Posted On:10/26/2009 8:10am
Style: Trad Ju Jitsu
Originally Posted by Jack Rusher
Continuing the series of posts related to the Shanghai leitai, W C Chen was a student of Zhang Zhao-Dong, who trained Zhao Daoxin (the finalist who gave the great interview a few posts back). Zhang Zhao-Dong was also of the same generation and Beijing training group as Cui Zhendong, who is mentioned in the Western Tigers in Old Shanghai thread.
Anyway, I just ran into these W C Chen quotes in a book by one of his students (Making of a Butterfly by Phillip Starr):
... thoroughly practical and conventional advice for modern fighters.
"There are 'rules' for throwing that you must remember. First, always hit your enemy before you throw him. Second, never use your strength against his strength. Use his strength against him. If he pulls, you push. If he pushes, you pull. Never try to throw someone who is not off balance. If his stance is strong, you cannot throw him even if he is smaller than you. [ ... ] If your opponent is very tall, you can use body throws. If he is short, use leg sweeps."
Terrific advice. Thanks for posting.
Posted On:11/07/2009 5:28pm
Style: ti da shuai na
I just found this interview with Wu Bin (Jet Li's wu shu coach) on MMA in general and the Art of War promotion in particular. I was mildly surprised by his positivity:
Host: What do you think of Mixed Martial Arts?
Wu: I have watched some Art of War events, and I think as a new combat sport in China, it’s very comprehensive. The most important thing is that it’s not only kicking, punching, wrestling, but it also encompasses grappling, which is very useful when fighting. MMA is now a new sport in china, and it breaks the tradition of using large boxing gloves. MMA fighters use sandbag gloves to fight, which allows the use of grappling techniques. So definitely I think MMA is a very exciting sport.
Host: Do you think MMA is really close to traditional Chinese Wushu?
Wu: In traditional Chinese Wushu, people always talk about the basic four techniques which are “TI DA SHUAI NA” (kicking, punching, wrestling, and joint locks), and I think the four techniques have been brought into full play with MMA.
Host: You must have seen many different kinds of fights before, and my question is how do you feel after you have watched a MMA fight.
Wu: From a technical standpoint, I think it’s really a great competitive sport. However, as a new sport in China, many fighters are good at kicking, punching, and wrestling, but as for the grappling, especially the ground game, is a weak point of Chinese fighters. During the previous 60 years, during China’s cultural revolution, many of our ancient techniques were lost because the government forbid the practice of martial arts. Now, China is a completely different country. The most important thing for them now is to increase their ground skills, and then they can become good MMA fighters.
Host: As a Wushu master in China, what is your evaluation of Art of War?
Wu: Although MMA is a new sport in china, it’s definitely a exciting one. So I think we should firmly support Art of War. Besides our Chinese kickboxing, Sanda, I think we should add some new varieties of combat sports so that we can improve our techniques. With the development of Art of War, more and more fighters from different martial arts disciplines want to compete in Art of War, which is really a good thing to promote MMA and the martial arts industry in general, in China.
Host: What’s your opinion about the safety of MMA fights?
Wu: Well, it’s definitely a good question, that’s what I really want to discuss today. The first MMA fight I had seen was in the USA, and after that I have seen it in many countries around the world. Some times the fights are in a cage, and sometimes they are in a “plexi-glass walled” ring. Since it’s a wholly new sport to me, and I have never seen such a competition before, I found it very interesting and exciting. Later I found Art of War was promoting the same sport in China. The more I watched AOW, the more I become to understand MMA and its rules. From my point of view, MMA is much more practical than any other combat sports in the world. Each competitor in the ring wants to defeat his/her opponent, and at the same time, he has to protect himself/herself. The problem of Sanda’s safety has been a topic of heavy discussed for a long time here already. I believe AOW must have undergone the same sort of scrutiny. However, after 10 events so far, the fact is that no one has suffered any form of serious injury what so ever. No broken bones, torn ligaments, or head trauma of any sort. MMA appears to be a safe sport if all the proper precautions are taken. For example, AOW doesn’t allow any competitor with a previous history of head, neck, or spinal injury/surgery to participate. Furthermore, all competitors are given a MRI and CT scan of the head before they are allowed to compete. This is all provided free of charge by the AOW Organizing Committee. In my opinion, the AOW Organizing Committee is doing a great job of keeping this sport safe for all the athletes, and this is what’s most important. Like all sports, there is an element of danger involved. To ignore this fact would be irresponsible. However, the degree of danger involved for MMA, is no greater than any other “hard contact” sport.
