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January 2007
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March 2007

A Satisfied Customer

It's very nice when people let you know how your teaching has helped them. Here's a wonderful email I received yesterday from someone who bought the tournament sparring dvd that I sell on the website:

"I bought a copy of your point sparring dvd last year,
and I just wanted to say that it is one of the best
investments that I have made. 

After earning my black sash a few months before
ordering your dvd, I discovered that I was no longer
competitive in a sport sparring ring.  I was trying to
compete with other black sashes with barely
intermediate sparring skills. 

After watching your dvd (and some practice) my ability
to point spar increased dramatically.  In fact, a year
later I am still using your dvd to get ready for an up
and coming tournament!

Thank you so much for producing such a great
instructional dvd.  It truly is the best sparring
lesson I have ever had.  I highly recomend your dvd to
all martial artists that wish to become better at
point sparring. Thanks!"

Winning with Tai Chi in an Open Tournament

In the last couple of years, I've enjoyed performing Chen tai chi forms in open martial arts tournaments. I'm often the only kung fu person in the black belt division, and I get a charge out of doing something so completely different than the karate and TKD forms done by other black belts. I've done the Chen 38 form several times, putting a little more fajing into the movements to show the martial side.

Yesterday, I won first place at a tournament in Illinois with a shortened version of Xinjia Yilu, the form I'm studying now. It's so much fun to compete with these forms, which blend the smooth, relaxed strength with sudden bursts of power, while the forms run by other black belts are so "tense" throughout every movement.

I have a Google search running every day on the keywords "tai chi," and almost every article I receive from around the world talks about how tai chi is so good for senior citizens and for relaxation. Very rarely does the article mention that it's a martial art, and when it does, you can tell that the teacher in the article doesn't really practice it as a martial art, but just gives lip service to that aspect of tai chi.

If more Chen people went out to mixed tournaments and showcased this art, perhaps the word will spread and the image of tai chi will change. It's the most amazing and deep art I've ever studied, yet it's lumped in with the elderly or with people who believe in the supernatural.

What a shame.

I also won first place in fighting yesterday in the black belt division. You don't change the image of something without public recognition or marketing, and I'd like to urge more tai chi folks to go out and put it on the line with other styles so we can draw more martial artists to this fantastic art.

You've Come a Long Way, Kwai Chang

In the early 70's, Bruce Lee wanted to star in the Kung Fu TV show. Hollywood considered him to be "too Chinese." They didn't think Americans would like a Chinese TV star.

What a stupid idea. It wasn't long before Bruce was a much bigger star than David Carradine, even in America.

Here is an extremely interesting article about the most recent development in how the West views the Chinese people, as a result of kung fu movies.

The Journey of the Teacher/Student

My wife Nancy and I bought a building for our school in October, 2005. For decades, I had dreamed of having my own school. My class schedules were being disrupted by the people I rented space from, and when we found an inexpensive building in downtown Bettendorf, we jumped at the chance to buy it. I never really expected to open a school while working full-time, and I braced for the additional drain on my time and energy.

The past year and 4 months has been an enlightening experience in many ways. Running a martial arts school takes a lot more time than I'm able to give it when putting in 55 hours a week for my primary full-time job (including commuting time). The drain on energy has been tremendous, not to mention the financial drain. Most months, Nancy and I have contributed hundreds of dollars out of the paychecks from our full-time jobs in order to pay the school's expenses. We haven't really minded, because this is a true labor of love. I've lost thousands of dollars every year I've taught except one. But there are other realities to consider.

To make a school grow, and to make it profitable, I would need to have children's classes. I would need more "soft" tai chi classes for seniors. I love seniors (AARP says I am one) but I don't love soft tai chi.

In order for a school to succeed, I would also need more time to give demonstrations, make appearances, and a larger training room to fit more students into the classes.

Owning a school has been educational, and it's helped me sort out what's really important to me.

What's important to me as a martial artist is not necessarily doing the things you need to do to have a "school."

And so Nancy and I are selling our building, and my teaching will evolve into the next phase. We've signed an agreement with a buyer and we'll probably close by March 15th.

I'm truly excited by the evolution. In China, most teachers don't have school buildings. They train in yards, alleys, parks--anywhere they can find the space. They teach serious students only--those who will practice and devote themselves to the arts. The teachers are known for their skill and the students they produce.

And that's the teacher I want to be. I will never stop teaching, and I'll never stop studying. But I'm redefining what it means to me to be a teacher.

The students who are enrolled in the school right now will be able to continue. I doubt that I'll rent space again. I'll teach small numbers of students, and the tai chi lessons will grow more intense and martial. I'll charge by the hour instead of the month, and I'll accept only serious students who practice outside of class. It will be an exclusive group, and whether I make money from the classes is not a concern.

This will allow me to continue my own progress and improve my own skills. My skills have improved through the teaching of classes, but my personal training time has vanished. I'll continue to make DVDs and I'll continue the website, although it will be scaled down a bit.

A school is not a building. A school is the spirit, the quality of the martial arts being practiced, the atmosphere of learning created by the teacher, and the friendship and camaraderie of the students. Starting after March 15, with the spring, lessons may be offered in the park in Bettendorf, at my home, in my backyard, wherever we want and wherever there is space.

Kung Fu Quad Cities will close, but the school will continue.

New DVD on Basic Kung Fu Techniques

We've added a new DVD to our website -- Basic Kung Fu Techniques. Beginners, or people who want to brush up on basic techniques, can practice as they watch.

