform our forms–we execute them. Some teachers show their students how to perform a form so that it is aesthetically pleasing–They will add multiple kicks and jumps, poses–even acrobatics–to their forms. Others focus on the combat value of the form:

  • Power. Every strike and kick done in the form must be executed with enough power to injure an opponent. You must identify how each attack works, and then use it every time it appears in your form. The same rule applies to your blocking techniques. If someone struck you while performing your form, would the blocks in your form have enough power to intercept the attack? Some blocks should hurt the opponent’s attacking limbs, as well as throwing your opponent off balance–should he make contact with you while attacking
  • Speed. You must use the appropriate amount of speed in the execution of the techniques that make them functional in fighting. Most often, forms are done too slow or too fast. We treat our forms as “folders” in which we store our system’s techniques and strategies. When we practice the form, we are practicing the techniques within them. If you do not use the correct amount of speed, you will not be preparing for application
  • Fluency. Some combinations of movements must be practiced enough so that the movements flow easily from one section to another. Some techniques are more complicated and complex than others; so people will either “shorten” or simplify movements, while others practice them until those techniques are functional as-is. Excessive modification and dumbing down of a style is not a sign of skill, according to Chin Sifu’s philosophy–it is a sign of laziness. One can easily see the way a fighter executes those complex techniques and see if he truly understands and is able to use them, or if he’s simply performing a dance. Complex techniques and combinations should flow easily without looking choppy–and without sacrificing speed and power
  • Footwork. Stances should be more than just low. They must be well-balanced, powerful, immovable, agile, and explosive. Half of your speed in attacking is the actual delivery of the attacker to the defender (position-wise). If one only focuses on having low stances, he is only concerned with appearing to be well-trained. He must be able to move out of a position in an instant, and to do so while executing or countering an attack. Low stances alone do not translate to good footwork; footwork must be functional and enhance the execution and power of your technique
  • Function. Once you understand how a technique is used, one could either keep that application in his mind while practicing, or use the technique as it was intended to be used. For example, consider the grab-punch in Jow Ga, which we often refer to as the “small tiger technique“. In this lineage, we are doing more than simply balling up our fist and retracting our arm right before punching. We are grabbing our opponent’s wrist, his shirt, his head–and then yanking him in to punch him. Most would perform a passive grab and perhaps a powerful punch. However, if you ignore the control–the Fook of Siu Fook Fu–you miss the beauty of this form. You are attacking the opponent as well as controlling him. The application and spirit of the form should be conveyed along with the performance of the form
  • Transition. This is perhaps the most distinguishing feature of Dean Chin’s Jow Ga. Sifu considered forms with one pace throughout the duration of a form to be boring and thoughtless–even if you perform it at lightning-fast speed. The execution of the techniques should be explosive and quick, but not the transition of one technique to another. For this reason, Sifu added pauses and varying paces throughout the forms. If anything about Sifu was considered “show boat”–this would be it. This has nothing to do with fighting applications; our goal is not to move as fast as possible without thoughts of fighting applications. Our pace is patient and calculated, and the attacks are quick and powerful. Think of the difference between a run-on paragraph, rather than one with sentences separated by periods, and phrases separated by commas

Again, what is foremost in the practitioner’s mind while executing the form is execution of the techniques. Learn this difference, and you may find more life and understanding in your Jow Ga. Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.

P.S. – If you are able to travel, consider attending the Jow Ga picnic in DC in May of this year. We also have a 3-day Dean Chin’s Jow Ga Summer Camp planned for August 2014. Stay tuned!





Jow Ga’s Pao Choy

17 12 2013

The Uppercut technique is the second most used technique in the Siu Fook Fu form, next to the straight punch. The uppercut can be thrown with the front hand or the back, as a part of the Wheel Punch or alone, as a leading/opening strike or as a part of a combination. It is a powerful technique that can be used to damage the body or the face/head. It can be thrown for speed or for power. The uppercut is a surprising technique that you can hide from the opponent until it is too late, or it can be thrown as a powerful, yes-you-can-see-it-but-you-can’t-do-anything-about-it punch.

