Back to Black Warrior
I went back to Black Warrior for two reasons: First, Master seemed sincerely grounded in principle despite the behavior of his students and second, I wanted to see a Kung Fu class. It took less than five minutes of class time for me to see that this is where both Master and his students excel. There were about 8 adults and 2 kids, and a young man named Mr. K (purple belt) lead class while Master taught him how to teach.
We warmed up for 45 minutes with kicks up and down the mat, scooping/swooping stances with tiger claw punches, cross-body blocks and strikes, and lots of moving basics. The style was fluid, all the kicks were high, and every single move we did involved elaborate swooping arm movements and usually some slapping or clapping of some kind. I found this to be a good challenge since so many of our basic movements in Shuri Ryu are not fluid in nature. It was fascinating to see how their Kung Fu fluid movements translated into strikes. Most of what they did I had never seen before but I tried my best and everyone was nice.
I was more convinced by their arm/elbow/palm strikes than I was by their kicks and that is because the kicks seemed so elaborate that it was hard to imagine actually being able to hit your target and pull off the kick successfully. I’m sure it’s done, though; it’s just that there was so much swooping around and so much happening with the hands (aren’t they worried about exposing their torsos?) that I’d like to see it in sparring to understand it more thoroughly.
One kick—the butterfly kick—involved two strikes to the same attacker, both with the back of your foot. You executed this kick while you were bent at the waist and both your feet came off the ground. It was beautiful to watch, difficult to do, and very interesting to learn about. I will say that I don’t understand how the kick has much power when both your feet are off the ground. We get our power from ground reaction force, so bent at the waist and without the ground, I wasn’t sure how effective this could be. It’s a question not a judgment, and it certainly made me want to see more of this kind of thing.
Throughout the class, Master and Mr. K were gracious in their instruction with me and it was clear they were teaching principle first, not worrying about power in my early learning stages.
We worked kata for the rest of the class period, which involved everyone lining up against the wall and one practitioner performing at a time. It was during this portion of the class that I really saw things come to life. Each person clearly understood the principles of hand and foot timing. The upper ranks demonstrated an understanding of core power. Every one of them moved fluidly, as though their work was effortless and it contained many possibilities. The acrobatics in the monkey form and drunken master form were unfathomable. I think if I tried to do what they were doing my entire skeleton would have crumbled.
I’m not likely to go back to this dojo, simply because their art is so different and I don’t want to get it too confused with my style. But I’m glad I saw them at their best, and it was a fine introduction to Kung Fu. As for the [other style] I witnessed at the same place on Monday night, well—I’ll skip it.