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  • Wednesday, May 29, 2024 6:30 AM | André Salvage (Administrator)

    I think we can all agree that it's not right to take something that doesn't belong to you. Doing so deprives the original owner of having, using, and truly owning it.

    If we're clear on the fact that we shouldn't take what isn't ours, then why do we so often take personally words, actions, behaviors, and thoughts that clearly aren't meant for us? Why do we adopt them, believe in them, and let ourselves be affected by them?

    When we take things personally, it's akin to taking someone else's belongings. Their words and actions are their own; by taking them personally, we appropriate—misappropriate—their chance to learn from their own actions.

    At our next Wednesday gathering, I'd like to explore three questions:

    1. Why do we take the words, actions, and behaviors of others personally?
    2. What can we do, adopt, or “let go” so we don't take things personally?
    3. How would your life be different if you stopped taking others' words, behaviors, and so forth personally?
  • Monday, April 29, 2024 6:36 PM | André Salvage (Administrator)

    I don't want to put my head on the chopping block by discussing this, but it's a topic that has come up in several conversations I've had with individuals in both small groups and government settings. The debate centers around the right to speak freely and say whatever one needs to say versus an individual's personal right to be comfortable and not be triggered.
     
    I know many of us have strong opinions on this matter, and what I'm hoping for is a discussion to see if we can discover some type of balance. This is challenging because, like all social, political, and spiritual ideals, we tend to place them on a pendulum, swinging from extremes and creating divisions of 'us versus them,' 'right versus wrong,' and demanding that someone take a side.
     
    I'm not naive enough to think that we can solve this particular problem, but what I'm hoping for is a discussion on how the extremes might find ways to meet in the middle. Perhaps this is something that can be offered during times when the debate is particularly heated.
     
    What I'm saying is that I definitely have opinions that I express in those moments, but I'm looking to see and hear from your experiences on ways to find common ground so that both so-called extremes can be in the same room and listen to one another.
     
    If we have time, I would also like to explore if there's a parallel to the idea of stopping someone from harming you by moving or attacking first. In San Soo, we understand that it is not easy to hurt another human being. To do so, you must dehumanize them; that's why people curse at you, call you out of your name, and even use animal names—because, in their minds, they are not making you human. These words have the power to provoke an attack. As fighters, we know not to wait for someone's best move and trust our intuition, watching their body and words to either attack first or move away.
     
    Given this, my question is: When does someone forfeit their right to continue (free speech) and make me feel not human before I have the right to feel safe and protect myself? Is there any parallel to someone lecturing and using offensive, possibly dangerous, dehumanizing words and someone's personal right to interrupt them or stop their flow, as we do in San Soo?
     
    Please, do me a favor and try not to place me on either side of the extremes based on what I've said, but join me, and let's see if we can find a balanced, common ground.

  • Saturday, March 30, 2024 1:32 PM | André Salvage (Administrator)

    Trauma State of Mind

    I call this first stage the trauma state of mind. We’ve all experienced days where we’ve continuously led with our ego—that protective wall—due to some unresolved lack, loss, hurt, fear, pain, hunger, or even sleepiness.

    When we are in this mindset, we are internally in conflict, and even though there’s a part of you that knows you should stay home, we still venture out like a walking time bomb ready to explode.

    Situation

    The next stepping stone to conflict is that life happens. Situations in and of themselves do not lead to conflict, but if you are carrying the burden of prior trauma and your present situation manifests a loss or even hints at the potential for a loss, your ego-protected mindset connects to and magnifies the present situation and can lead to conflict—especially if you get triggered.

    Triggered

    Being triggered is reflexively reacting internally to the perceived negative life situation we’ve magnified in our minds. When you are pissed off, all life situations remind you of the trauma that caused your current mindset. Being triggered can precipitate a significant emotional response.

    Feel

    When we get triggered, feelings that are often bigger than we can manage arise. These feelings amplify the feeling we left the house with and often overwhelm us. To release these feelings, we take another step.

