уторак, 20. фебруар 2018.

True path of mastery

When the training starts student learns the basics, stances, hand positions, kicks and punches, proper body structure and power generation. At the very beginning things cannot be more complicated. To adjust all these little details in order to perform even a seemingly simple movement, even very slowly, looks impossible. Kung fu in general and especially Southern styles are notorious for the amount of small anatomical details that should be kept in correct position and executed in particular sequence in order to perform “something” correctly. This can cause a lot of stress for newcomers. After a while, students get better control of their body and are able to perform basic movements correctly and in full speed. Along the way, practitioners learn why they perform all those in particular way, what are practical (fighting) and bio-mechanical reasons, what principles and tactics are behind them and often some other factors are included like Qi Gong.
Next phase in training brings drills with a partner which brings new level of skill and understanding of practitioners own body. These drills brings better understanding and reinforce concepts of the art already introduced to students.
As the training progresses new skills are introduced and students gain more knowledge and understanding of their chosen art. Footwork, combat drills, light sparring bring deeper understanding of the concepts and principles of the art and how to develop them in fighting.
At the end of the training or along the way, depends of the style practitioners learn how to use traditional weapons which give them wider understanding and deeper insight in their chosen style.
Different styles have different curriculums and different approach to training. Every student has its own goals and expectation from training and these goals draw students to different arts and different teachers. To learn complete curriculum of the style, to complete the art requires a lot of hard work. Of course every style has its own characteristics which make him distinctively different from all others. These characteristics are shown not only in physical form, the way how the movements are performed but also in combat tactics and basic concepts of body mechanics. Every style has its specific vocabulary, customs, background, history and culture. All these things are inseparable parts of every art and they influence practitioners in various ways, not only physical but also psychologically, culturally …
This influence is in its core neither good nor bad, it is simply necessary for completion of the style. Learn and practice all the content of the style, not only physically but follow the patterns of thinking and resolving the problems drawn from the fighting principles of the art will greatly influence the practitioner. Usually, this influence is quite positive, at least for the better part of the training. The problem may occur after the completion of
the style. Just knowing the curriculum, even have a great physical skill and even knowing and understanding the art’s concepts deeply is not enough for true mastery.
To pass the knowledge, teachers need methodology and teaching tools. Using these tools and methodology teachers explain how the systems works, why it is used in certain way and when to use a particular part of the system. Also they are used to develop necessary physical attributes for mastering the art.
Like it was said before all this is necessary to teach and train the practitioner to a certain level of skill and knowledge. When that level is finally reached the true journey of the martial artist has begun. We have to aware of the fact that traditional martial arts stopped to be purely fighting orientated and for the last 100 years or more they have grown into something more and surpassed their original purpose. Today, traditional martial arts are also a way of self-development, some concentrate of sports and competition, some are used as a system of healing and maintaining good health, some even have religious or spiritual elements, some are purely concentrated on movement’s esthetic and many other things. All this different paths are equally important and valid.

When the practitioner reach the “master” level he has to choose which way he wants to go. Many practitioners decide to preserve the art in the form they learned it from their teacher and do not want to change it even a bit. While this is a valid choice as any other it may not be the best one. Times changes as well as people, society and environment , martial arts either follow this changes and adapt or disappear like many traditional arts were lost when big shift in society and technology took over China after Taiping rebellion , or many old styles are on the brink of extinction on Taiwan because teachers cannot adjust to modern times. All these training methods and approaches established by previous generations at some point can become an obstruction, a limiting factor in personal growth and development. True mastery, at least according to some teachers, is when accomplished student uses the art in his distinctive way to express him self completely and differently from all other. Exploring and discovering , not just preserving and transmitting  that a true mastery. Finding new ways to use the art, expanding the boundaries and eliminating the limiting factors of the system, following the path of research, trials, experiments that is what true mastery means. Sometimes masters will come with completely new art, sometimes they will change the art so much that it will look totally different from the original art they have learned and sometimes they will make a full circle and return to the original system with completely different understanding and explanations. There are many different paths in traditional martial arts, each and every one of them is correct if chosen with full understanding of the system and clear goal in mind . 

уторак, 06. фебруар 2018.

Qi Gong in Wing Chun step

Qi is in everything …in a breath, voice, movement…Qi is life its self. But what is Qi actually? This term is very difficult to explain, especially to the people from the western cultural background. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and more, one of the most important tools which helped ancient Chinese to understand and explain how the world function. Qi is energy in the very broadest sense possible. Qi is universal .Qi embraces all manifestations of energy, from the most material aspects of energy (such as the earth beneath your feet, your computer, and flesh and blood) to the most immaterial aspects (light, movement, heat, nerve impulses, thought, and emotion).Life, it is said in the Chinese medical classics, is a gathering of Qi. A healthy (and happy) human being is a dynamic but harmonious mixture of all the aspects of Qi that make up who we are. Qi is in a state of continuous flux, transforming endlessly from one aspect of Qi into another. It is neither created nor is it ever destroyed; it simply changes in its manifestation.
 In some sense Qi was integral part of martial arts since the beginning , because movement does not exist without  Qi. On the other hand, Qi Gong became integral part of Chinese martial arts in second half of 19th century. The social role of Kung Fu changed at that time and its development took very different path from any martial training before that time. Qi Gong became part of martial systems and some styles transformed in more or less completely Qi Gong based arts while losing martial component almost entirely.
Wing Chun was no exception. Created among “Red Boats” as a perfect system of fighting for closed quarters environment, Wing Chun left the Opera troupe and came into possession of highly educated people who were also a masters of traditional Chinese medicine like Dr. Leung Jan , Law Tiu Wen and others … While there were attempts to put Qi Gong back in history of the style much further, there are no evidence that Qi Gong was a part of the system before 1860’s or even later.

