24 December, 2014

New training space for Chris

Chris is the only kung-fu man I know with a kwoon made out of steel...

Here are three photographs I made this morning...

Chris 1

Chris 2

Chris 3

21 December, 2014

The Form

To the past, present, and future students of Southern Kung Fu.

The Form
by Anthony Revill

The single most important training habit I learned from my sifu, Kevin Earle, was to do my Form every morning. In fact, the Form (Sil Lum Tao) is essential for me in starting each day. It affects how I am in the world, and imbues my day with qualities that have become indispensable to me.

When Kevin became my sifu, I recognised that I was in the presence of an unusual kind of self-defence instructor. Kevin wasn’t the only guy around who could knock people down or throw them to the ground. However, early on, I felt there was something more to him. It was this recognition of a difference that helped me become receptive to what he was really teaching me. It’s true that I heartily embraced the business end of Ving Chun Kuen kung-fu: the intercepting, deflecting, entering, punching, striking, stomping, and other ways of engaging with the enemy. Nevertheless, this external manifestation of Ving Chun Kuen’s methodology, despite being fun and challenging to practice, is merely the flowering of a more fundamental essence.

So it is that when prospective students walk through my door, this is what they are looking for. They want to learn how to engage an enemy. And that’s all well and good; I can teach them that. Yet, by the very nature of their desire, they are focused on the external – and with the external they shall remain for some time. Because of this, the Form puzzles them. It’s an anomaly. It will begin to make some sort of sense as knowledge flows into it, as ongoing training informs it. However, to a beginner, I can accept that the Form is simple, slow, and tedious – something they copy in class because they’re told to. To them, it’s as external as any of their other training; and, considered externally, it makes little sense.

Furthermore, the Form does not look combative. A student may wonder what place it has in a self-defence class. As some sort of solitary, contemplative exercise, it smacks of downtime – a mere indulgence on the part of the instructor. (In class I have said, “What does the Form have to do with fighting? Nothing… and everything.”) Accordingly, I have little doubt that some of my students cannot wait to skip through the Form in class, so they can get to the good stuff. Legion are they who do their Form in class because they have to, and at no other time. I had to learn to love the Form, and I persisted with it because my sifu valued it so highly. He reinforced its importance by his own example.

My challenge, then, is how to facilitate a student’s interest in the Form. Newer students underestimate its value, while I cannot overstate its value. One reason for this is the experience of depth. For beginners, Ving Chun Kuen kung-fu is broad, containing many disparate elements, like a wide but shallow lake; while for me the art is like a very small pond, with such depth that I can step into it and disappear. This is the quality of Ving Chun Kuen that holds my interest. Over time, as the student navigates the lake, gradually understanding that the elements are all qualitatively alike, the lake begins to shrink in diameter, and it starts to deepen.

Essentially, the Form is a felt experience. Possibly it can be understood and discussed intellectually, but in practice the student has to come out of the head and into the body, so to speak. Thoughts running continuously through the mind are formations in themselves, competing with the exercise for attention. Memories, imaginings, old conversations, possible new ones, ongoing issues and the problems of a busy life – they all vie for the top spot in the student’s awareness. Nevertheless, the student must come to realise that training while distracted in this way is counter-productive. I do have suggestions and strategies for my students regarding this, but none of them involve the suppression of thoughts. Rather, a shift in awareness can be useful, guiding the attention away from the unfettered activity of the mind. Once this is accomplished, the mind can be recruited effectively, with its powers of intentness and focus of force through the gaze of the eyes – but empty of words, pictures, the past, future, and other formations. In this way the Form is grounded in the present moment, with the mind and body inseparable in purpose. Put another way, cultivation and projection of force involves the awareness, engagement, and unification of body and mind.

Here I have chosen to write primarily of the formless, and the irony of using a form to develop the formless is not lost on me. Yet there is no better method I know of that can impart the real depth of Ving Chun Kuen except that the student consistently practice their Form. And this is the aspect of my training that has made all the difference for me, namely, my commitment to practicing every morning, as inspired by Kevin. The Form is far more than a set of positions and actions that the student learns by rote, performed exactly the same way thereafter, repeated in a mechanical, unvarying fashion. The Form is actually a process, continuously progressing day-by-day, much like the human being practicing it. Initially, the student may see the Form as something separate from themselves which they have to conform to, but, really, there is no Form until they enact it. It’s a matter of perception. At first, their method of positioning, breathing, moving, focusing, projecting, etc., is imposed upon them by me. I am giving them the seeds of an idea, an idea that is not tangible until it finds expression in the kung-fu practitioner. Moreover, this aspect of training is never brought to a conclusion, for the Form represents the continuing evolution of the student; it is not only a doing, but a becoming.

Nothing I have written is meant to imply that the Form is a closed system all of its own. It does not exist in a vacuum. Indeed, all of the other training within Ving Chun Kuen begins to inform the Sil Lum Tao and flesh it out. The Form begins as a small number of copied movements and positions, without any real internal substance. This has to change. Left to its own devices, it simply does not encompass enough experience on the part of the student to enrich it. Therefore, every other exercise in class is important, particularly partner work and the practice of the other forms. The student’s growing awareness, skill, and knowledge, developed from the ground up, is incorporated into the Form, there to be refined and improved – only to be returned to the training exercises in class once more. Effectively, this constitutes a cycle of enrichment, without which Sil Lum Tao would remain impoverished, its efficacy limited. Furthermore, like a sapling subjected to the elements, the idea must be put under all types of pressure to develop its resilience and vigour, as in the practice of sticking hands for example.

