This FAQ is also available to download as a PDF here.
What makes Shaolin-Do different from other martial arts available in the Fingerlakes area?
Shaolin Kung Fu is a traditional martial art which started its long history of development during the sixth century AD. In the Northern China province of Honan, Ch’an Buddhist monks began practicing kung fu as a way of self-defense and of disciplining both mind and body.
While the fighting skills of the Shaolin monks were legendary, their underlying philosophy was always focused on the avoidance of conflict by approaching potentially dangerous situations from a position of discipline, strength, and skill. Combat techniques and knowledge honed over centuries of practice and application have resulted in a martial arts system that is unparalleled for both its effectiveness in combat and as a way of mental and physical development.
Shaolin-Do is committed to being the best martial arts school in the Fingerlakes area. That is why we offer numerous classes every week, so that you will always have an opportunity to further your training, whatever your schedule. We are confident that the training you will receive at our school will far exceed in both depth and breadth anything you will find at another school in the area, or anywhere in the world, for that matter. For example, in addition to the many regular classes, we offer special classes every week devoted to physical conditioning, meditation, iron palm, push hands, and sparring. Whatever your level of dedication to self-transformation, we will be there to support and encourage you along the way.
What will I learn?
In your first class we will start with a comprehensive warm-up set for conditioning and stretching. You will learn traditional kung fu stances and the proper method for executing basic punches and kicks. You will get a good overall strength and aerobic workout and learn some simple and effective fighting combinations and self-defense techniques.
Core Kung Fu curriculum
Shaolin Short Forms: A series of movements which develop agility and endurance and include various fighting techniques.
Chin Na: Techniques from the ancient Chinese art of holds, grabs, joint locks, and releases.
Street Defense Techniques: Two person drills using quick strikes to vulnerable body parts against common street attacks.
Animal forms: Fighting techniques based on the movements and behaviors of animals such as Tiger, Leopard, Dragon, Praying Mantis, Monkey, Bird, and Crane.
Weapon forms: Some of the weapons used are the Staff, Broadsword, Spear, Sword, 3-Section Staff, Chain Whip, and Kwan Dao.
Freestyle Sparring: emphasis is placed on safety and avoiding injury.
What if I’ve been a couch potato until now?
All vegetables are welcome at Fingerlakes Shaolin-Do! Seriously, we assume that everyone joining our school is looking for a way to improve their strength, stamina and/or flexibility. Therefore, we begin at a reasonable pace and step it up as you progress through the ranks. Each student’s training is catered to their ability and desire. Now is the perfect time to make positive changes in your life.
What are the age-ranges of students at your school?
We welcome students of nearly all ages and levels of fitness. Students range in age from 5 to 105! We have exercises to challenge everyone and we emphasize modifications to make the exercises more or less challenging, depending on your goals and skill level.
Is Shaolin-Do primarily a children’s School or Adults’ School?
We offer classes for Kids (5-7) Youth (8-12), Teens (13-17) and Adults (18+). Some teens may be rolled into the adult class, if appropriate.
How many classes a week can I / should I attend?
To make any kind of progress, you should consistently come to at least 2 classes/week. Three classes a week would be ideal, and many committed students come four or five times in a week.
There are five classes per week available for adult beginners and kids. Students are welcome to come to as many as they want, appropriate for their level. Attendance is limited only by your availability and intensity of commitment. For the really hardcore experience, we occasionally offer optional weekend intensives, with 12 or more hours of training over a Saturday / Sunday! Keep an eye on the website for announcements.
See the website for the most current class schedule: www.fingerlakesshaolin.com
What if I have previous experience?
Since the material for Shaolin-Do will differ from that of other styles, all newcomers must begin at the white belt level regardless of their rank in another style. The beginning material is subtle and challenging enough to engage students at any level. For experienced martial artists looking for a challenging workout, attendance at our Basic Skills and Conditioning class and our I Chin Ching class is encouraged. Meditation, push hands, and the complete tai chi curriculum, along with periodic seminars with Sifu Kevin and visiting instructors are enough to challenge the most insatiable martial arts devotee.
