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Throughout man’s long history of unarmed combat, you would think there would be one standardized fighting style. With the fighting experience and background that fills each country’s history books, man should have found the best method of dealing with assailants and made it popular throughout the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Not all fighting systems use the same self-defense techniques with some radically different from others. Some employ techniques that imitate fighting animals while others believe that the best defense is to directly withstand the blow, rather than block it. There are those who prefer long, circular hand movements, while others claim that only straight, direct, short hand techniques are truly effective.

Chinese martial arts are a perfect example of differences in successful fighting styles. Southern Chinese kung fu systems typically use many short hand movements, with straight punches predominating. At the other extreme, northern styles prefer long hand actions along with relaxed flowing circular power.

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How you do the little things, is how you do everything.

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It is estimated that more than 5 million people in America participated in some form of martial arts training last year making it one of the most popular forms of recreational exercise. There are many benefits to training in martial arts such as improved strength, balance and coordination. Martial Arts training is also a great way to build confidence, discipline and an overall sense of well being.

However, what is not clear are the risks involved in regular practice. Although rates of injury in marital arts participation are significantly lower than in other sports like football or soccer, there still remains a chance of getting hurt.

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From time to time, students with backgrounds in the gi arts (those who wear a gi to train like Karate, Judo, & Jiu Jitsu) ask the equivalent terms of dojo, kata and gi in Chinese.

The most popular term is dojo. "Do" in Chinese is ado, which means the Way. This "way" is the spiritual way, which is spoken of in Chinese religions. "Jo" in Chinese is chang, which means the place. Dojo is the same daochang in Chinese character writing. It means the place to practice the "way", "do" or dao.

Let's take a look at the gi arts. Karate-do means the "way of empty hand." Judo means the "way of the soft art" and Tae Kwon Do means the "way of the foot and the fist." Aikido means the "way of combining or harmonizing the qi". The term dojo is the place to practice the martial arts mentioned above and doesn't mean school or academy.

Dojo or daochang originally came from Taosist and Buddhist terminology. It's a place to practice or cultivate the spiritual way, "do" or dao. 

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Today, the term daochang in China refers to the place that performs ceremonies of the dead. While the term dojo uses the same Chinese characters as "daochang," today it has nothing to do with the martial arts. Some people use the term "guan" or Cantonese "goon" or "kwoon."

"Kwan" means the same thing in Korean. The word "guan" is used for more than martial arts. It can be chan guan, the restaurant; lu guan, the hotel; tushu guan, the library; shu guan, the old term for regular schools; yi guan, the clinic; cha guan, the tea shop; shuhua guan, the art gallery; yan guan, the smoke shop; and many more beside just kung-fu studio or wu guan. Most Chinese in the West use the English term "studio" instead of the Chinese term guan or kwoon, because the word guan has too many meanings. In other words, there is no equivalent term in kung-fu for the term dojo.

Kata is the next popular term students are always asking about. Kata is a tao or taolu in Chinese. When speaking in the Chinese language with another Chinese person, the correct way to say hand kata is kuen too for Cantonese and guan tao in Mandarin. The weapons kata is bingqi taolu, which is a general way of using the phrase. When breaking the term down into different weapons we use the these terms: long weapon kata is chang bingqi taolu and short weapon kata is duan bingqi taolu. The double weapon kata is ruan bingqi taolu. Let's break it down to the individual weapons. Staff kata is gun tao; spear kata is qiang tao; straight sword kata is jian tao; and broadsword is dao tao. Just keep adding the Chinese weapon term in front of "tao" for all other weapons.

The above terms are most likely used by non-Chinese instructors. I use the term non-Chinese, because the Chinese would not use taolu as placement term for kata when speaking to their English-speaking students. Chinese instructors would use English terms such as set, pattern or form. For example, for hand kata they would say "the hand set" instead of the hand taolu or quan tao.

Gi is another word for robe. It originated from judo (jiu jistu) practitioners and is made with heavy cotton-like canvas for grabbing and throwing. When karate masters began teaching their students, they adapted the gi from judo and made it into a lighter-weight uniform for student training.