Host: Chinese Wushu places great emphasis on Kicking, Boxing, Wrestling, and Grappling. In fact, there is an ancient Chinese proverb that describes Wushu, “kick, punch, throw, joint lock.” Modern MMA can be considered the Decathlon of combat sports. What do you think of the relationship between Chinese Wushu and Mixed Martial Arts?
Wu: MMA is derived from modern society, not from ancient tradition. Ancient Chinese MMA has no rules, and therefore was looked down upon by most civilized persons. As for the Chinese fighters, it’s a great advantage for them to use their Sanda skills in MMA competition. If they can perform well, it will be much easier for us to promote MMA in China, also it will be a great opportunity to communicate with the rest of the world.
Host: You have been paying close attention to the development of Art of War Fighting Championship. What’s your opinion on the performance of the Chinese fighters?
Wu: As for the Chinese fighters, I think the most important thing for them to do is to improve their grappling skills. Sometimes, they take down their opponents, but they don’t know how to submit them. That is a big problem. If they want to become tough MMA fighters in China and especially on the world stage, they should look back to traditional Chinese “Chin Na” techniques that were abandoned during China’s Cultural Revolution. In addition, they should learn the new adaptations of ancient techniques that Brazil and the United States have pioneered.
“Most people do not do, but take refuge in theory and talk, thinking that they will become good in this way” -- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II.4
Posted On:11/08/2009 8:26am
Style: 剛 and 柔
Those last two sentences are awesome. I had a flashback to a nursery rhyme:
YouTube- Make New Friends
Study jujutsu / but also chin na / one is silver / the other is gold
What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. -Xenophon's Socrates
Posted On:11/21/2009 8:52am
The Journal of Chinese Martial Studies is a new magazine published in China for an international audience. The first issue is available for free download as a beautifully designed PDF. I recommend it as an absolute treasure trove for CMA history dorks, including discussion of -- and photos from -- the 20s and 30s guoshu events in China (which included, as it turns out, wrestling, strike/throw fighting, and *weapon* matches).
Here's some representative text from Ma Mingda on bajiquan:
There is a further ‘Liu zhou tou’ (Six elbows) which is a basic training method used for enhancing hitting and resistance abilities. The ‘Six openings’ (Liukai) and ‘Eight techniques’ ( Bazhao) used in closed-door training are also simple, clean, and direct, without unnecessary flowery embellishments. Second, the force employed in Baji (jingdao) is likewise simple, clean, and direct, drawing a clear line between movements and still postures, empty feints and concrete strikes, and is devoid of complicated twists and turns and their accompanying exegesis: so long as a vigorous youth applies his efforts, he will grasp the principles of Baji and reap the benefits of training, and will not be befuddled by empty mysticism. Unfortunately, the development of Chinese martial arts has fallen under the shadow of superficiality in recent years. In this atmosphere, and pushed on by personal ambition and greed, certain individuals have taken the initiative to ‘transform’ the gems in classical Chinese martial arts (including Bajiquan) for their own gain, freely adding branches and leaves and foisting theories from other martial arts styles on to Baji, about which they have not a single sensible word to say, and merely adding froth and theatrics in order to enhance their weak techniques, even going as far as to invent ‘secret ancestral formulas’. It has eluded them that unembellished simplicity is the most sublime form of beauty between heaven and earth!
... in addition to bajiquan, there's coverage of the early development of Hung family fist (attn: Ming Loyalist), the history of physical culture in China, &c.
Posted On:11/22/2009 8:10pm
The hood mentality is crippling disease, that attacks your nervous system. It makes you nervous of the system. Gangsters and hood rats are especially susceptible to this growth stunting mentality. The hood is where I'm from, but it's not what I am. The hood is where I'm from, but it's not what I am. --Keith David--Ice Cube
All I got is genes and chromosomes
Consider me Black to the bone
All I want is peace and love
On this planet (Ain't that how God planned it?) --P.E.
Posted On:11/22/2009 11:35pm
Many things we do naturally become difficult only when we try to make them intellectual subjects. It is possible to know so much about a subject that you become totally ignorant.
-Mentat Text Two (dicto)
Posted On:11/23/2009 4:46am
Style: CMA and JMA
This is a good read, thanks for putting it up.
Posted On:11/24/2009 9:35pm
This link was originally posted by SBG-Ape
Does this mean you guys don’t teach Jun Fan JKD anymore, and if not, why not? Also, do you not teach the Kali drills of JKD Concepts anymore?
What we teach at the Straight Blast Gym is individuals. Not "Styles", Systems, or methods; be they called Jun Fan, or Classical Gung Fu.
