понедељак, 01. јун 2020.

Kung Fu and aggression toward diferences


Actively researching and writing articles on various subjects in Chinese martial arts I have noticed few very interesting things. First, people involved in Kung Fu more than often exhibit all the signs of a person involved in a religious cult and second, closely related to the first one is that people will reject the facts no matter how strong the proof of those fact is, if they are not completely aligned with their believes. No amount of evidence will make a member of certain kung fu school to reevaluate his or her believes. People react rather aggressively when confronted with truth that oppose their believes, they go as far as using physical violence and there is nothing they will not do to protect their world view and their perceived place in it.  It is also interesting that people who are completely logical in all other areas of their lives completely loose control when it comes to kung fu.This behavior is characteristic for non competitive, non combative “martial arts” and sports, and it is more common in online communication while in personal communication where people are physically located at same place is very uncommon.

So, are traditional martial arts really cults? Are practitioners of Traditional martial really  cult members? Answer to that question is not simple, fact is, almost all traditional martial arts exhibit some traits of classically defined cults it their recruiting approach, social structure, social interactions within the school\style and with outsiders and even a training approach. Historically speaking, many kung fu styles were real cults at some point in time. From the sociological perspectives, kung fu as well as other “traditional martial arts” stopped to be purely fighting systems long time ago and they offer much more than just fighting, in many cases everything but fighting, at the same time preserving the image of the fighting system. “Traditional martial arts” as a rule involve parts of far eastern religious systems, supposed ancient health preserving systems, esoteric arts, and they offer full spectrum of religious, health, spiritual, therapeutic, self improvement services that revolve around perceived fighting skills which someone will achieve in time. Term “martial art” separates certain practice from “sports” which are total opposites of the “arts”. Combat sports do not have any of traits mentioned above, their complete activity revolve around few simple goals, making the best training approach in order to produce fighters who will be able to win competition fights. In combat sports people simply develop through trial and error approach and there is no place for esotery, religion or spiritualty. Sport is a sport and it is focused on one simple goal. While similar behavior can be occasionally found among sport practitioners, that behavior is sporadic and usually exhibited by people who do not actually fight. Professional and amateur fighters are fully aware of their true abilities, reality check is something they do regularly, their goals and focus in training is quite different from people involved in “martial arts”, they are motivated by completely different things. They are also open to new experiences, trying constantly to improve their fighting skills. One more thing separates combat sports from martial arts. In sports, people responsible to teach and train athletes are coaches, in martial arts people who teach others are called “masters”, “grandmasters” or they use Chinese, Japanese, Korean …language equivalents.  More than often, generation of “masters” never had a fight in their lives but they are teaching others fighting arts. In Wing Chun and Tai Chi as two most popular Chinese martial styles today, that is more than obvious.

Very few martial organizations are full blown cults but majority of them have and use some of the techniques used by cults in order to attract and keep their followers.
To understand this behavior we have to understand what kind of people are usually drawn to Kung Fu and what is the psychology behind it.

People are initially attracted to certain martial art by what that particular style is offering. Most of the styles offer same thing and it is really a matter of availability of certain school than actual content that attract people in it. Tai Chi and Wing Chun have most followers simply because most kung fu teachers belong to those styles. These styles on the other hand became widely spread due to Chinese and U.S government political agenda at the certain moment of time. Same happened with Japanese karate, especially Kyokushin some time earlier. Although these days people can do some research about the style/school they are planning to join, and a lot of information is available, often there are simply too many info. and also many information are contradictory. Most important thing is that a beginner have no clue what actually he suppose to search and too many information often leads to confusion. Eventually, person will find what is he or she subconsciously desire.

People join “martial arts” for various reasons, it is also important to notice that people join combat sports for various reasons but those reasons can be put in two categories that lead to desire to compete and desire to learn how to fight. Of course, behind all the reasons stand deep and complicated psychological  processes. It is also not uncommon that people believe they joined martial school for one reason, but the real reason stay hidden deep in their subconscious mind.

