Saturday, 29 March 2008
Dear Wu Tan brothers and sisters,
I went to see the new space yesterday and it looks really good, high ceilings, large training area. Great for forms and weapon training... Teacher Mike, Rosa, Vincent, Dieter (and occasionally other Kung Fu brothers and sisters) have put a great deal of work to make this happen; our own training space.
At this moment, we need help to do the painting. With a big group, this will be fun and worthwhile. The more help we get, the faster the space will be available for us. So let's do it!
We need painters for: Wed. night starting at 7:30 pm, Marnix Straat 25
(Big Blue Doors), Antwerp, 2060
Please reply Dieter at: dieter dot de dot potter @ g mail dot com
Wear old clothes...
Wutan New Club
photo by teacher Mike martello
Thursday, 27 March 2008
There will be two Headlines:
On Saturday Mike will be teaching Mantis and probably MiaoDao
On Sunday he will be teaching PushHands from TaiJi and Stuff.
Everybody can join!
Payment will be :
1 Seminar: 70 Euro
2 Seminare: 100 Euro
but Members of WuTang Belgium and Bailung e.V. getting a 20 Euro Discount!
Saturday, 10.05.2008 13.00 -19.00 Uhr
Sunday, 11.05.2008 11.00 - 17.00 Uhr
Location: Osnabrueck, Germany
Infos: i n f o @ b a i l u n g . d e
Hope to see a lot of you then! Fun is guaranteed!
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
So now, I would like to show this video according to the quality of the performance. I believe that YouTube is a source not to see which martial arts is better, but to see which masters have great skills or what kind of mistakes students (like us) make. Often, one could see students performing on YouTube, whose aim is merely trying to gain attention with some moves they have learned in a hurry, then as reply to be trashed by others (which proves teacher Mike's teaching, that without jiben gong (basics), form will only be as beautiful as a flower without roots, foundation, strenght and finesse- and thus missing the soya sauce). Of course I can't do it better and should not judge, but not saying anything would not help the learning curve either. It can be seen as a denial. At least, the reply should be constructive towards ourselves as students, always in the progress of learning. Thus it's important to be constructive by promoting good training and performance. When I see what I think is a good performance, I believe we should encourage ourselves and other fellow students to see how it should be done. When I saw this video after much browsing on YouTube, the first thing it came to my mind was: "I am embarrassed to be a lousy student, these guys/girls are much better!", then it changed into: "Yes, regardless the different style, they show great martial spirit and teamwork in their form, which we all should be inspired by". Please watch the video, and ask yourself: don't we owe to ourselves, to our teacher and his art to practise and perform with at least half the spirit of these students?
Superbouncykid aka just another grasshopper
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
It all started in May 2005. At this point, I have invited Jake Burroughs to my former school to give a seminar on Liu He Tang Lang (mantis) techniques. Participants were next to some of my own students, Arne Grandt (Tang Lang teacher from Cologne) and his student Puja and 5 students from Mike Martello. They all came the way from Belgium, because Mike Martello encouraged his students to see and learn from other teachers also.
During the seminar, I took the opportunity to talk with Mike Martello, whom I never met in person, but already know something from forums. e-mails and even some video clips. I heard about him as a very good teacher and martial artists. During the talk Mike was able to speak out what I felt was the exact point but wasn´t able to think about it in that exact way. He was talking about my inner thoughts without knowing me. I was more than surprised.
By this time I was on a deadpoint with my martial arts development. My Taiji was lousy, as only rudimentary and reduced alone on the empty movements of the form, my Mantis also had not really been developed for some time. It was at this time that I learned only more and more variations of the typical 7 Star Mantis sets without learning something fundamental new.
Everyone certainly knows the feeling when he buys the new Album of his favorite band and at home with great disappointment determines that it is only another variation of the preceding. No innovation, no further development. Well, I just felt my stagnation in the martial arts like this.
On this day in early May 2005, however, stood in front of me a person who told of similar experiences, and also how it works for him to go forward. Mike showed that day as good as none of his ability. He exchanged only with me his thoughts. He helped me in conversation to see what my problem (and that of many others as well) was. Only his idea of rooting he demonstrated with Arne Grandt. He asked Arne to push on him in a Kua Hu Bu (Tiger riding or cat stance) over the outstretched arm. Arne managed not to move Mike an inch. I was naturally impressed, I knew those skills stories, but had not met someone, who could really show!
