Tai Chi Weekend II
by Jim Patus
The Second Annual World Dragon Kenpo Tai Chi Weekend was the first weekend of September this year. It was a modest sized group with (besides Coach Pfeiffer) three participants from Wisconsin (Ellen Bruenning, Mike Weisnewski and Bob Williams), four from Indiana (Michael and Roberta Gregory, Jim Patus, and Allen Taylor), and one from Arizona (Kathy Reilly). Two of the attendees (Mike Weisnewski. and Jim Patus) have participated in both the First and Second Annual Tai Chi Weekend.
Our Southern Indiana contingent traveled in two vehicles. Early Friday morning, Michael and Roberta left from their home in Harrison County Indiana and Allen Taylor and I left from Ivy Tech College in Sellersburg. It was a long (6 hour) exhausting drive but well worth it. We arrived in the early afternoon, giving us some time to enjoy the town of Lake Geneva for a while in the afternoon. I found that the calm of Lake Geneva was a nice sedative after a rather hectic work week trying to get ready (rather unsuccessfully) for the trip.
Friday evening several of us attended the Dragon Kenpo class at the Y. Prior to the class Allen Taylor, from the Southern Indiana group, tested (successfully) for his 1st degree brown belt in Dragon Kenpo. Allenís test was very informative, not only for Allen, but for those of us who watched and participated. I was very proud of Allen; he is a very dedicated and versatile martial artist. Allen, under the direction of Coach Pfeiffer, led much of the class Friday evening as part of his test. It was a very vigorous workout!
It was a special pleasure to finally meet Mr. Ken Hansen. I have spent many hours viewing video training footage of Mr. Hansen. I consider him an excellent instructor and I guess Iíve always thought of him as a WDK video celebrity since he appears in so many of the training videos.
There were three Tai Chi sessions for the weekend. There was a Saturday morning session, one Saturday afternoon, and one Sunday morning. Coach Pfeiffer orchestrated every session very smoothly. There was a lot of variety in the activities, never a chance to get bored. I especially enjoyed the Sunday session in which each participant led the group as if it were his or her own class. I found that very useful because I think each of us may have emphasized points that are individually troublesome and were putting a lot of thought into how to correct our less-than-perfect techniques.
This yearís sessions were different from last yearís. Coach Pfeiffer is constantly working to make the workshop even better and certainly the composition of the group affects the group dynamics. Coach Pfeiffer had new material from his own advanced training at Dr. Lamís seminars. Mike W. has also attended Dr. Lamís training and had even more to contribute this year than last. (It boosted my ego when he told me that I was smoother than the last time he saw me; at least I am improving, albeit slowly.)
Saturday afternoon some of us took a trip to the County Fair and had some barbecue with Ronnie Pfeiffer and the Coach. And then there were the fried Twinkies. (Donít ask!) And off to search for the elusive Wisconsin cheese and the much easier to find Spotted Cow, which is not the source of the cheese but got me some brownie points with a dean at the college.
Saturday evening Allen, Michael, and I had a discussion about Coach Pfeiffer and his program, including World Dragon Kenpo, the local program at the Geneva Lakes YMCA, Dr. Lamís Tai Chi, and Coach Pfeifferís involvement with Tai Chi. As Coach Pfeiffer has noted, Allen Taylor is a man of few words. When Allen says something itís usually worth listening to. There were three points that Allen made in our discussion Saturday evening that I thought were particularly well taken. The first was that, in comparing Dragon Kenpo to other martial arts he has studied, it is as effective a method of fighting/self-defense as most any other. The second had to do with Tai Chi giving him the opportunity to express natural smoothness in movement, something we sometimes lose sight of in practicing hard styles. The third had to do with Coach Pfeifferís sincerity and integrity in running his program; this certainly brings out the besting everyone.
The trip home Sunday was uneventful. It seemed long but Allen reminded me that it was six hours, the same as the trip up. Monday was a holiday but it still seemed like a long week trying to catch up. It certainly was an inspirational weekend. I know that Michael and Roberta are interested in pursuing the Sun 73 Forms, Allen has a whole new perspective on Tai Chi as well as his new rank in Dragon Kenpo, and Iím just smiling becauseÖ well, I just am. And I canít wait for next yearís Tai Chi Weekend. Maybe Iíll see you there.
Enjoy the Training
This is a hobby and/or pastime for most of us. You are learning to defend yourself, but you should also be having fun. It will be hard at times, and you may question if it's worth it, but you should enjoying it deep down. If you don't, then find something else. Life is to short.
