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Fighting with Bagua Elk Horn Knives

Elkhorn-v-Sword-A1 My favorite kung-fu weapons are elk horn knives. With two of these, you can defend against any weapon. Using one to block, hook and deflect and the other to slash, stab, and cut, it's an incredible combination.

Obviously, these weapons evolved from farm tools.

In this series of photos, one of the fighting applications is shown using elk horn knives against a sword.

Black sash Chris Miller is using the elk horn knives. Colin Frye does a chopping movement with the sword. Chris uses Elkhorn-v-Sword-A2 one of the knives to block the sword, then turns it and guides it down into Colin's leg while he uses the other elk horn knife to slash.

I've always felt that learning a weapons form isn't enough -- you have to learn how to fight with the weapons if you expect to truly learn the form and perform it with the right energy and force. The intent of every movement is a fighting application

In our practices and on the online school, the elk horn knives are taught with this in mind.





Learning Self-Defense with the Internal Arts

Eagle-BearApps-Thumb You can practice techniques and forms for decades, but that doesn't mean you're ready to defend yourself if suddenly attacked.

I love to learn fighting applications. I love to look deep into a movement and unlock its potential. There are always fighting applications you don't see -- even in what might appear at first to be just a "transition" from one movement to the next.

Last night, we did some real-world drills, aimed at using two Hsing-I techniques -- peng chuan and pi chuan (crushing fist and splitting palm) against an attack.

Students strapped on their protective gear and paired off. One would throw an attack and I coached (along with black sash Chris Miller) them in an effective way to respond -- a flurry of peng chuan and pi chuan -- rapid fire -- at the stomach, ribs, solar plexus and face.

Students had to throw at least 5 strikes -- using peng and pi -- back to back -- FAST!!

Some students will hesitate after throwing one technique. I pushed them to respond faster and with five or six strikes. Moving forward, using body mechanics, using power and speed. Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom!

I had to stop students from trying to get fancy. We all think we can throw other movements during a violent confrontation -- heng chuan and ridge hands -- but in order to really learn and internalize these techniques so you can respond instantly and with precision, speed and power, you MUST focus on one or two techniques at a time, and do it thousands of times, before moving on to other techniques.

In the real world, fights don't happen like they do in most martial arts classes. In the real world, someone will most often attack you because they think you can be easily had. Well, the best way to answer that is with a flurry of overpowering strikes.

Pi Chuan is especially useful to block the first punch or push. Then you use rapid-fire peng and pi -- throwing a couple of crushing fists at the stomach, making the opponent think to block downward, then you go to the face with a couple of splitting palms. Follow that with two or three more crushing fists to the stomach. Fast-fast-fast with power!

On Saturday, we videotaped the fighting applications of the 12 Hsing-I animals and I'm placing the video lessons on the online school (the photo above left shows an application from Eagle/Bear). It will be a DVD within a couple of weeks. Learning all the fighting applications is important, but some past Hsing-I masters could win any fight using only peng and pi. It's important to remember that. How did they do it? They practiced those two techniques -- over and over, thousands of times.

As Bruce Lee said, "I do not fear the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once. I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times."

There's a reason for that.

How to Hold Self-Defense Seminars -- From the Martial Arts Supershow 2010

DefensebyDesign One of the informative and helpful sessions I attended at the Las Vegas conference was held by Jeff McKissack, owner of Defense by Design (the photo at left shows his booth in the Exhibit Hall). He had some very useful advice for martial arts teachers who can supplement their income teaching self-defense classes for various groups.

Some of the people who would be very interested in self-defense seminars would include:

** Women's organizations

** Real estate companies (female realtors are often at open houses alone)

** Apartment communities (talk with the manager's office)

** Crimewatch groups

** Homeowners' associations

Jeff's advice on how to present the seminar was very insightful. He says you shouldn't teach more than three or four techniques in an hour. Focus your time and teach them something practical, especially techniques that teach them to cover, block, punch, and kick. Then run.

Another great tip -- make it affordable. Don't charge more than a bill that you would expect someone to have in their wallet. In other words, no more than $20 for an hour or two. By keeping it affordable, you can drive up the number of people attending.

If you own a school or rent a space for your classes, don't expect these people to come to you. Instead, offer to go to them. If you're teaching a group of realtors, see if you can teach it in a large room at headquarters. If you're teaching at an apartment complex, you might be able to use their community room.

And remember, men and women seek different things from self-defense. Men want to train for a fight. Women are training because they expect to be attacked. Men want to learn self-defense so they can be a protector. Women generally assume the role of the protected. Men have the mindset of a predator. Women have the mindset of prey. Women are looking for empowerment. Men are looking for a rush.

