Character Building With Martial Arts



Focus is an attribute people are looking to attain through martial arts training. Focus goes hand and hand with the attribute of discipline (see previous post.) A well focused mind is essential for having mental and physical discipline. Martial arts training teaches students to focus on the task at hand. As you concentrate on one task and work to accomplish that task, you are disciplining the mind to focus on seeing a job through to the end. The development of focus starts with small things and grows to encompass many more aspects of life. The cultivation of focus begins with an act as small as a punch. Students are taught to focus their punch to a specific area. As they practice, the student learns to focus their strength and energy into that area. I often tell students there is a difference between aiming and focusing. Aiming is placing the punch on a particular spot on a target or opponent. Focusing is not only hitting the spot, but is striking the spot with the desired power. At higher levels, this would include focusing the body’s internal energy or “chi” into the strike. This is a simple but effective example of the stages of focus development.

Stage 1 – Focus on hitting one specific spot.

Stage 2 – Focus delivering power into that spot.

Stage 3 – Focus on projecting the body’s energy “chi” into the spot. Each stage requires a higher level of focus to achieve. No stage can be skipped. The new stage will just happen the more the previous stage is mastered. This demonstrates a progression of the level of focus through on technique. Focus not only grows stronger in one technique at a time; focus spreads from one task into more and more aspects of life.

Students start by focusing punch after punch. They focus on making sure a block is in the right place. They focus on balance and targeting while throwing a kick. Students learn to stay focused on a series of movements as they train forms. Later, students realize they must stay focused on many elements at once, if they want to achieve their next rank. The goal is for the student to carry this new found skill of focus into other areas of their life. I try to encourage my younger students to approach school with the same focus they apply to Kung Fu training. I tell them, “If you focus on the current assignment, you can complete it faster with better results. Don’t let your mind wander. Stop wishing the assignment was done and stop dwelling on what you are not getting to do while working. With focus the job will soon be finished and you’ll be able to do what you’re wanting to do sooner.”

Tso Ting
Tso Ting

In my school, we begin class with a Tso Ting or “sitting contemplation”. Students sit cross legged for one minute, breathing deeply, and focus. I suggest students take this time to focus on what they want out of class that particular day. What do they want to work on? Will they focus on their stances? Will they work on developing more power in techniques? Students should use this minute to block out all outside distractions. Students should put themselves into a “Kung Fu” mindset. For the next hour the student will focus on and give full attention to Kung Fu training. After hearing this explanation, one student’s grandfather told me he was going to suggest his group do something similar the next dental conference he attended. This is a great example of using character building skills from martial arts outside the Kwoon or Dojo.

Be sure to check out the next character building post on Respect.



Setting Goals For What You Want From Martial Arts Training

A Guide To Choosing The Right Martial Arts School

A Detailed Look – Post 2

This post is a continuation of the previous post:

Reason 3: “Character Building”

One reason people want to train martial arts is for personal character development. Character developments are the advancements students make in their mental and emotional development while training. This is where martial arts training becomes personal. Each student comes to a class with their own specific personalities. These personality traits are largely shaped by the individual’s mental and emotional development. For example, some students come to martial arts with low self esteem, while others may be a little cocky. Two students can workout side by side in the same class. One may develop the confidence they need, while the other learns to be a little more humble. This is the wonder of martial arts training. It targets each student personally, helping to improve any short comings that student may have. Character development is an aspect of non-physical training that is part of a great martial arts program. In the following I will discuss a few of the character building traits of martial arts training. 

Karate stance


Discipline may be the most recognized of the character building traits. A style of martial arts is sometimes referred to as a “discipline of study.” To many children, discipline means “punishment.” Discipline also has a more positive definition. One definition is “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” (from I view discipline in these positive terms. I tell young students that, “If you can develop self discipline it will keep you from external discipline enforced upon you by others.”

tai chi sword on beach

Martial arts training can discipline the body and discipline the mind. Through repetitive physical practice, the student can discipline the body to perform complex movements and techniques. If students remain disciplined in their practice, they can achieve a level of accuracy and power that seems almost superhuman. You can see the same discipline in the top stars of other sports.

