Secrets of the Form
by Meowaffles

I guess I really don't have as much comic-making time as I'd like but I'll continue releasing pages at whatever pace my work, training, and enjoyment of life allows. Though I'll stop worrying about it, I won't quit. 

Anyway, on other matters... I thought it would be a good time to make another martial arts article.


This time, I'd like to write about the Martial Arts Forms; those graceful (or not so graceful) movements used at some point in the training regimen of almost every traditional martial art. A lot of people question the purpose of these forms, some going so far as to assert that they are useless for actual combat training and detrimental to real-world application of the martial arts.

Well, fair enough, if you memorize a form without any understanding of what it really is then the form really would be useless to you. A form isn't meant to immediately make someone a better fighter.  Forms were originally invented as a memory aid for the preservation of a martial art, sort of like a kinesthetic text book. Forms are there to make certain that a martial style can be preserved for future reference without any loss of information. With the help of a teacher, forms are definitely better at helping a student along in the martial arts than a video or simple manual. Their main disadvantage is that people unfamiliar with the concepts behind a form just wouldn't get it. Without a competent instructor people can mimic a lot of the outward appearance of any form, but if careful attention isn't paid to the exact manner that each technique is really supposed to be used, then the form would eventually become empty and hollow after just a few generations of teaching it wrong. This has happened in several schools of martial arts. I feel though that any decent martial artist should be able to work out most of the real techniques contained within any but the most messed up of forms and revitalize these into something workable. They merely have to apply themselves and have some background as to the philosophy and martial art of the form's original creators.

Aside from being a memory aid that familiarizes a martial artist with various martial arts techniques and concepts, good forms prepare the physically prepare the practitioners mind and body for the rest of their martial arts training in the relevant style. Forms improve coordination and memory while conditioning the body in ways that would actually be relevant to the practice of the martial arts. Forms, however, are not the martial art itself. Once you've mastered a form, you are supposed to use it as your foundation and go about to begin your actual training. They are merely a gateway to higher learning.

Update on Hung Gar Chicken
by Meowaffles

Time to catch up with everything. I'm only just now getting to update more regularly, work in a great place, and catch up on my martial arts. All that running around like a headless chicken is finally paying off.

Speaking of chickens, it's about time to revisit that old idea of mine called Hung Gar Chicken. My attempt at a chicken recipe that "builds on a strong foundation" using the "external" to improve the "internal" that is seemingly "hard" while incorporating "soft" aspects. I've done a bit of research on the matter but have been somewhat hampered by the fact that Fujian cuisine is so rich in seafood. This tends to send my studies off tangent as I end up ignoring the chicken in favor of seafood. Heck, even their chicken recipes often involve seafood.

Anyway, so far, I think Hung Gar chicken should be made in Southern Fujian Style. That is, sweet and hot and maybe with orange juice and Chinese red wine as a flavoring. As a basis I want to see if it's possible to make a Southern Fujian Style Sweet and Spicy Clay-Pot Chicken, crisp on the outside from cooking but tender on the inside (from a combination of heat and prior application of Hung Gar style manual tenderizing) and stuffed with something that might as well be soup. Also, it has to be a good match for oolong tea.

I still have to work it out and I'm not even sure if it would be appropriate to make the chicken sauce itself hot or make it to match Chinese hot sauce. Also I have yet to try the Fujian red distiller’s grain (fermented glutinous rice with red yeast) to see if it could have anything to do with the recipe.

More on this nonsense as I go along but any suggestions would be welcome :)

Current Events
by Meowaffles

No, I haven't forgotten about the comic. Yes, it's late. Sorry guys.

For the past few weeks I've been busy learning the ropes of my new job. It's actually kinda fun working at a ridiculously huge multinational company but I did have some trouble traveling all the way from Makati to Libiz and back for a week of job training while trying not to neglect my tai chi chuan training while fixing a few financial issues.

I think most everything is in order now. I have my ID, ATM card, and access codes; I can walk to work (My actual assigned workplace is a few blocks from home); I'm almost 2/8ths done with the 108 step tai chi chuan form; and things are looking up in the financial department.

