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Try Something New… Learn Kung Fu

The New Year is upon us. Many see 2020 as a rough year. They’re happy to be done with it, and ready to move on to 2021. The New Year is often looked at as a way to start over or to try something new.

Learn Kung Fu!

As we learn Kung Fu and begin the journey, it becomes part of who we are. 

Enjoy the Self-discovery.

Embrace the Self- discipline.

Reap the benefits of full body fitness.

Become a Bad Ass!

Now is YOUR time.

No matter what 2021 brings you can count on your practice of Kung Fu. There is always something to learn, practice at home, or with us in class. We work hard together and share the camaraderie of class time. It feels like a second home for us at AFC716. 

~ Kate

The Benefit of Teaching

Over past few years, I have found that not only do I enjoy teaching, but also that it improves my own skills as a martial artist. We all know the rewarding aspect of being able to help a student “get it”. Where that light bulb goes off in their eyes. When you know that they understand completely what you were trying to teach them. Teaching, however, offer’s so much more to our own practice. Answering questions from our students, being able to explain each move in detail for them, over and over again, has provided the foundations for improving our own technique. 

We’ve all heard and found in our own classes how teaching teaches us. Sometimes it teaches us as much as it teaches our students. I’m the kind of student that likes to spend time with the material I’ve learned; I’m the kind of student that needs to let the material sink in to learn it. To know it on a deeper and deeper level. To know it “to the bones,” as I like to say. Spending time teaching the sash level students that I have becomes equally as beneficial to me as to those students.

Without teaching these levels we run the risk of focusing on what we are learning. Teaching any of the material is considered a gift to me, where we can learn this technique down to its bones. Where we can get into a crossing leg stance perfectly, and swiftly every time, for example.

I think that teaching offer’s this more than what merely training could do. Being able to explain this to not only one type of person, but learning to pass this information on to people with different learning styles too. Being flexible in our own teaching style, pushes our boundaries open. Instructing not only the way we were taught, but teaching to a student who learns differently than you might. Whether verbally walking through each move, or visually showing it to the student. Maybe even talking about what you feel when in a Mantis stance, or just having your students try. Throughout time when they try, and they become familiar with the material, you can correct them closer and closer to the bone’s of the technique.

Teaching clearly benefits the students. It also offers something deeper to those teaching it. Teaching provides the system with new students, who will become new shifu’s. These new shifu’s will continue to grow and preserve this system as they continue to grow in their own training. This act of teaching improves that teacher’s own abilities as a martial artist. The Shifu’s improved skills helps them teach even better, and therefore, the students learn more as they go along. Like a constant oscillation between Yin and Yang that never stops. This mutually beneficial cycle continue’s on and on.

For example, I was teaching High Pat in section two of Shyun Style Tai Chi to a group of Tai Chi practitioners. Since these students were not Kung Fu students, they had never even thought of a crossing leg stance. After a few minutes of teaching at a broad/coarse level, I went into the details. Being able to explain the fine points of shifting my weight, and sinking. I continue to describe turning the body, keeping my head over my shoulders. My shoulders over my hips, and my hips right over the front foot. Not bending at the waist one bit, but having a stacked upper body ensuring proper balance.

The mere ability to articulate in detail how to perform this “simple” technique, helps me. While performing this technique slowly, leading the students through the stance, created the foundation for performing it well when moving fast. When it’s necessary I won’t have to think about it, at this point I’m on my way to knowing it to it’s bones. 

Applying this understanding to body coordinations 5 & 7 of Eight Step Preying Mantis Kung Fu, my technique has also improved. The timing of the strike, with the sinking of my weight into my stance, and the pull of the opponent’s wrist to my hip. Performing all this at the same time ensures proper control and delivering of the strike.

Whether training on my own, or with a partner, I know the building blocks of this stance. I can use that knowledge to move quicker, smoother, more powerfully, and with the appropriate timing. In doing that I am able to perform La Bie, Bung Tiao, or another throw using a crossing leg stance better every time. This is equally from being able to teach the “basics” to new students, as it is from training it over and over again.

