Shaolin-Do: An Honest Review and Case Study in law

Martial arts is one of the best ways to learn about different cultures, meet new people. gain physical and mental fitness, and build overall confidence.

From the years of 2001-2005, I was a very dedicated student to the system of “Shaolin-Do”, lead by the alleged Grandmaster Sin Kwang aka Sin The’.  I achieved a brown sash in the system, although, my specific teacher had deviated from the system quite a bit early on in my teachings, bringing in instructors from Boxing, Muay Thai, Praying Mantis Wushu and other systems to spar and do seminars with us. My teacher was very open minded, practical and young, thus we sparred full-contact and frequently cross-trained with other martial artists. Our school was frequently scolded by the Shaolin-Do headquarters in Kentucky for not wearing Japanese gis whereas we would wear traditional Chinese outfits. We felt that we were practicing Kung Fu (wushu) not Karate.

Eventually, I had enough of Shaolin-Do and began learning Xing Yi Quan under disciples who followed Sifu Shou-yu Liang who had immigrated to the west from China.  Later, I went on to cross train in many styles including Boxing, Muay Thai, Jujitsu, Wing Chun, Krav Maga and others. In 2010, I won 2nd place in a NAGA Jujitsu grappling tournament in Hillsboro, Tennessee. Looking back, if not for my open-minded Shaolin-Do instructor, I might still be trapped in the Shaolin-Do system, as I too believed that he had began to have doubts about whether or not he was practicing authentic Wushu. My instructor was a very formidable fighter, but did plenty of cross-training in other traditional and modern martial arts, however, he had been involved with Shaolin-Do since his youth, so perhaps he felt compelled to continue teaching and practicing it? I am not too sure. He did go on to later become a Muay Thai competitor.

My impression of Shaolin-Do is mixed. While the system itself does have some useful techniques, and some of the instructors are legitimately strong and somewhat capable at fighting, most of the schools I visited did very little full-contact sparring, performed their forms (Taolu) awkwardly, and participated in “closed” point-fighting tournaments. That’s right! Shaolin-Do students were encouraged to NOT compete in tournaments against non-Shaolin-Do students. Hmmm, why not? If it is the best system in the world, surely it could hold it’s own against a Kyokushin Karateka or  a Taekwondo fighter.

The atmosphere within the organization was very cult-like in most of the schools I saw, which isn’t uncommon for a traditional martial arts school.  As I got older, I began to visit other Wushu schools and perform in open-tournaments across the country, and the other Wushu players had never heard or seen of the “Taolu” (Kata in Japanese) that I was performing. Even the Xing-Yi-Quan (Hsing I) forms I was taught wasn’t the same or remotely close to the techniques other Wushu schools were teaching.  It all appeared to be made up or atleast altered. Which is fine, however, the Shaolin-Do system presented itself as authentic Shaolin-Kung Fu, not an altered version of it.

Depositions from a lawsuit involving Shaolin-Do confirm these doubts.  The lawsuit, Sin Kwang The’ vs. Jacob Rydbergshows evidence that “Grandmaster” Sin, did in fact fabricate atleast part of Shaolin-Do’s legitimacy. (The case study can be found- HERE) Everything from the forms to the history of his own training, Grandmaster Sin’ recants many of his advertised claims and even admits to making up his own forms. Again, these revelations aren’t to say that the Shaolin-Do system doesn’t have some usefulness, because all systems of martial arts were at one point, “Just made-up”, someone had to create it! But, this isn’t my problem with the system. My problem is that it markets itself as authentic Shaolin Martial Arts when it doesn’t quite appear to be. Then again, finding authentic Wushu in the USA is difficult enough as it is. If you walk into a Kung Fu school and they aren’t familiar with terms like, “Wushu”, “Taolu”, “Sanda”, “Dan-Tien” or the school does not openly compete in Wushu tournaments not sponsored by their own system, and they are wearing Japanese uniforms, It could be a cause for concern and reason to question.

