TCMA: Patty Cake Drills

The hand that hits also blocks; circa 2013.

The hand that hits also blocks; circa 2013.

I recently had to relocate my martial arts class.  Our quick motions with our feet were too hard on the floor.  I have worked out on laminate before, but this time the floor was truly only chosen for its ability to withstand yoga and nothing more.  I called another place in town and was taken in with open arms - I try to have good relationships with everyone I meet for exactly these cases.  I also like to leave on good terms and I will still run my community qigong and acupuncture sessions out of the yoga studio.

The owner of the new space asked me what I would be teaching.  "Kung-Fu," I replied.  She burst out laughing, quite loudly I might add, on the phone.  "Come watch a class," I challenged her.  "Oh, I will definitely check out your class," she trailed off.  I can't blame her.  When I think of Kung-Fu, I picture flying monks, flowery poses and solo air drills.  Heck, I learned a lot of solo air drills and gentle patty-cake-style partner drills in my years of study.

When I had been practicing Chinese Kung-Fu for over 10 years, I began Chinese medicine college.  In my second year of school I met a couple of fellow acupuncture students who had been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  One of these guys had his blue belt, which is considered only his first belt in a series up to black.  They had asked me to spar and invited me over to their place where the basement was filled with Hatashita mats.

Quickly I was dismantled, hit and submitted.  Quickly, I threw my solo air and patty-cake drills to the side and began asking the hard question, "If I am going to continue in Kung-Fu, how am I going to make it work in a sparring situation?"  My teacher at the time couldn't help me.  His advice was that a closed-minded person.  "Wing Chun doesn't spar.  It's for self-defence," he would say.

Fast-forward many years later.  I've had some experience getting choked and getting punched in the face - and I'm still doing Kung-Fu.  In fact, as I enter my 24th year in Chinese martial arts I have gone back to those solo air and patty-cake drills.  I can now see their worth - in training specific attributes, in pointing a finger towards a path, in making solo training valuable.

Kung-Fu is Kung-Fu because it isn't all about punching and kicking.  It is about perfecting oneself through an endeavour.  It is about achieving a skill only through hard work over a long period of time (life lesson).  It is about morality, camaraderie and Wu Wei.

The people who have been in martial arts for a long time all say the same thing, 'Sparring is important.  You need to do it.  But get out early enough before you do too much damage to yourself.'  Solo, patty-cake, and Chi Sau drills are made for a longevity lifestyle.  Their value may perhaps only be seen after the dust has settled from sparring, or through a practitioner who has been least this is my goal when I share what I know.

Kenton Sefcik