четвртак, 22. јун 2017.

Downfal of Wing Chun

First story

Wing Chun was created, in the some not precisely defined time period ,couple of hundred years ago. Besides a bunch of legends nothing is known about the creators of the art. What can be said with a great certainty is that creators of the art were extremely intelligent fighters who created a perfect fighting system for the specific purpose and usage. Not a style or and art but a system, originally constructed to be used on the boats of Guandong opera tropes. For this purpose ,Wing Chun is definitely perfect way of fighting, but the principles used as a foundation of the system allows it to grow, adapt, change, to evolve according to the situation and personal needs of the practitioner. The idea that is so popular today , idea called “Krav Maga” , “Systema”, “Sijal” ect was already invented long time ago and it is called Wing Chun.
Living in turbulent times of the end of the Ching dynasty in a country ravaged by constant famine , natural disasters  , absolute social , economical and political system ,under constant threat of foreign forces ,weak government control , internal political struggle, high rate of criminal activities members of the Guandong opera were forced to invent a system of fighting suitable for their line of work and  life and they came up with the conceptual system easy to learn and easy to be adapted for any situation. Members of the opera most of their time spent on overcrowded boats . Non of them was a professional fighter nor they could afford to pay some so they were force to defend them self. Being actors , prop masters , cooks , or boat handlers they didn’t have much time to practice martial arts . On the other hand, having at least some fighting skills was a matter of survival so opera members invented Wing Chun , a short, easy to learn  , knife fighting system perfect to be used on the boats (where they spent more than 90% of their time) . Long pole was of course the logical addition to the system because they were used on daily basis to maneuver the boats in shallow waters of Pearl river delta. System made for fighting on the boats worked perfectly on the boats .
At some point system left the boats and started to be practiced on dry land . Out of the boats ,Wing Chun was not such a great system. How do we know that ? Simply , only handful of people practiced the system , it was almost unknown until Bruce Lee made it famous , not more than 50 people practiced it the entire time before 1950’s and that was not because of some secrecy but because people choose systems for fighting in a condition they find them self at that particular period of time , and they tried to choose the best they could find.
Wing Chun is often popularized as the most effective, most direct, most efficient fighting system, yet we have no proof ,historical nor from present time that those claims are true. Some other systems proved them self as practical and useful in almost any situation, for sport or self defense like western boxing ,wrestling, Thai boxing , Kyokusin karate …So , what happened with the “perfect system of fighting” ?
For any given skill in order to grow and advance it is necessary to be tested in practice. While there are a lot of stories about almost constant fighting of Wing Chun ancestors in reality there is not proof they had even one fight. There is no better proof than the fact that wing chun is today as it was 150 years ago still perfect for fighting on the boats or narrow confined spaces , but not of much anywhere else. Wing Chun was passed down pretty much in unchanged form from red boats till today. Many people are happy with that , but vast majority of Wing Chun practitioners never fought and never even does sparring , because if they do , Wing Chun would look much different. Stories about 300 fights are just nonsense , if Leung Jan had 300 fights he would make better suited system for competition fighting , boxing is a sport , made for competition it works perfectly as well as  Thai boxing  , wrestling …
Wing Chun principles are almost perfect , they allow the art to be developed and adjusted to any situation or purpose , the only required ingredient is experience .
There is one simple truth valid in any point of history , higher social class , rich people do not fight , not for fun , nor money , nor they have time for such activities .People may believe differently , but that is the truth , rich people pay poor people to fight , that is how things are working since the beginning of civilization. Kung fu in the middle of the 19th century became a status symbol , something like an expensive car today , people practiced kung fu because they could afford it , not for fighting . The question anyone should ask, what someone could gain by fighting ? Money ? Leung Jan , his students as well as some less known masters form that  time already had it enough . Fame? Leung Jan was already famous locally as a doctor and a rich person, as well as most of his students who were rich businessman.  What they could lose by fighting? Well, everything . They could lose life or health? Why would anyone who already had a good life risk to lose anything? They could lose wealth and their possessions if caught breaking the law (fighting, especially with weapons which was forbidden for Han people) . So why they would fight ? They already had everything they could possibly want and if engage in fighting , they could lose everything.
There are stories about Fung Siu Ching and Fok Bo Cheun , famous bounty hunters with great skills who had a lot fights with dangerous opponents .But , like in everything else connected to Wing Chun history there is a catch to these claims . First , there is no evidence these people ever existed . I know this is a blasphemy for some people but that is the truth. But let’s presume for the moment these people really existed , were they such a tremendous fighters ? Were they fought daily on their line of work? Of course they did , they would chase dangerous criminals and bare handed they would jump into the gang layer and fought of from 20 to 30 gangsters , some armed with guns. Every single day , just like in American B production movies. They could also fly and shoot lightning bolts from their fingers. Joke aside , the truth is they would probably have to fight sometimes but opponents were not well armed , well trained criminals with great fighting experience and with well organized gang behind them ,these people were often too much even for government forces . They would chase people who fail to pay their debts or owe  taxes , common people with no fighting skills , or petty criminals who were not much of a danger .
Lack of fighting is more than obvious in Wing Chun (as well as in most of “traditional” kung fu styles). Style didn’t change nor adapt for fighting since the time of red boats. Styles that don’t change become absolute and completely ineffective. Wing Chun did evolve and change but in a direction completely opposite from fighting, it grew in complexity, number of techniques and drills , it became total opposite to its self, Wing Chun training today brakes its own basic principles.  

