Recently in the online community RumSoaked Fist, Dr. Kenneth Fish has expressed a lament in the lack of jibengong being taught to new students. Dr. Fish then goes on to elaborate that there needs to be more leg lifts, goblet and pistol squats, crescent kicks and so forth for any martial arts foundation. Many of these exercises are present in styles like Aunkai and I see some of this in other style DVDs. I have been reviewing many videos of these exercises and think they would be quite helpful for my own training advancement. Unfortunately when I try to approach a local school for instruction in a similar manner I am out of luck. Other martial artists have expressed similar experiences to Dr. Fish’s and they are grateful their teachers took the time to invest in their gong fu. Scott Phillips made a great post about it on his blog: http://northstarmartialarts.com/blog1/?p=2449
Do you agree with Dr. Fish’s assertions? Also, for leg strength and flexibility, which exercises do you recommend most and which DVDs do you think best represent these exercises?
A really good question, though not as straightforward as it looks. I find myself in head-nodding harmony with Dr. Kenneth Fish, that the essential training has lightened up considerably. But to my mind—and I think Dr. Fish might agree—that doesn’t mean ‘just do more leg squats’ and other exercises. In reality, the common version of these exercises, which everyone would find comfortable and agree to, would be insufficient.
As in the Phillips piece, you will note that the five exercises of George Xu and Master Ye were slowly “customized” to the specifics of their style over the hundred day training time. The same is true with Bing Gong and his inch-by-inch adjustments. This, not just the exercises, is the point of the discussion. Yes, leg strengthening and other forms of JiBenGong are important, even crucial but—as anyone who has studied with authentic teachers will agree—the same strength training under each teacher will differ; sometimes a bit, sometimes a bucket. JiBenGong means foundation training, not strength training alone. The foundation is as big a change to the nervous system as the growth of muscles. It is not quite the same thing as the newer “everything goes” styles that borrow from here and there. This open-door policy is more a “social” statement about us martial artists, how we should have more community, that we get bored with the same old training, that we want to look good just as much as we want to be good, and all the other errors that we humans are heir to.
As Paulie Zink said, there were darn few people who could even do his basics. Whether or not they would want to is another story, but he is a perfect example of the JiBenGong matched truly to its style. Being able to do front and side splits would only qualify for the blue parking zone with him. One can, of course, go the other, less discerning, route: do hundreds of leg presses, pump up those thighs and you will have great legs; nothing wrong with that. But you will also find that your horse stance, for instance, takes on a new form, looking a lot like a leg squat. This is an example of the style adapting to the exercise. In some cases, because you know the range of the style like MMA, you have no problem; all exercises are going to a common goal. In the case of your Zumba class exercises teaching you martial skills, that’s another matter.
The hardest thing in the martial arts is to keep on track.
Best in the Martial Arts,