We can know these techniques very well without ever teaching it, but not nearly as in-depth as if we spent time teaching it to others. If we were never able to break it down into its parts and show it to someone, how could we ever think to master it? What would happen if we were never able to help that same student improve and grow? Helping that student become solid in a crossing leg stance, but yet still fluid, and wasting no energy, helps us as well. I don’t think we would know it as well as we currently do without having taught it.

How many times we teach something only increases our knowledge of it. Even something we learned on day 3 or 4 of our training can still have an impact on our learning. When does one ever master a technique, or is mastery more of a process that continues without end?

While there’s more material to learn as we develop in the system, teaching the beginning level techniques from this perspective continues to teach me and increase my understanding. Where would we be as practitioners if we didn’t teach these fundamentals of the system, deepening our own understanding over time. If we think of these “fundamental” techniques as living and breathing, then they will continue teaching us more.

I do not think there’s a completion point. A point where training will not teach us more. I think that, like life is never complete in its teachings, practicing Kung Fu & Tai Chi will only continue to teach us. This will happen whether we train 20 years, or 80 years. 

When training we are essentially teaching ourselves how to do this better and better. Teaching then becomes training, and training is teaching. Each of us teach. We all clearly learn. Both are two sides of the same coin. Neither exist without the other. One could be considered yin and the other yang. Two parts of one whole. I think that knowing this, we can then direct it in a fashion that helps our students and ourselves grow as human beings and as martial artists.

Shifu Daniel Cimino

Losing Should

I have been taking a lot of walks these days which gives me a lot of time to think. Sometimes I really haul it and can cover more than my 2.2 miles. Sometimes I need to take my time and it takes longer than my 45 minutes. I decided that I am ok with both. I want to talk about something that has been rolling around in my head for a while now. It pertains to us all… We are all guilty of it. I decided today that I want it to stop using the word “should” when I talk about the things I am able to do.

Daniel and I talk a lot about how things feel. How the set feels, how your body feels. There is a lot of feeling that goes with studying and practicing Tai Chi and Kung Fu. We don’t have mirrors on the walls because we want you to FEEL what is right… Then you will know it in your bones. So when we ask you how does this or that feel? We truly want to know how you are in that given moment. This moment, this time through, this class. In this moment we can take the opportunity to fine tune what is happening. Whether it’s your balance feeling off or your coordination feels disjointed… maybe your body doesn’t like how you are shifting your weight? There is plenty of things going on in any one move. I desire “real time” feed back so we can help you move forward. 

I hear and read many people in my life using the word “should” when talking about what they are doing or accomplishing. 

I just walked 2.2 miles but I “should” be able to do 3. 

I just finished this awesome book but I “should” have read it quicker.

I just nailed three high pats in a row but I “should” be able to get deeper into crossing leg stance.

I just finished section one all by myself but I “should” be in section two by now.

The list goes on and on with how we think things “should” be. I want us to be AWESOME now. We can always do better and get stronger, but right now WE ARE AWESOME. We need to lose the word “should”. 

The “should’s” have no place in AFC716… I am focused on where you are now and how I can help you move forward. What you are doing now and how you feel now is what is important to me. Talking about where you want to go from here is important to me. Together we can get through anything. Daniel and I don’t have an agenda or a time frame when it comes to the speed of your learning. Every day you walk in to class we are ready to teach you where you are. We’re happy to celebrate your successes even if it’s a little thing like you remembered to flip your hand out in Cloud Hands. It’s all a win. 

We all have goals. Where we want to go with our practice. I love goals as they keeps us moving forward and winning. Let’s promise each other that we will stop with the “should’s”. We deserve to be happy with how we are now and where we are going. 

Ok I will step off my soap box now… hopefully I don’t trip. 

~Kate

Living A Healthy Life

What we offer at AFC716 isn’t just Tai Chi and Kung Fu instruction. It is more than that, hence our logo fo Kung Fu, Tai Chi & More. All of it is about physical fitness, and more importantly it’s about living a healthy life. In fact, everything taught here has the underlying motive of helping people be healthier.

An internally balanced human being will see the absolute necessity of health in their lives. Without their health, they struggle to live to their fullest each day. With good health they no longer have to just survive, but are free to expand into what they want to do.