It's interesting stuff. I believe everyone should know a little self-defense, but if you try to teach more than a few techniques in a seminar, no one will retain very much, so keep it simple, silly. 

The Most Embarrassing Exhibit Booth at the Martial Arts Supershow

Pendant-1 As I wandered through the Exhibit Hall at the Martial Arts Supershow 2010 in Las Vegas, I was disappointed that there was nothing that related to the internal arts.

Even the seminars were focused on kickboxing, karate (the modern version), TKD (the modern version) and MMA or MMA-related things (like "Cage Fitness").

Except for one booth, and it was completely embarrassing.

It was called Quantum Science -- BioTech Optimum Energy Program. The people at the booth should have been arrested for false advertising.

They were selling pendants. If you wear these pendants, they improve your chi and can even kill cancer cells -- that's exactly what a woman behind the booth told me.

It isn't just a pendant. They also will take your hard-earned cash for a bracelet or a watch that will do the same thing.

You see, their stuff "promotes positive flow of energy and helps to maintain energy balance. It helps to restore energy that has become weak in the body." That quote is from their brochure.

Pendant-2 The science behind this metallic snake oil is "scalar energy," discovered by a mathematician back in the 1800's (ironic, isn't it, that all scientists in the world haven't jumped on this).

They persuaded passers-by to take their "energy test" (the photo of the guy with his arms out). The people at the booth seemed very sincere but a little bit flaky (go figure).

Here are other things that the pendants, bracelets and watches will do for you (according to their brochure):

  • increase energy
  • promote unclumping of cells
  • enhance circulation
  • enhance immune and endocrine systems
  • destroy viruses and bacteria
  • enhance the cellular nutrition and detoxification
  • enhance cellular permeability
  • reduce inflammation
  • protect the DNA from damage
  • retard the aging process
  • fight cancer cells
  • strengthen the body's biofield preventing electro-magenetic waves from affecting one's health
  • focus and concentrate better

As I visited other booths, I discovered that this booth -- related to chi -- was the big joke of the Supershow. Other exhibitors thought it was absolute crap. The subject came up usually when they would ask what arts I teach, and I talked about the internal arts.

My friends, we have ruined the reputation of the internal arts with this type of nonsense. Too often, I've talked with tai chi instructors (some of them very nice people) who either encourage these downright silly beliefs or they allow the beliefs to perpetuate by repeating phrases such as, "There are many things we can't explain," or something equally mindless.

When the woman at the booth told me the benefits of wearing these pendants, including the destruction of viruses and bacteria, destroying cancer cells, and causing a barrier of energy to be created around your body to protect you (she said I would know it as "chi") my jaw nearly dropped to the floor. I found it amazing that they would tell this to just anyone who walked up.

So here I am, in Las Vegas, deeply disappointed that the Martial Arts Supershow ignored the internal arts and focused on fads rather than traditional arts, and then I run across one booth related to "chi" and it's a joke.

If you're in the internal arts, you should be embarrassed, too, and you should lend your voice to mine and help fight the fraud and hoax that we have turned "chi" into.

Let me repeat -- the internal arts are fighting arts. Chi can be used as a mental visualization tool for better body mechanics and in chi kung exercises that help take your mind off other things and calm down, but as a medical science there is virtually nothing legitimate (double-blind clinical trials or unbiased, independent research) that proves it's a valid theory.

If you're unwilling to help me spread some logic and critical thinking, then if you ever get cancer, or if another bad form of the flu spreads through the nation, just put your money where your mouth is. Don't go to the doctor. Just order one of these pendants and wear it proudly, knowing that you now have a protective barrier of chi that will heal you of just about anything.

Meeting a Ninja - Stephen K. Hayes and the Martial Arts Supershow

Ken-Hayes-web There were a few good sessions at the Martial Arts Supershow in Las Vegas this week. Bill Wallace was great, of course. I also met Stephen K. Hayes, the ninja master that I had been reading about and seeing videos since the 1970s.

After his presentation, we talked briefly. He is located in Dayton, Ohio and I used to live and work in Cincinnati. He laughed when I said, "I've been reading about you since we both had no grey in our hair."

He spoke about "Protecting the Master." He talked about his life story and among his messages was one that I've been preaching for some time.

If you believe it and imagine it, you can achieve it.

When he was beginning in martial arts, he bought a black belt and kept it in his closet. He knew he would earn one someday. He occasionally would take it from the closet, put it on, and look at himself in the mirror.

