Saturday, November 15, 2008

High Quality Iron Palm Bags - Shen Durabag

Shen Martial Arts has just released the Durabag line of quality, extra strength, high durability Iron Palm Training Bags. These bags follow the same traditional design as the standard line of Iron Palm Bags but are now made with a high strength, professional grade material.

The bags retain the feel and performance of the original bags, while providing a longer lasting, more rugged product, suitable extra heavy duty use, as in martial arts schools. 

Durabags are available in intermediate and advanced levels and include the iron palm striking bag, the conditioning bar, the grip bag and the iron palm hanging bag. 

For more information visit Shen Martial Arts or email

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Shen Wooden Reflex Dummy Now Available

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Kung Fu's Buried Treasure - Cross Training with the Wooden Dummy

This article was published in the July 2008 issue of Inside Kung Fu magazine. For a pdf version, visit

As a martial artist, you are on a never-ending quest. It is an on-going effort to improve, to gain more knowledge, to find new insight and of course, to increase your skill. You endlessly practice the methods and techniques of your chosen style and depending on your makeup, age and level of advancement, make incremental gains in physical ability and combat effectiveness. Should you need to engage in combat, will your style, its approach and its training methods bring you victory?

To answer an unhesitating “yes” is an indication of the vanity and arrogance that plagues the martial arts as a whole. Read any online forum today and you will easily see how well entrenched this mentality is. The reality is that no one can really know, and that is the reason for our on-going training, to continually improve… to better our chances. Confidence is good. The ego to believe you have all the answers is not. False security is fatal.

Cross Training - An age old Practice

For centuries, different martial arts styles and systems have jealously guarded their methods and techniques, keeping them within their specific family, group or lineage. While this may have safeguarded proprietary knowledge, it also resulted in stagnation and stunted further development and growth.

Yet older still is the practice of learning, adopting and sharing knowledge as a way of expanding, diversifying a styles repertoire and improving its effectiveness. Many styles have been born out of joining, adding and melding of different approaches, techniques and methods. In the early 1900’s, forward thinking masters formed the famous Ching Woo Athletic Association for the purpose of strengthening and growing traditional Chinese Martial Arts. Even the very cradle of martial arts, the Shaolin Temple may be the best and most ambitious example of martial arts cross-training, something like a combat think-tank.

In the early 90’s, the UFC demonstrated the fallacy of closed mindedness. Modern competitors learned that adopting methods and techniques from other styles is essential to their success. Ground fighting became compulsory and the “ground and pound” was born. Then learning ended and all went back to their closed camps and to business as usual. But why stop there? The Gracies took traditional Jiu Jitsu and evolved it to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mixed martial artists adopted ground fighting, added that to their stand up fighting and improved the competitive landscape. Is that all there is? Have we reached the apex of combat technology? Not by a long shot.

Skills Training in Chinese Kung Fu

What makes a good fighter? Technically speaking it is a combination of stamina, endurance, speed, accuracy and strength. These are valued assets regardless of the style you have chosen and to facilitate their attainment, each style has developed its own training methods. Every skilled fighter whether in the mat, the dojo or the octagon will exhibit these traits in good measure.

Still, everyone can point to someone who possesses higher, subtler, intangible abilities, beyond those just mentioned. An old master, perhaps your teacher, a champion boxer, and some of the top competitors in the mixed martial arts will all have that certain something that keeps them ahead of the rest. These unique fighters may have obtained these traits naturally or they may have developed them through some training method.

So it is clear that there are other attributes that can greatly benefit martial artists, but what is not clear is how to go about acquiring them. This is where Chinese kung fu excels and offers a wide variety of training methods. A majority of these methods were developed in secrecy and have been closed to those outside a specific style, system or subgroup. As more and more information is available on various arts and styles, and shared in books, magazines, dvd's, internet forums, websites and video sites such as you tube, skills such as rooting, centering, sticking, sensitivity, flow, relaxed power, jing/explosive power, short power, iron palm and iron body conditioning are now coming to light.