One way that martial arts attract people is appeal to the pride of human beings through a rationalistic philosophy. Their doctrines sound rational and give their followers the feeling that through following them they will become ``someone important'', and we can see that in such an emphasis put in “lineage”, ”tradition” and “founder of the art” stories. Same things go with offer of higher or secret knowledge that is supposed to make their followers special and to give them powers beyond the usual human capabilities but without hard work and physical and psychological discomfort necessary for such achievement. These two approaches are usually combined together for higher impact on the new customers. Closely related to these two approaches comes another, also important approach in attracting new members and it has more appeal in Western societies due to complex sociopolitical changes in last 70 years. That is a sense of identity that usually comes from the leader or ancestor and it is closely related to “lineage” and “tradition” thing.

The other way is to stimulate the superstitions that many people already carry in themselves. In fact, only a few people really believe that what they see in this world is all there is. Instead they assume that there must be some supernatural force or being which is there to either help or threaten them. Many martial styles appeal to that kind of belief and offer quazi religious system based on all kinds of superstitions masked as either “ancient health practice” or “secret ancient system” which suppose to help  practitioner to develop fighting abilities, again, without hard work, pain and psychological discomfort required for such achievement or to help practitioner in his or hers “spiritual growth”.

Humans on basic level desire security, and in a fearful and uncertain world many turn to martial arts because they tend to promote exactly that. Martial arts leaders often make promises that are totally unattainable, but also offered by no other group in society. Such things might include security on physical level,, health, constant peace of mind, achieving high “spiritual” levels  the things most humans desire at the deepest level. Today’s world is a tough one, with more abstract issues than there are issues that are black and white. Craving for clarity many people join martial schools because they believe they’re being offered solid, absolute answers for at least some crucial life questions. Many martial teachers leaders promote messages that are simple and seem to make sense, the exact opposite of what we’re often provided with in typical, everyday life. “Wisdoms” like ”Martial art is a way of life” or “ Martial art is not just a way of life it is life its self”  say enough about “martial arts” and for many people this is true, they truly believe that practicing certain style will bring answer to any possible question and problems.

While people in martial arts are, for the most part, average people and they come from all backgrounds, all zip codes, and all tax brackets, many people who engage in martial training are said to have low self-esteem. People with low self-esteem are easier to convince that the specific martial school is the supportive environment they’re looking for or the environment where they will achieve their desired goals.

Once people get into practice and get a feeling they have started to achieve something, which can but not necessarily may be true ( more than often progress is more a thing of confirmation bias than real martial advancement) , they slowly commit their self to the style, school, teacher, ancestor…which by its self it doesn’t have to be negative thing if there was not one thing characteristic to so called “traditional” martial arts. So called “traditional” martial arts as a rule have a tendency to isolate themselves from the other styles of the same or similar arts and consider their practices the norm, while everyone else is wrong. “Us vs. them” mentality is prevalent model of thinking in “traditional” martial schools. Every insignificant detail done differently by outsiders is used as proof of their ignorance and inefficiency. That environment with specific personality traits make aggressive zealots out of common martial art practitioners. Aggression breaks out when all other defense mechanisms fail and person feels that his or her believe system, perception of the reality and his or hers perceived place in it is seriously shaken by facts or simply different opinion or practice. Cognitive dissonance and backfire effect play major role in this kind of behavior.  In the face of contradictory evidence, established beliefs do not change but actually get stronger and often this process is accompanied with bursts of aggression. This behavior is characteristic for intellectually dishonest people who have certain emotional or financial interest or fixed worldview and they are  immature and irrational. People who evaluate new information through logic and evidence and do not feel personally attacked by different opinions, believes and facts that challenge their current word view, do not react aggressively.


петак, 01. мај 2020.