Not all Wing Chun styles and lineages have Qi Gong as a part of the system. Some styles have separate Qi Gong sets which are not part of any Wing Chun form, some styles refer to the first section of the first form as a Qi Gong set and some have no Qi Gong at all.  
While first section of the first form certainly can be done as a Qi Gong exercise that is definitely not all that Wing Chun has to offer to the serious practitioner. All forms are in essence Qi Gong exercises if done properly. Of course, there are slight differences in doing forms for purely martial purposes and doing it as Qi Gong exercises. These differences are undetectable for untrained eye but there are slight adjustments in tempo, breathing, body structure ect. These small details are crucial for developing a proper flow of Qi through the body. What is the most interesting part , these small adjustments have also martial purposes and can make punches and blocks stronger, improve balance especially during stepping and many others.

For example, second section of Chum Kiu form is also a part of Qi Gong system introduced through entire second form. Step in second form is not simply a step it is a precisely defined sequence of constant fine adjustment of the body structure and breathing. These fine muscle movements done in particular sequence which follows breathing and doing fine tuning of the skeleton making particular type of the bones alignment in specific moment activate QI flow . The part of the body known as Qwa in Chinese, during this exercise has not only a purpose to keep structure in order, but with fine adjustment of the Qwa practitioner can change the direction of Qi while stepping. Advanced practitioners can control the amount of the Qi and which part of the body it will be accumulated in particular moment.

Like I said before, all forms taught and done properly are Qi Gong exercises. Of course, proper and very precise adjustments in body structure and the sequence of activating and deactivating specific muscle groups must be made. In Wing Chun , at least in one that I am practicing , Qi Gong and Nei Gong exercises are very close and in few occasions identical and although they have completely different goals and developmental path can support each other in some unusual ways which I am not in liberty to publically explain because if done without direct supervision of qualified instructor can endanger health of the practitioner. Every section of every form can be done as a separate Qi Gong exercise or each form can be done as a complete Qi Gong exercise.


At the beginning practitioner can feel some sudden and I rare cases slightly uncomfortable sensations but in time they stop. While practicing Wing Chun forms as Qi Gong can be very beneficial , doing them without proper and direct guidance of someone who already mastered the forms can give totally opposite results. 

петак, 02. фебруар 2018.

Jade

History of Jade in China

"Jade" is a term used for a very durable ornamental green rock that has been fashioned into tools, sculptures, jewelry, gemstones, and other objects for over 8,000 years. It was first used to manufacture ax heads, weapons, and tools for scraping and hammering because of its toughness. At later time, because some specimens had a beautiful color and could be polished to a brilliant luster, people started to use jade for gemstones, talismans, and ornamental objects.

The name is derived from the Spanish” piedra de la ijada”, which means "stone of the colic." There was a belief that when jade was placed on the stomach, it could cure colic in babies.
Originally, all jade objects were thought to be made from the same material. However, in 1863 , Augustin Alexis Damour (19 July 1808, in Paris – 22 September 1902, in Paris) a French mineralogist who was also interested in prehistory, discovered that the material known as "jade" could be divided into two different minerals: jadeite and nephrite. Because these two materials can be difficult to distinguish, and because the word "jade" is so entrenched in common language, the name "jade" is still widely used across many societies, industries, and academic disciplines.

Nephrite deposits have been found in China, New Zealand, Russia, Guatemala and the Swiss Alps. Dark green jade, so-called Canada jade, is also found in Western Canada. Jadeite is found in China, Russia and Guatemala, but the best stones come from Burma, now known as Myanmar.

Nephrite consists of a microcrystalline interlocking fibrous matrix of the calcium, magnesium-iron rich amphibole mineral series tremolite (calcium-magnesium)-ferroactinolite (calcium-magnesium-iron). The middle member of this series with an intermediate composition is called . The higher the iron content, the greener the colour. Usually ranges in color between white, cream, and dark green.

Jadeite is a sodium- and aluminium-rich pyroxene. The precious form of jadeite jade is a microcrystalline interlocking growth of jadeite crystals. Usually it can be found in various shades of white to dark green, sometimes gray, pink, lilac, red, blue, yellow, orange, black, colored by impurities.

People have used jade for at least 100,000 years. The earliest objects made from jade were tools. Jade is a very hard material and is used as a tool because it is extremely tough and breaks to form sharp edges. "Toughness" is the ability of a material to resist fracturing when subjected to stress. "Hardness" is the ability of a material to resist abrasion. Early toolmakers took advantage of these properties of jade and formed it into cutting tools and weapons. It was used to make axes, projectile points, knives, scrapers, and other sharp objects for cutting. Most jade does not have a color and translucence that is expected in a gemstone. However, when early people found these special pieces of jade, they were often inspired to craft them into a special objects.

