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Full contact San Shou Competition/ Team selection

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  • #46
    Reflections on Competition
    • A Compassionate Art?

    This question reminds me of the origins of Shaolin Kung Fu - developed by monks who had to make long pilgrimage trails through robber-infested lands, and who had to protect temples that were centres of light in sometimes dark and war-torn times.

    The threat level back then was almost incomparable to facing someone in a San Shou ring with gloves on - live weapons, intent to kill, multiple attackers, ballistic weapons, explosive weapons, ambushes...the list goes on.

    Shaolin Kung Fu was developed under such threat levels to protect life. That of self and others.

    It is not compassionate to let a wild animal or a wild person damage your children, and the ability to use our own personal power in response to external threats is a natural part of life.

    Using personal power to harm or force decision making upon another person is bullying. Using personal power on a consenting adult in a consenting situation is pressure testing and skills development.

    l was also surprised by the disappearance of our usual light-hearted Shaolin spirit -- it was as if we suddenly felt genuinely threatened or afraid of getting hurt and resorted to basic threat response instincts. In some matches, one opponent was obviously stronger than the other, but it was like we all only had one 'full volume' setting for each other. It would have been wonderful if we had been able to transcend aside the animal fear/aggression instinct and relax, smile from the heart, feel the opponent's unique energy and respond with appropriate levels of force and technique for each opponent. We would also have used a fraction of the energy we expended!
    I thought the spirit was good. Everyone was trying to win but no one was trying to hurt their opponent more than was necessary to force a ring out.

    It is not compassionate to yourself to under perform in competition. This is degenerating your martial art. It is not compassionate to your opponent to under perform in competition. This is not allowing him or her to experience their weaknesses and strengths.

    Competition is about self-expression: pushing yourself to and beyond your own limits; thus improving. Pushing your opponent to and beyond his own limits; thus allowing she or he to improve. To become more than they were before.

    When you step into a ring under a certain rule set you are consenting to a particular experience. If you don't like it then don't enter, or concede defeat by stepping out of the ring if you find you are obviously overmatched.

    This isn't an approach held in esteem by other types of martial arts, but in old kungfu challenges a challenger would often withdraw at the salutations stage, when the force and shen of his opponent became palpable.

    If I was in a full contact match with someone with power and skills comparable to TaiSihing Kai I would concede rather than risk the level of physical damage that could result.

    In regards to 'taking it easy' on opponents - I would liked to have used some bouts to focus on technique...but in the heat of the competition I found that a single mistake would see me hit very hard then pressed or thrown out of the ring. It was a credit to all participators - especially the non-instructors - that the difference level between opponents was so minimal that no one had an easy time of it.

    Training Shaolin Kung Fu doesn't mean that you automatically win every fight you enter. For example, if you were fighting against your clone you would only have a 50% chance of success, and could easily go 0-3 in a few matches. Fighting is hard. At this competition there were a group of highly motivated individuals - people who spend about 30 mins on force training everyday, perform sets and sequences most days, and who have travelled the world to learn from a Grandmaster. It was never going to be easy. Despite the wide differences in age, external martial arts experience, internal martial arts experience, lifestyle and physical conditioning, and proximity to a regional instructor, the bouts were very close, and all those who lost more fights than they won should appreciate what they were up against.

    Moreover, the fact that everyone improved in such a short space of time from the Spar Day, goes to show the applicability of our skills to the sports arena.

    We made great strides training mostly by ourselves, meeting up to spar together once in a year, competing once in a year.

    In comparison amateur boxers spar with good training partners 3 x per week and fight at intensity 1x per month.

    If we did the same our progress would be meteoric. However, whether anyone would want to take that kind of punishment is another matter.

    Part of me wants to 'throw in the towel' with regards to tournaments.
    I hope you dont, Omar. It was great to see the facet of your character that comes out in competition - "Tiger Omar"! You did great at the sparring meet, and at the tournament itself it was a pleasure to watch you fight. Beautiful stances and application of stances, smooth Shen, and quickly collected Shen in the instances when you did take a big shot. You should be proud of yourself.
    • Fun or not-fun?

    I have to say I did not enjoy a second of the San Shou. I did not enjoy injuring my brothers or being injured myself.

