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Shen Martial Arts Web Journal on Thoughts, Experiences, Tips, Ideas and just about anything relating to the lifelong practice of Chinese Kung Fu - Your comments are welcome!
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Posted by Shen     2 Comments Tuesday, October 25, 2005
The Best Dit Da Jow Part 3 - A Few Tips for the Weary

So, what is the answer to our quest for the best Dit Da Jow? If there is no one best formula, than what should one do? If you have been following the earlier installments it will be apparent by now that there is not a single formulation that is the best for everyone's needs but that does not mean that you should not look for specific elements to ensure you get the best quality Dit Da jow possible. Below are some tips to help you on your search:
  1. Look for a Dit Da Jow Formula that addresses your specific needs. Are you training hard and want to heal bruises and eliminate pain? Or perhaps you pulled a leg muscle playing racquetball. You may be having extreme sharp pain in your neck and shoulders or want to heal a hairline fracture on your foot. Determining what it is you want from the Dit Da Jow will help you look for and find the correct Dit Da Jow formula for your needs. And while general purpose formulas will work on a variety of needs, there are formulas for very specific needs that will work better.
  2. Dit Da Jow must be made from high grade herbs. The key to an effective Dit Da Jow lies in the quality of the herbs it is made from. Many formulas being offered up for sale are made with lesser quality herbs which are much cheaper than high grade herbs. The potency of the resulting Dit Da Jow is much lower. Still cheaper are herbs that are past their prime and this will result in even weaker, less effective Dit Da Jow.
  3. Darkeness, Murkiness or Sediment are NOT reliable indicators of High Quality Dit Da Jow. The Darkness or coloration of Dit Da Jow is a function of the type of herbs used and it is easy to manipulate color just by adding herbs that make the liquid darker. Floating herbal matter and amount of sediment are also easily manufactured simply by grinding the herbs into a powder prior to aging the Dit Da Jow. In fact, this is a common trick used by those selling improperly aged Dit Da Jow. It so happens that some of the best Dit Da Jow will be fairly clear, smooth and with little or no sediment. These are usually filtered prior to bottling so what you get is only the purest herbal essence as extracted by the alcohol base. Filtered Dit Da Jows are absrobed by the skin at a faster rate and are much less likely to cause a rash or upset the skin.
  4. Dit Da Jow Must Be Aged Properly. Dit Da Jow effectiveness increases with aging, and the longer it is aged, the better it will be. Aging occurs best at the batch level, when the herbs and alcohol are mixed and sealed. Some will say that Jow continues to age once it is bottled for use. This is incorrect and and excuse to sell you improperly aged Dit Da Jow. The extraction of herbal constituents takes place when the correct quantity of herbs is aged in the correct amount of alcohol medium. Period.
  5. The Bottle Makes a Difference. There are those who claim that using plastic bottles is ok. Well, it is NOT. While plastic is fine for other types of liquids and even for other types of liniments and formulations it is not good for storing or containing Dit Da Jow. Anyone with experience making Dit Da Jow will tell you that the herbal tincture will begin to decompose the plastic, almost melting it. The decomposed plastic will mix with the Dit Da Jow and will change its characteristics. You usually cannot see this as it happens on the inside of the bottle, but it happens and it is not good for the Dit Da Jow nor is it good for you. Dit Da Jow must be contained in glass. Dark, tinted glass is better to limit exposure to light. Bottles should be first use (not resused), and preferably be of food grade to ensure cleanliness. The bottles must seal out air completely. So you can see that the lowly bottle does play a key role.
  6. The Dit Da Jow Formulation must be from an Authentic Source. An authentic source can be a Certified Chinese Herbalist, or a more traditional source such as an ancient Chinese Herbal Text or a traditional formulation kept within a Martial heritage and passed on to students or members of that heritage. The key is that the formulation follow accepted formulation methods based on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Beware of newer formulas or formulas that claim to have modern components or a mixture of eastern and western herbs. While they may be excellent, they are typically hodpoges of herbs thrown together by someone who just finished reading a book on herbs. Follow the tried and proven. If the formula has been around and in use by a particular group for a long time, you will probably experience good results. It is not that new formulas cannot be good or that western herbs will not work, but rather that there are multitudes of people with little knowledge or experience making up formulas and claiming to have the best ever. Be safe and don't waste your time and money. Stay with the tried and proven.

