What is your teacher's Zen lineage?
Originally Posted by goofus lee
I was at a workshop all weekend so I do appologize for not being able to respond sooner. I can't get to everything tonight, but I'll at least start off.
Did I walk in with prejudices? To be honest, yes. However, to also be honest, the longer I was there and the more I asked questions of the people, the more I felt sad for them. I truely hoped that the place couldn't be that bad, but it surpassed even my giddy, sarcastic imagination. While the quotes in my review are paraphrases, nothing in it is made up. I was told it was "dog style" ground fighting, and was told that Brown had "so many blackbelts" when I asked what his rank in Jiu-Jitsu was. None of those little snippets are fake, although I did write them in a humorous light. Some of those quotes I wrote down as soon as I got into my car. They are not the product of an over-active imagination.
Notice that nobody is saying anything about the write-up on the CD? That write-up was done humorously as well, but none of you can say anything about it because you know that it's all true and can be verified.
I find it utterly deplorable that you SCMA guys are trying to "out" me or some **** by going through your records and posting my name here. Or trying to describe me as some skinny geek with no idea about MA. There are people here who can account for my "geekdom" and size and just who I am. That you're going "Ohhh, NATHAN, you're little!" is fucking pathetic.
If anyone did take notice of me during class it was only due to this one reason: YOU GUYS ARE INCREDIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE ANSWERING QUESTIONS. Despite what you are trying to invent, I came in meekly and without any chip on my shoulder. I was quiet and patient, but I did ask a lot of questions. You are probably used to people coming in and simply going "Oh, a one-inch punch! How cool!" You are probably used to people coming in and going "Oh, Sifu Brown learned from a Chinese Master? How cool!" You are probably not used to people coming in and actually knowing what the **** they are talking about and trying to get you to answer real questions. Like "Who is Brown's sifu? What organization does Brown study Jiu-Jitsu under? What is his rank? If I stick around, what sort of things will I experience here?" You guys don't like those questions or the people who ask them (probably because you do not like the answers).
Originally Posted by Genghis Bob
Originally Posted by clutch30
Note that the first time the question about Brown's BJJ instructor was answered was in THIS THREAD. In the past he was only brought up as someone who could vouch for Brown. Here's another question that you guys refuse to answer: WHAT IS HIS RANK?
Originally Posted by JustJoe
Originally Posted by JustJoe
My main problem in the beginning, when this whole mess really turned into the mess that it now is, is that your school is incredibly uncomfortable with Brown's lineages. When I met my sifu, I was told very quickly who his sifu was. And I was also told who my sifu's sifu's sifu was. It was not some secret. It was very upfront and honest. When I took karate in college we were all given a book with our sensei's current teacher, as well as a number of other people he studied under. However, with simply asking about Robert Brown's sifu I was given many different answers, most of them simply dodging the question. Many of his students didn't even seem to know. That is a huge red-flag and the thing that really made me worried about your school. Can he really expect his todai to respect him if he has that little respect to give AS a todai?
While hanging out with some of my si-suks, si-baks, si-gung-suks, and si-dai in Richmond this weekend, my Si-Taigung brought up an interesting thought*. He said that students will respect their sifu's too much as it is, and that it is dangerous to think of your sifu as your leader. Si-Taigung said that your sifu should definitely not be your spiritual leader. You should not make them a guru. They are supposed to be teaching you martial arts first. You should instead find a person who is supposed to be primarily a spiritual leader, not a martial artist who happens to want to teach you to meditate. And no, I didn't bring up anything about your school at all. I just thought that idea might help some of you guys out.
*You SCMA guys don't even have these, do you? You just have "Sifu Brown", and nobody else in your family. Where are his si-dai? Where are your si-suks?
And you thought you rolled a crit with that rebuttal....
I've listened to the cd as well. I also take it all with a grain of salt, just like anything else. Illuminaries such as Noam Chomskey, Ghandi, Jello Biafra, and Bozo the Clown have urged us to think for ourselves and question authority.
Did fighting start in Africa? Who knows? When stuff was happening at Shaolin, the world wasn't stopped. Most places do have some kind of indiginous fighting style. Does anyone have a definitive history of the martial arts as a whole? No. That stuff is just speculation. Do I know Sifu Brown's Zen lineage? No I don't. I don't know what religion he is either.
The meditation we practice is merely a mental exercise. Clear your mind kinda stuff. Sifu has said in the past that if any students start to levitate, he'll tell them to stop acting "flakey".