The uppercut, if thrown directly behind a straight technique as a feed or distraction is known to boxers as an advanced technique called a “Bolo Punch” (named for a Filipino boxer Cerfino Garcia), which mimicked farmers cutting cane in the fields. It worked equally as devastating as an attack or a counter to a straight attack.

I teach my students to use the uppercut off the centerline, which is a Filipino strategy that I believe is paired very effectively with it. In order to do so the fighter will either

  1. feed the opponent a straight attack
  2. check the opponent’s front hand
  3. draw a straight attack from the opponent–ALL, while stepping off the line–

and when the opponent reacts to one of the above, you will execute the strike. If the opponent is standing in the open position, you will attack from under his front arm with either your front or rear fist. If he is standing in the closed position, you will split his hands (Kuntaw terminology, meaning strike between his guard) with the uppercut. The checking hand can either deflect, capture, or stick to the opponent’s arm to ensure that your uppercut makes it through–or it can simply keep moving to allow the break in contact to distract the opponent from seeing the punch. Side note:  Some fighters can sense the punch coming through if you maintain contact with their arm with your non-punching arm. Those of you who practice Chi Sao will know what I’m referring to. By breaking contact, you take away their ability to rely on sensitivity for defense.

A good follow-up for the attack (or if the opponent leans back from your uppercut) is the straight punch.

The uppercut is theoretically an easy punch to block. However, very few teachers understand the strike well enough to teach how to defend from it. However, one needs to do more than simply slap down the punch–which is the typical defense taught against it. Many styles have no defense from the uppercut at all, because many of those do not use the uppercut. When used in combination, in the frenzied confusion of an exchange, the uppercut should be slipped in while you and the opponent are moving. Because of the angle of the technique–especially if you step off line, as I recommend–the opponent will not see the punch coming.

Think of the way opponents typically hold their guard. Hands up near the face, elbows resting near the rib cage. If you look in the mirror, you may notice that whether you are face front or face 3/4 turned, there is a triangle of open targets… from the entire midsection leading up to the chin at the vertex/top. The entire area–between the elbows all the way up to the chin–are vulnerable to the uppercut. This technique was designed to exploit that opening, which most fighters believe they are protected from, simply by holding up their hands. If you train to penetrate the guard, no opponent is safe.

Refer to the following two videos. One demonstrates the Uppercut strike; the other demonstrates the Uppercut Wheel Punch. In the first video, the fighter demonstrates the result of stepping directly into the line of fire of the opponent as well as the angled step I describe in this article. In the second video, the Uppercut Wheel Punch is demonstrated as a counter.

For more information, please see a Jow Ga Sifu near you. Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.





The Misconception of “Finding Out What Works” In Kung Fu

26 11 2013

I’m about to disagree with many of you and your teachers. Please hear me out first.

Martial artists are guilty of taking what they learned and heard and just regurgitating it without doing any of their own thinking and research–without investigating and qualifying their knowledge and simply passing it on. Worse, they will pass thing on exactly as they learned it. Although times change and fighting evolves, the self-defense needs of the average citizen changes, the combat role of the average martial artist changes, even weapons technology changes with the times… Martial artists (especially Chinese martial artists) often do not. Not only are we guilty of this, we’re actually proud of that fact.

No one else exaggerates the age of a style more than we do. No one fights over “I have the actual/pure/most authentic version” with their own classmates like the Kung Fu man does. For some reason, when one of us talks of updating or improving or modifying a martial art–we are ostracized for betraying our teacher’s art. As if there were a such thing as a Kung Fu style that had no evolution in its history, or these arts never had a beginning.

So one of the things martial artists like to do without thinking is to repeat or adopt philosophies without thinking them through. One that I hear a lot is “Kung Fu needs to be researched so that you can find out what works.”