Also, there is a question of “lineage”. Grandmaster Sin’ claims that he was taught martial arts by Grandmaster Ie Chang Ming who was taught by Su Kong Tai Djin.  Names that have almost no historical weight in the Martial Arts community outside of Shaolin-Do. If you mention Ip-Man or Yue-Fei, the Wushu community will instantly recognize such names. But, Su Kong Tai Djin? Who is that?

With the rise of MMA and combat practicality, people are more critical of martial arts lineages and effectiveness than ever before.  Because of the rise of MMA, schools and systems like Shaolin-Do have less impact on the martial arts world today, however, in smaller rural communities, Shaolin-Do is just as rampant as it ever was.  Alas, in this information age, I don’t blame the business marketing strategies of Shaolin-Do or Sin Kwang. It is up to the consumer to research the product he/she is willing to support. I did my research and wasn’t convinced, thus I left the system. Perhaps you will find a different answer.

If you are a teenager in a small town, and have no access to any other martial art or boxing gym, and Shaolin-Do is your only option, if the teacher is open-minded, it could be a decent introduction into martial arts and you may fall in love with the system. However, you owe it to yourself to explore others systems and styles before dedicating your life to something that you later find out wasn’t what you thought it was. This rings true for any style or system. But, if you are happy with your training, feel free to stick to “Shaolin-Do”, but just know that this system does come with some “fine print” and disclaimers to consider.

Martial Arts and Boxing are very important aspects to my life and personal history. In my high school years, I went to a tough school, and Shaolin-Do was an escape-outlet for me. I owe it a lot, and thankfully my teacher was a young-strong guy who encouraged me to cross-train in other styles and had me spar full-contact often. However, if I had to go back and do  those years over again, I would have trained elsewhere. I would have sought out a legit boxing gym, Wing Chun school, Krav Maga, or dedicated more time towards traditional Xing Yi Quan. Eventually, I began to focus most of my efforts on Boxing, Wing Chun, and Xing Yi Quan, but I wish I had done so much earlier.

 

Stuart Gordon: “MMA fighter turned innovator”

Recently, we here at “Nalini”, a non-profit geared towards children, community projects, and the reconstruction of southeast Asia, had the opportunity to interview an MMA fighter who goes by the name, Stuart “Flash” Gordon. Like the comic book character, “Flash Gordon”, this Gordon is just as intelligent and athletic as his superhero counterpart.  He is 36 years old, grew up near Queens, New York, and has had quite a journey thus far which has now landed him in Wichita Falls, Texas, where he fights out of “Fight Science” gym.

Here at Nalini, we seek to cover unique individuals who will serve as inspirational figures for the communities in which we serve. One of our founding members has a martial arts background, thus it seemed like a perfect opportunity to interview a fellow martial artist in order to showcase the character building qualities that the arts give its practitioners.

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(MMA fighter and innovator, Stuart Gordon, 36, 5-1 in MMA competition)

Here is a summarized paraphrased transcript of our interview:

Nalini: How did you get started in martial arts and what was your motivation for getting involved?

Gordon: I was the type of kid who was on the skinny-side and found myself getting into a few fights because of it. You know, people sometimes judge you based on your appearance and think it is ok to treat you a certain way because of it. My mom took notice of these occurrences and encouraged me to seek out martial arts training.

Nalini:  What was your early training experiences like?

Gordon:  I started off training in Wing Chun Kung Fu near Queens. I would rush home everyday after school to meet up with my Sifu (chinese martial art term for “coach”). He only took on a few private students in a converted garage-styled gym. Even though it was a traditional martial art that he was teaching, he allowed us to practice it in a very free-form way. We didn’t rely solely on pre-arranged forms like other styles, he allowed us to freestyle on heavybags and spar with minimal restriction.

Nalini: How long did you train in this style and when did you start to notice that martial arts was changing you for the better?

Gordon:  I trained in Kung Fu for a few years, and during that time I did notice changes within myself. People always got onto me about being skinny and appearing weak, so I began to really indulge in strength training and old-school conditioning methods like banging my forearms and shins against hard objects to harden my bones. I figured I would turn the thing that people made fun of into a weapon, my bones. When my partners would do blocking drills with me they would make comments as to how solid my structure was and how hard my body was even though I wasn’t a large person. These type of comments made me realize that my dedication was beginning to mean something.

