Saturday, 29 March 2008

New space update 2: list of training material

As the new space of Wu Tan is on the progress of finishing (at this moment, we need painters!), there is a possibility for you to make list and mail it to our Kung Fu brother Luke. He will process the lists and teacher Mike and Rosa will look at the possibilities to get it for the club. It is important to have a list, so please email it or hand it to Luke after the training.

New space update: Painters needed!

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...

Thank you,
Wutan New Club
photo by teacher Mike martello

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Upcoming seminar with Mike Martello Laoshi/Sifu/Shifu

In May, Mike Laoshi once again will come to Osnabrueck and give a Seminar! Martial Arts practisioners from all levels and styles are welcome!

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!

Exact Time:
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!

Jochen Wolfgramm

Mike Martello Sifu visits Osnabrueck

Hi everybody,

last Saturday Mike Sifu visit our small Trainingscamp in Osnabrueck. He came the way from Antwerp just for one day to help me teaching my Students. And it was a lot of help.
Together with Dieter, Mike came in the early morning (of course they lost at least one time the way ;) ) and after a Cup of tea and a short warm up, he started to get into the important stuff. 
So in the morning he taught the first 3 of 6 Mantis Roads. Although it was basic stuff, Mike made it a challenge for everybody. The Details, once more, were the key to understanding!
After a break and Lunch Mike worked in the afternoon at more Basics. This time it was Relaxing Power and a lot of partnering Stuff. He finished with his (and everybody elses) favourite: ChinNa. Well, what could I say? Everybody had plenty of fun and get a deep insight in Mikes way of Gong Fu. It was great. Also, an old Kung Fu Brother of mine, Claudio Fabbricatore, came for a visit. He was not too shy to put on his Training Dress and to train with everybody together, regardless of his Teaching Position since years. He was not only there to visit me, but also eager to meet Mike. And so he really enjoyed the day and the exchange with Mike Sifu. 

In the evening we sat down to have Dinner and Mike, in a very good mood, told us a lot about the background of Kung Fu, Forms and History besides his personal Journey through Martial Arts.

It was a great Visit and Mike really helped all of us a lot to improve. So when I gave him a small envelope to cover Gas and other expenses and he rejected, he had of course no chance! 
But more of all everybody wants to thank Mike for his great and dedicated training! Thanks Mike Sifu.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Students, teamwork and martial spirit

I found this movieclip of students performing a basic form of Wudang Style Kung Fu (which is not the same as our Wu Tan). However, I am not writing about differences of styles. As Grandmaster Wang Chieh says "all Martial Arts are the same in the end" (I will try to write a chapter about the differences between Wudang and Wu Tan in the future, but for those who can't wait and would like to know more about Wudang, I refer you to this link:
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

My teacher Mike Martello (by Jochen Wolfgramm)

Since I am often asked how I met Mike Martello Sifu and how he became my teacher, I will now tell the whole story, and give a view of the backgrounds. 

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!

Jochen Wolfgramm


Monday, 17 March 2008

Introduction of a master #1: Grandmaster Wang Chieh

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:

"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 -

Legendary masters doing the Horse stand (click image to enlarge)

Horse stand (mabu) is the most basic yet important stand in all Chinese Martial Arts. If your horse stand is bad: You have no balance, no leg strength, no rooting thus whatever movement you try to do (forms, fighting, health), it will not work and you will be wasting your time. Hence horse stand is a very important jiben gong (basic skills, NOTE: Chinese interpretation of the word "basic" is not the same as the word "easy or less advance". The word basic refers to "foundation" and is of very important value). If a Chinese master tells you that you don't have any "jiben gong", it means you lack foundation and your Kung Fu sucks!
When trying to find a good teacher, watch his stands closely. It is the first visible proof, which can show you if your teacher is a fake or has proper "foundation". But, with high level skill teachers whose internal chi ripens, the movement and structure will become less clear for the beginner to see. The wide, strong stand and the big circle movements of the waist becomes more internal, while the power increases. So if you are not sure about your teacher stands, you need to see if he has great internal power. If both are absent, he might not be the person you are looking for.
Although a horse stand looks easy to do, it is one of those exercises best described with the words from teacher Mike: "Looks easy, but not easy".

The text and photo's above are taken from a forum online, the original source no longer exists. Due to that and the copying nature of internet, I greatfully put this interesting article on this blog.
Second source:

Quote of the day:

"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." "


Wu Tan's fashion:

Yesterday, Dieter came up with a box full of new training clothes, the idea is to get the school more unified. There are both ladies and men's style. Some of the ladies t-shirt are close fitted (not shown)  and the men's are baggy (I am sure Maxim would love one of the ladies' t-shirts, Renaat possibly have ordered one, which means I would have to fight for one as well). Just ask Dieter next time before or after training about it, if you wish to buy one.
No, we are not trying to make a fashion statement. Unification is important, and we also want to look good during training... and being comfortable of course. I asked Ollie why the ladies get to wear nice fitted t-shirts, while the men have to wear baggy stuff. It seems the design of the clothing (baggy streetwear) refers to teacher  Mike's root in New York. Actually, if you ever see him performing, watch him as he walks to the front. You will notice his "New York" walk (streetwise), a personal touch before his performance.