Liumin quan, rare Hakka art from Taiwan


The Hakkas ethnically belong to Han Chinese majority, spread in provincial areas of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hunan, Zhejiang, Hainan and Guizhou. The Hakkas originated from relatively northern provinces particularly Henan and Hubei. In a series of migrations, they moved and settled in their present areas in Southern China, and from there, substantial numbers migrated overseas to various countries throughout the world.  Chinese characters for Hakka (客家) literally mean "guest families". Unlike other Han Chinese subgroups, the Hakkas are not named after a geographical region, a province, county or city, in China.

 Throughout history Hakkas have been frequently subjected to hatred and discrimination by other Chinese ethnic groups that they have interacted with. These usually ended up with various forms of retaliation by other ethnic groups ranging from minor verbal insults to committing genocides against the Hakkas.

The Hakkas came to Taiwan quite early. The German historian Riess studied Dutch historical sources and found that during Dutch rule over  Taiwan Hakkas were used as a translators in communication with the aboriginal tribes. After Koshinga defeated the Dutch Hakkas gradually became minority to Hoklo people from Fujian province. There was a great deal of animosity between these ethnic groups and Hakkas were gradually pushed to the mountain region of Taiwan where they stayed more or less isolated from the rest of the island. Taiwanese mountain region is not easily accessible and that was even more true in the past and that is the main reason why Hakka people chose to live there. While they were pretty safe from other Chinese Han ethnic groups, they had constant friction with aboriginal tribes that suffer similar fate as Hakkas and were also pushed in the mountains.  Today Hakka people comprise about 15 to 20% of the population of Taiwan and form the second-largest ethnic group on the island. They are descended largely from Hakka who migrated from southern and northern Guangdong.

Being under constant threat of attack Hakkas brought and further develop their unique martial styles. One of these styles, a rare form of Hakka boxing that can be found only in Taiwan is Liumin quan.

Traveling a lot and in constant fighting with vast array of enemies Hakka people experienced firsthand large numbers of different fighting styles and techniques. Based on that experience they formed their own style and training approach. In Liumin quan accent is put on practicality and reality, while forms are of secondary importance. Great emphasis is put on body conditioning and physical strength. This style was made for selfdefnse and it doesn’t suffer from unnecessary moves, acrobatics, or visually pleasing and attractive forms. There is a saying that defines Liumin quan fighting approach which can be translated as “If you can’t defeat enemy in three moves, run”. This style teaches that fight should be ended quickly, if opponent can’t be defeated with first three moves it means he is a good fighter and there is a great chance that fight will not end as expected.

 Liumin quan indeed performed very well in full contact competitions. Proponents of this style won 4th Taiwan Zhengzheng Cup Championship in 1978, and  also won the gold medal in the first free fight World Cup  in Beijing. Chinese Marine Corps Special Service Team and other public security units have hired masters of Liumin Boxing to train them. Within Hakka community this style is known as a "fist of courage" .




четвртак, 09. април 2020.

Wing Chun basics, right and wrong


There is an undefined number of Wing Chun styles today, some very similar to each other some quite different. With great variety of styles comes even greater variety of forms and ways they are executed. Most of these styles sprang out from Yip Man’s school and continue to dividing in even greater number of new styles, it is an active process that speeding up over time. Other lineages have much less followers but the process of dividing and founding new styles is pretty much the same.

There is nothing wrong in founding new styles, in fact that is a natural process of evolution of martial arts, if style does not constantly change and adapt to outside challenges whether those challenges are social, political, cultural or purely martial it is doomed to disappear. Changes also happen without any intention of the practitioner, every generation is different than the previous one, their world view and way of life is different and those things influence their understanding of the art they are practicing.  

