One of the most common question asked in class is “How do I get better at (skill x)?” The answer, no matter what the specific skill, is practice. Getting better at Kung Fu takes time. Be patient. Be consistent. Train for the long haul. Come to class at least twice a week. Make things easy for yourself and pick out the two days a week you definitely go in to train and make sure you get to the school. If you miss a day of training, come in to another class during the week. Twice a week is a minimum to insure you are moving forward. If you choose to train more, that’s great - so long as it is not burning you out or interfering with your life outside the school.
Communicate. Phone or email when you are unable to make it into class during the week. Being accountable is good manners: your teacher will appreciate it. Being accountable also helps keep you in the mindset that missing class is a deviation from the norm and that coming to class is the habit you are trying to build.
Patience. Persistence. With those two attitudes in hand, you will progress.
The “Pai” in Mo Duk Pai means method. A method is a systematic way of accomplishing something. The beginner checklist you completed and the intermediate one you are working on are a way of providing structure to you on the road to becoming a better martial artist. Is it the only way? Certainly not. There are hundreds of martial arts systems and methods in the world. Is it a static way? Again, no. Like the physical techniques we learn, we are always testing things to see not just if they are working but if they are working well.
The checklist provides structure for the student and is a helpful management tool for the teacher. It helps the teacher keep track of where individual students are at, organize class and plan on how to move everyone forward in their training. In addition, if a visiting teacher is running class, the checklist lets them know where each student is at.
Finally, the checklist provides a convenient “study sheet” for the student. If you find yourself with a few minutes before or after class, ask to see your checklist so you can review what you’ve been taught.
Upon completing the intermediate checklist, you will be expected to assist with teaching beginner students. The idea behind making students teach other students (instead of the instructor always teaching) is twofold:
First, it’s a great way to see how well you recall the information. Try and remember how you were taught the technique. Break it down verbally. Demonstrate the move. Do the move with the person you are teaching. Show some application: if it’s a strike, let them hit a focus pad. If it’s a block, have them block an incoming strike. Check in with the instructor if the student you are helping comes up with any questions you don’t know the answer to.
Second, it helps with the management of larger classes. With the help of intermediate students, the instructor can have multiple groups of students working on different requirements. This helps everyone move along at their own pace.
2.4 The Salute
In some systems of martial arts, you bow as you enter the floor. In others, you shake hands before working together. In still others, you touch gloves before sparring. Whatever the physical manifestation of this action (bow, handshake, salute) the attitude is one of respect and humility.
For our salute (called the Chinese salute), the fist symbolizes the warrior and the open hand symbolizes the scholar. The scholar covers the warrior, in essence telling us to think before we use our fists. Stepping forward with the right foot symbolizes putting our strong side (traditionally the right) forward.
As you step on the floor, think of all the work that you, your fellow students, your teacher, your teacher’s teacher and all those who have trained before you have put into the martial arts. Training is bigger than any one individual. The study of fighting has been going on well before humans put pen to paper and began trying to codify the martial arts.
When you salute in with a partner, think of it as a way of agreeing that you are both there to learn from one another, regardless of your respective ranks. In every drill that you do, see if you can find a way so that both you and your partner are gaining understanding rather than concerning yourself about who is winning and who is losing. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and win - it simply means training with a partner should be a mutually beneficial endeavor.
When you salute off the floor, consider how your training influences the rest of your life. What non fighting application is there for the techniques or concepts that you covered in class that day? How does training in martial arts make dealing with everyday problems easier? The salute can easily become just a physical habit - make sure yours has mental intent behind it.
Forms are a traditional way of passing on the “essence” of a system to a student. In our system, we have three forms (Mo Yut Do, Mo Yee Do and Mo Sam Do) that were designed by Professor King, the founder of the system. Professor designed these forms to help students understand the concepts and techniques that are the foundation of the system.
Throughout your training in the art, you will encounter many forms (including the “Mo” forms) and each one will have a specific focus. Make sure you know that focus and do the form with that focus in mind. Make sure when you’re practicing a form that is about power it looks .powerful and when you’re practicing a form that’s about fluidity it looks fluid. It’s a simple point and perhaps one that is even better illustrated with this thought: make sure your forms don’t all look the same.
Consider the skilled author who is capable of writing a compelling mystery novel, a mind bending sci-fi book and a thoughtful philosophy treatise. It’s the same author, accomplishing three very different goals. So it should be with your forms.
Very simply, there’s only one way to do a basic. The reasoning behind this is so when a teacher asks to see a vertical punch, all the students know what is being asked for and do the same thing so that the body mechanics of a particular move can be analyzed and improved. This doesn’t mean there is only one way to punch - it means there’s only one way to throw the basic of a vertical punch.
If there is a dispute between you and a partner as to the execution of a particular basic, consult a senior student or your teacher. Get it resolved quickly so that confusion can be extinguished and everyone can move on.
