Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a martial arts "system" and what does the training program involve?

Most martial arts involve complex training programs which aim to simultaneously develop physical strength, coordination, timing, appreciation for esthetic elements of movement, and kinesthetic awareness. Different "systems" emphasize different elements and each has its own training philosophy and theories about how techniques are used. Most martial arts also place great importance on developing mature, self-controlled students who use their abilities responsibly and demonstrate respect for all people. Training programs involve callisthenic exercises, repetitive drills to develop coordination and timing and breathing exercises to increase relaxation. Students learn choreographed sequences of movements (forms, katas, kuens) which teach timing, esthetics, logic and practical application. Students also learn concentration and self-discipline.

Q: What should I look for in a martial arts program?

First identify your goals and your physical condition. Unlike children whose parents may want them in a martial arts program to channel youthful energy and gain self-discipline, adults who begin a martial arts program want something more than what they may get from a gym. Before committing to a program, visits to several studios are essential in making a comparison. Check out the format of the classes, how students interact and perform, and how the instructors teach. Determine whether the classes are taught by a master in the field, a black belt or equivalent, or perhaps someone with less qualification; judge which qualification meets your goal and determine the value of the program accordingly. If you have an interest in competition, you should visit schools that participate in tournaments. Evidence of participation can be found in the trophies and or medals displayed. Some systems of martial arts emphasize feats of strength through hard execution of movements, and instruction tends to be more regimented. These programs are probably easier to develop proficiency and many schools have a "black belt program" enabling students to earn the coveted rank within a short time. Some systems of martial arts emphasize acrobatics and flexibility and may not focus on martial structure, but more on athletic prowess and showmanship. These fit well into the category of performance art. Traditional systems of martial arts are strictly guided by martial arts theory and have a long history that can be traced easily back to its ancient origins. These systems take longer to develop proficiency because there is usually more material covered. Word-of-mouth is the best method in finding a program, however it is not always reliable or available. If you know of a reputable instructor in the system you wish to learn, consider contacting the individual for a referral. Generally, it is disrespectful to probe directly into the credentials of a martial arts instructor and equally disrespectful for an instructor to boast of ones accomplishments. In the Chinese martial arts circle, reputation is the best source of reference. 

Q: What should I look for in a Tai Chi Program?

Since the advent of modern scientific research into the self-healing aspects of tai chi, many individuals have been in search for any program available. Tai chi’s focus on developing inner strength, rather than external strength, has great appeal and allows anyone to learn. By its full Chinese term - T'ai Chi Ch'uan is translated as the Grand Ultimate Fist. It was developed with sound martial arts theory and cultivated into one of the highest forms of martial art. All traditional tai chi have the same roots from China, therefore the first question you should ask is what style of tai chi is taught. The most prevalent styles are: Yang, Wu, Hao and Sun, all derived from the main Chen style, however there are other systems recognized as long as its lineage can be traced back to the Chen style. Tai chi is not other systems of martial arts executed slowly or a new-age fad. All the postures in the traditional forms have similar names and positioning and the practice is strictly guided by theory. The distinction in tai chi is determined by the instructor; therefore your next question should be to ask whether the instructor is a martial artist with years of teaching experience. Many who learn tai chi for health and recreation are content to learn just the form sequence and learning just the form itself offers many benefits. These programs are the easiest to find, often emphasizing the esoteric nature rather than the physiological nature of the exercise because they are generally not taught by highly trained martial artists. Still others, once exposed to other stages of development, want to gain the full health benefits of mental and physical stimulation through theoretical knowledge and correct alignment. While a routine form can become boring and forgotten, those who have access to the theories are intrigued and more apt to continue practice. They will spend time refining movements and perfecting structure. To go from an exercise to an art form requires a teacher with adequate years of guidance and training in the ancient principles and concepts of t'ai chi ch'uan.

Q: What is Qigong and how is it different from Tai Chi?