You don't like the whole "partners not opponents" philosophy? That's cool. All I can say is that thinking of people as partners instead of opponents has made my life much better. I know too many people who view others as the enemy. These are folks with too few friends and too much time on their hands.
In regards to grappling: SCMA isn't a bjj school. The school doesn't focus on grappeling, weapons, chi'na, striking, kicking, throwing, etc. They attempt to be proficient in many things as opposed to specialization in a few. "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" author, Robert Kiyosaki always preferred knowing something about a lot of things. He sees it as a key to success in a dynamic world. Specialization is good if you want to ply your skills in a controlled/safe environment( he's referring to being in a union. I highly recommend the book).
I understand the idea behind a dojo review. I have no problem with that. Criticizing a dojo without being constructive is something that bothers me though. Like many critics, you have slammed the school, yet you haven't said anything about what you would do to better it if given the chance. There you go, chimaco( or dude). What would you differently if you "inherited" the School of Chinese Martial Arts?
Last edited by goofus lee; 8/14/2007 10:14am at .
I'd be honest.
Originally Posted by goofus lee
I have been a student of Sifu Brown's for two and a half years now; just over two in kung fu and a bit longer in tai chi. I'm going to reply to a lot of ideas in this post so I apologize if it's somewhat scatted; I'll start from the beginning of the thread to try to give it some organization.
As others have basically said, on average a good student will make it to intermediate class (yellow sash) in 9 months to a little over a year, and to advanced class (2nd yellow) in around two years. I just started advanced class last week, so others like Genghis Bob are better positioned to explain what happens there; however, from what I've seen, among other drills they do point sparring, free grappling, and full-force sparring with big gloves. In sparring, sometimes classes will take it to the ground and other times they'll be instructed not to. The school typically does not allow students to watch classes over their level not because "it's too dangerous" but to avoid scaring off students. We've had people walk in and watch classes and be too intimidated to try, because they feel they'll never be that good; however, that's not the truth because the school does an excellent job of making sure that students are prepared before they get to that level. ("Prepared" doesn't mean that I didn't completely get owned in my first sparring class last week or grappling last night; it just means I didn't feel completely hopeless.) And yes, Chinese systems do typically wait longer before sparring than other arts; Adam Hsu has an essay about this in The Sword Polisher's Record, his collection of articles.
Like the other students of Sifu Brown who have posted, I have never ever heard the phrase "dog style" uttered in the dojo. On the other hand, I don't know where Sifu's grappling skills pre-BJJ came from; maybe I've just never heard anyone ask. As for BJJ, Sifu Brown does not teach us that; he teaches grappling principles and techniques he's practiced for years, ocassionally "spiced up" with a little something from Shihan Dunn. At the beginning of 2006 he began training with Shihan Dunn ( http://www.brooklynbrazilianjiujitsu.com/ ) because he loves ground work. As a result, you know what his rank is in BJJ? White belt. He started again at the beginning, just like the rest of us, and flies out several times a year to train. Shihan Dunn has come to our dojo twice to teach seminars and his respect for our teacher is obvious. Last month when he came, Sifu Brown wore his BJJ uniform instead of our school's uniform, and he wore his white belt with it. This tells me two things--one, he does respect his own teachers, and two, he's not the ego-maniac some people try to make him out to be; he's humble enough to show himself as a learner in front of his own students. How many MA instructors would do that, really?
"Some guy in China"--Sifu Brown has studied with Master Ue, a (I think) 36th generation monk at Shaolin Temple.
As for there being a lot of bowing before class--normally there isn't, but if the senior student lines students up too early, while people are still coming in, yes, it can get really comical. As for "prayer hand"--that was the way I was taught to rise formally from seiza. It's not a prayer hand per se; as I understand it, it comes from Samurai tradition because that way the hand is out of the way of a sword draw. Yes, even though we're a Chinese school, much of our etiquette is drawn from the Japanese; Sifu Brown has spent much of his life training in Japanese systems, and the beginning of his career teaching them. LARPing? No, tradition and etiquette.
I have never seen Sifu Brown stand at the front of class and just count. Instead, he's walking through the ranks, offering correction. It may be hard to notice because a) you were taking your own class, and b) he's incredibly good at keeping up the count while inserting those comments. If by "he didn't work with any students" you mean he wasn't strictly working one-on-one for an extended period of time with anyone? He does that sometimes too--he'll pull someone to the side to spar or grapple.