He already had the black belt in his mind. He only had to earn it through the school. And he did.

Hayes This is a message that can help you in any aspect of your life. It can get you through bad times and it can lead to very good times.

No matter what your goal is, if you believe you can do it, and you make a plan and a roadmap to reach that goal, success is only a matter of executing the plan.

Stephen K. Hayes is old-school. He's a traditional martial artist. I love these guys. We needed more of them at the Martial Arts Supershow.

Tomorrow, I'm going to write about the most embarrassing exhibit booth at the Supershow -- and guess what -- it was related to chi. Wouldn't you know it?

The Business of Martial Arts -- At What Cost?

MASupershow-Curriculumweb I believe every good martial arts teacher should make a profit. I believe in making money. Every good instructor should make enough money to live a good lifestyle and save for a secure future. I try to make money at my arts, and I do, but not enough.

It's sad to see good martial arts schools struggle. The image of the kung-fu or karate teacher living a meager existence, taking little for lessons but teaching a pure art is becoming a memory.

Even Chinese masters have learned that they can make big bucks, and they want the money. Chen Xiaowang, I heard, is a millionaire. He deserves it. He's that good.

And yet, it's disappointing to me to attend a Martial Arts Supershow like the one in Las Vegas this week and see that it's so geared to the business side of the arts. They taught things such as: How do you squeeze more money out of your students? How can you "re-package" and "re-brand" your arts to capitalize on the current fads like MMA?

There were a few great seminars -- I especially liked Bill Wallace (yesterday's post) and I met Stephen K. Hayes, the ninja instructor that I've read about since the 1970's (tomorrow's post). But for the most part, it seemed the fads and non-traditional arts beat the traditional arts into submission at this convention. I may have been the only Tai Chi guy in town.

CageFitness-MASupershowwebIn 2010, even if you have very little experience, you can buy a curriculum, get certified and offer a new class for the public. A couple of the photos here show two booths -- both offering a curriculum and certification. One is for a new fad called "Cage Fitness." A lot of people are discovering that if you just put MMA or Cage in the title of a martial arts program, you can get more young guys in the door. I'm sure it's a good fitness program. I believe it would help you get into great shape. That's not the issue here.

So you can buy your curriculum. You can buy software that will help keep track of students. You can hire a company that does your billing and threatens to sue students who stop paying on their contracts. Yes, contracts are crucial for successful schools in 2010. So are "Black Belt Clubs" where you try to get someone to pay a few thousand dollars upfront and promise that they can study until they get their black belt, even though you know that most of them will drop out long before they achieve their goal.

You also have to launch "Lil Dragons" programs, after school programs, summer camps for children. Kids are money-makers for a successful school these days. Have them practice Laojia Yilu for ten years like they do in the Chen Village? Are you kidding? You can't teach them a real martial art. Teach them punches and kicks and give them a good workout -- stroke their little egos with merit badges and don't forget, everyone is a winner (they'll find out when they grow up that everyone is NOT a winner).

Oh, and by the way, you have to hire and train a staff. The days of black belts teaching classes out of respect and obligation? That's so 1970's. If you want to rake in a million a year, you have to get with the program.

One speaker actually said "lineage is not important." It's probably true. Just attract kids and teens with titles like "Extreme Karate" or "MMA" or "Cage Fighting."

Some schools that practice all these things are raking in more than a million dollars a year. 

I taught a kid's class for over a year. I've always been great with kids. I love kids and I loved being a father to my two girls. In my kids kung-fu class, I had a good sense of humor and I tried to help them understand the movements. When the movements were wrong I showed them the right way.

One 10-year old guy started crying one day. I was shocked. "What's the matter?" i asked.

"You're always criticizing me!" he said, tears running down his face.

I was merely showing him the correct movement, but no one had ever had the nerve to imply that he could improve at something. No, he had learned that it's all about him.

I stopped teaching my kids' class in December, 1998 and swore I would never teach another one. I haven't. Children in America are not ready for the internal arts.

Real martial arts take time -- a slow, painful process. Sometimes a good coach has to tell his players -- or students -- that they suck and need to work harder. In a fast-food, I want-it-all-now, ADD culture where more kids want to be rock stars than scientists (it's true, I used to work at ACT and saw the research), the traditional martial arts school has a tough road ahead.

This is one of the reasons I started my online school and why I never again want to run a bricks-and-mortar school. I have a small, dedicated core group of students in the Quad Cities. I don't have to adopt any fads. I don't have to water down my arts. I put what I know online and if it can help you, a membership is very inexpensive and you can quit anytime. My audience isn't the kids and young adults in the Quad Cities -- I have members from Japan to the U.S. to England to Israel -- even a couple of members serving in Afghanistan. I can be true to the art and to myself. And as I keep learning and improving, I pass it all to my students.