Martial arts karate discipline

To achieve high levels of physical discipline requires high levels of mental discipline. The mental discipline to force one’s body to practice when it doesn’t feel like it, or to push on past fatigue and pain is what separates the average from the great. The same is true for other activities, not just physical endeavors. Many of the top successful business professionals exhibit the same mental discipline.

Mental and physical discipline can help to keep you safe. When confronted with high stress or dangerous situations, the body’s fight or flight response kicks in. You begin to act on instinct. A disciplined body can begin to react in ways it has been programmed to respond. A disciplined mind can cut through the fog of adrenaline and make appropriate decisions. A quality martial arts program will help the student become more disciplined.

I have decided to break up my post on “Character Building” into several smaller post. Please come back for the my next post on building “Focus” through martial arts training.

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Setting Goals For What You Want From Martial Arts Training

A Guide To Choosing The Right Martial Arts School

A Detailed Look – Post 1

Tai Chi Single Whip

This post will look in detail at question one from A Guide To Choosing A Martial Art School. The guide can be viewed as an earlier post and is also available from the blog menu as a permanent page. I will be using my own schools as an example.
*Disclaimer: I am biased toward the martial art systems that I teach. I feel that they are some of the best martial arts systems out there. I am not biased because I am an instructor and a school owner. I am biased because I am a student. If I didn’t feel that way, I would have found something else to train in years ago. However, I do know that my systems are not the only styles of worth. I feel that the systems I teach are as strong as they are because of the work of my instructor, Grandmaster Rick Ward. He is very open minded to martial arts training. If he saw a weakness of his own, he would find the right Grandmaster to train with that would improve upon his core sytem. He taught me that there is always someone out there who knows more than you do. If you want to be better, find those people and train with them. Any true martial arts style taught by a quality instructor should be able to offer something of value to a true martial arts student. With this being said, I intend to try to portray any style mentioned with fairness and respect.

1. What are your goals and what are you wanting from training martial arts?

This question could be one of the most important questions you should ask yourself before joining a martial arts school. What do you want from your experience of training martial arts? The answer to that question will be the foundation of your choice in schools. For some, this is an easy question. You may be very familiar with martial arts. You may have grown up watching Saturday morning Kung Fu movies, read tons of books on Karate and Judo, own every movie made by Steven Seagal and Jackie Chan, and have never missed a UFC or other MMA match. You may not have any knowledge at all about martial arts, which is fine. Whether The Book Of Five Rings is your favorite book, or right now you are wondering what jewelry has to due with martial arts, you still have to have goals and expectations for what you want out of training and a school. If your expectations do not match with what a school offers, you will not be happy no matter how good a school is. 

Kung Fu Yin Yang

I have taught martial arts for over twenty-three years to a variety of students. I have taught students as young as three years old and students who were in their eighties. I have found five main reasons people want to train martial arts. These reasons are by no means the only reasons people join a martial arts school. They are simply five reasons that have continued to come up over the years. You may have other reasons. Just make sure you clearly define your reasons.

Reason  1. “I have always wanted to study martial arts.”

I believe this is a great reason. As an Instructor, I want students who want to learn. It is especially rewarding to help someone fulfill a lifelong dream. I have adult students who have commented that, “They always wanted to train martial arts as a kid, but couldn’t afford it, or it wasn’t available.” Now they get to do something they have wanted to do for a long time. Passionate students make for passionate instructors. Some people have a particular martial arts style in mind. If you are already interested in a particular style, then start your search there. Sil Lum Kung Fu, Emperor’s Long Fist – Tai Chi, Ba Gua, Hsing I, and Sasamba – Kali, Arnis, Escrima are some of the styles I teach. These styles are relatively scarce in the areas I teach. If you want to learn Kung Fu, then try out a Kung Fu school; even if the Kung Fu school (kwoon) is 30 minutes away and there is a Karate Dojo five minutes from your house. I have some students who are in a similar situation. They are willing to drive a little to get what they want and not settle on just any “martial art.” The same would be true if you are interested if Karate. *Drive 30 minutes and take Kung Fu* (That is just my attempt at humor) If you want a specific style of Karate, be willing to drive a little farther for class, even if there is a Tae Kwon Do school next door. They main point is to decide what you want. If you just want to learn “martial arts”, you could start your search anywhere. Other factors that I will cover in later post may end up being your deciding factors. If you want to be the next Jet Li, then start your search with Kung Fu schools.