Semantics and martial arts movies have cast a fuzzy veil on Chinese martial arts but it is easily lifted by a bit of investigation. Fa Jing, Chin Na, Dim Mak, and Chi Kung are more examples of the skills and methods that are valued in Chinese Kung Fu and sought after by those training CMA. To cast these ideas off, or scoff and ridicule them due to their flowery names or their mysterious nature, as some do is to shut off a world of possibilities. Granted, some of these concepts seem elusive and can sound esoteric to the unfamiliar, but what are important are the tangible gains that are made by training in them.

For example rooting includes the ability to stay on your feet and to generate power when encountering an opposing force and/or in a restricted space. Chi Kung develops higher lung capacity which enhances stamina, endurance and strength. Sensitivity and stickiness are the skill to anticipate the movements of the opponent and maintain proper distance.

The Wooden Man – An Advanced Training Device

The mook jong or wooden man is typically associated with the wing Chun style of kung fu and is the hallmark of this famous fighting system. However, wooden dummy training was developed in the Shaolin temple and is part of the training of a number of styles derived from and influenced by Shaolin kung fu such as Choy Lay Fut, Ng Ga Kuen, Hung Gar, Fut Gar, and others. This wide spread use and retention over the centuries is a testament to its importance and effectiveness as a training device.

The wooden dummy trains many advanced skills of the Chinese martial arts. However there are 3 primary advanced skills that are of utmost importance to fighters from all styles and disciplines. These are body conditioning, flow and distance.

The strength and ability to withstand strikes is often what makes the difference in a fight and lack of it has ended many prematurely. Wooden dummy training strengthens and conditions the most important blocking and striking surfaces of the body, such as inner and outer forearm, elbows, shins, insteps, feet, fists, palms, backhands, and fingers. Consistent use of the wooden dummy develops amazing resistance and strength in these areas.

While theories and terms vary, wooden dummy training helps to develop what is termed “the 3 distances”, also known as 3 gates in some styles. This refers to long distance, intermediate or transitional distance and inside or close distance. Stand-up fighters prefer the middle distance for example, while ground fighting is obviously a close in fighting style. Mixed-martial arts on the other hand, work the intermediate and inside distances. The objective in Chinese kung fu is to master all 3 ranges. Long distance consists of swinging strikes and of long-range kicks and sweeps which are used to set up and manipulate the opponent and to soften up his defenses. The middle range is where hooks, uppercuts, stop kicks and where parries, redirecting techniques and centerline control are used both to cause damage and to transition into the close distance where grappling, locks, throws, take downs and other finishing moves can be deployed.

Flow refers to smooth, relaxed power, to putting combinations of techniques together, to follow up, and follow through. Flow involves staying with your opponent, using multiple levels and angles, to hit openings. A fighter that has mastered flow is efficient, does not tire as easily, creates openings and shows little wasted effort. Such a fighter is un-rushed, poised, and yet relentless.

Dummy Training for All-Styles

The new Shen cross-training dummy pictured in this article is designed and manufactured by Focus Fitness and distributed exclusively by Shen Martial Arts ( Based on the traditional mook jong, it incorporates key innovations that provide users with additional versatility. The body and limbs of Shen Cross-Training dummy are made to simulate skin, muscle and bone. This allows for strikes, kicks, and thrusts and bumps to be applied to all surfaces of the dummy. This means techniques ranging from head level kicks and thigh kicks to chin na grabs and grappling techniques can be applied. The hard body and arm / leg core provide excellent body strengthening and conditioning equal to or better than its wooden predecessor. Combinations of techniques using all 3 distance ranges can be drilled at full speed and power and can include shoots to the lower body and partial lifts for take downs. Hooking techniques, knees to the body can all be practiced with as resistance equal to the force of the techniques.