Changes are necessary, on the other hand those changes must be done carefully and knowledgably or they will have completely negative effect on the art and the practitioner himself. So let’s discuss about changes that happened to the art and how they influenced it.
Despite all the myths surrounding Wing Chun ancestor and style’s founders for the last 150 years Wing Chun people did not fight, at least not on regular basis. While there is so much talking about death matches, “secret underground fights” and similar things, there is no evidence for these stories what so ever. We can see that in the way of Wing Chun is taught, especially in the past. Old teachers did not include any kind of sparring in their systems of teaching, they would teach something called “techniques” – a prearranged set of movements that suppose to be a defense from some kind of attack, usually too complicated and unrealistic to be effective in real altercation but visually attractive. The style became overly complicated in technical and theoretical sense because people replace real experience with imagination.  There is also a predominant believe that Chi Sao is good replacement for sparring and combat experience. Recently, Qigong was incorporated in many Wing Chun styles, many people proclaim their styles “internal” mixing traditional Chinese medicine theories, Taoism and sometimes Buddhism in their teachings. On top of all many teachers will cover their own misunderstanding and lack of knowledge with more complicated theories. More than often incapable teachers hide their shortcomings with “tradition”, and hide behind lineage and their teacher’s names.  All these things influence technical foundation of the art. People started to develop their skills in a direction which is not only far from realistic martial usage but they are executing even the most basic movements wrong.

With great diversity of the styles came great diversity of forms and movements execution. Interesting thing is, every style has pretty “deep” explanation why the movements are executed in some particular way, what is “correct” and what is wrong.

While differences in executing basic techniques( movements, hand positions) are positive thing and give people different and wider perspective how movements can used and it is certainly bad thing to dismiss something as wrong just because it is different practitioner should be very careful in what he is practicing.

Wing Chun as a style is based and follows or at it least it should follow certain principles of biomechanical efficiency. This biomechanical efficiency has different names although the most commonly used term on the west is “body structure”, some things can differ from style to style but all should fall in specific frame of general rules how properly someone should use his body. These rules are not random, they are result of specific conditions of the time and place where the art was created and they give best possible outcome regarding energy and power efficiency whether we are talking about dealing with incoming force or executing the attack, stability and mobility. There is more than one way to correctly execute certain movement. Movement will be correct as long as basic structure of the body and movement its self follows correct skeletal alignment and proper sequence of muscle contractions. Body structure in general and every single movement can be tested. Wrong body structure and wrongly executed movements will simply collapse under pressure while correct cannot be interrupted under same pressure.  If there is no concept of body structure in some style, that style cannot be considered Wing Chun, also if there is a concept of body structure and it is practiced in forms but not utilized in drills and chi sao and not tested, that style is incomplete and lastly if all those concepts are not taught to be used in sparring and real fight that style is not complete because there is a big difference in just testing a structure of the movement and doing it correctly in a drill or chi sao but something completely different doing all that under pressure of real combat. Practitioner should be aware of all the facts regarding his chosen style and consider the best course of his further development and training.

понедељак, 16. март 2020.

Stop hiding behind linage and ancestors


If you practice Kung Fu for health reasons, tradition, as a form of spiritual system, religion, or something that helps you in your personal growth and development this article is not for you, on the other hand if you practice Kung Fu as a fighting art or at least you believe that you practice it as a fighting art this article is for you.

There is prevalent believe in Kung Fu circles that linage is not only important but crucial for determining the effectiveness of particular style. More than often can be heard, when a teacher wants to prove validity of the technique he is teaching to pull the argument “my teacher …(some famous name, supposed unbeatable fighter) taught me that way. Besides that, when teachers who don’t spar or fight want to prove the effectiveness of their system pull the argument like :” That ancestor had hundreds of fights and never lost” or something like that often underlining almost supernatural abilities of that ancestor gained through Kung Fu practice.

