About 28 years ago I was in a certain “mo gwoon” (Cantonese for Kung Fu school) in NYC. Back then they had a box of boxing gloves in a corner and had certain nights they sparred. Back then this was NOT unusual. Back then the Fu Jow Pai federation was hosting full contact events, so were other kung fu schools up and down the eastern seaboard.
HOWEVER, sparring there one night I started kicking. I had of course already done both Tae Kwon Do and Cheung Kyuhn (long fist). But this was a short hand style school and I was quickly told that since kicking wasn’t part of the school, I wasn’t allowed to kick in sparring.
Of course, my first observation was “what if you have to fight someone who actually kicks”? What are you gonna do, tell him NO? I also of course observed that I was sparring one of the sifu’s favorite guys and he didn’t know jack crap about defending against kicks, could that be the reason?
So, remember, back then they at least did spar with contact, with gloves, but there were always some “strange” or questionable things circulating in the Chinese martial arts. My question is, how did we go from there to TODAY? Today, that school still exists, but they do NOT spar AT ALL.
Chinese martial arts have always had a lot of baggage, but surely one of the biggest problems has been the desire to portray themselves as “better” and “superior” and to try and stand above the rest of the martial arts. In trying to do this, they slowly started down the road to the absurd.
The good old days of national events and national organizations was upon us and the AAU tried to set up a NY chapter. Of course, the AAU barred any kind of full contact so I wasn’t all that interested honestly. The conversation was about point sparring.
Aside from the absolutely absurd idea of judging sparring based upon “style points” – (ie I can get kicked in the face but as long as I am making a nice mantis claw I win! Really?) – the REAL issue was how to keep non-kung fu people OUT.
Being me, of course, I had to interject. I asked all the people present “isn’t kung fu BETTER than karate and other stuff”?
OF COURSE IT IS they all declared!
“So then shouldn’t you just be able to beat them and not care if they enter your sparring competition”?
The response was dead silence.
I am still not sure, may never be sure, where and when TCMA made the decision to become what it is today (to me, a JOKE), but I do know that the seeds were long there.