уторак, 13. август 2019.

Problems in martial arts historical research

The term history has become an ubiquitous word conceptualized differently by various scholars. Traditional conception viewed history as any written narrative of events. This definition today is inadequate and unacceptable. First, the definition did not acknowledge the development of history overtime. Second, it did not recognize the division of the discipline into such fields as political, social, economic, military, intellectual, constitutional and educational history and their sub brunches. Third, the conception of history as mere narration of events is now archaic because history has metamorphosed from mere description of events into critical and analytical interpretation of events .
Arthur Marwick defined history as “the entire human past as it actually happened”, second, as “man’s attempt to describe and interpret the past” and third, as “a systematic study of the past” .
History on the other hand, as a field of knowledge encompasses not only past events but also their consequences. In addition, not all events of the past capture the interest of the historian, rather important historical events with consequences are usually preferred.
Barraclough states that  “the history we read, though based on facts, is strictly speaking not factual at all, but a series of accepted judgements”
Evidence is the pillar of historical research. This is because without evidence there will be no historical interpretation. The submission of the historian is not a product of speculation or imagination. History is not fabricated and thus cannot be manufactured. Instead, evidence is the rubric upon which history stands.
Finally, history is an outcome of diligent research. History is critical in the selection, interpretation and analysis of available data. It is these features of history that have made it look science. These aspects of history imply that what is presented as history is a product of honest inquiry and not that of the historian’s sensibilities or imagination.

Researching history of martial arts is incredibly hard. There are several major problems that obstruct and make almost impossible to conduct any meaningful historical research of martial arts, especially Chinese martial arts. 

In Chinese academic circles anything connected to martial arts is considered as a sort of forbidden area. There is no scientist who would engage in any kind of research of martial arts because that would be the end his academic carrier. Academic society outside China has pretty much the same attitude about the subject. All martial history researches come from other areas of life, almost all of them are martial arts practitioners and unfortunately without high education in any discipline or science. Even those with high education have degrees in areas that have no connection to history what so ever.

All this not only mean that researchers have no necessary qualification to do any historical research but also means that they have no support of any kind from academic institutions which conducts such researchers , which leads to the situation that any finds cannot be validated and even more, cannot be considered even remotely acceptable on any level. Simply, martial “historians” because of total lack of professional qualifications, complete lack of professional research resources such as various laboratories for validation of physical findings, access to experts of other disciplines necessary for processing the data and complete lack of any connection to academic circles simply cannot provide any valid result out of their research.

Another big problem is strict government control of data in China. During cultural revolution chairman Mao declared that “working people of China is master of its history”. This says enough. Disregarding any scientific standards and being aware of cultural influence of martial arts in China and especially on the West and of course the economic potential , history of martial arts is simply written to fulfil current socio-political and economical demands. Probably the best example is Shaolin monastery which was purged from monks and left in ruins for decades only to be rebuild and established as one of the most successful multinational companies in China today with enormous social, cultural and economical influence all over the world although historically martial arts were never practiced in Shaolin. Same thing is currently happening with so called Southern Shaolin which historically never existed and was a part of legends ,but because of ever growing interest for that particular place ,especially from the West ,Chinese government went a lengthily road to prove its existence and today we  have not one but three Southern Shaolin monasteries , each claiming and offering evidence it is true one. Another example is  “suggestion” to Fujian practitioners of various White Crane styles to publicly support Japanese theory that Okinawan karate originated from Fujian White Crane in order to increase not only grater influx of Okinawan tourists and “researchers” but to establish stronger cultural influence to Karate practitioners all over the world . These are just few most obvious examples how politics and economics influence “history” research in China.

Close to this problem is objectivity of the researches in general. Like it was said before, majority of martial arts “historians” are martial arts practitioners them selfs, involved in one or more particular styles. Desire to find and prove historical significance of the particular style on one side and lack of proper historical research training  on the other often leads to completely wrong interpretation of the findings, selective gathering of the evidence and sometimes to deliberate distortion of the findings and outright forgeries.

Next big problem is lack of historical sources on the topic of martial arts of any kind. The quality of a historical study is determined largely by the manner in which sources are collected and used. Sources are basic in historical research and they are many and varied. The absence of written sources upon which conventional history rests presents  problem for any field of historical research, even more for martial arts history because written evidence is the only source of information for this field of research. For centuries martial arts were restricted only to army personal, common people didn’t and more than often couldn’t practice martial arts. Not only that, martial arts were almost completely military oriented. Like toady, complete military and martial education was reserved for officer core, common soldiers were trained only to certain extent and specialized for specific tactical tasks. What we know today about martial arts came from work of just a few military leaders of the past but they didn’t feel necessary to give any details to actual martial arts training system. We have just a few rare manuals that present some basic fighting techniques with infantry weapons of the era but nothing else. Majority of martial practitioners through the history were illiterate and what was passed down to next generations in the form of oral histories soon got lost in myths and legends. Those who were literate and did practice martial arts didn’t recognize the danger of not making  records of their practice. Lack of written evidence leads to other sources of information such as oral tradition, mainly in the form of myth, legend, song, and popular history. However, the use of oral sources in historical reconstruction is replete with difficulties of which the problem of chronology is outstanding. Accurate chronology was hardly taken seriously as emphasis was on specific events. Even when there are specific references to years, generations and periods, they may relate to ‘structural’ and not chronological time. Frailty of human memory makes it difficult to chronicle events in specific detail for more than four generations. Distortion is yet another limitation of oral tradition. Distortion in oral tradition occurs either due to alteration of traditions or adaptation to provide the basis for the elevation of a particular society above another and this is more than obvious in Chinese martial arts. Another problem with Chinese martial arts oral tradition is that it is extremely hard to make a distinction between reality and phantasy. In the core of Chinese culture is to give ‘face’ to the ancestors and objective truth has nothing to do with that. Not only that distorting the truth and sometimes outright lies are socially acceptable in martial oral tradition they are even desirable. It is almost a rule to invent completely false stories which will elevate ‘ancestor’s” skills, morality and ethics on highest possible level completely disregarding the real person behind the story. Each generation feels obligated to give a little (or a lot) more ‘face to the ancestor and each generation will add more and more fiction in their oral tradition until the real person and real events are totally lost.