Second story

Wing Chun is in hands of famous doctor from Foshan. Like many other kung styles , Wing Chun became a status symbol of  wealthy people from upper social class. Kung fu was never practiced on massive level before 20th century. For the most part of its history , martial arts in China were exclusively  reserved for military. During Ching dynasty  besides the army a few new professions emerged which had the need for martial training  like police , caravan guards , bodyguards … still martial arts were rare , during the last period of Ching dynasty less than one percent of people practiced kung fu. Before Ching dynasty only the military officers had complete martial training , common soldiers just had infantry training not much different from any other army n te word of that period. Kung fu schools before Ching dynasty didn’t exist , only after Taiping rebellion kung fu schools emerged for the first time . These schools were very different from modern kung fu schools. It was not possible, like today to just walk into the schools, watch the training and join the class. For outsiders it was impossible to enter school. In order to be accepted as a student someone must be teacher’s relative or to have someone who would be a guarantee for his character and behavior. Being a member of kung fu school was not only extremely expensive but it was also a great honor. Criteria for nonfamily members to be accepted as students were extremely high.
Leung Jan had several students. Most of them were his relatives and also rich as much as he was , actually only three of his students were not his relatives. All of his students were members of his social class, all except one.  Man known as Au Tzu was from the lower social class. He could not afford extremely high tuition fees but he had great desire to learn and practice kung fu. He finally found a job in Leung Jan’s clinic and worked as some sort of assistant. After some time , seeing how big was Au Tzu’s desire to practice Wing Chun , Leung Jan made an exception and accepted him as a student. Au Tzu was a good student, he practiced passionately and reached high level of proficiency.  However , as much as he was good and serious practitioner he could not fit with other students . The social and cultural gap was to deep and eventually Au Tzu started to show open hate toward other students . His practical jokes at some point reached such a level that Leung Jan was forced to expel him from school. At that time , member of the school was equal to a family member and someone must do something seriously wrong to be expelled . This case was just an example of what will Wing Chun become some 100 years later, when Wing Chun becomes available to anyone and everyone.

 Third story

In early 50s in Hong Kong , running away from communists who just took over China, arrived Yip Man. He lost everything and the only way to support himself financially was to open a Wing Chun school. While there is no doubt he was very knowledgeable and  he made some significant changes in the art which made it more acceptable for wider population he was also responsible for further degradation of the art.
Yip Man wrote his version of “History” of the art .The most significant part of that is about his supposed last teacher, Leung Bik. Whether or not Leung Bik existed is not important, it is a custom in Chinese martial arts to choose legendary ancestor , real or mythological . It is also not important whether Leung Bik (who ever that person might have been) really taught Yip Man or not. What is important is a message sent through that short part of the story. Yip Man was the only representative of his lineage in Hong Kong, he could and did, unchallenged to write any version of the style’s history. He basically sent a message that through Leung Bik he got better, more original, more sophisticated version of the art compared to all other people from his lineage. In essence he said that his first teacher, Chan Wah Shun ,was not smart enough to comprehend and learn the complete system. From that point on the linage wars started, from which Yip Man’s style suffered more than any other, and spread like a wild fire all around Wing Chun world . This was a marketing approach which purpose was to gain as much students as possible. I am sure Yip Man didn’t want to case all these nonsense that happened after he died it happened never the less.
Second thing that degraded the art was the fact that only a few of his students actually learned a complete art , or at least what was complete in Yip Man’s system . Maybe 4 or 5 , all the rest had incomplete training . Yip Man didn’t issue rank level certificates and after his death ,everyone who even walked besides his school became a “Grandmaster”. Yip Man worked for money and payed the most attention to those who payed the most , he less fortunate people with less money got what they payed , incomplete system . There is nothing is what Yip Man did , people are now days coming and going from schools all the time , but at least there is some kind of control .
Yip Man started a new era in teaching Wing Chun, and that brought some good but also some very bad things. He opened the door for lies , fake histories , senseless struggle for as much students as possible  and all means are allowed. This struggle brings the worst in people and we have very ugly things done today in the name of the art.

Fourth story

After Bruce Lee died , Wing Chun became planetary popular . Poor Bruce didn’t even cooled down in his grave when a whole bunch of teachers packed their  bags and went all over the world to teach people “bruce lee’s” art.
All these “teachers” , coming in touch with different cultures and way of thinking found themslef in a problem because they didn’t have adequate way to transmit the knowledge . Cultural gap was enormous and old rules of student selection simply were forgotten , everyone could learn , the only important thing was and still is , money. Having in mind that Wing Chn is a sophisticated art and requires certain level of education and intelligence to be properly understood , not everyone was able to learn the complete art. What Yip Man started his students continued , the art was further simplified. To overcome the cultural and language gap “teachers” started to focus only on technical part of the art , on things they can show , that are obvious and they don’t have to explain in depth . Wing Chun became strictly formalized with great numbers of drills, “sections” and “techniques” which looked like a techniques from old Kung fu movies.  In order to spread the art quickly and cover as much territory as possible , “grandmasters” produced a large numbers of local “masters “. Wing Chun , from conceptual art based on reflexes and free fight turned in highly formalized system with enormous number of obligatory exercises which require enormous amount of time to master , yet have no value in real combat . All these things were taught in the most simple way  there is nothing behind these movements , it is what is was shown , wing chun became a collection of “if He attack like this you do this and this and this”. Even the people who claim they do things differently , they actually do not , maybe they have some “deeper “  explanations , but in essence their training is no different from others .
Again , what Yip Man started in Hong Kong reached a pandemic level on the west . Lineage and styles wars started almost immediately and they are lasting for decades. Many people who do not deserve to practice the art became “masters” bringing their own values , ethics and morality or to be precise complete lack of them . Everything is allowed in order to earn more money and gain more followers.

Story five

New generation of students emerged on the west . In the time of internet and fast exchanging of information they are exposed to many things from other arts , especially form so called “internal” ones . They felt something is missing in their arts and they rushed back on the East to learn the missing pieces , but they couldn’t find it because these pieces simply didn’t exist , either Yip Man didn’t teach them or his students didn’t understand them. Having a desire to make their arts “complete’ thy turned to other arts like Tai Chi , Ba Gua , White Crane and started mixing stuff , reinventing the system and claiming they found something long lost and now exclusively found by them. To support their claims they also rewrited history pusing the origin of the art further back in the past falsely beliving (under the influence of Wu Xisa that older is better , more original).This pushed the art further down because not only it is not Wing Chun any more but with complete misunderstanding of the term “internal” they made the art even more unsuitable for fight . Furthermore they mix qigong and claim it is a neigong which are two completely separate things.  This mish-mash of different arts, approaches , traditions , way of training made a Frankenstein monster , but not a large and strong one (like MMA)  small ,weak and funny one .  