TaeKwonDo SparringKarate stance    


Reason 2. “I want to learn self-defense.”

If you want to learn self-defense the first thing to ask a school’s instructor is whether they train self-defense. This may seem simple or even silly. There are schools out there that concentrate more on tournament training than self-defense. This does not immediately make them bad schools, they just have other goals in mind. Can you learn self-defense at a tournament oriented school? Sure. You should be learning blocks, kicks, and punches. This should help you to defend yourself. However, if self-defense is one of your reasons than find a school that focuses on or specializes in self-defense. I teach self-defense at my schools. Many techniques we teach would be illegal in most tournaments. In a real life situation you may have to pull hair, kick to the groin, or jab to the eyes. All this is frowned upon in most tournaments. Does this mean that self-defense based schools are filled with huge brutes trying to dismember one another? Certainly not. You should also find out what a schools self-defense strategies are. Do they teach mostly grappling techniques, like most Judo and Jujitsu schools. Do they teach to defend by using kicks and punches? What happens if they get taken to the ground? Will you learn to defend yourself against weapons? Will you learn to use weapons? One of the things I like best about the styles I teach is that they encompass almost all areas of self-defense. We teach intricate handwork. Students learn blocking and counter striking from Plum Blossom, Wing Chun, and Praying Mantis styles. We also have very good leg work, both with movement, kicking, and leg blocks. We teach grappling from both standing and on the ground. Our ground fighting includes both joint locking and striking. We teach how to use weapons and how to defend against weapon attacks. As a student I loved all these varied techniques. It seemed and still does that there was always something new to learn. As an instructor I love that there is something for every student. If a student is having trouble kicking, they could use Chin Na grappling to defend themselves. If they are bad at grappling, they may have great handwork. Get familiar with a school’s philosophy on defense and choose what you think would work for you. Maybe you can find a school that offers several approaches, and you won’t have to choose just one.

Crane Form Pic

I will cover the remaining reasons in a later post.

For more information on the styles I teach visit our website at 

Upcoming Kali Seminar Postponed

Due to family illness, Grandmaster Rick Ward will be postponing the upcoming Kali Seminar featuring Tuhon Ruby. The seminar is planned to be rescheduled. I will post the new date as soon as it is set.

A Guide To Choosing A Martial Arts School

Finding a martial arts school that is right for you is a big decision.  The following guide can help with that decision.  It consist of a list of questions you should ask yourself before settling on a school.

Kung Fu-Karate-BBJ-Jujitsu-MMA-Martail Arts schools

1.  What are your goals and what are you wanting from training martial arts?

2.  Does the style of martial arts being taught offer what you are looking for?              Does the style fit your need?                                                                                           There are many styles of martial arts that originated from different countries all over         the world. The style is the type of martial art. You can think of it in terms of an automobile.  Martial Arts = Car,  Kung Fu = Make of car,  Sil Lum (the style) = Model of car

3.  Are you and/or your child comfortable with the training environment?

4.  Does the school offer free trial classes?

5.  Is the price of classes a good value?                                                                             Cheap does not mean value, expensive does not mean quality.  If there are three Karate schools that are equal in training and instruction, price can be a factor.  If there is only one school that offers the style you want, don’t be afraid to pay more.

6.  Is the instructor qualified and is the system legitimate?                                             The system should have a long history or new system should be endorsed by other          Grandmasters and or martial arts associations.  An instructor should be able to  supply you their training history.

7.  What is the school’s philosophy, focus, or mission statement?                                 Does the school concentrate on tournaments, are they trying to produce fighters, do      they teach real life self-defense, or do they work on character development.

8.  Most importantly, do you enjoy training at the school?                                              The instructor may be the top in his field, but if your personalities do not click you may   want to train somewhere else.

As an instructor, I would love to teach you Kung Fu.  However, if you want to learn Judo you should use this guide to find a great Judo school.  I do suggest taking advantage of free trial classes.  You may find that a style you knew little about is just what you’re looking for.

This guide provided by Grandmaster Chris Laing. The guide is always available from the blogs main menu.

In upcoming posts Grandmaster Laing will go into more details on each question above. He will use his own schools as examples in answering the questions. Grandmaster Laing hopes that the post will be helpful to anyone looking to begin a journey into martial arts. Feel free to go to the schools website to try using the guide to find some of the answers for yourself. The site should open in another window, so it will be easier to toggle back and forth between the pages as you look for answers.

