7/30/2007 1:41pm, #1
Progressive Martial Art Thinkers/Just The Facts... merged
Yang Fukui is a member of the Yang family who grew up studying several different forms of CMA, including (of course) Yang taiji, Hebei Xingyiquan, Baguazhang, and a bunch of traditional externals (including Baji). He went on to win various contents in China, including Yang tui shou and open san shou matches. On the other hand, he also learned a load of modern wushu to get work as a wushu coach.
I've not had my hands on him, but everyone I know who has done comes back saying he's the real deal. The notes here are taken from an interview printed in T'ai Chi magazine (Vol. 24, No. 5), which I found here. I was especially pleased — arrogant bastard that I am — because a number of the things he has to say about traditional (pre-Cultural Revolution) training methods are more or less identical to the training methods I use in my own CMA practice.
My favorite excerpts (emphasis and footnotes mine):
Bob Feldman: You started learning Taijiquan as a child from your father and grandfather, and you also learned and taught within the official Wushu establishment. How different was your family’s traditional training from modern training that Taiji students now receive?
Yang Fukui: It was quite different. Traditionally, we do not train by long sequences of forms. We concentrate more on developing gongfu [...]
BF: How did they practice then?
YF: First of all, they devoted most of their practice to gongfu and martial arts, not to health or "spiritual development," although these two latter aspects certainly underlied their practice. Their emphasis was different. For example, they never practiced more than a two or three form or movements in sequence, in order to develop fighting skill and gongfu, and they never linked more than five forms [ the article clarifies that by "form" he means "posture," not sequence ] together. There were no such things as the 24 or 85 or 108 form Taijiquan. Only two or three forms at a time were used for the solo practice of gongfu.
According to my grandfather, Yang Chen Hou’s practice stressed more form combinations while his brother, Yang Ban Hou, put more emphasis upon push hands for fighting and two-man practice. Yang Ban Hou also had fewer students than younger brother, perhaps because his teaching sessions were very rough and painful, as there was a lot of contact. Similarly, in the third generation, my great grandfather, Yang Xiao Hou, was also more interested in push hands and fighting. He had far fewer students than his brother Yang Cheng-fu. He was more "closed door" and interested in preserving the family’s practice. Yang Cheng-fu was a more of a public figure, and his desire was to promote the study of Yang style Taijiquan throughout China. Therefore, he created the Taolu, which is known in English as "The Long Form."
The Long Form Taijiquan set is good for health and for improving the quality of the body’s vital energy. But in order to fight, one must learn how to build up the energy and then explosively send it out. [...]
Whatever [training path] one chooses, it is also good to practice push hands with another person. Push hands can both help to increase one’s sensitivity and explosivity, and also serve as an introduction to fighting. In addition, a higher level fighter can more easily use explosive force, while lower level Taiji practitioners use brute strength in pushing or striking the opponent instead.
BF: How are push ands and fighting different?
YF: If you watch someone practice the Taiji forms, they are performed slowly, peacefully, and quietly. Fighting is different. Push hands is preliminary training for fighting and usually starts off slowly. In push hands one also has to "listen" or "sense" the opponent’s force, and to remain relaxed and soft while receiving an opponent’s force prior to responding.
In fighting, the opponent does not attack softly or slowly. The attack is as rapid as possible. In Taiji fighting, with experience, one can follow the opponent’s force, and use their own force and their energy to defeat them. [...]
If I want, I can use your energy to fight you, by allowing you to fully extend yourself to the point where you are off-balance. I then redirect your energy back to you in order to defeat you. This must be executed very quickly. If you attempt to attack me quickly, I use circular or spiralic movement to gain the advantage and defeat you.
BF: In the traditional way of practice, how did the earlier Yang masters practice the forms to enhance their fighting skills?
YF: First of all, they would initially practice slowly and softly, but they would also practice the forms and sequences with speed and explosive power. The kicks and punches would also be done at full speed, but the kicks are internally generated by utilizing the power of the whole body.
BF: What other kinds of basics did they practice traditionally besides forms and push hands?
YF: As in any Chinese martial art, one has to develop adequate flexibility through stretching. This is often not appreciated by many people in the West who learn Taiji. Although Taijiquan Taolu will help you obtain better flexibility, if you study Taijiquan as a martial art, it is required. After one gains adequate flexibility, one can start training the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones for strength and rooting. This is done by practicing in lower stances and using special weights, the long staff, and the Taiji ball .
BF: Can you further discuss the Taiji ball and other training aids that are used in traditional Yang style Taiji?