Nalini: Where did the transition to MMA competition start to happen?

Gordon: After graduating high school, naturally, your life starts to change. You begin to experiment with romance, working, and generally just experiencing adult life. I never had the luxury of training consistently in one gym early on because martial arts classes can be quite expensive. I gym hopped for quite a while because of it. When I started to attend Purdue University, I found myself being exposed to different types of people and clubs. There I got to cross-train in Judo, Catch-wrestling, and even Kendo which really helped with my range and timing.

Nalini:  What do you think allowed you to be so open to different styles of martial arts? Prior to MMA going mainstream , I remember it being frowned upon to cross-train in different styles, unless it was a JKD affiliated gym. Some viewed it as being disloyal to their teachers or admitting that their singular style wasn’t perfect.

Gordon: Very true! I think it was a combination of things. My first martial arts teacher from my Wing Chun days was traditional yet pragmatic. Like I said earlier, he was traditional and made us do structured drills,learning forms, but allowed us to freestyle as well. Also, growing up where money was sometimes tight, I was always looking to get training wherever I could get it, so it didn’t matter who was teaching or what style it was as long as I got to participate.

Nalini: Obviously you eventually got stable training partners, who were some of your early and current MMA coaches.

Gordon:  I briefly moved back to New York after college, and then I began to seriously consider MMA. It was in the early 2000’s and MMA was slowly starting to become mainstream. I started to train with “Team Mad Dog TKD and D’arce BJJ.” The D’arce family is credited with creating the famous “DARCE” choke, which is actually a mispronunciation of “D’arce”.  (Dee-Are-Say)

Nalini: What was it like training with such a well known family in the Martial arts community?

Gordon: It was great! The family originally had a Taekwondo pedigree before they became famous for their BJJ skills, so I also got to experience different types of kicking techniques and how to deal with them. Most MMA gyms only offer training in striking arts like Boxing and Muay Thai. The kicks in TKD are usually a little weaker but much faster and come from awkward angles. I enjoy learning and retaining little tricks from traditional martial arts to mix up my MMA game so that I do not become a predictable MMA fighter that just relies on the standard jab,cross, roundhouse combination.

Nalini: So how did your first MMA fight come to be?

Gordon: I ended up going back to Indiana and it is there that I met ,Tom Norris, who was training MMA fighters. I began training with him consistently and shortly thereafter had the opportunity to fight presented to me. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be, I was actually quite excited to see the collected years of my training put to the test to see where I measured up.

Nalini: How did it go?

Gordon: I won in the first round via triangle. The triangle choke became my bread and butter for a while and I become known for it in our gym. Just as in life, being able to fight off your back is an important skill. Anybody can be the aggressor, but to be able to secure a victory from a seemingly disadvantageous position is even more impressive in my eyes.

Nalini: What did you feel after your first victory in MMA?

Gordon: I have (5)wins and (1) loss  in MMA right now, but I have to say that my first fight was a positive reinforcement for me. After winning, I looked at Tom, my coach, and I thought to myself, “This is what I’ve been training to do my whole life. My training wasn’t for nothing, it now means something.I can now effectively measure myself.”

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Nalini: Do you have any competition experience prior to MMA?

Gordon: I did a “Leitei” tournament in 1996 and some BJJ tournaments, but the feeling couldn’t compare to winning in the cage.

Nalini: “Leitei”? I used to compete in those myself! Tell me about you experience with that! That was back in the day when “Cung Le” was putting Sanshou on the map.

Gordon: Well, as you know, Leitei competitions are fought under Sanshou rules. Punches, kicks, and throws are allowed but no groundfighting. I truly believe that Sanshou is one of the best ways to transition into MMA. It really gets you used to striking while remaining conscious of takedowns without having to worry about the submission elements.

Nalini: So have you ever had to use your martial art skills in real life scenarios?

