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!

Perfect the Parts, Master the Whole

4 02 2014

You ever notice how some martial artists seem to do everything well–while others are just plain sloppy? Even when they train just as much, are just as committed to learning, and work just as hard? And maybe some of you–regardless of how much you practice–can’t seem to get past the “good” level and become excellent

Wanna know why?

Well, it ain’t simply explained as saying that they are “good” while others are “not so good”. There’s more to it than that.  It’s a simple concept. I call this concept “Perfect the parts, master the whole”. It probably isn’t how much you practice. Rather, what may help you get results could be HOW you practice.

In a nutshell, this is how it works (using forms performance as a point of reference):

  • Develop not just your footwork and stances, but each part of your footwork and stances–your balance, the appearance, the formation of the stance, the deepness of your stance, adherence to the integrity of the stance while moving, positioning, angle, flexibility. Follow me?
  • Do the same with your hand techniques, kicks and blocks–power, speed, position of both hands, crispness of delivery, posture, hand formation…
  • Practice short series of movements, 40 – 50 repetitions at a time. The series should be no more than 10 or so movements. The majority of your forms practice sessions should consist of this, although you may focus on a different part of the series every few repetitions–like stance, power, fluidity, etc.
  • Occasionally take ONE technique and drill it hundreds of times. I wouldn’t consider yourself to have achieved proficiency of a form until you have done this with each technique of that form at least once
  • Something as simple as a step-turn should be isolated frequently in practice and perfected. You should do this until each time you execute that particular movement–it is done precisely, sharply and needing no adjustment. In fact, you shouldn’t even need to look and make sure you performed it correctly. In other words, perfection will become a second nature habit

Too often, martial artists treat the entire form as one unit. As a result they train for very general objectives, such as endurance. However, especially for Kung Fu forms, there are too many techniques that only get practiced a few times per training session. Take for example, your style’s first form (for many Jow Ga practitioners, it is Siu Fook Fu). How many times do you perform this form per training session in its entirety? 10, 12 times? If you train the form full speed, full power it’s probably even less. Considering which technique we are discussing, in a practice session (if you do the form 10 times in that practice session), you may only be getting 10 – 20 repetitions of a technique per training session. Compare that to my routine:  taking two or three techniques, and doing them 100 times per training session. And this is full speed, full power–which you may not do at all if you are trying to do an entire form.

It takes about 500 repetitions of anything to approach “good”. It takes about 10,000 repetitions to become “great”, and only if those 10,000 reps were focused, technically sound repetitions. Most martial artists do not train this way. Instead, what they call “training” is more like “practice”–a casual, moderate rehearsing of those techniques where you may sweat and leaves you “feeling good” after training instead of sore and in pain. All martial arts training, including forms practice, is “fight training”. Fighters who approach training as if it were an aerobics session will almost never approach the level of perfection and fighting dominance they aspire to. It takes a patient, focused, tough practitioner to isolate something as simple as a step-punch and drill it thousands of times to arrive to the lonely status of “one of the best”. Training sessions will hurt, they will be boring, and they will be long. They aren’t entertaining. They don’t exactly look like a scene from a Shaw Brothers film. But they will bring you the skill and mastery every man or woman reading this article wants–but very few of you will achieve… Even some of your “Masters”.

Please take a look at the following clips. This is the “Half Step” used in Jow Ga. I will explain this skill in more detail in the next article, but observe how Instructor Sharif Talib is practicing a movement that many take for granted. Perhaps you may have had explained to you once or twice in your martial education, but once you learned it you most likely have forgotten about it and simply performed the movement while practicing other higher skills. However, improper use of the half step will result in

  1. poor centerline alignment
  2. the lack of using the shift for power, speed, penetration and reach
  3. loss of speed in the delivery of punches
  4. improper weight distribution

By giving this part of a larger technique–the step-punch–its due attention and perfection, you improve your effectiveness and delivery of the entire technique.

But more on that next time. Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.

If you like what you’ve read on our site, please visit the Offerings page and order a copy of our homemade Small Tiger DVD! And please, spread the word!