Tai Chi Class at BRKFAA Mountain City

Due to the success of the Free Tai Chi class, BRKFAA of Mountain City will be starting a weekly Tai Chi class. The class will meet on Thursdays from 5:30pm-6:30pm at the Blue Ridge Kung Fu school in Mountain City. The academy is located at 119 Village Square Lane, Mountain City, TN 37683 next to H&R Block. Anyone interested in the class is welcomed to stop in and try out a class. Students can join at any time.

The schedule for classes may be expanding. Be sure to check back often for new class times. If interested in class or to check on other possible times, call 423-727-4474 or 276-475-5930.

Be sure to check out our web site for more information about Tai Chi, Kung Fu, and Sasamba.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

2015 IKAA Seminar A Huge Success



IKAA’s 2015 “Instructor Seminar” was a huge success. Master Eric Marks, his wife, and his students did a great job hosting the seminar. His new location is looking great. There was a terrific turnout for the seminar. This seminar had the largest turnout of recent seminars. Thanks to all the students who spread the word. Let’s keep the buzz going about how much fun we have training.

2015 IKAA Pic

The large number of students is not what made the seminar a success. It was a success because of the fellowship shared between the students and instructors. The goal of the International Kung Fu Arnis Association (IKAA) is to provide a positive network where students can associate with, train with, and share knowledge with fellow students from other schools. Egos are left at the door. There is a clear feeling of mutual respect and sharing between brothers and sisters in the martial arts. Master Jason McGuire put it best when he stressed to the students to become “great martial artist” not just great fighters.

The quality of instruction was top-notch as usual. The students enjoyed each section of training. Grand Master Ward provided some of the best training of the day. He taught students different techniques and strategies from each of the Sil Lum animals. Grand Master Ward unselfishly gave of his time, teaching for almost two hours longer than planned. The students left with tired bodies, full minds, and happy hearts.

Make plans now to attend next years seminar!

Check out pictures and more from the seminar on facebook.

Triangle Kung-Fu Arnis Academy                     

Foothills Kung Fu Arnis Academy              

Blue Ridge Kung Fu Arnis Academy of Winston-Salem

Blue Ridge Kung Fu Arnis Academy of Abingdon, VA and Mountain City, TN

Tai Chi Article

Grandmaster Chris Laing has a new Tai Chi article published. The article appears on the online newspaper The Mountain Sentinel. The article “An Ancient Art for Modern Times” gives a brief history of Tai Chi Chuan. It also discusses the principles behind Tai Chi and the benefits of practicing this martial art. You can read the article at .

Upcoming Kali Seminar

si-lumTuhon and Guro Ruby will be coming to Boone N.C. the 25th of April 2015.

Subjects taught will be (sticks and knife forms) in the morning and advanced stick and knife fighting tactics and disarms.


If you have any questions about what time it all starts contact the Blue Ridge Kung Fu Arnis Academy in Boone N.C.

Call: 1-828-504-0057

Check out the BRKFAA Headquarter site

Read more about Tuhon Ruby on her website

Photos of Tuhon Ruby teaching the Police Force in the Phillippines

2015 IKAA Seminar

A date has been set for the 2015 International Kung Fu Arnis Association (IKAA) seminar. IKAA was founded by Grandmaster Rick Ward. Members include students of Blue Ridge Kung Fu Arnis Academies and other second generation schools under Grandmaster Ward. The association also has members from other schools, including students from around the world.

The IKAA Seminar is also known as our “Instructors Seminar”.  Each year the seminar is hosted by a different school in the organization.  Master and Grandmaster instructors teach a different subject each hour.  It is amazing to see each year how the different subjects taught all have a common thread and tie to one another. Grandmaster Ward started the seminars to give students from the different schools a chance to work together and to meet and train with the other instructors in our association.  It is always a great time filled with knowledge, camaraderie, and fun.

The Seminar is scheduled for

April 4th, 2015

9:00am – 5:00pm

Blue Ridge Kung Fu Arnis Academy of Winston-Salem, NC

$65 for IKAA Members    $75 for Non Members

More details will be coming soon!