So now I'm back and currently working on the comic. I'm hoping to update around the fourth of July.

What about kicks?
by Meowaffles

I suppose it's about time I make another blog entry regarding martial arts. I really have to apologize as I've been quite busy. Again, I'll do all I can to keep the comic and this site going as regularly as possible.

As I've already written an entry about the basics of punching, I decided to make one about kicking this time.

For some people, kicks come naturally. For others, they are a completely counterintuitive practice. That's how I felt on the first day I started taekwondo classes. I was never very flexible as a child. After painful stretching exercises I found I could very easily slam my body backwards into the ground by attempting to make a very basic high-kick. Sure I played soccer but I was no Pele and never kicked much higher than a foot off the ground. Essentially, I was drastically changing the position of my center of gravity and risking a very bad fall to deliver an attack at a target I could more easily hit with my hands. Some martial arts styles don't even teach much kicking or any kicking at all and here I was, Mr. inflexible, learning the most kick-intensive martial art available. Eventually, after a great deal of time and effort, I learned to do the more difficult and complicated kicking techniques. While I never made it to black belt and am actually having to relearn my kicking techniques, my experiences in studying taekwondo have helped to make me a much better martial artist (and a much better person in general).

My kick training taught me that great change can be achieved by slowly and carefully preparing one's self consistently over time. I learned how to slowly ensure that my muscles and tendons could eventually stand up to the strain of kicking and I learned that all I really had to do to get results was stick to a proper training method even if I couldn't yet see progress. This is true for many things in life and especially true for any technique in the martial arts; but it was made more obvious to me by my constant (and generally secretive) attempts to emulate my movie idols.

Training to kick improves one's balance very quickly. It forces increased flexibility and control over leg muscles. Learning complicated high kicks that push the limits of your capabilities often ensures that your more practical kicks and techniques can be done with that much more control, strength and precision. Good kicking skills double the number of effective weapons you have in your martial arts arsenal. The kicks themselves can potentially bypass many effective defenses with at least twice the force of a punch and considerably more range. I got through a few sparring match without taking any hits at all by simply kicking at the opponents legs every time he would come close. Kicks can be effective if you know how to use them and a good kick to the head will take the fight out of most any opponent you are likely to meet.

As usual, I have some tips and safety reminders for people who want to learn how to kick.

1. Make sure to perform proper stretching and warm ups before attempting to learn how to kick. Make sure to stretch your entire body. If possible, try to work on every joint you have... but be careful. Stretch your limbs. Don't tear them with over-enthusiasm.

2. Star slowly. Do not try to do the most difficult and flashiest looking kick you saw in a movie the first time out. Try a basic high-kick up to the point your tendons allow. This will likely not be a very high high-kick. You might find yourself staring at the ceiling if you overdo things. Once you can do a normal high-kick, try variants of the kick and then work your way to the other techniques.

3. Once you can sort of do a kick, try to do the kick slowly. This is much much harder than doing the kick at regular speed and will strengthen and train your muscles to give them the proper tension during even the wildest and craziest kick maneuvers.

4. Balance is the key to good kicking. Learn to keep your balance by standing on one foot with your other leg in various positions (In front of you, to the side, behind you etc.). Then try resting your weight on each point of your foot on the ground (Heel, instep, outside of foot, ball of foot, toes) throughout each of these exercises.

5. Once you can perform a few useful kicks, practice for speed and power. Also, make sure you work your kicks into your typical freeform fighting style so that you can easily follow up your kicks with other strikes and your other strikes with kicks. The less predictable your attack patterns are, the greater your chances of success in a fight.

Anyway, be safe everyone and try not to practice kicking without an instructor or at least someone to help out just in case you manage to injure yourself. Take care.

Wish Me Luck
by Meowaffles

Been pretty busy. Trying to get a nice Monday to Friday job at IBM. If this pushes through I'll have both a good enough salary to find lots of research material for this comic and enough time per week to work at it comfortably. For now, I'll try to release as many comics consecutively as I can. I still owe you guys a few pages.