At Calvin Chin's Martial Arts Academy qigong is incorporated into the regular curriculum as it has been an integral part of martial arts training for centuries. Qigong dates back to ancient China and was the precursor to martial arts. The practice of qigong and tai chi both work to improve the circulation of qi (chi) through breathing techniques and ultimately to improve well-being through self-cultivation. The attention on qigong is due to health benefits gained by many practitioners. It is a form of managed health care to the millions in China. While the same health benefits can be gained from tai chi, this discipline requires more effort to learn. Qigong is usually done in stationary postures with little or no movement using controlled combinations of breathing techniques. Tai chi requires learning a sequence of slow and continuous movements which naturally promotes deep breathing. While qigong is inherent in all traditional tai chi (as well as other internal martial arts), qigong is not tai chi. Tai chi, however is dynamic qigong, which initiates all movement with intention. The practice of traditional tai chi is guided by martial art theories, therefore it can be taught as a martial art, while qigong is only one element of the art. Qigong is a modern term and what primarily exists today are practices created after the Cultural Revolution. Qigong on the surface, appears to be simple breathing exercises, which can lend itself to deceptive or even harmful practices. Some in search for a qigong program are seriously ailing and in search for alternative therapies. It is even more critical that guidelines are followed in finding the right program to avoid being taken advantage of. 

Q: What is the difference between kung fu, karate, judo, and taekwondo?

Karate is a Japanese term literally translated as Chinese hands. Almost all martial arts can trace their roots to the original fighting arts of Shaolin. Karate is often used incorrectly as a generic term for martial arts because it was the first form of martial arts to be marketed commercially in many parts of the world and it became the catch-phrase for all martial arts. Kung fu is a Chinese term translated as hard work. It is the general term applied to many styles of martial arts originated from China, but the term is used in Chinese to describe great skill in any achievement. Karate and judo originated in Japan, while tae kwon do came from Korea. Most martial arts styles have certain common elements, but differ greatly in stylistic appearance, hardness or softness of movements, and the relative emphasis on kicks, punches, jumping, and throwing the opponent. Some styles prefer to use many high kicks while others use mostly punches. Some involve many jumping and acrobatic movements, while others prefer to stand solidly in low, wide stances. Some styles emphasize close range techniques, while others prefer longer distances. Judo emphasizes the use of throwing or "flipping" the opponent. Japanese styles like karate often emphasize linear motion and "hard" strength. Chinese systems often prefer circular, fluid movements and more relaxed generation of power. These so-called "soft" systems rely on sophisticated biomechanics to develop power. Martial arts styles also differ in the relative emphasis they place on self-defense, performance, competition and fitness.

Q: How is spirituality achieved in martial arts?

Finding spirituality has been a natural progression for many who pursue the arts. We believe that spirituality achieved from martial arts comes from knowing oneself. "To know oneself is to know your opponent" is a well-known tenet in martial arts. Spirituality is achieved when one is able to reach a perspective beyond one's ego. In learning martial arts, one has to overcome many limitations to progress. This requires belief, not only of the transmission, or the art itself, but more importantly, faith in oneself. At each plateau, one has to find the will to continue and not give up. Reaching each threshold is a new discovery of oneself. Many adults who train in martial arts start with the goal of learning self defense. Through the many stages of refinement, this reason is no longer the drive to achieve. Self-cultivation becomes the ultimate goal, successful when the ego is relinquished and attained through the discipline of martial arts. The knowledge gained through martial arts reveals the soul, builds human character and transcends all aspects of life. What is learned through our training process is invaluable. One becomes comfortable in one's own skin and comfortable in one’s environment. This is knowing one's true self in the realm of all things.

Q: What is Calvin Chin’s Martial Arts Academy’s teaching philosophy?

The Academy provides an environment where both the body and mind are nurtured, and mutual respect fostered. We teach martial arts for fitness, for enrichment, and for self-discipline. We offer the right tools to succeed in our programs to anyone who has an interest to learn, providing an education of the highest standard that in earlier times was reserved for "indoor students". This translates into "open" instruction - interpreting martial arts theories and passing valuable insight that enables our students to have the best opportunity to excel in the arts. We acknowledge and cater to different learning styles, and we offer a non-competitive environment where each student is taught by the chief instructor and supported by other students. Our training is through a systematic approach utilizing the Fu Hok Tai He Morn method; adapting to each individual and segment of our membership. Youths, adults, and seniors are taught in separate programs with specific methods proven to be effective for each group.  We find that youths have the ability to absorb sequences quickly and refinement is secondary to accumulating an inventory of forms. Kung Fu is a positive outlet for youthful energy and curiosity and paves the groundwork for higher thinking. Teens are at an age where confidence can make the difference in their outlook. At this age, their inner-self is strengthened through the discipline of martial arts. They train with other teens of varying ranks building trust and support for one another. Teens are ready for more depth of knowledge, and can start to apply theory to develop better skill. The fitness and health aspect generally motivate adults who study martial arts. They want to hedge against the aging process through physical and mental stimulation. Adults can best appreciate the martial arts theories that guide our system, and this knowledge awakens their spirit, spurring them to achieve beyond their expectation. Adults find that the Academy offers a great support system, a connection to others, as well as a stress-free environment for learning. Seniors learn tai chi in hopes of gaining better health and improving quality of life. Securing a sense of well-being increases their independence and confidence. Scientific findings indicate that seniors are significant beneficiaries of tai chi; accordingly, we offer a shorter sequence with special aids providing seniors more immediate results. We believe that anyone who wants to learn martial arts has a better opportunity to achieve in our programs based on the methods and support.

