Welcome to Snake vs Crane.

Hi, I’m Steve.  Welcome to Snake vs Crane.

Psychologists have recently drawn attention to the difference between two approaches to learning.

Some children have an idea that skills are inborn or innate.

“I suck at math.”  “I’m not athletic.”  “I’m no good at drawing.”

They see their “skills” or attributes as innate and un-improvable.

Other children approach new knowledge and skills as qualities that can be learned through hard work and diligence.

A child of the first type, when attempting to learn a martial art, may drop out when they don’t find immediate success.  A child of the second type will consider their failure a result of inexperience and keep at it, if they have a strong enough desire to obtain the skill.

Until I was about 15, I was definitely in the first camp.  I felt I wasn’t “athletic” and so I focused my energies on learning to draw, for which I thought I “had a talent.”

I was what would later be termed a “nerd.”  I was small for my age.  I loved Science fiction, read comic books, and was nervous around girls.  The only things I lacked were glasses, braces, and a pocket protector.

I wasn’t completely unathletic but I definitely lacked confidence and aggression, which are kind of related.

I was also bullied (shocker!), both at home and out in the world.   So I developed a hunger to learn how to defend myself.  I think what I really needed was to find a way to get rid of the fear.  I had no idea how to fight and that made me feel kind of helpless in confrontations.

My perspective changed a lot when I got my first job at 15 and was finally able to afford to go to a martial arts class.  I pushed through my fear and embarrassment and went to the Tae Kwan Do class, which was held in a community center on the base (my Dad was in the service).  All the students were soldiers or soldier’s wives in their twenties and thirties except one kid, a year younger than me, who was the son of the instructor.  They all had white uniforms and belts.  I had cut-off shorts with white hairless legs and a t-shirt that was too big for my skinny frame.

I wanted run and hide but I stayed and persisted.  I pushed through the discomfort because my motivation was so strong – I had had it with feeling afraid.  Eventually I was given a bunch of karate uniforms by my cousin.  Three years later, I was the star pupil.  I wore a black gi I’d bought through an ad in the back of Karate Illustrated and a blue belt.

I discovered that hard work, incremental work, done every day, resulted in progress.

I moved away at 17 to join the service and started my quest.  I kept looking over the next 20 years, studying Karate, Escrima, and Boxing, but I just never found the right style or teacher.  I put in a lot of work (including weight training here and there to put on some muscle) but was always left feeling like I still couldn’t fight at the level I was looking for!  I wanted to feel capable of being a problem for almost anyone.  I didn’t need to think I could beat pros, but I definitely wanted to be on a level with most semi-pros!

I wanted to be dangerous, I guess –someone you wouldn’t want to mess with or provoke.  I wanted to eliminate the fear.  By now I didn’t walk around feeling fearful, really, but in certain situations, it would come up.  That doubt.  What would happen if that guy hit me?  Would I get my ass kicked?  Can I really fight well?

I moved to Oakland, California in 2000.  One of the big draws of the Bay Area for me was Wing Chun, a fighting science I’d heard of and been interested in for decades but never found in New England or elsewhere.  I can’t say why it had the lure it did.  Maybe because it was Bruce Lee’s Mother art?  I read an article back in the day that said it was one of the traditional arts respected on the street and that stuck with me.

Once in Oakland, I took advantage of the opportunities here and dedicated myself, studying Wing Chun Kung Fu in particular and fight science (physiology, psychology, history, philosophy, etc) in general.  This training and research has been my unpaid part-time job for the last 14 years.  I really dove into the subject.

Between 2000 and 2008, I tried three different Wing Chun schools.  Something about the style kept me looking, but the particular schools I studied with always lacked something I couldn’t exactly define.  Maybe it was me?

In April 2008, I discovered Greg LeBlanc was teaching nearby.

A few years earlier, I had seen a video of Gary Lam.  It was an eye opener.  He was fast, fluid, and easily tossed people around like rag dolls.

I found out that Greg LeBlanc was the first certified coach from Gary Lam’s LA school.

Once I started learning from Greg, I found out about Wong Shun Leung.  Gary Lam was one of Wong Shun Leung’s top students and his assistant coach for many years.  Wong Shun Leung was one of Ip Man’s top students and the one who really put Wing Chun on the map with his many fights (“beimo”) with other fighters on the rooftops and back alleys of Hong Kong in the 1950s.

He was also the man who really taught Bruce Lee, and if you really look into it, you find Lee’s fighting style and philosophy was heavily influenced by Wong.  I would say Wong was Lee’s most significant influence, as far as his philosophies about real fighting went.

After more than six years, I’m now close to “finishing” the Wing Chun system in the Greg LeBlanc – Gary Lam – Wong Shun Leung – Ip Man lineage. I put the word finishing in parentheses because you never really finish!  It’s just like golf or any other sport: you are always competing with yourself to improve just a little bit more.  And then you start dealing with the loss of capability as you age and that’s another challenge.  It only ends when you give up training or when you die.

But I finally feel like I understand Wing Chun and now I feel like a fighter.   The way I found to get rid of those feelings of insecurity and lack of certainty about my abilities was to train in a system that tests you and requires a solid bedrock of training in hitting hard and developing structural stability.  You know it when you get it.  Its no longer a mystery – its a fact.

In addition  to my Wing Chun training over the last 14 years, I’ve read hundreds of books and thousands of articles on fighting, exercise science, physiology, and the psychology of combat and I’ve relentlessly picked the brains of my teachers and senior students.

This website is about communicating the best and most distilled version of what I’ve learned.

In the past five years, a movement has developed of people looking for efficiency, in business and in life.  Sites like Lifehacker and writers like Tim Ferris and Dave Asprey have popularized the notion of experimenting to find the most efficient and optimal way to improve anything: your skills, your health, your life.

I’m trying to hack Wing Chun.

I don’t want everyone out there to have to go through what I went through to figure out how to get Wing Chun to work for them.  I want people to benefit from my experience and research and hopefully help them get to their goals more efficiently, with less wasted time on dead ends.  I am trying to “hack” this information and figure out how to communicate it as clearly and simply as possible.

So – welcome, enjoy the site, and stick around. I’m just barely getting started.

If you would like to help support this site and would like to own any of the books and videos in the Books/Videos section, please buy them through the link on the review – they will charge you the same price but will give me a little finder’s fee.  Thanks!

Every bit of feedback I get helps makes this site better, so please tell me what you think in the comments or at steve@snakevscranewingchun.com.

Gary Lam, Greg LeBlanc, And Steven Moody

Gary Lam, Greg LeBlanc, and me. I didn’t get the memo: hands clasped in front – no smiling!