Do Not Feed The Devil
Everyone has heard the saying “mind over matter”, but few people actually take the time to think about what it really means. Far from being an annoying mantra that means you should never feel down about anything, it’s intended as a guiding principle that will help you overcome negativity in a healthy and useful way.
To illustrate this point, let’s change gears for a moment and talk about an old folk tale. In it, a bedridden prince is stuck in bed with a mysterious illness, and nothing seems to help. One day, he and his attendants see, lurking in the corner of the room, a demon that seems to be at the root of all the trouble. Frightened and angry, they scream and they curse, but it does no good – the demon grows, every day, until it takes up most of the room. Soon it will be too late for the prince, unless they can think of a solution.
So out of curiosity – and because they could think of nothing else – the prince and the attendants try being kind to the demon. They reach out to it, they offer food and drink, and they refuse to let its increasing anger faze them. As the demon shrinks down again, it becomes more violent and unpredictable, but the people continue…and before long, the demon is gone, and they have all learned a valuable lesson.
So what does this mean for our students?
When we encounter difficult situations – especially ones over which we feel we have little or no control – our main gut reaction is to get upset. We might lash out, turn negative, or push away the people who care about us. This begins a cycle of anger that reinforces itself and continues the behaviour, which seems increasingly unfair, so we get even more angry….and before long, we have turned a setback (which are always going to happen) into something insurmountable. What this story tells us is that instead, we should step back and consider all the other sides of the problem: who else is affected by our actions? Realistically, will being angry change anything? Is it worth losing patience over this? Often we will find that we can calm ourselves and remain steady if we choose not to give in to those base reactions.
It is nicely summed up in the legendary story of the “Two Wolves”, which are in constant battle inside every person: one made of darkness and despair, and the other light and hope. The winner depends on which one you choose to feed!
Meditative martial arts like kung fu can help you reach a point of tranquility, where your emotions are better balanced and you carefully consider the impacts of your actions. The mind and the body are tied together, and when they improve in tandem, you will find that you are capable of great changes in your life that you may have never thought possible. It’s just one more benefit to studying martial arts!
When You Can Legally Defend Yourself
Unfortunately, it happens all too often: you’re out with some friends, minding your own business, when someone sets out to cause trouble with you. And despite your best efforts of de-escalation, you may not be able to get out of the situation easily. Or maybe you stumble around a corner and interrupt an assault already taking place, and the assailant – or assailants – focus on you instead. Or in an extreme case, you could be in a worst-case scenario: you’ve come home unexpectedly, or woken up in the middle of the night, and someone you don’t know is inside your home, and you’re in their way.
In situations like these, preparation is the key. You have to be able to act decisively and effectively, while ensuring the safety of you and your loved ones. You may be willing to do what it takes to protect them – but just how many options do you have? Do you really know when you can legally defend yourself?
(Before going any further, we do have to point out – we are not lawyers, and as with any laws, this information is subject to change! These are guidelines only, and we make no guarantees that what is true today will hold up in the future. If you are in need of detailed help, consult someone who is trained to interpret the most up-to-date laws properly).
Self-defense is a very grey legal area for many reasons, but one of the biggest ones is this – at some point when you are fighting back (if you are successful), you will no longer be defending, but attacking. Finding that point is very difficult to do after the fact, and it is up to the people involved to judge when they can safely stop fighting back and exit the situation. The crux of many cases is whether a person acted reasonably, and did no more harm than absolutely necessary; many factors are taken into account for this, like relative size, weight, gender, weapons, prior behaviour, martial arts training, and so on. But in general, if you are attacked, you are legally permitted to reasonably defend yourself until you are no longer in danger.
When it comes to weapons, you also must be careful of what you use. It is actually illegal to buy or possess pepper spray in Canada, even for self-defense – and the same goes for a bat you pull from your truck, the switchblade in your pocket, or the brass knuckles you carry around. If you have anything on your person that you intend to use as a weapon, and then use it as such, it becomes harder to believe that your actions were entirely innocent, even if they were. The lines get blurry very quickly.
In Canada, you are innocent until the Crown proves you are guilty – which means that in a trial, the prosecution would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were not acting in self-defense. While it’s good that the default position is in your favour, these cases are often decided on sparse testimony, personal interpretations of behaviour, and second-hand evidence, so it is rarely as black and white as that.
