Mornin' everyone. The following post talks a bit about my experience with martial arts and the questions I've been thinking about. I'm thinking out loud and looking for some no-nonsense input.
I'm currently practicing sanshou kickboxing, but my first martial art experience was with kung fu back in early 2000. The teacher was reputable, but there was one major problem... no sparring. The school used to have a (full-contact) sparring program, led by the teacher, but reportedly interest dropped and the sparring class was too poorly attended to merit continuation. The issue was that people would try it out, feel some pain, and decide that they didn't want to fight. The forms sure are pretty, though...
So during my time there, if we wanted to spar we did it on our own. Since the teacher wasn't giving us guidance for fighting with the style, we either tried to figure it out as best we could or we kickboxed (some of us were trained in kickboxing, muay thai, sanshou, etc.) with a few kung fu moves thrown in. Needless to say, very few kung fu-specific techniques made it into our sparring practice, and what we learned at the kwoon was entirely separate from our sparring, which never seemed right to me.
After a few years, I started taking sanshou for the sparring aspect, since I couldn't get that from the kung fu school. As I learned it I found that the principles of the boxing, kicking, and takedown techniques were actually very much in line with the principles I learned for kung fu; they just looked different on the outside. I tried to reconcile these things, and I consulted a lot of other kung fu students and my teacher trying to figure out how I could make my kung fu work the way that sanshou works.
The most useful thing I heard was: the techniques in the forms are exaggerated to show the principles/energy more clearly. In actual application, the movements are smaller and simpler. This, of course, brings up the question, "why do we practice it this way if we use it that way?" The only real explanation I can think of is that forms aren't meant to be the primary training method, and more time should be spent with the simplified fighting moves than the exaggerated ones in the routines. I have yet to see a kung fu school that practices accordingly.
Could kung fu be effective if practiced this way, with its emphasis on using a few simple moves to spar? That would certainly bring it more in line with the successful combat sports.
There are some kung fu schools that have sparring programs, but most of them seem to be the same sort of modern sanshou you'd see Cung Le doing; that is, it's disconnected from their forms. This is evident even with the teachers who learned in China and then immigrated here to the United States. That makes me wonder.
One thing that confuses me in particular is that kungfu was clearly used for fighting at some point; that's how schools built reputation back in the day and, in fact, was the entire reason for their existence. Did we lose the application somewhere along the way? Has kung fu become crap, or is it just that people are so interested in the movies and culture that they don't train the way they need to in order to fight? It's certainly true that most kung fu students I've met are primarily interested in things other than fighting.
We know that kung fu isn't respected on these boards. Does anyone here believe that it could be a useful fighting system if trained correctly? Or have you written it off as a load of crap that isn't even worth the consideration?