The best way to ensure that the above points are covered and that you are getting the best formula possible is this: Find a reputable source, someone who is well known, of high reputation, that offers a wide range of formulas instead of one silver bullet. Someone who can answer your questions and who is willing to take the time to provide information, background and reasoning behind their recommendations. The biggest or largest organization may not be the best place to go. Use the Chinese restaurant criteria, small places do have great food and if the Chinese eat there, it must be good. In the case of Dit Da Jow, follow the line of martial artists and see whom they are getting their Dit Da Jow from. Experiment with various sources, examine their offerings, see how they stand behind they product and most of all, if their stuff works.

That is it, no magic, no silver bullets, just rational logical smart shopping and trial and error in a sea of offerings, all claiming to be the best. Good Luck!

If you are in the search for good quality Dit Da Jow, check out the selection at http://www.shenmartialarts.com/smabotjow.html


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Posted by Shen     1 Comments Sunday, October 23, 2005
Ark Y. Wong's 5 Family / 5 Animal Kung Fu Curriculum

I decided to post the curriculum of this famous but now rare style for the simple reason that it has prior to now been unavailable to the public. There were a number of inacurate, unauthentic or incomplete versions floating around on the internet, mostly posted by those claiming to know the system and by some who actually claimed to have inherited the system when GM Ark Wong passed away. The actual inheritor and current head of the system, GM Seming Ma has now made the authentic currriculum available. Take a look and be sure to send any questions or comments. So here it is, for the record. Enjoy!


Five Family Style Curriculum

Basics
Southern style kung fu is commonly known for its quick foot works and hand movements which derives from speed , balance, power and agility. The development of quickness depends on the thoroughness of a basic training program. In Five Family Style, it starts with learning the correct posture and mechanics of the stances, punches, blocks, and kicks. The next step is to work on power and speed, practice with weights to increase strength and mobility, zigzag around obstacles to gain slalom speed. Then comes balancing training, traditionally it was done on top of a pole formation named plum flower poles (five poles), but it is acceptable to substitute with bricks. For focusing, it is desirable to use a wooden dummy for blocking, stuffed bags for punching and kicking. The final step is to be able to integrate any stances, punches, blocks and kicks into a single movement or a series of techniques randomly. Of course, lessons of proper breathing is included in basic training. Our simple concept of breathing is: inhale when hands are in, exhale when hands are out. However, the advance level requires the dynamic of the breathing rhythm be synchronized with the flow of techniques in order to endure fatigue.


Stances
Front stance - Straight stance - Side stance - Cat stance - Cross leg stance - Low stance - Kneeling stance - One leg stance - Jumping cross leg stance - Sliding stance - Turnaround jumping stance


Punches
Flat punch - Straight punch - Uppercut - Leopard punch - Back hand - Hook punch - Chicken heart punch - Overhead punch


Slaps & Cuts
Front slap - Back hand slap - Side slap - Finger tap - High chop - Medium cut - Push hand - Angle slice


Blocks
Outside block - Slapping block - Hammer fist block - Cut block - Hook block - Upward block - Knee block - Arm block - Elbow block


Kicks
Front kick - Side kick - Stomp kick - Snap kick - Heel kick - Crescent kick - Double kick - Horse kick


Sweeps
Front sweep - Back sweep - Double sweep - High sweep - Hook sweep - Slap sweep
Hand Forms


Salute
A salutation at the beginning of the following five hand forms, to show greeting and respect, and to identify the uniqueness' of the style.
Small Cross - Butterfly - Combination - Black Bird - Palm


Ten Animal Forms
Snake - Tiger - Dragon - Leopard - Crane - Lion - Elephant - Horse - Monkey - Panther