In general, when it comes to self-defense, less is more. As a trained martial artist, you most likely have an advantage in a physical fight, and that will be accounted for after the fact. Never cause more harm than you must, and always look for a safer option to defuse the situation before choosing to defend yourself physically. The goal of martial arts like kung fu is not to fight like in the movies – it’s to gain a valuable skill and improve the balance and harmony of your body. Use your brain as much as your brawn, and you’ll always have the upper hand.
(And remember: if in doubt, talk to the real experts. We’re not afraid to admit we might be wrong, so don’t take any of this as complete legal advice!)
Kickboxing: A Descendant of Martial Arts
Fighting in some form or another – and with the elements of rules and sportsmanship – has been around for millennia, as shown by the huge number of ancient arenas and fighting pits that have been discovered dating back to some of the oldest human cultures. But these days, it’s much more than just tossing a couple of gladiators in a circle and placing bets. From those old traditions come some of the most common and recognizable disciplines we see today, including kickboxing.
Last month we talked about the origins and forms of karate, and that ties into kickboxing because that’s where the sport began! Though it may seem like a natural offshoot of a fighting style – after all, kicks are more powerful than punches – it actually was not until the 1950s that the sport we now know as kickboxing began to take shape in Japan.
Drawing not only from traditional karate, but also from muay thai, a man named Tatsuo Yamada began outlining the forms of the new sport and throughout the early 1960s, it took hold in students of both disciplines. As more people learned the rules of the sport, and the first competitions and events were taking place, soon kickboxing was expanding around the world and by the 1980s, it had grown into North America and Europe. Moving back and forth in popularity since then, and with very broad scope of rules and styles, it is one of the most enduring schools of modern martial arts for people of all skill levels.
Though each country seems to have its own rules, the bouts that most people are familiar with in kickboxing are generally based on full-contact karate, where the opponents fight through rounds until one of the fighters is knocked out or submits. There is no specialized equipment or weapons; generally only a mouth-guard, hand wrappings, and other protective gear is needed. Rules vary on low and high kicks, hits to knees or with elbows, use of spins, and other details. That means that each fighter has to be pinpoint accurate, quick to strike and to retreat, and ready to react to their foe in an instant. As opposed to the more meditative nature of karate and kung fu, kickboxing is much more fast-paced and focused on the immediate impact of kicks and punches.
There are dozens of sub-styles of kickboxing, including shoot boxing (where fighters can use standing chokeholds and armlocks), sanshou (which incorporates elements of wrestling and takedowns), and Japanese K-1 (which allows lower-body strikes and grappling).
Whatever your personal style may be, if you like to fight, chances are good that there’s a kickboxing genre for you. However, if you prefer something more holistic and meditative, you can’t go wrong with studying kung fu – and we just happen to know the perfect place to learn: right here at Kung Fu
The Martial Art Of Karate
When it comes to martial arts, many people think that they’re all the same – that kung fu is the same as judo, or karate, or tae kwon do. But if you look a little further into it, you’ll discover that there are plenty of ways that these skills manifest in practice, and that all of these different styles have totally different focuses and areas of expertise. We’d like to explore a little bit of what makes each discipline unique, and how they are similar to the kung fu we teach here at our studio.
Today we’re going to talk about karate, which is one of the most popular martial arts in Calgary and, indeed, in the world. You may have seen it (or heard it misidentified) in hundreds of movies and TV shows, where it is often synonymous with any form of self-defense. There’s even an episode of The Simpsons where Bart claims to be learning a “Touch of Death” at his karate class.
Luckily, karate is not all about causing harm to your opponent, but much more about self-discipline, training, and constant learning to always improve. Stemming from a blend of Chinese kung fu and Okinawan fighting styles, karate developed over many hundreds of years into different forms, types, and functions. Generally, they emphasize proper stances, strike and block techniques, and exercise, while psychological elements like leadership, perseverance, and virtue are built as well. A student can learn karate as an art (known as budo), as purely self-defense, or as a full combat sport – usually reserved only for competitions within the sport, but this is where the media’s portrayal of fighters usually draws from. There is even an offshoot called kyokushin that highlights full contact, toughness, and takedowns over the more mental aspects of the sport.
Many practitioners of karate appreciate its simplicity, both in the training and in the materials needed. Traditionally, learners needed nothing more than a wooden post, some blocks of stone, and various other common materials in order to increase their strength, stamina, coordination, and speed. That means it’s easy to do wherever you are, and cost is not as much of a factor when trying to learn. The name itself, kara-te, even means “empty hand”, referring to the training of one’s own body to be efficient and effective. Of course, some schools and some students choose to train with weapons as well, such as the bo (staff), sais, or nunchaku, but these can be harder to work with as one must consider the laws regarding the use and transport such weapons (you can see our blog right here).