It was a very exciting and, in retrospect, an important day. I agreed with Mike, to visit him soon in his school in Antwerp. 2 weeks later, I was over. To reinforce objective I visited him together with my girlfriend Nadine, who also had a few years Tang Lang and Taiji experience.
During a 4-day visit to Antwerp, we could get to know Mike Martello personally as well as experience him in private training and also in some regular class situations. Everything he showed and explained was very grounded. In addition, his skills were incredible. Not good studied tricks, but real skills and depth of knowledge impressed us in the long term. There was someone who showed things that we only knew from stories and best seen in films. Everything he did goes back on some very basic things: the base (rooting, the use of hip, alignment, etc.) and how to use this basis, then all techniques had incredible power.
It's hard to describe what Mike Martello makes so unique. Certainly, it is his way of personal experience, long decades of martial arts training and enormous dedication to his training and his students. Above all, it´s a solid basis in everything he does.
At that time I realized to my luck that I could learn incredible lot from by Mike Martello. And I did not step back to ask him to accept me as a student. Something that, in my experience, many others simply denied: learning again, leaving the teacher status and be just a student.
Since then, a few years past now and I have in this time much recognized and learned. The relationship with Mike Martello Sifu goes far beyond a mere "apprenticeship". He enables me to learn a lot, to meet and to learn from people who promote good Kung Fu. Therefore, I am very grateful.
I hope I could give a little insight into my reasons and motivations to become a disciple of Mike Martello Sifu and hope that the readers remain objective when they try to understand this!
Monday, 17 March 2008
Introduction of a master is an ongoing display of (grand)masters who not only have high level skills, but as extraordinary individuals whose integrity, focus, commitment and hard work in life set a good example to future generations of martial arts practitioners. It is my honor to start this series of introductions with Grandmaster Wang Chieh, the teacher of Mike laoshi. Grandmaster Wang Chieh is a rare treasure in Taiwan and China. When I saw Grandmaster Wang in Beijing, it was the image of a kind, humble man with a great sense of humour. Yet his power is beyond words. The following 2 texts are taken from the offical Wu Tan Belgium site: http://www.wutang.be/wtb/gmw.html
"No two flowers grow on the same tree, all martial arts are the same in the end." — Wang Laoshi
Grandmaster Wang Chieh was a disciple of Praying Mantis Grandmaster Wei Xiao Tang, seeing him on a daily basis in the Botanical Gardens Park and at Shifu Wei's home. He specializes in Ba Bu Tang Lang, Bai He Chuan, Yue Jia San Shou, Tai Chi Tuei Shou, Shuai Jiao, and Chin-na. He is in Wei Xiao Tang's definitive Book of Praying Mantis Techniques. Wang served as instructor for the Taiwanese army and has taught at numerous universities throughout Taipei.
Wang Chieh began his study of kung fu as a young child in Hunan province in mainland China. He moved to Taiwan in 1958, and, to this day, can be found practicing and teaching in Shin Long Gong Yuan, Taipei City everyday from 8am till 11:30 or later. His unique contribution to Chinese kung fu is utilizing techniques of both the Praying Mantis and White Crane systems and integrating complex joint locking skills to create a subtle and powerful fighting style.
In spite of his accomplishments, Master Wang does not refer to himself as a Master or Laoshi, he simply says, "One must enjoy the practice of Chinese martial arts and be humble, as we are not Masters but students forever practicing."
- by mike martello -
Translated from - Wu-Lin Magazine Taiwan 2004 -
Master Wang Chieh was originally named Wang Shaochang, born on the 16th day of the 10th month in the 16th year of the Republic (1927) in Xiangxiang County, Hunan Province. Master Wang came from a martial arts family, his father Wang Zinan was a legitimate expert of Yue Family Sanshou.
Wang Chieh was the seventh child within the family. His older brothers and sisters have all passed away, and his younger sister now resides on Mainland China. One of his brothers, Wang Shaoye, was the inner chamber disciple of Hunan martial arts master Liu Senyan. When the Communist Party came to power, both Wang Shaoye and his wife were arrested by the CCP and died from starvation in prison. Liu Senyan too was captured by the Communists and publicly executed as a warning for the local population.
It is said that the case of Liu Senyan had a great impact at the time, not only did the local gentry used all their means to have him released, it also drew the attention of Central Government official Zhou Enlai who sent a letter urging the authorities to postpone the execution, but unfortunately this letter arrived too late, and in the end all efforts were in vain. Alas! For a great martial arts master to suffer such tragic fate saddens the hearts.