петак, 02. август 2019.

Why is Snake Crane Wing Chun important?

Snake Crane may be the most important Wing Chun style today. Someone unfamiliar with the style or familiar with other , more popular styles may ask what separate this style from all other and makes it so important. It may come as a surprise to many but it is not its history that makes it more "original" than others or some "secret, superior techniques" or any of the other things exploited in merciless marketing for decades in almost all other styles.

What makes Snake Crane Wing Chun so important is the fact that this low key style is probably the only island of sanity in otherwise completely crazy and cut-off-reality Wing Chun world. Infantile behavior , complete absence of rational or in most cases any kind of thinking, cult like organizations , Sifu worshiping, lies , hype, exaggeration, politics and constant in fighting for money, members, prestige ...that is Wing Chun world today.

On the other hand Snake Crane Wing Chun and people who practice it, and there are not more 200 in whole history of the style are totally different.

While "ancestors" of all other styles were superhuman and they achieved feats impossible for a the rest of us  mere mortals and biographies equal to old gods , ancestors of  Snake Crane Wing Chun were just average people with average jobs and common lives. Their kung fu abilities did not surpassed the ability of common people, Yes, they were masters of their styles but without god like powers all that bullshit that follows other "ancestors" like fighting 300 dead fights or breaking a gun with two fingers or fighting twelve people with knives. On the other hand Snake Crane Wing Chun ancestors have no one else has, a documented history that proves everything said about them, making them what they already are , real , verifiable historical figures who participate in real, again documented historical events , Not only that Snake Crane ancestors  are real people without any doubt because we have their photos personal documents , school certificates, public records...we have no doubt in actions they did during their lives. Maybe having an "ancestor" who did not have superpowers nor saved the worlds is not romantic and it is probably boring for most  people, but for normal , adult , rational person that is exactly the reason why would be he interested in that style.

Snake Crane history, unlike other stories called by the same name in other styles , is actually a history in full meaning of that word. History of the style is well documented from several independent sources and its only purpose is to present historical facts. Documents goes as far as 1890, before that there is not sufficient evidence to draw any final conclusion and that part of the history is clearly marked as "mythical". In SCWC history elements of legends and myths , deliberate or accidental mistakes , hype, exaggeration , and like in many other style;s history-outright lies, politics.. simply cannot be found . 

Snake Crane Wing Chun theoretical and technical part is completely translated from old Cantonese and presented to all members in a modern, scientific style , easy to understand and apply . While some teachers like to use Chinese terms while teaching  , some do not . There is nothing hard to understand, nothing "secret" or esoteric , nor too 'scientific" explanations so popular these day, no pseudo science  , simply there are no gaps in explanations which are direct consequence of the things mentioned above. Snake Crane Wing Chun theoretical and technical base is simple, logical , easy to test , does not go against medicine and science in any detail , in fact it is based  in them.

There are no "secret, underground" fights nor street fighting.  Not even one  of Snake Crane Wing Chun people, today as well in the past, were involved in breaking a low in any way. Snake Crane people are ordinary, family oriented people, most with high education and very good at their jobs. There are no street thugs nor psychopaths  (which is the only way to gain extensive street experience). This does not mean SCWC people cannot fight and have no experience. Some are war veterans , some have been train in military and some in police special units, some competed in martial contact sports. As we can see all these people had good training and experience and they do not have any need to lie and invent fairy tales, on the other hands no one brags, just like adult , mature person should behave.

Snake Crane Wing Chun nor any of the members do not have any connections with some "secret" societies.  In Wing Chun circles it is not  rare case that people brag about their connection to organized crime gropes ,while even more people stating the same for their "Sifus" like that is some kind of great achievement. In Snake Crane Wing Chun ,  ordinary, normal , family people with normal jobs and normal lives  are all aware of the damage, sorrow and pain organized crime bring to the society. There are no infantile people who worship anti heroes and are unaware or totally do not care about the effect of crime gropes on  common people, Moral norms and ethics are on the highest level, people who do not comply with this requirements are simply expelled. We like healthy and safe environment for our own kids and all other kids we are teaching at the first place and  for all others. Snake Crane Wing Chun and its people strongly stand behind the upholding and promotion of universal positive moral and ethical values.

In SCWC no one compares what we are doing with other styles, we simply do what we do, others do their things , that is all.

SCWC people practice the art simply because they love it, no one want to become an "assassin" , a street fighter, anti Qing rebel, new Bruce Lee, new Yip Man, or whatever the reason people these days start Wing Chun for. 