Gordon: Yes. I did work security detail in a few bars and nightclubs. I used both the physical and mental benefits of martial arts there. Physically, I mainly relied on Jujitsu and restraining techniques. You always had to be on the lookout for weapons and being able to spot them and restrain the person before they got the chance to use them. Secondly, I used mental or verbal judo to de-escalate situations. After being punched and choked out in practice so many times, being intimidated or trying to act tough wasn’t an issue for me. I stayed calm and confidently showed that I wouldn’t be bullied, and most people would just walk away after venting for whatever reason.

Nalini:  Why did you quit that type of work?

Gordon:The opportunity for people to sue you and other potential liabilities swayed me away from it. I learned alot about myself and people during that time, but it got old.

Nalini: What is one of your weakest traits that martial arts has strengthened?

Gordon: I am naturally a very impatient person. But, martial arts taught me to breakdown my work efforts and gave me a comparative study. In martial arts, we start with basic stances and stretches, and over time we learn individual techniques and slowly learn to string them together. After some time, we look back and say, “Wow, when did I get so good at this?” Life is the same way. It’s like when I studied Calculus in college, at first it was really intimidating but after I realized that it was just a step-by-step process combined with theories and concepts, I realized that it was an identical process to martial arts training.

Nalini: That is very profound! I came to the same conclusions myself. Martial arts truly can be a metaphor for all of life’s challenges! So, where has this new found level of patience brought you now?

Gordon: It has brought me to Texas. I came out here recently for a job installing Solar panels, and discovered that my coach Tom Norris was also moving to the same area. Now I’ve partnered up with “Fight Science” gym here in Wichita Falls and that is where I will be training and representing. Tom is like family to me, great guy, and the Fight Science gym is attracting a lot of local talent.

Nalini: That’s really cool! Sounds like your always on the cutting edge and aren’t afraid to develop yourself. But, let me ask you, you are 36, what happens after martial arts? We all succumb to age, disease, injury, or other issues that eventually force us out of the fight game.

Gordon: I could see myself fighting for an organization like “OneFC” , but this is a topic I have thought about. I enjoy coaching a few of my friends here and there, but I couldn’t see myself coaching on a large-scale, there are already enough talented coaches out here. I want to be an innovator. Just as I am passionate about solar-energy and alternative forms of energy, I also want to change the way we train in the martial arts community.

Nalini: Creating new training tools?

Gordon: Exactly! Martial arts training has had the same motivational rationale for centuries. Competition, health, coaching, or self-defense. I want to create ways that people can enhance their training beyond their mental motivations. Technology is all about individual empowerment. I am interested in robotics, product engineering, and similar avenues that can give practitioners more autonomy in their training so that they can maximize their efforts in solo-practice. Who knows, we could even be training with cyborgs in the future, and I am ok with that!

Nalini: You sound alot like Bruce Lee. Little do people know that he designed training tools in his spare time and was in the process of designing a heavy-bag that could hit back. Sadly, he passed away, but I like your mindset. Think of a trainer like “Freddy Roach”, if someone never invented focus mitts, he could be out of a job today! If not for the product designer, the famed users of said product could have never existed! I’m stretching a bit far of course, but you get the idea!

Gordon: You hit the nail on the head! I would love to be the guy that changes the way people train and coach.

Nalini: I am really excited to see where your journey takes you next. You seem to be a very positive thinker and inspiring person. That is precisely why I wanted to interview you. Who knows, one of our supporters may be reading your story and is becoming inspired to take charge of their life as a result. I hope that you and your associates will continue a relationship with our organization. We plan to hold martial art seminars to inspire locals and raise funds for crumbling schools in southeast Asia.

Gordon: I’m all about building relationships with like minded people. Maybe in the future we can train together and trade knowledge. I think what you guys are doing is great and will definitely get the word out about Nalini.

Nalini: Alright! Sounds like a plan! I’ll be sure to share links for you team and current projects. Any final thoughts for our readers?

Gordon: Whatever you’re doing in life, after you have done it enough times, the skill itself won’t be as important as the effort it took to get there. I’m proud of myself for coming this far, but nobody does it alone. My mother passed away three years ago, and that moment changed my outlook and and made me question what I really wanted in life. Don’t be afraid of those crossroads.  Stay open to experiences. I am an open-book and am always available so long as the experience is emitting positivity.