Although Master Wang Chieh grew up in a rural village, he was gifted with intelligence and good physical abilities. Because of this, he already received training on the courtyard from an early age on, and his father Zinan was particularly fond of him. At the age of eight he started learning Yuejia Sanshou from his father. During that time martial arts practice was very popular in the rural areas of Mainland China, and this was especially so in Hunan Province. Master Wang often says: "The men from Xiang (ancient name for Hunan Province) are fierce, that's why throughout the history of China no army was raised without warriors from Hunan."
Since ancient times the soldiers and generals from Hunan have formed the backbone of the Chinese army, for example: Zeng Guofan , Zuo Zongtang , Hu Linji and others were all talented men on which the country could rely on, heroes who change the tides in periods of turmoil. Wang Chieh believes that this is the result of the simple living conditions of China's rural society. In the North of China, each year when Fall sets in there will be frost lasting till Spring in the next year. During this period the farmers could not work on their lands, and would often hire martial arts teachers from outside the village to teach. Training the martial arts was something to make them pass their time and keep the youngsters busy and out of trouble, also it provided them with skills to defend themselves when necessary. After three years, the best fighter amongst the students would have a match with the teacher as a final test. If the teacher won, he would receive a big salary as a reward and leave with pride and honor to teach elsewhere. If he lost he would sadly leave with nothing. Some teachers, to make a living and saving face, would keep certain techniques secret in order to use against their own students. This was the origin of the so-called "Secret Techniques". To be continued.
translated - by ming fai ho -
"Beware mysticism. Kung fu is a combat system that offers many physical and mental benefits. While the taoists can fight, kung fu is not a religion in itself--it is a system to discipline the mind and body to maximize energy. Don't get bogged down by someone telling you to "feel the harmony of the life spirit." "
Sunday, 16 March 2008
When looking at websites from other teachers, many refer themselves as "sifu". At Wudang we would call teacher Mike "Mike" (informal) or "Mike Laoshi" (formal). So What is the meaning of the word "sifu"? As far as I know, there are actually 2 interpretations. The first one is that of the language: "Si" means teach and "fu" means father, it refers to the fact that good martial arts teachers not only teach a student how to fight (health and strengh) , but also how not to fight (mental and moral). A good teacher is like a good father who would point his pupil to walk the right path. In Ancient times it is not uncommon for the teacher to take orphanes off the street and raises them as his own children. Thus in a Kung Fu school, the atmosphere is like one big family.
Second interpretation is that there are 2 ways calling a teacher "sifu", the first way is that of the outsider who whishes to respect the teacher and by referring him as "sifu", the word establish the position of the "master". But on the same time, the outsider is not connected with the word (he is not family) and thus "sifu" used in this context is only a polite form of addressing the teacher (e.g. in Hong Kong, you can address a chef cook with "sifu").
For the student it is a different story, to address his teacher as "sifu" means he is addressing him as his father, which means he accepts his authority and wisdom. It also means to have loyalty as one would have for his/her father. However, there were times teachers have to open up their schools for everyone or it is not always possible to find the right student (in mind or skill), so the teacher usually keeps this relation with a very small group of selected students. When a student is chosen to enter this circle of bond, a ritual (called: "bai si" in Cantonese) will take place and the student becomes a real follower of the teacher. He/she is then an "indoor" student.
As long as you are not an "indoor" student, it is not proper to call your teacher "sifu", due to the weight of the word. The word "laoshi" means teacher (like school teacher) and is much more neutral in that aspect.
The only exception I have seen is that "sifu" is widely used in places like Hong Kong. Regardless you are a stranger, an outdoor- or indoor student, you still use the word "sifu". It is not wrong, as different areas have different habits or rules (so if you practise Southern styles like "Hung Gar", "Choi Ly Fut" or "Wing Chun", it is normal to address your teacher as "sifu" regardless you are an indoor student or not).
Do not confuse "sifu" with "sijou", "sijou" means grandmaster and is extremely high in rank. The teacher of your teacher is your sijou. E.g: Grandmaster Wang Chieh is our "sijou". If you have students you either use "sifu" or laoshi (the pronunciation of laoshi is mandarin whereas the pronuntiation of sifu is cantonese), it is not correct to use sijou when your students aren't official teachers.
Note: Respect and face value go hand in hand within the Chinese culture, which means that it is proper to address teacher Mike as laoshi when other Chinese are around (in case you wonder). As with the way Chinese interpretation of family value: A good son/daughter reflects the goodness of the parents.
(picture: Teacher Mike Martello and his true "sifu" Grandmaster Wang Chieh practising push hands)