Every newcomer to martial arts is told to "relax" about a hundred times. It will take time to realize, but is important for productive training.
What they roughly mean is:
a) Pace yourself. Don't try to go all out for 30 seconds, and then be unable to carry on rolling without passing out or throwing up. Learn that a purple complexion suits nobody.
b) Don't be so tense. It will slow you down and make you tire quicker. Not every muscle in your body has to be working at full contraction the whole time!
c) Don't freak out in bad positions or when you're caught in a sub. It's just training. By staying calm and reacting instead of panicking, you'll learn more.
d) Expend your energy as efficiently as possible.
e) Don't try to do moves a hundred times faster than needed (or that your skill level allows). Mechanics and leverage are important, too.
f) Don't try to bully moves. Use what is there, not just what you want. Also, learning when to let go of a move is as important as when to go for one.
g) Head squeezers are not welcome. You're there to learn; not to try and headlock someone to death.
When new students tense, they tend to hold their breath as well. Try to keep a regular breathing pattern. This sounds simple, but you'd be surprised how hard it can be when under pressure. You will gas, anyway, but breathe and you'll last a lot longer.
If you want to learn anything and get good it takes time. You aren't going to be tapping everyone out after a weekís training. Have patience and put in the work, and it'll come.
If you want to make progress, consistent training is the key. A session here and there is not good. Make the effort to attend regular classes. Consistency in attitude is also important.
Simply turning up is not enough. No one else can make you good, and a coach can only guide you. It's down to you. Pay attention and try to get as much out of the class as possible. You should take something from every drill and roll.
If you don't understand something, ask. You are there to learn. Ask more experienced students you train with as well as the coach. If someone keeps catching you with something during training, ask what you are doing wrong. Correcting it will make you both better. As the saying goes "The only stupid question is the one not asked".
Note: Ask relevant questions, don't be the one who asks "Would Bruce Lee beat Rickson Gracie?" when a drill is being explained.
Don't get hurt. If you are caught, tap.
You're supposed to get tapped, and it's part of the game. If you can escape, go for it, but if you're going to get hurt, tap. You don't actually have to be in pain with gritted teeth to tap, since sometimes that is too late!
We all end up learning this the hard way. Anyone with some mat time under his belt can probably think of times he wishes he hadn't been so stubborn and had tapped earlier. Tapping and carrying on with the class is much better than missing sessions while an injury heals.
Don't Be A Jerk With Submissions
Apply the final portion of submissions with slow and even pressure. Do not jerk them on without control. By all means enter quickly into the technique, but when it comes to finishing, you must control the limb and apply pressure slowly.
Be Aware Of The Tap
When you have a submission applied, it is your partnerís job to tap, but it's yours to notice the tap. Don't just wildly apply the submission without being aware of your opponent. He may not be able to use his hands on you, and could signal vocally by tapping the mat or by stamping his feet.
Take injuries seriously.
Another biggie we all learn the hard way, and some of us never get into our thick heads.
If you pick up an injury, stop and get it treated before you go back on the mat. Missing the end of a session to ice an injury and skipping the rest of the week is better than creating a problem which will blight your training for months or even years. Seriously, if you need to take time off, do it.
Going down to watch the classes during your break is encouraged, but only if you can resist going on. If it's too much temptation, find something else to do.
Learn to treat your injuries. R.I.C.E. will be your best friend.
Don't Beat Yourself Up
You WILL get your butt kicked. At the start, you will get tapped frequently. Remember that everyone went through the same thing. Even the best. Even with some experience, you'll always get caught and have days when you get schooled by people you normally beat. Bad sessions are part of training. Don't get discouraged. Have patience, keep training, and try to enjoy the workout.
You can learn a lot from watching others. Being able to see and understand what others are doing will increase your understanding. You may be able to pick up a technique, detail or movement that will help your game. Everyone has their own way of grappling. Differing styles can teach you different things.
Also, studying someone better than you and modeling how they roll can be a good way to make progress.
Shouldn't really need to include this but you never know.
Wash your kit every session. Wash yourself every session. Keep nails trimmed.
Show respect to the people you train with.
On the mat, keep your partners safety in mind, and don't go bullying less experienced players.
Off the mat, taking trash is part of being a team, but bad blood and gossip can kill a group.
"Leave Your Ego At The Door"
This is a motto at many clubs. Training can be competitive, but you are there to learn, not fight. Training and drilling are about improving performance, and not "winning." Don't bring your insecurities to the mat.