Dong Quai Tea and Onion Soup

5 01 2014

During Sifu Chin’s last few years with us, I spent a lot of time learning from him in the gym before classes began. It was here, beginning around 3 p.m., and ending shortly before the first students arrived for the two hour class at 6 p.m. I got to hear conversations between Sifu Chin and my Si Hing Tehran Brighthapt, who had a special relationship with Dean Chin as one of his best fighters. On Sundays, training with Sifu started with class at 10 a.m., which Sifu Raymond Wong normally taught–unless Sifu decided to crash the class. Whether or not he so decided, Sifu taught shortly after lunch when Raymond’s class ended. Then on days when Sifu didn’t come to the school–usually on Saturdays, my brother and I would walk down South Glebe Road in Arlington, Virginia, and practice at Sifu’s house.

One of my strongest memories was the smell of Dong Quai tea, cigar smoke, incense, and Dit Da Jow, as Sifu’s practices involved him sipping on the tea–which he drank for headaches–while he puffed on his cigar, incense for the founders, and Jow because Sifu believed strongly in conditioning. If you were to take Jow Ga from me versus some of my training mates, you would notice the difference of how I teach the art, because I teach how I was taught.

Training with Sifu was rarely formal. There was no Gin Lai at the beginning and ending of class. Actually, each time Sifu taught a technique, he expected a Gin Lai. Normally, I would arrive from school (Sifu had given me a key to the school when I was 13) before him usually, to do homework. When Sifu arrived, he would send me out to fetch his tea and a cup of Onion Soup with dried noodles. After a short talk, or me reading magazines while Sifu and Brighthapt chat while people-watched, Sifu would tell me to go into the gym and practice. I use to daydream that he would show me some amazing new form, weapon or a super-technique that would empower me to whip everyone. Instead, what I learned was the value of hard work, attention to detail, and occasionally, something that was not on the curriculum. Something unique that was between me and him, that I could only practice alone–to be revealed at some function when Sifu would tell me, “Go and do that form.” I took a lot of pride in that relationship, because I learned a piece of Sifu Chin that most of my classmates did not know existed. I beat the drums and learned his favorite rhythms and powerful drumming technique that only a few could duplicate. Once he told me that a shop owner told him that when he heard me playing the drums, he thought it was him. Sifu spent a lot of time on the same few forms, and we did the same applications over and over for common techniques that everyone did differently. Only years later would I realize that this was the “Dean Chin version” of those techniques. And through the conversations with him, I learned the DNA of his fighting logic. While some folks chased rank and form, I was the second youngest student in the school–and kept my mouth shut while I just waited for Sifu to decide when I got to learn next, and what it would be.

When our lessons first began a regular schedule, Sifu just told me to come to the gym to clean up and practice. That was the result of me dusting my pants while practicing splits. Stanley Dea was teaching, and we were stretching while Sifu sat in the front and watched. He asked why I was moving and I told him the floor was dirty. He chastised the entire class for the school being dirty. After class my brother and I cleaned the floor, and we received our first instruction. It was a Saturday, and Sifu was in the office fussing at the instructors. He came in and told us to practice when we were done. Some time later he came in to explain the horse stance to us and how it was used to generate power in punching. He later told me that he was impressed with the length of time my brother and I practiced, that he rarely saw children so young practice without complaining. After a few hit-or-miss training sessions with him, Sifu pulled me in the office with Sifu Wong. He told me that if he were to teach me, I needed to teach the art forever, that the lessons with him were more expensive than any other lessons I could find anywhere. Basically, I would owe my life for them, and I agreed. I was 13. I was to stick close to Raymond, and Sifu would come down on Sundays for practice after the regular scheduled class. Every Sunday led to several days after school, and that led to lessons at his house–and that led to the conversations, which seemed trivial then. Yet years later I see that they were just as valuable as the lessons.