Well, yes and no.

Kung Fu does need to be researched. It needs to be practiced, absorbed, understood, made second nature, mastered in movement as well as theory, and most of all–understood.

And no, that is no typo. I wrote “understood” twice for emphasis. See, you must first understand the techniques you learn. You must know how to throw them, when to throw them, and then do them until they are as natural as walking. When someone surprises you and throws a balled-up piece of paper at you, the knee-jerk reaction you make–whether it is to catch it, deflect it, or shield against it–should be the same way you utilize the techniques in your system.

Take, for example, this technique. The Jiu Sao is a standard technique in the Jow Ga system, as it is in many Southern systems. It occurs at least 7 -8 times in every form. Yet if you were to watch most Jow Ga practitioners fight–you’d almost never see it executed. Why? Because the Small Tiger Block (as we often refer to it) is not a natural reaction. Most people who practice the forms, will only execute the block a few times in class and when it occurs in a form without actually training the technique, drilling it until it becomes second nature.  And this is something many Kung Fu practitioners do. It is one reason “Kung Fu & MMA” sends the wrong message:  “We practice Chinese Martial Arts, but we utilize Muay Thai and BJJ to fight with.” Honestly, you have added the MMA element because your understanding of your style is not developed to the point you can actually use it.

In other words, you do not understand your system enough to fight with it.

And here, we arrive to my point, and the second “understood”. Your Kung Fu should be drilled until it becomes second nature and natural in fighting, then you must train it and research and test it enough so that you can understand HOW it works. It is not a question of “what” works–it is a question of “how” it works. So when Jow Lung walked the earth, the average fighter thrusted his punches. But today, 100+ years later, the average fighter has watched boxing and now snaps his punches. The Jiu Sao which once worked against the stiff Sei Ping Chune doesn’t quite work against the jab, but it can. You just have to find out HOW.

When Jow Ga fighters say they train their Jow Ga to find out “what” works, they are saying there are pieces of Jow Ga that does, and some that does not. If it does not, why do them? My message to you, Jow family is that your Jow Ga does work. You just have to train, drill, test and train some more until you find out how–so that it all works. And while you’re adding more and more forms, more and more styles, and shaking hands with more and more people until you are too old to fight–that knowledge is sitting on your forms lists, drying up while you spend valuable Jow Ga time investigating other arts. This is not just for Jow Ga people–all Kung Fu people. Test your Kung Fu. Then take the results of that test–whether you win the fights or lose–then find out why, how those results came to be, how to make them more efficient and effective, what can be done to counter your technique, and how you can prevent opponents from countering you. There are so many possibilities and so many levels of understanding, it will take a lifetime. So the fewer systems and forms you know, the further you can take your knowledge and ability.

For this reason, 99% of the information given on this site will deal with our first form, Siu Fook Fu. Harvest as much as you can yield from your Kung Fu. Stay tuned, so you can find out what we have done with ours.

Thank you for visiting the Dean Chin’s Jow Ga Federation.





DC Jow Ga Training Clips

25 11 2013

This will be quick and easy.

Our purpose for creating this page is to pay homage to our Sifu and branch founder, Master Dean Chin. However, my personal motivation for doing such a site is to see established the acceptance of Dean Chin’s lineage as a unique and authentic version of the Jow Ga Kung Fu family. Every style has its branches and strains. Some are viewed as credible; some are not. As long as the person teaching a style/variation has an understanding of that style as a combat art and pays his dues–as well as proving its effectiveness–I view any strain of an art to be validated and acceptable.

There are many within our ranks who do not see Dean Chin’s Jow Ga as “pure” or valid as the Asian branches. Sifu modified his forms, he altered the way he taught the art, he added some elements of other arts. In the end, he called it all Jow Ga and sought to promote the style, and he didn’t even brand it as “Dean Chin’s Jow Ga”. I chose this name, because the term “Dean Chin version of Jow Ga” forms was often used to claim that a form was not authentic or incomplete.

