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GOING THE DISTANCE
"MEMOIR PART 8"
Photo by Patricia Wong
Magazine page courtesy of Rainbow Publications
THE FIST: Administers kwoon justice.
You met Eddie Garcia in "Memoir Part 7". Eddie is my top disciple, and has mastered the art of Jow Ga kung fu. As you know from "Memoir Part 7," Eddie is helping me to resurrect my Fook Fu form, because I hadn't practiced it for a long while. I'd forgotten much of the sequence. Our Fook Fu differs a bit, from different versions I've seen in videos of other Jow Ga schools' practitioners doing the form. I believe that is because my teacher, Sifu Richard Chin, and his brother, Sisook (an honorific title meaning "teacher's brother") James Chin, made some changes to the form, before teaching the form to me. This is a perfectly acceptable practice, as long as it improves the form. Sifu Richard Chin and Sisook James Chin are disciples of my Sigung, Chan Man Cheung, who in turn was a disciple of one of the founders of Jow Ga kung fu, Jow Biu. Chan Man Cheung is now 83 years old. This is our Jow Ga lineage.
One essential addition that the Chin brothers installed in our Fook Fu, which I've yet to see in other school's versions of the form, is the critical shifting step. As I mentioned in earlier articles, professional boxers who mastered this shifting step technique were Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Hector Camacho. Sigung Chan Man Cheung once made remarks about how much he admired Muhammad Ali's footwork, when Ali was young. Good technique knows good technique, no matter the style. Camacho in particular, had blazing speed with this counterattacking move when he was young and in his prime. This shifting step occurs in our form, after a defensive parry and a follow-up reverse punch counterattack. In other kwoon's versions, the parry and follow-up reverse punch are done in a static stance. In ours, the movement is parry, shift backward to avoid a hit, and then a shifting step foward with the reverse punch. Our Fook Fu has this most important lesson, of teaching timing and distance with defense and offense, which is missing in others' versions.
Footwork separates great fighters from good fighters.
In 1987, after fighting only once in five years and having undergone surgery to repair a retinal detachment in his left eye, Sugar Ray Leonard moved up in weight class to challenge middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler, for Hagler's title. Hagler was a heavy favorite in this fight. None of my students thought that Leonard had a chance. I told my students just before the fight, "Leonard's going to win this fight, and he's going to do it with superior footwork. He'll easily evade Hagler's offense and will counterattack with right hands to win." My students said, "Nah, not gonna happen. Leonard's too small. Hagler has too much power. Hagler's gonna win walking away." I placed a non-monetary wager with my students, which I won. Sugar Ray Leonard was able to soundly beat Hagler, by using the defensive-offensive, shifting step technique, that is so heavily featured in our version of Fook Fu. The next time I met my students after the Leonard-Hagler fight at our dojo, I had a round of "I-TOLD-YOU-SOs" ready for them.
Eddie Garcia, besides being a real-life tough guy and martial artist, was a featured actor in HBO's "How To Make It in America." I'm proud of what Eddie's done with his life, and am honored that I played a role in his development as a martial artist, and as a person. Eddie is now in his early 50s. When Eddie came to my office yesterday so that we could go over Fook Fu, he said to me, "I love you, Sifu. I owe you so much. You gave me the guidance my father didn't give me, when my father was out doing whatever he was doing. I tell everybody that if it wasn't for you, I don't know where I'd be today." Heavy praise, indeed. I must admit, I was extremely touched. Although I'd heard these sentiments from Eddie before, hearing it again in the context of Eddie's helping me with the Fook Fu form, brought a whole slew of new realizations to me.
My inital one was, "Time sure flies," but more importantly, I realized what an amazing sifu/disciple relationship Eddie and I have, and how that most ritualistic of martial arts traditions, makes the practice of a martial art so precious a rite of life, itself. Hearing what Eddie said in the context of the martial arts wheel turning full circle, to where my disciple was helping me to re-learn a form, made me think, "This is why I worked so hard in my training, and in teaching Eddie. This is what it's all about." Our special relationship also epitomizes how a teacher is able to shape and form a disciple's life for the better, particularly if a teacher gets that disciple when the disciple is relatively young. There is so much more to the sifu/disciple relationship than just teaching technique.
Regarding Eddie's toughness and killer instinct, here's an anecdote about a sparring session that Eddie had with another disciple of mine, Jimmy Windus. Jimmy was a massively physiqued, former bodybuilding champion, who weighed in at 250 at 6'2". During this sparring session, Jimmy for whatever reason, decided to repeatedly punch Eddie's forearms. This did not sit well with Eddie. Eddie felt that Jimmy was playing some kind of psyche out game with Eddie, with intimidation as the goal. Eddie told himself as they continued to spar, that the next time that Jim hit Eddie's forearms as a target, that Eddie was going to break Jimmy's left hand. Jimmy again threw a punch at Eddie's forearms, and Eddie did what he promised. He threw a reverse punch, and broke Jim's left hand. He'd fractured some of Jimmy's left metacarpals. This is known as kwoon justice, or dojo justice. Eddie taught his junior disciple, what true intimidation is.
In my teacher's old school and my dojo, injuries were an accepted part of training. Eddie's students were taught the same attitude. Serious students in these environments, were expected to tolerate injuries, and to perservere in their training, no matter what. Attitude don't fit, you must quit! Here's another anecdote about Eddie, to illustrate the correct attitude about injuries in a bona fide martial arts school. In another sparring session with a student named Marcos Chiu, Marcos fractured Eddie's sternum (breastbone). Marcos, although not as large as Jim Windus, was just as strong, being able to squat with 400 pounds and deadlift even more. He was also amazingly agile for a heavily muscled man, being able to do various acrobatic movements. After Marcos broke Eddie's sternum, Eddie continued to spar. He also continued to come to classes, not missing a single class, and did everything that he did pre-fracture, in spite of the pain. This is a scenario that I myself, had repeated with the laundry list of injuries that I've sustained over the years. This is as it should be. Real training is not fun. Real training is work, and has to be perceived in this realistic light. Eddie has this attitude, and this is why I'm so proud of him. Later.