Forty years in a profession is a long time. "Not if you really like what you are doing," said Jerry Bradigan. He holds a fourth degree teacher's black belt in Chuan-Fa Royal Kung-Fu, was a world champion in 1970, and began teaching under Great Master Liu Siong in 1971. He and his wife Mary, (who holds a black belt in the Indonesian style of Pukulan Tji Kalong) have taught in California, Florida, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Canada, Dunkirk and Fredonia, They were were invited to demonstrate in the Chinese New Year parade and celebration in Toronto's famous Chinatown.
"We opened our first dojo (school) in 1974 in Dunkirk. We have always been well received and the students were there to learn. It's not how high you kick or how many katas you perform; it's about being truthful to yourself and others, to put forth your best effort, all the time. It carries over to the way you develop yourself in real life," he added.
Chuan-Fa Royal Kung-Fu, the style taught only to members of China's royal family, was taught by Great Master Liu Siong, who was encouraged to relocate to this area in the mid 1960s by former OBSERVER owner H.K. Williams III. Liu Siong (Willem Reeders) was a seventh degree black belt and President of the Chung-Hwa Kung-Fu Hui (World Kung-Fu Federation), which has over ten million members. His great uncle was emperor of China at the turn of the 20th century.
Jerry and second degree black belt Bill Snyder demonstrate a weapons technique (swords and sais).
Jerry instructs Bill on a move from a kata (fight movement).
"I try to teach the same way it was taught to me, and have not changed the forms or techniques. Many martial art styles make up their own katas, (a series of coordinated blocks, strikes, and kicks against imaginary opponents) and it shows. Some of the forms I learned are 500 to 1,500 years old, and you don't change something that works. This is one reason Kung Fu is called the highest form of martial arts - it was the first form developed," Bradigan noted.
"I believe most styles of martial arts are formidable and have merit. It's the teacher who imparts the tradition and training that gives the style credibility. A teacher, with proper training, can make the learning experience enjoyable, even if the learning process is difficult. I didn't intend to teach Kung Fu when I started taking lessons. In fact, when Liu Siong relocated to New Mexico in 1972, he asked if I would take over the school. I was speechless, as I never thought about having my own dojo. However, I had just become married, was working full time, and was a full time student at Fredonia State. I had to decline. Liu Siong was disappointed but told me that when the time was right, 'it' would happen," said Bradigan.
"In 1974, Mary and I were ready to start a dojo. Events leading up to opening a dojo were unique, but that's another chapter of this long career and relationship with a true Master. We opened our first dojo in April of 1974 and have been teaching ever since. We started the area's first children's martial arts classes in 1975, introducing children to Kung Fu and Pukulan at 8 years for boys and 7 years for girls, respectively. For children from 3 years to 8 years, we offer an athletic development program. Teaching martial arts to a child under 8 years old is very difficult because they play and can imitate, but don't really learn. It takes hard work to progress in any martial art. If it's difficult for an adult, how hard will it be for a child? We teach children the skills necessary to effectively participate in sports and martial arts. Kids have fun without realizing they are developing skills that will enhance their athletic performance. The best defense for a child is to be near a responsible adult," he explained.
Jerry Bradigan celebrates 40 years in Kung Fu
Bradigan is also a licensed, certified occupational therapy assistant, practicing in the Fredonia Central School district. "Working with children everyday has given me a better understanding of how they learn and react to different stimuli and situations. Children like to please and like the recognition for a job well done. They also like to compete, so we make sure they understand they are competing against their own accomplishments. It wouldn't be fair to compare a 4 year old to a 6 or 8 year old. This way, all children are more apt to encourage others when doing the same activity," he commented.
In the summer of 2008 Jerry introduced Tai-So Breathing Exercises to the public for the first time. These exercises combine Kung Fu-based breathing techniques with resistance movement and temple training, as well as brain stimulation from occupational therapy. Tai-So Breathing Exercises can be performed at three different levels to help with relaxation, promote recovery and healing, or provide a powerful strengthening routine. "These exercises help with the body's natural flow of energy, so everything from daily activity to hard exercising to quality of sleep is improved. I have been working with students and clients from 4 years old to over 85 years old. One client I worked with received a heart transplant. All have felt the benefits of better breathing," Bradigan noted.
"The best thing of all is they are learned once and can be used for a lifetime. There are no machines to buy, no drugs or supplements to take, and they can be done anywhere. Everyone can exercise, no matter how old or what condition they're in. We all have to breathe; Tai-So Breathing Exercises make breathing better," he explained.
"Having taught for over 38 years, I have seen over 1000 students come and go. Everyone understands and learns differently. Some styles have very rigid teaching criteria, where you see everyone doing the same thing at once. Only a small percentage do the moves correctly as they are taught. When it is difficult for a student to perform a particular move, and he or she is really trying, a good teacher will usually find a way to help improve their learning experience. I have tried to follow this advice since I started teaching and at times it's been challenging, but the satisfaction comes knowing you helped someone accomplish a difficult goal. Men and women train differently in our tradition, in separate classes, because of differences in bone structure and muscle mass. Our children and kids classes are also separate, and all classes are small, so everyone gets more attention. Children and adults should never train together: only adult black belts are allowed to help teach lower ranked students, because it literally takes years of experience to acquire the skills necessary to show how a move or technique should be executed. I have enjoyed teaching since day one and will always hold memories of Liu Siong close to my heart. I was blessed and cursed (not really) by him because I will never stop teaching. As I said earlier, I like what I do, and I feel I do it very well. The first forty years have prepared me to continue on for another forty years. Chuan-Fa Royal Kung Fu has given me good health, thanks to the training, and a desire to pass the knowledge to others. Thanks, Liu Siong." Bradigan said.
The Bradigans' school is located at the Infinity Dance Academy on East Main Street in Fredonia. For information on how to join the martial arts classes, or Tai So Breathing Exercises, they may be contacted at 672-7723.
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