The Last Great Kung Fu Gym

New York, like Baguazhang, never stops changing. Every new citizen’s history is painted over the last. Recently the brush came down on another amazing space: the original home of the Wu Tang Physical Culture Association.

Sitting or training in the Gym, it was impossible to see all of it, even if it was only a room or two. The place read like a history book, from the old gang symbols carved into the window ledges, to the seemingly endless layers of posters, flyers, awards, photos, drawings, book covers, and who-knows-what, coating the place like wallpaper.

There’s so much to miss about the Gym: catching the foam football with a key in it tossed down from the window. The creak of the floor. The smell of a New York that hadn’t yet been completely eviscerated of crime and grime.

For many years the residents of 7 1/2 second ave were able to fend off developers, but inevitably the money won. As this blog is being written it’s a hole in the ground. Gone, brick and mortar to be replaced with glass and the crap that looks like sterility and is eco-friendly. Yeah, it’s the same block as Mars Bar.

Right before the gym closed Mathew Zucker brought his cameras to the space, captured stills and video of the Gym including it’s primary occupant, the great Kung Fu master Frank Allen.

There’s a photo gallery below of his fantastic shots. Everything from the yin-yang painted floor, to pics of Frank’s mentor and friend, Verne “Bulldog” Williams (remember the guy that barked and busted a table in half with his head in The Last Dragon…. that was Verne).

You can see our interview with Frank, hacked down from three hours to about 20 min, on our YouTube channel. You can also click on it below and watch it in the comfort of our blog.

He’ll tell you the legends of Irish Jimmy O’Mara (boxer and Taiji teacher), Dangerous Doug (master grappler and musician), Jan Stacy (author, artists, founder of youth drug rehab center Encounter), and a pack of other characters.  Anyone interested in martial arts theory should hear his explanation of internal vs external (and hard vs soft) practices.  We’ve stolen from that lecture countless times.

Artist Auxiliary won’t ever forget the last great Kung Fu gym, home to a generation of artists, martial artists, and a unique breed of New Yorkers.

Frank Allen continues to teach Baguazhang, XingYiQuan, and Taijiquan at his new space in Chinatown at 217 Centre Street, Manhattan.

Action and the Action Archives

What’s martial arts without action?  Can you imagine a martial arts movie where everyone laid around and talked instead of a bunch of action scenes?  Neither can we…

So what would a Martial Arts website be without some Action right?  Yeah we were thinking that as well so we added some right up there in the header.  If you click that tab up there it will take you to the Action page which is filling up with videos.

What kind of videos will they be, you ask?  There will be a lot of various types of videos up at the Artist Auxiliary site.  Instructional videos, demonstration videos, interviews and more.  Right now, you can find a short demonstration video from the Mr. B. in Action Series.  It’s from a fitness celebration at the public school where Mr. B. works as Physical Education teacher.  The children are performing a Tai Chi routine that was designed for the celebration.  The students are also creating an instructional manual to go along with the routine which includes drawings and dialog.  In doing this they are linking Martial Arts, Arts and Literature in the Physical Education classroom.  A very AUX project if you ask us… yeah we know you didn’t but we’re gonna tell you anyway.

Go check out the Action and the Action Archives pages today and come back often cause we’ve got lots more Action where that came from… Stay Tuned, Stay Active.

- luv and ninja kisses,

Secret Ninja Nekko

Ten year technique

When I studied with 34th generation shaolin fighting monk Shi Yan Ming there was one technique that always baffled me.  He would stand square to his target and do a hooking punch at nearly arms length.  Instead of clubbing his target with the paw of his fist, he insisted the top of the fist was the striking surface.

I practiced this for hours.

And hours.

All of my efforts to pound the heavy bag this way felt like elbow popping, limp wristed fails.  It was as if I was losing a fight in an anxiety dream.  Yan Ming offered no helpful pointers except “twist! More chi!”.   I suppose for a mainlander just trying out English that was pretty good.

Then it happened: I nailed the bag and it felt right, solid, and above all strong. People came over to watch as the sound of my gloves on the bag carried through the temple.   I must have hit it 20 or so times this way when suddenly *flimp*!! My strength was gone.  I was left with some shitty Hollywood punches and no explanation of what I had gotten right.

I was never able to repeat what I did, until today at work, 10 years later.  I’ve brushed up on the fisticuffs with Deth Killer Greg, ever since he acquired a Coney Island style punching machine, and I’m pleased to see something new emerge.

The next time we train together, I’ll show you the trick. *SMACK!*

~ Mr. B.