Recent Promotions and Upcoming Tests

Not exactly recent, but thought I would post it anyway,

Justin Elliston, passed his 4 hr long black sash test!! (Jan 4, 2017 I know, not recent)

Both Andrew and Daniel Wilson are prepping for their brown sash tests in a few months.

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Self-Defense and Technique Efficacy

An ongoing debate in the martial arts world, that has probably been going on for its entire existence and probably will continue to go on for its continued existence is about technique efficacy.  Does it work?  That is the question, and well it should be because we are often trusting our lives to its answer.  Recently, I have seen this question being bantered around  in the context of self-defense.  This teacher posts a strategy/technique to deal with this scenario and someone else responds with a criticism, then someone else with another criticism of the criticism.  Bravo, this is the line of thinking that keeps us all sharp.  Without it, we may allow ourselves to become ineffective and watered down, and that is when we become truly dangerous – not to our opponents, but to ourselves and to our students.

However, I do want to point out that whether a technique works in real life or not is nearly impossible to answer.  We have all seen examples of things that probably should not have worked, but did.  It doesn’t mean we take a laissez faire approach, we should teach with a critical eye, based out of experience and research.  It instead means that we have to acknowledge all the different factors that contribute to a specific technique’s efficacy.

If the technique will work in a demonstration, then it works… period.  Everything that decides its efficacy after that is more about whether Joe Schmoe can make it work against Harry on Nov. 22, 2017, at 12:32 pm in the alley behind Place X.  And that depends on a lot of different things.  How much has Joe trained that technique, how many people has he practiced it against, did he set it up properly, or was it appropriate for that moment, was he trying to force it, weather, lighting, fatigue level, injury status, footing, terrain, Harry’s level of preparedness and skill level, etc… you get my point.  I talk about this a little in my post on sparring strategies.  The bottom line is that every person is going to have to commit to training to make anything work, no matter how simple or effective, and there will be situations where it won’t work… no matter who is doing it or how good they are at implementing it.

You want to be able to defend yourself, you need a multi-modal approach that looks at multiple different approaches and gives you several different tools to use.  I believe in keeping things simple, but when you simplify it too much you risk making it less effective due to narrowness of scope.  You try to make it too broad and you risk making it unattainable for the masses.  There is no perfect balance for all people.  Each person seeking to improve their self-defense skills needs to have a custom fit approach, and that isn’t always possible for everyone.

My recommendation is to be realistic in your expectations of any technique or strategy, understand its strengths and weaknesses.  Have multiple tools to use, carrying a gun is a great tool… but you can’t always get to it in time and you need to have something else to use in the meantime.  Same thing goes for if you are attacked by someone bigger and stronger than you or if there are multiple attackers.  Be prepared for a lot of different scenarios and learn how to identify them earlier rather than later.  In self defense it is especially true that knowledge is power and an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.  And train regularly against a variety of different resisting people with different demographics and anthropometrics. Never assume something will or won’t work until you have given it due diligence in training, and that means hundreds of hours of practice.  If you don’t have that, then stick with the easier methods, but don’t be critical of the technique.

I tell all of my students that in real world combat there are only 3 rules:

  1. what you can do, try.
  2. what you can’t do, don’t try.
  3. always consider what you can justify in a court of law.

Happy training folks!!! and keep it real – real life, and real civil.

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Successful Sparring Strategies

This post is going to be somewhat random, so I apologize in advance for jumping all over the place.  I was browsing a discussion online when I ran across a question about sparring strategies from a new student asking for tips from the veteran practitioners.  I thought “that is familiar”, as I often was looking for those golden nuggets when I was a new student myself.  As I have grown as a practitioner, I have come to understand that there is no single linchpin concept that will unlock successful sparring for a new student other than “stay with it”.  Every student is unique, and so are their struggles, so this post isn’t meant to be an answer to that student so much is it is just me blabbing about what I have learned about sparring in my 16+ years.

