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Pearls Of Wisdom: The White Dragon School Blog

A Choy Li Fut joint locking demonstration by Master Nathan Fisher at an exhibition in 2003.

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White_Dragon_Martial_Arts_-_Safety_First.jpgMartial arts -- the term is based on fighting. Originally, martial arts training was often the deciding factor in life and death combat situations. Some martial arts started with armies, where soldiers learned the military art of survival at the enemy’s expense. Others were developed for common people who needed to defend their families and possessions.

Today, the fighting aspect of martial arts is for self-defense . Our modern society says that settling disputes by first or weapon fights is antisocial and illegal. So we learn self-defense, on the premise that it might just save our lives someday -- and it might.

However, there’s a big difference between self-defense fighting, where anything goes to save yourself from bodily harm, and sparring, the most common expression of martial arts fighting. Too many people seem to think that sparring and fighting are one and the same. If you’re tough in the studio or tournament, you’ll be tough on the street, because fighting is what it’s all about.

Wrong. Self-defense fighting and sparring are two entirely different things. Those of you who teach martial arts are going to have to realize that, because the number of injuries across the country in martial arts schools and tournaments is forcing insurance companies and state regulatory agencies to crack down on the concept of sparring.

Although it may have been rough and tough in the good old days of the survival of the fittest, things are different now. Major insurance companies are telling school owners and tournament promoters that no head contact is allowed in the school or at tournament. They’re requiring students and competitors to wear protective head, hand and foot gear, or they won’t carry the school’s insurance policy.

I don’t know about other states, but California’s martial arts tournaments are regulated by the state athletic commission. They put out a rule book every year, nicknamed the “red book”. Here’s how the red book describes martial arts sparring contests.

Article Two, Section 18627 defines the term full and light contact for martial arts. It says, “Full contact means the use of full unrestrained physical force in a martial arts contest. Light contact means the use of controlled martial arts techniques whereby contract to the body is permitted in a restrained manner, no contact to the face is permitted, and no contact is permitted which may result or is intended to result in physical harm to the opponent.”

In California, all full-contact, and that includes head contact, contests must be licensed by either the state athletic commission or the Amateur Athletic Union. So if you’re putting on a tournament that allows any head contact, and it’s not license, you’re breaking the law. Of course, if your insurance carrier finds out, they probably won’t honor any claim from your tournament.

What amazes me in the very few California tournament promoters who are even aware that their tournaments come under state jurisdiction, much less know the laws about light and full contact. Even though California’s law is clear, many people still misunderstand, allowing what they call kiss contact or light head contact in their tournaments. Each year these promoters unwittingly sponsor illegal martial arts contests. Since California is planning to crack down on such events, those unknowing promoters may unfortunately find out the hard way.

Many schools advertise full-contact training. It’s legal to train full-contact fighters in schools, at least in California. Boxing (kickboxing and mma) gyms do it all the time. However, are these martial arts schools really full-contact schools? Are the students actually knocked out during training? Do they allow punches and kicks to the face? Remember the insurance companies say that if you allow contact to the face, there could be a chance of knocking out the student with a blow to the head of his head striking the floor on the way down.

Personally, I think that insurance companies are right. Today’s martial art schools are not the same as in the old days. Not only can a blow to the head cause injuries, it can create negative feeling in the school. Sometimes when students get punched or kicked in the face, they lose their tempers and fight back in anger. And, for those of us who teach minors, parents hate to see their child injured.

That controversy about pulling punches ruining your ability to actually hit something is not true. You can use bags for power and penetration. If you can hit your opponent’s body in sparring practice, you’ll still have plenty of ability to hit a face in self-defense.

Don’t misunderstand me. I teach sparring and I teach self-defense. Most self-defense techniques cannot be practiced safely in sparring class, so students develop their fighting power on bags, dummies, forms practice, and two-person sets. Sparring is a way to develop better timing, tactical knowledge, footwork, reflexes, and awareness.

by Doc Fai Wong

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White Dragon Martial Arts is proud to host our annual seminars with Grandmaster Doc Fai Wong. Grandmaster Wong is one of the highest level Choy Li Fut Kung Fu and Tai Chi masters in the world. He comes to San Diego to work exclusively with White Dragon students.

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The biomechanics of the measured, flowing movements of tai chi demonstrate...