Having said that, there comes a time when the Form begins to give more than it gets. It remains the linchpin of Ving Chun Kuen’s combat practices, yet also moves beyond this, becoming a personal process towards self-mastery. More specifically, it is about switching on to internal definition, bringing the locus of control increasingly towards centre, away from the manipulations of external threat. In light of this, there is a stage of maturity to be reached in kung-fu training where the obsessive focus on dealing with perceived enemies gives way to more of a focus on dealing with ourselves. The Form’s cultivation of structure and posture, groundedness and stability, relaxation and expansion – along with awareness and intent – comes to signify assertiveness rather than aggression. And that is how I sometimes describe the Form, as an act of assertiveness; that is, a daily renewal of our attitude, confidence and determination.

To sum up, I have written about Ving Chun Kuen directly from my own experience, and touched on some of the ways in which the Form holds meaning for me. In doing so, I am aware that I am still going through the daily discipline of this training, and that my views may change – possibly as early as tomorrow morning. The day-by-day renewal through Sil Lum Tao is what keeps my kung-fu growing, much like an everlasting springtime.

© 2014 Anthony Revill

16 December, 2014

Training over the holidays

Monday, 22 December - class as usual

Wednesday, 24 December - closed

Saturday, 27 December - check with Hadrian and/or Pete

Monday, 29 December - class as usual, Hadrian in charge

Wednesday, 31 December - class as usual, Hadrian in charge

Saturday, 3 January 2015 - check with Hadrian and/or Pete

Monday, 5 January - class as usual - and back into it for another year...

 And in other news... Last night at training, Pete had his T-shirt torn half-off by someone who shall remain nameless, Shane, so we may have to take up a collection to buy a new shirt for him.

12 December, 2014

Self-defence in the News - No. 74

Car park attack victim plans to kickbox 


December 11, 2014



PARTNERS AGAINST CRIME: Brit Horne, 20, from Nawton, and 
her dog Envy fought off an attacker in a supermarket carpark. 

A routine trip to the supermarket ended in a terrifying ordeal for a young Hamilton woman when she was attacked in the carpark by a stalking stranger.

Brit Horne has been left unable to sleep and off work after she was grabbed from behind by a man in what police believe was a sexually motivated assault at Bridge St Countdown last week.

The 20-year-old managed to fight off her attacker with the help of her three-year-old dog Envy, who latched onto the man's arm.

She kicked the man in the groin and escaped unharmed, but the emotional impact has taken its toll.

"I was just going to get dinner and you would think you would be alright, I have never been more grateful to come home in my life."

Horne wasn't a regular at the city supermarket and had visited two others in search of American hot dogs when she stopped at Bridge St about 8pm on Wednesday, December 3.

As she made her way around the aisles she felt someone watching her.

"I wandered around and noticed this guy was everywhere that I was, and every time he had a different object in his hand, it was really strange."

The man, described as a short Indian man aged in his late 30s, never said a word to her.

"I turned around and he was kind of standing there looking at me."

Horne gathered the items she needed, paid at the self-serve checkout and returned to her car near the centre of the carpark.

Loading the groceries into the driver's side, Horne says her three-year-old staffi-cross began snarling from the back seat.

"I was saying hello to my dog then she started growling - she was barking so much she started foaming at the mouth."

Suddenly a man grabbed her around the waist, pulling her back.

"All I felt was this arm coming past my waist, and this hand coming past my face, then she [Envy] jumped out of the car onto this guy's arm.

"I thought what do I do - my dog was on his arm so he let go and I turned around and saw it was the same guy."

Horne kicked the man in the groin leaving him stumbling in pain.

"I just grabbed my dog and got him into the car, got into the driver's door and locked it, I looked around and couldn't see him."

Hamilton police said the man fled the scene but it was unknown if he was on foot or in a vehicle.

Detective Sergeant Matt Cranshaw said police believe the man's actions were sexually motivated. "This was an attack with sexual overtones and is of concern to us," he said.

He praised Horne's quick-thinking actions and ability to assess the situation.

Since releasing supermarket CCTV footage of the alleged attacker this week, police have received numerous reports from members of the public and have identified a "strong suspect", said Cranshaw.

However, police are still looking to speak to any witnesses of the supermarket carpark attack.

Horne said there was a scattering of people in the carpark during the attack on dusk. "I saw people looking around but I don't know if they saw it happen."

Horne, who has never had self-defence training, has now signed up to a gym and is planning to take up kickboxing.

"I just hope the police find him, he has to be someone's neighbour or co-worker, someone has to know him."

Cranshaw believes the incident is a "one-off" and Horne's safety is not at risk.

Anyone with information can contact police on 07 8586200, or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

 - Waikato Times

08 December, 2014

Self-defence in the News - No. 73

Woman and dog fight off alleged attacker


Published: 5:20PM Thursday December 04, 2014 Source: ONE News 


A dog bite and a kick to the groin - Woman and dog fight 

off alleged attacker



A woman and her dog fought off a man who grabbed her in a Hamilton carpark in an attack police say had sexual overtones.

The 20-year-old was grabbed from behind as she opened her car door in the Countdown supermarket carpark on Bridge St around 8pm yesterday.

The victim's dog jumped from the car and bit the man on his right forearm, while the woman kicked him in the groin.

The man, described as being Indian in appearance, short and aged between his mid 30s and early 40s, fled the scene.

Police want to speak to any witnesses or anyone who may know of a man matching the offender's description.

"This was an attack with sexual overtones and is of concern to us," Detective Sergeant Matt Cranshaw of the Hamilton CIB says.

"We commend the complainant for her swift action and are providing support for her".

06 December, 2014

Kung-fu brothers

Saturday training today with (left to right): Chris, Pete, Hadrian, Brendan.