Neolitic China

The Neolithic period began in China around 10,000 B.C. and concluded with the introduction of metallurgy about 2,000 B.C. In China, as in other areas of the world, Neolithic settlements grew up along the main river systems. Those that dominate the geography of China are the Yellow river (central and northern China) and the Yangzi river (southern and eastern China).
In Neolithic Age people no longer lived only on collecting foods directly from nature. Instead they began to take up agriculture production and raise livestock: Seeds were used to plant new vegetables; Wild animals were domesticated and their meat cooked for food. The appearance of agriculture and stockbreeding is one of the three features of the Neolithic Age. The other two are that grinding stone implements were started to be made as necessity in the daily life and pottery was invented then.
Ceremonial cong of jade (calcined nephrite), 3rd millennium BCE, Neolithic Liangzhu culture; in the Seattle Art Museum,


 Social development at that time is reflected by the development of pottery craft. In the very beginning, the pottery was simple in craft and patterns without any decoration. Most wares then featured in round and flat bases. Later the pottery was mainly made into red and brown wares with relatively delicate craft. After that, the painted pottery gradually, popular around the area of Yellow River, became the mainstream, among which red pottery and black-grey pottery took a large percent. Another aspect that delineates this age is the appearance of handcraft such as wares made from jade and weaving skills.

At the beginning , the Neolithic cultures developed pretty much independently , in the middle period cultures which were geographically close started to connect and exchange which gradually led to the formation of the first states .
Ceremonial ax 3000 BC

Of all aspects of the Neolithic cultures in China, the use of jade made the most lasting contribution to Chinese civilization. Polished stone implements were common to all Neolithic settlements. Stones to be fashioned into tools, weapons  and ornaments were chosen for their harness and strength to withstand impact and for their appearance. Nephrite, or true jade, is a tough and attractive stone. In the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, particularly in the areas near Lake Tai, where the stone occurs naturally, jade was worked extensively, especially during the last Neolithic phase, the Liangzhu, which flourished in the second half of the third millennium B.C. Liangzhu jade artifacts are made with astonishing precision and care, especially as jade is too hard to “carve” with a knife but must be abraded with coarse sands in a laborious process. The extraordinarily fine lines of the incised decoration and the high gloss of the polished surfaces were technical feats requiring the highest level of skill and patience. Few of the jades in archaeological excavations show signs of wear. They are generally found in burials of privileged persons carefully arranged around the body. Jade axes and other tools transcended their original function and became objects of great social and aesthetic significance.

The Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BCE)

In the Shang dynasty and particularly at Anyang, the craft of jade carving made a notable advance. Ceremonial weapons and fittings for bronze weapons were carved from jade; ritual jades included the bi, cong, and symbols of rank. Plaques and dress ornaments were carved from thin slabs of jade, but there are also small figurines, masks, and birds and animals carved in the round, some of these perhaps representing the earliest examples of spirit vessels”, artistic figures substituted for live victims buried in order to serve the deceased.

Zhou Dynasty. (ca. 1050–256 B.C.)

In the Zhou, production of jade Shang ritual forms was continued and their use systematized. Differently shaped sceptres were used for the ranks of the nobility and as authority for mobilizing troops, settling disputes, declaring peace, and so on. At burial, the seven orifices of the body were sealed with jade plugs and plaques.  The introduction of iron tools and harder abrasives in the Dong (Eastern) Zhou led to a new freedom in carving in the round. Ornamental jades, chiefly in the form of sword and scabbard fittings, pendants, and adornment for clothing, were fashioned into a great variety of animals and birds, chiefly from flat plaques no more than a few millimetres thick.

Qin Dynasty. (221–206 B.C.)

Although short lived, the Qin Dynasty will always be celebrated in Chinese art for at least one achievement - its role in creating the multi-figure terracotta sculpture known as The Terracotta Army, an extraordinary set of military warriors designed to protect the Qin emperor in the afterlife. In general, therefore, Qin cultural activities followed traditions initiated during the time of Shang Dynasty art (1600-1050 BCE) and or the Zhou era (1050-256 BCE). Jade objects were becoming increasingly embellished with animal and other decorative designs. Continuing the work of Zhou carvers who became highly skilled in the creation of detailed relief work  Qin artists push that skill one step further and put that precise work on items like belt-hooks, clasps and plaques that were part of the typical aristocrat's wardrobe.

Han Dynasty. (206 B.C.–220 A.D.)

The most extraordinary jade artworks of the Han Dynasty were the "jade suits" made for deceased nobles to ward off evil spirits in the afterlife. These amazing ensembles, include those for Prince Liu Shen and his wife Princess Dou Wan, made from over 2,000 jade plaques sewn together with as much as almost threequarters of a kilo of gold thread. Another jade suit, fashioned from more than 4,000 plaques, was discovered in the royal tomb of Zhao Mo.

Han dynasty (2nd century BCE - 2 century CE). Made from hundreds of small rectangles of jade stitched together using gold and silver wire, they were used to completely encase the body of deceased royalty.


Six Dynasties. (220–589)

Following the era of Han Dynasty art, China experienced nearly four centuries of upheaval and dislocation between north and south, known as the Six Dynasties Period. During this time, Chinese art was permeated by a number of outside ideas, and the characteristics of traditional Chinese art were influenced by new cultural practices

Sui Dynasty. (581–618)

There are a few important characteristics associated with jade carvings from this period. The most prevalent change of the time is lifelike realism, as exhibited in the increasing adoption of natural elements such as flora, fauna, and human figures for aesthetic expressions.

