Teaching for Master Oswald Rivera is a lifelong process.

In order to be a teacher, a person must first be a student, which is a life-long process. In essence, one never ceases to be a student.

Master Oswald Rivera has been a member of the Chinese Kung-Fu Wu-Su Association, as a student, instructor, and Master, since 1973.


Origin and History of Kung-Fu


Chinese Kung-Fu Wu-Su is the oldest known form of martial arts, with a lineage that spans over 5,000 years. In that time, over 200 different styles have evolved, some based geography, as in Green Mountain and Yellow River Styles, some based on animals or insects, as in Crane, Monkey, Snake, Praying Mantis, etc., and some based on family names, as in Wing-Chu and Hun Gar. Within this concept, there are the Northern and Southern Shaolin systems. The Northern system emphasized the legs, while the Southern system places its emphasis on the hands.

Grandmaster Allen Lee studied under 26 different masters, each one practicing a different style or system, and what he subsequently did with those 26 styles was unique: he incorporated the best of all of them into one cohesive whole.  In the end, this integrated approach is what attracted Master Rivera to Kung-Fu Wu-Su: within a single system a person could learn extensive techniques from all 26 styles in the Kung-Fu pantheon, including 18 weapons in total – nine long weapons and nine short weapons, plus throwing and hidden weapons.  It is a method symbolized by the name “Kung-Fu Wu Su.”  “Kung” is translated as Discipline Technique and “Fu” translates as Person.  “Wu” means Chinese Martial Arts With or Without Weapons, and “Su” means Technique or Skill.  Thus, Allen Lee’s system includes all aspects of the Chinese martial arts.

At particular points in their training, both students and instructors choose to specialize in particular styles and weapons based upon their body type, personality, and/or interests.  Early on I came to be enamored with two particular styles: Drunken Monk and Monkey.  The Drunken style mimics a person under the influence of alcohol, and is therefore characterized by clumsy movements and outrageous outbursts.  It is a deceptive style in that it lures the attacker into thinking this drunken guy cannot fight.  In Monkey style, the practitioner becomes the animal, using deft movements such as jumping, tumbling, air and ground techniques that categorize monkeys in all their haphazard and unconventional movements.

I tend to favor short weapons, particularly the Butterfly Knives. However, as a Master instructor, I must be practiced in every system and every weapon in order to teach with a modicum of knowledge and skill.


How is Kung-Fu Different from Karate and Other Systems?

This is a question I am asked by almost every beginning student, and the simple answer is that Karate is linear in its execution and Kung-Fu is circular.  However, in today’s martial arts world, this no longer applies. With the advent of mixed martial arts, there has been a co-mingling of many styles and systems. Today, Karate styles frequently incorporate circular techniques, while the throwing and grappling systems of Kung-Fu may use Karate style kicking and punching, while Judo may incorporate ground fighting.  What I found so exciting about Kung-Fu Wu-Su, as practiced by Grandmaster Lee, was that his system already included a myriad of techniques and methods, from ground fighting to grappling and throwing, to punching and kicking, to sweeping, and choking – it was all there, ready and waiting to be mastered and utilized.


What is the Difference Between Wu-Su and Wushu?

As noted, Wu-Su, in the system, is defined as Chinese Martial Arts with or without weapons. Wushu, initially, was a general term given to all forms of Chinese martial arts. However, as promulgated in China since 1949, it has become a competitive sport based on gymnastics, with choreographed forms and sets emphasizing flexibility and performance art. The Wushu troop from mainland China is the preeminent exponent of this type of system. What Master Rivera found intriguing about Grandmaster Master Lee’s school is that it emphasizes the defensive-offensive aspects of Kung-Fu in real life combat situations (if it ever comes to that point). That being said, the goal is not to create a fighting machine. The goal is to create a total individual, who can defend him or herself when the need arises, but always cognizant that avoiding confrontation is the best of all possibilities. You use the techniques only when you need to defend yourself or a love one from imminent danger.


How is Wu-Su Different from Tai Chi?

Tai Chi Chuan (Taiji Quan) is a Chinese Martial Art practiced for both it defensive training and its health benefits. In the modern era it has become preeminent in the latter aspect. People practice Tai Chi to enhance meditation, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and as a form of exercise. It wasn’t always so. Traditional Tai Chi can be an effective mode of self-defense, if employed properly. Which leads to Master Rivera’s overall viewpoint on the martial arts: All martial defense systems are equally good, and he would include wrestling and western boxing in that category. It depends on the individual practitioner of the art. A lousy Kung-Fu person is no match for a good Karate person, and vice-versa. It depends on the skill and practice of each. As his teacher, Grandmaster Lee is fond of saying, “We are not the best, we are just different.”


Is Kung Fu Wu-Su for Everbody?

The simple answer: Yes.  In the system I’ve practiced for 44 years, the only restriction is that the practitioner has to be over six years old.  This is because we have discovered over the years that the attention span needs to be further along than what younger children are able to muster.  Preschool children are typically able to focus on one activity of interest to them, filtering out small distractions, for 10-15 minutes at a time and our classes are two-hours long.  Other than this requirement, it is an inclusive system without limitations or shortcomings.  Grandmaster Lee’s training respects all human differences including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic level, age, ability, religious and political beliefs.  If you are willing to work hard and dream big, Kung Fu Wu-Su is for you.  I like to say that in this system “You are competing only against yourself.  You set yourself a goal, and you achieve it, simple as that.”


Is it Useful?

This is another very common question I get asked.  Here’s how I respond: “I have been studying Wu-Su for over 40 years and during all that time the system has kept me healthy, agile, and given me peace of mind that I am sure I would not have otherwise achieved.  Not only does Kung-Fu Wu-Su improve body reflexes and agility, it also emphasizes the mental and spiritual dimensions of life — what we call Chi-Kung or “health-life.”  Grandmaster Lee’s system extends beyond the physical dimension of self-defense by incorporating meditation, concentration and deep-breathing exercises, all of which are necessary to keep one centered and psychologically supple.”  Suffice it to say that I am a Vietnam combat veteran and I had many issues to resolve when coming home from the war.  Kung-Fu Wu-Su offered me the mindfulness and tranquility I needed to re-establish myself in a non-combative society.


Chi Kung Training

One of the major reasons I have continued to study with the Chinese Kung-Fu Wu-Su Association is because of the ancient practice of Chi-Kung (Qi Gong).  “Chi” refers to the living energy in all things and “Kung” refers to the achievements of long practice.  When taken together, “Chi Kung” describes a relationship between an individual who cultivates the chi and the discipline s/he uses to do so.  Not only is Grandmaster Lee’s system a synthesis of 26 physical styles, he also incorporates this powerful holistic healing/energetic system into his system.

At its core, it is a series of health exercises that combine meditation, breathing and body postures through precise movements intended to strengthen and circulate the inner energy, the “chi,” which is the essence of all life and existence.  When practiced regularly, Chi-Kung leads to better health, vitally, and tranquility.  At its highest levels, as practiced by Grandmaster Lee, it can be used to heal others of injuries and infirmities.

Currently I have reached the level in which I am seeking optimum health-life through Chi-Kung training.  No longer is it about learning another punch or kick the goal.  Now my goal is to maintain the utmost physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance through an awareness and appreciation of all things in the universe.


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