I was already an advanced beginner when my one-on-one lessons began, and Sifu first retaught me my basics. complaining that I had moved too quickly. (And prior to that, I thought I was learning too slow! It took me a year to learn our first form)  But once I had gathered the courage to ask Sifu for more instruction, and he agreed, teaching me forms that were not “on the list”. Yet by the time I was in high school, I had learned half the curriculum. I was able to meet and train with his uncle. When he had visitors, I got to learn from them as well. When I was 14, I told Sifu that I would have to work a part time job in my family’s store because my mother was paying for my lessons to three martial arts schools and I had to pitch in. Sifu waived my tuition for life, telling me to see Raymond Wong and Craig Lee if anything happened to him. One year later, Sifu was dead.

During that last year, I became fond of the smell of Dong Quai and Onion soup. I could drink the soup, but warned to stay away from the tea. He said it was not for children, and was more medicine for headaches and blood, rather than a drink (Sifu actually enjoyed wine). I use to equate cigar smoke and incense with training, and soup with wisdom. I learned that the martial arts is not a business arrangement after you get through the fundamentals. Once you reach a foundation in the art, it becomes a relationship. You can’t pay for this kind of thing; you don’t need a business arrangement for it. You don’t need a term to describe it. You don’t even arrive with expectations. You simply commit to learning, and when the student is ready, the Master appears. When you literally sit at the feet of the teacher, you will learn things that cannot come from a book. You must be patient. You must be willing to come to the gym, practice for hours, and sometimes do that for several sessions without “learning” anything new.

Then one day, years in the future, you will look back and realize you had received some of the most valuable instruction money can’t buy. Sifu left us too soon, but everyone who came away with a piece of the Dean Chin puzzle has a piece that is worth more than gold or silver. If you would like to learn more about Dean Chin’s Jow Ga, I would strongly encourage you to look up each of his students who are teaching and spend time with them. Everyone–Sifus Momenan, Henderson, Bennett, Hon Lee, Mims, Hoy Lee, Rahim Muhammad, Troy Williams, Raymond Wong, Deric Johnson, Brighthapt, Howard Davis, Wheeler, myself–we all have a part of Dean Chin’s unique fighting style. If you’re lucky, patient, and dedicated, you might get a good taste of what it was like learning from the Chinatown school in the days when Sifu Chin was teaching, and why his version of this art was so special.

Thank you for visiting the Dean Chin Jow Ga Federation.

The “Essence” of Jow Ga

20 12 2013

I’ve been hearing this term in the recent few years, in debates mostly about my Si Hing Ron Wheeler’s books and videos.

The topics range from “Ron is promoting himself” to “Ron’s tournament wins don’t mean shit” to “The material does not capture the uniqueness of Jow Ga”. I call bullshit.

As if most of the clips you find of Jow Ga on the internet or offered for sale as a DVD show this “uniqueness”. You know what I see? Jow Ga on the internet, to the trained eye–not necessarily Jow Ga trained, but any Kung Fu style–looks like Hung Gar if one guy does it, to Choy Lay Fut if another does it. Most clips, if you are trained, are actually performed by what are obviously beginners of the art, and out of politeness or wisdom we don’t rake them over the coals. The videos for sale supposedly don’t capture Jow Ga’s “essence” like these overseas clips on youtube do, but they are supposed to capture the essence of whose Jow Ga? Jow Lung? Chan Man Cheung? Lee Ngau? Dean Chin?

Tell you what. No one reading this blog right now is qualified to say what Jow Lung’s Jow Ga looked like, and you damn sure aren’t qualified to say that YOUR Jow Ga looks like his and someone else’s does not. You weren’t here 100 years ago, and there weren’t video cameras in those days. Hell, you can’t even tell us what Jow Lung himself looked like. And excuse me for stating my opinion out loud, but the computer generated picture of Jow Lung (because none actually exists) is about as reliable as a picture of Jesus himself. Let’s call a spade a spade, in those few conversations about Ron Wheeler’s videos, we’re not discussing whether Ron’s videos are real Jow Ga or not–we’re talking about something very personal, and we shouldn’t have these conversations about a guy we’ve known since childhood. I’m actually embarrassed that we did, when a plus for Jow Ga is a plus for all of us, and until someone puts out a DVD or book that brings more students through my door beside’s Ron’s products, I say his stuff is top notch. Because like or not, we are all seen as being on the same team, even if you’re mad he’s playing the position you don’t think he deserves. Ron chose the path he chose, he earned the accolades that he has, he has built the reputation he has without anyone’s help, and the products he offers are the only products for Jow Ga available except for Master Sam Chan’s videos. There is room for more products promoting the system, and if you feel like we should put out a better product please do–and I would buy it myself.