My teacher used to always tell me that I had two stumbling blocks when it came to sparring, and both of them were psychological.  My first one was that I unconsciously assumed skill levels in others and sparred accordingly.  I would put my fellow classmates through the paces with sparring and suddenly drop down when I faced off against my teacher, because he was supposed to be “so much better than me”.  Unconsciously I would not press him as much because I felt like I had to maintain the “gap”.  Then I would spar one of my classmates and I would ramp it up significantly because I had to be at that level to keep up or stay above them.  I still struggle with these thoughts, but now I can spot them and deal with them appropriately.  You have to approach every sparring match as an opportunity to show that other person your very best, regardless of how good you think you should be or how you think you should compare to them.  As a teacher, I still get hit by my students, and I still fight the urge to degrade myself mentally for allowing it to happen.  The truth is that no one person is going to be able to block everything, or always function at a certain level.  Real life doesn’t work that way, and it’s ok to just let things go and give it your best, regardless of how things line up afterwards.

The second trap my teacher clued me into was not trusting myself to just respond.  I had all these expectations of how I should respond to my partners/opponents in matches/fights and I was constantly trying to micromanage my reactions.  My teacher was always telling me to just relax and let my training take over on a subconscious level – to trust myself.  I feel like I do much better at this now, but I have logged thousands of hours retraining my reactions and my expectations of my responses to come to that point.  Real technique and skill isn’t in the prediction of technique or the regurgitating of it, but in the appropriate responses to real life stimuli.  I used to think I had to block X technique with Y technique and if I didn’t I wasn’t using my art.  If this is what you are being taught, then you need to find a new teacher.  Any true art is expressed through much simpler principles than rehearsed movements and lists of techniques that you learn for tests.  The techniques are there for you to learn the principles, the essence of the art.  That is what needs to be expressed.  It used to be that I would try a whole match to use a specific technique and I would view it as a failure if I didn’t.  That mindset was setting me up for failure because I couldn’t control my opponent, and a true expression of the technique has to be relevant and spontaneous; it has to be creative.  Allow yourself to be judged by whether what you did worked, not by whether you performed X technique in all the right places.

Some other things that I discovered that hindered me along the way were crazy hollywood expectations of fights.  I always thought that if I was really good I would be able to have that perfect fight like you see in the movie, and it took me years to un-program that expectation of perfection from myself.  I had to teach myself what real skill actually looked like, and it is rarely perfect.  Setting realistic expectations of my performance helped me tremendously as a fighter.  Realizing that there were so many more variables than just me that determined if I landed that strike or blocked that strike or pulled off that technique or not.  The important thing was not that I tried and succeeded, but that I tried and learned.

One of the things that helped me a lot also was sparring with really talented people.  The first few times I sparred outside my own school I thought to myself, “these people aren’t that good.”  It wasn’t until later that I realized that I was judging them by my classmates, who were really talented.  I always thought of myself as barely keeping up in class, and suddenly I was wasting people who were supposed to be on my level from other schools, feeling like I was always holding back on them.  I had classmates from a variety of different backgrounds, and each of them challenged me in a different area.  I credit a lot of my skill to training with them and having to learn to deal with them.  If I had not, I would have gotten locked into one way of doing things and ranked myself as pretty good when in fact, the moment I stepped outside of that comfort zone I would have been destroyed.  So don’t get locked in, force yourself to face off against people with different approaches and skills, and learn to handle those.

Spar with intent and differing levels of intensity.  Often I would see a couple of people sparring and they would do very well, then when faced off with me, would fall apart because I would press them harder than they ever allowed themselves to be pressed before.  I am not saying you have to spar at full contact levels, but don’t always practice at the comfortable “circle each other, tag, break, circle…” level either.  You need to know what it feels like to be pressed by an attacker that just keeps coming and nothing you do seems to be able to stop them.  You need to be able to function at the full speed continuous motion level if you have any aspirations of becoming good, let alone great.  So switch it up occasionally.  Train just legs, or just hands, or all attack, or all defense, or only right side or left side.  Train one hit sparring, train continuous flow sparring, train light touch, train medium touch, and occasionally with proper protection and with people you trust… train full contact.  Train short rounds, train long rounds, train with emphasis on certain types of techniques or certain ranges.  Train against different people.

