Kung Fu Program
I have been looking for a good Chinese martial arts school for 15 years. I have studied kung fu on both coasts, and I studied t’ai chi in China. I can easily say that this is the best school, with the best teachers, that I have ever found. This school is, in my experience, uniquely great.
First of all, the philosophy of the school is marked by respect and appreciation for Chinese traditions and culture, without slavishly following them. The school’s head teacher (Shifu Brown) is actively researching the history and applications of the original movements of the styles that are taught here. He is seriously trying to find the roots of traditional styles. Yet, he does not resist dropping or modifying movements that have been handed down if they are not practical (think of the acrobatic high kicks and flips you see in modern wushu competitions or in movies; no one really fights like that).
Second, the teaching methodologies employed by the instructors are deliberate, well-thought-through, and respectful of the students. For example, many martial arts schools just throw students into sparring without any serious preparation; it’s survival of the “fittest,” where fittest just means a macho ability to take a hit. In contrast, this school ensures that students have appropriate foundational physical skills, an understanding of sparring theory, as well as appropriate protective equipment, before they are offered the opportunity to participate in this activity.
Another example of this school’s quality is that the level 1 classes emphasize the acquisition of basic skills, rather than simply memorizing forms. This school does not rush you through learning the foundations in order to take meaningless “belt tests,” in an attempt to pander to your ego. Rather, you attain a solid foundation in the martial arts skills that will affect your studies for the rest of your life. You will have good stances, that protect your knees and body, and provide a solid foundation. You will be able to punch and kick correctly, maximizing the power that your body can generate without throwing yourself off balance, exposing yourself to attack, or breaking your hands. At many martial arts schools, the students might know a number of different forms at the end of one year, but they might as well be learning dance routines; their fundamentals suck and they will have to spend years unlearning all their bad habits. Their teachers haven’t focused on the basics, either because they doubt their own ability to make the fundamentals interesting, they don’t have very good fundamentals themselves, or because they just don’t care that much about their students. In contrast, each beginner class that you attend at Plum Blossom incrementally improves your skills and solidifies your grasp of the fundamentals. I always walk away feeling like I’ve made progress, even if it’s just knowing what I need to work on. And they’re fun. 🙂
I would recommend this school without hesitation to anyone who is serious about studying martial arts. Want to do t’ai chi for health? You can do that. Want to be in better physical shape? That will happen here. Think that Chinese martial arts are beautiful and fun to do? You will definitely enjoy the classes. Want to learn true fighting skills that can actually be used in self-defense? You can learn that, too.
I don’t recommend this school to anyone who can’t lay down their macho attitude. This school respects and values all of its students; men, women, and children. If you’re looking for a boot camp atmosphere or a place to indulge your testosterone, you won’t find it here.
I also don’t recommend this school to anyone who’s expecting New-Age touchy-feely dance classes. If you’ve studied t’ai chi at some yoga center, or your local Y, or a “spiritual” retreat, you need to be aware that you have probably been taught things that are not in the spirit of the martial arts, are not really good for your body, and will need to be unlearned. Breathe, accept that fact, accept that the origins of the martial arts are in conflict and that this does not make them less valuable, and move on.
Whew, I guess I have strong opinions on all of this, huh? Anyway, if you think that this school might be the place for you (or your kids), call them up. Come visit. You’ll understand why I believe so strongly in this school.