Cross training has long been a catalyst for improvement and evolution. Modern martial artists must continue to search for ways to not only better their skills and to maximize their performance, but also to add additional skills that can make them more effective.

It is important for the modern warrior to keep an open, receptive mind as well as to remain humble and unbiased as regardless of your level of advancement, there is much more to learn and develop on this never ending journey. Knowledge may be found in non-combat disciplines, and in non-physical fields, and much insight can be found in the very roots of the modern combat sports, in the traditional martial arts.

Whether you train in Karate, Krav Maga, Thai Boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Kenpo or Mixed Martial Arts, dummy training will help improve your training and with the proper methods can add important skills to your repertoire. New tools such as the Shen Cross Training Dummy allow modern martial artists to train important and necessary skills while exploring and incorporating different methods from both modern combat sports and traditional arts such as Chinese kung fu.

Sifu Mario Figueroa teaches traditional kung fu and chi kung in Oceanside, California. For seminar and workshop information email . For information on the Shen Cross-Training Dummy visit or email

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New Innovative Cross Style Training Dummy!

A Shen Martial Arts Exclusive! This innovative design (patent pending) takes dummy training from the chinese martial arts and brings it to all martial artists! Whether you train in Tae Kwon Do, Pencak Silat, Thai boxing or Mixed Martial Arts, the Shen training dummy will add a new dimension to your training. Solo applications training, hand training drills, endurance training, arm/leg/shin conditioning, speed/distance training and sensivity training can all be enhanced.
The Shen All Style Cross-Training dummy design is based on the traditional ''mook jong'' wooden dummy mostly associated with Wing Chun kung fu training. This traditional wooden dummy is also used by other Chinese martial arts such as Hung Gar, 5 Animal style, and Praying Mantis and is typically used for solo training of combat applications, for iron body conditioning, for speed and distance and for bridging and sensitivity training. These are all necessary attributes and skills for all martial artists, regardless of style. The Shen Cross-Training dummy breaks the boundary by virtue of its design, specifically made to simulate the feel of muscle and bone, such that the harder it is hit, the more it challenges the user. In addition, the whole body of the dummy provides a realistic hitting surface giving it attributes of a boxing heavy bag,a Thai Boxing hanging bag, and a wooden dummy all in one. Still, hard core fighters looking for a conditioning tool will find the solid construction of the body, arms and legs to provide excellent, resistance and ample strengthening and conditioning. In fact, don't forget to use your favorite Dit Da Jow!
The All Style Cross Training dummy is constructed to last a lifetime of constant, hard hitting use. Taking years to develop and to find the best design and highest grade materials, this dummy was submitted to hundreds of hours of maximum force training. It is backed by a 2 year warranty against manufacturing defects or failure due to training use. It is also made for ease of set up, and comes with an attractive, all wood wall mount that allows for fast and simple mounting and removal. The height is adjustable for use by different practitioners.
Includes wall mount, hardware and straps needed for full set up, instructions, and for a limited time, an instructional DVD with drills, applications and techniques to aid in your combat training.
Introductory Special - Free Shipping within the continental United States!
For more information please visite or email with your questions or inquiries. Wholesale inquiries welcome.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dragons From The South - Ng Ga Kuen Thrives In Mexico.

This article appeared in the February 2008 issue of Inside Kung Fu magazine. It is only the second article in the history of the magazine to appear in both english and spanish. The article is based on the Sifu Mario Figueroa's work with the Dragon Mexico School of Ng Ga Kuen kung fu during visits conducted in August and November 2007. Further training and consultation is planned for 2008 to include instructor training, seminars and workshops. The Dragon Mexico School adheres closely to the teachings of the late Grandmaster Ark Yeuy Wong, and his Ng Ga Kuen, 5 Family / 5 Animal style of kung fu. 

