What is the Lunar New Year?

launching a balloon

What is the Lunar New Year? It is the start of the year for calendars that use the lunar cycle, from new moon to dark moon, as their months which form a year. Some countries such as China use a combination of lunar months and solar cycles known as the lunisolar calendar[1]. In Vietnamese communities, the new year is known as Tet. For Korean communities, it is Seollal. In Chinese cultures, it is often called the Spring Festival.

The Lunar New Year is‟… [the] festival typically celebrated in China and other Asian countries that begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later.[2]” In San Diego, where we have many people from various Asian cultures, it is a big city-wide event celebrated over the weekend. From my experience with corporate life, in China and elsewhere, the whole community shuts down for the 15 days to celebrate. This is akin to how the US shuts down for two weeks between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
It is traditional to clean your house before the Spring Festival to ensure good luck for the coming year by sweeping out the bad luck. ‟Also on New Year’s day, family members receive red envelopes (lai see) containing small amounts of money. Dances and fireworks are prevalent throughout the holidays, culminating in the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated on the last day of the New Year’s celebrations.[2]”

The red envelopes contain money, usually in the form of coins. This represents having a prosperous new year when you start with money in hand. The envelopes are given you children from their parents and other family members. The festival is filled with sweets and favorite foods, which means you’ll have sweetness in the new year. The celebration is about starting off the new year on the right step, setting up your luck and prosperity.

The tradition of celebrating the New Year on the lunar cycle is thousands of years old. There is a story told of a monstrous beast who eats humans every New Year’s Day. People figured out that the beast feared the color red, fire, and loud noises. This is the mythical reason for the firecrackers, red decorations, and lanterns. They drive off evil spirits and bad luck.[2]

Here are some things you should know about the Lunar New Year celebration.

  • It’s not called Chinese New Year, even in China.
  • It’s not one day. It lasts for 15 days.
  • It’s the season for superstitions.
  • There are words to avoid because they sound like things which are bad luck.
  • Firecrackers scare away monsters.
  • Wear red for good luck.
  • It’s time for sweets, so take a break from your diet or no-sweets resolution.
  • It has its own movie genre in China and Hong Kong.
  • The customs and traditions vary from country to country, and region to region.
  • Enjoy the celebration!

Look for your local celebration of Lunar New Year. In San Diego, there is a big celebration in the City Heights area every year. As they say in Cantonese, ‟Gong Hay Fat Choi” or Happy New Year!

[1] Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_New_Year
[2] Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Lunar-New-Year
[3] CNN, https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/lunar-new-year-things-to-know/index.html

6 Tips for an Unbeatable New Year’s Resolution

dailycalendarIt is the time of the year to set your new resolution. What is the resolution? Think of it as a goal for the next year. You want to start something or stop something. Usually, that something is a behavior or habit. Experience and cultural expectations tell us that you’ll stop implanting your resolution by the end of January, February at the latest.

This year, resolve to beat that expectation and reach your goal.

  1. Decide what behavior you want to change. Do you want to start something or stop something? Is it because you want to do it or because you think you should? I suggest you do something you are motivated to do. You need passion. If you are doing it for lackluster reasons, you’re doomed to struggle or fail.
  2. We’ll implement SMART goal system. Make your goal specific. The S in SMART. Pick something very clear and easy to identify. If your goal is too vague, it will be difficult to keep it in mind.
  3. You need a way to measure your progress. This is the M in SMART. How will you know if you are doing well or on course if you don’t know how to track your progress?
  4. You should make your goal achievable. The A in SMART. The goal should be realistically attainable using your plan and will power. The goal should also play into your overall vision or multi-year plan for your life. How do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
  5. The goal or resolution should be relevant to your life or situation. The best goals are personal goals that mean something to you.
  6. Timely is the T in SMART. This means there is s deadline for your resolution. The best deadlines are soon rather than later or a year off. You need some time pressure to fortify your will power to stay the course. Set a deadline that is reasonable and achievable. If you are tracking your progress, you can adjust the deadline to fit with setbacks or changes to your situation.
  7. Bonus tip! Just like in martial arts, you need to break down challenges into digestible chunks. This is the key to success and victory. Make a big goal into several, smaller goals that lead up to your success. That’s why we use colored ranks leading up to Black Belt.

When you have a plan and a goal, your objective or target will most likely be achieved and successful. Follow these tips to change your life little by little. Need a few sample goals? I know you did.

  • Start training in martial arts at Golden Leopard Kempo!
  • A former member? Restart your Kempo lessons with a reactivation program?
  • Already an active member? Consider upgrading to a more challenging program like the Black Belt Club.
  • Start a bullet journal or diary to track your thoughts and ideas.
  • Get active and join our smoking hot Kickboxing class at Golden Leopard Kempo.
  • Write a cool article for our blog. Send it to our staff for consideration.

There you have it, a great start to the New Year with a little planning and preparation. There is no stress if you map out a route to follow. It doesn’t have to be the plan or route for the entire year. It’s just a place to start. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Take that step.