Dozens of techniques are clearly demonstrated, including:

  • hand strikes
  • kicks
  • blocks
  • stances
  • stepping techniques
  • striking points
  • fighting applications of techniques
  • a stepping/stance form for practicing footwork

These are the basic techniques taught to our beginning students. The DVD is $19.99 with free shipping and you can find it at on the Video page of our website.

There are also special offers, with discounts if you buy bundled sets of our DVDs.

This is a rare "commercial" post on our blog. :)

Guest Editorial - What Kung Fu Has Done For Me

What kung fu has done for me

A highly remembered Saturday afternoon ritual of mine growing up in the
1980’s was Kung Fu Theatre.  I recall the artificially sounding “whacks,”
“whooshes,” “clangs,” and “swishes” that were incorporated into the fight scenes to make them more dramatic.  The obvious looking wigs and fake beards were hilarious and fit perfect with the grunts and "hmmppphs" and "hm hm hmmm..." as well as the unusual pauses and voice patterns that were almost trademark to kung fu movies.  Ever since I was a young child growing up on Kung Fu Theatre - I dreamed of one day studying some cool form of kung fu.

That day came in October 1997 when I met my kung fu teacher and lifelong friend, Ken Gullette. From Ken, I studied various styles of kung fu including YiLi Chuan, Yang and Chen style Tai Chi, HsingI Chuan, and
Baguazhang (which was my favorite).  One of the most important features of my studies was American Tao Philosophy that has helped me with my personal life tremendously.  I developed a very good reputation in the regional tournament scene and made many good friends throughout this experience.  I remember only one time not placing in a division in 4 strong years of competing, often winning 1st place.  I earned over 60 trophies my first three years of competition.  I still have the trophies as a reminder of my hard work and dedication to martial arts.  I was Ken’s top student and to this day, his only black sash.   

All of this was due to having such a great teacher, friend, and mentor that I found in Ken. My training in the classroom ended in late 2001; however, my training with Ken has been ongoing since 1997.

In 2001 I was training with Ken at our old school on Tanglefoot Lane in
Bettendorf, IA.  I was on my 3rd Level Brown Sash and we were running
through the test for black sash.  At the time I was practicing a Baguazhang form and after I completed the form Ken turned to me and told me that I earned my black sash.  He stated, “I think you’ve earned your black sash. You dedicate your life to what we practice and study.  You’ve been training hard on your own and in class for the last 4 years.  That is the real test.”   At that very moment Ken told me something I would never forget for the rest of my life.  He turned to me and said, “Richie, you have a talent.”   I hear those words run through my mind often when I am challenged in life.  He was right, I did have a talent.  The talent that I achieved in kung fu developed into becoming a very responsible and successful young man that has attained a great deal of success with his education, career, and personal life.

In 2005 I blew my knee out practicing a straight sword form.  Despite my
injury, I came back to class once again.  Then last year I got engaged and
relocated to Pella, IA.  I know that if it weren’t for my 3+ hour
relocation from the Quad Cities – I would still be training at the school.
Life is ever evolving and you never know where it’s going to take you.

What is the point of this entire article?  I could have said that kung fu
can help keep a person motivated.  Martial arts can do a lot more than
that.  Kung fu has changed my life forever.  Ken has blessed me with his
wisdom, experience, and knowledge.  I often ask myself where I would be right now if it weren’t for Ken. I learned many valuable lessons in class, but I believe I learned more from Ken outside of class than anything.  I now make the money I deserve to be making working for a very successful Fortune 100 company and the only major debt I have are my student loans.  I graduate from College with my BSIT next month.  Ken, thank you for all that you have given me.

Richie Coulter -- Pella, Iowa -- February 7, 2007

The Need for Self Defense

A couple of weeks ago at a major mall in our city, a huge fight broke out in the food court involving a couple dozen young men and women. Tensions that built up during the week at school broke out in the mall on the weekend.

Imagine if you were sitting there eating a burger and found yourself in the middle of a crazy mob.

A friend of mine from high school--we were on the track team together--acted very bizarre at our reunion last summer. He was obviously drunk (or high), belligerent, obnoxious, and made strange comments to people. Last week, according to prosecutors, he shot a man in the chest and killed him. He was arrested for murder.

At the reunion, I was watching him carefully, ready to step in if necessary, but not wanting to destroy an old friendship if it wasn't necessary. In situations like that, I grow very calm, and understand that I can handle the situation if the need arises.

I haven't been in a fight since high school and hopefully will never be again. But violence can break out when you least expect it. I'm glad I have some knowledge and skill that could help. Frankly, I don't understand why more people don't prepare to defend themselves, and those they love, in the event that people around them explode in unpredictable ways.

Actual English Subtitles Used in Films Made in Hong Kong


1. I am damn unsatisfied to be killed in this way.

2. Fatty, you with your thick face have hurt my instep.

3. Gun wounds again?

4. Same old rules: no eyes, no groin.

5. A normal person wouldn't steal pituitaries.

6. Damn, I'll burn you into a BBQ chicken!

7. Take my advice, or I'll spank you without pants.

8. Who gave you the nerve to get killed here?

9. Quiet or I'll blow your throat up.

10. You always use violence. I should've ordered glutinous rice chicken.

11. I'll fire aimlessly if you don't come out!

12. You daring lousy guy.

13. Beat him out of recognizable shape!

14. I have been scared s---less too much lately.

15. I got knife scars more than the number of your leg's hair!

16. Beware! Your bones are going to be disconnected.

17. This will be of fine service for you, you bag of the scum. I am sure you will not mind that I remove your manhoods and leave them out on the dessert flour for your aunts to eat. [sic, of course]

18. (My favorite) You say that my kung fu is no good? You must be a bastard then!