About Mushin

Wing Chun researcher and teacher.


I can remember when I first started learning iKali I could not make sense of the flow.

Whenever I see our instructors or Tuhon demonstrate stick flow or blade flow my mind would go blank.

However, by following Tuhon’s excellent teaching program I find that I could begin to flow after the first two modules.

By the third module I actually did something I didn’t expect I could do which is to kneel while doing free flow. I had learned how to do the kneeling in the first module but that was by following a movement script.

In our progress assessment which was held after midnight (its actually early afternoon then in USA) I found myself doing the kneeling not once but twice. Normally I won’t do something I had never tried before and doing it in the midst of a free flow is risky in that it could interrupt my flow.

Here’s the first time I did it using double sticks :-

And here’s the second time using single blade :-

An excellent teacher inspires and Tuhon Apolo’s teaching definitely triggered something in me to be able to go beyond what I would normally do.

A Healthy Brain

Interesting talk from Wendy Suzuki, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the New York University Center for Neural Science!

I used to learn long Tai Chi forms which indirectly trained my mind to observe and remember. Then I learned Wing Chun.

When I went back to Tai Chi I had a problem learning long sequences and complicated movements again cause Wing Chun movements are so simple they basically made my mind lazy.

So one way out is by writing down, recording audio or video. This sounded like a good idea except it is but another exercise for the mind to be lazy.

One year my Tai Chi teacher said its time to stop writing notes and do recording. Instead, I should just rely on observing and remembering what I saw there and then, imprinting the lesson into my mind.

It was tough in the beginning but after a while it became easier. And you know what, learning this way is better than trying to remember everything. When you have notes you then to copy what you see, you become lazy to think.

As a result, you just become another monkey seeing, copying and doing. You shouldn’t do that. You are an intelligent person, you should exercise your brain, your creativity and grow from there. Think of it as exercise for the mind.

Sometimes we exercise the body and forget the mind, and sometimes we remember the mind but forget the body.

The remedy that Dr Suzuki mentioned at 10:05 could very well fit the one thing I am working on this week for my test. Let’s see something to do 3-4 times a week, 30 minutes per session, get the heart rate up – that’s basically what I did. One round of the sequence to be tested took about 11-15 minutes. So do it 3 times and it will fulfil the criterias mentioned.

And yes, you have to train yourself to remember the sequence to be tested. You have to understand how the transitions go, the why, examine them to make sure they flow smooth.

You also have to be mindful of what you are doing even as you step on the accelerator, cause sometimes when my mind wanders the stick may come too close to me and graze me. This is more so when going fast like the speed below :-

In this sequence we have to do the entire sequence under 60 seconds. With some training it is highly possible but the first time I did it I took more than 60 seconds.

With practice I got the time down to 53 seconds and this week I did it faster at 49 seconds. But guess what, I am still slower than one of our instructors, a lady, who did it at 37 seconds.

One round of this at a fast and furious speed would get the heart pumping, not to mention the sweat literally pouring out of every pore.

The older I get the more I should exercise. The objective to be healthy till the day I lie down, sleep and never wake up.

Complementing SKD with Kali

The body movement learned in iKali’s jab / cross combination is a good complement to SKD training.

If you have a problem getting the body to move when doing Sao Chui try working on the iKali jab / cross and see if it helps you to improve your Sao Chui.

The video below explains how we can just use the same body movement with either iKali or SKD techniques :-

This body movement is versatile. Put a blade in the hand and it works just as well.

Nice, huh?

Seeing Things Internal

Maybe its just me who is seeing it.

Maybe its my background.

But after practicing stick drills and how to throw a jab / cross the Kali way I feel that they offer a good alternative method to train the body mechanics we typically use in the internal Chinese arts.

When I first learned Kali I tried to bring my background into it. Its not a good idea as it prevents me from seeing things clearly. So I tried to train Kali as taught by Tuhon.

After learning and training for some time I am starting to feel that a rose by any other name is indeed a rose. So yes, I have not heard Tuhon use the term internal in Kali. I guess its a good thing cause everyone who does Tai Chi seems to go crazy when they hear the term and this prevents people from seeing things clearly.