YF: First, we use a heavy cube-shaped weight. It is used for certain simple exercises to help strengthen the bones, tendons, muscles, and ligaments. It is usually done in a low posture.
Next we progress to the Taiji ball, which is more advanced, as it incorporates circular and spiraling movements while holding the ball in a variety of exercises. It is also done in low postures and can vary in weight from light to heavy (usually between 2.5 to 10 kilograms / 5.5 to 22 pounds), as your root deepens and you become stronger.
BF: When did you start to practice Taiji fighting?
YF: I had become accomplished in push hands by the age of 18, having pushed a lot with my grandfather, father, older brother, and their advanced students. I later even won a national championship competition in Weihua City, Shandong Province, in 1984 in the middleweight division of Yang style push hands. [...]
Of course, one gains fighting experience mainly by fighting, but the application of powerful attacks are soft, elusive responses to an opponent’s attack, and the ability to both follow and redirect the opponents force is more the product of good training in the other aspects of Taiji that we have discussed. If your skills are good, then you need to fight to be able to learn how to use them, while keeping the relaxed, centered mental state of Taijiquan.
The foundation of Taiji fighting comes in part from push hands, although push hands is not all there is to fighting. Most Taijiquan fighting utilizes close fighting methods, but in push hands we still have to adhere to some form, which is the basis for our movement. Fighting is much more free and without forms.
BF: What if one fights with an opponent is not trained in Taiji?
YF: Taiji fighters will usually look for the opponent’s center and attempt to uproot their balance by whatever technique is used[3, again].
BF: How important are the kicks and punches that one practices in the forms?
YF: In the forms, one practices the kicks and punches very slowly, but when we use them, we use very fast moves. Kicks and punches in a fight and in the forms are different. For example, although a kick may be high in the form, the kicks in fighting are usually low kicks.
BF: In the West, many books have been written suggesting that the Yang family possesses two separate methods of training and there are two separate Tao Lu, one "outdoor" for the public, and a second "indoor" for the family. Is this true?
YF: This is true, but probably not in the way you think. [...] our so-called "Family Taolu" is really the method by which we train, not a series of secret forms. It is rather the ability to take each form or a series of several forms, and utilize them effectively. This is traditional Yang Taiji training. You will recall that the Taolu did not develop substantially until the 3rd generation. The Taolu created by Yang Cheng-fu and others are good for health and conditioning but are not that meaningful for fighting as the training methods we have discussed: the ball, weight, staff training, and push hands.
BF: How similar or different was your grandfather’s practice from your father’s?
YF: My grandfather practiced only Taijiquan for most of his life. He had a lot of internal energy and fighting skills. [...] But my father was required to teach the government mandated forms, unlike my grandfather, who only practiced and taught traditional Taijiquan. Because my father had to teach modern Taijiquan, perhaps he could not as much convey the deeper training to many of his students. Nor could he teach the old way as often as my grandfather.
Both my grandfather and my father stressed to me that, although I had to teach the new way, I must remember and continue to practice the old way [...].
 This reminds me of the xingyi approach. Some of my sifus encouraged me to use any given long form as a mnemonic device, but to practice short pieces as fighting combos and then to improvise using those movements as a form of shadowboxing.
 A fine example of one of the destructive forces at work against proper martial training — consumer preference.
 The shuai jiao / taiji connection has always seemed quite strong to me. This description, which could equally apply to judo, reinforces that impression.
 Confirmation that fighting is an athletic activity for which conditioning is important. Internal skill is an enhancer of — rather than a substitute for — external conditioning.
 I've been using a medicine ball for this kind of thing. It's pretty great.
7/30/2007 1:47pm, #2
Yes, see he speaks heresy. Notice, he says everything us non-conformists have been saying for years.
No. I'm not trying to take anythign away from the guy. It's just funny that real masters say the exact opposite of "Grand Masters."
My old school said forms were the most important aspect of kung fu. Yet, all the books THEY recommended said the exact opposite.
Here is a guy that follows my belief. One form contains everything you need and you practice pieces (drilling).
7/30/2007 1:52pm, #3
Exactly. there is a video of chen style push hands. It looks like greoc and had some good throws. Very enlightening. i have always though tai chi was cool but after I was fighting competitively, I saw that it had TONS of fighting in it.
7/30/2007 7:29pm, #4
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- Illinois, USA
This is a great article. Push hands is definetly a transition tool/drill. It so often seems to be the end all of training. My sifu spends way to much time on forms, he's into the health aspect but still more than willing to push me around. Thanks for the article.
Last edited by Kubili; 7/30/2007 7:37pm at .
8/06/2007 5:13pm, #5Fighting is interesting. The thing is you have to do it to get good at it.