In SCWC no one cares about all the bullshit that follow Wing Chun lately how it is ineffective , outdated, doesn't "work" on the "street" ... we simply do our thing the way we like it ,if anyone has problem with that ...well that is his problem.  We do not even try to prove anything to anyone. When you think about it , who should anyone prove anything , some infantile character who thinks the most important thing on the world is to be strong? That is thinking on the level of elementary school kids.  Like it was said before, SCWC people have families , jobs, all of them are respected members of their communities, imagine how adult person looks in the eyes of his neighbors when he talks about  what "works" and doesn't "work" on the "street". Funny isn't it? Yet majority of Wing Chun people are doing just that.Well not SCWC.

If you want to practice serious Wing Chun with serious, good people without all the baggage other, more popular styles are bringing along , Snake Crane Wing Chun is the right style for you.

понедељак, 01. јул 2019.

Kung Fu culture and Kung Fu movies

Kung fu culture in general is much more influenced by Hong Kong cinematography than most people are willing to believe. While some of the things we see in those movies have some loose historical foundations, most things are actually invented by movie industry. Complete Kung Fu history, culture, practice, everything is tremendously influenced by popular action movies. I will give some clear and easy traceable examples of this influence.

Drunken fist and Golden Fenix. In one of the last interviews, one of the most influential people in Kung Fu movie industry, Lau Kar Leung, an actor, director ,choreographer and Hung Gar style master, admitted that he actually invented Drunken kung fu style. This newly invented “style” became so popular that people started to believe it is a real, historical style and many teachers started to teach it as the part of their systems or separately, notably Leung Ting who is after Yip Man probably the most well know person in Wing Chun circles. Late master Lau Kar Leung also stated that he invented Golden Fenix style as well as bunch of others. Some became popular and people started to “teach’” those “styles”.

Shaolin Wooden Men is a 1976 Hong Kong action film, directed by Chen Chi-Hwa, with Jackie Chen playing main character. It was made at Lo Wei's studio at Golden Harvest. The film was also released internationally under several alternative titles, including: "36 Wooden Men", "Shaolin Chamber of Death" ,"Shaolin Wooden Men - Young Tiger's Revenge" ,"Wooden Man" (Germany). One of the main points in plot is test of the Shaolin Wooden Men Alley, a narrow hallway containing thirty-six Shaolin Wooden Men, which are mechanical wooden dummies that attack anyone who enters the hallway. Exactly same story appears in several Wing Chun “histories” as a source of Wing Chun Wooden Dummy, notably older versions of history in William Cheung’s books. He expanded the story saying that due to the historical circumstances all those mechanical dummies were combined in one standing dummy well used in Wing Chun today.

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, is a 1978 Hong Kong kung fu film directed by Liu Chia-liang and produced by Shaw Brothers, starring Gordon Liu and having Lau Kar Leung as a martial choreographer. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin is widely considered to be one of the greatest kung fu films of all times. Movie plot introduces Shaolin’s temple 35 chambers of martial arts training   , in each of which the temple's novices are trained in one aspect of the kung fu fighting arts. This story was taken as foundation for some Wing Chun “histories” where it is claimed that there were different “halls” for different martial styles raining in the Shaolin temple and one of the halls was “Wing Chun Hall”. At the time when this movie was made, real Shaolin temple was completely empty and Shaolin Kung Fu if there was ever such a thing was dead and forgotten for decades. In later years, when Chinese government realized how much money they can actually earn from Shaolin brand they brought fake monks( Modern Wu Shu teachers and Champions) and organized the training in the temple that completely resembles to the movie. Important part of the today’s temple kung fu are features of extreme strength like breaking hard objects with various body parts , being immune to cuts or stabs with various weapons, seemingly immune to pain ect…all the skills shown in the movie. In reality such a trickery was part of street performers and was considered the lowest skill set in kung fu, such set of skills would never been practiced in such an important and highly regarded place such was Shaolin temple before cultural revolution even is some kung fu was practiced there.  

Yip Man movies. In the movie, Yip Man is fighting a master from the north who challenged and won over all other kung fu teachers in Foshan. Right after the movie this exact story started to appear in some “historical” accounts and Yip Man’s biographies although the story is just a part of the movie plot and it is complete fabrication. Similar thing happened after second movie about Yip Man  in which he fought Japanese general. Shortly after the movie “historical” accounts and Yip Man biographies started to point out his engagement in fight against Japanese occupation forces although that is completely opposite from the truth. 

In Shaw Brothers movies everyone knows martial arts.  Every Shaw Brothers martial arts film, particularly all of them set in generalized 1800s period, tend to feature hundreds of extras and townspeople who are all apparently skilled martial arts practitioners. Noodle shop keepers, doctors, ladies who sell vegetables, street shoe cleaners, rickshaw driver, even children. This led to believe that everyone in China “knows” kung fu. The truth is just the opposite, during the Ching Dynasty when the most people in history China practiced kung fu, less than one percent of the population actually was involved in martial training. Today, baseball, tennis, basketball and soccer are way more popular than kung fu. Young people do not have real interest in kung du and Chinese martial arts are really dying .

Master of the Flying Guillotine is a 1976 Taiwanese wuxia film starring Jimmy Wang Yu, who also wrote and directed the film. The film follows one-armed kung fu master being by an imperial assassin whose  weapon, the "flying guillotine", which resembles a hat with a bladed rim attached to a long chain. Upon enveloping one's head, the blades cleanly decapitate the victim with a quick pull of the chain. After this movie, flying guillotine slowly started to enter history accounts as a real weapon and there is even Wikipedia article about it although there is no historical evidence what so ever , not even a mention of this weapon before the movie was made.