What do I mean when I speak of an internally balanced human being? I am referring to a person who is aware of their emotional, mental, or spiritual leanings. I am referring to when this person works to balance those leanings & tendencies.

What we offer at AFC716 helps build our health. Our bodies need to move, they need to be exercised. As Kate likes to say “A body in motion, stays in motion.” This is the beginning for some. 

People see Tai Chi as a slow moving exercise that is not only easy on our ankles, knees and backs, but helps restore the body. This practice is also helpful in focusing the mind. It helps keep it fresh and active throughout our life.

The Kung Fu is a much more vigorous exercise. It is what people think of when we say “martial art”. Yes it teaches how to defend ourselves, but it also teaches respect and care for ourselves & others. With a more vigorous exercise it strengthens the body in order to succeed at learning it.

Our Kung Fu Blitz program is our physical fitness class, which is based on traditional kung fu strengthening exercises. It’s simple, quick, and can provide a good workout for anyone from beginners to those who are physically fit. The trick is to have the determination to keep at it.

When strengthening the body, we strengthen its organs, tissues & immune systems. This keeps the body healthy and helps it avoid getting sick as much. 

The point of all this is to show “briefly” that all these classes focus on health of our bodies, and more. It’s meant to introduce the fact that the body, mind and spirit are so intertwined that they cannot be separated. Whether we’re aware of it or not, this is true. The great thing about the value of what we teach is that it has always been this way. These programs have, for hundreds of years, intertwined in the health of the body, mind and spirit. 

Shifu Daniel Cimino

Our Blitz Challenge

Not too long ago I posted about a new class that we had launched called Kung Fu Blitz. It’s our take on combining HIIT style training with Kung Fu in order to get maximum martial arts physical fitness with not too much of a time commitment.

Daniel and I spent many an evening figuring out the best way to put these classes together. Deciding the best times to hold the classes live in the school, and via Zoom. During one of these conversations we were enjoying a glass of mead (or two) I suggested we put this class to the test.

I wanted to commit to three times a week for 30 days to see just how great it really is. After a bit of figuring things out, we picked our start date. We took our weights and measured our arms, waists and chests. We thought of doing all the typical measurements, but we figured most people are really only wowed by arms and bellies… lol.

For our Blitz challenge, we had to do three blitz classes a week. We had to really work in each of those classes. I chose to really dial in on my low carb eating and Daniel chose to keep on with his normal healthy eating.

I really went back and forth with putting our before and after measurements on here and ultimately decided not to because that’s a huge struggle for me. I’ll tackle self esteem in another blog post.

What did happen over that 30 days was this…

Daniel lost 7 pounds, 1.5 inches from his waist and 0.5 inches from his chest. His arms stayed the same. 

I lost 20 pounds, 2 inches from my waist, 1.75 inches from my chest and my arms stayed the same. Despite our arms staying the same “size” they really toned up. 

Before you get too excited about my weight loss, Daniel’s results are the more realistic results. He only changed his life by including these 3 classes.

I made an intensional overhaul of everything. I chose to incorporate these workouts into a larger challenge for myself. I had good long talk with myself and chose to make some changes with my nutrition, and added more workouts to my days. I am over half way done with the first leg of my challenge. I will share with you all the inns and outs of what I have been up to when I complete it. I just wanted to let you know that my results may not be typical for the Blitz only challenge.

Committing to 30 days of 3 classes a week really gave us good results. We worked hard,  and it proved to us that this class helped us.

So if you are on the fence.. come try a class. We have been having a riot with it, and it’s improving us greatly. The class times are below.

Tuesday 5 to 5:30 pm
Thursday 5 to 5:30 pm
Saturday 8 to 8:30 am

Want to try a class for free? Call, text, email or message me and I’ll sign you up.

~Kate

Stacked-ness

Recently I was working with one student in one of our Tai Chi classes, and she was expressing how she was “stuck” on a certain move in the health set. More specifically, she couldn’t keep her balance when standing on one leg in this one spot in the set. She could balance on that leg in other spots, but just not in this one place, about half way through the set.