You may be brand new to martial arts in Calgary (or in general), or you could be a seasoned pro, but with the sheer amount of new styles and techniques that are always being created, there’s always something new to learn in karate, kung fu, and all the others. Come see for yourself why these physical arts have lasted for centuries and still bring millions of people enjoyment, stress relief, and satisfaction all around the world. We can help show you the way at Kung Fu For Life, located just down the road from 39 Ave C Train station in Calgary!
Thank You All For Your Support
It’s not always easy to run a business. They’re difficult to get off the ground, a lot of work to manage, and susceptible to the ups and downs of the market – even more so in a city like Calgary, where so much of our economy is dependent on outside forces. If that business fills a small niche in a market, there’s always a question of whether all the effort will be worth the trouble.
But here we are at Kung Fu for Life, many years into our story, and we are still going strong, even when many other places are not. Today we would like to just say thank you to all the people who make that story possible, and keep it going each and every day.
We have seen many other businesses come and go – not only those similar to ours, like MMA-style gyms and physical wellness havens, but even others that seem invincible, like restaurants, coffee shops, or many of the downtown commercial spaces in the buildings of our skyline. Property taxes are skyrocketing and the cost of doing business is higher than ever. It sounds scary – if they can’t make it, how can we?
And yet, we are still going strong, because we have stuck to our roots and our principles. We’re not in business to make profits for shareholders; we are here to help our students live up to their full potential.
Our students are truly the foundation of our success, and we have to say a heartfelt thank you to every one of them. You bring us into your lives every week, you tell your friends and family about our classes and programs, and you allow us to practice the martial arts that we love and spread the knowledge that we’ve spent our lives acquiring. We would not be here without your support, and we hope that all of you know how important you are to the Kung Fu for Life team!
We also must thank our excellent landlord, who have allowed us to pursue our passions and use the studio space for our classes and practice. Many people are not fortunate enough to have such a good relationship with their landlord, so we count ourselves incredibly lucky to know people who understand the value of dedicated martial arts, meditation, and physical activity to a healthy lifestyle.
We can’t predict where Calgary or Alberta will be, decades from now, but we can say this for sure: we are blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people on every side, and we look forward to bringing many more years of service to the community that has welcomed us in. Being part of that community has brought us success in ways that money could never measure, and we can’t wait to teach more students, pass on more knowledge, and improve the lives of Calgarians in 2020 and beyond.
One more time: thank you to all of our past and current students, our landlord, all the people who handed the art down, instructors (past and present), our neighbours, our city, and everyone who has been part of the Kung Fu for Life journey since it began!
"How often should I train Kung Fu?"
There’s an old saying that says people need about 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. So if you didn’t sleep for nearly 14 months, and trained all day, every day, you could become a kung fu master in that time. Easy enough, right?
Okay, so maybe not that easy. But it does lead to the question: what is the best amount of time to train? Is there a “sweet spot” of dedicated time per week you should aim for?
Everyone is different, but our standard recommendation is about 2-3 hours per week of moderate to hard training. We know – it sounds like that’s hardly anything at all! But it’s important to remember that in kung fu, more training doesn’t necessarily mean better training. It’s much more about consistency than it is about total time.
Some people come in for 10 hours per week, and that works well for them and their lifestyle. And that’s great! Others can only do 2 or 3 per week, but they are very satisfied with the balance that it brings. And that’s great too. Listen to your body and work within your own personal “sweet spot” to find what’s best for you. As long as you are training and happy with what it does for you, that’s better than chasing an arbitrary time that you feel like you “should” be working.
Another good tip? It can be easy to think that training for, say, an hour straight once a week, is best. To be sure, it’s better than nothing. But instead of training once a week for 60 minutes, reframe it to 60 times a week for one minute. This way you are constantly refreshing yourself and your knowledge, and it will be quicker to recall and reuse – especially in the event that you have to use it. You don’t want to be caught in a conflict on Saturday night when the last time you even thought about training was last Sunday morning!
Our best advice is simply this: do the right amount to keep you happy with your progress. Martial arts are about learning what you’re capable of and how to harness your inner concentration, and when you do it the perfect amount, you’ll notice the positive effects coming through to the rest of your daily life too.