There will always be a few people who want the things that traditional arts teach -- things that you don't see in MMA guys. But right now, the business of a martial arts school is to get people in the door and teach them something that will bring in the income. I'm hopeful that things will change, and I hope the good traditional teachers can hang in there until that happens.

From the Martial Arts Supershow 2010 - Interesting Training Equipment

The Martial Arts Supershow is really geared toward martial artists who own schools. I have a small group of students I train with, but I don't have a typical "school" anymore. I didn't like running a school.

In 1975, I got into the news industry to be a reporter and to be able to write for a living. By 1989, I had become a news director, a manager in charge of the newsroom. I had to answer for every photographer who dented a news car, and I had to deal with anchors who threw temper tantrums or wouldn't show up to work on time like the employees who weren't stars. That's not what I got into news for, so in 1997, I left the business.

The same is true for me when it comes to martial arts. I always dreamed of owning a school, but once I did, I had to worry about making money, paying the rent and utilities, dealing with students who skipped a few months on their payments, and simply having to accept students who weren't serious.

I didn't like it.

Looking through the booths at the Supershow, there are good products for school owners and some that I find almost offensive ("buy a complete curriculum from me").

LajustOne of the good booths is by Lajust. They've developed a vest that you can put on a Bob training dummy or any standing heavybag. The vest is wirelessly connected to a receiver and a laptop. When you strike or kick the bag, the laptop shows how much power you've generated.

You can use this to judge how strong your strikes are and train accordingly.

I like it. The price tag was close to $2,000 (including the vest, receiver and laptop with software) if I understood him right, but apparently it's a big hit with students and I can see how it would be a great training tool.

The Supershow is sponsored by Century. I doubt that I'll attend another one -- I don't intend to have a typical school again -- but for those who do, and have to worry about making the overhead and making a living, I suppose this is a good event.

My next post will focus on the dumbest booth of all time -- and unfortunately, it's the closest thing to the internal arts at the entire Supershow.

A Real Martial Arts Champion at the Martial Arts Supershow 2010

Ken-BillWallace-2001 It's funny how your life crosses path with some people in a way you couldn't have predicted.

In 1976, I was 23 years old and watching a live karate kickboxing match on TV. Bill "Superfoot" Wallace knocked out a big bald fighter with a hook kick to the head. I was so excited, I started working a lot harder at the hook kick, and it has won me many tournament matches over the years.

I first met Bill Wallace in 1982. I was a producer at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati and he came to town for an exhibition match and martial arts convention. He stopped by the station and I interviewed him.

Flash forward almost 20 years to 2001. My friend John Morrow sponsors Bill Wallace to come to do a workshop at his school here in the Quad Cities. I go to John's house and meet them and we all go out to the ice cream store. It's a summer evening and we're hanging outside an ice cream store with this martial arts superstar. I couldn't believe it. I attended the workshop and he kept using me as his dummy, showing kicks and demonstrating techniques. He had super control over his foot and could kick me in the head before I could block it -- EVERY time. Photo above is from 2001.

He came back for another workshop a few years later.

Bill Wallace is a funny guy. He uses humor throughout his workshops.

Yesterday morning, he held a one-hour stretching workshop here at the Martial Arts Supershow in Las Vegas. I was familiar with his stretching exercises, but hadn't done a lot of them since being so sick last year. It felt good to go through them. Then, we practiced different punch and kick combinations with our partners.

Wallace has a great technique for closing distance with your opponent. As you're moving and dancing, you suddenly bring your feet together. That closes the distance for a kick.

Ken-Wallace-2010After the workshop (and the room was packed) I shook his hand and reminded him of the interview we did almost 30 years ago. The photo here was taken as we were talking, then he slapped me on the arm and said, "Well, at least YOU still have hair."

He's going to be coming to the Quad Cities in August for a workshop at John Morrow's school. I'm going to encourage all of my students to attend, and see if we can't spread the word. There are guys out there right now who are MMA superstars because they're big and bad. I don't know how many of them uphold some of the important principles of traditional martial arts -- skill combined with respect, humility, and a sense of humor. Bill Wallace does, and it's amazing and gratifying to see that even at age 65, he's still teaching.

Martial Arts Supershow 2010 -- A Fish Out of Water

Supershow2 I decided earlier this year to attend the Martial Arts Supershow held this week in Las Vegas. It got into full swing today. The exhibit hall opened yesterday and I visited the booths.

