Damn, that's some massive thread necro right there.
Anyways, I'll try to write some stuff about the class, I'll try to make this as complete as possible.
Keep in mind that I have not sparred striking or grappling with any of the students or the teacher, so everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. Everything I have written is taken from watching classes and talking to students.
The class is officially the Princeton University Kung Fu Club. It is most definitely not a McDojo as according to the current definition, as in school intended to make lots of money, because as far as I know, club fees, as is the case for almost all University clubs, are low (I believe less than $100).
Different segments of the class that I have seen are warmup and stretching, dead striking drills, dead grappling drills, forms, and sparring.
The warmup and stretching is unremarkable, nothing good or bad to say about it.
Dead drills begin with reps of single techniques, i.e. roundhouse kick in the air, reset, roundhouse kick in the air. The teacher will demo the technique a few times, then watch the students and critique their technique. During these reps, the teacher also provides some applications for techniques being drilled. My main complaint about the drilling is that many of the techniques being demonstrated were unfeasible for a variety of reasons. For example, one technique shown was, from standing less than a foot from an opponent, beginning an outside-inside crescent kick, then switching to a front snap kick to flick the opponent in his or her face. Not only is the technique prohibitively difficult in a sparring/fighting situation, but the kick is not powerful at that point (even for a front snap kick), and doing so invites a single leg takedown at all points. This was not the case for all techniques, although it held true in general for many of the "advanced" techniques.
After single technique drilling, the class switches into combo drilling, where the teacher calls out a series of techniques, and the students perform that series. Again, the impracticality of certain techniques becomes obvious in the performance, although there are certainly some useful techniques included.
Grappling training is meant to include chin na and shuai jiao, i.e. joint locking and wrestling. Generally this training involves two-partner compliant drills. Put plainly, the techniques shown were by far and large impractical. Chin na, as taught here, had a large number of standing joint locks as well as a few ground joint locks. The standing locks were very, very dependent on compliance. There were some ground joint locks that are known to be effective (for example, the standard belly-up armbar). Shuai jiao, as taught here, had far too many complex techniques, without the simplest of techniques (shoulder throws, single legs, double legs were noticeably missing). Also, many of the technical details of takedowns were not mentioned or used by the students, including level changes, deep penetration steps, and use of offbalancing.
Forms were forms. I don't have a specific opinion to offer here, as I'm not familiar with the forms being taught.
Sparring, as far as I have seen it, is generally unimpressive. The one-step and two-step point sparring looked like generic karate point-sparring. Chins are noticeably untucked and hands are dropped (and students are not criticized for such mistakes). Of all the times I have seen the kung fu classes, I have yet to see free sparring, although I am told they do free spar sometimes. Also, students are encouraged to use "traditional stances", of which many are far too impractical to use for sparring or fighting.
There is no rolling or grappling sparring as far as I'm aware.
One little sidenote that I would like to make is that although the class is officially a kung fu class, it has overtones of kempo/karate. The teacher has his students call him "Sensei", not "Sifu". When students answer, they shout, "Osu, Sensei!". When the teacher counts, he says, "Ich, Ni, San!" When he wants them begin a drill, he shouts, "Hajime", and when he wants them to stop, he shouts, "Matte". For those of you who are unfamiliar with the terms, these are all Japanese words, not Chinese. Although there could be an argument made for me being too hung up on such a matter, the fact remains that, considering he is teaching a kung fu class, he could use either English or Chinese to acknowledge the fact that he is a Caucasian and an American man teaching kung fu. Japanese does not seem to fit in in any way.
Overall, my biggest complaint was that there was a significant lack of aliveness in training. After striking techniques were introduced and repeated dead, there was no padwork or heavy bag work or even shadowboxing, and sparring was limited as far as I could see to point sparring. After grappling techniques were introduced, there was no drilling a la uchi-komi and no sparring whatsoever. The lack of aliveness keeps students from discovering the practicality or lack thereof of many of the techniques they are taught. More importantly, they do not have the experience of learning to apply techniques against a resisting opponent. Regardless of the feasability of the techniques students learned, the manner in which they learned them is not conducive to being able to apply those techniques under pressure.