So enough about that…

The Essence of Jow Ga

No one man could claim to have the “correct” or “authentic” Jow Ga, just like no religion could say they have the “only” religion. Even our system of Jow Ga had five founders and the main founder himself did not own a school–nor did he appoint a disciple or inheritor. Each school, under each founder had its own flavor and nuances, and each founder had students who had their own branches, flavors and versions of Jow Ga. The late Grandmaster Chan Man Cheung had a version of Jow Ga that was very different from Dean Chin’s Jow Ga. I know, because I learned from both, and they didn’t even do the same first form. Jow Ga has, at its core very simple principles that we learned from Sifu Dean Chin:

  • Strong but agile footwork
  • Quick, powerful hand techniques
  • Control of the opponent’s arm whenever you made contact
  • Make use of strong, destructive blocks
  • Develop a powerful grip
  • Make use of sensitivity
  • Use legs to knock the opponent down
  • Use the stance and footwork to knock the opponent down
  • Don’t retreat without advancing twice as much
  • Use techniques from your form to fight with

Now I haven’t traveled to every country that has Jow Ga, but pretty much everywhere I’ve seen Jow Ga I have only seen Lion Dance and forms that had very little of these principles. Maybe they are hidden?

When Dean Chin wanted to show off his students, had us fight. Sifu took me to a tournament in 1984 himself, and he wanted me to fight. I didn’t even suit up until forms divisions were nearly over. He had three techniques he wanted me to use, and I used them. The next day, on Sunday, in front of Raymond Wong’s class–he first congratulated me for my 2nd place win, then chastised me for losing and not using enough power in my final fight, which was with a friend of mine–despite that I had fought hard in my earlier fights.

Bottom line is this. Dean Chin’s Jow Ga doesn’t look like Hong Kong’s. He taught in a different environment. The student based he taught were different. His experience was different from his Sifu’s. He had a different mentality. And each student under him had a different background, different skill set, and our own abilities. We were DC students, not Hong Kong students. So DC Jow Ga doesn’t look like Hong Kong Jow Ga.  Hong Kong’s Jow Ga shouldn’t even look like Hong Kong’s Jow Ga. If people of the same generation, or worse–different generations–looked the same, even if they came from the same Sifu… You have very bland, uninspired, untested Kung Fu. Kung Fu must change, and it must be personalized. Within Dean Chin’s own students we have men like Sifu Craig Lee whose Kung Fu looks nothing like anyone else in his generation–or the previous, or the next. Craig’s Jow Ga looked like a totally different style from Tehran Brighthapt’s, and Sifu Chin was proud of both men and their ability.  Each Kung Fu man will have his own preferences, likes, dislikes, specialties and limits–and only a fool will look at a peer who has dedicated a lifetime to the art and say, “Your version of this art is invalid.”  If Jow Lung were here today, he wouldn’t recognize any of the stuff any of us do–not even the forms.

I don’t claim to have the only authentic version of Jow Ga, and I would never fool a student into believing that I do. I might claim to have the best version of Jow Ga, and if I do, it’s up to me to prove it. We can argue all day long about “purity” and other silliness like that. But good and bad can be easily proven.