Yes, it does get loud in class. In beginner class, there could be as many as four separate groups working and a separate intro; however, students quickly learn to tune out the other groups and focus on their leader's count. I've never heard anyone teaching an intro call out anything more convoluted than "Mr. so-and-so is my partner!" to get help. You personally, with a background in wing chun and whatever else, might have been comfortable providing the attack for your assistant to show the response, but a lot of the people who come in for intros (women and older people) would not have. Further, it's easier for you to see the technique against someone else. Trust me--you'll have the technique (we don't call them "moves") used against you plenty if you stick around.
As Bob points out, it would be chaos if every student brought his/her own water bottle to class. There's a drinking fountain right to the side if students need water; after my first couple classes I found I could get by without water except between classes.
In the "self defense" part of class--and yes, you're correct, we do tend to refer to the chin na/chokes.throws/grappling half of beginner class as this, even though the strikes and kicks are good self defense as Bob points out--the student Sifu demonstrated on looked pained? Two things: one, some of the black coats and senior students are really good at exaggerating--responding more to a technique or strike than physically they have to, in order to accentuate it; and two, some of these joint locks etc. are extremely painful--however, Sifu executes them with an amazing amount of control. I've been used by Sifu to demonstrate something once or twice and he really does do the technique and does it well. However, once he release the technique there's no lasting pain, because he does it carefully. I have grappled with Sifu and can speak to how well and how effectively he does technique with great control; I've also seen him grapple with an eight-year-old before kids' class and see the control there; so if you're trying to imply in your review that Sifu doesn't have that control or didn't use it on the student with whom he demonstrated, you're wrong. And yes, you get to "go easy" in beginner class because that's what most of the people in that class need; if you have a more senior partner, or in other classes, you can ramp it up more.
As for details of the arm bar--I've heard Sifu talk about finger position and the hips many times. In beginner class, he's not going to go over every detail because there's no way students will retain it. The way Sifu Brown works, he gives some details some nights, and others at other times--that way, over time, you get all the details. Further, all the beginners in beginner class should be working with people who have been in the dojo for over a year, so those more senior students can provide those details as needed. As for your partner not being able to tap you--generally we will tap people, even the first night; if you were applying a lot of resistance, your partner might have chosen not to, to avoid hurting you. That's what eventualartist meant by "we don't tap people the first night"; we do, but very cautiously.
There is not a second meditation at the end of class; you are incorrect there.
Sifu Brown starts the class out with "Meditation is the foundation of true martial arts"; because you weren't on the mats at that point, perhaps you couldn't hear it. He also says (not, as Bob points out, usually in beginner class) that if you're not meditating, you're not doing martial arts. As others have already said, Sifu Brown defines martial arts as the overall picture--the physical and mental processes that improve mind, body, and spirit. If you're not doing meditation, you're not doing martial arts. You might be a great fighter or martial technician, but the deepest aspects of martial arts derive from meditation.
The hard sell? I certainly never got any hard sell when I did my intros. I went home and thought it over for a few days before coming back; never any pressure.
To reiterate, you did not see advanced class, you saw intermediate--block and counter in response to attacks. It's an intermediate step before sparring.
As for the CD... I love how you say you "got your hands on it." Couldn't you just admit that the dojo GAVE YOU a copy, because they do that for intros? Which CD varies on the person--obviously someone felt you needed to hear more about the meditative aspects of practice.
#1: Fighting originated in Africa? Well, since the evolutionary evidence points to humans originating in Africa, and given the human proclivity to fight... makes sense to me.
#2: Martial Arts was invented in China at Shaolin Temple by Tamo Bodhidharma. Again, as Sifu Brown defines martial arts, that's true--no one had combined the martial with the meditation before that. Certainly martial techniques existed before that. Shuia Chiao, for one, seems to go back thousands of years. I used to have a problem with Sifu Brown saying this until I grasped what he meant by martial arts.
#3: OK, granted, Sifu Brown buys into the legends of Shaolin Temple more than some.
#4: Bodhidharma came from India to China: This is commonly agreed. Again, it's a mixture of history and legend, but a lot of people will tell you this.
#5: Again, it's part of the story that Bodhidharma lived in a cave for a number of years before the monks at the temple would accept him. You can believe it or not, but in the talk you received Sifu Brown is specifically telling the story of Shaolin Temple! Whethre you see it as history or folklore, how can you make fun of a guy for telling a well-known legend? I've never heard this CD, by the way... like all intros, I was given one the first day and I've bought one or two others.