Position, Position, Position
Good position skills are what make a good grappler.
Pin escapes and guard passing are the two most important aspects of your skill set. They are what you are going to need when rolling with better opponents. Add to that your pinning game and sweeps. This should be your focus, not only when you start training, but always.
Submissions are great fun but good position skills are where it's at. They are what get you to the sub and keep you out of bad positions. Not much point learning a submission combo from the mount if you can't get there or hold the position.
The Fundamentals Are Your Friends
Spending the time on the fundamentals is the way to become proficient at grappling.
The "basics" may seem a boring after a few months, but in time you will see the depth of understanding there is to gain in their application. Little nuances will become apparent, and you will have the foundation to take your game to the next level.
Learn To Do The Things You Hate To Do
We all have areas we need to train but try to put off. It may be your side control escapes, your penetration step, or your leg kick. You need to learn to enjoy this training. It is focusing on these areas that improve your game. Not relying on your strong moves. Train for the things you dislike in the knowledge you're making progress and putting in that extra bit of effort others at your club might not apply.
Finding a good drilling partner is great for making progress. Someone that understands how you train, and will challenge you.
However, training with just one or two people can put you in a rut. Make sure you roll or spar with as wide a cross section of the club as possible.
"Set daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. Write them down and share them with someone close to you." - Randy Couture
You must constantly set realistic and relevant goals, have a plan to achieve them, and stick to it. Goals keep you motivated and give you a map for improvement.
Performance Is Your Guide
When evaluating your physical skills in fighting/martial arts the only thing that matters is performance. Performance is measured by success against a resisting opponent (i.e. sparring and live drilling).
Get plenty of sleep and rest. Your body needs time for recuperation, repair and growth. Over-training, tiredness and stress will all hamper performance.
Your nutrition is you fuel. You must find a good balance in your food, drink and supplements to support your training.
The Big Picture
Remember that fighting ability doesn't mean much in the big picture. If it brings enjoyment to your life, that's brilliant. But at your funeral, do you want the mourners missing you and grieving over the loss or saying "Well, he had a really tight side control?" Be nice and let your family and friends know how much you love them.
Newly Promoted Brown Belt Comments
A Former Student from Virginia Tech Discusses the Tragedy
By Steve Amoia
Our theme this month is humility. I remember something that Grandmaster Ed Parker said about Elvis Presley after their initial meeting: ďHe came over and introduced himself to me. He didnít assume I knew who he was. He was genuinely humble.Ē Being humble is not a common character trait of the famous, not to mention the rest of us. Like a great warrior who only fights when all other means fail, a humble man or woman doesnít wear their egos on their sleeves.
Dr. Alfred C. Thompson, who is a clinical psychologist, was born and raised in the West African nation of Sierra Leone. He has been a social services and mental health professional for over twenty years. Presently, Dr. Thompson is employed by the City of Rockville, Maryland, in their Youth and Family Services division. He is licensed as a psychologist by the Commonwealth of Virginia, along with the States of Maryland and New York, respectively.
Dr. Thompson earned his undergraduate degree in Behavioral Sciences from the University of Maryland at College Park, and his graduate degree in Clinical Psychology from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He obtained his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Last May, Dr. Thompson visited his alma mater to perform voluntary counseling services after the tragic events of April 16th, 2007.
Dr. Thompson kindly consented to an interview from his unique perspective as a mental health and social services professional, along with as a concerned member of the Virginia Tech community. His commentary represents his own personal views, and does not represent the City of Rockville and/or others that employ his services.
For most of us who did not know much about Virginia Tech or Blacksburg, the media images were of a close-knit community with a deep affection for their school. As a former student, would you care to elaborate about the unique nature of this community?
Because of the population size, and the closeness of the community, everything is tied around the University. This is a town where the University closes down in the summer, when most of the students are gone, the McDonald's with twenty employees is reduced to a mere three persons. For example, the campus is not as big as the University of Maryland at College Park. All the buildings are built out of stone; it looks like a fortress from medieval times. It is a very nice and clean campus. Everything is slow. People don't drive fast in Blacksburg. Life is slower, and very different. It was a very bad thing that happened to a very nice school.
You have counseled a great variety of people and situations during your career. How would you gauge the mood of the Virginia Tech community, both from a general perspective, along with a more personal level?
It was very solemn. Because in smaller communities, you don't expect this. People were still in shock. It is not expected in a small college town. They really don't know how to deal with it. They took it very personal. I'm not a resident there, but the fact is that you belong to that community to a certain degree. They asked us, those alumni with counseling experience, to come down to help. If you walk into that campus, you would shed tears. It was like the Titanic.