    Express

    The final step to beginning a conflict is expression. We act on the feelings triggered by the situation that our mindset said was dangerous— and usually aim our words or actions at others. We’ve completed the pathway to conflict or a fight.

    Later I'll be writing about ways to disrupt this pathway and the tools you use to stop the conflict before reaching the end of the path.

  • Thursday, February 29, 2024 10:00 AM | André Salvage (Administrator)

    One of the primary reasons I was drawn to Kung Fu San Soo was its non-competitive nature. Before discovering San Soo, I had immersed myself in competitive boxing and various martial arts, where the drive to win, to be the best, and to overpower others often led to a profound amount of pain and suffering, effects that can last a lifetime.

    I recall my last contest vividly—a full-contact, all-style tournament. My instructor at the time emphasized doing your best without ever mentioning winning or losing. “Sometimes your best will surpass others, and sometimes it won’t. The key is to train intelligently and learn from every experience. And most importantly, enjoy the process.”

    Facing my opponent, I sensed victory was imminent, not so much due to my skill but due to the intense pressure his coach—his father—placed on him. The desperation in his father’s commands to win was alarming. Throughout the fight, his father’s screams pierced the air, and during breaks, he berated his son with the demand to win. My heart went out to my opponent, especially after I knocked him down and claimed victory.

    To this day, I wonder if my skill or the heavy burden of stress and expectation he carried into the ring decided the outcome. That competition was my last.

    The obsession with winning over others is a toxin to the soul, fueling division, an “us versus them” mentality, and an unhealthy focus on comparison without understanding how to truly win or lose. It seems we’ve shifted from learning and mastering skills for their own sake to learning merely for the sake of our egos, to dominate others at their expense.

    I’m not an advocate for the sentiment that everyone deserves a trophy simply for participation. Hard work, doing your best, and outperforming others deserve recognition. However, my concern lies with the excessive focus on external validation, rewards, and winning at the expense of others.

    This distortion of sportsmanship skews our values significantly. It’s telling when professional athletes earn a hundred times more than teachers. The emphasis has shifted from growing through learning to competing to win.

    I’m curious about your views on competition and comparison. Have you noticed when the joy of learning and practicing to your best ability shifts into competing at others’ expense? How do you feel upon winning? Does this competitive mindset aid your training, or does it impede it?

    Delving deeper into the concept, I believe competition—measuring, comparing, and categorizing things as good or bad—fuels the notion of separation. These constructs—societal creations—empower some while disempowering others, fostering the divide that is growing daily.

    The constructs anchor us to outcomes, overshadowing the journey and the myriad opportunities for learning and growth. This focus on winning rather than on the process obscures the ability to embrace and learn from loss, trapping us in a cycle of unconsolable grief, unable to appreciate the inherent beauty in every situation.

    The competitive mindset that reinforces an “us versus them” mentality, promoting the necessity to “win” at all costs—and to prevent the “other” from winning is rooted in the fear that  if “they” prevail, “they” will do horrible things to “us.” 

    This mindset paves the way for demonizing and dehumanizing opponents, justifying abuse, control, and even genocide by stripping people of their humanity. In this frame, competition becomes a battleground not for ideas but for righteousness, triggering debates, selective outrage, and ridicule rather than fostering understanding and respect.

    In sports and my interactions—whether playing, working, or learning—I view competition as a contest. This perspective shifts the focus from asserting dominance to evaluating one’s abilities and identifying areas for improvement, growth, and development.

    Imagine how our world would transform if we redefined competition not as a vehicle for division but as an avenue to excel to the best of our abilities, inspiring each other to reach new heights.

    Such a shift could redefine sportsmanship, cultivating respect and collaborative efforts to enhance individual talents and collective achievements. This approach to competition, or rather a contest, could diminish the grip of separation on our culture and society, encouraging everyone to give their best, enjoy the journey, and engage with the world with an intention to connect.