субота, 03. јун 2017.

Kung fu challenge matches

Two fighters are standing on the high platform looking each other in the eyes firmly holding their weapons, crowd in trans is standing around the platform waiting for a beginning of a match. The fight is ruthless, fighters can be barely seen under a silver screen from the weapons which is moving so fast . At the end one fighter is falling from the platform, with a sword in his chest, he lost a fight and his life.

This is usual scene in many martial movies and it is wildly believed it is true. There are many stories about death matches from the past and as a rule, ancestors who founded particular art won numerous death duels. But is there any truth to this stories or it is just another fictional thing taken from grated from the movies and became a part of “history”?
We know very little about martial arts history before Ching dynasty period .Martial arts were unavailable for common people and were reserved only for military forces. Also martial arts looked quite different from today , focus was on weapon training and fighting in organized groups , empty hands techniques , even if they exist ( mostly no one practiced that ) were rudimentary and used only as an quick introduction and preparation for weapon training. There is a good reason for that situation. Most of people were simple peasants who worked all day in the fields. Agricultural technology was on such a level that relied on manual labor and domestic animals as power source. Also food production was barely sufficient to support basic needs of the population. Famine was regular and a lot of people died from hunger during long Chinese history. It is obvious that majority of population simply had no time nor energy to practice martial arts. Of course, ruling class didn’t want to have their subjects ready and prepared for fighting. Martial art training was reserved for army not only because political reasons but also economical, weapons and equipment were expensive as well as food, living quarters ect. We also have to have in mind that average life span in China was quite short until recent time . It didn’t pass 40 years of age in 1950’s and it was significantly shorter in earlier periods. Spending time on mastering useless skills of empty hands fighting which has no value on battle field was something no one did. People learned what was useful on the field of battle, weapons skills, fighting in organized groups, use of shields and armor ect. In these condition death duels were impossible , there is no army in the world in any given which would allow any kind of duels or challenges  , especially not death duels among soldiers ,that would lead to total anarchy and chaos .
Situation in martial arts changed in 19th century significantly. First , fire arms replaced old weapons in Chinese army. Training shifted to new direction and many of the old skills were simply abandoned and forgotten. On social level, although still feudal country China was under great influence of the western culture and old social norms and way life changed gradually in new direction. Martial arts were no longer reserved only for military. Civilians started to practice martial arts and with very specific reason, several groups of people practiced martial arts, bodyguards ,caravan escort ,bounty hunters and police. Of course they also practice mostly with weapons and martial styles were still not defined and formed in the way we know them today. From the middle of the 19th century, old martial styles changed focus and started to develop empty hands techniques. Also martial arts were something like sports cars are today, a sign of social status. Still, martial arts were marginal activity reserved for people who needed them for work and rich people who could afford them. Of course, civilians were not allowed to carry weapons and only people with government permission could carry and use weapons (body guards , bounty hunters …) . So were there any challenge matches or death duels? No, we have no records of such a thing for several reasons. First, these kind of things were forbidden by law and punishments for breaking the law were extremely cruel at the time. Second, people who put their lives on the line in every day work had no need to prove anything , they had a lot of opportunity to test their skills in life threatening situations on daily bases, if someone was stupid enough to challenge these people would probably shot at the spot or simply disappear . No one worked alone and people protected their own, their lives depended on that, challenging one member of the group ( caravan guard companies , bounty hunters or bodyguards groups ) was finger into the  eye of the whole group . These kind of jobs were more than often family business and even when they weren’t, these groups operated in way similar to modern organized crime groups, challenging one of the members was something that would not happen lightly. People who practiced martial arts as a sign of social status had no desire to fight especially not to the death, first , they were not professional fighters , they had other occupations and martial arts were just a hobby , and also an opportunity to socialize with the members of the same class, even today , traditional martial clubs on Taiwan are more social clubs than martial training places , so they had no skill nor experience to participate in such a competitions . Second , just like today , people who have enough wealth do not go to fight in the cage , rich people from the past didn’t fight in any challenge matches , they had nothing to gain but they could lose a lot . They could lose their lives, health and if caught they could lose their wealth.
Before Taiping rebellion we have no records of any challenges or death duels. After Taiping rebellion when things settle down, social and political climate changed, martial arts changed and competition started. Competition started because new social establishment came to existence, for the first time in history martial arts schools, in a form we know them today started to operate and some of them gathered a lot of students. Although majority of the people still lived in a very poor condition, more people could earn enough to join martial schools and more people worked better payed and not so physically exhausting jobs. Those famous wooden platforms from Hong Kong action movies were actually competition grounds, something like octagon today. People fought for fame and money. Like every competition, these also had rules and although there were pretty brutal, they were not much different from today’s MMA competitions, even the rules were pretty much the same. Many people got seriously injured but there is no record someone was killed in any of these events.  

After fall of the Ching dynasty and establishing the republic martial arts became an important part of social and more important cultural identity of new China. Martial arts were promoted and supported by the government. At this period , martial arts became serious business and like any other business people didn’t choose means to reach their goals. There was a lot of fighting between schools in this period but these fights were not challenge matches by any means but rather street fights where usually several members of one school  would beat up a member of the other school , or there were mass street fights between members of different schools. Challenge fights form action moves, where anyone could just walk into the school and challenge a master to the fight never happened, such an action would most likely result in serious beating by the members of the school. 
Challenge fights are excellent example how strong is the influence from popular media, Something invented for the entertaining purposes became so popular that people started to believe it is a part of the real history and today very few people would know the actual truth about challenge fights .