This sort of thing usually screams out to me that her posture is off for some reason. Taking a closer look I was able to confirm my suspicions. We usually adhere to the rule of stacking the head, shoulders and hips over a foot when trying to balance only on that leg. This student was not stacked properly, which was causing her to be out of balance.

Over time the strength in our stabilizer muscles will increase, which will allow us to muscle through the balance in something like the above. The proper way of balancing though, is to be stacked as described above. This allows us to use our muscles as little as possible, and it uses the alignments of bones, and the strength of the tendons to support our body.

Tai Chi may not be alone in this, but we use this rule throughout the health set. Making this a normal daily practice creates a lasting feel of controlling our balance. Once we can replicate this regularly in the set, we can then incorporate how we move in Tai Chi (stacked and balanced at all times) into the rest of our lives. 

When we’re standing in a line, we are thinking of our head, shoulders and hips stacked over our feet, with our knees slightly bent. Or, when we walk down a side walk, we can feel that fluid stacked-ness of our body while moving. Once we start enjoying this, we can start relaxing through it, making it easier and easier to succeed at this each day.

Shifu Daniel Cimino

AFC716 Has Always Been About…

We’ve recently been watching Cobra Kai on Netflix. While this post starts off talking about that show, it’s less of a review of it, and more of a spark for an idea about what AFC716 has always been. 

Miyagi-do Karate in season two of the show brings people together. They are not divisive. They do not create a separation between groups of people. All are welcome in learning their art. All are able to learn to defend themselves in their tradition.

We at AFC716 have always wanted a community where everyone feels safe and secure to be themselves. We want a place where each of us can continue down the road toward our health goals, and we have always wanted to spread the wisdom of these great martial arts.

There are certain things that are learned along the way, such as respect for the teachers, as well as the other students. The Shyun Systems of  Tai Chi, and Eight Step Preying Mantis Kung Fu are in depth arts which can fulfill an individual for a life time. The Kung Fu Blitz can offer a great, yet simple workout. AFC716 however, offers more. We feel that one of the best things about this school is the great connections we make with new people. Finding amazing people who all share some common interests. Having lasting friendships develop from an original initial meeting… Ask Kate, or I someday about how the two of us first met, and we’ll tell you a fun story about an F’ing poke.

AFC716 has always been about inclusion, and respect for one another. It’s more than just a school teaching Kung Fu & Tai Chi. It’s about friends and family who have built a community around the martial arts together. Who hang out and enjoy each others company outside of classes. It’s about enlarging our circle of friends, into our tribe of people!

Shifu Daniel Cimino

Black Coffee Initiative

I remember the day I started drinking coffee. I was at my friend’s wedding and I really needed some energy if I was going to dance the night away. It was the summer of 2008. Up until then coffee smelled good but was the grossest thing ever, no matter how much junk I put in it.  

I was sitting with some friends and everyone was dumping cream and sugar in their coffee and enjoying the wedding cake. I did the same… and said a silent prayer that I wouldn’t gag and took a sip… it was good.  I took another sip, dove into my cake, and finished the coffee…

I then danced the night away. WHAT IS THIS MAGICAL POTION?!?!?!?!?

Thus began my love hate relationship with coffee.

I love it and can drink it all day. I hate how much junk I need in it to make it taste good. As I have changed the way I eat over the years, the stuff I put in my coffee has changed too. When I was plant based, I had to eliminate dairy and went with nut based milk and sugar. It was ok. 

I didn’t feel well eating that way so I flipped the switch and eliminated sugar and added back meat and dairy choosing to live the low carb life. I added heavy whipping cream to my coffee and LOVED it. I was able to totally remove any sweetener as long as I had some cream. What a win. Then… I stopped losing weight. 

I did some research and I stumbled on Intermittent fasting. I gave it a shot. It wasn’t hard. I read books and follow groups. Some people can have a little cream in their coffee, or a diet soda and still do well. I have found that makes my hunger worse. So I have to go with … GASP…. Black coffee…

I started slowly. Backing off on the amount of cream that I use and then I bit the bullet at drank a whole cup. It was ok. I survived. I even kind of like it. Admittedly, I like the kind of coffee we have at home.  At work, it’s ok. I need to sprinkle in a bit of salt to cut the bitterness.