And if you’re the type that simply can’t get enough of the Kung Fu for Life studio, well, we’re open Mon-Fri from 1 – 9 PM, and 10 -2 on Saturdays, so there’s plenty of time for you to practice in our out of our classes. We look forward to seeing you the next time you drop in to recapture your zen!
Am I Meditating Properly?
If you’re only going by what you’ve seen in the movies, you may think of meditation as something that only monks or masters do – an exercise in discipline where you must sit perfectly upright for hours, clear your mind of every last thought, and always have a grand revelation or uncover some deep divine wisdom. In reality, meditation is nothing nearly so fancy. It is simply a way to re-centre yourself, be more aligned with your body and surroundings, and to be more mindful of what your senses are telling you. In other words – don’t feel pressured to have an epiphany, because there are no expectations!
Here are some of the questions we get asked most often about the best way to meditate. If you’re curious about this ancient (and provably beneficial) practice, read on for more information.
Can I lie down?
If that’s what works for you, sure! Some people believe it enhances your chi energy if you sit upright with a straight back, which is where the traditional “meditating monk” image comes from. But if that’s uncomfortable or not working for you, feel free to lie down and stretch out.
How long do I have to do it?
The length of a session depends on what you want to achieve. To overcome depression or sadness, 5-10 minutes a day is a good place to start, and it’s short enough to easily set aside the time, even in a busy schedule. For anxiety, go a little longer to get in the practice of letting go of worries – 15 minutes or so per day. If you have a focus on healing injuries, 30-60 minutes is best. For all of these, if you miss a day you can make it up the next day, which is nice to know!
A good recommendation is that you should meditate one minute for every year of your age.
Is it okay to think my thoughts?
Absolutely! It’s very difficult to stop conscious thoughts altogether, so embrace them and allow them to continue. Our only guideline is to make sure that the thoughts don’t take over, or bring you to a negative place – if you’re having an internal argument, or only thinking about all the other things you have to be doing, those are not constructive and you should refocus.
What’s the best way to control breathing?
When you are new to the process, you should control your breathing to be as slow and steady as possible, for as long as you can. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth, all while compressing your abdomen from the top downward. Over time, and with more experience, this will get easier, and the breathing itself will become a tool you can use to reach a meditative mind state. An ultimate goal is to eventually be able to reach that mind state first, with the breathing following automatically.
Are guided meditations as good as individual ones?
Guided meditations are excellent for beginners, and can still be useful for intermediate and advanced practitioners. Once you are more familiar with the practice and your own capabilities, you will develop better control and will eventually reach a state where you can meditate without outside assistance – but everyone is different, so don’t feel rushed.
Is it wasteful to meditate before bed?
No! It is actually extremely beneficial. It completely clears your mind and gives you more peaceful, restful sleep. In addition, if you put a healing intention behind it, your body can heal better during sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
Alternately, if you wake up before your alarm, use those extra few minutes to meditate – for about twenty minutes before we sleep and after we wake, our brains are in transition to a different state and are a lot more open to suggestions.
How do I know if I’m meditating correctly?
Actually committing to the act of meditation is half the battle, so just by sitting to do it, you’re already on your way! Despite what martial arts movies might say, there is no such thing as doing it “correctly”. There are 100+ methods of meditation if you look into it – you can do it while driving, standing, walking, reading, anything. Why?
Because meditation is simply focusing. It is being completely focused on what you’re doing, even if that is nothing in particular. You will know if you are doing it incorrectly, because your mind will be jumping back and forth between ideas and you’ll have a hard time concentrating. If you are getting angry or emotionally attached to your thoughts, then you’re further from a state of meditation.
What’s the best advice you have for improving my meditation?
Be consistent with it daily, be immersed, and keep your mind open. Don’t let yourself get attached to thoughts or everyday stress when you’re trying to relax your mind, but in turn, don’t beat yourself up if every session isn’t a 100% success.
Meditating is a release, not a chore. Let yourself go, see where it takes you, and enjoy the benefits that follow!
The Importance Of The Mind
A lot of people focus on how they look and what their bodies can do, but less actually consider how they think and how it affects everything else. The old saying “mind over matter” can come across as a tired platitude about the power of positive thinking, but it turns out that there’s actually a fair amount of truth to it.
How to Get a Better Mindset
The first thing that a truly successful person understands about the mind is the role that the ego plays in it. This is, essentially, your perception of yourself and how you use that perception to interact with the environment – including how you see your own skills and abilities. Obviously, this is rather important for training in martial arts classes! Your ego, for example, plays a huge part in how you defend yourself: if your hands are down because you’re overconfident that you can react in time, you could be a multi-degree black belt and still get hit in the face by someone new.