In conclusion, although I am generally loathe to do so, I will label this class as bullshido, simply because the club has made claims to teach effective self-defense, but due to shoddy training methodology and questionable techniques, it does not. If you're interested in learning to defend yourself effectively or learning how to fight, don't waste your time here, there are more worthwhile opportunities around.
On an ending note, if you're reading this because you're at Princeton University, coming next year, or in the town or general area, you may PM me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're looking for places or clubs to train effective martial arts. Currently I train with jhsu and a number of other students at various clubs and schools in and around campus, and we have all found ways to further our training together, despite all attempts by administration to the contrary.
Last edited by ViciousFlamingo; 4/06/2007 7:26pm at .
just a quick add-on note to ViciousFlamingo's great writeup, i wanted to point out that the instruction also seems a little poorly planned. As I recall, I attended one of their demo classes my freshman year, and I distinctly remember the teacher asking new students(with presumably little to no martial arts experience) to start practicing jumping spinning crescent kicks with little to no warm-up stretching and no instruction on how to do basic kicks(or even a crescent kick from standing)
Last edited by jhsu; 4/06/2007 1:49pm at .
A little harsh, guys. Based on the facts presented, this is not Bullshido in the sense usually used here. You haven't shown anything fraudulent, although the instructor's use of the wrong language is suspicious. I say this sounds like a legitimate style watered down to fit a particular student population. It might not be very useful on the street, but there are not that many Princeton students who would want to practice a striking-oriented style with full contact. You're going to have to find a tougher venue for that.
the reason why Pink Flamingo and I deemed this club bullshido, was more of a result of the poor planning and training in this club rather than it's lack of focus on full contact sparring. The Kung Fu club bills itself as a club intended for self defence, and as noted in Pink Flamingo's writeup, a lot of the time is spent on compliant drills and katas, with seemingly insufficient warmup time and instruction on basic techniques. It is generally accepted among Bullshido that such drills and instruction would most likely not lead to an effective self defense system.
Even if the students in Princeton are not interested in training with full contact sparring(an assertion I strongly disagree with, as there are at least 20-30 students here besides pink flamingo and myself interested in a more intense full contact martial arts club), students interested in Kung Fu(but not in intense sparring)can still be trained up to a certain degree of proficiency with effective drills with aliveness and resistance, sparring(of an appropriate intensity), and proper instruction. However, to the best of my knowledge, these three attributes are nowhere to be found in this kung fu club.
As to whether or not this is an effective style watered down to fit the university's tastes, this is much harder to judge, as I have not attended any of their non-university affiliated classes. However, if the training done in the non-university classes is at all similar to that of the university's kung fu club, it is unlikely that the style taught outside of Princeton is much more effective than what is taught within the university.
On a side note, I notice that in your style field you train Judo. If you happen to be living in the Princeton area this summer, and are up for a little training on the weekends, you're welcome to swing by Dillon gymnasium and train with me. Almost all my usual training partners have disappeared for the summer, so any new training partners are most certainly welcome.
I stand by my and Jhsu's writeups as they are. As Jhsu said, we labeled this club bullshido because of the claim that was made by the club that students were being prepared for self-defence. After having seen and participated in the classes, due to the poor training methodology and questionable techniques being taught as detailed in our writeups, it seems altogether unlikely that students were being prepared adequately for self-defence situations. Whether or not the style is being "watered down" for a student population, and whether Princeton students are interested in full-contact martial arts (Jhsu and I know for a fact there are a number of students who are) is irrelevant because it does not have a bearing on the claims of preparing students for self-defence.
Also, if you'll take the time to review both of our writeups, you will clearly see that we made absolutely no claims of fraudulence on the part of the instructor. Part of Bullshido.net's introduction page reads: "The Bullshido network of websites are devoted to one goal: improving the standards in the Martial Arts and applying reason, empiricism, objectivity, and a bit of a sense of humor towards accomplishing this. Some things we take very seriously: fraud, abuse, and endangering people by giving them a false sense of security through substandard or misleading training." It is this last bit, the "endangering people by giving them a false sense of security through substandard or misleading training", that I and Jhsu are criticizing this club for, and I believe we did so clearly and with very little room for interpretation of other accusations that we did not make.
I hope this has addressed your concerns.