“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

4 May

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

There is much debate over the exact wording and who actually said the above quote, but suffice to say, the sentiment is quite accurate. And to which I should also add; “You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you have been”!

Sifu Chan Tai San

Sifu Chan Tai San

Jeff Bolt’s national tournament was always an opportunity for Inside Kung Fu Magazine to get a photo shoot and story from the more popular teachers. Dave Cater had been in touch with me a few weeks prior, and I arrived with an article already written and in hand. Chan Tai-San was always politically astute, and he immediately observed Dave Cater talking to me and notice the article in hand. He approached me and inquired about it.


As was characteristic of Chan Tai-San, he was paranoid and didn’t accept my explanation nor translation, so he grabbed a Chinese speaker to read it to him. He began objecting to the inclusion of the story about Ah Dat-Da. He objected to the term “Tibet” even when describing the “Tibetan administration zone” that clearly included Qinghai province. Then he wanted the term “Lama Pai” stricken and replaced with “Hap Ga“!


In all the years that Chan Tai-San had been outside of China, in conversations, on business cards and stationary he himself had printed, in written notes he’d give all of us, we had NEVER used the term “Hap Ga.” Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with “Hap Ga,” just that we had always used the term “Lama Pai” and there were more than a few compelling and logical reasons why we should use it for Chan Tai-San’s lineage and/or methods. It was frustrating, especially having Chan Tai-San break out into one of his classic rages just when we were about to do a photo shoot. My classmates were both aggravated and puzzled. I was quite aggravated, but I was NOT puzzled. I understood the issue almost immediately.


It remains an open question whether the founder of Lion’s Roar was an ethnic Han Chinese. The only name we have is a Chinese approximation of a name probably in Tibetan language, probably a monastic name. The question of whether Tibet is part of China is a HUGE ONE, that has involved armies and tanks and cost lives. And in mainland China, “Lama” is associated with both “religion” and “foreign.” So, anyone with any grounding in Chinese history, particularly Chinese political history, should understand what was in Chan Tai-San’s mind. In fact, he said quite forthrightly “this will be in print, and read all over.”

front cover art small

The problem is, so many people doing Chinese martial arts these days have NO IDEA AT ALL about Chinese history, Chinese culture, Chinese language, etc… The don’t only fail to understand the rational / motivations behind certain decisions and practices of their Chinese instructors, they embrace things that are patently ridiculous without ever understanding how ridiculous they are. To be more concise, most don’t know the background history, so they have no idea how they got to the present and the baggage that Chinese martial arts currently carry.

I address many of these issues in my first book, “Authentic Lama Pai” which you can find at https://www.createspace.com/4891253. My second book, more instructional in nature, will soon be available at https://www.createspace.com/5461916. While still in outlines stages, it appears my third book will tackle this dilemma, the difficult history of Chinese martial arts and why we have such conflicting accounts, confusing today’s students.


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