Dragons from the South

By Sifu Mario Figueroa

I am driven through narrow streets crammed with cars and lined with shops of all sorts, multitudes of people in every direction. We stop in front of a large storefront only our destination is next door under a kung fu sign and picturing Grandmaster Ark Wong. This could have been Hong Kong or any of the Chinatown districts in large cities around the world but instead we are in Monterrey, Mexico, at the site of the Dragon Mexico kung fu school (

There is a Yin Yang symbol painted on the small roll up door which leads to a long, nearly vertical flight of concrete stairs. At the top is a large sized room. Iron shot-put spheres lie neatly on a corner of its concrete floor with traditional weapons, 2 wooden dummies, and a kung fu altar identifying this as a school of traditional Chinese martial arts.

Despite its non-descript appearance, the Dragon Mexico is one of the most important schools of traditional Chinese kung fu in Mexico. It has been in operation for more than 2 decades and currently serves over 250 students, including a branch operating at the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon, a university of the highest international standing.  

The temperature is blazing somewhere over 100 degrees and the humidity is showing similar excess. The school has no air conditioning, no cold-water fountain and only a small fan churns in a futile attempt to circulate the thick, moist air. This is after all, a kung fu school and its members pride themselves on the spartan conditions. Yet even though it is Sunday and the city is rich in places of leisure and entertainment, they prefer to be here and the school is filled to over-capacity with students. They are present to greet me and to participate in a seminar on advanced conditioning methods. As an older kung fu brother to their teacher, Sifu Alejandro Flores, students are eager to meet me and I am received with the utmost cordiality, respect and attention.  

Under the leadership of Sifu Alejandro Flores, the school has grown tremendously, not only in size but also in knowledge. Over the last 5 years, Sifu Alejandro has invested heavily in his own learning in areas such as Chinese culture and traditions, in understanding different styles of kung fu, in advanced training methods such as iron palm and chi kung but most importantly he has sought out and found the roots of his own kung fu style, Ng Ga Kuen.

A Unique Distinction

Sifu Alejandro Flores continues to expand his knowledge in various arts and disciplines yet remains strictly loyal in his teachings to the Ng Ga Kuen style of kung fu. He is a direct student of Master Seming Ma, the grandson of the famous 5 Animal, 5 Family kung fu teacher, Grandmaster Ark Y. Wong. 

In fact, his school holds the unique distinction of being the first and only school to follow specifically and exclusively follow the Ng Ga Kuen curriculum and sash grading system, unaltered as given to him his Master Seming Ma.  In addition, the school utilizes the system terminology in its original Cantonese language. There are other 5 Family kung fu schools both in the USA and Mexico that are integrating the Ng Ga Kuen curriculum, but to date only Dragon Mexico has made the complete transition. The first testing to these requirements was held in December 2007, an historic event for the school, the Ng Ga Kuen style and for traditional kung fu in Mexico.

Kung Fu R & D

Much of the efforts over the last 18 months have been at what can be called Research and Development. With the assistance of this author, Sifu Mario Figueroa (, the Dragon Mexico school has become somewhat of a "hands on" laboratory. One main aspect of this work involves the codification of the Ng Ga Kuen style. The style has long been transferred in the traditional method in which the Master demonstrates, and the student tries to emulate. As the student gets better, he gains ability and begins to “see” how the style works.  This method yields results that are directly relative to the natural abilities, focus, motivation and attentiveness of the student.  The persevering student also gains results and the un-decided or non-serious students are weeded out. 

Unfortunately, this approach also creates substantial variation in the understanding of students and over time yields significant differences in how the style is interpreted and understood.  In addition, in a time when we are seeking to spread the traditional arts, it becomes important to be capable of describing and explaining the workings of the system in a simple yet articulate manner. This will make apparent the many important aspects of training in the style and has the potential of attracting students that may not otherwise have considered participating in kung fu. It also helps to reach out to those in the grey area, individuals with latent abilities or hidden potential that need a bit more coaxing with information, insight and attention. Most importantly, having a documented reference of the style, its concepts, its principles, its approach and its scope will lessen variation in understanding and in teaching. 