Tang Dynasty. (618–906)

An important contributor to Chinese art, and a high point in Chinese civilization, the Tang Dynasty provided the first real stability since the collapse of the Han Dynasty in 220 CE. Building on the political and administrative structures put in place by its predecessor the Sui dynasty (589–618), and making full use of its growing population to dominate central Asia and the kingdoms along the Silk Road, the Tangs presided over a period of growth and prosperity, marked by successful military and diplomatic campaigns, intensified commerce along overland trade routes (to Syria and Rome) as well as increased maritime trade with countries from around the world. This prosperity - combined with increased cultural contacts with its Asian neighbours (notably Korea, Japan, and Vietnam), as well as Middle-Eastern and European peoples - helped to revitalize the former practices of Sui Dynasty art, and instigated a renaissance in many different types of art, including music and poetry as well as Chinese painting and ceramic art. Ruled from its capital Changan (present-day Xian) - then the most populous and culturally diverse city in the world - Tang China rapidly became one of the greatest empires of the medieval epoch. Foreign influences arrived and impacted the Chinese jade art significantly. Stones similar to jade but not jade itself were used in ceremonies. The only jade artifacts from this period that have survived are items like combs, belt plaques, hairpins and pendants.

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms. (907–960)

Five Dynasties was a period of time between the fall of the Tang dynasty  and the founding of the Song dynasty , when five would-be dynasties followed one another in quick succession in North China. The era is also known as the period of the Ten Kingdoms  because 10 regimes dominated separate regions of South China during the same period. The confused state of northern China under the Five Dynasties was not conducive to development of the jade carving.

Song Dynasty. (960–1279)

Given the archaizing fashion of the Song, jades of this period are often difficult to detect. As the technique of jade carving had changed little over time , these are hard to distinguish from genuine archaic jades except by a somewhat playful elegance and a tendency to combine shapes and decoration not found together on ancient pieces

Yuan Dynasty

The era of Song Dynasty art was brought to an end by nomads from Mongolia, whose agenda did not include the promotion of Chinese art in any form. Jade carving techniques did not advanced during this period although objects made from jade were very popular.

Ming Dynasty

Ming dynasty may be considered as one of the most intriguing and complicated times in Chinese history. Under a totalitarian rule which was extremely conservative, a merchandise economy emerged to loosen up the traditional, rigid social hierarchy. In art and culture, the duality expressed itself through highly changeable, even contradictory styles. Jade of the period was no exception and developed into brand new looks combining humanistic and secular tastes.
Flower Brooche , Ming dynasy period

Ching Dynasty

The finest Qing dynasty jade carving is often assigned to the reign of Qianlong. Typical of what is considered of Qianlong date are vases with lids and chains carved from a single block, vessels in antique bronze shapes with pseudo-archaic decoration, fairy mountains, and brush pots for the scholar’s desk.
Ching dynasty urn


Jade in Chinese culture

Chinese people love jade not only because of its aesthetic beauty, but also because of what it represents in terms of social value. Confucius said that there are 11 De, or virtues, represented in jade. The following is the translation:
"The wise have likened jade to virtue. For them, its polish and brilliancy represent the whole of purity; its perfect compactness and extreme hardness represent the sureness of intelligence; its angles, which do not cut, although they seem sharp, represent justice; the pure and prolonged sound, which it gives forth when one strikes it, represents music.
Its color represents loyalty; its interior flaws, always showing themselves through the transparency, call to mind sincerity; its iridescent brightness represents heaven; its admirable substance, born of mountain and of water, represents the earth. Used alone without ornamentation it represents chastity. The price that the entire world attaches to it represents the truth.

To support these comparisons, the Book of Verse says: "When I think of a wise man, his merits appear to be like jade."'

Thus, beyond monetary worth and materiality, jade is greatly prized as it stands for beauty, grace, and purity. As the Chinese saying goes: "gold has a value; jade is invaluable."

Jade in Chinese language

Because jade represents desirable virtues, the word for jade is incorporated into many Chinese idioms and proverbs to denote beautiful things or people.
For example, 冰清玉洁 (bingqing yujie) , which directly translates to "clear as ice and clean as jade" is a Chinese saying that means to be pure and noble. 亭亭玉立 (tingting yuli) is a phrase used to describe something or someone that is fair, slim, and graceful. Additionally, 玉女 (yùnǚ), which literally means jade woman, is a term for a lady or beautiful girl.
A popular thing to do in China is to use the Chinese character for jade in Chinese names. It is interesting to note that the Supreme Deity of Taoism has the name, Yuhuang Dadi (the Jade Emperor).

Chinese stories about jade

Jade is so engrained in Chinese culture that there are famous stories about jade. The two most famous tales are "He Shi Zhi Bi" (Mr. He and His Jade) and "Wan Bi Gui Zhao" (Jade Returned Intact to Zhao). As a side note, "bi" also means jade.

"He Shi Zhi Bi" is a story about the suffering of Mr. He and how he presented his raw jade to the kings again and again. The raw jade was eventually recognized as an invaluable kind of jade and was named after Mr. He by Wenwang, the king of the Chu State around 689 BCE.
"Wan Bi Gui Zhao" is the follow-up story of this famous jade. The king of the Qin State, the most powerful state during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), attempted to exchange the jade from the Zhao State using his 15 cities. However, he failed. The jade was returned to the Zhao State safely. Thus jade was also a symbol of power in ancient times.
Jade in religious use

Because of this and the belief in its indestructibility, jade from early times was lavishly used ritual objects, both Confucian and Daoist, and for the protection of the dead in the tomb.
Jade in people’s believes.
Beside the thing that jade is used in crafting many sacramental objects in all  main religions in Asia there are a lot believes in magical and healing properties of Jade. A legend claiming Buddha’s tears are pure jade may be behind the theory that jade can treat eye disorders. Healers say the gemstone also benefits the hips, heart, spleen and thymus gland as well as aid poor digestion, relieve constipation and promote healthy hair. Jade should be worn so it rests on the skin over the troubled part of the body.
The much-vaunted substance appeared everywhere, from the mouths of opium pipes (to prolong the longevity of the smoker) to dining implements (to transfer energy to the food) and the palms of politicians (jade talismans were said to help the holder through tricky negotiations). While jade liquor is no longer in fashion and few people cram jade pieces into the mouths of corpses any more, a healthy respect for the stone remains. Jade bracelets, which are believed to be effective in combatting rheumatism, are worn by many people to this day.