Sticky legs or Chi Gerk, almost every old kung fu movie has a fight scene where tremendous sticky legs skills are demonstrated. That is where Leung Ting probably got inspiration for his chi gerk (sticky legs) techniques incorporated in his system. Interestingly, Leung Ting did work as martial choreographer in movie industry.

The Shaolin Temple filmed in 1982 famously launched the career of martial arts superstar Jet Li. But perhaps less widely known is that it also essentially reinvented Shaolin kung fu.  The Shaolin Temple is now a Unesco World Heritage Site and the heart of tourism in Henan province in central China. Scores of martial arts schools lie on a mountain; ticket sales bring in tens of millions of dollars each year; the temple is now a commercial empire operating more than 40 overseas companies; and international media has even dubbed its abbot, Shi Yongxin, “the CEO monk”. But in 1982 , Shaolin was a complex of empty buildings left to the elements and time to destroy it. The Shaolin temple  was the first martial arts film made in China and the first filmed on location at the Shaolin Temple, an ancient Buddhist monastery that is revered as the birthplace of China’s most famous kung fu style. Film became very popular and tourists and martial artists started to come in great numbers. Soon Shaolin became one of the biggest companies in China. Interestingly , Shaolin kung fu today looks exactly the same as we can see it in old movies.

Wong Fei Hung movies are made since the era of silent movies and cemented the place of Wong Fei Hung as the greatest kung fu hero of all times. Maybe there are better fighters in Chinese mythology, or stronger people, or heroes with more fights, or more compassionate people but no one had it all , not one besides Wong Fei Hung, he has a perfect balance of skills, strength, intelligence, empathy, moral, ethics, wealth and luck.  There are literary hundreds of movies and TV series about life and adventures of the famous hero. He became an architype of Chinese martial hero who embodies all the positive traits of Chinese culture. Although he was quite the opposite in real life, Wu Xiao novels later translated into films made his name immortal putting him above all other heroes.
This is just a small example how Hong Kong and Taiwan cinematography influenced Kung Fu culture. Almost every aspect of Kung Fu culture and even training was impacted by these movies. Kung Fu movies influenced and changed Kung Fu culture in general, on West as well as on the East, on such a scale that is hard to believe that such influence is even possible.

петак, 28. јун 2019.

Wing Chun ,martial art or religion

Wing Chun, one of the most popular kung fu styles today is slowly becoming a religion. Many of the brunches and schools of the have all cult characteristic since the beginning of Kung Fu craze in the late 1970’s. So what’s make a religion and what Wing Chun has in common with religion?  Here is a list of  characteristic common for most of the major religion systems today and we will compare that with Wing Chun.

1. Most religions include belief in the supernatural  or belief in some other Ultimate Reality beyond, yet connected to, human experience and existence. Vast majority of wing chun practitioners  believe that the art is some form of spiritual system, many believe and incorporate parts of other far eastern religions and make their own personal  believe system where kung fu practice cannot be distinguished from religious practice.A lot of them believe that Wing Chun is ultimate fighting system and in the end will grant them superior fighting powers. Some believe in supernatural energies and forces . Some are aware of this fact, most are not.

2. Religions distinguish between the sacred and profane (or ordinary) in terms of time, space, objects, and people. There are sacred days, objects and people in Wing Chun. Ancestors like Leung Jan , Leung Bik, Yip Man are worshipped as saints or gods are worshipped in other religions. These people are depicted as morally and ethically perfect and they had skills no one else ever achieved and could perform a miracles ( breaking a revolver with bare finger, fighting 300 life and death matches ect.). Artifacts left by those ancestors also hold a special place in Wing Chun community , anything that belonged to these people is highly respected and it is equal to sacred objects from formal religions. Sacred days are also established like Yip Man’s birthday, Wing Chun day ect. There are also places of pilgrimage like Yip Man’s tomb or his museum , Leun g Jan’s house ect.  As we can see

3. Religions strongly encourage or require prescribed ritual activities for individuals and communities of faith.  Most religions celebrate and reenact sacred stories through annual rituals, and Wing Chun is not an exception, annual ritual celebration are common and widely practiced. Also, personal rituals are practiced in the school or in individual practice. A lot of schools have altars and worshiping the ancestors is required before every class.

4.Religions commonly promote a moral code or ethical principles to guide individuals and communities. This is something that is happening in wing chun right now. The moral code is in the process of being established by practitioners. More and more moral messages in the form of supposed Yip Man’s quotes are surfacing every day . Although it is obvious that these moral messages have western origin , they are vastly accepted without any question and spread further among wing chun community.

5.Religious life engages and incorporates common emotional and intuitive human feelings.  These feelings include a sense of the wonder and mystery of existence, joy, guilt, and the bond experienced in the community. All these are common in Wing Chun and most of people practice the art because of these experiences. Many are not aware of this and they hold a belief that they practice martial art.

6. Religions both encourage communication and provide ways to communicate or connect with the divine. Wing Chun through its practice offers connection to the “divine” ancestors and their supernatural skills. Meditation is also common among wing chun practitioners and first form of the system is regarded as a tool of spiritual and supernatural force and abilities cultivation.

7. Through sacred stories, the religions provide a coherent worldview. Creation myths (called histories) and stories about lives and achievements of famous ancestors are equal to creation stories and stories about saints from other religions. Creation myth gives a purpose of existence of the system and its practitioners while ancestor stories establish moral and ethical guidance system and also goals of practice (which can never be achieved).