Nalini: My condolences for your mother, I’m sure she is watching over you with pride and joy. Thank you once again for being so open with us and sharing your story. You have left us with some powerful words to meditate upon. I look forward to seeing what comes next for you in your evolution as a man, a martial artist, and human being.

Gordon: Thank you for reaching out! I look forward to future partnerships with you and your organization, and love what you guys are doing! I’m here anytime you want to collaborate.  I want to say thanks to my team and all of those who have supported me over the years, it’s been great and there is still more to come.

-Team Nalini

#naliniglobal

2016

Want to stay in contact with Stu?

check out Stu Gordon’s sponsors, team, and affiliated projects below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Non-profit Calls out to Martial Artists & Boxers

“Nalini” aka “Nalini Global”, is a non-profit organization based out of Nashville,Tn. Its core goals are to improve the lives of children domestically and abroad with a concentration on southeast Asian countries like Cambodia,Laos, and Thailand, through a variety of methods including donating money to crumbling school districts, hungry families, and taking part in local community works projects like teaching boxing classes, giving seminars on Asian/Buddhist cultures, clean-up projects, and more. In this article, we will focus on how the martial arts and spirituality can give a struggling soul the chance to thrive.  Anyone who has knowledge of Asian culture knows the correlations between martial arts, spirituality, and their focus on self-improvement.

One of Nalini’s founding members has a background in martial arts and decided to pay homage to this revelation by seeking out professional fighters and prominent martial artists to represent “Nalini”, by sporting their apparel during fights or promotional outings.   If one were to travel to Thailand or China, this marriage of spirituality and martial arts are not uncommon. In fact, many Muay Thai kickboxers allow Buddhist monks to tattoo their backs with protection mantras/spells written in Sanskrit alongside other symbolic symbols or famous deities like the powerful “Hanuman”.  In Cambodia, they have a similar tradition through their form of kickboxing known as “Pradal Serey.”

Before Muay Thai or Pradal Serey bouts, fighters often perform a dance like warm-up called the “Wai Kru” in Thailand. It serves as a way to loosen up, pay respect to teachers, and to gain favor from karma. The fighters also wear special arm bands and headbands during their Wai Kru dance that are often soaked in holy water and blessed by Buddhist monks in order to offer the fighter protection from physical harm.

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(Children performing the Wai Kru ritual to pay respects to their teachers and to the ways of Karma.) 

In China, many of their martial art systems also incorporate Buddhist and Taoist forms of meditation and philosophy ingrained into their training routines.  Western martial arts like Boxing and Wrestling also have correlations with adhering to honor codes and creeds as well. While these arts are not as esoteric and mystical as Muay Thai or Kung Fu, the same process of self-realization, discipline, respect, and self-awareness are still quite profound. In fact, a part of what we do here at Nalini incorporates the teaching of martial arts to local children free of charge as a way to give back to the community.

The word “Nalini” literally translates as “Lotus”. In  Buddhist lore, the lotus represents the struggle to become enlightened, as a lotus sprout must rise through muddy waters in order to reach full bloom. Just as a fighter must start out as a weakling before conditioning his/her body to become strong and mind focused.

Considering these things, it makes perfect sense to reach out to fighters and martial artists to represent Nalini. We are looking to sit down with active fighters and coaches, interview them on how martial arts has helped them grow spiritually, and have them wear our apparel during one of their promotions, fights, or media outings. It is a win-win-win situation. Everyone benefits!  One local Cambodian-American fighter by the name of “Kosal Bun”, who has a Muay Thai fight coming up in June, has agreed to be our first spotlighted fighter who we will soon write an article on.

So, if you are a fighter, coach, or well known martial artist and want to support a great cause, please contact us @ NaliniGlobal@yahoo.com  or for a faster response, message us on our facebookpage @ www.facebook.com/Naliniglobal

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(Pick up a Nalini Boxing shirt from our store page! Complete with a Sanskrit protection spell written on the back!) click here  (proceeds from any shirt sales will go towards volunteer efforts)

TEAM NALINI- 2016