How long does it take to get a black belt?
A student gets a black belt when they are ready, and not before. With the defining moments which mark our progress in life, it is the journey that holds the real value more than the destination. Getting a black belt in our system requires knowledge, experience, and skill that can only be acquired by years of training and practice. There are no shortcuts.
Who will be teaching my classes?
Most of the classes at Fingerlakes Shaolin-Do are taught by the head instructor, Sifu Kevin Harris or by Sarah Amberge, Assistant Instructor – Second Degree Black Belt . Other qualified black belts may run classes from time to time, or assist in lessons to increase the number of available instructors.
What sorts of additional costs are there, beyond tuition?
The tuition covers only instruction. You are responsible for purchasing a uniform by the second month. Weapons will need to be purchased as your rank progresses. Wooden weapons are perfectly acceptable and are an affordable way to train. There are no test fees associated with rank promotion. There are additional seminars and private lessons available; these have a cost associated with them, and are entirely optional.
Are tournaments required for rank advancement?
No, they are not.
We have tournaments every February and August in Austin, TX, with visits from the Grandmaster and senior masters. There is a tournament every September in Lexington, KY with seminars, and an annual seminar with Senior Master Joe Schaefer and an annual seminar with the Grandmaster in DC. We are also planning to have an annual inter-school competition with the DC school as well. The events are a lot of fun and are followed by a huge demonstration/performance. All are encouraged to participate or at least to come in the evening with family to watch the exciting demonstration. But you are not required to participate. We view tournaments as a fun way to test your skills and get more motivated to practice.
What if I have to spar someone more aggressive or more experienced than myself?
The school rule is that when two people spar, they spar at the lower comfort & intensity level of the two. This means if one is less experienced or less comfortable with sparring than the other, both spar at that level-regardless. Always, the main concern is on the safety of your partner. Protective gear is worn as a precaution.
Is Shaolin-Do wushu or a traditional Chinese art?
Shaolin-Do is absolutely a traditional Chinese art. We have been told by many famous Chinese masters that the generation doing the forms that we teach died many years ago. Here is an excerpt from the write-up of one of the China trips:
“In X’ian we were greeted with an incredible reception. Master Zhou had his 75 year old Master attend and a younger but equally famous master join us. Master Zhou’s students performed first and then we put on a 1 hour show. The two visiting Masters never stopped commenting to each other excitedly while we performed. They kept talking about the heavy weight of our weapons and traditional style of our forms. In fact, at the end of our performance they were both so excited by the material they saw, they got up on stage to perform a set themselves. The elder Master performed the Hsing I Linked 5 elements form and the younger one performed a Mantis form. A student in the school exclaimed that this was the first he had ever seen the old master actually “do anything” in the 13 years he had been training at the school. We exchanged presents with the Masters as they grinned ear-to-ear, all the time shaking our hands.“
The national news was on hand to interview some of our tour members as well as Master Zhou. He had very nice things to say about our performance and stated that our spirit for martial arts was very strong. Especially since most of our performers were at least twice the age of the average student in their performance. He told us that the next time we visit he would round up all the older Kung Fu people from the surrounding region so that we could see the similarities between our Kung Fu forms and theirs.
Why do Shaolin-Do students learn so many forms?
Why not? One could spend years learning a few forms from one particular system and eventually reach mastery, or find that that particular system is not for them. Our curriculum is designed to take a student from beginner to competent fighter very quickly. This is accomplished by exposing them to many different styles over a short time. This way a student naturally gravitates to the techniques that work for them. Then further along in their training they focus on a particular style or internal system. In this fashion the student finds their area of mastery by testing what works best for them over time. However, they can competently defend themselves throughout the journey. While a fighter might actually only need to learn a few forms to be lethal, the average person’s needs to be challenged by something new, both physically and mentally throughout their life. This was the technique used in the Shaolin temple to ensure longevity.