8. Religions organize life for individuals--including dress codes, personal sacrifices, and appropriate occupations--in the context of their respective worldviews. In this area Wing Chun is still not developed enough, while the dress code do exist in most schools\organizations and everyday practice is a paramount of every practitioners life there are no restrictions or recommendations for occupation or serious persona sacrifice. On the other hand many practitioners do make sacrifices in a form of paying tuition fees which are often way over their real financial capabilities so they have to cut some other things from their lives in order to pursue Wing Chun lessons.

9. Religions require and promote social organization and institutional forms to carry out the necessary functions of worship and leadership, preserving orthodox teachings and practices. If anything Wing Chun surpasses any other religion on this point. Lineage is everything, we have cases that people with no martial skills what so ever are highly regarded in the Wing Chun community just because they are blood related to the founder of the style. People take pride to be connected and have “learned” from these figures because they believe that they are preserving the true, orthodox teaching of the founder if the art.

10. Religions promise an inner peace and harmony despite the vicissitudes of life. Wing Chun offers the same, it is advertised as an omnipotent system of practice that has answer to anything.
11.Most religions anticipate the coming of a gifted person  who will help usher in a new age of peace and tranquility. In this area Wing Chun is complete and accomplished religion because Wing Chun messiah already came in a form of Yip Man.

12.Religions must propagate themselves through the recruitment of new members and procreation within the community of faith. This point does not need to be elaborated , there is no other art that can compare with Wing Chun in matters of marketing and recruitment as well as talking bullshit about other martial styles.

четвртак, 20. јун 2019.

Wing Chun 1850's, Modern Wing Chun, Modern Boxing comparison

Wing Chun before 1860        Wing Chun, Leung Jan era- today         Modern boxing 1866 -today

Lowest  social class                    Highest Han Chinese social class       People from all classes 

Physically active, hard labor       Physically inactive, despise labor      Physically active, work or sport

In constant danger                       Never in danger, well protected         Some in danger, some not

Life or death fights regularly       Never need to fight on any bases       Sport fights,rarely self defense

Training for self defense             Training as a sign of social status       Training for sport or defense

Short, focused training                Long, detailed, theoretical training     Sport focused training 

Focus on effectiveness                Focus on technique's perfection          Focus on sport effectiveness 

Train to kill                                 Train for pleasure                                Train to put down the opponent

Train mostly with weapons         Train with weapons rarely                   No weapons

No forms or one form                  Multiple forms                                    No forms

Focus on sparring                        No sparring                                          Focus on sparring

Clear single goal in practice        No goals or multiple not clear goals   Clear single goal in practice

Rely on training& experience      Rely on myths and legends                 Rely on training & experience

System built on experience          System built on imagination               System built on experience

Hard body conditioning                No body conditioning                         Hard body conditioning

History& lineage not important   History & lineage very important        No history & lineage stories

Focus on present moment             Focus on the past                                Focus on present moment

Long fighting record                     No fighting record                               Long fighting record

Lost fight, lost life                        Lost fight, lost "face"                           Lost fight, nothing else

Tradition not important                Tradition most important                     Tradition not important

Technique simple and direct         Techniques complicated                      Techniques simple & direct

петак, 07. јун 2019.

Going back to the roots

Has kung fu in general been taught wrongly for the past 150 years? Sadly, the answer is yes. There are several reasons why highly effective fighting styles became a joke in the world of modern martial arts.
For centuries Chinese people fought among them self and against foreign forces with more or less success, just like any other country on the world. For centuries, technology and fighting strategies and battlefield tactics changed and developed in a direction of more efficient fighting. Development of old fighting systems in China last until the end of Taiping rebellion where those systems were used on large scale for the last time. After the rebellion was crushed, and it was crushed with modern firearms and tropes trained by European and American officers to apply modern fighting tactics, even in close combat they were using bayonets as main weapon for close combat encounters. After Taiping rebellion was over kung fu started to decline and continued so until this day.

Before we discuss the reason for kung fu decline let’s see what does it looked like and how it was trained in the past. How kung fu looked like before Ming dynasty we have simply do not know. We have very rare sources without specifics, mostly just a mention of military fighting arts but without descriptions and details.  For the Ming dynasty period situation is not much better, how martial arts looked like during this period is largely unknown. On the other hand, for the first hand we have some martial manuals survived from this period. These manuals contain fighting techniques of various military weapons. From what we can see fighting techniques were simple, with simple, direct, no nonsense approach to fighting without complicated movements with sole goal to kill or injure opponent enough so cannot continue fighting. Empty hand combat did exist but was not used in military training and was considered completely useless on the battlefield, which is complete truth, and no one pay any attention to these techniques. Training during Ming dynasty was in some sense quite similar to modern military training. Officers had extensive education and fighting training while common tropes had short but efficient training. Common soldiers were retrained before every campaign, for example soldiers were trained extensively in using spears for 100 days. They trained to move and fight in infantry formations, single skills were not important for the outcome of the battle, only how efficient the unit is, although during 100 days period soldiers did train extensively in personal skills as well. Today basic infantry training last from 3 to 6 months for military conscripts.   Officers besides mathematics, astronomy, cartography, military strategy and tactics extensively trained with various weapons. There were several prominent schools for young officers during Ming dynasty where they learned usage of various weapons and archery. Martial schools in today’s sense didn’t exist, nor there were defined martial styles as we know them today. People determined their arts by the name of the teacher and teacher’s teacher. Martial schools were highly personalized and every student was taught to use his abilities to the maximum, which they needed on the battlefield, that is why styles in today’s sense didn’t exist. Fall of the Ming dynasty was caused by unfortunate set of events that ruined economy of the country and  last drop were weather condition that caused famine, people rebelled, administration fell apart and Mongols took over the power.

