"I've always been an athlete though I had never done martial arts before when I joined Gaam Sing in 2007. It was like joining a supportive and encouraging family that inspired me to work hard and have fun! I think what surprised me the most about Seven Star Praying Mantis is how much it improved ALL of my sports... from basketball, softball, even ice hockey the strength and skill makes me better at everything - not to mention got me into great shape! I couldn't imagine learning any other martial art from any other family - Gaam Sing Kwoon and Seven Star Praying Mantis is simply the best there is!"
In an era where most people are more concerned with their internet reputation, insulting and "taking down" other styles and practitioners, or maintaining lineage mythology and student base Sifu Thomas and the students at Gaam Sing Kwoon are a refreshing if poignant glimpse at what American CMA could be. This is unadulterated 7-Star Praying Mantis. Sifu Thomas bases his transmission on a progressive learning model centered on classic poetics and vocabulary but with drills (line, individual and partnered), conditioning, and qigong to immediately cement the skills(gongs) and fundamentals. Each class, taught by Sifu Thomas himself, presents uniquely 7-Star solutions to tactical situations without cross pollinating from other styles or modern combat sports. Questions are readily and comprehensively answered but talking is generally limited to instruction and correction keeping the sessions focused and intense without alienating or marginalizing new students in the least. Classes are held in a modern state of the art facility and maintain the important "traditions" without getting caught up on the cosplay or affectation so common in CMA. Essentially, if you want LEARN 7-Star Praying Mantis, or CMA in general you wont find a better place. No bait and switch, no stringing along, no promotional treadmill, no teaching from videos or books the "sifu" just looked at themselves, and no imagined CMA/Wuxia fantasy. Sifu Thomas gives direct transmission of effective real time technique supported by theory, Qigong, philosophy, drills, sparing, forms, conditioning and a continuing relationship with his own Sifu and the 7-star (and broader CMA) community. This is what modern CMA should be.
Sifu Ty N.
I had the privilege to attend a seminar given by Sifu Thomas on the Black Tiger Exits Cave set of 7-Star Praying Mantis. Sifu Thomas was able to seamlessly distill the intricacies and nuances or 7-star for myself and other attendees from differing styles and experience while still providing a challenging and informative experience for the advanced student from his own school also in attendance. Not only was he able to cover the entirety of the set, he skillfully demonstrated and described the philosophy and theory of 7-star (as represented within the form). Both he and his students were extremely friendly and welcoming and though its nearly impossible to "get" a style over the course of one seminar he really made sure I got (intellectually and physically to a small extent) the "essence." Since I was staying in town for a while Sifu Thomas allowed me to attend some of the regular classes and the experience was the same. Though my base style(s) differ from 7-star in almost every respect Sifu Thomas was patient and informative, often drawing connections between schools of 7-star and other styles and encouraging me to do the same. The class was intense without being inaccessible and focused on building fundamentals and tactical skills through drills, and conditioning (rather than just running forms). Each technique was extracted from a set and drilled in part or in total with a tactical real time focus by Sifu Thomas himself, and I was able to work with him as well as his advanced students giving me allot more insight than I probably deserved! Sifu Thomas even based my mini curriculum on the set from the seminar so I had a progressive supported learning arc. All the principles, technique and theory were augmented by poetics and classical vocab, and well thought out drills that universally had progressions and even regressions dependent on individual skill. Rather than teaching in the shape, thought, spirit paradigm so common in CMA every technique I was shown was presented as a complete thought with qigong, drills, conditioning, application/variation, and philosophy. So even though after only 3 classes I can definitely say I'm still no good at 7-Star I certainly know more about how it works tactically ( and can kinda do some of it) than after years in other styles. Sifu Thomas has been in the American CMA world for decades and has allot of insight and stories(about the way things really are! and were) and his dedication to real pure transmission of CMA is clear right away! Great experience, great people, great teacher.
I moved for business from Rome (Italy). Someone suggested me the Gaam Sing Kwoon Association to continue practicing Seven Star Praying Mantis Gung Fu. I will never forget my first day! I went there to meet the sifu and… well, have you ever seen an Italian guy dressed as a GQ model performing his best Gung Fu form, understanding that what he knew was nothing?? Anyway, I have learned more the first time from sifu Othal Thomas than all the years before in Italy. He is strong, fast, hard and smooth at the same time. More than that, he not only teaches you, he explains and shows you what he says. I have found there a real sifu, as well as a friendly environment with gung fu brothers and sisters. I came to D.C. just for a while, but now I do not want to leave anymore. Gaam Sing Kwoon is the best experience I have ever had in D.C., not only about martial art.