среда, 03. мај 2017.

Secret technique

After a years of training an old master invites his pupil to follow him , after a while , on a special place a master reveals a secret and deadly technique to his student making him invincible . Secret technique was passed down from generation to generation to only one chosen student to keep it and pass the knowledge further when the time comes. The technique was invented by a famous ancestor who fought many battles for justice and freedom  and it can be used only as the last resort in fight to defend oppressed and misfortunate who cannot defend them self .
This is a general plot for many kung fu movies and Wuxia novels , a righteous hero after a futile effort to reach justice is usually taught some secret powerful technique by an old master and with that knowledge he can finally defeat evil .
Stories about secret techniques have real historical foundation. Martial arts in the past were marginal activity reserved for army, police and mercenaries of all kinds( bodyguards , bounty hunters , caravan guards , ect) . Martial arts and martial skills were an occupation, a source of income and fighting systems were not even shown lightly to an outsiders, giving up the secrets of the system was contra productive in economical sense and also could be potentially dangerous in possible future confrontation . People from one school of fighting generally didn’t know anything about other styles.
Today , situation is completely different and martial artists realized that the best way to improve their systems is to be open and exchange experience with other people. Having a secret techniques today is a nonsense, simply because there are no secrets any more , and those secret , closed systems , although still exist are declining and are on the way of extinction .
Today , “secret” knowledge is only used in certain kind of schools to attract people who still believe in old legends and mix fiction with reality . Secret techniques in a sense of something technical that no one else knows and will make someone a formidable fighter is , forgive me for being blunt , are pure crap . Martial excellence is a consequence of hard training not some secret movement unknown to anyone else.
So ,are there secrets in kung fu today . The answer is yes and no . No , because nothing is hidden , everything is open , on the plain sight , the only requirement is dedication and hard work. And yes , there are secrets , but not in a sense mentioned above.

There are things in kung fu that cannot be explained by words , they come after years of dedicated training and are highly personal experiences , different for each practitioner . Depends of the style or the goal in training , these things can be related to physical or mental or even spiritual transformation and change . Some of these achievements are often called qi , sometimes something else , but it is not possible to define them or explain them , simply , either practitioner is on the level to feel them or not , he can perform something or not , simple as that . In that sense there are secrets , because talking to someone who doesn’t have a proper experience is useless , either will person dismiss claims as false , and won’t believe it is possible , or will try to force the achievement which is completely wrong and contra productive

уторак, 11. април 2017.