Americanization of the Martial Arts

On guard position

On guard position

It is no secret that Asian martial arts are incredibly popular in the United States. Any given town may have two or three Korean Tae Kwon Do schools, a few Okinawan karate schools, a Chinese kung fu school or two, and a handful of Judo, Aikido, Jiu Jitsu, and other schools scattered about. The prospective martial arts student can pick and choose which style appeals to him or her most and is even free to combine elements from multiple styles. Such was not the case in the founding days of the martial arts, when arts were passed on from student to teacher in a direct lineage. It was not always easy to find a teacher, and the student had to spend a lifetime mastering the art. There was no “picking and choosing”, no shopping for styles and masters. So how have the martial arts integrated into western consumer culture? Quite well, actually. The freedom to pick and choose has allowed the blending of styles that have been separated for centuries. In the end, we are seeing the emergence of a truly American class of fighting styles. This conglomeration of fighting arts is a melting pot, much as America itself is.

It should be pointed out early on that this article makes many sweeping generalizations that are not true of many particular martial arts schools and styles. Some schools proved to be adaptable to local influences almost immediately, while others have retained their traditional characteristics for decades. This article is not intended to say that one way is better than another. It is just an observation of how the martial arts scene, overall, in America is changing.

The first wave of the martial arts boom in the United States occurred in the years directly following World War II. American servicemen stationed in the east discovered the strange, effective fighting arts of Japan while based in the region as part of the post war occupational force. The primary martial art that was introduced at this time was Judo, which was popular in mainland Japan, along with some forms of empty hand martial arts from the island of Okinawa. These Okinawan arts are collectively known by their Japanese name–the words “kara” meaning “empty” and “te” meaning “hand” combine to form the now common word “karate” or “empty hand.” The second wave was an interest in Chinese forms of martial arts (kung fu), largely popularized by the demonstrations and movie and TV roles of Bruce Lee in the nineteen-sixties. The martial arts enthusiasts of generation X can largely trace their martial arts influences to the Karate Kid movies.

Yet, through all of the decades of martial arts practice in America, martial arts remained firmly rooted in its oriental culture and tradition. Classes began with salutations in Japanese or Chinese, and the same languages were used to count out punches and kicks during drills. The more closely the American martial arts schools held to the traditions of their forbearers, the more the art was respected. Schools that integrated oriental martial arts with American boxing and wrestling were often viewed as having somehow “watered down” the traditional nature of their art.

Those views have been slowly changing over time, and mixed martial arts (MMA), which combines striking arts with wrestling and grappling arts, has become an accepted class of martial arts in its own right. This has been particularly highlighted by the success of the Ultimate Fighting circuit, which is as close to no holds barred fighting as you’ll find in modern sports. The early Ultimate Fighting Championships featured competitors who were essentially one dimensional. Someone might be a boxer, a grappler, a karate practitioner, or something else, but rarely did you see true mixed martial artists. However, the one dimensional fighters soon found themselves outmatched by the more versatile MMA competitors. This was most stunningly highlighted recently when Royce Gracie, Jiu Jitsu master and the winner of three of the first four Ultimate Fighting Championships, was defeated soundly in his return match by Matt Hughes, a modern MMA fighter.

Does this mean that traditional martial arts have been supplanted by the new breed of MMA styles? Absolutely not. Rather, it just goes to show that, even in the martial arts, there is not one size that fits all. Clearly, if you are fighting three five minute rounds in a chain link octagon, then MMA might be the way to go. However, who can say what would work best in a real world confrontation? Besides, as any true martial arts practitioner knows, the true value of studying the martial arts comes not in finding ways to beat your opponent–rather, the real challenge is to face down your own failings and become the best person you can be.

Guest Writer bio: Gary Russell is a freelance writer, martial arts practitioner, and software engineer. He is the founder of TopSearch Consulting, a full service web content and keyword article provider.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/220456

Yes, you too could be a guest writer on my blog. Email me your article idea and we’ll talk. I’ve used guest writers for my monthly newsletter years ago and I’ll do it again.

Blocks from Canada

karate kata 1I got an email regarding my last post on Blocking Sets from my friend and fellow instructor Marlon Anthony Wilson. Here’s what he had to say:

Interestingly I added a “blocking set” to my white belt curriculum.

  1. Advance block 1
  2. Advance block 2
  3. Go back block 3
  4. Go back block 4
  5. Turn block 5 (turn to 6:00)
  6. Advance block 6
  7. Turn block 7 (turn to 12:00)
  8. Advance block 8
  9. close

I use it to help emphasize stepping heel to toe when moving forward and toe to heel when stepping back. As well as “everything moves together – everything stops together.”

Nice to see your write up.

Thanks for your response. Stay warm up north during this harsh winter.

Moving Blocking Set 1

Correcting a child's body positionMoving sets allows the students to practice blocking techniques while moving and against a prearranged, predictable attack. We use these for white and yellow belts after they learn how to move (Half-moon steps) and how to block (blocking set 1). Now the student needs to do both at the same time — a real challenge at first.