  • Wednesday, January 31, 2024 7:00 AM | André Salvage (Administrator)

    Before I’m introduced on stage for a lecture or workshop, I provide a written bio to the host. This bio excludes being a Master of martial arts or Kung Fu San Soo. I omit that once important detail because nowadays, being a martial arts master doesn’t carry the prestige it held a while ago.

    I’m old enough to use the words “in my day,” so I will.

    In my day, learning martial arts was not solely for fighting—it was life training.

    Classic martial arts training balanced philosophy, compassion, health, empowerment, and courage. A byproduct of those teachings was that you learned how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally.

    Every martial arts teacher I ever had, including my first San Soo instructors Sharon and Larry Wikel taught that balance and encouraged their students to embrace the extreme parts of themselves, from the compassionate loving part to the part that can be dangerous. We were taught how to access those extremes while living in peace, objectivity, and balance.

    Nowadays, martial arts is uber-martial and all about the fight, the competition, and the winning, paralleling the way we communicate.

    We no longer communicate with the intention to connect but with the intention to dominate, debate, control, conquer, and win.

    One of the main reasons why companies ask me to work with them is because we have lost the ability to communicate with the intention to connect.

    Most of our interactions—business and personal— are a microcosm of our society and the world’s prevalent way of being.  

    • Right now, we don’t listen to one another.
    • We shut down anyone who has different opinions.
    • We are opportunists and take advantage of others’ weaknesses and actions.
    • We’re very fragile and self-righteous.
    • We take any idea that perpetuates growth and awareness, beat it down, and demonize it until it loses its original positive meaning.

    People who read that I am a martial artist assume I subscribe to one of the prevalent extremes.

    They see me as either a new age, magical thinking, fake wanna-be monk (a fellow martial artist called me that once…only once) who uses his chi and mind to defeat his opponents or as some competitive, angry, ex-gang member street fighter who could not possibly understand the corporate world.

    A CEO told me, “I think you’ll be a good fit for our staff because the majority of them have your background, similar life experiences, and they seem to have the most problems…the C-suites are fine.”

    This elitist thinking just added to their problems—Especially when I shared with the staff how to objectively speak to narcissistic power without becoming what you hate.

    Once I removed the master of martial arts and “former street fighter” from my bio, I was hired to work with everyone in the company. I also began refusing to work with any organization that only wanted to send their “support staff” to the classes—it was everyone or no one at all.

    To many companies’ credit, they see the value of everyone learning the same skills, and those companies see the changes they desire. ­

    What companies don’t realize is that many of the principles I teach to help them resolve conflicts with each other and their clients—the importance of communicating with the intention to connect, trusting your intuition, bringing present-moment awareness to how we listen and speak to each other—originate from the philosophies and teachings of martial arts.

    For some teams, as an icebreaker, I have them practice sticky hands to help them realize and feel the moment when they stop connecting and start competing because that’s the moment of conflict.

    All that leads up to say that today’s discussion point comes from the art of listening and authentic expression.

    Saying how you feel or expressing yourself is not easy. One tool that helps is the ability to pause.

    Too often, we get pulled into believing that we have to immediately respond to what people say to us when, in truth, it is better to pause, breathe, and relax your shoulders before you say anything.

    Pausing is not easy if you’re in a debate or you’re dealing with somebody who has mouth diarrhea and feels they have to fill silence with noise. But even that can be neutralized by asking that person for a moment before you talk.

    Because we equate silence with confusion or not knowing, we feel we must respond immediately when in conversation. However, a slight pause allows you to absorb what the speaker just said and not respond from any protective parts or filters. Try it today, right before it’s your turn to speak. Take a moment, take a breath, take a pause, and afterward, notice your tone and the outcome of the conversation.

    In martial arts, the pause is equal to the timing and you being in the same rhythm as the confrontation. Often, we rush to respond when we need to recognize the rhythm, the timing, and the flow—and that momentary pause helps. Timing is everything when it comes to movement and communication. The pause helps you to be in that moment and to control the flow.

    Try it…take a pause…take a breath...then speak.