Combination Animal Forms
Dragon and Tiger - Crane and Snake and Dragon - Tiger and Leopard


Two - Men Forms
Fighting Form One - Fighting Form Two


Supplementary Hand Forms
Exercise Form One - Exercise Form Two - Exercise Form Three - Eagle - Golden Dragon - Gliding Crane - Side Tiger - Bull

Weapon Forms
Butterfly Knife - Double Head Stick - Short Stick - Long Pole one - Long Pole Two - Single Saber - Double Saber - Single Sword - Double Sword - Green Dragon Sword - Spear - Nine Ring Big Broadsword - 3 Sectional Staff One - 3 Sectional Staff Two - Quon Do One - Quon Do Two - Single Dagger - Double Dagger - Tiger Hook Sword - Tiger Fork - Single Crescent Spear - Steel Whip Chin - Double Monk's Cymbal - Monk's Spade


Two - Men Forms
Butterfly Knife vs Empty Hand - Short Stick vs Same - Double Head Stick vs Same - Spear vs Sable - 3 Sectional Staff vs Spear - Single Butterknife with Shield vs Spear

Ranking
No sash - Grey 1,2,3,4 - Green 1,2,3,4, - Red 1,2,3,4 - Blue 1,2,3,4 - Black 1,2 - Instructor Black - Master Black




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Posted by Shen     0 Comments Thursday, October 20, 2005
Dit Da Jow Formula and Preparation Instructions.



This article was submitted by Friend and Kung Fu Brother, Dale Dugas. Dale has long time experience with Chinese Herbs and Dit Da Jow. Here he speaks of his encounter with this strange stuff, gives us some advise based on his experience, and then does the unthinkable .... He gives out a formula!!! Not only that, he proceeds to explain how to prepare it for your own use!!! When was the last time you heard of anyone giving out the ingredients for a Dit Da Jow formula? Thank you Dale for your unselfishness and sharing. You are a true Kung Fu brother. If anyone wishes to contact Dale or learn more about his background, a short bio and contact information are included below.

Dit Da Jow: Herbal Healing Liniment

My first exposure to Dit Da Jow (Bruise Liniment) was while training in a Uechi –Ryu Karate Dojo in South Eastern Massachusetts where I grew up. I had been kicked in the shin very hard by a fellow student and my shin was already darkening as the blood began to pool below the surface of the skin.

My teacher went into the other room and brought back a bottle of very dark liquid, which he was shaking as he was walking over to me. I had never seen teacher with this type of bottle before. I was both curious to know what it was as much as I was apprehensive of his using this “liquid” on me. My teacher explained that this liquid was used in Kung-fu schools and helps heal bruises as well as other injuries which occur during training.

Man! What a surprise. I had never known there existed medicine for martial arts before this. I thought you took aspirin and iced and heated your injuries like other Western healing modalities common to injury first aid. Opening the bottle my teacher poured out into his hand a small amount of the liquid which he then rubbed into the bruised area of my shin. At first it hurt as my teacher was rubbing the bump that had already begun to form. He repeated this 3 times in the space of 15 minutes.

I thanked him, and then class ended and I went home. The next day I woke to find that the bruise which was an ugly dark mark under the skin had turned a shade of weak brown overnight. I was almost too much for my 14 year old brain to comprehend such healing power from a liquid. Thus began my introduction to using Dit Da Jow/Tieh Ta Jiu.


Within the last 15 years many people have been exposed to the healing benefits of this once mysterious dark concoction. Many people have hoodwinked others into thinking that one should pay thousands of dollars for a specific formula. Let me say that most of the herbs used in Chinese Medicine are cheap by Western standards. There are some herbs which are getting harder to locate and conversely you see their rarity reflected in the price the herbalist will charge you. I have been lucky over the years to make friends with herbalists as well as a few martial artists over the world who just happened to be large scale proponents of using jow for training in martial arts.