How kung fu came to Taiwan

Taiwan is the last oasis of traditional Chinese martial arts. Why and how Taiwan got the  most important role in preserving traditional kung fu and Chinese culture in general was written in one of the previous articles . The question remains , who and when actually brought kung fu to the island .
Taiwan has very long history , first human settlements date back almost 30 000 years . Aboriginal tribes lived (and fought among them self and intruders) for a very long time, but what kind of martial arts , if any they develop  is still unknown .  Aboriginal tribes are very closed social groups with little interaction with outsiders.
Dutch traders arrived on the island in 1623 to use the island as a base for Dutch commerce with Japan and the coastal areas of China. The Dutch East India Company  built Fort Zeelandia on the coastal islet of Tainan. The Spanish established a settlement at Santísima Trinidad, building Fort San Salvador on the northwest coast of Taiwan near Keelung in 1626 which they occupied until 1642 when they were driven out by a joint Dutch–Aborigine invasion force. They also built a fort in Tamsui (1628) but had already abandoned it by 1638.
The Dutch built a second administrative castle on the main island of Taiwan in 1633 and set out to  turn Taiwan into a Dutch colony. Dutch ruled Taiwan around 40 years and for that time they killed , enslaved , relocated and tortured domestic population on every possible way. But was going to change soon , unfortunately , not for the better for aboriginal tribes .
First Chinse settlers were forced to come to Taiwan in the time when Dutch established their rule over parts of the island.  Person responsible for first wave of settlers was  Zheng Zhilong (鄭芝龍), a pirate and  merchant ,and a father of Zeng Chenggong (Koxinga) ,who patrolled the waters of the East and South China Seas. Hard times for the over-crowded lands of Fujian province as well as the encroaching Manchus pushed him to begin promoting the population of Taiwan with Fujianese farmers. He even sold his own people to the Dutch as indentured servants as a means to get poor people out of Fujian and onto Taiwan. His son will adopt this idea and lead first big wave of settlers to Taiwan some time later and it was him ,Zeng Chenggong who actually brought kung fu to Taiwan .
So who was Zeng Chenggong ? Zheng Sen was born on Aug. 28, 1624, in Hirado, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan, to Zheng Zhilong, a Chinese merchant and pirate, and a Japanese woman, recorded only by her surname Tagawa , although today it promoted by Japanese school of history that she was a daughter on feudal lord of Hirado area.His mother was a reason why Koxinga became such an enemy to Manchuirans who raped her and killed her. He was raised by his mother until the age of seven with the Japanese name Fukumatsu and then moved to Nan'an county in Quanzhou in Fujian province of China. His father  hired  Confucian scholars to educate Zheng Chenggong, so that he might be able to pass the imperial examinations and in 1638, Zheng became a Xiucai (a successful candidate) in the imperial examination and became one of the twelve Linshansheng (廩膳生) of Nan'an. In 1641, Koxinga married the niece of Dong Yangxian, an official who was a Jinshi from Hui'an. In 1644, Koxinga studied at the Imperial Nanking University the main Chinese university of the Ming Dynasty., where he met and became a student of the scholar Qian Qianyi.
The end of the Ming dynasty was  marked by natural disasters, climatic change, plagues and rebellions. These events weakened the Ming rule and finally led to its fall. One of the first big blows was an earthquake in Shaanxi in 1556 that is thought to be the deadliest earthquake in history. It is thought that about 800,000 people died then. It is estimated that it measured 8 on the Richter scale. The earthquake killed about 30 percent of the people in Xi'an.During the early 1600s, there were an unusually large number of earthquakes also. From 1621 to 1627 there were two earthquakes above 7 on the Richter scale.Then in the 1590s, a Japanese Shogun tried to conquer the region. Two Japanese campaigns failed, but the war was very costly for the Ming court. It was thought that the court paid 26,000,000 ounces of silver to pay for this war. In the first half of the 1600s, famines became common in northern China because of unusually dry and cold weather that shortened the growing season. The change of climate occurred throughout the world and is called the Little Ice Age. Connected to the dry and cold climate, there were also large floods. Finally, a great epidemic started in 1641. It isn't known how many died from the plague, but the victims were counted in millions . The court didn't have funds to help the people or stop the rebellions. Besides the natural calamities and the rebellions that depleted the court's money, the empire faced a monetary crisis.
People rebelled in various places. Many peasants were starving and unable to pay their taxes, and they were no longer in fear of the Ming court. They began to form large rebel bands.A peasant soldier named Li Zicheng (1606–1645) mutinied with his fellow soldiers in western Shaanxi in the early 1630s after the government failed to ship supplies there. His rebel troops had a base of power in Hubei.In the 1640s, another ex-soldier named Zhang Xianzhong (1606–1647) created a rival rebel base in Chengdu in Sichuan Province.In 1644, Li Zicheng's troops were allowed into Beijing when someone opened the gates for him to enter. The last Ming emperor hanged himself on a tree.
Zhu Yujian (1602-1646) was a descendent of Zhu Jing 朱桱, Prince of Tang 唐王, one of the many sons of Emperor Taizu 明太祖 (r. 1368-1398), the founder of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). He inherited the title of his father in 1632. In 1644, when the rebel Li Zicheng 李自成 advanced to the capital Beijing he offered military support to the central government and, without awaiting a response, set his troops into movement. For this disobedience he was demoted to the position of commoner. Yet a few months later he was pardoned.
After the Hongguang Emperor (r. 1644-1645)  killed himself  in 1645, the officials Zheng Hongkui , Zheng Zhilong and Huang Daozhou urged Zhu Yujian to adopt the title of emperor of the Ming. At that time he resided in Fuzhou , Fujian, and chose the reign motto Longwu 隆武 "Abundant Martiality". His empire formally comprised most Chinese provinces south of the Yangtse River, but he had a rival, namely Zhu Yihai , the Prince of Lu , who also aspired to become emperor of the Ming. The continued campaigns against the Manchu invasion of northern China devoured huge sums of money that was pressed out of the people. Yet general Zheng Zhilong had not the intention to shed so much blood and decided, together with Hong Chengchou to contact the Manchu generals for negotiations. The Longwu Emperor fled to Dingzhou in southern Fujian, where he was captured and executed.
Koxinga and his uncles were left as the successors to the leadership of Zheng Zhilong's military forces .He used the superiority of his naval forces to launch amphibious raids on Manchu-occupied territory in Fujian and he managed to take Tong'an in Quanzhou prefecture in early 1647. However, Koxinga's forces lacked the ability to defend the newly occupied territory .Following the fall of Tong'an to Zheng, the Manchus launched a counterattack in the spring of 1647, during which they stormed the Zheng family's hometown of Anping. Koxinga's mother, Lady Tagawa who came from Japan in 1645 to join her family in Fujian was caught by Manchu forces in Anping and committed suicide ( or according to some sources raped and killed by her captors) after refusal to submit to the enemy.
During 1650”s Koxinga had a lot of successes fighting the Manchus . He established himself as the head of the Zheng family and  pledged allegiance to the only remaining claimant to the throne of the Ming Dynasty, the Yongli Emperor. The Yongli Emperor was fleeing from the Manchus in south-western China and finally went to Burma where he was captured and executed at the end.. Despite one fruitless attempt, Koxinga was unable to do anything to aid the last Ming emperor. Instead, he decided to concentrate on securing his own position on the southeast coast. In 1651 and 1652 Koxina had so much successes that Manchus started negotiations with him . Negotiations finally filed in 1654 and Manchus launched another attack on Fujian province in 1656 but the attack failed and Ming loyalist prevailed. Finally Koxinga was forced to leave mainland China pressed by constant Manchu efforts .
On April 30, 1661, Zheng Chenggong besieged the Dutch at Fort Zeelandia  with a force  of 900 ships and 25,000 men. The Dutch held out for one year, waiting for reinforcements and provisions from Batavia. None came and on February 1, 1662, with the fort parched for a lack of fresh drinking water, the Dutch governor of Formosa, Frederik Coyett, surrendered to Zheng Chenggong. Under the terms of the surrender, the Dutch were free to leave with their personal belongings so long as the goods and supplies of the Dutch East India Company were left behind. Coyett’s surrender ended 38 years of Dutch rule on Formosa.
Unfortunately, Zheng Chenggong died a year later, some say of malaria but other reports claim he committed suicide after a series of personal setbacks. Zheng’s son and grandson would succeed him as “Kings of Taiwan” with their capital at Tainan.
Although Chinese settlers came to Taiwan earlier , these people were peasants from Fujian who escaped from war and harsh living conditions or they were forced to come and they had no martial experience . Kung Fu came to Taiwan with Koxinga who brought a large number of experienced warriors and these people permanently stayed on Taiwan developing further their fighting style which were of the outmost importance for their survival .At the time, Taiwan was an inhospitable place. It had never been under the administrative control of any mainland government, and its position at the heart of the Pacific trade routes made it a natural haven for smugglers, pirates, outlaws, and foreign adventurers .The island’s aboriginal inhabitants had already developed a fearsome reputation for hostility to outsiders. And even after Shi Lang’s eventual conquest, when Taiwan for the first time came under direct rule from the mainland, it remained a wild and lawless place . In these conditions  martial skills were more valuable than anything else .