Why do Shaolin-Do students wear “Japanese” uniforms to practice Chinese Kung Fu?
Our Great Grandmaster, Ie Chang Ming, had to emigrate to Indonesia to escape political persecution in China in the 1940s. Indonesians were hostile to Chinese immigrants and outlawed the teaching of Chinese martial arts. To help his students keep a low profile, Great Grandmaster Ie adopted some of the outward trappings of Japanese martial arts. Our current Grandmaster, Sin Kwang Thé, wishes to honor his teacher’s legacy, so we continue wearing the gi to remember that crucial link in the historical chain.
Do all students of Shaolin, worldwide, consider Grandmaster Sin Thé their master?
Definitely not! Consider the history of the Shaolin art, which was created at least 1500 years ago. People left the temple constantly during its history. Every person that left the temple claimed to teach the art of Shaolin. However, a person that left the temple in 700 AD would not recognize the art as it was being taught in 1800 AD (1100 years later). Compare what is taught in a science department at any university now to what was taught just 100 years ago. So not only would the 700 AD person teach a different art to their lineage, but would never know of any of the masters that followed, back in the temple. Therefore, students following other masters in other Shaolin schools have no reason to have knowledge of Grandmaster Sin.
Fingerlakes Shaolin-Do students are indeed fortunate to have a lineage that was at the Fukien (Fujian) temple right up to its destruction, so we now have their final version of the Shaolin teachings. When you hear the name Shaolin-Do, you now know that it refers directly to the art that descends from Grandmaster Su Kong Tai Djin, of the Southern Shaolin Temple in Fukien (Fujian). From him it passed to Grandmaster Ie-Chang Ming, and now resides with our current Grandmaster, Sin Kwang Thé.
Are you affiliated with the Shaolin temple in China?
The curriculum we teach comes from seven sacred temples in China where martial arts were practiced. Our Great Grandmaster Su Kong Tai Djin was the grandmaster of the Southern Shaolin Temple at Fukien (Fujian) at the time of its destruction. The present-day Shaolin Temple was established by the People’s Republic in 1980 after the success of the Jet Li movie Shaolin Temple. The wushu that they practice is different from the traditional forms of Shaolin-Do.
Here is a partial list of the temples from which the various styles originated:
Honan: (The original Shaolin Temple): Northern Fist, Monkey, Praying Mantis, Drunken Immortals, Golden Snake, Spear, Staff, Broadsword, Three Section Staff, Chain Whip, Daggers, Hand Axes, and Butterfly Knives.
Fukien (Fujian) Temple: Southern Fist, Golden Centipede, Sparrow, Wild Horse, Iron Bone, Iron Palm, Iron Shirt, Short Fist (Tuan Ch’uan)
Shantung Temple: Shantung Black Tiger, Tan Family Leg Techniques
Omei (Er Mei) Shan Temple: White Crane, Eagle Claw, Golden Chicken, White Swan, Ostrich, White Monkey Fist
Kwangtung Temple: Tiger-Crane System, Fist of Ch’a, Golden Roaches, 10,000 bees attacking
Wutang Shan Temple: T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Pa Kua Chang, Hsing I Ch’uan, Liu Hsing Ch’uan, T’ai Chi Broadsword, Straightsword and Spear, Ta Mo Sword and Double Sword, Green Dragon Sword and Spear, Seven Star Sword
H’ua Mountain: Classical Fist of Hua, Modern Fist of Hua, Chang Ch’uan (Long Fist)
Women in Shaolin
The female enrollment at Fingerlakes Shaolin-Do is significant, with women present in every rank all the way up through instructor level. Women spar with men in our style and workout on equal levels with men. Instruction is not biased between the men and women in our schools, though we always allow for individual modification for any person depending on his or her fitness level and abilities. Some martial arts schools have different exercises for the women, different sparring rules and in general, expect less from them. This is not so at Shaolin-Do. We have separate sparring categories for tournaments, though women may compete against the men in sparring if they wish. In class, men and women spar and train together.