Q: What is natural strength?

As one becomes more skilled, less strength is needed. This concept is contrary to the popular belief that power equals brute force. A novice will use excessive strength in execution, and unless there is proper guidance, execution will become stiff and rigid, what we consider dead strength, resulting from isolation of movement. Over time, this becomes habit. In our training, the student learns to use natural strength, adjusting body position to find where it has the structural integrity to function optimally and using the least amount of strength required. This is live strengthgenerated by whole body integration. Every part of the body is adjusted, and the more skill one has, the more subtle the adjustments become until one becomes so efficient, it takes less to create more. The resultant force is superior power.

To learn more, read Sifu Calvin Chin's article, Seeking the Softness in Hung Gar.

Q: What is Fu Hok Tai He Morn?

Fu Hok Tai He Morn is the system taught at Calvin Chin’s Martial Arts Academy that includes three traditional Chinese martial arts. The words are a composite of the three systems: Fu Hok for Shaolin Hung Gar Fu Hok (Tiger Crane), Tai for Wu (Chien Chuan) Tai Chi, Hefor qigong (he-gong in the Cantonese dialect) inherent in all three, and Morn for Mu Dong Yat Hei Ngm Hahng Morn. The late Grandmaster, Kwong Tit Fu was a proponent of each system, and he founded Fu Hok Tai He Morn to commemorate each of his teachers. Through extensive training and research into the classics of martial arts, he discovered that there were universal principles and concepts contained in each of the three systems; not evident until the advanced stages of learning. This discovery allowed him to formulate a training method based on these higher-level theories. Most notably, the use of natural strength was adopted and introduced at the earliest stage of training, as this is essential in developing superior knowledge. Although the three systems appear distinct at the beginning stages of learning, Kwong Tit Fu found them to be complementary systems when refined under the training method of Fu Hok Tai He Morn where one system supports the other. The Academy teaches each traditional system in separate programs, leaving all form sequences intact while creating its unique style through an understanding of the mechanics of natural movement. 

Q: Can I study another martial arts discipline while studying at Calvin Chin’s Martial Arts Academy?

We receive students proficient at other disciplines, and likewise, allow our students to go elsewhere to satisfy other interests. Because most martial arts derived from the Chinese systems, all the principles and concepts of martial arts should be the same, but sometimes lost through evolution. We teach theory, demystifying the principles and providing new insight and opportunity for members to integrate them into their other studies. Many martial artists from other systems get their first hint of martial arts theory from us. Sometimes a taste of martial arts peaks the curiosity; at times, a student may become impatient for knowledge. We believe that there is a wealth of knowledge found in our three component systems, but as in all endeavors, one needs to overcome limitations to progress. This can only be achieved through long-term practice with a skilled teacher. A survey curriculum in any form of education only leads to superficial knowledge. While this may be adequate for the recreational practitioner, the long-term martial artists want more depth of knowledge. We ask for individuals to be forthcoming with any intentions of learning other disciplines so that we can offer advice on complimentary systems.

Q: How are students ranked?