I know a small handful of great wing chun fighters. Fucking tough guys. But they were tough guys before they trained wing chun...and they would be tough guys if they never trained wing chun, and instead trained karate, or some other martial art. Or didn't train anything at all. They are just tough.
Generally speaking, in my experiences, wing chun does not produce tough guys out of nothing. You can have the best technique in the world, but if you are not tough, and only training hard can make you tough, you have a really good chance of getting your ass kicked.
Getting slapped on the forearm or banged on the shin doesn't really make you tough. It can make you hard, but tough is mental as much as it is physical.
For the past 13 months, I've been training at a Royce Gracie BJJ school w/ an MMA team. I've trained with a lot of guys who are tough. The art of BJJ (or MT) doesn't necessarily make them tough, the way they train makes them tough. They train to fight. They know they are going to fight, they know people are going to try to beat them, and they train for it. They come in on their days off to fight. When class is over, they stay and fight. When one of their training partners is getting ready for a fight, the rest of them line up to train him to fight. See the trend?
I disagree w/ the idea that training striking drills in wing chun is (in regards to "reality" of training) the same as rolling or wrestling up to submitting. Two people can "fight" at 100% strength and speed in bjj, up until submission. In striking, you can't throw a punch as hard or fast as you can in drills, or with feints and misdirection...that's just not how most drills work.
If you trained bjj at 3/4's speed for one year, and then went to a tournament, you would get crushed because your ass is moving too slow.
Same with wing chun. The vast majority of the time it is trained at 3/4'rs speed, thus, when you have to use it in a fight, you're fucked. The way it is trained by the VAST majority of people who train it is unrealistic, and not functional against a trained or really tough opponent.
Wing Chun striking drills are not random, are often predictable and follow set patterns, and are very rarely done at full speed. Sparring in wing chun is typically reserved for "senior students," and even then is rarely at 100% effort.
In order to make a striking art work, you have to train it at full speed, to develop the power and reflexes to work at full speed (see boxing for reference).
For this reason, I would like to propose that all wing chun schools devote the last 1/2 hour of class to full contact sparring.
Spend whatever class time you think necessary for forms, power training, techniques, and drills, but make sure that every day you allow 1/2 hour at the end for sparring. If you are worried about losing students, make it optional. Let people who don't want to get kicked and punched leave. They will pay your rent, but will never be able to fight.
If you ever want wing chun to be taken seriously, then stop propagating some bullshit idea of training and force people to train to fight. Train people to be tough.
Those of you who are students, don't settle for half-ass training. If you like your school, even though they don't spar much, go find other ways outside of your school to practice fighting. Get together w/ your buddies and beat the **** out of each other. Learn how to take a punch. Learn that getting punched sucks (but still sometimes feels good). Learn what it means to keep fighting when you are hurt and want to quit.
Just learn how to fucking fight.
8/06/2007 5:45pm, #6San Da Training Systems
The instructors’ Network
August 1, 2007
Why I am no longer a “kung fu guy”: observations on a vicious cycle
I am not sure how relevant this particular article will be to those with backgrounds in Japanese and Korean martial arts. While I do have Korean martial arts in my background, I am of course mostly known for my years with the late master Chan Tai-San and my affiliation with Lama Pai kung fu and the traditional Chinese martial art (TCMA) community. In some respects, this is a response to those who wonder why I no longer affiliate myself with that community, i.e. why I am not longer a “kung fu guy”.
Of course, the first and most obvious answer is what I’ve stated so many times, which is evident in my school (New York San Da) and in my association (San Da Training Systems). I am interested in what works and in the most efficient way to teach my students. A very long time ago, perhaps from the very beginning, I rejected the idea that you do something blindly and/or that you did something because it was “tradition”. In fact, as a person who in addition to being a member of the TCMA community is also a trained historian I am not sure what is packaged and sold today as “tradition” has very much to do with what TCMA fighters were doing in China 150 years ago. Today’s “traditional kung fu” has about as much to do with reality as John Wayne movies have to do with the real American frontier!
Another reason I’ve disassociated myself from the TCMA community is what I am beginning to see as a vicious cycle of negativity. The community is in a downward spiral, where each generation is introducing more negativity while simultaneously detaching itself from what should be obvious realities. I don’t think most people have yet to grasp this, but I think the two issues are related. The culture we’ve built in our community is substantially related to our increasing detachment from reality.
There should be no question that the “founding fathers” of TCMA were anything but saints. They had their fair share of negativity. For example, According to Draeger and Smith, the great martial artists in Taiwan during their time "were a truly diverse lot: many were illiterate, some took opium regularly, a few were scoundrels." The description fits well with my experiences with Chan Tai-San and his associates. I’ve even chronicled on the internet the many faces of my late teacher.
