Saturday, January 24, 2009

Great Cultural Revolution's Role in Bad Kung Fu


A tiny history lesson is neccessary to understand the dilution and misinterpretation of kung fu. When the Great Cultural revolution occurred in China Mao Zi Dong tried to bring all the people to the same level which meant that rich, successful and educated people had to be removed from the equation. At this time most of the doctors, lawyers, entertainers, teachers and martial artist were killed off if they couldn't escape. This ensured that no one would be able to oppose Mao during this new regime change. Unfortunately this meant that all the martial artist teachers at this time were killed or they had to flee. Many of the traditional arts fled to Taiwan, Hong Kong or other areas in China and taught in secret. Martial artists have always been looked at as a strange group of individuals even in China. It wasn't until Bruce Lee took the world by storm and showed a more beautiful part of the arts that China began to support kung fu as a tradional part of Chinese culture. When Bruce Lee passed away China began to promote martial arts far and wide around the region. The only problem being that while they had much of the information, most of the teachers had already been killed. For this reason many of the "new kung fu" styles had been arranged to look beautiful but not all of the teachers understood the movements.

Most all of the martial arts have been derived from China at one time or another. However, the styles that had branched off of the more traditional or real fighting systems in China have proven to be far more effective than the new arts. For example Muay Thai has been more effective than some of the kung fu fighters in recent days. This is all due to the lineage of many kung fu systems being diluted or incomplete. In addition there are many teachers that love to hustle foreigners into believing they are learning "real" kung fu while teaching techniques that are not effective or haven't with stood the test of actual combat.

So today it is very important to sift out the best lineages of kung fu and preserve them for future generations. Wing Chun has proven to be one of the more effective styles because of the attention that Bruce Lee brought to the fighting system helping it to develop and expand in real combat scenarios. Think about kung fu as technology such as the airplane. Just a little over a hundred years ago the first plane was made but it only flew about 100 yards. Due to all the researchers that followed in helping its development every country in the world has airports with the ability to fly back and forth. All of the movements we have learned in martial arts are like parts of a plane. Wings, motors, wheels, etc. If we do not put the pieces of the plane together, then we are left with a mess of equipment without a real functioning purpose.

Monday, January 12, 2009

WU WEI 无为


In all of the martial arts styles there is one element that the masters speak of that is universal. Becoming like water. I know that it seems like a simple enough idea of learning how to flow from one movement to the next, interacting with your opponent in the forms of waves and crashes while defensively dispersing or redirecting energy. This is called Wu Wei or formlessness. How is it achieved? In modern terms you can think of it as muscle memory of the entire body. Practicing a simple movement over and over allows your muscle memory to direct the movement so that it is no longer thought but reaction that leads your attacks.

To do that with the entire style means that you have to create a schedule, a training regiment that incoorporates the most vital parts of the style being the way of the legs 步法,the way of the body身法,and the way of the hands 手法. These concepts especially in Bagua are designed to simplify the movements into one idea. The movements themselves are not important, but only designed to show you the tactics of controlling your opponent(s).

Gao bagua being said to have 8864 techniques actually has an endless amount of movements. Unless we can live for three hundred years we could never have the time to learn it all. But the concepts of the way of the legs, the way of the hands, and the way of the body break it into 3 parts that need to be mastered and not 8864 parts, making it possible to achieve the Wu Wei.

"Bu fa" or the way of the legs mentions footwork. The ability to enter and exit your opponents space depends heavily on your footwork. All of the martial arts styles from Jujitsu, Karate, to Capoeira have different ways to deal with footwork, but share the same general principle. 8 directions. Eight directions is all that it takes to be able to attack, cut off, or escape from an opponent. Master these steps will help you to dominate most fighters considering most people don't want to take the time to isolate footwork training. I recommend after practicing the footwork on your own that you have mulitple attackers move in at you and using only footwork to control the situation.

"Shen Fa" or the way of the body focuses on power. Being able to throw a lot of quick hand movements may seem effective at first, until your dealing with a master and realize that "empty techniques are worthless". In bagua the hands are never the first to move but it is always the legs that carry the body which carries the hand. Meaning everytime you strike your opponent you hit him with your whole body, not just the palm. Practicing Shen Fa is key to learning how to coordinate your structure to flow naturally and quickly. This can be practiced by tying all of your techniques together in a continual flow. Bagua has eight sections heaven, water, mountain, thunder, wind, fire, earth and lake. Each section contains a different philosophy of movement or attack. Learning to mix your fire movements with water, heaven with earth, etc. is called opposing forces which teaches you to use Shen Fa in more detail. On a side note you can also practice the movements not just as opposing forces but in other combinations to see what results you get. I found that connecting water and mountain gives me crushing flowing power not unlike a waterfall. (mountain water=waterfall) Seems that bagua was designed the way it is for a reason. Researching the movements will bring forth truth.

"Shou Fa" or the way of the hands. There are thousands of hand techniques to be practiced in Bagua but the good news is someone can only attack you from a few different angles. Can you guess how many? Once again the number is 8. Think about the 8 directions as a compass on a map. North, Northwest, East, etc. You can put the compass on the ground for footwork or place it infront of you for hand work. The way of the hands is so important to practice because it is the last movement that seperates you from your opponent. Being able to block and grab takes another person to assist your training. There are many grabs and locks in Gao style bagua, but if you do not have the hand strength to grab someones arm, especially if they are sweating, then the technique is useless. Practicing grabbing and blocking at real time and speed to successfully manipulate your opponent. Also it helps to do grip training, finger tip push ups, climbing, or anything that isolates finger strength.

These three concepts are the key to finding the Wu Wei. First isolate the three so that they can be explored fully and then put them into on fluid training method. How you do that is up to you. Everyones body is different so I can't advise you on how to reach your Wu Wei. But I can say that the key with any style is first understand the movements. Don't be in a rush to create your own method. We are all young in the world of martial arts and it is only arrogance to claim to have found a better way in the short 75 years we have on this planet. Martial arts is thousands of years old and even though we have to refine it and make it better. We can't just ignore the information that has been passed for generations. In the end all of the movements are meant to be forgotten, but only after they have been ingrained on your soul.

Good luck with your training.