Friday, May 14, 2010

How To Freak Out People In The Park

This is a master named Tong performing a Xingyi routine and then some Bagua work around trees in the park.
I'm not sure of his lineage. There are a few things in his Xingyi that I find fault in, and his Bagua demonstration is evasive movement and not technique oriented. It is however, a pretty good demonstration.
What I thought was interesting was the people that were watching him in the park.
I live in the deep woods and mostly practice outside in private. There are times however, when I find myself practicing in a public park. I usually try to pick a corner out of the way of people, but you just can't hide.
There are lots of whispers as people go by, sometimes explaining to their children what that guy is doing over there.
I remember a comedian on a TV show mocking "The Tai Chi guy in the park". He wanted to know how many dead people were in his freezer.
In the demonstration above, the Chinese people seem pretty used to martial artists practicing in the park. Over here in the states, people find it odd, or amusing, or threatening.
Do you practice martial arts in public? Have you had good or bad experiences doing this?


Todd Erven said...

I try to avoid working out in public as I'm an introverted sort and I don't like the attention. On the few times that I have though, my buddy and I try to find a someplace out of the high traffic areas.

Most of the responses from people were friendly enough. We got a few quizzical looks and a couple of disapproving ones but it wasn't so bad. A couple of guys asked if we were sparring and stuck around to watch for a few minutes.

We did try to hide the training knives as people came up, though. Those tend to freak people out a bit.

Dojo Rat said...

Yup, I know a lady that got hassled by Cops for doing a sword form in public.
Sharp stuff worries people...

Bill Mehlman said...

I always want to do the form when I hit the beach. But if I do it back away from the water the sand is soft and you can't keep your balance, and down near the water where the sand is damp and firm, you're surrounded by knuckleheads.
But I do it in a little park near my house, which is good, especially if no one's on the handball court.

Integral Grace said...

I taught Taiji classes in a small park with a tidy playground, frequented by children and their parents, in Salt Lake City...3 times a week. People grew used to us there and we had a lot of fun.

At some point last summer, vagrant-looking types moved in. I noticed that they were waiting on drug deliveries, so I moved my class subtly, encroaching on the space they used, as if I didn't know what was going on. After a number of weeks of silent (but visible) discomfort they moved to a different park (presumably).

I suppose I should mention - one of the favorite classes and bigger turnouts was for a stick class where we got fairly rowdy clacking sticks together.

I had few hasslers. And the ones that did fish for how much we might get defensive, I invited to play with us.

daniele.perkele said...
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daniele.perkele said...

I don't usually feel the need of "freakin' out the people in the park", as I have room enough to practice in my own garden, but sometimes I did.
Once I practiced a choy li fut form in a car park; just a few metres away there was a little crowd queueing for some kind of event. I had no trouble, nor was I asked silly questions, but the children were staring at me, asking their parents "what's the beardy man doing?". It was rather funny.

B said...

Sifu (or should I say almost ex-Sifu) used to teach Kung Fu in a park. However, he got tired of the hilljacks around here making fun of it. He now mostly sticks to indoors.

We also used to hold taekwondo classes in a university park during the summer. We'd get lots of gawkers but nobody made fun of us. We'd also occasionally get questions -- overall it was a good experience.

Man of the West said...

I've never really worked out "in public," though I do a lot of stuff in the back yard. However, there was an incident many years ago, when I was living in an apartment, that might be amusing.

Those apartments had a small patio in the back, and I found that the posts supporting the wooden fence that surrounded the patio had just enough "give" to make them suitable for use as a makiwara. I promptly affixed a pad to one of them and took to hitting it. One day, I heard one of a small group of passers-by say to the rest, in hushed tones, "Don't ever mess with that guy. He hits fenceposts."

Sean C. Ledig said...

DR, did you post this one just to get a reaction out of little-ol'-me?

I've always prefered practicing outside. I get claustrophobic indoors, especially when weapons are involved.

One thing I like about living in Florida is that I can train outside most of the time, except for during thunderstorms. Swords tend to attract lightning.

There's several nice parks here in Tampa where I like to practice, especially along the Hillsborough River.

I used to get a lot more people with the wisecracks. The biggest problem are the idly curious, who think they have the right to interrupt my workout with stupid questions like, "Is that some kinda kerrotty?"

Another advantage of Florida - its lax weapons laws. Here, I can take my kwan dao, my sam jie guan or my baht cham dao and practice in a local park. In other states where I lived, like Connecticut, California, New York and New Jersey, I'd be committing a felony if I did that.

I could be here all day commenting about training outdoors. I'll have to do a short series about it on "Tales from the Carport Kwoon."

Dojo Rat said...

And outdoors by the water and trees is where we draw the most Chi.
Only thing is, the Pacific Northwest is not Florida. It gets rainy and cold so outside training is dodging bad weather...

Sean C. Ledig said...

Well, DR, you've done it!

Following your lead and inspiration, I'm writing a series in "Tales from the Carport Kwoon" about my love for outdoor training. Check it out when you get a chance.

Kostas Tountas said...
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Kostas Tountas said...

I have trained in parks on and off since 1984, and. I continue doing so regularly - in an out-of-the-way part of the park, if at all possible.

People stop and watch, and sometimes want to join in. On a number of occasions, I have put curious passers-by to work on the focus mitts, or just waving a Kali stick about. Unsupervised groups of kids are the worst - they can be real pests. Police have stopped by, and are usually polite and interested in what we do. Junkies sometimes are in the area, but they've not bothered us. Sometimes we see young studs "waiting for a customer", but when they see us, they generally take their business elsewhere

We've had people video us sparring, using their cell phones - it could be on YouTube, for all I know

Two months ago, we had Guro Benjamin "Lonely Dog" Rittiner and a few other members of the Dog Brothers Tribe down for a seminar, so early on Saturday morning, we wandered to the park and had an excellent impromptu sparring session.

The trees and plants are indeed, wonderful. They give off a special aura, and the specific place we work out in, has been our little "outdoor" dojo on-and-off for over fifteen years.

Dojo Rat said...

And, no doubt you have better weather Kostas!


Mighty said...

Specifically Bagua - When walking the palm changes around a tree; I once had a dog walker ask what I'd do it the tree ever fought back.

Mighty said...

sorry: if, not it.

Mu said...

I run a weaponized fight club (Mu Ryu) that battles with shinai and knives in portland Oregon parks and has done so for years. Although sometimes I might feel odd practicing the sword or bagua alone, with a group it is more legitamized. I'd say that every single person who walks by checks it out and we've frequently had big audiences of those interested (though it is free and all are encouraged to duel). I have sometimes even had parents leave children with us. Even though what we are doing is hella violent the comraderie seems to overshadow that. It also helps that Portland is the kind of place where you can walk the streets with a sword and where the city's (unofficial) motto is "keep Portland weird".

Dojo Rat said...


Cool, I'm originally from Portland

Mu said...

Dojo Rat - why'd you leave? It's awesome here. If you are ever back in town on a Sunday check it out -

Also, as an aside - I sometimes crib stuff from your blog for (like the Dragon Xingyi stance recently). Keep up the good work/posts!