After a long and successful career as both a teacher and full-contact fighting champion in Southeast Asia, master Tat-Mau Wong left his home in Hong Kong to open a school in the United States. In 1983, he opened a 1,200-square-foot facility in San Francisco known as the Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu Institute.
Today, master Wong’s Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy is about to celebrate its 20-year anniversary. From one small school and a handful of loyal students, master Wong’s network has grown to thousands of students with four locations in the San Francisco Bay area (including a Kickboxing &
Fitness Center), a branch in Connecticut, and several branches in Brazil.
It’s not merely coincidence that Chinese martial arts and Tat-Mau Wong have traveled similar successful paths on the past two decades. When I first came to the United States I saw that many people had a negative image of martial arts and even greater misconceptions of kung- fu,
Wong remembers. I knew first hand the value and benefits of Chinese martial arts, so I decided to use my power to change people’s thinking.
My goal was to develop the quality and professionalism of my schools and to work together with other organizations to change this negative image. And I do believe these efforts have paid off.
Through the years, Wong’s dedication has been widely recognized. Among his many awards are Hall of Fame titles for Inside Kung-Fu Man of The
Year, Kung Fu Artist Of The Year, and Instructor of the Year. Inside Kung-Fu also recognized him as one of the most-influential martial artists of the century. And the city of San Francisco honored him for his contributions to the community by proclaiming
Nov. 13 as Master Tat-Mau Wong Day. Despite all the personal success and worldwide recognition, Wong remains humble and grounded in his sincere love of kung-fu. ‘The most rewarding thing is seeing my students grow, Wong maintains. ‘We teach kids to be strong not only physically, but also mentally and morally as well. We instill the power of self-discipline and the attitude of setting goals and never giving up. This leads to happy and successful adults. Many of the kids that started with me when they were quite young are now instructors and are passing on these same lessons to the next generation, he adds. And for the many adult students, we teach them to have a healthy lifestyle, and this positively affects every aspect of their life.
This is the gift of kung-fu.
Traditional Chinese medicine provides another example of the feet’s importance to our health. Chinese medicine holds that six of the body’s 12 main meridians (energy channels) start or end at the toes.
If reflexology and traditional Chinese medicine prove to be correct, arousing the soles of the feet initiates changes that affect the human anatomy. Understanding these principles can be of great benefit to martial artists. If you stimulate specific areas, certain physical reactions occur. Proper movement and exercise of the feet and ankles can increase the health, fitness, and sports capabilities of any martial artist. Foot usage and placement not only become important in combat, but also in training, walking, and practically every activity. An awareness of how we use our feet makes us healthier and, ultimately, enhances our skill.
Being mindful of our foot movement automatically calls attention to our ankles. The ankle, also known as the tarsus, is composed of seven different bones. Together with muscles and tendons, these bones form an elastic arch that flattens when you put your foot down and springs back to a curved shape when you lift it. Pressure applied to the bottom of the feet causes them to flatten and activates a spinal-postural reflex. The reflex stiffens and strengthens the legs and spine, providing the structure necessary for standing.
But on which part of the foot should the weight be centered? Focusing weight on the middle or center of the foot (the wai yag point) capitalizes on the foots inherent dynamics by flattening the sole and initiating the spinal-postural reflex (whereby foot placement can actually ground and strengthen your body structure). Weight concentrated on the center of the foot distributes equally so that pressure spreads itself around the sole. The ankle aids our primary shifting and rotating, and allows us to transfer body weight while remaining balanced.
Increasing the mobility/articulation of our ankles allows for a higher degree of controlled body movement. Specific exercises, such as those included in this article, grant access to the ankles’ full range of motion. These exercises also fortify the connection between the ankles and feet. These exercises also help with coordination, balance, strength, elastic energy, ten- don strength, and natural flexibility (dynamic relaxation).
The advantages of practicing these exercises extend beyond health purposes; they can easily be used in self-defense applications.
Applying the motion acquired through these exercises helps transfer energy and issue effective strikes. The motion helps us manipulate an opponent’s body parts. Practicing this motion and learning how to use the naturally occurring manipulation allows you (as a practitioner) to evolve the applications to fit unlimited situations. This serves to maximize the efficiency of your technique.
Self-defense applications developing from regularly practiced exercises guarantee the instant reaction needed in a threatening situation.
Exercises that develop from time-tested principles assure that these principles will not only be learned, but will also effort-lessly appear and survive through actual confrontations. The following situations illustrate the ready application of the aforementioned exercises. The principles attached to the scenarios exemplify how principle, exercise, and application blend together. Principle: Every step is a kick. Every kick is a step Principle: Three-legged kick Principle: Every strike is a block. Every block is a strike The principle becomes the exercise becomes the application. We slowly learn that the martial arts practiced can simultaneously become the healing arts practiced. Proper movement of the feet and ankles produces results that prove it true.