Thursday, December 28, 2017


Tim began training in Kung Fu San Soo in New York at the age of 11. At the age of 23, he moved to Taiwan to study the fighting aspect of internal martial arts, something he had failed to find in the US.

Enrolling at the Taiwan Normal University to study Mandarin for five years, Tim spent his spare time seeking out practical minded teachers, “for methods that were not based solely on brute strength, speed and superior size; I was looking for arts in which the soft could really overcome the hard.”
Among others, he studied He Bei Xing Yi Quan with Xu Hong Ji and his son Xu Zhen Wang as well as Yi Quan with Gao Liu De. In Tai Ji Quan, he studied old Yang style with Chen Zhuo Zhen. In Chen style, he studied Zhao Bao with Lin Ah Long and the old frame with Xu Fu Jin. In Bagua Zhang, he studied Gao style with Luo De Xiu, who also taught him Chen Pan Ling Tai Ji.
In 1985, Tim visited the mainland for the first time. Several years later, he accompanied Dan Miller (who was then publishing the Ba Gua Journal) as his interpreter, meeting a number of well known martial artists. This trip led to Tim studying Sun Style Tai Ji Quan and Ba Gua Zhang with Sun Jian Yun, Sun Bao An and Liu Yan Long in Beijing. He also learned Shan Xi Xing Yi with Mao Ming Chun.
After about six months in Taiwan, Tim entered his full contact tournament.  Though he lost he gained valuable experience and insights which led him to revise his approach to training. From then on, his training emphasized the importance of really mastering fundamental techniques that can be used in a real fight; the importance of being well rounded in striking, wrestling and grappling arts; and the need to spar regularly with skilled, non-cooperative opponents.
A few months after his first tournament, Tim entered and won another full contact competition. The following year, he took first place in the middleweight division of the Asian Full Contact tournament.
In 1994, after 11 years in China, Tim returned to the US. Soon after, he began practising and competing in  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Nelson Monteiro, an art which he found complemented his Chinese martial arts experience perfectly.
Tim has also published several instructional books and DVDs. More information can be found at ShenWu 
Here he talks about why the method is more important than the art; the benefits of the traditional methods;  why he emphasizes striking, clinching and then the takedown;  how to use Chinese throws and Xingyi striking drills for MMA;  why Tai Ji Quan is best thought of as a grappling art; why forms used to be taught after you could fight, not before; physicality and specific strength vs technique; how to balance sparring and forms practice; how he got into BJJ and its similarities to the internal arts; BJJ’s usefulness in street situations and sport;  the role of tradition, the ‘laboratory’ of MMA and the future of Chinese martial arts.
So, Tim, what makes a martial art traditional? 
Basically there’s only one thing that makes a martial art traditional, and that’s time, because it’s been around a long time. It just means that whoever invented it lived a long time ago, and over time the new becomes traditional.
You go back 300 years in China and someone was practising a martial art that was even older. He creates a synthesis of the disparate martial arts he studied, comes up with a unifying theory and if his new combined style takes off, a couple of hundred years later it’s become ‘traditional’.  In that sense, every single martial art in existence started off as a mixed martial art. So it depends on how you define the terms.
What we have now is the same thing, but on a bigger scale. For most traditional martial arts you have one guy who was the founder. Modern MMA is different, it’s superior in that it wasn’t founded by any single individual or even small group, it was founded by an almost completely open laboratory of fighting.
One guy could never hope to experiment as much as hundreds of thousands of people can. One person will always be limited to his own environment and his own teachers, his access to instruction; whereas modern martial arts are not limited in this way:  with MMA, thousands of martial artists and fighters got together and actually fought to see what works best.
It didn’t take long to work out what would work, at least in the venue of MMA. Within 15 years it became pretty much solidified. Modern MMA draws on a huge sample of people who are actually fighting one another.
You go back in time and hear stories about who fought this guy and or the other. But who knows the truth? Obviously if said person had students, he most likely had something going on, he likely wasn’t pulling in students without at least some level of success as a fighter. But who knows what his experience really was: maybe he was from some small area, where nobody knew how to fight and he came up with his own thing, was a bit better than everyone else and got famous.  But MMA’s not like that: everyone gets to watch. So there’s no way you can bullshit your way into a reputation.
Another advantage MMA has over traditional arts is traditionally you only had access to what was in your culture. If I live in northern China in 1700 I’m not going to see Muay Thai, I’m not going to see Japanese arts , I’m not going to see Western boxing, I’m going to see Long Fist and Shuai Jiao. There was way less of a sampling of things to choose from. Now you can go on YouTube and in an hour see more types of martial arts in five minutes than anyone back in the day could see if they travelled their entire life.
With the crucible of the entire world fighting and access to video and all this talent and all these styles coming in, it’s on a much bigger global scale. That’s how modern things are: it’s better. You have more access to information.  Traditional martial arts were all ‘mixed martial arts’ at their founding, but with modern MMA there are more scientists on the job and anyone can see it on video.

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