Learn from history

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Learn from history

Post  David A Ross on Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:32 pm

From my blog at nysanda.blog.com

"According to our research during the past few years, many techniques in the traditional systems are not practical. It is important <strong>not to be preoccupied with arguments of traditional versus modern techniques. It is also not a good idea to 'protect' traditional systems by tailoring the rules to exclude, for example, foreign styles".

This quote is from Professor Xia Bai-hua, who when I met him about 20 years ago was then president of the Chinese Wushu (Martial Arts) Association. Professor Xia had done a lot to introduce and grow Sanshou (fighting) programs in China, beginning with the Beijing Physical Culture Institute.

Professor Xia was a very down to earth man, he talked about guys slugging each other and struggling and wrestling and trying to beat the crap out of each other in the "old days." He talked about sweat, and injuries and lots of blood and admitted that for political as well as practical reasons why in modern China the fighting had to be a little more cleaner, safer and presentable. Like many men of his generation, who had practical skills and had fought, he saw the Sanshou format with gloves and rules as a reasonable way to keep fighting in the Chinese martial arts alive in the modern world.

You probably already noted that in one small quote Professor Xia addressed (1) the fact that many techniques being taught as "traditional" do not work, (2) that when it comes to fighting no one should be concerned with "traditional versus modern" and finally (3) that the Chinese martial art world should stop living in it's little box, creating events that exclude "foreign" martial arts.

In a single quote, in a small paragraph, Professor Xia touched upon <strong>HUGE</strong> issues in the Chinese martial arts community.

These issues seem to have a long history in the Chinese martial arts. I previously cited this comment from Liu Jinsheng, the author of the 1935 “Chin Na Fa” manual (as translated by Tim Cartmell).

In recent years, the central government has begun to promote traditional martial arts, and every province has established martial arts training halls. Besides Chinese wrestling, the most popular arts are the Shaolin and Wudang styles of kung fu, both of which have methods of solo practice. Yet the practical applications of these arts is a subject that is never breached. Those who have practiced these arts twenty or thirty years have never defeated anyone who has practiced Western boxing or judo. Why is this? It is because the practitioners of Shaolin and Wudang styles only pay attention to the beauty of their forms — they lack practical methods and spirit and have lost the true transmissions of their ancestors.

Liu continues;

In the Ming dynasty, men such as Qi Jiguang and Yu Dayou advocated this type of realistic practice and opposed any empty practice done for the sake of appearance. This is why these men have proud reputations in history.

General Qi Jiguang (1528-1587) was the author of two books, "New Book of Effective Discipline" (1561) and "Actual Record of Training" (1571). While the modern martial arts student probably has never heard of General Qi or either of these books, they are pretty important because they reveal that even well before Qi’s time, the martial arts practiced in the villages as part of militia training had gradually evolved into a form of recreation as well, and had become characterized by the <strong>“flowery”</strong> movements.

Yes, the term "flowery" appears to date back almost 500 years! Qi condemned these “flowery” martial arts as undisciplined and inappropriate for military use in combat and emphasized that “…in training troops, the pretty is not practical and the practical is not pretty…”

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

Also note that General Qi's training regimen included:
1) Maintaining an overall strong fighting constitution.
2) Strong hands and arms through training with heaver normal weapons.
3) Strong feet and legs through running over 600 yards using ankle weights (bags of sand).
4) Overall bodily strength and endurance by training while weighted down with
heavier than normal armor.
and finally
5) <strong>Sparring</strong>!

It's a shame most students today have no idea about this stuff


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Re: Learn from history

Post  Brian L. Kennedy on Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:14 am

One of the other historical aspects of this is the fact that much of "traditional Chinese martial arts" were performance arts. By that I mean they were developed and trained as a kind of community dance or show and as a result their direct combat aspects fell very much by the wayside. One of the things that has really occurred to me over the last year or so is the longstanding "dual nature" of traditional Chinese martial arts; they tried to be both combat arts and performance arts and by trying to serve two very different masters they ended up doing neither very well.

take care,
Brian

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Re: Learn from history

Post  Paul Sacramento on Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:26 pm

Hi Brian,
Would you say that was because the options open to a MA were limited and that, outside of being a soldier or a bodyguard, performance was the only other viable option?
I would think that it being the "less stressful" of the career choices that many of the MA that were less inclined to fight, took that route, yes?

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Re: Learn from history

Post  David A Ross on Thu Feb 09, 2012 4:11 pm

First, SO HAPPY to see Brian here! That's fantastic

And regarding the performance aspect; well, the problem with TCMA is that there were so many different influences and motivations. And of course, as I have said in the past, a culture of fraud and deceit of extraordinary proportions. Many of the so called "boxers" weren't even martial artists, they were selling charms to ignorant peasant kids and telling them that made them gods. Too much so called TCMA isn't traditional OR martial arts

It seems that even among those who did know how to fight and what was real there was a tendency to also engage from time to time in show and BS

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Re: Learn from history

Post  Paul Sacramento on Thu Feb 09, 2012 4:23 pm

We still see this now, even to a lesser extent in pro sports, there is always someone hyping a match to sell tickets.

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Re: Learn from history

Post  David A Ross on Thu Feb 09, 2012 4:29 pm

Paul Sacramento wrote:We still see this now, even to a lesser extent in pro sports, there is always someone hyping a match to sell tickets.

"selling fights" is different than selling (literally - charging money from students) to show them things you know will never work

Chan Tai San often had us do stuff in demos that we all knew was utter crap... but it was "cool" - I hated it (and in fact refused to do them myself)

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Re: Learn from history

Post  Brian L. Kennedy on Fri Feb 10, 2012 12:57 am

Hi David, thanks much for the welcome, I hope to be posting here on a regular basis, it looks like a great group of folks.

As to the reason why; I think a major source of employment for Chinese martial artists, both in the past and present, were the performance arts. And by performance martial arts I mean things like working in the movies, being in an opera troupe, being a traveling herb salesman who does a form or two before the sales pitch, being part of a temple troupe or lion dance group; those kind of things Two things that can be said for being a "movie martial artist" are: it is a lot safer and can be a lot better money than being a soldier or bodyguard.

Like David mentioned, there are also Chinese/Hong Kong/Taiwanese cultural reasons why performance martial arts and practical martial arts got "mushed" together.

Deciding how to divide up Chinese martial arts into the health, the performance and the practical aspects is a huge problem for modern Chinese martial arts.

take care,
Brian


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Re: Learn from history

Post  Paul Sacramento on Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:13 am

David A Ross wrote:
Paul Sacramento wrote:We still see this now, even to a lesser extent in pro sports, there is always someone hyping a match to sell tickets.

"selling fights" is different than selling (literally - charging money from students) to show them things you know will never work

Chan Tai San often had us do stuff in demos that we all knew was utter crap... but it was "cool" - I hated it (and in fact refused to do them myself)

True but showmanship is part of the martial culture in EVERY culture.

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Re: Learn from history

Post  David A Ross on Fri Feb 10, 2012 12:32 pm

Paul Sacramento wrote:

True but showmanship is part of the martial culture in EVERY culture.

this is true, but in TCMA it has gone to extremes, I think we all agree on this point

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