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Johnny Kuo's blog

Tuning In

Submitted by Johnny Kuo on Thu, 02/13/2014 - 22:51

"Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house." ~Ezekiel 12:2 (New American Standard Bible)

A good portion of learning I-Liq Chuan is learning to recognize what you are seeing. It is not that the advanced practitioner has achieved some mysterious power or superhuman senses. Rather it is something much more mundane: they have better control of how they perceive reality. Sifu uses the analogy of learning to be like a receiver, specifically an FM radio. The information (radiofrequency waves) is already out there and the antennas are up, but information from the radio waves is not clear until the frequencies are tuned in. Everybody receives information through the same senses, but not everyone tunes in as effectively to perceive what they are actually sensing.

Training Mistakes

Submitted by Johnny Kuo on Thu, 09/19/2013 - 23:05

Mistakes are part of the training process. Stumbling a bit while exploring beyond your comfort zone is par for the course. Recognizing the mistakes and correcting them is essential to make progress. I didn’t see my mistakes at the time (hindsight is 20/20). Looking back on my training, I’ve made plenty of mistakes that were obstacles to my progress. Here are a few of the bigger ones.

Thinking there is a perfect stance

This misconception probably came from my tai chi days and playing with people only doing stationary push hands. I used to have the idea that I could train to perfect my stance so that my structure would be rooted to take any force. It is easy to fall into this sort of thinking at the early stages of training since you are learning to align your structure, and your feedback generally comes in the form of simple static stance pulls and pushes.

What a child can teach you about learning gongfu

Submitted by Johnny Kuo on Thu, 10/25/2012 - 23:43

Babies start their lives with very limited movement abilities, and yet they can learn to crawl and walk largely on their own. They focus their attention on themselves to wire up the neural pathways that allow them control their bodies and feel what their bodies can sense. Learning gong fu as an adult requires a similar sort of focused attention to develop the body control and awareness that will allow the skill to manifest. The mindful physical practice establishes the movement foundation that allows the art to be expressed.

Why I-Liq Chuan?

Submitted by Johnny Kuo on Thu, 06/28/2012 - 22:52

I haven’t given the question much thought in a while since I had already long since decided to focus on ILC.  But now that I teach as well as study the art, it is a question I have to answer with some regularity. After I was recently asked about the specific distinguishing characteristics of ILC, I finally sat down and revisited the question.


Squats, hip rhythm, and projecting

Submitted by Johnny Kuo on Tue, 03/13/2012 - 23:43

One of the things that I find painful to observe when I go to the gym is watching people do squats.  It’s a basic movement that gets butchered since our sedentary lifestyles have made us forget how to move from the hips.  Instead, what happens when people squat is mostly poorly coordinated movements starting from the knees.  Rather than try to explain this in text, I find that Kelly Starrett’s video post about squatting is easier to visualize:


MobilityWOD squat video


Skill is not automatic

Submitted by Johnny Kuo on Fri, 09/16/2011 - 03:14

Achieving proficiency in a martial art requires certain abilities.  However, the abilities themselves do not equate to high level proficiency.  To achieve mastery of an art requires developing skill.  Skill and ability are related concepts, but are distinct.  The difference between the two is subtle, and I have not always had the best explanation to distinguish them when I get into a discussion with others.  But after reading through Geoff Colvin's "Talent is Overrated," I see that the difference between the two can be succintly stated: skill is not automatic.

Physics of Fajin, Pt. 2

Submitted by Johnny Kuo on Fri, 09/09/2011 - 02:30

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out fajin, but you might want to use a little rocket math to understand it. The force equation is a fundamental relationship for understanding how rockets get off the ground.  In the last blog post, we left off mentioning how we need acceleration to generate enough momentum over short distances.  For our purposes, we can use the force equation to analyze how it is possible to generate enough velocity and momentum for a short distance attack.


Rocket Science


Physics of Fajin, Pt. 1

Submitted by Johnny Kuo on Thu, 09/01/2011 - 22:10

Being a science sort of guy, I like understanding mechanisms of how things work. Tying in concepts from biology, physics, and neuroscience into martial arts training is something I can totally geek out to. In my mind, demystifying martial arts esoterica using science is a good thing. However, science is sometimes used incorrectly to justify certain principles and phenomena  Fajin--the issuing of power--can be understood within the framework of sound science; it does not have to reside solely in the realm of qi, magic, superhuman abilities, or hand waved pseudo-science. 

Here’s my attempt to properly apply classical physics to the often mysticized fajin.

Horizontal Control and the Four Strategies

Submitted by Johnny Kuo on Thu, 04/07/2011 - 22:33

When gaining the upper hand position, getting to the horizontal usually works to your advantage. Dropping your opponents into the horizontal plane in effect closes them in the up-down dimension. This makes it much more difficult for them to project force against you and is getting the upper hand into position to attack. From the lower hand horizontal position, it is tougher to achieve the spacing necessary to strike in. To strike from the lower hand position, the elbow extends and the shoulder flexes to straighten the arm. If this starts from the horizontal, the point of contact quickly rolls to the outside the sphere of defense of the upper hand defender. In effect, it's not possible to just slip through when the upper hand has established horizontal control.

NC March 2011 Workshop Recap

Submitted by Johnny Kuo on Fri, 03/25/2011 - 10:41

Last weekend, I made my regularly planned trip down to NC to train with Sifu at the NC ILC workshop.  As always, I left with a lot of stuff to work on.  I find going to workshops to be highly informative.  This is not just because of the knowledge that gets presented, but also because I get feedback from touching hands with more and different people than I normally would.  Interacting with different people gives me access to people with different feels, which is invaluable for learning to put principles into action.

This workshop focused a bit more on spinning hands and the five elements.  I have to go back and review my video footage to fully summarize what was taught, but here are some of the things that I personally got out of the workshop: