Monthly Challenge - October (Peter Wolf)


When I moved to China in 2002, I met an American there named Peter Wolf.   I had actually read various things he'd written about wushu which were online, including his jump training regimen from his time training in Shanghai.  When he first introduced himself to me at the Beijing Sports University I responded "Peter Wolf?  THE Peter Wolf?!".

Well, I've come a long way in my training since then, however some of the things he's written or spoke with me about have stayed with me for over 10 years now.

I wanted to share some of them with you and hopefully give you something to think about for this months challenge.

The following text is a compilation of journal entries from Peter Wolf written while he was training in China in 2002.

"Flavor Flavor…ok so i’ve been asking some coaches and athletes around here about developing flavor, here’s what i’ve come up with.

(*Note: for those of you unsure of what flavor is please finish reading this entire article and then follow the link to Jet Li's explanation:)

  1. First step is good basics of course, proper mechanics is most important, then add speed and power, and don’t forget ‘intent’. Intention is a little hard to explain but it should come from a inner focus and be expressed in the eyes (that intense far looking stare you can see in pro’s for etc.) Snap, in the head and wrist and hips cad all be improved during basics as well (especially when your coach is always pointing out when you do it wrong).
  2. Combinations, after basics we always do combinations. Usually 3-5 movements from your set, weapon or empty hand. During combination you are working again, first on mechanics then speed and power, after that snap and the eyes. For example i’m recently discovering I often look down a little, not at the ground, but not proper posture looking straight out ahead or at my sword when i’m supposes to etc…

Ok, so far none of this is strictly gonna improve flavor, but it doesn’t hurt either. A coach explained to me that this stuff is most important, but flavor is important too. He said a lot of what people call “flavor” is the ability to use more of there body, but more hip and waist into movements, extend motions, relaxed and know when do go fast and when to go slow. This is what he told me might help;

  1. Most useful way is “Hua Dongzou” in chinese. Not sure i’m getting the translation correct but my interpretation of “Hua Dongzou” is to “draw your motions” or “paint your set”. After practicing basics and combinations and sections of your set then go back and go through your set slow (maybe not taiji slow but real slow) think about each motion, exagerate every motion make it bigger more open. If you go slow and concentrate and repeat enough you should become more aware of your body each time you go through a section. Ex. first time through you put a little more waist in that slash, second time you put the waist and you make sure your eyes follow the sword the whole time, third time you make sure your back is straight and put more waist in and eyest follow the sword etc…you get the picture? k, not sure this is making sense (feedback?) anyway writing it out helps me think about ;)
  2. Watch lots of wushu! Watch carefully pick something to mimick once in a while, find movements that you like, you’ll enjoy practicing more and should show through in performance. Now in saying this I don’t think my coach meant go practice twists when you’ve just starting learning wushu. Pick smaller motions, details. This is not as usefull as the first for many of us do compulsory forms but i like to think that by practicing other movements and then comming back to old ones you can improve.

Ok, hope that was worth reading. Lastly, the main thing i’ve heard chinese coaches gripe about foreign Wushu is “Wuxing” this can be divided into two things.

  1. No tempo in forms, everything one speed (even if it is fast) is not good. Some motions should be slow! Also if you go slow first then your next motion will look even faster in comparision (so i do a lot a taiji).
  2. No intention in the movement. Intention can be tough, but it helps to remember that Wushu is not dance! It is not gymnastics! And yes I know it’s not real fighting either, but it is a display of martial skill. You should be concentration on putting full effort into every motion (again this doesn’t mean just go fast) maybe i should say full body and mind into every motion. Look determined, like Clint Eastwood when its five on one in “For a few dollars More” (sorry just watched that, maybe just watch some pro Chinese)."

    For this months challenge, I want you spending some more time working on your flavor!  Paint your set!  Spend time at home or in school when you're not on the main floor thinking about your form.  Where your eyes should be, snapping each move, using your waist, etc.That's it.  Good luck.  Let me know how it goes!

    Thanks Peter for putting this down in words.  It's been an invaluable part of my understanding of Wushu over the years.

    (*Note: for those of you unsure of what flavor is please finish reading this entire article and then follow the link to Jet Li's explanation:)

    Jet Li on "Flavor":