    I did enjoy the tournament experience - the camaraderie before, during and after the event. Especially the eating, drinking, castle-touring and generally being merry afterwards.

    Whilst I didn't enjoy it, I did appreciate the learning experience of the combat itself - where I am strong, where I am weak, the areas to improve and so on.

    I did very much enjoy the personal growth that came with signing up to the San Shou. Reassessing and refocusing my personal practice, setting aims and objectives, sparring with martial artists of other styles, attending the Spar Day...the overall personal growth made the pain and discomfort of the day worthwhile.

    On the topic of fun, I found last years Ten Tiger's a much more fun and light-hearted occasion. Because our techniques are so dangerous, everyone held back to prevent injury. I found my Shen, footwork and sense of creative freedom were better in the no-safety tournament. However, I had to by necessity apply full power and speed under San Shou rules, and respond accordingly to my opponent's full power and speed. My overall performance was better at the San Shou.

    I think it would be good to continue both Ten Tiger-style and San Shou events in the school, at the national level as well as the international event, so that all students get a chance to pressure test themselves.
    • The Middleweights

    I take my hat off to all those in the nominally titled 'middleweight' division - that was a shark tank of top competitors from last year's Ten Tigers. Watching, there was some great stances, footwork, single techniques, sequences and throws on display...and even a beautiful Bagua throw reversal to ring out! Everyone in that division should be proud of themselves.
    • The Lightweights

    In my division, there was some good handwork and determination from Tim, some excellent handwork from Rich, a good all round display including a devastating fight-ending front kick from Jas, and some great power and pressing from Jon.

    Jon in particular hit me as hard as I've ever been hit in my life. I did TaeKwonDo for around two years in my teens, free sparring with safety equipment twice per week and in that time getting kicked up and down training halls by grown men, but I've never taken a clean full power, stepping in right hook before...and it felt like being in a collision with a small car. It is the sort of shot boxers are used to giving and taking and it was not fun.

    Also, Jon's pressing sequence where he put me out of the ring was illuminating to be on the end of. A well executed Shaolin sequence press feels like being on the end of an ocean swell and there is not much you can do but be pushed back.

    That level of threat that is created with gloves on actually makes you appreciate just how hard a bare knuckle black tiger would be or a full force white snake.... phew, I wouldn't want to be in front of one of those. One Hang Golden Star to the temple and it would be proper 'game over'. I don't think I really appreciated this before, until taking a few real belters to the head with gloves and headguard.
    Indeed, sparring with safety equipment just confirms the power of Shaolin Kung Fu - all of our basic techniques are combat-ending if they land clean in a real fight, with the possibility of fatal injury.
    • Injuries

    Thankfully there were no KO's or serious injuries.
    I did get injured though - my back, neck and right shoulder are inflamed and I've got some nerve damage in those areas. I'll be fine in a few days but I did get hurt past the point of easy chi flow recovery.

    In regards to internal force, I found it gave the ability to hit hard and also to absorb hard hits and continue to fight on without problems (until afterwards ).

    Oh yes I forgot to mention about getting hit hard in the nuts.
    Apologies brother. I felt really bad after I had realised what had happened. That was no normal nut strike either - it was a full power turning kick aimed through the target to land shin on inside leg, with fajing! This particular monkey turned out to be just too naughty!
    • Summing Up

    I think every competitor managed to produce some of the good:

    - stances, footwork, techniques, internal force, pressing sequences, good guard and defence, offensive and defensive trips, fells and throws, dan tien awareness, tactics and strategies and so on

    and some of the bad:

    - panic, flailing, ducking and covering, poor guard and defence, chest breathing, loss of dan tien, loss of balance, exhaustion...

    But overall we should reflect on the positive aspects and take pride in them. The foundation to build on is there.

    For almost all of us this was our first time in full contact competition, and if you see any martial artist in their first full contact competition fight all of 'the bad' is present. Only experienced top professionals can perform in that arena and make it look flawless.

    Who of you feels like going for official San Shou fights this (or next) year? Or was it just an unique experience?
    I am willing to go in for official San Shou fights, but only after I have privately sparred with amateur San Shou fighters or others martial artists of a comparable level, and have handled them easily. I would only enter a tournament to confirm victory, so next year or however long it takes to reach the appropriate level.