  • Tuesday, January 02, 2024 9:56 AM | André Salvage (Administrator)

    I know it may seem like I'm biased, but objectively speaking, I feel San Soo holds up very well against today's fighting styles. However, it all depends on your criteria for assessment. If you're evaluating San Soo as a tournament and competition style, solely practicing San Soo might not be effective or even allowed. But if we're talking about its effectiveness in street fighting, then I believe it excels.

    Is Kung Fu San Soo the best overall martial art? This question is complicated. I don’t think the average person, just observing the style, would consider it the best. This is mostly because many, even skilled fighters, fall into the trap of believing that the most popular martial arts seen on television and in organized competitions are the best.

    A brief history lesson: Before Asian martial arts became prominent, boxing was the main and most popular self-defense style, perceived as the deadliest due to the power and invincibility of its practitioners. Post World War II, martial arts like Okinawa Tae, Karate, Judo, Aikido, and Jujitsu were introduced in America, becoming popular and perceived as more dangerous due to their incorporation of kicks, throws, and ground techniques, which were new to most Americans.

    I remember being one of the few people familiar with judo and jujitsu in my youth. In schoolyard skirmishes, the use of my feet and throws was unfamiliar to the bullies accustomed to boxing. Following the Korean War, Korean martial arts like Taekwondo, Tang Soo Do, Hapkido, and the formidable Hwa Rang Do gained popularity in the U.S. Their high kicks, leverages, and success in tournaments captured attention.

    Muay Thai also gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. Its origins are debated; some people believe its origin is a very old Cambodian style of fighting called Bokator, used in the Khmer military, while others contest that its origin began in Taiwan. Regardless, “the art of the 8 limbs” became very popular and was considered to be (and still is) one of the more effective martial arts.

    Then Bruce Lee came along and introduced his blending of all styles, which he called Jeet Kune Do. Through his influence and movies, Kung Fu became the deadliest style and the style that people were quoting and saying was the best.

    In the '90s, various martial arts claimed to be the most effective, including the Israeli Krav Maga, which is a hybrid style of aikido judo, karate, boxing, and wrestling. Our own military had a hybrid style utilizing all styles, including Kung Fu San Soo. These were known due to their absence from tournaments.

    Then came the Brazilian jiu-jitsu style founded by Carlos Gracie, his brothers, and his sons, who challenged all martial arts in the octagon with great success. Then the mixed martial arts craze began its rise to where people feel very strongly that a good standup, ground, and submission technique is the only formula for fighting in and out of the ring. 

    Amidst these evolving styles, in the '60s, a man named Chin Siu Dek (Jimmy H Woo) was teaching Kung Fu San Soo in El Monte, California. When he first arrived in America and opened a martial arts studio, he named it "karate kung fu," since kung fu was relatively unheard of before Bruce Lee's emergence.

    Eager to showcase San Soo, Jimmy participated in a martial arts tournament. However, due to his limited understanding of English and a misconception that "full contact" meant literal full contact, he responded to his opponent's approach with a standard San Soo block, punch, and groin kick, resulting in a knockout. This action led to his immediate removal from the ring with boos and insults from the audience.  

    Jimmy attempted to explain his language barrier and misunderstanding of the rules, requesting to address the audience for clarification, but his request was denied. Following this incident, he chose not to participate in any further tournaments and forbade his students against it as well. Unlike many ancient martial arts that are blends of various techniques involving the practitioner's limbs, body, and mind, San Soo's distinctiveness stems from its integration of all movements right from its inception.

    So, how does San Soo compare to all these styles? Objectively, it fares very well. While I don’t believe in a "best" style, as it's the practitioner that makes a style effective, San Soo, with its comprehensive techniques, excels in practical self-defense. Its ability to disrupt an opponent’s rhythm and adapt to any situation makes it formidable.

    I have seen San Soo, taekwondo, karate, jujitsu, boxers, wrestlers, and every style of martial art get beat on the street. I have seen all of them win and lose in tournaments as well.

    It is always the fighter, not the style, that makes the art effective.