Have no expectation about results of any technique or strategy.  What works beautifully on Joe, may fail miserably on Mary.  Realize that technique efficacy isn’t always a quantifiable variable that you can say with confidence that this strategy will or won’t work.  There are too many variables to determine that in advance.  Lighting, temperature, terrain, background noise, context, height ratios, weight ratios, reach, unique backgrounds and experiences, level of weaponry, builds and body types, muscle bulk and tone, previous injury, CURRENT injury, mood, emotional position, fatigue, etc…

Understand that not all technique is equally applicable.  Simple techniques like punches, backfists, most kicks, and elbows/knees are easily performed and don’t require thousands of hours to do effectively.  Compound techniques are simply linking several simple techniques together in a short series.  They take your fighting level up several notches and bring you to a whole new level.  They are harder to implement and harder to handle defensively.  As a student, you should start off with simple attacks and simple defenses.  Don’t expect yourself to do more until you start to feel slightly less overwhelmed by the process of implementing the simple techniques.  Then you can begin stringing them together in combinations.  Get that down and then you start getting to complex techniques.  Complex technique is more abstract, and requires more refined timing and anticipatory skills.  Placing the expectation of that technique early on in your training is foolish and will lead to ineffective implementation of your art and the belief that the techniques “don’t work” in real life.  The truth is that it wasn’t the technique that failed, it was the practitioner who tried to operate above his/her level.  Even among high level fighters, you will observe a significant percentage of technique utilized is still simple/compound technique.  It will always be your foundation.

Don’t make it about winning or losing.  Make it about learning and improving.  It would be better for you to train with someone who always beats you than to train with someone you know you can dominate.  If you are winning all the time, make sure you are making it helpful for the person you are training with too.  If you are losing all the time, make sure your partner will help you to figure out why.  Realize that true gains are often times in your head first.  They come from overcoming presuppositions,  fears, insecurities, and false assumptions and allowing yourself to just be in the moment and respond to what’s happening right in front of you.


That’s it for now.  Happy training!!!!

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More than Motions

This was written by my student, Josh Mullins

I test next week for my white sash. I am not sure of my readiness, and I am only beginning to see that there isn’t really ever an “attainment” to this art. I am also beginning to understand the “internal” aspect, as well.

Xing Yi Quan means “form, intention, fist.” From my readings I’m seeing that this means the mind thinks, and the body does. This came to me a bit more clearly at class last night.

Shifu Read was demonstrating on me a lot last night (i.e. I was getting thrown around quite a bit). Naturally, I’m pretty helpless against the attacks from my teacher. And then it hit me…why am I thinking I’m helpless? Why do I assume I cannot contend with someone larger or stronger than me? My whole life I’ve had this mindset: I am not strong enough…I’m not good enough…And, it’s true, but I’m looking at it wrong…

For the record, I am not coming at this as, if I just think I’m strong, I’ll be strong. There is SO much more to us, because we are both mind and body. Physical training is important, but I see I need some mental training as well. Being one who deals with depression pretty heavily, I learned something about myself. My will is weak, which is leading to weakness of heart, and thus affecting my whole life. Sometimes our biggest opponent is our own individual mindset. The martial art is internal.

When Shifu attacked, I realized I was running MENTALLY. My intention was weak, so my body became weak. When Shifu attacked, I realized he followed through on the intention of his attack. But his confidence isn’t so much from his training in the physical motions, it’s the fact that he knows what he’s capable of, and follows through. By assuming I’m capable of nothing, I do nothing. And not only in defensive/offensive attacks, but also in my day to day life.