    Overall, I dont think we the competitors were up to the standards of our Grandmaster, our Art or our lineage, but just like last years Ten Tiger's it was a step in the right direction.

    Sifu's pronouncement that we had all levelled-up from last year was the best external validation we could have - and I am motivated to continue to improve

    Thanks to Sifu Tim and Siheng Robin for organising.

    Thanks to Sifu, Siheng Mark and Sije Fleur for officiating.

    Shaolin Salute to my ten brothers in Competition,
    Sifu Andy Cusick

    Shaolin Wahnam Thailand
    Shaolin Qigong


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    "a trained mind brings health and happiness"
    - ancient wisdom


    • #47

      It was great to read your experiences!

      All of you did incredibly well

      I haven't had a chance to go through the whole thread since I've been back but I just want to post the winners names here in case it hadn't been done already

      Lightweight Div.

      1st Andy Cusick
      2nd Jas Diu
      3rd Richard Denyer-Bewick

      Middleweight Div.

      1st Chris Didyk
      2nd Chris Pearce
      3rd Martin Do

      Well done!

      All the best

      "The Power of Tai Chi Chuan. com"


      • #48
        Dear Brothers,

        Many thanks for posting your experiences. Excellent and very informative posts.

        You are a credit to yourselves and to our school.

        From the Heart,
        Jeffrey Segal


        • #49
          Dear Family,

          It was a great pleasure reading all of your experiences.
          Congratulations to each and every one of you for taking part.
          And of course a big Congrats to the winners.

          Best regards,


          • #50
            Less techniques, more skills

            Hi all.
            Clearly, from the previous posts, the sparring competition has been a tremendous vehicle for learning and progression in our arts. So many great points have been raised in a wonderfully honest way such as confronting fears, the deepening of the understanding of compassion, and the competition being a useful indeed essential way of charting the progress of our skills in years to come.
            I would like to highlight one aspect on a personal level - like most I was fearful beforehand, and I did not enjoy the experience. But wow was it a powerful learning experience!!!!!!!
            Personal development, especially at the level Wahnam operates, is not necessarily always a pleasurable experience. As Andy excellently highlighted, growth beyond one's capabilities often requires us to go way beyond our comfort zone, and thanks to our sifus and si tai gung we all took the challenge without knowing the outcome and embraced the fear of the unknown.
            And just to finish, thanks to Andy for comparing my fist to that of a small car. He clearly saw that I was carrying a few extra tyres......
            Same time next year? Yes. And hopefully carrying a few tyres less....
            Jon Arthur

            Buddha nature, cleverly disguised as fear, kicks
            our ass into being receptive.


            • #51
              Wonderful, thank you all for sharing.

              Keep smiling


              • #52
                Like all my Brothers said, it was a good experience.
                I got hit like what seemed hundred's of times.

                Interestingly, except for the hits to the head, I didn't feel any kicks or blows on my body.

                Yes, it is not easy with the gloves and headgear on, and techniques are narrowed down because of the gloves. But as rightly said by my Seniors and Brothers, it is excellent to train skill.
                If you can handle yourself well with the limiting gloves and headgear, you for sure can step up without them.

                And we all have to start somewhere right?

                I stept out the ring in my second match. But now I know my place, and need to train and prepare better

                Thanks everybody for the great time, during and afterwards.

                Best regards,


                • #53
                  Thank you all for sharing your experience and congratulations to everybody for taking part!
                  Sigung just added the videos and I really enjoyed watching them.

                  What was the weight limit separating lightweight from middleweight?
                  Enjoy some Wahnam Tai Chi Chuan & Qi Gong!

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                  • #54

                    Hey Guys some great comments so far, I d like to add my thoughts now I have had some time to reflect and also recover.
                    Firstly thank you to Sifu Tim Franklin, Sifu Mark Appleford and Sifu Robin Gamble for organizing and running the event. Thank you for all that helped with all the other aspects of the competition

                    Thank you to all the competitors that entered the event, I think the courage needed to enter a full contact event is massive and helped all of us to reach a level with our combat training that can only be gained in this environment.

                    For me with one of our themes this year to restore the glory of Kung Fu and showing that it can be used for combat this was the next stepping stone to be able to go into an external competition knowing I will win.