People take pride in following certain linage and believe that somehow they inherit supposed fighting abilities of some famous ancestor or founder of the style. While lineage may be important for people whose main purpose of training is to preserve and maintain tradition and in some cases for people who practice Kung Fu as a sort of surrogate religion in real life fighting, whether it is competition fighting or selfdefense, linage has no importance what so ever. Proving effectiveness of the style is simply not logical, effectiveness depends solely of a person not the style. Proving effectiveness of the style by putting up some supposed achievements of people who lived centuries ago is not only illogical it is stupid. Saying something like “ my art is efficient because some person 100 years ago had 300 fights and never lost” is same as saying “ I learned physics form Einstein’s son, the most famous physicist of all times, I know physics better than anyone”  
Empty hand fighting evolved more in last 100 years than in all human history before. Stubbornly keeping “tradition” and claiming it is the most effective fighting system in existence, and most of Kung Fu people claim that, is simply in collision with reality. Training approaches and “techniques” from past were proven inadequate in today’s fighting arena. ‘Tradition” has potential to completely destroy Chinese martial arts, at least to destroy them as fighting systems.

There is a lot of wisdom and experience preserved in TCMA. Centuries of fighting gained a lot of knowledge of the human body and how to use it in most effective way. Unfortunately, due to social and political changes TCMA stopped to be pure fighting arts and became what are they today. Pure fighting development simply stopped and martial styles started to develop in several directions, non of them fighting orientated.  Still, basic principles are still there and they can be utilized quite successfully with proper training approach. Modern martial arts starting to discover principles of body structure and efficiency known to TCMA for centuries, but unlike TCMA today , modern combat sports concentrate their training approach on fighting efficiency of each person in training. TCMA have great potential to enable a lot of people for at least basic selfdefnse  and more with just little changes in training approach.

Linage and ancestor will not help when someone finds him self in a situation where fighting skills are necessary. Spirit of Yip Man, Wong Fei Hung or Chan San Feng will take over your body and help you save your life, only thing that will save your life is proper training. Being part of some old, exotic, rare linage is cool but it doesn’t mean anything in real life fight. Be proud of your linage and your art but train hard and prepare your self for every possible situation.

недеља, 01. март 2020.

Wing Chun swords real techniques are lost in the past


In Wing Chun circles is firmly believed that art was developed from double knives fighting techniques or at least that they were the main weapon of the style which was primarily developed for use of double knives alongside with empty hand techniques.

The fact is, there are no historical evidence to support such belief, directly or indirectly. I am not saying that this is wrong nor I am saying it is right, simply the lack of evidence prevents us from drawing any definitive conclusion. What we know is that double knives were pretty common weapon at the time of Wing Chun creation and we can find them as a part of a large number of styles from Guangdong and Fujian provinces. The shape and length of weapon varies as well as the shape of hand guard and these variations influenced the way weapon was used. We cannot connect double knives to any particular style in a sense of origin or even strongest influence on other styles, the weapon its self probably predates all today’s kung fu styles and techniques for its usage were probably developed before majority of today know styles were defined as such.

One more thing is important to notice. Majority of kung fu styles today were created during second half of 19th and first half of 20th century. Kung fu during this period went through extreme changes and became something we know today as traditional Chinese martial arts but was actually completely different before 1850’s. From purely weapon fighting oriented systems kung fu became empty hand oriented and expanded to various areas of practice where fighting efficiency was not the primer concern of the practitioners. In these systems weapons was not practiced for practical purposes but as a part of tradition , supplement for empty hand training, sometimes as a form of strength training, study of human motion ect. Real fighting techniques and training approach for such purpose were almost completely lost to history. Same goes for double swords, we have no historical evidence to show us how they were used in real fighting situations before fire arms completely replaced clod weapons. Using analogy and evidence we have for other weapons( swords, sabers, spears) and comparing real fighting techniques of those weapons from Ming dynasty period to how they are used today we can see enormous difference we can safely assume  same happened to double swords.

When double knives became a part of Wing Chun system will probably remain unknown. What we know is that whether double swords were part of the system form the very beginning or they were adopted later, they certainly influenced the system in a sense of how techniques are performed. On the other hand, more than a century and a half of not using knives in real fights caused that real fighting techniques and training approach were lost and knives are today practiced as a part of tradition and for purely academic reasons. This is true for Wing Chun as well as for all other kung fu styles.

