Using the technique of ruthlessness (殘)

6 Jun

Today’s martial arts community is certainly full of “positive thinkers”, “do good”-ers, “feel good”-ers and “don’t worry”-ers. At some point, a lot of martial arts people adopted these sorts of things as a theme in the martial arts? This may be especially true of Chinese martial artists, in particular the granola chomping, tree hugging so-called “internal stylists”.

Of course, there are also those elements that represent the “dark underbelly” of the Chinese martial arts; with origins in the Jianghu (江湖), bandit gangs, red pole enforcers, and other disreputables. While these elements were the target of early 20th century efforts to revise and remove them, they were never totally successful. It is probably not a coincidence that they survived (flourished) in contexts where being able to fight were still important; police, military and of course criminal activities.

It is said that when Wong Yan-Lam erect is wooden stage in front of the Hoi Tong Monastery (海幢寺), “Either the challenger was maimed or killed. (Wong) was a master of using the technique of ruthlessness (殘)”. Ruthlessness (殘) remains one of the four essential theories of Pak Hok Pai and I’ve certainly seen it referenced in Hap Ga as well, but in my personal experience it is most cultivated in Lama Pai lineages. I have frequently and openly discussed my teacher Chan Tai San, but I also had an opportunity to study with another Lama Pai instructor. That instructor by comparison actually made Chan Tai-San seem like a boy scout! Tha is to say, while I was interested in the material he was offering, I was never comfortable around him.

Ruthlessness (殘) is an important part of traditional training, and pretty much essential within traditional training to combat effectiveness. I certainly used it in early fighter training, especially when we were still training for Chinese style tournament fighting. But make no mistake, it is a double edged sword. If you’ve ever felt a martial artist was abrupt, angry, opinionated, rude, etc etc you were probably correct! And it was probably related to some degree to ruthlessness (殘). I suspect it accounts in some part for many of the dark, brooding and at times unbalanced martial artists we’ve seen over the years.

I pondered this tonight after I (not physically) threw someone out of my facility tonight. Oh, make no mistake, they were a rude arse whose inflated sense of self-importance merited their removal, but there were probably (definitely) better ways to address it; ie I responded how we used to back in the “old days” or the “Chinatown days” when martial arts schools weren’t quite schools, they were more “social clubs” and their business was not necessarily signing up new martial arts students.

In any discussion of “traditional” vs “modern”, training to fight, incorporating modern training and/or “combat sports, one point really can not be escaped. Ruthlessness (殘) was an essential part of traditional fight training and it had many drawbacks. It was not a “scientific method”. It did not work with all (most?). It created negativity in the individual and the culture. By contrast, modern training not only produces more predictable results, in has less “side effects”.

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