I'm a fish out of water.

These events aren't designed for the internal arts. In fact, a lot of what is being peddled here is for martial arts school owners who are urged to squeeze as much money as they can out of students.

Supershow1Dealers are here selling complete curriculums for schools. Buy a martial arts curriculum for $2,000. There are some useful booths -- some insurance companies and some cool equipment. The event is hosted by Century, a company I've always admired.

But try to find some authentic, traditional karate, TDK or kung-fu here and you'll come up empty. There is a LOT of MMA stuff, and it worries me. The traditional martial arts appear to be in a little bit of trouble. There are a lot of heavy, muscular guys with tattoos walking around dressed in MMA t-shirts. Several sessions devoted to MMA.

There are also booths devoted to keeping children interested in martial arts classes with things like merit badges and goofy cartoon characters spouting platitudes about "character" and "achievement." All of these people have good intentions, but it's sad to think you need to use so much psychology to keep a child interested in the martial arts.

There are, of course, companies devoted to handling your billing for you. Sign up new students and let this company be the bad guy. Okay, I'm being a little negative here. I understand the value of freeing up a school owner to be a teacher and manager rather than a bad guy trying to collect tuition, but sheesh.

I suppose the most disappointing thing is that there is NO mention of tai chi, hsing-i, or bagua. There are thousands of people attending and I might be the only internal artist. I'm often asked by the people in the exhibit booths what I do, and when I tell them I have an online school they are stunned and then move on to the next person passing by.

I'm going to post a few observations and comments during the next few days about the Martial Arts Supershow. They certainly need more traditional martial artists of all types, and they really could use anything internal.

Insert deep sigh here. Nancy came with me -- our 7th wedding anniversary was on the 3rd, and we decided to combine a trip that can be used as a tax write-off with an anniversary trip to Las Vegas for the Supershow. If I had just come for the Supershow, I would really feel ripped off.

Two Years On -- An Online School Grows and Develops

Two years ago -- July 4, 2008 -- I launched my online internal arts school. I was laid off from a 6-figure position at the University of South Florida, went home and told Nancy, "I want to stop working for people I can't depend on. I want to start an online school."

She said, "Go for it."

I started working, taking the curriculum I had been teaching for over a decade and creating video lessons, e-books, and other material. I quietly opened the online school to my current students in June, 2008 and opened it to the world on July 4.

I knew -- the tai chi world being what it is (far pettier and more jealous than you would believe) -- that I would be flamed by some. "Who does he think he is?"

Well, I have a different kind of school. I tried the bricks-and-mortar type of school but I didn't like the experience. I simply have the ability, because of my background in radio and TV news, to create videos a little easier and much cheaper than most people. I also edit all the videos and put them online, do the Photoshop work on the pictures and place everything on the site myself (Nancy is frequently my ace videographer). Not many martial artists have this ability. An online school like this would cost other people many thousands of dollars each month.

My local students get training at a very low price (all they have to do is join the site) and they appear in videos when I need them. It's a sweet deal for everyone, at least that's my intent. 

So instead of starting another local school, renting a building, and going through the nightmare of overhead, my school would be online and the audience would be anyone around the world who wants to study these arts but doesn't have a teacher nearby. As long as they speak English, they can study online.

Each week, I get emails from people telling me the site is amazing -- there is a lot more material than they expected and they enjoy the down-to-earth, straightforward teaching style (I have little patience for tai chi teachers who try to make things mystical and abstract).

I've been very gratified at the growth. Right now there are about 100 members, each paying a monthly fee. Some have been on the site the entire two years. Others have lasted a year or more -- then others join for a few months and then leave. It's all good. I believe there are hundreds more around the world who don't know about it yet but would like an insight into the internal arts that the site offers. Some of the people who have joined are teachers, and a few of them have told me that no one ever taught them some of the principles that they learn here. Other members are already studying with a teacher and use the site to supplement their current training. Others are new to the arts and haven't studied before.

At this point, there are more than 400 video lessons online (and I add more each week), several e-books, audios, a discussion board. This time next year, I want at least 600 video lessons on the site -- more e-books, more audios.  Not bad for $19.99 per month (the basic fee).

One thing that has surprised me is how some people will join the school, stay on for several months, and never contact me in any way -- no emails, no discussion board posts -- and that baffles me.

On the other hand, I've made some friends through this, too. I could go to several different countries now and know someone because of this website.

The past two years have been very interesting. I'm looking forward to the next two.