The structure of classes, requirements and the ranking system at the academy are designed to help students learn. The purpose of the academy is getting students to learn martial arts. Despite all this support, the burden of being a good student rests largely upon each individual student.
If you signed up for classes, that says quite a bit about your willingness to learn. Keep that initial spark fresh in your mind throughout your training and remind yourself that being a student means keeping an open mind, asking questions and training consistently. No matter what rank you achieve, the best way to continue forward is always with the attitude of a good student.
2.8 Positioning (Fighting Principle #2)
Positioning simply means placement - where something is. In reference to fighting, this could mean one’s relationship to the environment. For example, if things start to go bad, do you know where your quickest exit is?
Positioning could also refer to your relationship in space to a partner in wrestling. You could have them in the mount position. They could have you in the rear mount position. Those are two very different situations, because of the difference in position.
It could refer to your placement in a building relative to an angry mob that is bent on beating the tar out of you. You could be at the end of a 5 foot wide, 100 foot long hallway. You could be in the middle of an empty 40 square foot room. Again, with all the other circumstances the same, the change in position makes a huge difference.
Put yourself in a position to accomplish your goals. Put your partner in a position so that you can accomplish your goals.
Part of being a student of the martial arts is knowing who (and where) your particular art came from. What follows is a brief lineage of the Westside Academy of Kung Fu, starting at the founder of the system (Professor King) and ending with the head of the school (Sifu Wally).
Professor Fred King founded Mo Duk Pai in 1974. His teachers from other arts are:
Sifu David DiPrete is a 4th degree black belt in Mo Duk Pai under Professor King. In addition to studying Mo Duk Pai, he also studied under:
Sifu Kyle Alexander is a 4th degree black belt in Mo Duk Pai under Professor King. He received his 1st degree black belt from Sifu David DiPrete.
Sifu Wally Jones is a 2nd degree black belt in Mo Duk Pai under Sifu Alexander. In addition to studying Mo Duk Pai, he currently a blue belt in Jiu-Jitsu under Bill Bradley and he also studied under Chris Solano and Ben Wilcox in Hungar Kung Fu.
Mo Duk Pai is designed to expose students to a broad range of martial techniques. The hope is that by the time a student reaches black belt, they should have a solid understanding of striking, throwing, grappling, self defense, forms, weapons and conditioning. The idea behind this is to create martial problem solvers - people you’d want on your side in case of an emergency.
The system is designed to build in students what Professor King calls the “cornerstones” of a “total martial artists”: spontaneity, creativity, practicality and ethical behavior.
Spontaneity (acting without hesitation) is developed by drilling. The more you drill, the more automatic your responses becomes. The more you drill, the less you have to think about what you should do. In a self defense situation, you rarely have time to think. Drill.
Creativity is developed by providing a broad and functional set of tools (strikes, throws, etc) to the student. Given all these tools, discover what works for you. Explore. Take a chance. Don’t be afraid to lose in order to learn.
Practicality (finding what works) is honed by testing things out. Train how you want to fight. Treat your partners with respect by ignoring any shoddy techniques and respecting the quality ones. Expect them to do the same for you.
Ethical behavior is deepened by considering the consequences of your actions. Training gives you opportunities to explore scenarios (in a safe environment) that you might otherwise only encounter once or twice in your life. Explore them. Think about them. Discuss them with your teacher and fellow students after class.
Spontaneity, creativity, practicality and ethical behavior are all traits that serve to make students martial problem solvers... and if those traits spill over into everyday life, all the better.
2.11 Mo Duk Pai
The name Mo Duk Pai literally translated into English from Chinese means martial (Mo) ethics (Duk) method (Pai).
Martial means “related to war”. People train for many reasons: to get in shape, to try something new, to experience an aspect of a particular culture, to learn to fight, to learn self defense, to gain confidence... the list goes on. While everyone’s personal reasons can vary, at its heart, Mo Duk Pai is about building students who can handle themselves in a self defense situation.
Ethics means “the study of right and wrong”. Throughout training, students are put in scenarios that should get them thinking about both what they are capable of doing and what they are willing to do. Consider this thought of Professor King’s : “The ethical martial artist is the one who handles a situation with the least possible amount of force”.
Method means “a way of doing something”. While we’re not out to make unthinking robots, there is a structured way that students progress in our art. There are ranks, checklists, tests, reading material, etc. The method is a tool. The goal is a quality martial artist. While the tool is important, it is also important not to mistake the tool for the goal.
Additional (Optional) Reading -
On Progress - Mastery, by George Burr Leonard
On Ethics - Eurthyphro, by Plato
On History - Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence, and Culture, by Michael B. Poliakoff
(If you notice any spelling errors, grammar mistakes or have any questions regarding the training manual, please email me at email@example.com)