Double swords couldn’t be the main weapon in times before fire arms replaced old weapons, they are simply too short yet pretty heavy  which means they were slower than even much longer weapons. The amount of metal in one of the pair of swords is equal or even surpasses the amount of metal in much longer weapons like classical sword. The advantage of this weapon is that it could be carried hidden and could be used with much more success in confined spaces where full length weapons like classical sabers , swords, spears ect simply couldn’t be used. Double swords are cutting weapon, like heavy sabers or axes, the shape and weight of the blade clearly point to that direction. While it is possible to stab, the shape of the blade is definitely made for cutting. The question remains why someone needed a short, heavy , cutting blade? In what tactical situation this kind of weapon would give an advantage to the fighter? In the extremely confined spaces of the red boats where Wing Chun supposed to be created this kind of weapon would certainly give an advantage to the fighter, yet, a narrower blade that could be used for quick stabbing would be much more efficient. Stabbing is by nature more dangerous and definitely leads to quicker death of the opponent and it is also easier to perform because requires significantly less power to be lethal compared to cutting. Also cutting requires slightly better technique than stabbing for the same amount of efficiency. On the other hand this weapon became part of so many other systems that don’t specialize in short range combat although it has limited range.  Why, we do not know, we can only guess.

As it was mentioned above, for more than 150 years, kung fu weapons is not used for real fighting. Real techniques are lost to time and even the simplest and very basic things changed to fulfil the new purpose of weapon training. This is more than obvious if we look at the most fundamental thing in double knives training, the grip. Vast majority of lineages and teachers teach only one grip known in fencing circle as “hammer grip”. While this grip is not wrong, it is very basic, usually used by complete beginners and it is very limiting by its nature and structure.
Hammer Grip

 Hammer grip is good for direct blocking of heavy blows from other weapons and for executing heavy blows. On the other hand, structure of the grip and angle of the blade do not allow agility necessary for fencing techniques, precise cuts and it is almost impossible to stab. To make things worse, many teachers being aware of the limitations of this grip, in order to make stabbing more easy teach something completely wrong and potentially health damaging. They teach what is known in fencing as “broken wrist position” which completely wrong and onlyused by people who have no experience with weapons. From tactical point of view this wrist position has no power, it is easy to drop the blade even if lightly hit by another weapon and structurally prevents the practitioner to transfer force from the body to the blade. While these things are not really important because no one use double swords for real fighting, “broken wrist position” is danger for practitioner’s health. Even a short time practice can lead to microtears of connecting tissue in the wrist which after prolonged practice can lead to chronical pain and injuries can spread to elbow joint. Broken wrist position if used in sparring can easily lead to dislocated or broken wrist.
"Broken wrist" position

 Recently, as popularity of HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) rose, some Wing Chun teachers started “borrowing” things from it and now teach different kind of grips.Next video shows several prominent teachers comfortably and confidently demonstrating and teaching "broken wrist' position in their double swords forms. 

Other thing not taught in majority of Wing Chun styles is how transfer body mass into energy of the cut or stab with double knives. While many Wing Chun style don’t have any concept of body structure at all or have it purely theoretically and do not use it in practice, others claim they are “internal” styles and have some use of body structure in empty hand practice( usually limited to chi sao\push hands demonstration and simple tricks) almost no one teaches how to use body structure and “internal” power in double swords practice. Using only power of the local muscle groups for sparring or in the past real fight would definitely bring bad results, especially because double swords are fairly short weapon and they lack power that longer weapons can produce by pure size and weight.

These few simple things clearly show that double swords skills are lost in past and several generations of Wing Chun masters almost never used swords and preserved the weapon as pure tradition and later as an “advanced” part of the system with great monetary potential.

среда, 22. јануар 2020.

For my readers in Serbia

Dear readers from Serbia and neighboring countries I have started new youtube channel and FB group on Serbian language, please check, subscribe and like.

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