With the establishment of Ching dynasty not much was changed at first, at least not in a realm of military and fighting arts. Ching kept complete late Ming military formation and didn’t change anything  almost until the end of their rule. 

First significant change in martial arts came with the change of laws who can possess military grade weapons. By the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century some civilian structures were allowed to possess military grade weapons. Body guards, caravan escort, bounty hunters (known as marshals) were allowed to use long weapons. These occupations were usually family businesses and this led to development of different schools of fighting. We have to have in mind that China was much more wild than “wild west” ever was and these people were forced to use their skills on daily basis. Having efficient fighting technique was essential for these people and they again didn’t waste time on empty hand techniques because those were useless against swords, spears, maces and other weapons. People trained hard and didn’t pay  attention to unimportant things, most of the training was concentrated on developing strength, endurance, speed, reflexes, awareness, and simple but effective combat techniques, much like modern competitive martial sports but much more seriously because they lives depended on their skills. Also we have to have in mind that martial arts in China before 20th century were marginal activity. Less than one percent of people practiced martial arts in China during Ching dynasty period and this was the time when more people practice kung fu than ever before.

Taiping rebellion happened and showed at the end all the uselessness of old weapons and fighting systems against modern firearms. Swords and spears had no chance against modern guns. Ching dynasty rulers started to modernize their armies and kung fu became obsolete but unlike other parts of the world where fire arms simply erased traditional martial arts from existence, kung fu survived. After Taiping rebellion many things happened on social, economical, political and cultural level. Traditionally closed China started to open to foreign influences. There was a shift in usage and importance of kung fu, instead military fighting art it became social symbol of wealthy people. This is the time when kung fu as we know it today emerged in its recognizable form. First schools stared to open, and accent shifted from weapons fighting to empty hands fighting. Fighting efficacy was not the main focus of training any more. Instructors simply translated weapon fighting techniques into empty hands techniques without much thinking how and whether that will actually work. They started to invent more and more forms, drills and partner exercises in order to keep students interested and engaged as long as possible. Also, kung fu practitioners at end of the Ching dynasty were belonged to wealthy social class and didn’t actually have any need for fighting and that became obvious in their approach to training and we can see that today.

Ching dynasty finally fell in 1911 and new republican government used kung fu for socio-political project of busting national pride and promoted and supported spreading  kung fu to general population as much as they could. This is the time when, with a support of the government, all mystification and glorification of kung fu emerged. In the early 1920s kung fu was connected to classical Chinese philosophy, religion and “medicine” an in some cases with esoteric arts. For the first time kung fu was explained through classical Taoist theories and instead of fighting art was seen as a way of spiritualty, health and personal growth. While there is nothing wrong with all that and we are fortunate that kung fu outgrew its original purpose it is not fair to consider these systems of exercises as martial art styles, simply put  training does not prepare people for fighting and that became painfully obvious in modern time competitive martial environment. While there were still some people who practiced kung fu seriously and could fight that will soon change.
After civil war in China ended and communists came to power in 1949 first thing they did was to eliminate all those who could pose as a threat to new regime, among all others many kung fu masters were killed in that initial purge and their persecution continued for a long time. Same thing happened in Taiwan, Kuomintang went on a killing spree all over the island killing everyone who could even remotely be a threat to new established republic. Kung fu masters were first among many who were killed at that period. While in China kung fu was for a long time considered backward ,feudal practice and was actually forbidden for decades on Taiwan from the very beginning kung fu was and still is under firm government control. Neither side wanted people who know how to fight and especially teach others how to fight. In China modern Wushu was born as a replacement for traditional kung fu and in Taiwan kung fu, while kept all the content and information, was promoted and practiced as cultural heritage thing , not as a martial art.  Removed from its original purpose and environment kung fu developed in specific direction with no connection to real fighting.  It became burdened with overwhelming theories , unrealistic drills , enormous number of drills, visual impression became more important than anything else. On the other hand it is hard to find kung fu club that seriously work on developing all those traits necessary for real fighting. There is no real ,efficient fighting training like we can see in western boxing or kick boxing. People rely on qi and other mystical forces to develop fighting abilities but from experience we know that is never happen.
Sad truth is, kung fu people for the most part cannot fight, they lose time on training that is everything else but real fighting training. We have prominent teachers that not only never had a fight in their lives, but they are quite proud of that fact. Even more sad is the fact that kung fu in the past invented and used all the modern methods of training used in full contact sports today. For centuries kung fu people had much more serious training than any modern athlete, because no one will kill anyone in a boxing or MMA match but in Ching dynasty China people fought for their lives every day.

If we want kung fu to survive s martial art we have to do everything to regain its fighting relevance. This simply means we have to go back to old ways of training, just like people practiced during Ming and Ching dynasty era, concentrated on one goal only, ability to fight. Of course, I am not saying that kung fu should stop to be everything that it had become in the meantime, because for many people fighting is not important and they find in kung fu much more than just fighting , and that is a great thing. On the other hand if we call something martial art, it suppose to be that- a martial art , system of training that prepare people for fighting.