Jade is considered a gemstone of good fortune, bringing its wearer or owner wealth, stability and love. Lovers exchange jade gifts to confirm their love and devotion to each other. Jade helps open the heart chakra while attracting love, enhancing sexuality and fertility. It is also a protective stone, guarding against misfortunes and accidents.
Jade is associated with the planets Jupiter and Pluto, and is the zodiac stone for Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Libra and Pisces. It is the birthstone for May and the gemstone commemorating the 12th wedding anniversary

The Colors of Jade

According to gemstone therapy jade "stimulates creativity and mental agility on the one hand, while also having a balancing and harmonizing effect”. Green jade is calming when held. Lavender jade helps ease emotional and mental problems because it radiates love, beauty and security. Blue jade encourages the mind’s thought processes and imagination, and mauve jade’s gentle vibration helps the wearer’s spiritual needs.
Orange jade gives its wearer energy. Red jade vibrates at a higher energy level, helping bring anger to the surface so the wearer can deal with it and move on to more positive occupations.



As we can see , Jade is one of the verz important elements of Chinese culture and has great significance in many aspects of life , as well in the past as it has it now.











уторак, 23. јануар 2018.

"Internal" styles- martial arts or something else

Today there are two completely separated worlds of martial arts. World of so called traditional martial arts and world of competitive sports. It seem that these two worlds have nothing in common and it is pretty much obvious that they never meet in any aspect of training approach, philosophy, goals and anything else. The only thing they have in common is that both sides claim they have superior fighting skills.

This “great divide” happen recently, although the separate path of two different training approaches started around 150 years ago. A century and half ago there was no “traditional” , “internal” , “sports” or whatever martial ARTS , there were just fighting styles, mostly weapon oriented and people fought with those styles , they fought for survival , they fought to save theirs and lives of their families. The big change came after the Taiping rebellion when fire arms made old fighting styles absolute. Taiping rebellion brought another change , social structure of the society changed under the influence of the western culture and rich merchant cast formed and separated from the rest of the society. One of the things they do, they started to practice martial arts as sign of social status, something like having sports car now days, and being rich and without the need for real fighting they took kung fu training to another direction.  Around that time a concept of what is today known as “internal” skills emerged and several new arts appeared (of course claiming to be much older) based on these concepts like Tai Chi , Ba Gua ,Xing Yi, several styles of White Crane ect.  Of course, on the other side there were people who practiced kung fu for fighting, like professional body guards, caravan escort, bounty hunters, soldiers and others.  Of course these people put much more faith in fire arms than in fists and spears so slowly much of the real fighting techniques and serious fighting training was lost.

This trend continued in republican period when government supported spreading of kung fu as form of activity that served several purposes. Kung fu already stopped to be exclusively set of fighting skills, but during republican period it got social, political, economical, religious, health and philosophical attributes. Fighting component in this period started to be disappear completely and many styles were practiced for a lot of different  reasons while fighting was neglected and sometimes almost forgotten. Kung fu as we know it today got its final shape in republican period.  There were only few people who insisted on fighting and realistic training, like Tang Hao, and this the period when western boxing as introduced to China and many masters studied it deeply and included it in their own fighting systems. It is also a time when Chinese army adopted boxing as a part of hand to hand combat training. There is one more significant thing that happened in this period which will change the shape and the path of kung fu forever. Famous master Sun Lu Tang connected his arts, Tai Chi, Ba Gua and Xing Yi to Taoist teachings and Qi gong which were never part of kung fu before. This new fashion spread like forest fire among kung fu practitioners  pushed fighting even further from kung fu practice.

After WWII Japanese and Korean martial arts found their way to the west while Chinese styles stayed fairly unknown until the middle of 70’s when death of young Hong Kong actor, Bruce Lee brought something that is today known as “kung fu” craze. Many teachers from Hong Kong and Taiwan spread all over the world teaching kung fu. Hong Kong movies were (and still are , even for Asian people) the main source of information about Chinese martial arts. Everyone expected to learn what was shown in those movies so “teachers” in order to meet the market demand adjusted their styles and made them visually attractive without any regard to efficiency.

Neglected combat practice was covered with other content. All kung fu styles without exceptions have some famous ancestor who had if not powers of the gods then at least had such a level of skill that can be freely regarded as superhuman. All styles have ‘histories’ with at least one , but usually generations of tremendous fighters with hundreds or thousands of fights and no one ever lost. All styles insist on important historical role of the style’s founder in some important historical events that involve war, rebellion, secret societies ect. They all stress the importance to preserve the style’s content as it is because that is original , superior , often secret , deadly style of fighting and nothing else on the world can compare with it. All styles claim only they have the “true” knowledge while all others waste time practicing worthless techniques. Some styles even kept hard body conditioning and out much effort in developing raw physical strength. What they don’t do is fighting or even sparring . People simply believe their arts will work without any proof. When asked why they don’t spar or fight ,the usual answer is that they have nothing to prove or it is unnecessary . Instead they do a lot of sticky\push hands practice , a lot of “dead drills”( fighting simulation with complying opponent) , “techniques”( prearranged set of movements with complying opponent) ect. In essence they do anything to avoid been hit. They of course achieve high level of proficiency in what they do and use that as a proof ( to them selfs) to have high level of fighting skills. Of course they have cult like mentality and anyone who point out the flaws in that kind of training approach will be attacked on personal level and marked as ignorant , stupid , aggressive or worse.