Martial Artist's Christmas Wish List
Do you have a martial artist in the family, and you’re not sure what to get them for the holidays? Or maybe you want to surprise your spouse or child with a new hobby that will keep them active during the cold winter months? Look no further than Kung Fu for Life!
It may seem strange, but there are plenty of gift options that come from us directly, or that can be used in conjunction with our training programs to really reach the next level. And of course, there’s even more that’s just fun when you need to take a break from whipping your mind and your body into great shape.
First, for the advanced martial artists in your group, it’s likely that they would appreciate some training tools and weapons. High quality materials can add up in cost if a student is trying to get a lot of equipment at once, so helping to offset the investment is an excellent idea for a Christmas gift. After all, there’s always something new to learn about in kung fu! For weapons, look into nunchuks, bo or three-section staffs, swords, knives, or chain whips (and if you need guidance on how they can be used, transported, handled, and stored, check out our previous blog about laws on that very topic).
If you don’t believe in weapons, that’s okay too! A new pair of sparring gloves can go a long way, and is guaranteed to get good use as training progresses. Same with other sparring equipment, like mouthguards or pads. All of it is necessary for the full kung fu experience. Even secondary accessories, like mat shoes, a yoga mat, or a new uniform are all good choices for the budding martial artist.
And of course, life isn’t just about practicing all the time! Both minds and bodies need time to relax and recover, no matter how fit or driven we are. So if you want to give thoughtful gifts that still tie in to a passion for martial arts, consider things like gift certificates for massages or acupuncture, Medigraph software (to track physical therapy progress and documentation) tiger balm, or ginseng and other herbal supplements. Books to help with meditation, or classic genre movies like Kiss of the Dragon or Fists of Legend would go over well, too – and who could say no to a DVD collection of Dragonball Z?
Maybe you’re thinking that the person you’re buying for doesn’t do martial arts. We even have a gift for that – the beginner’s program at Kung Fu For Life!
Of course, some of us are tight on money, and that’s okay too – because at the end of the day, it’s not the specifics of what you get, it’s the thought and the feeling that comes along with the holidays. Offering babysitting, being a training buddy, or even a homemade card are all perfectly good alternatives, along with thousands of other “gifts” that are meaningful because they come from you. That’s the most important thing, and it’s what they’ll remember.
So whatever you end up doing this holiday season, we hope for nothing but the best for you and your family and friends. Stay active, stay safe, and we’ll see you in 2019!
Women in Martial Arts
It’s unfortunate, but it’s true: the world isn’t always a friendly place. And even more unfortunately, it’s usually more unfriendly to certain groups in particular. Until everyone gets along well, learning a martial art as self-defense is a good idea for everyone, even though we hope you’ll never have to use it outside of our facilities. It’s an especially good idea for women, and we want every woman out there to know that this a safe place to learn and practice alongside other women on the same journey.
There might be a misconception that if a woman comes to a class here, they will be disrespected or overlooked. That’s just not true – we are all students, and we are all in this together. We’ve never had an issue with this, and we’ll make sure it stays that way, because we want every single person in our classes to feel empowered and capable of mastering the skills they are learning.
So why is it important for women to pick up these techniques? Especially if the chance of having to use them is small?
The main reason is because, in general, women are smaller and lighter than men. If you’re not physically imposing, it will likely be tough to overpower someone bigger than you – but one of the great things about kung fu is that it teaches you how to leverage your power and weight in order to compensate for that. It’s something that we stress a lot, because it’s one of the most important concepts you can use in order to get out of a bad situation.
However, one of the only things more important than that is the idea that such a confrontation should be avoided in the first place. They say that the best defense is a good offense, and being proactive and aware could be the key to staying safe. For example:
Don’t look at kung fu as “manly” or “feminine” or any of those other – frankly poor – words. Think of it as an insurance policy for yourself, one that you can always keep up to date. It’s a great way to stay in shape, it helps you feel safe in certain situations, and it reduces overall anxiety, not only because of the mindset but because of the social aspect and the exercise.
If you want a respectful environment that treats you well and teaches you helpful skills, a course that shows you how to make up for a lack of weight or height, or even a place that just allows you to make new friends where you can show off what you learn together – Kung Fu For Life is for you. Increase flexibility, be more comfortable in your body, and build your well-being to new levels, all right here in our martial arts classes.
Kung Fu For Life
Learn something new from us each and every month!