What styles Koxinga’s men brought we will never know. Many styles today trace their origins to Koxinga’s arrival but for the most part these claims cannot be proved. On the other hand Taiwan is a place where some of the rarest and oldest kung fu styles can be found . What we can be sure of is that the first styles were weapon based styles with little or no empty hands techniques . Koxinga himself or his son established a mandatory military practice for settlers and that practice is still preserved as unique martial and cultural phenomena known as Sung Chang Battle array

. People practice how to fight in organized groups which was the most effective way to fight anyone at the time. After Koxinga expelled the Dutch people from Fujian slowly started to come , mostly escaping the Manchu persecution and bringing their martial arts with them . By the end of 1940’s Taiwan will become the most important kung fu place on the world , the place form where the rest of the planet got introduced with Chinese martial arts .

понедељак, 27. март 2017.

The most important weapon in human history

What is the most significant weapon not only in kung fu but in history of human kind. Many will think it is a sword, weapon that in all cultures symbolizes power, protection, authority, strength, and courage, metaphysically, it represents discrimination and the penetrating power of the intellect a symbol of knighthood and chivalry. But there is much older and simpler, utterly more important weapon that won and lost wars and were basic weapon for majority of soldiers of all armies of the world until the end if the World War one.
The weapon this article is about is a spear ,yes, just a simple spear . Spear, a pole weapon with a sharp point, either thrown or thrust at an enemy or prey. It appears in an infinite variety of forms in societies around the world. One of the earliest weapons devised by man, the spear was originally simply a sharpened stick. Primitive peoples used spears primarily as thrown weapons. When military practice evolved from the independent action of individuals to the group movements of masses of soldiers, the spear became a thrusting weapon. It took the form of the pike, the lance, and later the ax-bladed halberd, among other variations.
Spear is probably the first weapon made by man who used technology to build it. Although, human kind used different kind of stones, sharp stones and clubs, spear was the first technologically sophisticated weapon . What is more interesting, first spears were not made by modern man, Homo sapiens and Homo Neanderthals, but by their predecessor spices. First spears were nothing more than a long pointy stick whose top was hardened In the fire. Next, more advanced version of the weapon had a head made from the hard wood and sometimes later, heads made of stone . These first spears were hunting tools and since we know people fought much before recorded history times it is safe to assume it was used as a weapon .Analysis of 210 stone tools from the site of Kathu Pan in South Africa shows that people were probably hunting with stone-tipped spears by about 460,000 years ago, roughly 200,000 years earlier than previously believed. The study, led by University of Toronto doctoral candidate Jayne Wilkins, confirmed that the tools had broken in ways similar to other stone spear points that have been thrust or thrown into the bodies of animals. In addition, 23 of the tools appear to have been thinned at their bases to make them easier to attach to the shaft of a spear. From 200,000 BC, Middle Paleolithic humans began to make complex stone blades with flaked edges which were used as spear heads. These stone heads could be fixed to the spear shaft by gum or resin or by bindings made of animal sinew, leather strips or vegetable matter. During this period, a clear difference remained between spears designed to be thrown and those designed to be used in hand-to-hand combat
 Spear manufacture and use is not confined to human beings. It is also practiced by the western chimpanzee. Chimpanzees near Kédougou, Senegal have been observed to create spears by breaking straight limbs off trees, stripping them of their bark and side branches, and sharpening one end with their teeth. They then used the weapons to hunt galagos sleeping in hollows. Orangutans also have used spears to fish, presumably after observing humans fishing in a similar manner. This fact opens a possibility that humans predecessors used similar simple tools almost five million years ago.
As the technology progressed, spears changed, first they got bronze and later iron and steel heads. With a beginning of civilization spears development goes in two direction, one is military and the second is hunting , fishing and is some cases spears played a role in religious rituals.

First human civilization appeared in middle east , developed in the region known as Mesopotamia between 4500 and 3100 BCE. The city of Uruk, today considered the oldest in the world, was first settled in c. 4500 BCE and walled cities, for defense, were common by 2900 BCE throughout the region. The city of Eridu, close to Uruk, was considered the first city in the world by the Sumerians. The first historical evidence of army organization comes from the Middle Eastern Sumerian empire. Figurines from the 4th millennium BC show foot soldiers in copper helmets and heavy cloaks carrying short spears. 

The almost constant wars among the Sumerian city-states for 2000 years helped to develop the military technology and techniques of Sumer to a high level. The first war recorded was between Lagash and Umma in ca. 2525 BC on a stele called the Stele of Vultures.

Sumerian spear heads 

It shows the king of Lagash leading a Sumerian army consisting mostly of infantry. The infantrymen carried spears, wore copper helmets and carried leather or wicker shields. The spearmen are shown arranged in what resembles the phalanx formation, which requires training and discipline; this implies that the Sumerians may have made use of professional soldiers.


During the Old and Middle Kingdom of Egypt's Dynastic period, it typically consisted of a pointed blade made of copper or flint that was attached to a long wooden shaft by a tang. However, in the New Kingdom, bronze blades became more common, attached to the shaft by means of a socket. These conventional spears were made for throwing or thrusting, but there was also a form of spear (halberd) which was fitted with an axe blade and thus used for cutting and slashing.

Bronze spear head from ancient Egypt

The spear was used in Egypt since the earliest times for hunting larger animals, such as lions. In its form of javelin (throwing spears) it was displaced early on by the bow and arrow. Because of its greater weight, the spear was better at penetration than the arrow, but in a region where armor consisted mostly of shields, this was only a slight advantage. On the other hand, arrows were much easier to mass produce.
Wooden figures found in the tomb of Mesehti: Egyptian army of the 11th Dynasty

In war it never gained the importance among Egyptians which it was to have in classical Greece, where phalanxes of spear carrying citizens fought each other. During the New Kingdom it was often an auxiliary weapon of the charioteers, who were thus not left unarmed after spending all their arrows. It was also most useful in their hands when they chased down fleeing enemies stabbing them in their backs. Amenhotep II's victory at Shemesh-Edom in Canaan is described at Karnak:" ...... Behold His Majesty was armed with his weapons, and His Majesty fought like Set in his hour. They gave way when His Majesty looked at one of them, and they fled. His majesty took all their goods himself, with his spear..... "
Karnak Stela of Amenhotep II W.M. Flinders Petrie A History of Egypt, Part Two, p.155

The spear was appreciated enough to be depicted in the hands of Ramesses III killing a Libyan. It remained short and javelin like, just about the height of a man, unlike the Macedonian lance of later times which was three to four times as long.