Now days, a new fashion emerged in the world of “traditional” martial arts. It is called “internal” martial arts. Word ‘internal” in not so distant past was referring only to qi gong training but today it means something else. Today that word is used to separate one art from all others in terms of “efficiency” ,”effectiveness” , “originality” , exclusiveness”  , “knowledge” ect. While proponents of these styles fail to explain what “internal” actually is , they insists that they are the only one who have true knowledge. Mix of different theories borrowed from all kinds of sources , forgeries , and newly invented terms make a confusing and hard to follow explanations. These new theories are changing quickly , every time when someone point out the inconsistencies in them . They “cultivate” “internal” power which is according to them a mix of some esoteric energies and particular body mechanics. They sometimes go so far that claim internal training is totally opposite from “external” training, where by external they consider everything else outside their style. So, they cultivate skills and measure the level of someone’s skill by undetermined standards known only to them. The more attractive, effortless , relaxed someone looks the more praise he gets. They never fight, never spar only practice with in a closed circle of people by strictly set rules. Every time they encounter any real resistance their “high internal skills” fail.  

On the other hand we have competitive sports like boxing , MMA, Kick boxing ect. In these sports complete training revolve around fighting. Basically, training is going in direction of developing necessary skills and attributes for fighting like

  • Distance - How to control the distance between you and your partner.
  • Rhythm - How to break your opponents rhythm.
  • Timing - How to judge the timing of your opponent and know when to hit.
  • Combinations - How to land combinations whilst your partner moves forwards, backwards and tries to counter.
  • Footwork - How to move in, out and to the sides to strike or evade a punch.
  • Speed - You will learn how to use your speed to hit your opponent before they can block, as well as move quickly out the way of a strike.
  • Balance - You will learn to control your balance and center of gravity whilst in a fighting motion.
  • Reaction - You will improve your reaction times.
  • Focus - You will be forced to keep focus and concentrate on the fight without distractions. The second you switch off you will know about tit!
  • Cardiovascular - Your fitness levels will have to adapt and will improve.
  • Muscular endurance - Your endurance and stamina will have to adapt and will improve.
  • Conditioning - You will learn to get hit and fake that it doesn't hurt so you can carry on.
All this is  put   to the test in sparring which helps practitioner to combine all these skills and attributes together and push them on a higher level. Sparring is the closest we can get to a real fighting situation and is probably the most important training exercise there is. Sparring requires you to use every one of your attributes - forcing you to sharpen your skills and practice things like the controlling distance, timing, speed, agility and focus as well as cardiovascular and muscle endurance to name just a few. Sparring is the nearest thing to a real fight, without actually fighting.

People don't like sparring because they aren't confident with their abilities and are worried about getting hurt. That is why those who want to practice martial arts but are afraid and not confident turn to some esoteric arts that promise high fighting skills without any real effort , most importantly without pain and sweat. These people often characterize those who practice contact sports as aggressive, stupid, competitive ect , not realizing that the vast majority of those people ( including the author) simply enjoy in physically and emotionally challenging training without any desire for fight , violence or urge to prove anything.

At the end there are two important questions we have to ask our self. Are “traditional”, “internal” arts can be even called martial , and if they can , is it possible to fight with those skills? The answer on both questions is yes , but only with proper understanding what “internal” actually is and proper training approach 

уторак, 16. јануар 2018.