Kung-fu schools in China don't have a particular training outfit. You often see wushu performers wear a nice exhibition Chinese outfit when they perform. Each performer is wearing a different color as well as a different outfit. Therefore, it's not even a uniform. To call it a uniform, everyone must wear the same outfit. In the 1970's when kung-fu was becoming well known in the Western world, some kung-fu schools had their students wear Chinese-style kung-fu clothing when training. Some people called it a kung-fu gi. However, the Chinese don't know what a gi is, because it doesn't mean uniform, nor does it mean robe.

by Doc Fai Wong

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Are traditional martial arts incapable of change? Do contemporary martial arts lack foundation and substance? These are two critical questions facing practitioners as they begin the process of choosing a style. What will happen, they ask, if their traditional martial art must grow to meet 20th century demands? Can it sustain such change? Or, is this new art secure enough to withstand the hands of time? Is there enough moral fiber to carry it through the rough times? The only way to answer these difficult questions is to compare and contrast traditional and modern styles.Tai Chi for Seniors San Diego

According to the Oxford American Dictionary, tradition is “the handing down of beliefs or customs from one generation to another.” A traditionalist, the same source says, is a “person who follows or upholds traditional beliefs.” Therefore, a traditional martial art constitutes a style which has been standardized and passed through generation after generation of martial artist.

Three examples of traditional martial arts are Choy Li Fut, Kuk Sool Won and Kenpo. Choy Li Fut originated in the mid-1800s in China and included principles handed down from previous generations, its founder, Chan Heung, Borrowed the best techniques from three teachers (one from northern footwork, one from southern fist and one from southern Buddhist palm) and created one kung-fu style, The Korean martial art of Kuk Sool Won is a new traditional system, Although developed as late and early 1960s, it is a collection of ancient techniques and principles derived from original Korean martial arts.

Even more contemporary is Ed Parker’s Kenpo, an American Chinese martial art based on traditional martial systems. However, since the same Kenpo techniques and forms are taught in standardized fashion in virtually all the system’s schools, tradition has come to the style. According to the same reference book, modern is described as “new and experimental, not following traditional styles.”

Certainly Bruce Lee’s art of Jeet Kune Do could be called modern, However, assuming each legitimate Jeet Kune Do school is teaching the same principles, it also has earned the right to be called traditional. Lee and his followers believed JKD constituted a revolutionary step in martial concept by replacing worn fighting methods. But if that’s true, could JKD also meet the same fate in 50 to 100 years? Do JKD practitioners have to periodically change Lee’s concepts and teaching to maintain the art’s modern image?

mma bag workoutOne can plainly see that traditional modern are prone to overlap. A good martial art will encourage its instructors to make changes for the betterment of the system. At the same time, instructors of more recently developed systems (like mma or mixed martial arts) should refrain from calling traditional styles obsolete. After all, even the new martial arts have a background in the fundamental teaching of the ancient systems.

At the same time, a traditionalist who complains about contemporary martial arts should remember the value of any system is its ability to adapt to present-day needs. Today’s Choy Li Fut, while still considered a traditional system, is far more contemporary than the original version.

There is a place in the martial arts for both traditional and modern attitudes, Like a new house that cannot stand without a solid foundation, so too martial arts must have both traditional and modern values to maintain the past while building for the future.

by Grandmaster Doc Fai Wong Inside Kung Fu Magazine, March 1987

Editors Note: Many of today's top mixed martial arts fighters have backgrounds in traditional martial arts training. As the sport of MMA continues to evolve and the use of systems becomes more widespread, perhaps the question is more relevant today than every before.

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Nuestra Misión y Valores...

En White Dragon Martial Arts, nuestra misión es ser el mejor del mundo en mejorar las vidas de nuestros estudiantes a través de la práctica de las artes marciales. Logramos esta misión a través de nuestro método único de entrenamiento y por inculcar valores fundamentales. Por enseñar valores importantes come la disciplina, la humildad, la actitud positiva, y el respeto por uno mismo y por los demás, nuestros estudiantes aprenden que las artes marciales son una manera de vivir, no sólo un sistema de defensa personal. El método de White Dragon es enfocarnos en desarrollar una mente más fuerte igual a un cuerpo más fuerte, con la esperanza de producir individuos seguros y completos, capaces de alcanzar la excelencia en todas áreas de la vida.

¡Entrene Duro, Viva Mejor!

White Dragon empareja cada estudiante con su propio instructor para proveer el entrenamiento personal y de grupo más completo que se puede encontrar. Nuestra combinación única de Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Kickboxing y AMM crea la experiencia más eficaz y completa que le ayudará a ponerse en forma, enseñarle como defenderse, y mejorar su vida de maneras que usted no sabía que fueran posibles. Estamos dedicados a proveer para usted la más alta calidad de instrucción de artes marciales a través de un ambiente positivo, y basado en valores, tanto como un programa flexible para adaptarnos a su horario. Nuestra visión es ayudarle a estar en forma física y desarrollar confianza en sí mismo por estudiar las artes marciales para que usted pueda tener éxito en todos los aspectos de la vida.
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