                    It has given me my next six months training plan and also shown me the good points of my Kung Fu and the points that I need to work on so I can deliver kung Fu that will honor our school , my Sifu ,Si Tai Gung and the past masters.

                    I don’t think you can gain the understanding of pressure and stress the body and mind under takes when someone is charging at you trying to punch and kick you with force and intent unless it actually is happening. In our school we believe in direct experience and for combat this is the next level from regional courses and training class’s. the feeling of both having a person coming at you while also defending and attacking yourself is totally different, it takes another level of shen to stay at your centre and stay composed to process the information in a split second then add into the mix of actually getting hit with punches with power that give you concussion it then gives me a much deeper respect to professional fighters and past masters that have fought at these levels

                    I have been through an emotional time from last Saturday.
                    * Firstly the excitement/worry before the event, excitement to use the Kung Fu I love and train the worry of someone hitting me or my Kung Fu not being up to the required level.
                    * Then hitting and kicking your fellow brothers and in return receiving the same back with force
                    *the different emotions when both winning and losing the rounds
                    *having to then deal with the results of a full contact competition. The following day I felt as if I had been in a car crash and had suffered concussion
                    *then how to return to training with all this new information or even if this was the path I wanted to follow

                    So over the last couple of days I have review my thoughts and asked why I practice kung Fu
                    For me there are a number of reasons I would like to be able to firstly protect myself or my family if the occasion ever arose secondly I would like to be healthy and happy. Did the competition help me in these areas?
                    Yes not only did it test my kung fu in a real pressured environment it showed what level my ability is at. It confirmed I had improved for previous experiences and my training is going in the right direction (still a way to go :0) ) it also confirmed that I still enjoyed what I practice I now feel healthier for the experience not just on a physical level but also mentally and emotional .

                    What we practice is not an easy path but the benefits we receive are massive. If you have the chance to entre one of our Wahnam Competitions do it , it is safe way to gain many lessons and teaches why our foundation is so important I know I will practice my defense more improve my guard hand and not leave my head out to do the block instead !!!
                    For me the biggest Gems are Footwork and stances this is where your defense and attacks come from practice them well

                    Best wishes



                    • #55

                      Thank you all for your wonderful posts

                      My feelings echo many of yours and are well summed up by what Chris wrote earlier:

                      Originally posted by Grimlock
                      the main reason I competed in this tournament was because I knew I'd have more regret if I didn't than if I did. I felt a huge sense of relief when it was all over, but already, I can see that I've benefitted tremendously from taking part.
                      Our state of mind effects everything we do and a full contact tournament like this is a great way to understand how our own mental blocks can stop us from getting to where we want to be in life, whether that place is an external situation or an internal state of being. My own initial feelings toward the tournament serve as a good example: I enjoy sparring and am normally comfortable with heavier contact, however the concept of competing 'Full Contact' caused anxiety. It's now quite clear that the emotion was generated in response to an unpleasant mental image that was associated with the auditory thought 'Full Contact' and it would have only taken a small increase in the power of this thought for me to find a reason not to enter and avoid the tournament.

                      Being able to see this clearly helps to identify where there are similar patterns in one's life and once the pattern is observed, it becomes much easier to surmount.

                      As to the tournament itself, I had done little training for it and I felt that keenly during my fights. When briefly considering tactics, I knew that many of the participants had been practising sequences specifically for it, so reasoned that if one could get in close and throw or push them out the ring, It would minimise the chances of being pressed or overwhelmed by a well executed sequence.

                      This ad hoc tactic had mixed success, it worked well in one match, where the opponent was a similar size but (for obvious reasons) was less successful against a larger opponent who had strong, solid stances. In addition, since I had not spent much time practising it, it got forgotten in the heat of the competition and left me falling back to single techniques or just charging in.

                      So, if I was going to enter a similar competition in the future, based on the experiences of this one I would, amongst other things: Have a few simple sequences that I could execute in my sleep. Practice going into my opponent whenever there is an opportunity, and practice creating such opportunities, be aware where the ring boundaries are at all times and practice using this to my advantage. Be able to take a few solid punches and still continue on with my sequence and practice my tactics and strategies on both smaller and larger opponents, gauge their effectiveness and revise them accordingly.