Sifu did shorten many forms. He also forgot some forms. But do not allow these two facts fool you into believing that what he taught was not effective and powerful. Simply by viewing those who sprung from the loins of his school, you will see how strong Dean Chin Jow Ga is. However, despite that Sifu’s students were very good at performing forms–from Sifus Hoy Lee to Randy Bennett to Rahim Muhammad to Deric Mims to Troy Williams to Raymond Wong to Deric Johnson–when Sifu wanted to showcase the strength of his Kung Fu, he elected to have his students fight. When Sifu accompanied me to my first National tournament in 1983, he did not enter me into forms division–he entered me as a fighter. When he took a team to Taiwan–he brought fighters. When Sifu crashed a class while on of my Si Hings taught, he taught not Small Tiger form (everybody knew it anyway), he taught techniques within the form. Form, to Sifu Chin, was not a performance art. Forms were a collection of fighting technique, and this is what he used forms for in his classes.

When Sharif Talib and I decided to upload Jow Ga clips to youtube, then, we determined that there were enough forms on youtube under Jow Ga. So we committed ourselves to showing Dean Chin fighting techniques, as he taught them to us. We hope you will find them as valuable and useful as we did. Occasionally, we will produce (street quality, not studio quality… hey, it’s the information that matters!) Jow Ga videos that will highlight fighting rather than form, and these will be offered for less than the price of one month of lessons. When we teach workshops and clinics, they will be addressing the combat applications of this unique version of Jow Ga. Please check with us regularly, and subscribe to both my channel as well Sharif’s.

As a preview, I will present two examples below. Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.

DC Jow Ga Footwork Development

DC Jow Ga Small Tiger Technique





Jow Ga’s Capturing Hand

6 10 2013

I love the Siu Fook Fu form.

I love it so much, I’ve created half an entire Kung Fu system out of it. There is so much in it, you (the reader) could do the same. Of course, Jow Ga has so much more than simply this one form, but if you fail to absorb this form fully, you are really will miss the boat.

In Sifu Dean Chin’s Jow Ga, we emphasize the “Capturing Hand” principle while practing Siu Fook Fu. In a nutshell, there are three rules:

  1. You must train the hand, fingers and forearm to be strong and inescapable
  2. Every time you punch and your arm is blocked, you will capture or control the blocking arm
  3. Every time your opponent punches and you block it, you will capture or control his punching arm

Ying Jow people will recognize this principle as its origin is partially rooted in Lau Man Fat’s Eagle Claw Kung Fu. We have our version of its application and how we train it, but it is a foundation concept that is easier said than done. If you can develop it and make it a strong part of your fighting arsenal–you will be very formidable in fighting.

Please go back and take a look at the form if you know it and notice how throughout the form you will see one of two things happening through the form:

    1. You are stepping through your opponent while blocking–when changing to a blocking technique in this form, you will not sit still in your stance while blocking. Instead, when we go low to block a kick or block a punch upward–we actually step one or two fighting stance lengths forward while doing so. This is a Tiger Claw concept of knocking your opponent over with your stance
    2. Throughout the form you will see the “Small Tiger Technique”–aka “block-block-grab-punch”… It isn’t just filler. The reason it shows up everywhere in the form is to emphasize its importance.

I don’t want to give away the store here on this blog. We write these articles for people who already know Jow Ga; this isn’t a place to educate yourself about this style. However, if you already know at least our foundation form, you should find our articles helpful in your own journey through Jow Ga. Please use us as a guide for your personal training.

And if you’d like to cheat, you can always use the “Donate” button to your right, send us $50 and we will mail you a DVD of our basic Small Tiger form applications. You’ll be glad you did. Don’t reinvent the wheel; Take over 50 years of training and research and make it your own. If you already have our DVD, please comment! Part II is coming soon!

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation site. Please, spread the word about us!








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