However, this diverse lot of scoundrels was also certainly a group of fighters. Whatever antics they associated themselves in, and the list would horrify many new to the tradition, they had fought, they actively fought, and the definitely had a firm grasp on reality. Without exception, the “old generation” cross trained. They learned many styles of Chinese martial art, many learned foreign arts as well. Nationalist pride (and business) now obscures the fact, but in the 20th century the arts of Western boxing and Japanese Judo had HUGE influences upon fighters in both mainland China and Taiwan.
The “old generation” was the epitome of “do as I say, not as I do” but one has to wonder why subsequent generations, particularly Americans, embraced the propaganda so completely? A student studying a system which is in fact a hybrid (pretty much ALL the Chinese martial arts practiced today are hybrids and evolutions of older traditions), under a teacher who himself studied several systems with several teachers (and whose teachings, whether he admits it or not, is influenced by all these experiences) blindly buying into the idea that he is supposed to stay “loyal” and not study anything else with anyone else? The completely laughable idea that certain techniques, no matter how practical and effective, might be “off limits” because they are not “part of the system”?
These things aside, the “old generation” had a variety of other negative habits which subsequent generations; again the Americans in particular, seem to have adopted so eagerly? Before I even met Chan Tai-San, I had done Hung Ga and a few other Chinese martial arts and had spent a good deal of time in the community. In the twenty or so years I spent in the “mo lum” as they call it, I was horrified by the behavior of most “respected masters”. They would all sit at the table with each other, talking about their close friendships and warm admiration. Praise for a teacher’s skill, his legendary exploits, etc would be the talk over tea. As soon as one left the table, even for a brief period, the conversation without exception would turn to the person not present. His dear friends would tear into him. An intense rivalry and fear that someone else’s success somehow negatively affected you was pervasive. Like crabs in a barrel, no one ever got to the top because everyone below you would immediately reach up to pull you down.
I watched this institutionalized in several TCMA federations. Federation meetings with the sole purpose of discussing how to address a member of the community’s success happened frequently. Instructors were told they could not advertise their schools! It was of course always wrapped in the robe of some grand Confucian value, but from a logical point of view it was utter nonsense!
The “old generation” specialized in gossip. Gossip about how much time one had really spent with their teacher, what they had really learned, if they had learned it correctly, etc. In the old days, at least some gossip was flattened by reality. An instructor who had actually beaten up a lot of challengers obviously must have some skill, even if he wasn’t from the “right lineage” or learned the “secret tradition” (blah blah). In the United States, where the federations never sponsored anything resembling real fighting and real challenges were few and far between; gossip about supposed challenges that no one had ever seen, or about a person in the lineage who had actually fought but many years ago (and of course which also on one had actually seen) developed as part of the gossip culture as well. Over the years, words, many of them false, replaced action as the currency of the community.
Making matters even worse, supposed “respected masters” were also masters of PERSONAL gossip, none of which of course was really relevant to martial arts. Gossip about wives/girlfriends/mistresses, failed business dealings, drug habits, and all manner of deplorable back stabbing were common tools in assaulting a person whose only “crime” was that they were also a member of the community! Crabs in a barrel.
In recent years, I’ve seen the internet used to keep tired old rumors from 25 years ago alive and well. American students have eagerly embraced this part of the tradition! Perhaps they’ve even surpassed their instructors in the area of “trash talk”? Yes, the current generation has kept every negative aspect of the TCMA tradition alive and well and perhaps even added to the arsenal. The current generation has of course brought in a lot of the managed martial art mumbo jumbo and added it to the stew. Swamp water tastes bad enough by itself, adding manure from the fields only makes it stink more.
It’s unfortunate that they didn’t dedicate themselves as ardently to the lessons on strength, speed, coordination, and applicable fighting skills? Of all the martial arts traditions, traditional Chinese martial arts has become the one where clearly everyone talks about fighting while almost no one is actually fighting! The community reassures itself with stories about fighters from almost a 100 years ago, many of which we can’t even verify. They seem to forget that simply joining a school doesn’t automatically give you the fighting skills of it’s most famous ancestor.
8/06/2007 11:23pm, #7
8/07/2007 12:35am, #8
Yes, I know. I was waiting for his approval before, I posted his links.
8/07/2007 12:28pm, #9
Originally Posted by EmetShamash
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- Dec 2004
and I am quite the scoundrel LOL :)
I had no issue with cross posting this, glad a few enjoyed it
8/07/2007 12:33pm, #10