Moving Set #1a (Two person)
Defender:
Half moon backward, perform block 1
Half moon backward, perform block 2
Half moon backward, perform block 3
Half moon backward, perform block 4
Half moon backward, perform block 5
Half moon backward, perform block 6
Half moon backward, perform block 7
Half moon backward, perform block 8

Attacker:
Half moon forward, perform a punch
Half moon forward, perform a punch
Half moon forward, perform a shuto
Half moon forward, perform a shuto
Half moon forward, perform a hammer
Half moon forward, perform a hammer
Half moon forward, perform a low punch or front kick
Half moon forward, perform a low punch or front kick

Moving Set #1b (Solo)
Salutation
Half moon forward, perform block 1
Half moon forward, perform block 2
Half moon backward, perform block 3
Half moon backward, perform block 4
Pivot to the right, perform block 5
Half moon turn 180, perform block 6
Half moon in a horse stance facing front, perform blocks 7 and 8
Close

The last set is much like a mini-kata and should be thought of as a practice technique to synchronize moving and hitting. Remember that blocks are strikes towards an offensive strike. Do you have another way of practicing blocks? Let me know.

You Do What You Practice

Setting up for an arm lock

Setting up for an arm lock

The most important aspect of martial arts practice, especially for Kempo, is actually working the techniques on human bodies. Partner work is very important because you develop the muscle memory in this type of training. Partner training also provides visual feedback about where the opponent is hit and how does the opponent reacts. By working with various body sizes, weights and abilities, you get a sense for how different people will react and how you can adjust for variations.

Often times when classmates work together, they go soft on each other. They don’t want to hit the sensitive or vital points. Aim for the target you wish to hit. Don’t practice missing on purpose just to be nice to your fellow student. It develops bad habits and faulty muscle memory. Rather, stop before you hit the target. It is easier to add more power and distance to your strike than it is to redirect bad muscle memory.

But what about the dreaded horse stance? How is that useful?

It teaches you proper knee orientation and weight distribution. The horse stance conditions the knees, legs, and hips for what is expected of them during Kempo techniques and kata. But it is not a fighting stance.

A master from another art once asked me why we practice from a horse stance. I gave him my patent answer, the one I give my students and accept as an instructor. But he didn’t buy it. He felt it was more important to practice the stances you are going to use from the beginning. Going through phases in stance work is not good for the student and slows down active defense skill.

Now I have to re-evaluate how I teach others. I still haven’t changed the method of instruction yet but this conversation still lingers in my mind. It speaks to a truth about training that can not be rejected just because our methods work too. His insight is very telling about the effectiveness of Kyu-ranked students — they are lacking in adequate fighting skills due to our training crutches.

The focus of all our drilling and memorization is to hone our physical skills. This feeds into something that isn’t done nearly enough in most schools and definitely needs more repetition in our schools — doing drills. These are important to develop timing, gauging, and balance when working with another person. In Arnis, the drills “picking” and “sinawali” are great examples of this.

Have you ever worked on a drill that you thought were great? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you ever did something you practiced in class but it didn’t work right in the field, I’d love to hear about it too.

Kicking Sets

Great side kick.Kempo is known for its fast hand work, wrist locks, and rapid-fire punches. We aren’t known for our kicking skills. Though it may be due to Kempo masters’ belly size, I rather attribute it to a lack of focus in class. Kempo emphasizes keeping the left and right hand balanced. This concept should also apply to hands and feet. Below are four of our kicking routines.

Kicking Set #1
Half moon forward with a front ball kick (4 times)
Half moon backward with front ball kick (4 times)
Repeat with different kick

Kicking Set #2
Half moon forward with a front ball kick
While still in a crane stance, pivot and side blade kick to the front
Set the foot down in a half moon stance to new direction (the kicking leg is the rear leg)
Repeat until you’re facing the front
Repeat with the other leg
Repeat with lead leg

Kicking Set #3
Perform series of kicks down a straight line.
Alternate legs.
Turn in a fighting stance and repeat down the line again.

Kick series:

  • Roundhouse, spinning back and front ball kick.
  • Crescent, spinning reverse crescent and roundhouse.
  • Crescent, spinning wheel, roundhouse.
  • Roundhouse, spinning hook, spinning axe.
  • Dragon tail sweep, dragon tail sweep, front two knuckle punch.

Note that each series should require you to repeat the same kicks using the other leg. Keep both legs balanced.

Kicking Set #4
Attacker kicks
Defender slap blocks and returns kick
Defender becomes new Attacker and kicks with the other leg
Repeat at brisk pace

GM Gascon told me that we rarely kick above the belt because the hands are better forms of attack for that area. Likewise, the kick is an excellent attack for the legs and pelvis. However, we should practice our kicks high and fast to develop flexibility, speed, and accuracy.

I hope you enjoy these insights into our curriculum. If you have kicking exercises you’d like to share, email them to me. I turned off comment section recently because nothing but spam appears in the comments. I’d love to add some other examples from other schools, especially Kempo schools.