#6: Specifically, Tamo found the monks were in too poor shape to meditate effectively, so he used martial arts to change that. I've heard from other sources that many of the monks in the temple would have been ex-soldiers and so they would have some knowledge of martial technique for Bodhidharma to draw on. Further, coming from India he had been exposed to the practice of yoga, where again the idea is to use the physical to improve the body for better meditation. Bodhidharma instead took martial technique to do it--and that's what it means to say Tamo Bodhidharma created Martial Arts at Shaolin.
#7: Yes, the goal for Shaolin kung fu is moving meditation.
#8: Already hit this one. You can do martial techniques without meditating--not martial art.
#9: It is. Read up on it; that's the point of meditation. Sifu Brown likes to use a lot of synonyms from different traditions (chi, ki, prajna... soul, atman, Buddha-nature) to highlight that it's a spiritual path not tied to a specific religion. I don't know what religion he is; he doesn't share that with students. He's got students of a lot of different religions and even some atheists who now meditate regularly.
#10: Some people think this. I'm not one. Like I said, I haven't heard the CD but I doubt this is exactly what Sifu Brown said.
#11: Again, I don't know how he says it on the CD. Sifu Brown has certainly said that you can't create "new moves"--someone's done it before, better than you, because there are only so many things you can do with the human body. I've never heard him say that it was all done at Shaolin before though.
#12: Obviously untrue. Sifu Brown said on retreat last year he's not a complete traditionalist because what if your art predates guns? No gun defense.
#13: Everyone in life is a partner--they just don't know it yet. This is indeed Sifu Brown's perspective; I'm still working up to it.
#14: I don't like the word "karma" because it sounds flakey. However, I think the highest attainment of the martial arts is to be able to respond correctly in a self-defense situation without generating angry or hateful thoughts. Many masters from the past would agree with this, including Ueshiba Sensei. That's not why you practice martial techniques, so it's hard for you to understand and easy for you to make fun of. Maybe someday you'll change your mind.
#15: Oh, look, I'm SO clever.
#16: Sifu Brown would be the first to tell you most people aren't at this level and can't meditate while defending themselves--then the question is, how quickly can you come back to that mindset? He also teaches that there are two levels of self defense, with many gradients in between; the lowest level is that I am going home, no matter what happens to my partner. Most people studying martial arts will be at this level for years if not decades; the highest level is that I can take control of the situation without harm to myself or my partner. It's a goal.
#17: 100% defense? Haven't heard the CD, so I can't respond. I've never heard Sifu say this, exactly.
#18 and 19: Dagon, you're just such a smart and funny guy, I can't get over it!
All right; this post is way too long so I'm going to finish it and respond to the rest of the thread separately.
Peter (people in the dojo will know who I am--people who aren't won't care!)
I disagree whole-heartedly with most of your statements and beliefs. However, thank you for being open about what you know, and honest enough to answer. Please stick around.
Also, I wasn't given a CD at the end of class. I got it from a friend who did some classes a few years ago.
There was a "meditation"/bowing/quiet-time at the end of class. Also, it's not that the student didn't tap me, he couldn't tap me a few times. He even complimented my arm-bar defense (which I wasn't using, as I wasn't rolling my whole body or grabbing at my arm, and my arm-bar defense sucks). Lastly, I wasn't trying to imply that Brown lacked control (I certainly didn't see enough to judge this). I was simply stating that he was very rough with some of his students.
More thoughts on the thread
Mike (Clutch30): I doubt Sifu Brown wants or needs to be defened this way.
EventualArtist: Dagon came into the dojo, did the intro, and listened to the CD. It's biased? It's wrong? Respond to what he has to say instead of attacking the person. Are you being a partner here? Would people reading your posts want to come into the dojo, or would they feel you're just there to judge them?
Others reading the forum, I'd ask that you look at GenghisBob's posts, and JustJoe in the other forums, as more of an example of students of Sifu Brown.
Errant108, I'm not aware of Sifu Brown having any Zen lineage. Sifu Brown has an eclectic background in meditation--he's studied with a number of different people. He has made it very clear that he doesn't run a zendo; there's one not too far away if students want that. Unlike a sensei or a roshi, he has merely introduced us to the practice of meditation and encourages us to find our own answers. Dagon, your point about separating sifu and spiritual leader is well-taken; I've had a separate spiritual director (outside the dojo, and from my church) and I read as much as I can, from a number of different sources, on the subject.
