Author Topic: Martial Arts in Western Society  (Read 1022 times)

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May 08, 2004, 08:04:16 AM
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This is mainly for people just starting out in Martial Arts.
I found some interesting articles at and took some useful quotes from one article entitled "The Westernization of Kung Fu by David Chow and Richard Spangler".

For anyone, especially parents thinking of enrolling their youngsters in Chinese martial arts classes, it is advisable to avoid the "Karate" dojo (training hall), which has only recently become a "Kung Fu" kwoon. Despite the fact that Karate evolved from Kung Fu, the two martial arts are distinctly different. Commercial incentives have inspired many of the suddenly new but often unreliable "Kung Fu" establishments in the community. This means that the potential student should also disregard the school and absolutely any advertisements that guarantee results within a specified time limit. Since we all have different mental and physical characteristics and capabilities, precise developmental guarantees are ludicrous and promoted only by the fast buck artist, not the reputable martial artist. We all advance at our own pace. And, long-term written contracts, three to five years, are definitely not necessary for the student. Again, they only benefit the money-making purposes of the school. Should the student wish to change schools, become sick or injured, he would still be legally bound to make monthly payments---even from a hospital bed. The best advice is to personally visit a group session, observe and talk with not only the master but with the older students. If the advanced students are strong and graceful and act like respectful gentlemen and gentle women (women are becoming more and more attracted to Kung Fu) instead of wild ruffians, and if the master is who he says he is and positively proves it. the would-be student should join on a trial basis. A rapport must be established between the master and student. If it does not develop, leave the school because the master has the power to direct and influence the student's entire life. He should not be misguided. However, if good vibrations are there, almost akin to a loving father and child relationship, and if the style suits personal needs and disciplined progress is realized, then the student should continue his development at his chosen school.

In addition, much of the contemporary Kung Fu literature has been selfserving and of dubious quality, and, as we readily admit, books, magazines, and picture pamphlets cannot teach all the necessary martial art skills. Neither can films of forms and sparring, although motion pictures can offer another helpful dimension of instruction. The printed word, pictures and films may provide beneficial supplementary information, but only direct, face-to-face, personal guidance from a master will ensure effective physical and, indeed, mental performance in Kung Fu training. Students may then practice what they have learned on their own, alone, preferably in front of a mirror to heighten proficiency toward the ideal form. Practice at least three times a week, in two-hour sessions, to maintain steady progress. On the other hand, some of the more enthusiastic students are known to work out from six to eight hours almost every day. That kind of dedication is hard to find in these fast-moving times, but it is beneficial, when possible, because only through diligent training will a pure self-reliance ever be achieved. As Chinese wisdom tells us, "Those who endure most are rewarded most with perseverance making all things easy." And, during the training regimen the student must not forget that absolute mastery may be attained only through a framework of mental and physical togetherness and spontaneity. Philosophical precepts must be learned simultaneously with the physical forms.

As ancient monk Master Han Shi explained this duality to his disciples, "The Shaolin way of fighting stresses virtue, but not force; defense, but not attack. The heart is affected as virtue spreads; the antagonist's will is suppressed as your Chi is summoned. Defense gives the chance to live; attack gives the chance to die. When others attack and I defend, my heart is at rest; my Chi concentrated, and my spirit lifted. All is in tranquillity. Thus, when Chi is abounding, no harm can come to me. Anyone who attacks me has lost his temper; his spirit is disturbed. Therefore, with his spirit distressed, his Chi scatters, and his strength, although great, dissipates in all directions with no defined focus of power. If you can handle a situation calmly in the midst of turmoil, you do not need to fight. The enemy will defeat himself."

Kung Fu is just like fire. If it is used beneficially, it will help one survive. If it is abused, it will destroy the user. As old Chinese masters said, "Misusing fire leads to destruction; misusing Kung Fu leads to self-destruction." Any martial artist must first cultivate his Chi. When this vital energy is in abundance, the spirit is perfect; when the spirit is perfect, strength is sufficient; and when the body feels relaxed, self-confidence is maintained. At this level, according to Chinese martial arts tradition before the establishment of the People's Republic, "No temptation can deter; no might can humiliate; no wind, rain, coldness or heat can harm; and no evils can disturb. If this level can be attained, one can practice Kung Fu without impediment." Chinese masters said that Chi is acquired through the understanding of life and death; apprehension of truth and falsity; purification of the mind; avoidance of worry; renunciation of desires; abandonment of selfish pursuits; and restraint of anger. While Shaolin masters told their monks that they should consider strengthening the body as the initial purpose of learning Kung Fu, the modern student should also comprehend the sympathetic quality of its Buddhist foundation which marked the true way of life for the monks. Too often the twentieth-century Kung Fu student will learn fighting techniques while avoiding the mental meaning behind the art. It must be understood, in the context of the traditional Chinese codes of behavior, that the art is to be used only for defense. "Do not assault for selfish reasons for fear that you might favor fighting which would end in your own downfall," Master Han Shi once said. "Constrain yourself to avoid burning yourself."

The master, however, prefers to let the law decide the attacker's fate. As Buddha said, "He who deserves punishment must be punished. Whosoever suffers punishment does not through the ill-will of the judge but on account of his own evil-doing." Buddha continued, "His own acts have brought upon him the injury that the executor of the law inflicts. A murderer, when put to death, should consider that this is the fruit of his own act." Furthermore, the Kung Fu master will never intentionally violate nature's way by brazenly demonstrating his skill with persistent violence at the expense of others. That is the mark of a brute, not a man. "The good general never glories in what he has done," Lau Tzu said. "He fulfills his purpose, but only as a measure which could not be avoided." His intent is not to show off his superiority because superiority is the hardest kind of aggression to forgive. By revealing his mastery a Kung Fu master presents challenge enough, but to flaunt his superior fighting ability will eventually bring about his demise. True strength lies in noncontention. Sun Tzu, the brilliant strategist, said it best: "To win a hundred victories is not the zenith of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the zenith of skill." However, there are charlatans who demonstrate empty fighting forms in feats of pretentious boasting only to withdraw in fear when confronted with an actual dangerous situation.
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