    That being said… if you are looking for a style that has at its heart all combinations and techniques that one will need for practical self-defense, then San Soo is by far the best.

    I also believe that if those who participate in competition were to spend one year at any San Soo school, their tournament fighting would also improve exponentially.

    One reason is the family of Fut Ga. One of the best and deadliest things about San Soo is its ability to break the rhythm of a fight, disrupting the opponents’ subconscious habitual combinations and doing the unexpected. This quality of disruption, the ability to change and adapt to any situation, is one of the qualities that make San Soo so formidable.

    The best illustration of this quality is a story told by my good friend and fellow San Soo teacher, the late Dean Murray:

    “San Soo is like playing chess—your opponent moves, you counter when your opponent is about to make their move, you move first when your opponent is confused by you not waiting your turn, you pick up the chair you are sitting on and hit them with it.”

    That is San Soo…

    So, if you were to ask me, how does San Soo stack up into today’s martial arts in fighting, I would say it stands up damn well—after I hit you with my chair. 

  • Friday, December 01, 2023 8:00 AM | André Salvage (Administrator)

    One of the more challenging aspects of teaching Kung Fu is how people react and their beliefs around mistakes—no matter how often I remind them there are no such things as mistakes or doing it wrong. Most of the time, what someone is doing is just not what we are doing now. Up windmills are not wrong; we are just doing down windmills for this lesson.

    Unfortunately, no matter how I say it, many go straight to guilt, shame, and continuous loathing of the mistake and themselves when blunders are made. In life, we do the same thing. How many of you still emotionally beat yourself up over errors you made? We need a new way of looking at mistakes.

    I understand mistakes to be Accelerated Learning Experiences.

    If you think about it, mistakes accelerate and move you along your journey faster.

    When you are walking and you trip over something, you move along the path faster. The problem is that instead of appreciating the acceleration, many feel shame, guilt, embarrassment, and anger at what tripped them and how they looked.

    These are the protective habits, beliefs, and addictions that stop us from appreciating the lessons to be learned from mistakes.

    The most destructive response is, “You should have known better.” Even if you were a child, innocent, confused, scared, never learned, or you were in survival mode, we tell ourselves we should have known—somehow, you should be “perfect.”

    What these protections are actually doing is stopping you from growing.

    How would your life be different if you saw the mistake as a lesson you would not have learned otherwise?

    I never would have known…

    I never would have understood…

    I never would have seen…

    I never would have learned…

    So many lessons would be lost if not for the mistakes I made.

    The next time you make a mistake:

    • Listen— to how it affected others
    • Apologize— for your part
    • Acknowledge—what happened and how it affected others
    • Take responsibility—for your part
    • Repair— any damage, if possible
    • And above all, ask yourself:

    “What valuable lesson did I just learn that I would otherwise not have learned without making this mistake?” 

    Whatever the learning is, receive it as if someone just gave you a hundred-dollar bill you dropped. You would accept it with gratitude and deep appreciation.

    In summary, I believe your fighting and life would greatly improve if you embraced the following truths:

    1. Mistakes are accelerated learning opportunities.
    2. I learned something I would not have learned if not for the mistake.  
    3. All learnings should be received as if I am accepting a valuable treasure I misplaced.  

    BTW, having this conversation is a powerful way to help children understand that they may not have learned the lesson without the mistake so they don’t grow up holding on to guilt and shame for the rest of their lives. 

    What are your thoughts?

  • Wednesday, November 01, 2023 7:09 AM | André Salvage (Administrator)

    In Kung Fu San Soo classes, we are working on being and staying close to our opponent. The advantages of this principle are numerous. The closer you are, the more opportunities there are:

    • Overwhelming your opponent
    • Limiting damage from their punches and kicks
    • Free hand, free limb, and vital areas are accessible
    • Opponent can’t always see what is coming
    • Openings to use alternative fighting movements:
      • Biting
      • Spitting (for distraction)
      • Head butts
      • Elbows
      • Inside knees to inner thighs
      • Skin grabs

    To be effective with close fighting, you have to be comfortable with being extremely close and okay with taking up someone’s space. You can’t fight to get away; your closeness is to fight to hurt.