                      I also wanted to add that though I didn't enjoy the anxiety beforehand, most of the time during the fights I did have fun, especially when I fought Chris. I also felt there was a supportive and brotherly atmosphere during the competition.



                      • #56
                        Sihing Jas (did I meet you when I visited the London Kwoon a few years ago?),
                        I saw the video where you got beaned. Ouch is all I can say. Glad to read that you're doing better.
                        Sihing Andy, that was a well placed kick, though I know you were aiming somewhere else. Nevertheless, that was a well executed kick!

                        Thanks to all the competitors---the competition vids made for compelling viewing!
                        Congratulations to this year's champions, and thank you all for sharing your experiences!


                        PS Tomorrow I'm going out and buying the best cup I can find.


                        • #57
                          Hey Chia-hua, yeah I think I met you in London class once,
                          that recovered to like 95% by the next day.

                          Funny thing was going into that bout, I was thinking of trying a new strategy, because I was struggling to land punches/kicks straight on, due to Andy getting inside in the last bout. So I thought to try a sequence where I begin with opening with a diagonal bow arrow punch. The weakness of that move was highlighted! Well I knew about it but just didnt react to it.

                          About the cup, I saw some other guys with those padded diaper type covers which hold the cup in place firmly. I think thats the way forward.
                          My cup was just hanging around in the shorts, so it probably even did more harm than good.




                          • #58
                            For groin protection, I've had amazing results with the XO Procup (

                            The sides of the cup are made of a flexible rubber, but the majority of the cup is made of a very strong, non-flexible plastic. The flexible rubber keeps the cup from digging into the crease between your leg and crotch, but the plastic keeps you protected from impact.

                            The key to proper fitting, as Jas noted, is to avoid a free floating cup. You want to have a cup with enough volume to put all your "bits" inside. And you want the cup to be held in some type of garment. I've only ever had luck with jockstraps. The briefs/boxers with built in cup pockets just don't hold the cup firmly against my body.

                            You'll be wanting the cup to rest snug against your pubic bone at the top, and snug against your perineum at the bottom. This provides two points for the impact to be dispersed to, if/when you receive a blow to the groin. You lose this very important function if you have a free floating cup.

                            I would suggest all guys wear a cup like this during any training that has even the slightest potential for groin contact. Once you find a good cup and put it on with a good fit, there is no reason not to. It's comfortable and safe.



                            • #59
                              Originally posted by Chiahua View Post
                              Nevertheless, that was a well executed kick!
                              Thanks for the compliments.

                              It was a very effective illegal low blow if I do say so myself. So effective that I think it deserves to be named; The End Of Ancestry, Children No More, Dr. Feelbad, Tchaikovsky's Finest or Mr. Genocide... I can't decide which.

                              I've played and rewound the video a few times and it looks pretty intentional! Versus both imaginary and real life training partners they tend to move back after the first attack and take the kick squarely on the upper thigh. Sihing Jas's movement diagonally and towards the kick was a case of a good idea at the wrong time!

                              For groin protection, I've had amazing results with the XO Procup (

                              The sides of the cup are made of a flexible rubber, but the majority of the cup is made of a very strong, non-flexible plastic. The flexible rubber keeps the cup from digging into the crease between your leg and crotch, but the plastic keeps you protected from impact.
                              Thanks for your suggestion brother - I'm definitely going to go for the strongest groin protection I can find in future, possibly involving Titanium alloys, despite being on the right side of Mr. Genocide.

                              The XO Cup indeed looks up to task:

                              Sifu Andy Cusick

                              Shaolin Wahnam Thailand
                              Shaolin Qigong


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                              "a trained mind brings health and happiness"
                              - ancient wisdom


                              • #60
                                An Apology

                                I'd like to publically apologise to my Sihing Jas, to Sifu and the school for the above post.

                                I was trying to make light of the groin kick but in retrospect it was wrong of me to make comments which could be taken disparagingly or disrespectfully towards my brother.

                                Comments can easily be read the wrong way on an internet forum and my statements were unwise. I should not make light of suffering or injury. It was behaviour not befitting of an Instructor and I apologise unreservedly.
                                Sifu Andy Cusick

                                Shaolin Wahnam Thailand
                                Shaolin Qigong


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                                "a trained mind brings health and happiness"
                                - ancient wisdom