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By Laurie Charles
Meet your new sifu.
His name is Laidback Luke. And though he may be most famous as an EDM megastar, this friendly Dutch dude also happens to be a kick-ass kung fu fighter.
At last year's "Olympics of kung fu," as Luke describes the world championships in Hong Kong, he snapped up four gold medals and a silver. "There are like 10,000 competitors," he told New Times a few months after his wins, "so it was a dream come true." And now he's about to realize yet another dream: teaching ravers to kick, punch, and fist-pump like true martial-arts masters.
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As the host of Laidback Luke's Kung Fu Takeover — "a very special lesson led by the gold medalist" — the DJ, producer, and world champ will instruct 200 possibly hung-over fans ("Everybody is welcome!") in Qi Gong, tai chi, punching and kicking, and real kung fu.
"It'll be kind of like DJing, where you must respond to the crowd," Luke suggests. "My own sifu says, 'If you teach a class, you have to cater to your students.' So in this case, I will have to be aware of everyone's level of expertise and how drunk they are," he laughs.
Among his couple hundred pupils, there will be novices, veterans, and all sorts of other folks. "You can even come in furry boots!" Luke exclaims. "That would actually be nice. Because when we do some kicking training, you won't be able to hurt anybody.
"To me, it's not about how you look," he sagely intones. "It's about how you train."
So throw on some shorts, a spirit hoodie, or whatever is comfortable. Here are the four lessons to be learned at Laidback Luke's Kung Fu Takeover:
Qi Gong. Need to get your chi under control after a crazy night of raving? Our sifu suggests the ancient Chinese practice of Qi Gong.
"This is one of my little secrets," Luke confesses. "Whenever I am in the middle of a heavy tour and I don't feel the urge to train because I am just lazy or too tired, it only takes some Qi Gong to get me going.
"I will go into my breathing exercises. And soon I've fooled myself, and I get the energy to start the workout. So these techniques are almost magic for destressing and activating the body.
"Most people could really use some Qi Gong. Because when we hit our mid-20s and we start working all the time and chasing success, there is a lot of strain. But these breathing exercises help us take control of our being so we can just stop a moment and enjoy the moment. Or we can find the strength to do some kung fu. Or we can manage to go party for the sixth night in a row!"
Tai chi. Now perhaps you're wondering, Tai chi? Isn't that stuff for old people in public parks? Well, the answer, according to our sifu, Laidback Luke, is an emphatic nope. "Often," he says, "people think martial arts should be really fast. And that's true. But only in the end. So, to start, we need to learn the essential movements while going very slowly. We will practice balancing and holding positions and focusing our minds on the direction we're sending our limbs. That way, when we speed things up, we will be doing everything correctly.
"Tai chi is like slow-motion kung fu," Luke explains. "And it teaches us to gain full control over our bodies."
Punching and kicking. So listen up, raver, while we're on the topic of learning to be in command of your fists and feet and such, Luke would like to point out it's not nice to knock out innocent bystanders, whether you're at the club or a kung fu class.
"It is a very common mistake for beginners, when they punch or kick, that they don't actually look where they are punching or kicking," he laughs. "And that can be dangerous!
"Similarly, when new kung fu students are trying to defend punches or kicks, they sometimes aren't looking at the opponent. They are looking at the ground or they are looking at the sky.
"In kung fu, we say, 'Train the mind first.' And I say the eyes too. Because where your eyes go, that's also where your fists and feet will go."
Real kung fu. The final lesson of Laidback Luke's Kung Fu Takeover will naturally be the most important and exciting — a crash course in the basics of this ancient discipline.
"To end, we will dive into some real kung fu," Luke says. "We will practice some dancey Shaolin movements and cool low stances and animal techniques, because I have noticed that after certain classes, people will be like, 'Oh, this is it? This is like a karate class or something!'
"But no, styles like karate and tae kwon do are derived from China, where it all started with Shaolin monks, but they miss out on the majority of techniques that are taught in the typical kung fu class."
As our sifu insists: "Kung fu is the mother of martial arts." And now, raver, you can be counted among her many children.