Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man

29Aug/170

Becoming The Character: Sun Wukong

Over the last few months, I've been sucked into the show RWBYproduced by Rooster Teeth, the same guys who made Red Vs. Blue and Lazer TeamIn essence, the show takes place in another world where monstrous Grimm roam the countryside, and evil threatens to rip the world apart.

Besides it being animated, the fight scenes are extremely well done. Most of the fighting was choreographed based on actual martial arts skills, which gives the show a wonderful real-world quality. Several of the martial arts scenes were actually motion-captures of the show's creator, Monty Oum. There are several excellent heroes and villains in the show, but when I was thinking of candidates for whom to emulate, the first one that came to mind wasn't one of the main characters, but a supporting character: Sun Wukong.

Sun is a laid-back kind of guy (a large part of why I like him) and is also a faunus, which are part-animal humanoids. He's a bit of a scoundrel, but we also see him being very devoted to his friends. He fights with at least two distinct martial arts disciplines, and executes several slick parkour and gymnastic moves as well. Plus, it doesn't hurt that he's got killer abs and nice hair. He's mischievous, but not rude or mean. He's confident, smart, and loyal. The area he hails from isn't big on dressing up, and he's not overly concerned with impressing people. He's comfortable with who and what he is. In short, he's the kind of guy I would want to be. (Some would say we have a lot in common: sadly, abs and nice hair aren't among those things).

According to the show's creators, Sun's fighting skills are based on Japanese Bōjutsu (with the staff) and a combination of Karate (with his "gunchuck" Nunchakus) and Filipino Eskrima dual-baton use.

Essentially, his physical training is very closely related to gymnastics. The upper body strength and Parkour/tumbling skills are straight out of the men's gymnastics handbook.

The Physical Training Plan:

Physical conditioning will definitely center around strength and endurance. Upper body and core strength will come first, and thankfully, those are easy to do with inexpensive equipment. If you've ever been in a men's gymnastics gym, you'll notice a distinct lack of freeweights. Instead, they mostly use kettlebells, rings, parallel/dip bars, high bars, and large climbing ropes. Something like the pommel horse would be for advanced gymnasts to tackle, but wouldn't be required for combat training. A routine of pull-ups, dips, and Kettlebell lifts will round out your upper body, and if you can find some heavy 3" tugboat rope to climb, use that too!

An excellent resource for rings is the Art Of Manliness's Gymnastics Rings 101.

Lower body strength for gymnasts comes primarily from tumbling and running. Thankfully, this also builds endurance, so running and Parkour drills will serve you well.

The martial arts training for the most part can be covered by advanced Karate dojos. Nunchaku and Bo use have been mostly integrated into modern Karate, as they originated around Okinawa as a means of self-defense when farmers weren't allowed to posses weapons (or so the legends say).  Bo and Nunchakus weren't very popular as weapons (they were seen as cheap "peasant" arms) until a certain instructor named Bruce Lee came along and brought them into notoriety. Since then, they have blossomed in use, and there are numerous books, videos, and dojos that can help instruct you on proper form. Of course, as with any blunt weapon, their use relies on upper body strength, grip strength, and speed.

Filipino Eskrima (the sport form is also known as Arnis) is a bit more difficult to find information on, despite being the official national sport of the Philippines. The martial art in general largely uses knives/machetes and rattan batons, as those were the materials readily available to the islanders. There is a large emphasis on being ambidextrous, so left/right hand drills are common, as are using the batons for grappling and doing arm bars/holds. Here's a video to give you a quick introduction:

Lastly, Sun's ability to leap effortlessly from place to place is a nod to the Parkour idea of fluidity of motion. Rolls, dives, leaps, and jumping can be practiced relatively anywhere, and there are many Youtube resources to teach you the basics. There are Parkour "schools" and groups that you can join that have practice areas, and there's even organized Parkour running in larger cities. Probably the most common Parkour move is the jump/roll, which is relatively easy to learn with practice.

Beginner's Guide to Parkour

The Mindset:

Finally, one of the most endearing things about Sun is his extremely laid-back personality and sharp skills of observation. Is it possible to "train" your brain to be more relaxed and focused?

As a matter of fact, it is. The benefits of meditation have been well documented, and things like Yoga and Tai Chi have been scientifically proven to reduce stress, condition you to be calm, and can even increase your physical balance, strength, and flexibility. There's also evidence that simple breathing exercises can drastically impact the way your body functions.

If you're trying to change the way you see things in life, getting control of your mind and body is a good place to start. Meditation can be done almost anywhere, and is especially useful when combined with other activities.

I'll be honest, slowing down is hard for guys like me with ADD, but that's the exact reason I need it. I personally enjoy Yoga poses, because they help with my poor hip and back flexibility. You can combine meditation and breathing exercises with it to really focus your attention and revitalize yourself. Don't try to make your mind blank; but instead, see how long you can think about what you're doing until you internalize it. Meditation, contrary to popular belief, isn't just making your mind empty. It's making your mind empty of distractions so that you can focus, i.e. meditate, on what's actually important.

Find a scripture or philosophy that you want to reflect upon, and spend some time just clearing your mind and focusing on it. Combine it with stretching or walking to make the most of it. If you want more of a challenge, resources for Yoga and Tai Chi are easy to find.

Something that I've recently discovered as an aid to meditation is a phenomenon called "Binaural Beats." It's essentially audio waves designed to put your brain in a state of calm, and it's widely used for meditation purposes. I haven't done a lot of experimenting with them, but others have. If nothing else, it's rather relaxing when combined with other background noises. It is definitely a fact that sounds can help with meditation, though. Whether you use background noises (I use mynoise.net), binaural beats, or music, it can help you focus your mind and block out distractions. I prefer music, my wife prefers background noise. Find out what works for you, and add it into your meditation routine.

Conclusion:

Sun Wukong can be a lot of fun to emulate, and even though we don't know a lot about his specific interests because he's a minor character, there's still some interesting things there. I had never been exposed to Arnis/Eskrima before, so that was pretty exciting to discover. Maybe there's something else there that catches your interest as well, so I'd encourage you to do some more research.

Hopefully, you can use something here that inspires you, and if so, let us know about it in the comments!

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

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