I wonder if teacher Mike has seen the movie "The Matrix", in this movie the world is fictional, but the protagonists could wear very cool clothes they like just by imagining. As for us students, we can't do the moves yet, but at least we can still look cool. 

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Sifu or Laoshi?

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)

Working on the new training hall of Wu Tan! (more news later)

Welcome friends of Wu Tan!

Hi there! I would like to welcome you to this blog, dedicated to the spirit of real Kung Fu. We are students of teacher Mike Martello (who is too humble to use the word Master, even though he fits the bill plenty). I have been around teacher Mike for about 2 years now, and though I am an absolute beginner in Kungfu, the culture of this ancient fighting art isn't unfamiliar to me. My parents are Chinese, which means I have been fed with kung Fu soaps and movies (yes, with the funny dubbing, in Chinese as well) from early age. I have 2 uncles who are kung Fu fighters (Hung Gar Choy Lee Fut style), one has a teacher level, whose title he earned from his master (unlike the booming of many self declared masters in the West). He is very known for his superb spear form. The second uncle used to be a vicious streetfighter in the UK. Like in the spirit of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do, he would use the techniques which suit him most and apply it on the street as a mean of survival. He is the first fighter I have met who can effectively apply traditional Kung Fu techniques in a real fighting situation (most Western Kung Fu fighters I have seen would turn back to kick boxing in a fight). 
I have tried many different martial arts from when I was little; As a teenager I got interested in Karate, shotokan style. I did that for about 5 years, then when one day I realised that the Western people are much bigger and stronger than me, I lost my interest in it, as hard muscle force against hard muscle force will always put me into disadvantage.
It was then I have learned Pak Mei Pai Kung Fu in Antwerp, Belgium. The teacher was a great and funny man, who had a great deal of experience and who would let beginners train horsestand for a year before they are allowed to practise anything else. When I entered his school, he changed his teachings by letting beginners punch on boxingbags. Unfortunatly, the horsestand became less important because most of the beginners couldn't cope with the hardship and just left. Although Pak Mei Pai school used chi (breathing) instead of karate's muscles, it was still a hard type of chi. So I quit after a year training (and was better than those 5 years karate!). By 2003, while I was travelling in Japan, the great Pak Mei teacher passed away.
In Japan I was lucky to meet Hirohito Saito sensei, whose late father Morihiro Saito sensei, was the eldest disciple of O-sensei Ueshiba. I have trained at the original dojo of O-sensei Ueshiba under Hirohito Saito sensei, who is a true master in aikido. His style is brutal and efficient. Back in Belgium I was lucky again to meet Wim Van Gils sensei, a very skilled aikido teacher. His aikido style is from  the Tissier lineage and though the opposite of Hirohito's approach (hard, whereas Tissier is more gentle and fluent), Wim Van Gils is very possibly one of the best Aikidoka in Belgium.
Finally, one day, I decided to join a gym for 2 or 3 times a week, but instead I came across teacher Mike Martello's school in Antwerp. I thought I would give it a try and see it as a replacement of the gym.
Then 2 things happened: At first I was pleasantly surprised that, in comparison to all the styles I have learned, teacher Mike is the only one, who would give warming-up excercises so thorough and connected to the forms and the applications, that you wonder why no one else are doing that. The second eye-opener happened after about 2 months, I got hit gently by teacher Mike and from a visual point of view it was just a slap, a swing. Yet the pain it caused on my handpalm was like if I was hit by a sledge hammer wrapped with a cotton cloth. The pain went straight through and felt like a thousand needle going through my hand. This power doesn't come from the muscles, it is an internal "soft" power.
What I am trying to say here, is that with my Chinese background, I have heard rumours about soft Chi and the myth of how it feels like when getting hit by a master with internal chi. But I have never met one who could do this effectively.
Even though I have met all these great, vicious, efficient and powerful masters, I have never encountered one who actually is combat effective with soft internal power. Even my uncle believes in the existence of soft chi, but told me that there aren't many master with this type of skill. It is regarded as much more superior than muscle strengh and more powerful than external or hard Chi. It was then I realised that there is much more to teacher Mike Martello than just an ordinary Western Kung Fu teacher.

Yet watching youtube and other websites, I have noticed the increase of many self declared "masters", who have great skills in marketing but has nothing in the true martial arts. Knowing teacher Mike as too humble to speak out (instead, he is too busy with his art and teaching), I feel the need to put up this blog and let people know that there is true Kung Fu. If it happens by chance or because I wasn't thinking properly and something wrong is written in this blog; forgive this young and naive grasshopper for being blunt and unskilled. There is a long way to go and I hope we will do it together.
Apart from that, Kung Fu is also about making friends, have a laugh, train together, eat together and have a good time. This is the blog from the students from Wu Tan and having a good time is exactly what we are doing. Kung Fu is about finding your way of life.

I hope you all will enjoy.

Superbouncykid (aka just another young grasshopper)