I don’t believe in self-esteem. Christ esteemed himself as nothing, though being God. But He knew what God was capable of, and He followed through. I often get hung up in my sin, thinking I am useless to God and man, because I cannot seem to overcome my sin. I assume I am only capable of sin, because it is the will of my flesh. This doesn’t help the depression. But Christ didn’t do HIS will. He “does the will of Him who sent me.” It wasn’t so much about what Christ as a man was capable of, but what GOD was capable of through Him. He came to demonstrate this whole concept for us. My will IS weak. I AM weak. God is strong, and I am His. Thus, knowing God’s will for me and others, I should be able to follow through, despite my own weakness. The internal art in my life requires faith in God.

Those without God, seek “peace,” and therefore tend to have a stronger will, since they must rely on themselves to produce it (I’ve always wondered how the godless can have so much confidence). This, in turn, makes them hard to reach for Christ, because their will contends with God’s will. Gen. 6, before the flood, God says the “intention of his (man’s) heart was only evil continually.” It may not have necessarily been immoral by cultural or even Biblical standards, but the intention was to be self-providing and self-empowering (Tower of Babel). The intention of their hearts was contrary to the only intention in the universe of any value. God knows this leads to misery in the individual and society. This is why I’ve been miserable most of my life. I’m striving to attain some level of goodness to have peace of mind. I have fooled myself into thinking I have to do this for God. I have fooled myself into thinking this is HOW to serve God. This is not His will for me. His will is for Him to be my strength. We can’t be strong together. It’s one or the other. It’s my goodness or His. I believed a lie taught to me by culture, which has infiltrated the church. God doesn’t make us strong. He doesn’t want us to be strong. He wants us to trust His strength. He wants to us to acknowledge our lowly state, and rely on Him to cover it. This is the foundation of faith and departure from the Law. I am a legalist…

To relate this back to kung fu, I have also set up a law in my mind. I am low in rank, thus I cannot possibly do well. I think if I just practice the moves, get flexible, and gain some strength, I’ll be a good fighter. But the truth is, I must consider my intentions in the practice. WHY am I practicing babuda? What is my intention in wu hu shing? If I have no intention or will, then all these moves I’m testing on are just weird dances. I must tear down the striving to master a hand position, and understand why I need to have that hand position. Rather than see the moves as law, I need to see them in multiple applications. I need to practice the intention, not just the fist…

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Recent Promotions

Whew!  We have had a lot of testings recently.   Very exciting times.

White Sash:

Ben Pendl (5th)

Dan Thompson (3rd)

Daniel Wilson (3rd)

Andrew Wilson (3rd)

Green Sash:

Justin Elliston (4th)


Congratulations to every one on their hard work!!!

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Great article on sparring

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Being an Overcomer

This afternoon, as I was driving home from school, I heard the song “Overcomer” by Mandeesa on the radio. It reminded me of a thought that I first had in 2008 when I watched a movie named RedBelt about a martial arts teacher who is driven by principle over profit and was put into difficult circumstances because of it. In this movie, the teacher had a conversation with a man whom he had assisted in an altercation. Below is the conversation:

Chet Frank: So what is Jiu-Jitsu? You use one fighter’s strength against him?
Mike Terry: Yes, in a way. You let him use his strength, and you use your understanding.
Chet Frank: So it’s a form of wrestling?
Mike Terry: Yeah.
Chet Frank: Like we see in the Mixed-Martial Arts competitions?
Mike Terry: Yeah, that’s right.
Chet Frank: You compete?
Mike Terry: No.
Chet Frank: Because…?
Mike Terry: Competition is weakening.
Chet Frank: Because it’s fixed. Two guys in a ring, people betting money…
Mike Terry: It may be fixed. Any one fight may be fixed.
Chet Frank: Ah, but you train people to fight.
Mike Terry: No, I train people to prevail. In the street, in the alley, in combat, the bodyguard, the cop, the soldiers. One rule – put the other guy down. And you have to train in order to do that. Any… staged contest must have rules.
Chet Frank: Everything has rules. The problem is sticking to them.


