Two years of Shou Shu
Let's step back in time, to the year 1988. Acid washed jeans and mullets are all the rage. Ninjas rule the movie screen, and everyone wants to learn some uber-secret martial art to kick ass and take names.
I was no exception, although my time with a mullet was brief. I was a young high school wrestler, looking to add "karate" to my resume, and I found myself in the lobby of Moore's Karate, speaking with a man in a patch-covered black gi. Right away, the black gi impressed me. I mean, come on. White gi's are for good guys. Black is hard-as-nails-I-will-f@%@%@-you-up-with-the-quickness.
It didn't take long to get me into the office for the traditional contract signing ceremony. One year, unless I moved more than 50 miles away. Being 18, I didn't care, I just signed on the line and went home that night thinking about how badass the black gi was going to look.
I returned the next day for my first lesson. In the lobby, I was greeted by the resident black belt. I motioned to the asian-themed walls, and pointed out the various weapons hainging around the dojo. Who would not be impressed by a vast assortment of swords, poles, spears, and nunchucks. I had seen the movies, and I knew badass when I saw it.
"You won't learn those until you are a brown or black belt. In fact, " he pauses and removes a credit card from his wallet. "I could kill you faster with this credit card than you could kill me with any of those weapons."
Ignoring the foreshadowing of the killing me with a credit card omen, I nodded in amazement. I spent the rest of the week trying to imagine how awesome this guy must be to kill me with a small piece of plastic that would normally break when used to scrape ice from a frozen windshield. Obviously, something the ancient kung fu masters had worked out.
The first lesson started out with the secret salutation. If I remember correctly, it was a cross step backwards with the right leg, then windmilling the arms backwards (right slightly before the left), bringing the hands into a sort of cupped postion in front of my chest. Uncross legs, stand up straight, while turning my palms to face the floor. Wash, rinse, repeat. Got it? Time to move on.
Next came the special bow for entering and leaving the training area. Right hand makes a fist, left hand remains open. Touch them together at the chest, and bow. Weapon and shield I was told. Too cool.
We moved into the training area, and started working on the all powerfull horse stance. Being a wrestler, I questioned the stance, as it seemed to lack mobility. Nonsense. Our strikes our so fast, so powerfull, that they can maim and kill. Horse stance it is. From there, I was told to place my left arm out to the left side, elbow bent almost 90'. The right arm was tucked into the stomach in a tight fist, palm up. This, he tells me, presents the smallest target for my attacker, and protects all of my vital organs (except for the kidneys and head, but hey, who's counting). The fighting stance was born.
The remainder of my hour private lesson was spent on kicks. The front snap kick and rear kick. Normal enough except the front kick was supposed to strike with the ball of the foot, not the top of the foot or shin. Hmmmm. Trust me, it looks odd, toes all splayed out, ankle cocked back.
We complete the lesson, and I change out of my gi. The instructor stops to talk to me on my way out. More war stories about beating people up, and how when he fights, he doesn't even know what technique he is doing, it's just pure instinct. One time, he grins, him and his Shou Shu buddies sent their girlfriends over to a table of rowdy guys in a bar, just to see if the guys would mess with them, thereby giving him and his buddies a reason to open up a helping of Moore's Genuine Can-O-Whoop-Ass.
I left that day feeling quite confident that I could already kick some major ass. Oh yeah, and I bought three of the official Moore's T-Shirts. There was this nifty silver medallion the instructor had been wearing, but alas I didn't have enough money to buy one of those just yet.
$9.99 for those medallions if you still want one. I take Paypal.
Well, if you'd not been a ***** and actually stuck with it, you'd probably be able to make people **** blood just by giving them the finger by now.
err...thanks but no thanks. Gold chains and medallions went out some time ago.
My second lesson started much like the first. I was drilled on the salutation and bow, horse stance, and kicks. Then came the token history lesson. Da' Shifu Moore was a baaaaaad man. I was told about how he could disarm a man with a gun from like 15 feet away. Break an arm with a block. Someday, if I paid the money, I too could go to camp and meet him.
The history lesson concluded, we moved on the first of 1.6 million techniques I would need to learn. You see, each belt had a little booklet, with a specific list of techniques. The instructors would run through the list, and check off the moves they covered in that lesson, and in time, all of the little boxes were checked and certified. I recall asking why we trained against a scripted attack, i.e. the stereotypical wild haymaker or the rear shoulder grab. All of the techniques kind of blend together. I can sum them up in pretty much one description. Opponent charges you in some insane, blatantly obvious way. Block, redirecting his movement. Then choose one of the many Moore’s Special Attacks: Eye Gouge, Throat Chop, Arm Break, Neck Twist, Knee Smash, Face Stomp. I started to realize why they thought their art was so elite. Every technique, if executed as planned, would result in grievous injury to your opponent. Of course, this is all dependent on the opponent telegraphing his movement, not resisting, and above all, not suing the hell out of you for ripping his eyeball out in a bar brawl.