Assyrian empire

Assyrian army was a ruthlessly efficient fighting machine. Located in the north of modern-day Iraq, Assyria was constantly at war, either with its great rival Babylon in the south, or with one of the smaller surrounding nations. Compared to their adversaries, the Assyrian soldiers were better trained, better organized and better equipped: Their weapons were among the deadliest the world had ever seen.

                                                                  Assyrian spear heads 

At a time when most cultures still made their weapons from bronze, even the lowliest Assyrian infantryman was armed with iron weapons that were sharper, stronger and lighter than their bronze counterparts. The basic infantry weapon was the spear, consisting of a wooden shaft tipped with a lethal iron spearhead. For close combat, the men also carried short iron swords and daggers. Protection was provided by a variety of shield types, including tall ones made from leather or plaited reeds, and smaller circular ones consisting of a wooden disk faced with a thin layer of bronze.

Old Greece

The primary weapon of Greek army was almost 3 meters long spear ,known as Dory pared with a big round shield. Greek soldiers or Hoplites soldiers utilized the phalanx formation in order to be effective in war with fewer soldiers ,which has been proven as an excellent tactics and was used with more or less modification throughout the history by all armies until the invention of fire arms . Hoplites, named after their shield, the hoplon which were heavy, bronze-covered wooden shields about 1 to 1.1 meter in diameter. It spanned from chin to knee and was very heavy (10 to 15 kilos). 
                                                           Athenian hoplite

These shields had a revolutionary design; their rounded shape allowed them to be rested on the shoulder for additional support. The Greek warriors overlapped their shields, forming a shield wall. The left part of each warrior’s shield protected the right side of the hoplite to his left. A phalanx would consist of rows of spear-armed hoplites, all protecting each other and presenting a wall of shields and spear points towards their enemies. The first two rows of a phalanx were able to stab at opponents with their spears that protruded from between the shields. The first three rows, or ranks, of a phalanx could stab their opponents, while the back ranks would brace the front rows, prevent the front rows from retreating and support the all-important cohesion of the formation. 
                                                    Ancient Macedonian Soldiers 

Phalanxes could be 4, 8, 16 or more men deep, up to 50 rows in some extraordinary instances. This made the back rows relatively safe, giving them little reason to flee a battle, while the front rows were pressed between their own forces and an enemy bent on killing them. Yet, to the honor-driven Greek warriors, the front was where they wanted to be! In their martial culture, warriors sought glory in battle, and a general placed his best men in the front ranks.

Old Rome
The Roman military was the most successful and powerful in history, dominating the Western world for over a thousand years. The core of Rome’s military strength lay in the professionalism of their heavy infantry. A force that was organized and reorganized as it evolved and adapted to survive the assaults of different enemies. One of the essential roman weapons was throwing spear Pilum . The total weight of a pilum was between 2 and 5 kilograms. The iron shank was the key to the function of the pilum. The weapon had a hard pyramidal tip but the shank was made of softer iron. 

This softness would cause the shank to bend after impact, thus rendering the weapon useless to the enemy who might throw it back. However, there are many cases where the whole shank was hardened, making the pilum more suitable as a close quarters melee weapon, which also made it useful for enemy soldiers to pick it up and throw it back. More importantly, if the pilum struck a shield it might embed itself and thus the bending of the shank would force the enemy to discard it as they might waste time trying to pull it out in the middle of combat. Even if the shank did not bend, the pyramidal tip still made it difficult to pull out. Pilum was constructed to use the weight of the weapon to cause damage, most likely to be able to impale through armor and reach the enemy soldier's body. The combination of the weapon's weight and the aforementioned pyramidal tip, allowed the pilum to be a formidable armor-piercing weapon.

Medieval period

The main weapon of the medieval period was the spear, not only for peasants but also for professional soldiers and even the noblemen. The spear was more effective at downing a charging wild boar because the blade created a wider, more lethal wound. It was equally as effective in battle, ripping holes in chainmail and armour. The spear is a relatively low in cost compared to a sword or axe. A medieval spear was relatively easy to use and very light in weight. Spears could also be quickly manufactured and can be used at a considerable distance from the target or enemy.
                                             Spears and pole weapons evolved from spears 

Spears began to lose fashion among the infantry in the 14th. Century, being replaced by pole weapons which evolved from simple spear by combined the thrusting properties of the spear with the cutting properties of the axe, such as the halberd . Spears were retained they grew in length, eventually evolving into pikes and wide variety of  other pole weapons  which would be a dominant infantry weapon in the 16th. and 17th. centuries.

Spear in China

Spear is used in China (and all over Asia) since stone age and had similar path of development  and usage as it had in Europe and the rest of the world . The Qiang class of spears were believed to have evolved from the prehistoric spear that was known as the ‘Mao’. The common Qiang could be described as a spear that had a long staff, and had a steel, iron, or bronze mounted tip. The ‘Mao’ was a weapon that was used since prehistoric times. It was upgraded, according to the need, into many types of Qiang class spears during the Shang Dynasty (17th century BC – 11th century BC). At that time, the Qiang had a bronze tip. By the end of the Zhou Dynasty of Eastern China (770 BC – 256 BC), it was replaced with a steel tip. This weapon was so effective, that by the end of the Western Han Dynasty, the Qiang had replaced the Chinese halberd known as the ji. The Qiang was used by the Chinese army for long distance combat that involved throwing these spears, even after firearms were introduced by the Qin Dynasty.