While I don’t recommend that people go out and watch the movie (due to extreme language), I think that Mike demonstrated in very trying times a steadfastness and strength that is very admirable. That isn’t why I wanted to write this essay, however. I wanted to focus in on the statement he made about prevailing. “No, I train people to prevail. In the street, in the alley, in combat, the bodyguard, the cop, the soldiers. One rule – put the other guy down. And you have to train in order to do that.” Prevailing, against sometimes overwhelming odds, against injustice, against people, against yourself; this was what he was deriving from his art. The ability to prevail. As I heard this conversation for the first time in 2008, I was instantly reminded of certain passages of Scripture. The song that Mandeesa sings so nicely captures that idea as well. So, I want to talk about being an overcomer.

First, I want to state that life is full of challenges and injustices because of sin. In Scripture, God has said some things about being an overcomer that I want to mention.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

He tells us that we can have peace, despite tribulation because He has overcome the world. Peace? Tribulation? I hear a lot of people professing the belief that God does not let bad things happen to His children. Or that the Devil makes the bad things happen but God only blesses. Or that God will not allow things to happen to us that we cannot handle. This just is not true. I won’t try to list all the places in Scripture that contradict those things because that is not the crux of my point. But I challenge anyone to search the Scriptures and see what it really says about those statements. The truth is quite simple, God says that anyone who follows Him in a fallen world will not only experience bad things, but will be voluntarily taking on more simply by our allegiance to Him. The world does not like Him or anyone who aligns themselves with Him. The servant is not greater than the master, if they persecuted and killed Him, why would things be better for us? Also, God promises to conform us to Christ’s image. This means that on a fundamental level He is going to change our very being to reflect His character. This is not an overnight process, it takes time and a lot of hurt. God not only allows difficulty to happen to us, sometimes He causes it and leads us through it. He doesn’t do this to pain us, but to change us. You have to soften and apply force to clay to reshape it. Metal must be melted and beaten to be shaped. He does this because it is necessary to change us, because any real change must be change that we choose to undergo. We have to come to the conclusion to accept that change and that requires that our belief’s come face to face with His truth. It is painful. He does this because He loves us, and His way is best for us. In this process, God often allows us to experience things we cannot handle because it drives us to depend on Him. By ourselves, there is very little that we can handle, but with Him we are more than overcomers. Experiencing something that we cannot handle forces us to recognize our need, our insufficiency, our weakness and in our weakness His strength is made manifest. He has overcome the world and all that it can throw at us, if we stay with Him, we can be overcomers. If we struggle against Him, we will be overcome.

That verse talks about overcoming the world. But the world is not the only obstacle that we are faced with wherein we are insufficient to overcome. The Devil is also set against us and once again, by our own strength, we are unable to overcome him. But, God is not limited so.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1John 4:4)

If we are of God, His children, then we can overcome the enemy because He is with us and He is greater than our enemy. As long as we are His children and are surrendered to His authority in our life. We have God’s authority over Satan, but authority only works when you are surrendered to it. If a Colonel in the Army gave an order to a General that was from the President, that General would have to obey. But if the Colonel tried to give it on his own, or if he defected and tried to execute authority to that General or even a private he would not be able to get them to obey. The first verse establishes the foundation of our ability to overcome, the fact that God has overcome the world. This verse establishes our connection to God and via that relationship our ability to overcome through His strength.

The last thing that we are to overcome is in this last verse. I want to draw a distinction between what we have covered so far (the world and the devil) and this next obstacle.

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:21)

Evil, it isn’t the devil, it isn’t the world, it is the influence of sin in our lives directly. We are to overcome evil with good. Just like I mentioned before, this is done only in the power of Christ in our life. Three things we are to overcome: sin, the world, and the devil. We are not told to overcome tribulation, why is that? We are told to be at peace, that it will come, and that He has overcome the world. I think it is because that we shouldn’t see tribulation as something to overcome. Tribulation is a tool that God uses to bless us, to refine us, and to use us as a conduit of His strength and power to the world. He overcomes the world in us through tribulation, and we simply rest in His care.