All of this involves significant effort in the analysis, comparison, standardization and documentation of the style. Varying viewpoints and perspectives have to be considered in this process, as are the concepts and ideas of other styles that exhibit similarities in form and function. It is also recognized that there are many fundamental principles that are common to all Shaolin Kung Fu systems and that transcend style, family or system differentiation. These are elements that are part of our Shaolin inheritance and that no one style can make claim of.

This process of analysis and documentation was started by this author several years back and a good amount of codification of fundamental principles, theory, and approach have already been accomplished and are now being put into teaching and practice at the Dragon Kung Fu school with great success. Two areas in particular are showing excellent results in students of all levels; body conditioning, and kung fu utilization in free fighting.

Body Conditioning

Like many other styles, Ng Ga Kuen uses a simple 3 star arm blocking drill with differences between teachers and schools. A more complete conditioning drill derived from Iron Body training has shown improved results amongst students. The exercise is taught in stages as follows: 1) Basic Stationary 3 Star; 2) Stance Transitioning 3 Star; 3) Shin Star; 4) Elbow Strikes; 5) Body Hits.  Each of these elements can be practiced independently to focus on a particular body part or together as a complete 10 Star body conditioning drill. The complete drill can be used as a simple workout as it works stances, hip/waist rotation, trunk flexibility, balance stability, coordination and, if done properly and with intention, stamina as well.  It is important to hold body positions with attention to detail and to coordinate arms legs and body in the movement transitions.

Solo Practice with the 5 Family Wooden Dummy

The Ng Ga Kuen wooden dummy is a rare sight these days. At first glance it looks similar to the Wing Chun version but upon close attention, it has subtle yet distinct differences. The most obvious is the round portion at the end of the arms. This is meant to simulate human hands and is used to apply grabs and pulls.  Other differences come in the angles and dimensions of the design.

The exercises from the 10 star body conditioning drill can all be exercised with the Ng Ga wooden dummy in case a partner is not available.  The dummy however is best utilized as a bridging tool between empty hand practice and combat applications training. With the dummy, the practitioner can exert full speed and force not worrying about hurting a human partner, while at the same time exercising conditioning against the hard wooden striking surface provided by the dummy.  Complete forms, short sequences or single techniques can all be applied against the dummy.  Palm strikes, back slaps, bridge cuts, pulls, tugs, sweeps, and stop kicks can all be improved by practice with the dummy.

Using Kung Fu for Combat

One of the main criticisms that we as traditional kung fu stylists receive is that we do not use our style for combat. This is a controversial subject with differing opinions, but it is hard to argue the fact that most kung fu practitioners do not use the methods and techniques from their styles when free sparring. The prevailing opinion is that kung fu techniques are impractical and cannot be used for free fighting. 

In fact, kung fu techniques are designed for use in real combat and are difficult to use and apply under the restricted rules of competition point fighting, and to a lesser degree in the now popular combat sports. Still kung fu is meant to be flexible and the kung fu practitioner must learn to adapt to the conditions at hand and to utilize the many effective techniques contained in traditional kung fu training.

To this end, emphasis is placed on using kung fu methods and techniques as archived in the style’s forms, for free fighting. Great care is taken to protect the students from injury as the techniques imbedded in kung fu forms are truly meant for life and death combat. 

One method that helps students to gain confidence and to experiment with their repertoire is to slow things down.  This starts with two students taking turns, one moves, the other responds, taking turns in a continuous, random sequence. This allows the students time to think and to respond without fear of getting hit. Over time, the response time becomes shorter and the techniques used become more varied. Eventually, the students respond instantaneously and the flow and speed of the exercise is becomes that of free fighting.