My first formula came from the Hung Ga/Hung Jia family of Kung Fu. The herbs were cool to look at as the herbalist filled the formula for me while I waited. I could not believe the amount of material he was pulling out of small drawers and weighing. He had a pile going and told me that this was half the formula. Roots, barks, leaves, and actual insects were in this formula. Not only that, he went into the back room and returned with a whole snake which he said was good to guard against rheumatism and arthritis as well as strengthen the qi.

I found myself a 4 gallon jar, added the herbs and a whole lot of cheap rotgut whiskey (some teachers seem to prefer gin, others vodka, even rice wine. I have found that all of the above makes great product. There is not ultimate liquor to use, rather one that performs the best for you. My favorite is 80 Proof Vodka.) and placed the container in my closet. 6 months later I drained off a smaller bottle of the jow to try. Brought it to a friends house and cracked it open to apply before our 3 Star hitting session would begin.

The liniment was dark, pungent and made my arms fill with energy and fluid within a few moments. This was the sign of a good liniment. You should feel your body reacting (in a good way) within moments of application. Too many commercial jows available to the public are watered down. Some say this is to increase sales, others that the regular strength liniment could cause a rash with those of tender skin. For whatever reason few jows are truly strong unless you know what went into them, hence I make all my own training jows.

I have included this formula for you to try. It’s rather balanced well with blood moving herbs as well pain killing and qi moving herbs. You can use this for most injuries and basic iron palm training. You will not be able to find eagles claws in the USA. I was taught to substitute chicken feet. 20 feet or 10 pairs of feet are to be used. Gather the herbs, and a 4 gallon jar. I use beer making carboys, but some people hate having to take the time to place all the herbs within the container. Again is preference. Never use plastic, only glass or ceramic. Some people steam their herbs before adding the alcohol. I have tried it both ways and do not see a large difference in efficacy. Add the alcohol, seal the container, label the date and then place it in the closet. Wait at least 8 weeks before you use any. I shake mine everyday for the first 2 weeks and then leave it alone until the 8 weeks is up. I then transfer some into a smaller container and reseal the original bottle and keep that in the closet out of sunlight.

I hope you enjoy your liniment!

Train hard, and use your jow when you need it.

Dale B. Dugas,
192 Holbrook Road Apt. 2R
Quincy, MA 02171
617-595-8097

Martial Arts Experience:
* 1st degree Black Belt in Uechi-Ryu Karate under Jack Summers
* Hung-gar Kung Fu under Yon Lee
* Aikido/Jujitsu/Judo under Testusaburo Maekawa
* Taijiquan, Hsingyiquan, Baguazhang under Kwan Sai Hung
* Jiulong Baguazhang (9 Dragon Baguazhang) under Dr. John Painter
* Iron Palm under GM Gene L. Chicoine of the ISCA




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Posted by Shen     0 Comments Tuesday, October 18, 2005
5 Animal Kung Fu - Innovation and Tradition Come Together
I wrote this for the Southern Fist Forum(http://hungkuennet.forumco.com/) in answer to their request for information about Grandmaster Ark Wong's 5 family / 5 animal Style.

Grandmaster Ark Wong is generally recognized as the first to teach Chinese Kung Fu to non-chinese students. This style inspired and influenced many and in many ways paved the way for Kung Fu to spread outside of China.

The official name for the style is Ng Gar Kuen which means 5 family fist. Many call it the 5 animal style due to its use of 5 distinct animal forms. The style was formed by Ark Y. Wong by combining what he believed to be the most effective characteristics of 5 different family styles of Kung Fu: Fut Gar, Hung Gar, Choy Gar, Lee Gar, and Mok Gar.

Stances are higher than those of most southern styles of Kung Fu but still defined. The style emphasizes mobility and fast, fluid footwork. Basics are at the heart of training in the style with forms being taught depending on the progress of the students basics. Basics are hand drills, conditioning, footwork, breath coordination, strength & stamina training, flexibility, speed and reflex training.