If you’re familiar with exercise, you know that speed is an important factor to control. For common exercises like running and weight lifting, volumes of research has shown that it’s generally necessary to move faster for a more intense cardio workout and to make measured, controlled movements for building muscles. Other workouts, like mind-body exercises (e.g., yoga and tai chi), are somewhat harder to pin down. They aren’t cardio exercises, nor are they strictly muscle building.

The slow, flowing movements of mind-body exercises have been around for centuries, and they have been shown to help people develop balance,flexibility, and muscle function. Consequently, they’ve been increasing in popularity, both for physical therapy and personal enjoyment. While these exercises are widely practiced around the world, the biomechanical basis for their effects is not well known. To gain further insight, Ge Wu and Xiaolin Ren, biomedical engineers from the University of Vermont, chose to study how the unhurried steps of tai chi benefit its practitioners. 

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Experienced tai chi instructors like Ben Stanley often remind their students that slower is better. Stanley says that “it’s about breathing and being attuned to the muscles as you’removing. It’s important not to rush it, or you could miss the full benefits of the exercise.” In fact, Edwards pointed out that “the slower you go, the harder it is, and you definitely feel it in your legs.”


Tai chi can certainly be a test of patience for the inexperienced, as it is normally performed about 10 times slower than an average walk (2 mph), but it has a similar intensity to a moderate aerobic workout. Much of its direct benefits have been reported in the legs. To determine if and how the deliberate, gradual transitions in tai chi were responsible for these benefits, Wu and Ren employed a combination of biomechanical force plates, a camera-based motion analysis system, and EMG (electromyography) electrodes. 

The 12 subjects, grouped as young (22-34 years) and old (64-80 years), performed a fundamental tai chi movement, “part wild horse’s mane,” at various speeds. Besides marking the participant’s motion from shoulder to toe, Wu and Ren measured the duration and magnitude of activation for six muscles that are key to ankle, knee, and hip mobility.

They found, as expected, that the duration of muscle activation was longer during slower motions in all six muscles. The effect was most significant for the rectus femoris (one of the quadriceps muscles) and semitendinosus (one of the hamstrings). When the participants sped up, these muscles lost this activation duration, while two muscles, the soleus (part of the calf) and semitendinosus, showed an increased activation. Thus, speeding up created an overall loss in muscle activation.

Age was also a factor in muscle activation. At slower speeds, younger subjects showed more muscle activation than older participants. This could be the result of older practitioners having a more limited range of movement. Stanley has often observed that it’s “difficult for older people to really sink down and fully extend in some of the postures compared to younger students,” but he has “seen posture, balance, and overall well being improve through time.” 

Overall, Wu and Ren observed that speed had a greater impact on lower body muscles than other factors, like age or depth of movement. Their work demonstrate that slow, controlled movements can activate muscles more than rapid motion. The approach can also be used to study additional movements in tai chi and other exercises like yoga—a thorough understanding of exercise biomechanics should allow people to make more informed choices about what activities to pursue.

Clinical Biomechanics, 2009. DOI: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2009.03.001

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Read the original article in published in Ars Technica Aug, 2009

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This summer, pick up everything you'll need for your next sash at White Dragon's one-day Summer Sale. Save up to 40% on all training equipment or upgrade your membership and accelerate your progress to the black sash. Don't miss out on our super summer savings!

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White Dragon's annual school tournament, the Dragon Cup Championship, raised $5400 for the San Diego Rescue Mission to help with homelessness in San Diego County. The San Diego Rescue Mission is a non-profit, faith-based organization committed to assisting the homeless in a transition from an environment of poverty and dependency to self-sufficiency.

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The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released a report in April of 2014. Titled "Not Alone" the report stated that 1 in 5 students experience sexual assault during their college years. Did you also know that you can help stop campus assaults simply by learning how to protect yourself? At White Dragon Martial Arts, you’ll learn to defend yourself using Kung Fu, one of the world’s most effective systems of self-defense.

"Perhaps most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted: you are not alone. We have your back. I've got your back." 

President Barack Obama, January 24, 2014

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Stay in the loop on White Dragon's special events, and get articles on health, fitness, and martial arts training directly to your e-mail box. Don't worry, we won't spam you or share your info with anyone else! Click here to subscribe!

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The ancient practice appears to be good for you in just about every way.

The gentle, 2,000-year-old Chinese practice of tai chi is often described as "meditation in motion." But the Harvard Women's Health Watch newsletter suggests a more apt description is "medication in motion."