And that is what Kung Fu is all about anyway, right? Not demonstrating what you can do, but proving it? Now, how can we prove anything over the internet? Foolishness. Such conversations should be held only in person. As for the “essence” of Jow Ga, you can only capture the “essence” of a particular teacher’s version. There is Jow Ga on nearly every continent on Earth, and each school came from a different lineage. Who will be the one to travel to each one and challenge or update each teacher on the “correct” version? There are better things to do to promote the art besides chopping each other down.

One family, my foot. If you believe in one family, then you must accept that each one of us is unique and has our own skills, specialties and ability in the art. As long as we are keeping our skills sharp and making the art look good,  promoting the name Jow Ga and giving respect to the founders, our teachers and our respective lineages–the family is in good hands. In other words, the Essence of Jow Ga is that this is a family of Kung Fu practitioners and we should act like one.

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.

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

Lessons In Death

11 10 2013

The passing of our Grandmaster, Sifu Chan Man Cheung is a sad one, but it does not have to be. My Si Gung lived a full and fulfilling, celebrated life. He was able to see his Jow Ga grow from his humble school in Hong Kong to an major force on the International Jow Ga Kung Fu scene. Most of the time someone sees a Jow Ga practitioner around the world–especially if you are an English speaker–they assume you came from his lineage. Cheung Sifu was fortunate enough to see generation after generation after generation spring from the loins of his teachings. Not only to know what and where his Jow Ga has gone; he was able to travel the world and actually meet those students and see the schools himself.

Not bad for a man who was unlettered and not wealthy.

Chances are pretty good that if you know Jow Ga and you are in America, Si Gung could look at you perform and he could tell you who your Sifu came from, he could tell you why your Sifu does things the way he did them, and he could probably recall when your Sifu learned those things. He is like a father to us all in Kung Fu, and rather than treat his passing as a sad occasion, celebrate it. Chan Man Cheung paved the way for one or two (or more) of his offspring to branch off and duplicate or surpass what HE did for Jow Ga. In passing, Si Gung passed the torch to each one of us to make this art better, and make this art grow. If you do not aspire to accomplish great things with your Kung Fu, then support your brothers and sisters who do. And we’ve got plenty:

  • Sifu Hoy Lee
  • Sifu Hon Lee
  • Sifu Rahim Muhammad
  • Sifu Randy Bennett
  • Sifu Raymond Wong
  • Sifu Reza Momenan
  • Sifu Ron Wheeler
  • Sifu Deric Johnson
  • Sifu Troy Williams
  • Sifu Terrance Robinson
  • Sifu Charles Middleton
  • Sifu Howard Bryant
  • Sifu Ed Tomaine
  • Me
  • Sifu Sharif Talib
  • Instructor Luyi Shao


I’m sure there are others. But these are the owners of Jow Ga schools I know of. If we’ve missed anyone, please comment below and we’ll make sure to update the list…

One more thing. If you have students, make sure you talk to them about their duty in carrying this art forward. If the system had died with the founders there would be no Jow Ga today. Martial arts are an ever-evolving entity–and those in whose hands it is trusted have a duty to perfecting what they know, testing what they know, and unlocking its secrets so that your future generations will be given a better art than what was given to you. Just as your Sifu did for his or her students. Just as your Si Gung did for his students. Just as Master Cheung did for his students.

That said, all of us who are in direct lineage to Grandmaster Cheung should be wearing a black armband for 30 – 90 days around our left upper arm, as a sign of mourning. However, like I said, do not let this period of mourning simply be one of sadness and “do-nothingness”, but one of celebrating the life of a great Master who gave each of us a Master who founded a very strong branch of this “one family”:  The American Branch of Jow Ga. Dean Chin’s Jow Ga. Please make sure your students know where they came from, so they will have a direction for where they will go next. We have “Jow Ga” as a system, Jow Ga as a name as a result of mourning. Depending on which history of Jow Ga you subscribe to–our system was named Hung Tao Choy Mei when the art was taught to General Fook Lam’s soldiers. In 1919, when Si Jo Jow Lung died, his brothers renamed the art “Jow Ga” in memory of their brother, and Jow Biu took the reins to the art, opening 14 schools shortly after. Great things happen when you are motivated by love and mission. If you love this art and our leader, let’s see what great things you will accomplish next. We are one family, bigger than the original family that created this art. If we pull together, tightly, like the fingers to a fist (rather than open and spread out), we can crush rocks with it. Use this time to motivate yourself to doing something big.