Progressive Thinking

Sifu Alejandro realizes that he does not know all there is to know about kung fu and has the courage and humility to seek out continued learning and the integrity to share all of his knowledge with those that wish to learn. These are the characteristics of a true master. With an open mind, a deep passion for traditional kung fu and a vision of continued advancement, Sifu Alejandro Flores and the students of the Dragon Mexico school in Monterrey, Mexico are not only keeping the tradition alive, but are taking their kung fu to the higher levels.

Sifu Sifu Mario Figueroa is a freelance writer and kung fu instructor based in Vista, California. He can be reached at or by email at

See this and other articles on pdf format by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Shen Martial Arts Supply Opens In Oceanside!

Old Shen Martial Training Supply, back in 1994

New Shen Martial Arts Supply and Shen Kung Fu Academy in Oceanside 2007!

The once legendary martial arts supply store, Shen Martial Training Supply is now back in a new incarnation as Shen Martial Arts in Oceanside.

Shen Martial Arts Showroom
3830 Oceanic Dr. suite #407
Oceanside, CA 92056

Shen Martial Arts offers Quality Martial Arts Equipment and Supplies for the traditional arts and for modern combat sports. If you practice any style of martial art and have been looking for a difficult to find item, chances are you will find it at Shen Martial Arts. Finding rare and difficult to locate items is our claim to fame. If we don't have it in stock, we can get for you fast.

Shen Martial Arts carries everything from Uniforms to traditional weapons, training equipment, safety gear, shoes & apparel and more. Our famous line of authentic lineage Dit Da Jows for healing, strengthening and conditioning, Herb packs to make your own Dit Da Jow, Tonic wines for energy, flexibility, internal strength, and Chinese Patent medicines can all be found here. Shen Martial Arts has become well known for our high quality hand made Iron Palm bags. These are made to order with a 2-3 day turn-around and can be ordered and picked up at our store.

Shen also offers an excellent selection of books, videos, DVD's and our own line of Chow Gar instructional videos featuring Sifu Paul Whitrod. Sifu Whitrod's book on Chow Gar Southern Mantis is also carried.

If you can't come to Oceanside, visit us only at

Shen Chinese Kung Fu Academy

We conduct workshops, seminars and instruction in Chinese kung fu at our fully equipped training facilty.

* Ng Ga Kuen Kung Fu
* Choy Li Fut Kung Fu
* Chi Kung for Health and Longevity
* Traditional Weapons
* Wooden Dummy Training
* Iron Palm and Iron Body Training for resistance and strength
* Dit Da Jow Herbology
Classes for Kids, Teens, Adults and Seniors.

Great for kids. We emphasize discipline, ethics, high morals, hard work, respect and honorable conduct. All students young and old will gain enhanced focus, attention and concetration. We foster a family atmosphere and encourage high thinking and high ideals. Affordable Tuition, Family Discounts, Military Discounts.

Sifu Mario Figueroa has over 25 years of experience in Martial Arts and continues to advance his training. He has been featured in Inside Kung Fu magazine and conducts seminars and training internationally. He is currently the chief instructor at the Miracosta College Kung Fu Club as well as at Shen Kung Fu Academy.

For More Information, please visit us at:
Shen Martial Arts
3830 Oceanic Dr. #407
Oceanside, California 92056
or call us at 760-305-7603 for a free Trial Lesson.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Miracosta College Tournament, September 15, 2007, Oceanside CA

The Miracosta College Kung Fu Club, Shen Martial Arts and Don Hamby's American Hung Gar Association are honored to invite all martial artists to the 2007 Open Martial Arts Tournament to be held at the Miracosta College Gymn on Saturday September 15, 2007.

All are welcome to come and join us for a day of friendly competition, fun and comaradery. Spectators are welcome and for those who have are curious about the martial arts and want to see various styles in action, this event is a must.

For more information, please contact Sifu Don Hamby at 213-364-2171 or Sifu Mario Figueroa 800-925-3043. You can also visit