Tai chi, the most famous branch of Qigong, or exercises that harness the qi (life energy, pronounced "chee"), has been linked to health benefits for virtually everyone from children to seniors. Researchers aren't sure exactly how, but studies show that tai chi improves the quality of life for breast cancer patients and Parkinson's sufferers. Its combination of martial arts movements and deep breathing can be adapted even for people in wheelchairs. And it has shown promise in treating sleep problems and high blood pressure.

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Flexibility and strength. Tai chi is credited with so many pluses, physiological and psychological, that Chenchen Wang, an associate professor of medicine at Tufts University, set out earlier this year to analyze 40 studies on it in English and Chinese journals. Wang found that tai chi did indeed promote balance, 

flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, and strength. In a study comparing it with brisk walking and resistance training, a tai chi group improved more than 30 percent in lower-body strength and 25 percent in arm strength, nearly as much as a weight-training group and more than the walkers.

"Benefit was also found for pain, stress, and anxiety in healthy subjects," adds Wang, who was influenced by her mother, a Chinese doctor, to study an integration of complementary and alternative medicine with Western medicine.

In a 2008 analysis, Harvard Medical School's Gloria Yeh, an internist and assistant professor, reviewed 26 studies in English and Chinese and reported that in 85 percent of trials, tai chi lowered blood pressure. Other studies have shown it to reduce blood levels of B-type natriuretic peptide, a precursor of heart failure, and to maintain bone density in postmenopausal women. The nonprofit Arthritis Foundation offers its own 12-movement tai chi sequence.

Wang says more study is needed. Still, says New York Times personal health writer Jane Brody: "After reviewing existing scientific evidence for its potential health benefits, I've concluded that the proper question to ask yourself may not be why you should practice tai chi, but why not."

Lesson One: Find a teacher. "Learning from a book or video just does not work," says Greg Woodson, vice president of the international T'ai Chi Foundation and a teacher for 35 years. Students need real feedback from a teacher who can make sure exercises are done correctly "so the practice does not cause the type of injury it's designed to alleviate," he says. One example: Weight-bearing feet need to be flat on the floor to avoid knee stress, "an extremely subtle point that an experienced teacher will see." Woodson suggests that if a teacher has less than 10 years of experience, you should make sure he or she has the backing of a school or a more experienced teacher.

How much tai chi is enough? "Data suggest the minimum amount for effective results" is once- or twice-weekly sessions for eight to 12 weeks, says Wang. No pain, big gains.

by Courtney Rubin | Nov. 26, 2010 

Read the original article in U.S News Health here.

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On Saturday, January 24th, we had the privilege of hosting a three-part seminar series for students to learn directly from Master Nathan Fisher, the founder of White Dragon Martial Arts. Choy Li Fut and Tai Chi fundamentals were covered in depth, as well as the proper mindset one must adopt in order to achieve long-term training goals. It was a day packed with much wisdom and inspiration that will guide us through another meaningful year of training. Enjoy!

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White Dragon Martial Arts Battle of the Bulge

Looking to battle the holiday bulge? Join forces with White Dragon Martial Arts to get into tip-top shape for the new year! Between January 12th and February 19th, use your Yelp account to check-in every time you visit the school. And at the end of the contest, you'll have a great chance of winning a full set of sparring gear, a broadsword, or a weapons sparring faceshield! Plus, you'll get a one-month Guest Membership* for a friend that includes 4 private lessons, unlimited group classes, and a free uniform! (Guest Memberships cannot be redeemed for cash.)

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At White Dragon Martial Arts, our mission is to be the best in the world at improving the lives of our students through the practice of martial arts. We accomplish this mission through our unique training method and by instilling core values. By teaching important values like discipline, humility, positive attitude, and respect for self and others our students learn that martial arts is a complete way life, not just a system of self-defense. The White Dragon method focuses on building a stronger mind along with a stronger body in the hope of producing confident and well rounded individuals, capable of reaching excellence in all areas of life.

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White Dragon pairs every student with their own individual instructor to provide the most complete personal and group training available anywhere. Our unique combination of Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Kickboxing & MMA creates the most effective, well-rounded training experience which will help you get fit, teach you how to defend yourself, and improve your life in ways you didn’t know were possible. We’re dedicated to providing you with the highest quality martial arts instruction through a positive, values-based environment along with the most availability and flexibility to accommodate your schedule. Our vision is to help you build physical fitness and develop total self-confidence through studying martial arts so that you can excel in all aspects of life.
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