Baltimore, MD: Livingston's Chinese Health and Fitness Center
Livingston's Chinese Health and Fitness Center
The "bad feeling" started when I called to find out about classes. My "When are your _ing _un classes" question ilicited a 30 minute response from "sigung" Edgar Livingston, all about how many different arts he has the lineage to, how Koreans have screwed up martial arts ("Contracts!"), how "traditional" he is, and how Northern Chinese styles had to kick people off horses like they do in TKD. But I had hope, since he wasn't the actual _ing _un sifu.
Rule #1: **** hope.
So I get there and the guy is sitting in his pajamas in his office. Everyone else there is in pajamas and keep bowing to the guy over and over to the point where I was giving them "you're fucking weirding me out" looks. They were very smiley and kept bowing to me. The sigung starts talking from the time I go in. About his invitation to be a monk. About his knee operation. About giving Dim-Mak to a kid is about as smart as giving them a shotgun. About the difference between Southern Mantis and Seven Star Mantis. About how he carries on the lineage of both. About the vodka he uses to make his ointment. Keeps talking.
I notice about 20 "degrees" hung behind his desk. I also notice that he does not have a single picture of himself standing behind a seated sifu. Not one. Yet he was chosen to carry on "White Eyebrow" and around 10 other styles? There are weapons all over the place. There is a 35 lbs. kwan. Five pound escrima sticks. A 115 lbs. 14 year old.
And I start wondering, "Why are they calling him sigung? He doesn't have a single sifu under him. All the other sifus are people he brought in to teach other styles. They aren't his students. Did he just say that he fought Lei Tai for 15 years?"
He was doing a Mantis class and started with the longest, most convoluted "bow" I've ever seen. He kept talking while a couple students followed along. He started mentioning how he "gave Mantis style" to someone who hadn't had it before. "Like a fucking Christmas present?" I wondered to myself. He was tall. He looked ready to fall over. Was it the vodka?
The "advanced Wing Chun student" came in then. Big guy. Looked tough. I was handed off to him and we started working on some drills. Convaluted, over-dramatic, 10 moves to respond to a 2 punch set-up drills. The student then began to talk and I noticed that he took after the "sigung". Kept talking.
"Okay, if I'm going to punch you, you start with a tan, then wu under it, then shift to the side, then I'm going to come in with a second punch, and you bong it, shift to the other side, come under the arm, pak, move in and palm to my face." Um... simple and straight-forward? After a few minutes ("Make sure you're foot is there, and get your arm over here, and make sure to get your hand on this part of my forearm"), he kinda noticed that I'm not "getting" it and we try a different drill.
"You just gotta feel it and flow with it." So now I've gotta bong the first punch, then side-step and bong the second one (?), then hunch overtop his arm and throw a chop at his face while shifting again to punch him in the ribs. I'm not feeling it or flowing with it very well, so I start to just bong the first hit, and push into him down the center, moving him back with multiple fists on his chest. Each time I "feel" or "flow", I notice that I'm doing something a lot more simple and straight-forward. Like a simple counter punch instead of a pull-down, shift, pak, shift, step, chop, retreat, shift while he's frozen for my Mortal Kombat combo.
"See man, if you're there I might still hit you, and I don't want to get hit." Me: "I just figure I'm going to be hitting you 10 times, so I'll eat your fist as I'm moving into you instead of trying to move all over and do 10 different moves." "Dog!"
I asked about doing some chi-sau and he said that they did it different, so we didn't do any. We started locking and breaking arm drills... ? I still couldn't figure out why I wasn't just punching him in the throat. I felt kinda bad for him. Don't get me wrong, the guy seemed tough and all. He had muscles. He kept talking. It's just that it seemed like I could control his center and strike down it with ease. And seriously, what the **** is up with lengthy, multi-faceted "moves"? We never did one form. We never did a standard wing chun drill (though he did mention some in passing).
Maybe I'm just biased because the conversations at my Detroit school went more like this: "Dude... so I saw this video of a girl fucking a donkey..." *punch punch punch*
Class ended and I got a little bit of a tour. They had a large punching bag filled with... concrete. X-TRA HARDCORE! They had little sandbags to practice t3h d2adly 3y3 g0ug3s! Every student had a book on Shaolin Monks or a Kung-Fu magazine. They had tons of different sashes for each art there. They asked me to come back when the Wing Chun sifu is there since he's so hardcore too.
Jesus-****, I should've gotten drunk.