In Kali body mechanics are used too; in fact just like any other good arts regardless of culture. Its inevitable when you see more similarities than differences at a certain stage.

In doing jab / cross we don’t just parry the opponent’s punch, we also have to move out of the way. Moving out of the way requires me to move side to side.

Coupled this with learning how to put the body behind the stick when we execute a slashing movement and we end up with body mechanics that are really reminiscent of what is practiced in the Chinese internal arts.

So when I put two and two together I get this internal-ish flavor. The clip aboves below is me seeing things that maybe are there, or maybe not.

When I do the parry followed by a jab or a cross sometimes I feel like a monkey waving its arms. See for yourself. Is it any wonder Kali kinda feels internal too. This doesn’t mean its the same for everyone else, just me.

In the end I think its not important whether its internal or not. The real question is whether it works for you or not.

Kali Empty Hand Sequence

I am not the biggest fan of kickboxing like sequences.

However, I kinda like this empty hand sequence from iKali. I can do it fast or slow. Here I do it at a slower pace.

This sequence also flows nicely at a faster speed. Its a good sequence to learn for basic body coordination, timing and alignment to prepare for learning how to apply the techniques for self-defence purposes.

Lunch Practice

This week I have to put in practice every day to prepare for my iKali test.

The hot weather is not helping. I take my tests seriously so weather be damned.

So we have a long sequence to go through to test how well we have learned how to handle the sticks, blade and move in empty hand techniques.

It wouldn’t have been that bad if we are going slow and easy. But no, to raise the bar we have to do it fast and furious. After all, how we train is likely to be how we actually move.

In a warm room at mid-day trying to go fast, trying not to stop too long, but keep the pace moving along is tough. I am breathing hard but I don’t want to stop. My doctor once told me to exercise the heart through brisk walking to pump it harder. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone.

This blade exercise is what beginners learn. Well, maybe a total beginner won’t move as fast initially. But with a little practice anyone can move fast.

This is another knife counter exercise. Its the last exercise in the sequence.

Doing this and the rest made me sweat so much I felt like I just went to the sauna.

These blade counters are kinda cool. Yeah, I’ll say they are cool but they are really practical and deadly. Wish I could post our training videos to show you the applications then you will see what I see in them.

If you live in SG and have the interest to learn drop a line in the comment below.

Moving Blade

Learning to use the blade is always fun.

As with the sticks learning and practicing the basics until we can do it in our sleep is important if we are to be able to use it when we really have to though hopefully never.

Being familiar means to chalk up the repetitions. To keep working on the same movements, expanding the same old, same old, until the unfamiliar comes alive.

Basic Kali Punches

In Tai Chi I normally strike at a slower pace. In SKD we strike a lot faster with the arms moving like a whip. In iKali we use evasive body movements and punch fast.

Punching the Kali way works the legs since I stand in a lower stance to facilitate the body evasive movement. Moving the body this way helps to train the hip and waist. And punching is good to work the lungs especially when doing it many times non-stop with power and speed. If I have a punching bag that would add another dimension to the training.

I like the body evasion. Its a nice complement to what I do in Ngok Gar Kuen which uses body evasion also, albeit in a different manner.

Actually, what this body movement is making me feel like dancing though I am terrible at it. But hey, an old dog can always try learning a new trick or two. Never say never, till you really can never.

Kali Moments

It is a funny moment but then maybe not.

Paul jumped the gun and tried out one of the movements in the iKali sinawali training sequence before he had observed the steps carefully.

I remember the first time I saw this sinawali sequence and I went, oh no, kneeling on not one but two knees. I prefer not to kneel on the ground cause its hard and worse than that is that the ground can be slippery from the sweat.

That’s why I use a mat. Still old man, old knees. But what the heck, its a challenge to do it, not just do it slowly but to do it fast. That’s why knowing the how helps a lot.

Then comes the next part, getting back up. This does not come naturally to me. Again, knowing how to do it makes it so much more easier.

At the end ot it I look at it as good exercise for the legs and the core. As both our age, Paul’s over 60 and I am going to 60 God knows we need our exercise.