In terms of respect and privacy for the victims, their families, friends, students, and employees of the University, how would you evaluate the overall media coverage and presence during the initial days after the tragedy?
You can look at it two ways: People who live in bigger cites, like ours (Washington metropolitan area), want to see and know everything. In a small-niche community, from a mental health standpoint, people think that they can support each other. That is what has happened in rural parts of this country. They believe in supporting each other. They rely on that support. Emotionally and psychologically.
When you compare it to other parts of the country, you will find their values are very different than in metropolitan areas. The media didn't respect boundaries in the sense that what was on TV should have been kept from being publicized out of respect to the families.
NBC decided to release a video tape, pictures, and declarations by Cho Seung-Hui two days after the tragic event. In your opinion as a mental health professional, was the decision to air this tape, along with Cho's statements and images, in the best interests of all concerned?
It was disrespectful to the families. As I mentioned before, they (media) don't respect boundaries very well. Regardless of the families' wishes, they were not respected. They worried about who was first to tell the story. They should have investigated. But this was the first time, on such a large scale, that this ever happened. These factors should be taken into consideration. The majority of the victims were very young adults. When you compare the age of those who were killed versus those who were killed in Iraq, it seems that we don't value that age group anymore. We, in bigger cities, are immune when we see this age group die all the time. People in larger metropolitan areas, in my opinion, could cope with this situation better.
Can you please comment upon voluntary and involuntary psychiatric commitment in the Commonwealth of Virginia?
He had a lot of mental health issues that were identified. Red flags were raised. The evil in all of this is the fact that you can't involuntarily commit a person until they are deemed harmful to themselves or others. What came into play, in my opinion, was that he was a student, and they didn't want to stigmatize him. He threatened suicide, one of the roommates reported it to the authorities, he voluntarily went to a psychiatric facility, and shortly thereafter was adjudicated to have a mental illness.
Involuntarily, through court orders, you can get someone committed. As an adult, in this case, his family could have committed him, but they would have to go to court and obtain an emergency petition. A family member or significant other, in the legal sense, can do this. Authorities, like social services, can come to take charge when family or next of kin are not present.
This whole thing relies on how we see mental health in this country. Stigma and culture also plays a lot into the equation. Even if his parents knew that he was not behaving within society's norms, they deal with these issues differently. People from non-Western cultures (Dr. Thompson is from Sierra Leone) deal with mental health very differently. They tend to keep mental health issues within the family.
How can we help the community of Virginia Tech and Blacksburg?
The University and student community have set up funds to help families who lost loved-ones, and for those who were affected at Virginia Tech.
If you would like to donate to the funds, here are two secure online links:
Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund
Fund in Honor or Memory of the Victims
For more information, you may call 1-800-533-1144.
Dr. Thompson, thank you for consenting to this discussion, along with your insights and opinions.
You are quite welcome, Steve.
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Ed Dellacroce, began his martial art journey in 1979 with Shaolin Kempo. Currently, he holds a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Dragon Kenpo and North Carolina State Director. Ed teaches a self defense street version at ABI's Mixed Martial Arts Studio in Goldsboro, NC. Currently working as a Police officer for the State of NC, and working police and protection for the NC General Assembly. You can contact him at email@example.com.
Randall Hall grew up in and around San Antonio, Texas. Randall is Second Degree Black Belt in Dragon Kenpo and Texas State Director for World Dragon Kenpo. He has trained in many martial arts but settled on Dragon Kenpo after in injury prevented him from continuing his training in his current school. First training under Joe Whittington at Combat Kenpo Academy, Randy moved to World Dragon Kenpo to train under Coach Ron. "Dragon Kenpo lets me progress at my own pace and applies a Keep It Simple approach to martial arts that I really enjoy." Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Patus, the Indiana State Director of WDK, began studying Kodokan Judo over 40 years ago. He is a first degree black belt in World Dragon Kenpo. He has studied Shotokan karate and has fenced competitively in both foil and epee. He began Dragon Kenpo under Ed Hutchison and has completed the Combat Kenpo Fighting Academy curriculum; he now trains under Coach Pfeiffer through WDK. Jim is a member of the International Ryukyu Karate Research Society and the Universal Martial Arts Association. As professor of Biology at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana Sellersburg his teaching specialty is environmental science with research interests in human population dynamics and fish ecology. Jim may be reached at email@example.com.