When people who practice Chinese martial arts say they don’t want their art to be “kickboxing”, it usually bothers me. Chinese martial arts consist of many strikes and kicks, and what are strikes and kicks if not “kickboxing”? In fact, I’d often argue that when many students of Chinese martial arts try to practically apply what they do, it is much LESS than “just kickboxing”.
However, discussions like this in at least some part are perhaps a poorly articulated fear that something characteristic of their particular style, something fundamental to their style, will be lost. Certainly, traditional Chinese martial arts are not ONLY the fundamental punches and kicks. There are other methods of striking, methods of sweeping, trips, takedowns, throws, joint locks, etc.
I have several, related, observations on this point. First, when people primarily rely upon empty hand forms practice and after generations of this behavior it is often hard to sort what is what out. Techniques which were never meant to be strikes, kicks or blocks are often interpreted as such. In Chinese martial arts, some of the contents of empty hand forms were not even meant to have strict fighting applications; they are forms of physical training and conditioning. In short, to find out how to apply Chinese martial arts practically, we must first sort out these issues.
Second, and to me this is the most important point, we must practice alive. We must drill with another person with context, resistance and realism. A lot of people seem to fear that this will lead to degeneration, that it will become “just kickboxing”. This is short sighted and based upon ignorance. If in the initial stages a student displays bad habits or is “sloppy” when training alive, this is a natural progression. What it most certainly NOT is reason not to train live!
For those who think that live training will somehow result in the loss of those techniques characteristic of their particular tradition, they are wrong. At the beginning, live drilling WILL be of the most basic punches, kicks, throws, etc. BUT THE MORE YOU DRILL AND TRAIN LIVE THE MORE REAL TECHNIQUE YOU WILL UNCOVER AND BECOME PROFICIENT AT!
It is the same learning curve we have seen in the much maligned mixed martial arts. In the beginning the events were sloppy, and little technique could be found. Then over time we saw the “basics” emerge and become applicable. Today, we see a wide variety of techniques some thought would never work in MMA actually winning matches!
If you really care about your own skill, if you really care about your system, if you really care about Chinese martial arts, you have to understand that only live training keeps them alive!