The system consists of 6 forms that introduce the various 5 family characteristics or techniques. Applications are emphasized. Sparring is also stressed but only when the teacher determines that the student is ready, so it does not begin at any particular, predetermined time. After the first six hand forms come the 5 animal forms. Tiger, Dragon, Snake, Leopard, Crane. These are very long forms that contain internal elements and that develop Jing. The "Breathing Form" is taught at this time as well. It is a combination dynamic tension set and Chi Kung set.

Weapons training begins at an intermediate level. The style has two man sets (hand, weapons, empty hand vs. weapon), a wooden dummy set, and uses the Moi Fah Jong, the plumb Blossom Poles. Iron Palm is in the curriculum as is Dim Mak, but students are selected for this type of training (traditionally).

One characteristic that stands out is the use of sweeps. This system incorporates sweeps (forward, back, 360 degree) much more than other arts that I have seen. A Ng Gar Kuen practitioner develops sweeps to a very high degree. The style does not use blocks per se, instead all moves are offensive. The constant drilling is meant to develop "maximum power with minimum effort, maximum efficiency" in the words of the head of the system, Seming Ma, Grandson of the late Grandmaster Ark Y. Wong.

After the 5 animal forms are completed, along with the core weapons (short, long, double, flexible)with an acceptable degree of proficiency, the core curriculum has been completed and the student receives a black sash. To continue, he/she is encouraged to begin teaching the style. There are advanced animal sets (elephant, eagle, etc.), and other higher level training.

It is a fascinating art, created out the knowledge and innovation of a great martial artist, but incorporating many of the traditions of Chinese Kung Fu.

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Posted by Shen     0 Comments Monday, October 17, 2005
The Best Dit Da Jow - Part Two
OK, So the response was less than overwhelming, but I have to assume someone is reading this and will now end the gnawing suspense I left you with. Drum roll please - THE BEST DIT DA JOW IS ......

There is none. There is no one formula that is best for everyone or for every type of use. That is why there are many different formulas and different approaches used in the combination of herbs,number of herbs, Alcohol type, mixing, making, storage, aging, etc.

Over time, like the martial arts themselves, different variations have been developed from many particular viewpoints of what each believes to be "the best" or better than the others. And being that there are so many herbs in the Chinese Pharmacoupia, there are many different combinations that will lead to a good formula that exhibits good results.

But what are good results? Well, what is it that you are looking for? What results are you seeking? In Martial Arts, this usually means a distinction between 2 categories: Healing or Conditioning. Healing jows are those that have warmer formulations, increasing blood circulation and dispersing congealed blood. These are the formulas that clear up those nasty training bruises like magic, some much better than others. Conditioning jows are the Iron Palm formulas which are cooling in nature, disperse stagnation, and mobilize Chi. These are the formulas used for repetitive striking, such as done in Iron Palm training, or in blow resistance exercises like 3 star, shin star, roller bar, or in Japanese Martial arts, Makiwara training. The conditioning formulas will prevent damage, avoid swelling, and dramatically increase the resistance and strength of the areas being conditioned.

It would be nice if these two categories were discrete and distinct but that is not the case. First, there are formulas that have elements of both, a category of all purpose formulas, if you will. That is not too bad, a formula that takes care of healing and conditioning? More combinience. Yes but... there are so many people marketing Dit Da Jow these days and invariably there are formulas being sold as healing that are not, and others being sold as Iron Palm formulas that are not. In other words, these broad categories are being mixed and the terms are being used interchangeably. This further muddies the waters.

But no one said that there were only 3 types. In fact there are many more. There are formulas for healing deep tissue, formulas for healing muscle tears, formulas for fractured bones. There are formulas that heal conditions located in the upper body and others for lower body. There are specific formulas for the shoulders, for the knees, for the waist. And then there are those for internal, soft tissue bruising. And we can go on and on.

So, in our search for the best Dit Da Jow, the first question that must be asked is: for what purpose? Stated differently, What do you want it for?

And with that I will end todays installment, leaving you all on pins and needles, anxiously waiting for the next.

