Saturday, December 29, 2012

Kung-fu and keeping an open mind

My BJJ instructor has studied Kung-fu for over twenty years.  In fact, one of the first gym logos said, "Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Kung-fu".

Kung-fu has actually influenced some of his views and philosophies about BJJ and even some of his techniques.  Now, you are probably thinking to yourself, "What the heck does Kung-fu have to do with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu"?  See, that's exactly what you don't want to do.  One of the things my instructor has drilled into my head is the importance of keeping an open mind:  in BJJ and more importantly in life. 

                     My  instructor Chae In-muk (far left) training at Barbosa Academy in Brazil

We were talking today, and he showed me this book on Kung-fu philosophy:

Then he started drawing a bunch of funny stuff on a piece of paper:

                                            I desperately need Lloyd Irvin to market this

Actually, it was quite an interesting conversation.  I can't say that I understood everything, but I got a clear idea of most of what he was trying to convey to me.  The left hand side is a rough sketch of a ten step hybrid philosophy of Confucianism and Taoism.  On the right hand side is my instructor's philosophy on BJJ influenced by Kung-fu.  I was surprised to learn that some of his most fundamental ideas on BJJ came from his study of Kung-fu.  I was even more surprised to learn that one of my best, most high percentage passes was something he learned/took from Barbosa and then built upon just a bit more with theories that he learned from Kung-fu!  

   Chae In-muk (third from left) with Marco Barbosa

As a grappler, I never want to fall into the trap of believing my art is the best, and that everything else is a waste of time.  That doesn't mean that I'm going to start wearing funny looking shoes and start Tiger Clawing people's faces when I'm rolling.  What I mean is, is that it is possible to learn things where you'd least expect it.  The longer I do BJJ, the more I realize how much I don't know.  The harder I work, and the more open I keep my mind, the more potential I have to grow as a martial artist and as a human being. 


  1. Have you read anything by Tim Cartmell? If you're interested in the connections between kung fu and BJJ, you'd probably find his stuff interesting.

  2. No, I've never heard of him before. Wow, I didn't even know material existed on the subject. Any specific book or article I should check out?

  3. Nothing specific, I just know that he has a long background in kung fu as well as his BJJ black belt. He's the guy who did the excellent Passing the Guard book with Ed Beneville, which you may have heard of (I reviewed it here, in case not). He's done some books on kung fu too, and Chinese grappling: sounds interesting, but I haven't had a chance to check them out yet (e.g., this).