Chinese spears helbards and pikes 

The same as it was happened in Europe , halberd was developed in China by evolving common spear , the only difference is , in China this kind of weapon was invented much earlier . Ji is a weapon with a steel or bronze tip mounted on the end of a long shaft, next to which is attached a curved blade. Because of the attachment of the curved blade, the weapon can be used to both stab and slash. The shaft of ji used in chariots is longer than those used by infantry and cavalry. When two curved blades are attached on opposite sides of the tip, the weapon is referred to as double ji.

Ji was first used during the Shang Dynasty (17th century BC-11th century BC), when it was made of bronze. It was popularized during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770 BC-256 BC), when it was made of steel instead. By the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), it fell out of use in war, and by the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589) it was replaced in its entirety by qiang (spear). Afterwards, it was used only as a weapon carried by ceremonial guards and as a weapon for martial artists.

Spear found its place in legends and myths all around the world and was a weapon of heros and  antiheroes, certainly the most famous spear is "spear of destiny"                                                    

Spear of destiny 

The Holy Lance, also known as the Holy Spear, the Spear of Destiny or the Lance of Longinus, according to the Gospel of John, is the lance that pierced the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross.According to legend who ever posses the spear will any war and can never loose .

 List of magical Spears

  • Ama-no-Saka-hoko (Heavenly Upside Down Spear) is an antique and mysterious spear, staked by Ninigi-no-Mikoto at the summit of Takachiho-no-mine, where he and his divine followers first landed, according to the legend of Tenson kōrin. (Japanese mythology)
  • Amenonuhoko (Heavenly Jewelled Spear), the naginata used by the Shinto deities Izanagi and Izanami to create the world - also called tonbogiri. (Japanese mythology)
  • Aram, the spear of Jangar. (Mongol mythology)
  • Areadbhar (also Areadbhair), belonged to Pisear, king of Persia. Its tip had to be kept immersed in a pot of water to keep it from igniting, a property similar to the Lúin of Celtchar. (Irish mythology)
  • Ascalon, the spear that St. George used to kill a dragon in Beirut and saving a princess from being sacrificed by the town. (Christian mythology)
  • Brionac, the spear of Lugh that was said to be impossible to overcome. (Celtic mythology)
  • Crann Buidhe, the spear of Manannán. (Irish mythology)
  • Del ChlissCú Chulainn's spear that first belonged to Nechtan Scéne, and used to kill the sons of Nechtan Scéne. Formerly the name for the charioteer's goad, a split piece of wood. (Irish mythology)
  • Gáe Buide (Yellow Shaft), a yellow spear that can inflict wounds from which none could recover. The spear of Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, given to him by Aengus. (Irish mythology)
  • Gáe Bulg, the spear of Cú Chulainn. (Irish mythology)
  • Gae Assail (Spear of Assal), the spear of Lugh, the incantation "Ibar (Yew)" made the cast always hit its mark, and "Athibar (Re-Yew)" caused the spear to return. (Irish mythology)
  • Gáe Derg (Red Javelin), a red spear that can destroy any magic that touches its pointed head. The spear of Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, given to him by Aengus. (Irish mythology)
  • Green Dragon Crescent Blade, a legendary weapon wielded by Guan Yu in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It is a guandao, a type of traditional Chinese weapon. It is also sometimes referred to as the Frost Fair Blade, from the idea that during a battle in the snow, the blade continuously had blood on it; the blood froze and made a layer of frost on the blade. (Chinese mythology)
  • GungnirOdin's spear created by the dwarf Dvalinn. The spear is described as being so well balanced that it could strike any target, no matter the skill or strength of the wielder. (Norse mythology)
  • Gunnar's AtgeirGunnar's atgeir would make a ringing sound or "sing" when it was taken down in anticipation of bloodshed. (Norse mythology)
  • Jiuchidingpa (Nine-tooth Iron Rake), the primary weapon of Zhu Bajie. (Chinese mythology)
  • Lúin of Celtchar (also Spear of Fire or Spear of Destiny), a spear forged by the Smith of Falias for Lugh to use in his fight against Balor. (Irish mythology)
  • Maltet, the name of the spear of Baligant from The Song of Roland. (French folklore)
  • Nihongo, is one of three legendary Japanese spears created by the famed swordsmith Masazane Fujiwara. A famous spear that was once used in the Imperial Palace. Nihongo later found its way into the possession of Masanori Fukushima, and then Tahei Mori. (Japanese mythology)
  • Octane Serpent SpearZhang Fei's spear from the Three Kingdoms period in China. (Chinese mythology)
  • Otegine, is one of three legendary Japanese spears created by the famed swordsmith Masazane Fujiwara. (Japanese mythology)
  • Rhongomiant, the spear of King Arthur that he used to defeat the legendary Sir Thomas of Wolford. (Arthurian legend)
  • Spear of Achilles, created by Hephaestus and given to Peleus at his wedding with Thetis. (Greek mythology)
  • Spear of Fuchai, the spear used by Goujian's arch-rival King Fuchai of Wu. (Chinese mythology)
  • Tonbokiri, is one of three legendary Japanese spears created by the famed swordsmith Fujiwara no Masazane, said to be wielded by the legendary daimyō Honda Tadakatsu. The spear derives its name from the myth that a dragonfly landed on its blade and was instantly cut in two. Thus Tonbo (Japanese for "dragonfly") and kiri (Japanese for "cutting"), translating this spear's name as "Dragonfly Slaying spear". (Japanese mythology)
  • Yueyachan (Crescent-Moon-Shovel), a Monk's spade that is the primary weapon of Sha Wujing. A double-headed staff with a crescent-moon (yuèyá) blade at one end and a spade (chǎn) at the other, with six xīzhàng rings in the shovel part to denote its religious association. (Chinese mythology)