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

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!

R.I.P. Chan Man Cheung Sifu (Message to Jow Ga America)

6 10 2013

So my Si Gung, Chan Man Cheung Sifu, has joined the ancestors. What a joyous occasion.

Chan Man Cheung is one of the Jow Ga masters who had made his name as one who excelled in Kung Fu rather than Lion Dance. Yes, all Kung Fu masters do lion dance. Yes, Si Gung was known for his lion dance. But CMC what known for his martial arts skill, and he was not just an old guy who knew kung fu–he really was known for his good skill, and his ability followed him well into his old age.

But none of that matters. Martial Arts, my friends is an individual activity. It is one where no one rides the bench–every man stands on his own feet, and his skill speaks for itself whether he is alone or with an opponent. Even if you are on a team, at some point your individual skill is what matters, not lineage. Not affiliation. Not title. Not organization. Your Sifu could have been the great Bruce Lee, and if your skill reminds onlookers of a wet noodle–your kung fu is “no good”.

Si Gung was known for his skill, his students’ excellence–but none of that matters because it is up to you to build your own reputation and support the reputation of your own Sifu. CMC is simply an ancestor, and you cannot take him into a fight with you, a tournament ring, not even the office when you are attempting to convince potential students to join you rather than the guy down the street.

Kung fu people get so much into certificates, lineages, affiliations and alignments–with both well-known masters as well as just someone just because they are Chinese–that we tend to forget the only thing that matters is what you can do when you step out on the floor and the level of character you have with those who are not on the floor with you.

We Jow Ga people have our drama. We always will. We are a family–close, extended, love and hate. Many of us Sifu knew each other as kids. Some other Sifu knew us when we were kids. There will always be differences of opinions and philosophies, and there will always be those we simply don’t like. But we area all Jow Ga, and we either represent our Sifu, our grandmaster, or ultimately–each other. When outsiders look at us, they see every other Jow Ga man out there. When they see Sifu Deric Mims’ students, they also think of Sifu Rahim Muhammad and his people. When they look at Sifu Sam Chan, they also think of Sifu Raymond Wong. We are all Jow Ga, and don’t you forget it. Because when students go looking for a school, and they must choose between Tae Kwon Do, Wing Chun and JOW GA–not Tae Kwon Do, Wing Chun or Maurice Gatdula. Don’t flatter yourself.

CMC was to all of us who knew him, a father. He gave advice, he scolded, he bragged. He loved our Sifu and was proud of him. He had said on a few times that when Dean Chin wanted to show off his students, he brought them to fight. Few other Jow Ga Sifu were like that. Few other KUNG FU Sifu were like that. Most simply donned their fanciest uniforms and weapons and titles, and demonstrated forms or Lion Dance, while Sifu made his guys suit up and knuckle up. CMC liked this about our Sifu, and we need to keep that going.

As I look around the Jow Ga world, I see men who love to tell stories of Jow Lung’s exploits as a fighter, but then they get on youtube and only do forms and Lion Dance. That is not what drove our lineage forward. There is a reason why other branches of Jow Ga do tricks with their Lion Dance and Dragon Dance, while ours still wear plain T shirts and perform forms with heavy Kwan Dao. It’s in our DNA as Kung Fu men under Chan Man Cheung. Please, keep it alive.

We don’t have to love each other. We don’t have to get together at functions and hug all over each other and act fake. But we do need to keep our skills high, and represent this style strongly. And if you feel like your branch of this branch is missing something–just remember that you have family all around you.

The Dean Chin Jow Ga Federation is dedicated to spreading the Dean Chin version of Jow Ga under Chan Man Cheung, and we’d love to do it through our own brothers and sisters. All you have to do is ask.

“Yat Ga” (One family)

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation website.