What does any of this have to do with Kung Fu? They are both about overcoming. Mike was right when he said that it was about prevailing. Prevailing means overcoming, being a martial artist is about being an overcomer. Kung Fu is a combat art, and it is about fighting, but if that is the sole end of your art then you have limited yourself significantly in its ability to help you in life. All martial art is about prevailing, or overcoming as the Bible says, not just men in battle but life and all the junk that comes with it. But martial arts alone will not get you there. For that, you need to tap into a deeper source – God Himself, through His Son Jesus. In our own strength, no matter what kind of training we receive, we cannot be overcomers. But God can use anything as a tool to make us overcomers, and at least in my life, martial arts has played a big part in teaching me how to do that.

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Excerpt from Kingdom Kronicles, 2nd ed. “Teaching and Learning”

I want to direct my editorial toward the topic of teaching. I was discussing the subject with Shimu Betsy this evening and I summed up my whole philosophy on teaching in 3 quotes, here they are:

If learning didn’t occur, teaching didn’t happen.

My father has always said this, and it places a heavy burden upon the teacher. But in it’s simplicity, it is always true. No matter how much effort a teacher puts forward to teach a student, if the student didn’t learn, then teaching didn’t happen. I think that it is important to point out that this doesn’t ascribe blame, it simply states the plain truth.

There have been many “problem” students in the past that we have all encountered that have really tried our patience. Many we might have described as “impossible”. But the truth is often (not always) just that we did not go to the lengths needed to teach that student. I will be the first to admit that some students do not deserve our efforts because of reasons I will address in a few minutes, but so many struggle just because they see the world differently. As teachers, we often have our preferred method of teaching/explaining things that works for most people. It just doesn’t work for everybody, and that unfortunate few for which it does not can get left behind. I remember being that student quite often. Shiye Kimzey quite often would share with us as we were coming up the ranks the importance of working hard to find the method that would unlock the understanding for each student. Just because our method worked for others didn’t mean it would work for everybody and the burden of responsibility was upon us as teachers to try to reach each student.

Shimu Betsy shared a story of a hygiene student who was the “headache” student of her class for all the instructors. He had failed a specific skill examination with every instructor multiple times and it was her turn to try to teach him. He was stubborn and arrogant, infuriating to say the least, but Betsy saw something in his attitude that made her stop and think. She saw his own frustration and realized that he just did not get what he was supposed to be doing. Instead of just failing him (which she did), she told him that it didn’t matter how many times she had to test, re-test, and re-teach she was not going to quit until he got it. She asked him questions and she listened to him until she zeroed in on his problem. Then she took the time to help him understand how to approach the problem. Would you believe he passed? He did, and learning happened for the first time.

No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher

and here is the assumption…

Teacher say, student do

Miyagi said this to Daniel in the first Karate Kid movie. It outlines the scenario that is needed for successful teaching to happen — the teacher says, and the student does. No matter what the teacher does, if the student will not comply, learning will not happen — and neither will teaching.

So how do we as teachers get the student to do what we say? You cannot make anyone do anything, the best you can do is make them want to. Take this to heart, it is the truth. Motivation is key to making students do what the teacher says. You cannot always assume that the student will be intrinsically motivated to do what we say. Sometimes we have to take the time to dig to find what motivates them, and sometimes that digging (and the implementing after you find it) takes time and energy on our part. I remember a story from Laoshi Peter about a boy who was struggling to keep up and no one was able to help him. Peter saw him struggling and took the time to single him out, identify his motivation and his obstacles and help him overcome them. Sometimes, the problem isn’t a matter of motivation, it is a problem of obstacles. This was true in both Shimu Betsy’s story and Laoshi Peter’s.

Good students make up the difference for bad teachers

It isn’t always about the teachers. Maybe they are bad teachers, or maybe they just are not good teachers for you, but we have all had those moments where we are frustrated because of a learning scenario that isn’t working for us because of the method the teacher is using. If you are in a teacher-student relationship and it isn’t working. The burden is upon you to do whatever it takes to make it work. Talk to the teacher, get outside help, study more, whatever it takes. Good students will make up the difference for bad teachers.