Weeks turned into months, and soon I was moving right along the belt path to enlightenment. I attended one private lesson each week, along with several group classes. I inquired about sparring, and I was told that we didn’t do that until we were higher rank. Too deadly for untrained people to spar. Right. So I asked about tournaments, since I was just dying to try out this art on someone, without getting into a street fight for no reason. Oh no….Moore’s has been BANNED from tournaments. That is what they told me. Banned. The art was too fluid, too unconventional, and the strict rules of the tournaments limited the Shou Shu fighter too much. No, sir, we do not attend tournaments.
About this time, I was a solid purple belt with three stripes to my blue belt. My girlfriend’s brother at the time was a brown belt, and if you have read their belt descriptions, a brown belt is damn near invincible to anything other than a higher Shou Shu’er. Now you may recall that I was also a wrestler, so I always brought up the ground fighting aspects of a street fight, and without fail, I was told that Shou Shu was too devastating, and the fight would not last long enough to go to the ground. So…one day Mr. Brown Belt comes into my GF’s bedroom, and starts throwing kicks at me, saying things like, “What would you do?”. Well my friends, I shot a single leg takedown. When we got up from the floor, he said that would never happen in a real fight. Sure, just keep telling yourself that.
Finally, one afternoon I show up and there are Camp Flyers all over the place. Pay some fee (don’t recall how much), get two days of training, a BBQ, and of course, the deluxe embroidered Camp Patch. Naturally, I sign up, because it’s what everyone does.
Camp day arrives, and I trek up to the campground full of other Shou Shu’ers. Hundreds of them, mostly overweight, wearing the same cool t-shirts I had. The days consists of massive groups classes and “demos” by black belts. A demo consists of a highly scripted, albeit fast, technique that makes it look as though the BB is anticipating the movements of the attacker, much like a Jedi would. Then crown jewel is the gun disarming demo, where a black belt confronts a man with a cap gun from about 15 feet away. Time and again, the black belt is able to close the distance and chop the pistol out of the other man’s hands before he can get a shot off. Oddly, only other black belts were used as gunmen.
As night fell over the camp, groups of students gathered to discuss (i.e. brag) about their training. I recall one brown belt approaching a group of about 10 lower belts, myself included. He stepped into the center of the group, and proceeded to tell us how he would be able to defeat us all at once, and he went so far as to walk through the entire process of beating us down (in slow motion). I actually felt sorry for the guy, when I realized that he seriously thought he could defeat 10 men in a fight. At one time. Crazy ****.
In time, I moved beyond that magical 50 mile limit, and my annual contract was null and void. At first I felt strangely odd not training there anymore. That all changed when I joined the military and we had our first weekend brawl on the lawn behind the dorms. After getting my head pounded by a friend of mine while standing in that ridiculous horse stance, I resorted back to my wrestling, and found that I won more than I lost, at least among other 18-20 year old recruits.
Fast forward to the present. I am now training BJJ and American boxing (some Muay Thai for good measure), in the gym 4-5 days a week. After wasting two years and a fair amount of money, I am finally training at gym that offers sparring and a system that is effective. Funny thing is, we still hear from new fighters that the Moore’s guys are always telling people how they would destroy an MMA fighter. Now before someone steps up and says…hey there is a Shou Shu guy fighting MMA…yeah I know. But check his stats. All of his fights won were by submission. Shou Shu has none (read: zero, nada, zip) submissions. Lucky for him, he also crosstrains BJJ.
McDojo? I think so. Contracts, mysterious history, “deadly” techniques, no sparring, and an almost religious allegiance to the school when full indoctrinated,
That’s my story. Thanks. I guess I am a ***** for not staying. Damn. I remember that when I get my next Kimura. I could have been doing the mighty Cobra Strike instead…
Did you do or see the infamous multiple attacker defences?
You obviously don't have the "real Shou shu."
They knew your chi was weak and insecure so they did not teach you the secret techniques!
They do, in fact have the scrolls of anti-grappling, but you were not good enough to see them. Back to the dojo with you!
(great story, man! Glad to see you on the dark side!)
Yes, I did get to see the multiple attacker techniques. I'm sure I didn't see them all, but I did get to see it done a couple of times, and for the most part, they were all the same, just variations on a theme.
Here is how it works:
You are in the center of the group. Choose the weakest of the group, and move quickly to take him out. When you do this, you move into him, and through him, putting you outside the circle. The circle reforms around you, and you repeat this cycle until you are the victor. Loot their wallets and walk away.
Key points from uncle Al:
Head on a swivel...heard this one a million times.
Keep moving...duh. I would run. How's that for moving?
Take the man out with one punch...that's the plan, huh?
Don't go to the ground...of course not...that's not technique, it's common sense.
The system relies on the fact that they truly believe that they can take someone out with one hit, and move past him to engage more people. Works great in a training environment, but not in real life with a guy kicking you in the back of the head.
$9.99 for a custom embroidered patch. Again, I take Paypal.
Gosh, that's a deal! If only I had the spare $20 for both.