Many traditional systems do not have a belt system; rather there is a hierarchy based on seniority. In many commercial schools, the black belt is the ultimate goal with no other achievement beyond that; while in traditional systems, achievement is through self-cultivation and a belief that there is at least a lifetime of learning. We incorporate the philosophy of both schools. Ranking in kung fu, serves to provide motivation for learning and a sense of accomplishment. This is particularly important for children and helps them gain confidence, pride and self-esteem. Therefore, we have a system in place based on colored belts/sashes. Progression within each belt ranking includes earning stripes, up to four stripes in each colored belt. These are earned through refinement of form and drill sequences; taking a longer period to advance between each belt ranking as more theory is incorporated into the curriculum. Students learn at their own rate; no one is pressured to move faster or slower than is appropriate and comfortable for them.  The brown belt ranking begins the advanced level of training at the Academy where formal written tests along with tests of physical skill become part of the criteria for advancement. The last belt ranking earned at the Academy is the black belt with four stripes. There is no gauge as to how long it takes for one to reach this level. This achievement is subject to each individual, as students learn at their own rate. The progress of each student is gauged in regular classes. Therefore, we do not have separate testing dates, eliminating stress and additional fees associated with them. Training not only continues beyond black belt level in the Fu Hok Tai He Morn system, but some will contend that training actually begins at this level when the body and mind have reached a higher level of refinement. Gold belts are worn by instructors who have a minimum ranking of a black belt, and have been certified by the late grandmaster, Kwong Tit Fu or Master Calvin Chin to teach specific programs. Because systems vary, the term master is often used very loosely in martial arts. Mastery in martial arts is achieved when both the body and mind have digested the principles and concepts that guide the system; where one can both communicate and demonstrate the knowledge. Understanding comes through self-cultivation and sufficient time spent with a master. In the higher levels of martial arts, belt ranking has much less significance. A master in the Fu Hok Tai He Morn system wears a "non-color" belt. Its sole purpose is to secure his/her pants in place.

Q: Why do you bow to the altar?

Classes begin and end with all students bowing to an altar, and then saluting the "Sifu", which means master or teacher. Bowing does not indicate acceptance of any religion. It is an acknowledgment of all the teachers and ancestors whose hard work and creativity contributed to our system of martial arts. It is a token of respect and gratitude which reminds us that learning this art is a privilege. We salute our Sifu to show respect to him. He, in turn, salutes all the members of the class.

Q: Why should I enroll at Calvin Chin's Martial Arts Academy?

Aside from the superior curriculum and instruction, what distinguishes the Academy is the culture of mutual respect that exists throughout. We have children, families and adults from various backgrounds and skill levels, all converging at a place they love, fully supported by others who care about them.

Q: How can I enroll?

Registration is on-going at the Academy and must be done in person. We welcome those who wish to take a free trial lesson or observe a class prior to enrollment. Youths, under the age of 18 require a parent/guardian to complete the form. We offer a trial period of eight sessions in our Intro program in either kung fu or tai chi for all new participants. During this Intro period or during a trial lesson, comfortable clothing and rubber sole shoes are worn. While we can appreciate that students may have prior martial arts training and may also be studying more than one discipline, Intro students should not wear uniforms from other martial arts schools at the Academy. After completion of Intro, a student can choose to enroll monthly or quarterly, and at this time, those enrolled in kung fu must purchase a uniform. Because we have no belt ranking in tai chi, students are not required to wear uniforms, but many do. We accept checks or cash for payments. Extended annual contracts is not our policy and prior registration is not required.

Q: Can I buy a gift certificate?

Gift certificates for martial arts lessons are a great way to introduce someone to our kung fu or tai chi programs. Those who want to commemorate a special occasion can purchase a gift certificate for the Intro program or a private lesson. We feel that anyone can benefit from our programs, and a gift certificate to Calvin Chin's Martial Arts Academy can lead someone you care about to better health and well-being. In addition, for our current members and families, a gift certificate for monthly and quarterly tuition is a practical and thoughtful gift. To obtain a gift certificate, or for more information, please contact us.

Q: How will studying martial arts at Calvin Chin's Martial Arts Academy benefit a child?

We offer a comprehensive program for youths that goes beyond the typical punches, kicks and drills. We teach forms, numerous hand and weapon sets, some with over a hundred postures. It becomes natural for our students to remember the last form they learn, the first form, as well as all those in-between. Over time, they develop an acute ability to memorize and retain sequence.

