I concentrate on the important details of foundation skill with them, and we train them endlessly. Applications are shown as a way of letting the student know what the importance and applications of the skills they are working on are. Real fighting skill? after about 3 years of foundation work. Excessive concentration on learning to fight in the formative stages of learning will, in my opinion, impede the acquisition of real skills.
The above is a real quote from a real kung fu teacher, and it is not that unique so it shouldn’t be very surprising.
However, ff we remove ourselves from the “tradition” of Chinese martial arts (kung fu), we should see that the idea that someone should spend 6 months, a year, or three years doing essentially basic exercise and not learning to actually fight is absurd!
Keeping in mind that Chinese martial arts were originally the skills of the military, used to fight wars and for village self defense, what exactly are the “real skills” if not the skill to FIGHT!
The Chinese martial arts community has wrapped itself in fantasy, creating some supposed skill that only a few will ever learn, and only after years of dedication. Of course, the most vocal proponents of this are the people who want to convince you (and THEMSELVES) that they are one of those select few.
Sifu would only add a movement or a concept if he felt I demonstrated sufficient grasp of what he taught me up to that point. Progress was slow, methodical, and painful. Sometimes other new students would come, and soon be doing applications. I felt like I was missing out, and asked Sifu about it. He told me “never mind them. Don’t pay it any attention. You do your work”. That was not terribly satisfying, but I did as he said. Later I realized that although the other students had learned lots of techniques, their skills existed from the shoulders on out – they did not have the foundation skills.
Quote from same teacher. Now, re-read it without the context of “tradition” (you can now start reading that word as “fantasy”) and you’ll start to see justification and denial.
If you signed up for driving lessons, and the instructor put you in a folding chair and gave you a plate to “practice your steering” while everyone else got into a car, would you convince yourself you were learning the “real driving skill”?
There are a lot of reasons why the community built these castles in the air, but today we should call them what they are, fantasy and nonsense. In the late 1800’s the so called “internal arts” (Taiji, Hsing Yi and Bagua) were popular among those who used these methods for fighting, popular among bodyguards and caravan escorts for example. There was little discussion of Daoist philosophy or health maintenance. This blog is dedicated to this REAL HISTORY. If this is the first time you are reading my blog, please go back and read older entries!
Traditional kung fu was NOT something that people spend YEARS doing before they go to learn fighting skills! Military and village militia trained MONTHS before putting it to the ultimate test in real life and death combat. Refer yet again to Ming general Qi Jiguang (1507–1587) in his two books, “New Book of Effective Discipline” (1561) and “Actual Record of Training” (1571).
General Qi Jiguang’s thirty-two forms were developed to train peasant volunteers for campaigns against Japanese and indigenous pirates. These weren’t in door disciples learning some secret training. In fact, General Qi denounced “flowery training” and noted that “in training troops, the pretty is not practical and the practical is not pretty.”
However, AGAIN, it is more comforting to think you are working towards some “advanced” and “secret” method rather than confront head on that you are in fact sitting on a folding chair and holding a plate…..