    While some techniques may require adjustments, virtually everything practiced in our standard workout can be executed up close or on the ground.

    Because Kung Fu San Soo is a holistic Martial Art, being close to your opponent has to translate into a real-life application. To me, being close to my opponent is synonymous with being connected to someone.

    One of the ways we connect is with our words. If you communicate with the intention to connect, your words are heard, and we listen without the wall of the protected Ego.

    Because I want to connect (and closeness is part of the art), when I talk to someone, in my mind’s eye or visualization, I picture myself close to them, touching them in a comforting way. Sometimes, it is as simple as a visualized handshake or as intimate as a hug.

    Seeing yourself close to someone, even though you are actually a comfortable distance apart, is felt by others and helps them feel safe in the conversation. 

    For example, I have a friend who does not like to be hugged, so when I see them, I greet them with a handshake, fist bump, or caring, respectful words. At the same time, I visualize myself giving them a hug. On a few occasions, they have commented that our handshakes feel like hugs, and they appreciate feeling comfortable when we talk.

    I also practice this when I’m in a challenging conversation, or there is a misunderstanding between myself and someone else.

    Try this visualization technique the next time you are in conversation with someone and see the difference in how you communicate and connect.

    This is all possible because in Kung Fu San Soo we are okay with being physically close to someone and them to us.

  • Sunday, October 01, 2023 6:19 AM | André Salvage (Administrator)

    According to City-Data.com, the number of adults who know how to defend themselves is well below 1%. This statistic might come as a surprise, particularly for those deeply immersed in the world of martial arts.

    If you're well-versed in safety, self-defense, and various fighting styles, it's easy to assume that everyone possesses some form of self-protection know-how. However, the reality is quite the opposite.

    During a recent visit to Los Angeles, I witnessed a physical altercation that left me astounded. Both participants seemed to have just enough martial arts training or had watched enough MMA fights to create chaos, but neither knew how to defend themselves effectively. Consequently, onlookers intervened, primarily to prevent them from causing harm to themselves.

    I'm not passing judgment on whether the fact that most people lack fighting skills is good or bad. I'm simply providing a heads-up. If you ever find yourself in a situation escalating into a physical confrontation, having practical street-fighting experience will be a significant advantage.

    For those who have let their training lapse, it's worth considering a return to sharpen these critical self-protection skills. Even if there's a good chance your adversary won't be well-versed in personal safety, it's essential to ensure that you are.

  • Thursday, June 01, 2023 1:28 PM | André Salvage (Administrator)

    Although we have talked about this many times, I still see fighters “someplace else“ when you are supposed to be in the moment in your body and present in the workout.

    Allowing your energy to leave the moment is a form of protection you don’t need, and I would like you to change.

    Instead of holding your breath (being in protective mode) and allowing your weight to rise (your energy begins to leave), you lean back slightly (you’re gone.)

    I’d like you to practice being present, allowing your energy to stay in the moment, being curious, embracing the situation, allowing closeness to be a comfort, and practicing remaining present in the face of the unknown.

    As soon as you walk into the studio, practice being there, don’t wait until I bring you to the moment by acknowledging your presence or calling the class to order. You take that responsibility and bring yourself to the moment, grounding yourself, feeling your energy, thoughts, and body lining up and being there.

    Another practice to embrace the unknown would be at night, when your house is dark, look around, find the darkest corner, and stand in that corner, becoming the darkness.
    Breathe, set your weight, and remain there until you connect to it.

    As fighters, we embrace the unknown by becoming the unknown.

    We remain present with curiosity, courage and by allowing our breathing to ground us with each breath.

    Be here now by trusting your intuition and training to work in harmony.
    Be in this moment not to finish it, but to enjoy it, finding opportunities and possibilities for your greatest good.

    And although we desire no harm to anyone, when the anticipation of the storm is felt, the source of the pending storm is you.

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