I am not saying this to give teachers an out or to shift blame (I am not trying to assign blame at all). Instead, I am trying to share some things that have helped me to know that whatever roll I am in, the burden of responsibility is on me to make it work. I can not blame my student for not learning, I can not blame my teacher for not teaching. I have to take responsibility for my part of the relationship.

Teacher say, student do

Remember what I said earlier, you can’t make anyone do anything. You can’t. There will always be those students you can’t help, learning is a double edged blade. If you are a student, take responsibility for your learning. Do what your teacher says, and if it isn’t working then find something that will help it to work. If you are a teacher then make each student a priority and try to help them to find success in the learning process. Don’t give up on them and don’t try to force them to learn outside of their style.

I want to close by thanking my parents and my Shifu for their excellent examples of high quality teachers. Without their exemplary demonstrations of these principles, I would not have learned nearly as much in my life as I have.

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Shifu’s Corner excerpt from Kingdom Kronicles, 1st Ed. Oct. ’13

Hello all, (nimen hao)

Shifu’s Corner:
I just wanted to send out this quick email to everyone to kind of talk about teachers real quick. Specifically, I wanted to go over how teaching works in our school.

There are three basic titles for teachers
1. Laoshi (teacher)
2. Shifu (father-teacher/master)
3. Shiye (grandfather-teacher/grandmaster)

Laoshi is a generic teachers title used for all kinds of disciplines. Basically, any kind of teacher is a laoshi. The way we use it in our school is for the junior teacher. It is generally awarded about a year after the black sash has began teaching and recognizes the role he/she has been playing. Most of the time, the laoshi is still working under the auspices and supervision of his/her shifu. This doesn’t have to be the case however, as a laoshi can run their own school and have their own students if they have been awarded their teachers license.

A Shifu, is a teacher who has demonstrated the ability to run their own school either by doing so as a laoshi or by assisting in the running of someone elses school. A Shifu title is intrinsically a teachers license so they are always able to have their own students and school, but whether a student belongs to his/her lineage depends on whether he/she chooses to run their own school, or function within someone else’s school.  Remember, it isn’t necessary to have your own school in order to demonstrate that you have the ability to run it.

A Shiye, is a teacher who has students who are teachers. Generally, the title is awarded because the person has been functioning in this role for a period of time, not just assumed because of qualification.

Now, alongside of this understanding of title is an understood process of becoming a fully independant teacher. This means that the students you teach fall under you in the lineage instead of your teacher. At this point you are teaching under your own auspices and authority. I like to think of it as an apprenticeship process.

When a student reaches the point in their training that they begin training students and teaching classes on their own, they begin as novice teachers, or apprentice instructors. They still have to learn how to teach. The best way to do that is to teach and let your instructor be there as a resource if needed. The main instructor can evaluate the quality of instruction and give tips and counsel as needed. After a sufficient period of time has passed and the apprentice has demonstrated the ability to effectively teach they are given the title of teacher. Before this, they were simply operating under the title of older brother (Shi Xiong). Now they teach as a teacher, but still under the supervision and authority of their teacher, they have entered the journeyman stage. After they have been teaching as a laoshi for a while (journeyman stage) they are finally granted full independence and issued a teachers license.

Note that while these stages of teaching and titles of teaching may accompany each other, they do not have to. One can reach full Shifu and never be teaching his/her own students, or reach full independence while still a Laoshi.

Teaching titles and licenses are independent from rank.  Rank (sash) is a statement of progression as a student, while titles are a statement of progression as a teacher.  While you may have to have a certain rank to attain a certain title, possession of a rank does not in any way mean a person has earned a title nor does possession of a title indicate that a person deserves a certain rank.


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Special one time class at Rockhurst University

On Thursday 9/26/2013 Shifu Read will be conducting a free, one time kung fu class for the exercise physiology class in DPT program.  The class is supposed to do an evaluation of an outside exercise class as an assignment for their class.  Read is offering this class exclusively for this class as an opportunity to complete this assignment.


If you are interested in classes from Shifu Read or one of his instructors, contact us here



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