As mentioned in my last post, Sifu Brown came up in Japanese systems. We use a lot of Japanese terminology in the dojo (case in point), in part because it's what people are more familiar with and in part because it's what Sifu Brown is used to. I've heard from senior students that for a number of years they counted in Japanese in the school, until on one of his trips to China Master Ue told Sifu Brown he had to count in Chinese.
Why are people so uncomfortable answering questions about Sifu Brown's lineage? I-- and most of the people who have posted from the school here, it seems--wasn't very concerned with those kinds of questions when I started, and they're still not in the least pressing to me. I've heard Sifu Brown identify his teachers and his black belts (though never all at once) but again, because it's not that important to me, I don't remember details, and I don't feel a need to ask now. I had a coworker come to the dojo and do an intro once--in Tai Chi, where intros usually talk to Sifu Brown directly. My coworker recognized the name of Sifu Brown's first teacher and told me after, very impressed, that he was one of the big names in karate in Michigan in the 70s--but I don't remember the name.
Dagon, no, I'm unfamiliar with Si-Taigung and the other terms you use.
The bottom line for me is twofold:
1. The School of Chinese Martial arts offers real martial arts, taught well. Is some of it Japanese? Yes. Is some of it Chinese? Yes. Is some of it Korean? Yes; we've even had a high-ranking hapkidoist friend of Sifu Brown's give seminars in the school. What tells me it's real? I've studied a little before, but mostly tai chi, so I'm certainly not in a position to decide that. However, Sensei Hurtsellers, a man who was studying Shuri-Ryu under Hanshin Bowles and a former USKA national and world champion, set all that aside to study with Sifu Brown, starting as a beginner and working his way up. The respect I see Sifu Brown receive from Shihan Dunn, from Sensei Hurtsellers, from Sensei Riedmiller, from Master Walker, from Sifu Ahles, from Sensei Aldiss, and from Sensei Sonny Kim--all of whom have visited our dojo, practiced with Sifu Brown, and spoken to the class, tells me he has earned his position in the martial arts. Further, I'm a teacher, and I've had some great teachers in my time--Sifu Brown is, bar none, the best teacher I have ever had, and I've learned more from him about being a good teacher myself than from anyone else. Real martial arts, taught well.
2. Sifu Brown has set up an incredible environment of great partners. I practice at the SCMA as much for my fellow students as for the teaching; when I work with a senior student they do everything they can for me to learn the most, and when I work with a less senior student myself I do the same. I *do* have enough experience in other dojos to know that's often not the case.
So I practice at the School of Chinese Martial Arts and will continue to. I've had NOTHING but the most positive effects in my practice and my life as a result of my time there.
Last edited by csf1; 8/15/2007 9:51pm at .
Rough with students?
Yes, Sifu Brown is rough with some--not all--of his senior students. When he is, you know what? They love it! Others, myself included, look forward to when we'll have that same status; feeling Sifu Brown really put a lock on me, as he has once or twice, gives me a whole new appreciation for the technique.
However, Sifu Brown is one of the most sensitive people I know. That sounds funny with the way he'll talk to some of his students and staff, but that's exactly what I mean--he's soft with the people who need it, and he's harsh with the people who can really take it. When he demonstrates something in class, it's with someone who can handle it, and in the rare instances where there isn't a senior student around as a partner, I've seen him demonstrate with someone lower and be more gentle.
I still contend that he didn't hit the student as hard as you think, if at all--he doesn't usually make physical contact with a hit in that kind of beginner class demo, and never hard. However, I wasn't there that night; based on when you posted I assume you came right after my second yellow sash test, and I didn't stay for kung fu that night. So I can't say for sure, but I suspect his partner was "playing up" the technique.
Last edited by csf1; 8/14/2007 12:35pm at .
How much training can a guy in Detroit, MI (Brown) get from a guy in Brooklyn, NY (Dunn) inside of 19 months?
How does this work?
Right. Sifu Brown does not teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and does not purport to.
Originally Posted by Tom Kagan
His teacher has come to our dojo twice to give seminars.
Sifu teaches grappling based on arts he's learned previously... and he understands the techniques and principles of those arts BETTER because he's studying with Shihan Dunn.
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