So how people practiced kung fu during Ching dynasty? First and foremost, people practiced kung fu to acquire necessary skills for the jobs they are doing whether they were body guards, caravan escort, bounty hunters, military, police... Kung Fu was a trade, essential part of their jobs, having sufficient skills ensured stable income. Kung fu was not practiced for fun, personal growth, spirituality reasons or anything like that. These people had to use their kung fu against other people who wanted to kill them. Training was extremely hard, but not as long as today. Instead of decades , people would practice for few years and then go to use those skills. Training was the most part concentrated on developing strength , speed, stamina, reflexes. Initial training was for the most part composed of long runs, staying in low stances for a long period of time, weight lifting ect. When practitioners were strong enough they would learn how to properly execute techniques and after they gain enough skill they would spend almost entire training in sparring. Usually, styles had one form or several short sets of movements but most often no forms at all. Forms are fairly modern invention. Sparring was usually done without protective gear and it was harsh and extremely painful but also very efficient. In old days it was more important to be able to hold a heavy shield and wave a saber or a spear for an hour than to perform technique beautifully and "correctly". Efficiency was put before everything else, simply they had to practice that way or they would be killed.

Of course I do not advocate this kind of training today, because most of the people do not want to be professional fighters or join military special forces but basic principles of the training and focus on the the right goals is what we can do. Instead doing things in a "traditional" way, btw. that tradition is less than 100 years old so it is not really tradition ,we can focus on achieving our goals through practical testing and developing  necessary skills and physical attributes. 

субота, 01. јун 2019.