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Posted by Shen     0 Comments Saturday, October 15, 2005
The Best Dit Da Jow - Not quite that Simple
OK, So the response was less than overwhelming, but I have to assume someone is reading this and will now end the gnawing suspense I left you with. Drum roll please - THE BEST DIT DA JOW IS ......

There is none. There is no one formula that is best for everyone or for every type of use. That is why there are many different formulas and different approaches used in the combination of herbs,number of herbs, Alcohol type, mixing, making, storage, aging, etc.

Over time, like the martial arts themselves, different variations have been developed from many particular viewpoints of what each believes to be "the best" or better than the others. And being that there are so many herbs in the Chinese Pharmacoupia, there are many different combinations that will lead to a good formula that exhibits good results.

But what are good results? Well, what is it that you are looking for? What results are you seeking? In Martial Arts, this usually means a distinction between 2 categories: Healing or Conditioning. Healing jows are those that have warmer formulations, increasing blood circulation and dispersing congealed blood. These are the formulas that clear up those nasty training bruises like magic, some much better than others. Conditioning jows are the Iron Palm formulas which are cooling in nature, disperse stagnation, and mobilize Chi. These are the formulas used for repetitive striking, such as done in Iron Palm training, or in blow resistance exercises like 3 star, shin star, roller bar, or in Japanese Martial arts, Makiwara training. The conditioning formulas will prevent damage, avoid swelling, and dramatically increase the resistance and strength of the areas being conditioned.

It would be nice if these two categories were discrete and distinct but that is not the case. First, there are formulas that have elements of both, a category of all purpose formulas, if you will. That is not too bad, a formula that takes care of healing and conditioning? More combinience. Yes but... there are so many people marketing Dit Da Jow these days and invariably there are formulas being sold as healing that are not, and others being sold as Iron Palm formulas that are not. In other words, these broad categories are being mixed and the terms are being used interchangeably. This further muddies the waters.

But no one said that there were only 3 types. In fact there are many more. There are formulas for healing deep tissue, formulas for healing muscle tears, formulas for fractured bones. There are formulas that heal conditions located in the upper body and others for lower body. There are specific formulas for the shoulders, for the knees, for the waist. And then there are those for internal, soft tissue bruising. And we can go on and on.

So, in our search for the best Dit Da Jow, the first question that must be asked is: for what purpose? Stated differently, What do you want it for?

And with that I will end todays installment, leaving you all on pins and needles, anxiously waiting for the next.

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Posted by Shen     0 Comments Friday, October 14, 2005
Tradition vs. Innovation - Yin and Yang Once Again
There is a reason that I chose this topic as the beginning of my Kung Fu babble. That reason is, that as of today, October 14, 2005, the argument over tradition in the martial arts rages on, much like it has for the last several decades and maybe since the very birth of the martial arts. Babble at its best, don't you think?

Seriously,isn't clear, looking at the history and evolution of the martial arts that there can be no tradition without the progress that innovation brings to a discipline and likewise that there can be no innovation without the foundation that tradition provides? So, like everything else in this universe of ours, one is because of the other and vice versa.

Tradition is necessary to promote the values and principles that are the backbone of every martial tradition, no matter the style: Hung Gar or Ha Say Fu; Wing Chun or Ving Tsun; Bak Mei or Bak Fu Pai; Choy Li Fut or Fut Hung Choy Lee Mok; Chow Gar Southern Praying Mantis or Seven Star Northern Praying Mantis; Chen, Yang or Wu Tai Chi; Xing Yi or Bagua; tradition is a core element of all styles.

However, in order for your tradition to survive and be transmitted to subsequent generations of kung fu nuts (myself included in this elite group, in fact many of the people I know fall in this category!), it cannot stagnate and must be infused with fresh interpretations and viewpoints that continue to support and add further relevance to its original design.

So, without further ado, honoring what has now become tradition, I hereby join the on-going debate and what may be the first Kung Fu Babble but with what I hope is an innovative twist, thus helping to ensure that this now improved dispute will live on to continue to distract future generations of martial artists from what we should all be doing in the first place..... TRAINING.

What do you think? Join the fray, be a part of the tradition!

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