I have started my martial arts journey with Judo and Karate, I simply visited a club and asked the instructor how much is the class fee and when can I start . That was usual procedure at the time, just visit the club , watch the training session and if you like it simply ask to join .I have started to practice kung fu pretty much the same as I did Jud and Karate , I have visited the club , asked what I wanted to know and simply joined the club. That was 25 years ago . People join martial clubs the same way today as I did so many years back , everything is open and public , there is no unanswered questions and everyone can practice martial arts .
In the past , in the 19th century and before kung fu was practiced very differently .All kung fu was practiced behind “close doors”. Martial clubs in a way we know them today didn’t exist, student couldn’t freely enter the school and ask how much is the class fee, outsiders couldn’t come and observe the training. During the Ching dynasty period if someone wanted to learn kung fu he needed and intermediator, a person who had certain influence on martial teacher and who will give some guarantees about potential student’s character . Often, martial styles were reserved only for family or clan members. If we understand social and financial value of kung fu in that period this has perfect sense. At the time people didn’t practice martial arts for sports or fun , martial arts practice had practical value . Kung fu was considered as manual trade, like carpentry or blacksmithing and that trade had certain financial value Kung fu practitioners find jobs in military , police or private security. Kung was an occupation and people kept its secret for practical reasons. Nobody wanted to make himself a competition neither to introduce potential enemies with the whole repertoire of techniques and strategies and let them develop counter techniques .
Even today , many teacher on Taiwan keep their arts behind “close doors’ and never show anything in public . Many others have divided their art on public and “close door” part where public part in just for show , without any real martial value while ‘close door” part is a “real thing”.
From today’s point of view training during the Ching dynasty period was extremely cruel. Basic conditioning was practiced even beyond student’s physical capabilities .
.Sparing ( read fighting with almost no rules) was part of everyday practice .It was forbidden for students to ask questions and teachers didn’t explain anything, a movement would be shown once or twice and students would memorize it and then practice it fanatically. Some systems put the accent on special techniques of body conditioning by hard physical practice and using some mineral and herbal products . The truth is , many people died and even more significantly shortened their life span as a direct consequence of this kind of practice .
Empty hand practice became primary practice in the second part of the 19th century when fire arms replaced old weaponry , before that time weapon training was primary practice in kung fu schools while empty hand practice was additional practice or even a beginner’s level used to prepare student for serious weapon training .