True History of Qigong

Qigong is 5000 years old discipline that holds the secrets ancients knowledge about nature of the universe and has developed as practice of healing, maintain health, improving general quality of life and in some instances , enlightenment .This is widely spread believe despite the fact it is completely false.
The truth is that Qigong as we know it today didn’t exist before 1950. Not even a term qigong existed before this time.
Communist party of China led by Mao Zedong finished long civil war as a winner and immediately established a dictatorship. China , after more than a decade of constant war was ravaged, poor, underdeveloped and in complete institutional chaos. Just like any other communist regimes, Chinse communists simply eliminated everyone who can even remotely represent any kid of threat to the new established regime. Among persecuted were intellectuals from every field , medical doctor as well as everyone else. All those who did not manage to escape were killed or sent to prison to die there.  In an attempt to define its self as communist country , government declared that doctors ( in China called doctors of the “western” medicine) were followers of western capitalism and imperialism. This practice left China almost completely without medical care. To resolve this problem , communist government turned to the “traditional” methods of haling because these methods didn’t require any special education and all necessary things for such practice were available to anyone , especially there were no special requirements for pharmacology because traditional remedies were based in domestic  plant and animal life and minerals.
In 1954. Mao Zedong and the rest of the leaders of the communist party ordered development of ” Motherland medical heritage” (Zuguo yixue yichan 祖國醫學遺產)  with a purpose to get under centralize control absolutely all methods of healing  and maintaining health. Government started a campaign under the slogan “  Inherit and develop the medical heritage of the motherland” (jicheng yu fazhan zuguo yixue yichan 繼承與發展祖國醫學遺產)  and Mao himself stated that “Western medicine should learn from Chinese medicine “. This situation brought many “healers” and herbalists to the hospitals where they worked  as doctors (and were addressed as such) and even “research centers were established.
With “motherland medical heritage” development    a lot of different  old healing systems spread over China and were presented to the people as legitimate medical practice. Reevaluation of “traditional” medicine took place and was widely spread and used for propaganda purposes by the communist regime ,.Lu Zhijun 鲁之俊 (1911–99), Chief of Chinese traditional medicine academy (Zhongguo zhongyi kexueyuan 中國中醫科學院)  became famous  after he said  “China is the first country in history of human kind which performed medical  studies “ and “ China is the first country in history  which synthetized  drugs “  
As a result of this campaign  Taoists  practices were also incorporated in “traditional” medical practice .Person specifically responsible for bringing mostly Taoists and to some extent Buddhists practices under the umbrella of “motherland traditional medicine” was Liu Guizhen. He was high ranking communist official and according to his words in 1948 he got tuberculosis  and ulcer although there are no documents about his diagnosis and medical procedure to confirm his story.
After unsuccessful treatment in “western medicine hospital” he retreated to his home village to and there, from some unnamed old man he learned Neiyanggong ,traditional Taoist from  of cultivating Qi ,After only three months he completely healed and then shared his experience with local hospital .Local government , hearing about his case opened him an ordination in the local hospital where he treated patients and after short time he achieved astonishing results. This successes draw attention of the Medical officials of the Hebei province and in 1953, Neiyanggong   officially became part of the “motherland medical heritage” . Local officials helped Liu to open “laborer’s sanatorium”  . In 1954 in the city of Tangshan first Qigong organization ever was established and the term Qigong used for the first time , coined by Liu. This place became crucial spot for acquiring new types of exercises and then spreading it all over China. Soon, patients from Beijing started to come and Liu had to go twice a year to bring a report to the minister of health.
Tangshan medical department started in late 1954 to organize seminars for doctors of the “western medicine” to introduce them with the practice of qigong as a part of the campaign mentioned before where western medicine should learn from Chinese ‘medicine” . Doctors who finished the course were obligated to spread  qigong through their everyday work. Liu organized additional three moths course in May 1955 where enormous number of medical doctors from all over China were obligated to participate and later had the obligation to spread everything they learned on that course.
Li wrote several papers on setting up a model of research and work in the field of traditional medicine that have become obligatory  literature for health professionals in China. In December 1955 Tangshan sanatorium was rewarded by the central government and at the organized award ceremony it was emphasized how important their work is in the domain of "homeland medical heritage". This was crucial and the last step in the general national recognition of Qi Gong.
From this moment on, the national institutionalization of Qi Gong  began as well as  publication of works from the domain of Qi Gong research .
Word Qigong was born in 1954 as a term that will unite all the different systems involved in the practice that we now know as Qi Gong. These systems include massage, stretching exercises and gymnastics, folk forms of physical therapy and treatment of bone fractures and joint dislocation, strength and  flexibility exercises from martial arts  and esoteric and meditative practice of Taoism and Buddhism. All these different practices that have nothing in common are included in time in new formed health approach  and are  still considered to be part of the Qi Gong, which until 1954 were not. The term Qi is used in "western" medicine and actually means oxygen while in Taoist practice represents a primordial natural force. Before 1954, the term Qi Gong did not exist. In the martial arts, the term that was used is Lianqi(練气)  roughly can be translated as the refinement of Qi and represents biomechanical efficiency in the execution of martial arts. In Taoism, the term Yangqi ( ) was used, which literally means "to feed or raise" and signifies the practice of increasing and invoking primordial life force in order to prolong life, , enhance the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, increase the mental capacity of the brain, give greater mind control, increase perception and intuition, uplift moral standards, and give tranquility to the mind, which in turn confers inner harmony and greater happiness  and the end goal of this practice is achieving immortality . As time goes by, these exercises slowly open up the functional and control channels that feed and activate the energy, nervous and psychic centres, enabling the individual to have a deeper understanding, consciousness and awareness of the spiritual world get achieve immortality. These terms have a completely different meaning from the term Qi Gong. This term has enabled various methods of training acquired from different sides to be representative of medical practice, prevention, etc. With the emergence of the term Qi Gong, the term qigong therapy appeared, which is completely wrong and does not respond to reality, but is widely accepted today. ( More confusion comes when eastern terms are used in western languages. Term Qi by its self has so many meanings which depends of the place of the word In the sentence and with what other word is used in conjunction. Qi as a single term means gas. People wrongly think that everywhere they see word qi used means some kind of primodial energy or whatever they believe, for example, old way to talk about the weather included the word Qi, but Qi of weather has totally different meaning from Qi in Qigong where first is just an expression for general weather conditions, same goes with Qi in Qi gong and Qi in Taoist practice but westerners believe that term Qi has same meaning all the time )
With the acceptance of the Taoist  methods of exercise there was a change in terminology and heavy revision of  history. All "obsolete" terms that resembled backward, feudal, primitive practices have been changed and replaced with new terms that sound "scientifically". The Communist government could not allow itself any connection with religion or esotericism. Also, under the Communist slogan that "the working people are the master of history" in order to raise the national pride, "history" of the Qi gong is located in the distant past where every trace of any physical exercise in order to maintain health is called Qi Gong, which is notorious nonsense. The effect of light gymnastics on health is known to all old civilizations, is not an exclusive discovery of ancient Chinese and has nothing to do with Qigong. Imitation of animal movement for the purpose of exercise is not qigong, but exercise and light gymnastics.
This process of collecting and putting anything and everything under the umbrella of Qi gong is still ongoing. Because of Qigong popularity many practices that have no connection to Taoism or Chinese medicine or medicine and health in general, in any way are called Qigong. For example, today there is something called Confucian qigong although Confucianism never had such practices and in some points is totally the opposite of Taoism. Other major thing pushed under Qigong umbrella is Buddhism. Various meditation practices are now called “Buddhist qigong”  although Buddhism never had nor practiced such things.
Of course, during the time, many "studies" were done in China proving the efficiency of the qigong. It is not a surprise  that those studies have shown such positive results, taking into account the policy of China at that time and Qigong and “traditional medicine” is are today billions worth businesses and give the employment large number of people . The best indicator of the efficiency of "traditional medicine" is the average lifespan of Chinese general population, which had until recently been one of the shortest in the world and at the level of the 19th century. Only with the increase of the   living standards and the ultimate establishment of the modern health system based on official medical science, the so-called Western medicine, the average lifespan of the Chinese people has increased and came come close to countries with similar standards and healthcare.
Many confusions bring  alleged medical studies showing the efficacy of qigong. As qigong is  the general concept for a large number of different methods of exercise , different practice will show different results , but it must be clear what kind of practice was used , not just call it Qigong. Of course, light gymnastics will have positive effects on certain diseases, that is what physicians across the world recommend to patients since the establishment of modern medical science. Also massage is proven to be useful, just because someone puts the word "Qi-gong" in front of the word "massage" that does not mean that this massage really has anything with Taoist practice of force cultivation. On the other hand, there is no evidence that practices coming from Taoism have any positive effects on the prevention of disease or increase in length of life. Practitioners of these exercise systems have the same average lifespan and are suffering from  same diseases in the same percentage  as the general population.
As we can see, Qi Gong is a sociopolitical project of the Communist Party of China and has nothing to do with health. It is sad that a large number of people believe in the truly aggressive propaganda of the Chinese government and people who make profit by selling these “superior ancient knowledge”. The history of Qi Gong started less than 70 years ago , there are still a lot of people who remember times before Qigong. It is not thousands of years old and it isn't anything that its proponents claim it should be. 
How and why Qi Gong came on the "West" and gain popularity will be a subject of one of the next articles.