Wuxia

Wuxia is an important part of kung fu culture.  Wuxia stories are basically martial arts stories about ordinary people who do incredible things through martial arts. Novels are grounded in real-life Chinese martial arts and internal energy cultivation (qigong) techniques that are kicked up to an exaggeratedly awesome level. Wuxia is a distinct genre in Chinese literature, television and cinema. One of the oldest genres in Chinese literature, wǔxiá  stories are tales of honorable warriors fighting against evil, whether it be an individual villain, or a corrupt government. Although some wuxia stories are set in modern times, or even the future, most take place in the "Martial Arts World" of Jiānghú ,literally "rivers and lakes", a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Imperial China. Very popular in Asia , these stores are gaining more  fans all over the world in the last decade and few subgenres developed from the original Wuxia story patterns.
Wuxia stories have their roots in some early youxia , "wanderers"and cike , "assassin" stories around 2nd to 3rd century BC.
Xiake stories made a strong comeback in the Tang dynasty in the form of Chuanqi , "legendary" tales.
The earliest full-length novel that could be considered part of the genre was Water Margin, written in the Ming Dynasty. Water Margin's championing of outlaws with a code of honor was especially influential in the development of Jianghu culture. Many works in this genre during the Ming and Qing dynasties were lost due to prohibition by the government. The ethos of personal freedom and conflict-readiness of these novels were seen as seditious even in times of peace and stability. The departure from mainstream literature also meant that patronage of this genre was limited to the masses and not to the literati, and stifled some of its growth. Nonetheless, the genre continued to be enormously popular
China during the Qing era (1644-1911) was ruled by a foreign aristocracy, the Manchu, and subject to ferocious censorship purges aimed at rooting out any references to revolution, resistance, or the glory days of earlier dynasties ruled by ethnic Chinese. Authors were hence incentivized to locate their stories in a vaguely-defined dreamtime, the jianghu [literally "rivers and lakes"] of an idealized Fantasy realm, safely situated in the distant past, or devoid of overt references to contemporary places or people. Drawing on older traditions of wandering swordsmen, the wuxia tales sought to allegorize Chinese heroes as a Pariah Elite of picaresque warriors, often drawing upon inner power derived from Daoist sorcery and quasi-magical kung fu training .
Following the proclamation of the Chinese Republic in 1911, and the loss of the prime impetus to allegory, wuxia fictions drifted further into Pulp. Initially encouraged as a domestic antidote to foreign incursions and influences, the stories fell out of favor because they were often used to critique corrupted and unstable republican government. This is the period when Wuxia made a breakthrough in movie and received instant success. In republican period we can see first glimpses of new subgenre which will later became known as Xianxia.
Post-1949, wuxia remained suppressed in Mainland China until the 1980s and Taiwan until the 1960s, but remain extremely popular Hong Kong and among overseas Chinese communities. New Wuxia tales now fearlessly dealt with issues of the Manchu conquest and oppression, in allusion to the rise of the Communists that had forced so many Chinese from the Mainland. Recurring themes often favored the end of the Ming dynasty, with its echoes of an unwelcome change in government and a flight to the south. The rise of wuxia film among overseas Chinese communities during a time when Mainland China  was shut off behind Iron curtain, and  restrictions still held in Taiwan, also created an entirely mythical and unhistorical fantastic base for the stories, without any specific references to historical periods. Secret Masters, often from the fictionally opposed Shaolin and Wudang monasteries, fought  each other and with agents of Western Imperialism and Manchu domination.
From 1970 onwards, the wuxia tradition enjoyed a new expansion into the world of  Comic books  , with many adaptations into graphic form.
In last decade, when censorship in Communist China loosened , brought  rise on new term ,Xianxia ["Immortal Heroes] to distinguish the more fanciful and magical stories popular in Hong Kong and on Taiwan from the  more down-to-Earth narratives tolerated on the mainland.
Modern wuxia stories are historical adventure stories. A common plot typically features a young protagonist, usually male, in ancient China, who experiences a terrible tragedy , goes through exceeding hardship and arduous trials, and studies under a great master of martial arts, or comes into possession of a long-lost scroll or manual containing unrivalled martial arts techniques. Eventually the protagonist emerges as a supreme martial arts master unequalled in all of China, who then proffers his skills chivalrously to mend the ills of the "Jianghu" world. Another common thread would involve a mature, extremely skillful hero with a powerful nemesis who is out for revenge, and the storyline would culminate in a final showdown between the protagonist and his nemesis. Other stories create detective or romance stories set in ancient China.

The meaning of the term jianghu ,literally "rivers and lakes has evolved over the course of Chinese history. It is used to describe the pugilistic world of ancient China. It was a world where the law doesn't exist. The people of "jianghu" are those who try to make a living, or survive, in this world. The variety of people in "jianghu" is endless. Each has their occupation, their membership of a brotherhood, their martial art skills and their personalities. The way of jianghu was either join a brotherhood or be a wanderer. A brotherhood, can also be sisterhood, uses a particular weapon, follows a particular religion, does a particular trade, or looks over a particular area. "Jianghu" is a place where the law doesn't exist. Each person has their own morals and rules that keeps them alive. The code of brotherhood is important in "jianghu" as chivalrous people would be loyal to their friends. . The five basics of the code are:
1. xia (chivalry)
2. hao (gallantry)
3. li (virtue)
4. yi (righteousness)
5. zhong (loyalty
Wuxia realm is all about an honorable and generous person who has considerable martial skills which he puts to use for the general good rather than towards any personal ends, and someone who does not necessarily obey the authorities. Foremost in the xia's code of conduct are yi ("righteousness") and xin (honour), which emphasize the importance of gracious deed received or favours  and revenge over all other ethos of life. Nevertheless, this code of the xia is simple and grave enough for its adherents to kill and die for, and their vendetta can pass from one generation to the next until resolved by retribution, or, in some cases, atonement. The xia is to expected to aid the person who needed help, usually the masses, who are down-trodden. Not all martial artists uphold such a moral code, but those who do are respected and recognized as heroes            
  Although wuxia is based on real-life martial arts, the genre elevates the mastery of their crafts into fictitious levels of attainment. Combatants have the following skills:
Fighting, usually using a codified sequence of movements known as zhāo  where they would have the ability to withstand armed foes.
Use of everyday objects such as ink brushes, abaci, and musical instruments as lethal weapons, and the adept use of assassin weapons  with accuracy.
 Use of qīnggōng , or the ability to move swiftly and lightly, allowing them to scale walls, glide on waters or mount trees. This is based on real Chinese martial arts practices. Real martial art exponents practice qinggong through years of attaching heavy weights on their legs. Its use however is greatly exaggerated in wire-fu movies where they appear to defy gravity.                                             
 Use of nèilì  or nèijìn , which is the ability to control inner energy (qi) and direct it for attack or defense, or to attain superhuman stamina.  
 Ability to engage in diǎnxué  also known by its pronunciation Dim Mak , or other related techniques for killing or paralyzing opponents by hitting or seizing their acupoints with a finger, knuckle, elbow or weapon. This is based on true-life practices trained in some of the Chinese martial arts, known as dianxue and by the seizing and paralyzing techniques of chin na.                           
   Consistent with Chinese beliefs about the relationship between the physical and paranormal, these skills are usually described as being attainable by anyone who is prepared to devote his or her time in diligent study and practice. The details of some of the more unusual skills are often to be found in abstrusely written and/or encryption|encrypted manuals known as mìjí , which may contain the secrets of an entire sect, and are often subject to theft or sabotage
 The fantastic feats of martial arts prowess featured in the wuxia novels are substantially fictitious in nature, although there is still widespread popular belief that these skills once existed and are now lost. A popular theory to explain why current martial arts practitioners cannot attain the levels described in the wuxia genre is related to the methodology of passing on the martial arts crafts. Only the favorite pupil of a master gets to inherit the best crafts but the masters tend to keep the most powerful or significant chapter to himself. Hence what we have today at the Shaolin or other schools are but a fraction of what they were centuries earlier. There is little evidence to support this claim                                                                      
The wuxia genre is popular in Chinese culture because it is the unique blend of martial arts philosophy of xia  developed throughout history, and the country's long history of wushu. Although the xia or "chivalry" concept is often translated as "knights", "chivalrous warriors" or "knights-errant", most xia aspects are so rooted in the social and cultural environment of ancient China that it is impossible to find an exact translation in the Western world. Despite wuxia has been a strong inspiration for popular cinema for decades, it was only Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"  what made a global audience aware of the wuxia genre.