Traditional martial arts such as kung fu offer a well-balanced training regimen and provide an opportunity for children to develop their coordination, spatial awareness, endurance and focus. Studying a traditional martial art with a lineage of teachers who devoted time and effort in passing the art to future generations instills respect and appreciation; a reverence for antiquity in a techno-driven youth culture. Interacting with other students and providing support for one another teaches children valuable social skills.  Sequential learning at the academy - learning bit-by-bit to build knowledge is a valuable tool that enhances memory and critical thinking, and which carries through in other areas of learning. Youths typically seek immediate gratification, yet learningtraditional martial arts forces youths to seek longer term goals. Furthermore, youths learn that refinement produces better results, and it motivates them to improve through practice. Martial arts, at this stage, becomes a self-discipline.  

Today, there are issues of bullying and violence among young people. Martial arts training develops very strong self-awareness and control, and this enables youths to retreat from confrontation. Mastering difficult techniques enhances confidence and self-esteem, traits that most bullies and victims generally lack. It is rare for martial artists to engage in confrontations, but when necessary, they will be able to protect themselves in a controlled manner, causing the least physical harm. Our emphasis on using natural strength in our training affords more equal opportunity for both boys and girls to achieve and benefit from the discipline. The Fu Hok Tai He Morn method is also safer for youths whose bones and ligaments are still growing, creating less opportunity for serious injuries that may follow them into their adulthood. 

Q: Which style is best for children?

The style of kung fu taught at the Academy, Hung Gar Fu Hok (Tiger Crane), is a circular system utilizing more soft execution than most styles of martial arts. This soft execution is natural strength which takes advantage of the body's skeletal structure and positioning allowing integrated movement that enables a student to develop live strength versus isolated movement that produces brute strength. Hung Gar uses deep stances or postures, and emphasizes use of the hands for striking and blocking. The school aims for a balance of fitness, self-cultivation and performance aspects of kung fu. Self-defense is an integral part of this system, but is not its primary emphasis. No style is best for all children. However, because of the emphasis on "natural strength" in our teaching, small size or lack of great strength will not be a disadvantage. Technique is practiced first, and power develops naturally over time. In addition, classes at the Academy are non-competitive and non-sexist and provide a safe, relaxed environment where all children can learn at their own natural rate.

Q: Can parents take lessons with their children?

Nothing bonds us more than common interests. Taking lessons together or separately at the Academy offer families the opportunity to stay connected. This has been a frequent request from parents. Whether it is due to scheduling, bonding and or motivational needs, it seems to work well for some families. Generally, students learn best when they train with their own peer group, but parent/child lessons may be the only option for some. We have found that the adult classes are the best suited to meet the needs of both.

Q: What part does fighting play in this training?

Contrary to the image of kung fu adepts in popular movies, most people don't study kung fu to fight. Sparring with a partner is only one part of the training, and serves to test a student's focus, concentration and understanding, while providing a counter-point to the predictability of pre-arranged drills and exercises. The ability to defend one's self can be a valuable skill, but it is only one aspect of martial arts training. Although it may occasionally be necessary to defend one's self physically when absolutely no other option is available, irresponsible use of fighting ability is not tolerated, in or out of the Academy.

The culture of our school is one of mutual respect. This respect is one of the foundations of martial arts. Participation in martial arts training can be helpful in encouraging children to channel their physical and emotional energy in constructive ways. In addition, as a student becomes more competent, he or she also learns self-restraint, calmness and humility. Increased self-respect, as well as respect for others, make children more able to resolve conflicts without fighting.

Q: Can children get hurt practicing kung fu?

Although any athletic activity carries a risk of injury, our training program places great emphasis on safety and health. We make use of relaxed, "natural strength", rather than forceful application of power. This approach minimizes the likelihood of dislocation, sprains or tendonitis, and is actually safer than many commonly practiced sports. Sparring (free fighting) is done in protective gear and is refereed by instructors. This specialty class is optional and is not practiced until students have had ample time to master techniques individually.

Q: What if a child doesn't want to learn weapons?

Weapons are tools to enhance training in a dynamic and esthetic manner. They require stamina, coordination and a solid understanding of mechanics of kung fu techniques. The martial artist uses a weapon as an extension of his/her body in much the same manner as a gymnast uses a ball or a ribbon. Mastering the use of swords, spears, staves and other weapons is challenging and fun.

Use of weapons is strictly optional, however. To study weapon techniques, children must be at least 10 years of age, and/or have at least 2 years of training at the Academy. In addition, a student must have attained a minimum rank of yellow belt, our intermediate level. In all cases, weapons study is at the discretion of the instructor.