I am beginning to enjoy it. At this point in the journey, I still prefer a cup of cream with a hint of coffee, but I am learning to like it black. Maybe one day, I will crave it.

How do you take your coffee? Do you have any tricks for me?

~Kate

Quieting Our Minds

In a recent Tai Chi class we were discussing how we can get wrapped up in thought, and lose track of what we’re doing. One thought turns to another, and another. Before we know it we lose our place in the health form, and we feel like we are lost in that moment.

We even touched on what is called “autopilot” driving. That is when we arrive at some destination, and we don’t remember actually driving there. It feels like we are no longer in each moment of our lives, as if they are passing by before we can be there. Sometimes we let our thoughts control us to a point where we are more wrapped in them, than in what is happening in the world around us.

I suggested that we work on what I call ‘grounding’ while practicing the health set. As we practice the Tai Chi, we focus on something like how our shoulders feel. We just notice them. We do not think about how the shoulders feel, but just to give our attention to the feeling of our shoulders. No matter what they feel like, we do not judge what we feel, or try and change what is there. That is just another thought, which will take us down a road of more thoughts. 

We are using this grounding exercise to quiet our minds. Whether our shoulders (or any other point of focus) feel like they are at a point of stressed induced tension, or loose and relaxed, we just tune into that feeling. 

This does two things. One, it will help us relax. It will cause the area of our attention to loosen up, and ease up whatever it’s doing. It will also help that area of our bodies return to its natural state of alignment. It will straighten our posture; our shoulders will drop and fall back to their nature point. It’s amazing what mindful attention will do!

The second thing this ‘grounding’ will accomplish is that it takes our minds and firmly plants it in our bodies. Not only are we focused, and at peace with what we’re feeling, we tend to think less. Especially about thoughts that have no relevance to what we’re doing… Practicing Tai Chi, or Kung Fu, or just working out in general. 

This can be practiced while walking, sitting, reading, writing. This can be done while talking with friends, working out in any way, shape or form, or even just sitting on a couch watching TV. This can be literally done anywhere, or at anytime.

Our thoughts can take control of us at times, especially when we’re stressed or anxious. This practice helps us let go of unnecessary thoughts so we are able to focus only on how we feel at the moment. This allows us to feel at ease in our own skin and to quiet our minds. 

What other tools do you use to cope with stress and anxiety?

Shifu Daniel Cimino

Learning to Walk

I am sure that you have heard me mention my nephew Tank, and his adventures in learning to walk. I have learned a lot watching him. Not that long ago, I have compared his journey to ours as we learn Tai Chi.  As adults it’s often hard to not be super great at something. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, or even embarrassing when we don’t “get it” right away.

While watching Tank, he would often take a step, panic, and quick sit down.  Sometimes he would even take a few steps and plop down just to scoot the rest of the way. Either way, no one ever once said he was doing it wrong. No one told him he would never be able to do it. No one made him feel bad. We all cheered him on. When he fell, we picked him back up and held his hand until he got the hang of it. We all told him what a good job he was doing and how strong he was. He would look up at us, smile his gooey smile, and try again. It might have taken him a little while to figure the whole walking thing out, but now he is a pro! 

Learning Tai Chi is a new “thing” for many of us. Most have never moved their body like in second circle, or Single Whip. I have joked with many of you; I have said that I will be starting a new thing using single whip to choose items at the grocery store. I am sure it will catch on soon. Looking at this from the right perspective; a lot of these moves are very new experiences. Especially trying to coordinate them and remember the next one. So we need to give ourselves some slack. As long as we keep trying, we will get it! Always keep in mind, RULE #2: don’t worry about it. The moves will come. The sequence will come. The balance and coordination will come. The only wrong way to do Tai Chi is to give up! 

The Japanese proverb “Nana korobi, ya oki” means “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” It means choosing to never give up hope, and to always strive for more! 

Shamelessly including a picture of this handsome guy…

~ Kate