Xianxia, the characters forming it are ‘Xian’ and ‘Xia’, which literally means ‘immortal hero’.  Xianxia is a newer genre and is essentially a ‘fantasy’ version of Wuxia, with magic, demons, immortals, people who can fly, etc.  The biggest contributor to the Xianxia genre is actually not martial arts, rather, it is ‘Taoism’, which is a major part of Chinese history.  Taoism is both a philosophical way of life as well as an actual religion.  Religious Taoism is often blurred together with Chinese folk mythologies, and is chock-full of stories about demons, ghosts, and people learning how to become immortals through meditation/understanding the ways of heaven, and flying in the air and casting powerful magic spells.  Xianxia blends lots of these folk stories and magical Taoist legends into their stories .

четвртак, 21. децембар 2017.

Snake Crane Wing Chun Athletic Association Central Kwoon in HK

 In the first half of January 2018  Snake Crane Wing Chun Athletic Association central Kwoon will be open.

Adress:

Room 05, 10th Floor,
New City Centre  新城工商中心
2 Lei Yue Mun Road, Yau Tong

MTR : Kwun Tong, Exit D4 (Within 5 minutes walk)

Training schedule :
Mon-Sat: 6:30pm - 8:30pm & 8:30pm - 10:30pm (two sessions)

 Google map




Contact: ccwayne@yahoo.com


субота, 16. децембар 2017.

What´s the difference between the regular students and disciples

An interesting article written by my Snake Crane Wing Chun brother Lee Ming Fung from Costa Rica










Author : Lee Ming Fung


Last year when I began my new  Snake Crane Wing Chun training group in Costa Rica I remember my first students were  a young couple and after that we became good  friends  and  they even invite to their wedding and helped me to some cultural activities.
Once the girl asked me: may I call you Sifu? I didn’t want to break  her illusion but the relationship of Sifu and disciples is much deeper than a frienship. I just could call myself as their “teacher”
There is a Chinese saying:
“The parents give us the life; but the master gives us the education and form as a productive person.”
So the discipleship is such a serious cultural and social category in Chinese culture
Relationship.
We could analyze there are different levels of the student/ disciples at one traditional Kung Fu school.
1. Regular student學生
2. Close door disciple入門弟子
3. inside room disciple入室弟子

1. Regular students: xué shēng 學生
The group of student who are interested in martial art and they are in their “prove period”, to see if they like the art, the teacher  and school  or not. They usually not  learn from Sifu directly but rather receive instruction from  advance students or disciples at the school. And their relationship with their masters is very simple , they pay monthly tuition fee for instruction like in any other sports club.
The students just address the teacher  as Lao Shi 老師 in this case.

2. Indoor disciples rùmén  dì zǐ入門弟子
After a the teacher would evaluate his students and those who show high level of certain aspects such as:
1.       High ethic and moral standards

2.       Strict following the rules of conduit


3.       Dedication

4.       Strong desire to support the style
Will be invited by a teacher to become  indoor students. To become an indoor student it is a custom in traditional school to perform  the Baisee ceremony. Sometimes need few years or depend the destiny of the Sifu and students
Each school has the rules and the Sifu would ask their students /disciples  to follow.
Obviously, the disciples get the responsibility to promote the style. They get the possible training and special attention is payed to their martial education. As the old Confucius said: “if not keeping advance, the degeneration would arrive soon.”

3. Inside room student rù shí dì zǐ 入室弟子
Those are the close disciple of a Sifu. And they would be the future successors of one style. So normally the teacher  would pay more attention to their training .
Being a disciple of a traditional style is an honor, however it require time, sacrifice, some resource and of course loyalty.
The indoor students not only learn all the secrets of the style they  also develop  family like relationship with the  master and others disciples as family. This is called  “Mun” in Chinese a martial art family.“Mun” is as place  of sharing knowledge, sincerity and tolerance” beside the real family, disciples get the martial family. And sometimes the martial family even better than the real one!
We all learn martial arts, but the disciples, they are who could real enjoy their favorite martial art.

In 2018 we are planning  the worldwide class for the regular students and the disciple worldwide ,and  the establishment of the Snake Crane Wing Chun Headquarter in Hong Kong.
Also on 25-28 of May we are planning the history investigation martial trip to Foshan. The group will be led by   Sifu Wayne  Yung and the Foshan Oral history investigator Mr. Tam. We will visit different schools of Wing Chun such as Yuen Kay San lineage and Chueng Bo lineage. Now we get a group of 15 people. If you are interesting please write me inbox
mingming1224@gmail.com

Thank you ! 

Author : Lee Ming Fung