What we teach those individuals to do is fight on their feet, in the clinch, and on the ground. How we do it is with ALIVENESS. Remember, all that matters is what YOU can do, and how well YOU can perform. The rest is just a semantic exercise in mental masturbation.
So are you saying that JKD is anybody that trains "alive" and in all ranges. And if so, what about interception. Isn't Jeet Kune Do the Art of interception?
What about Interception. Bruce Lee was fascinated by Muhammad Ali’s ability to intercept his opponent's strikes. Was Muhammad Ali JKD, and if not, why not? You see. . interception is a skill all great athletes acquire through ALIVE training. Its not a product owned by any "style" , "System", or man.
Are you saying JKD is the same as NHB sport then?
I am saying that if what you do works. . it will naturally resemble NHB sport. If what you are doing doesn’t resemble some aspect of NHB then it's without a doubt not athletic, and as a consequence, not functional.
I don’t see what the difference is between what you teach, and NHB training. What about Self Defense! Some of us just want to go home to our families and don’t care about brawling it out in a ring.
This is a question that is becoming so common I thought I would try and address it as simply as possible.
The idea that there is such a thing that is "self defense" training is in and of itself yet another in a long line of martial arts myths.
Let me explain. What works in "sport" is what works against resisting opponents. Much of what is passed of as to "deadly" for sport, is simply technique which will not work against resisting opponents. Obviously there are some foul tactics (such as biting and eye gouging) which could never be allowed in sport. But, would you really want to go tit for tat with a Rickson Gracie, or Tom Erickson by biting or eye gouging?
What is the difference between "self defense" Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and tournament Jiu-Jitsu. . . .not much. An armlock is an armlock, holding mount is holding mount, etc. There are some things you need to watch for, but I have always seen Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructors address these. For example, when Rickson teaches a seminar he will often teach the simple shoulder lock from mount position. He will say "for street turn away from his face while you pop this because he may try and claw your eyes", but the armlock is essentially the same!
My friend, and Machado black belt Chris Haueter recently completed a video series with us titled "Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Streetfighting" (featured in our new adverts in IKF and black belt) Do you think Chris taught a whole "different" version of Jiu-Jitsu? No, he simply demonstrated areas that need to be addressed for the street. . .the moves, the positions, the training, the conditioning, the timing. . .its all the same. He also made a good point, you could take a very good boxer, and in a manner of minutes teach him to open his hands, how to strike the eyes, etc, and he would be very effective. However, if you took someone who knows no boxing, and has never done any sparring, and teach him or her just "streetfighting eye boinks" they will still get their ass kicked. They won’t have the timing, footwork, movement, coordination, etc. The same could be said of wrestling, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and all the other combat "sports".
What about knives and multiple opponents . . . .what about them? RUN! I cannot fight two large males who are strong and know even some of what I know. Neither can Randy Couture, Chris Haueter, nor (I've asked him) Rickson Gracie. If someone pulls a knife on me I am doing my best Ben Johnson imitation.
So are you saying you don't teach streetfighting anymore?
I am saying that to train specifically for the intention of "streetfighting", is a philosophical dead end. Actually I don't believe there is a better way to prepare someone for a real life altercation then the way we train here. Thats still not the point. The point is that the pursuit of "streetfighting" is never an excuse for not training athletically.
What about all the people who aren't jocks. . .who were beat up and are just looking to learn to fight! Who need the spirituality and self defense skills that are offered by realistic "streetfighting" training, and traditional martial arts.
Yes, many people come to martial arts to learn to fight. Many were picked on, and or beat up as a kid. Many were not "jocks", and lack a certain level of self esteem.
The answer to that puzzle exists in athletic training and work against resistance. You can meditate under a waterfall, chant secret chants, etc. All day long. . .but the scared kid inside still exists. However, once that person begins training "alive", against resistance, a wonderful thing happens. .they learn what they can do, what they cant do, they learn what they are truly scared of, and what they are not. . .and low and behold, they begin liking themselves more. Action, is truly the high road to self esteem, as Bruce Lee so eloquently put it.
I do allot of work with kids that have emotional problems at the Gym. I have also seen kids that lack confidence and self esteem helped greatly by wrestling coaches and others who give of their time.
Contrast that with traditional self defense, and or streetfighting arts. Put these same scared kids in there. . .they begin wearing camouflage pants, carrying knives everywhere, thinking "tactically", etc. Becoming just bigger dorks and obvious targets for a bully jock. They grow up and turn into the geeks you see at gun and knife shows. The ones who played dungeons and dragons in high school, and were constantly picked on. Instead of confronting those issues through athletics. . .they resort to looking for the "mysterious", the secret Silat master who can teach them to beat up the football players. . .as they have always fantasized.
As Krishnamurti said, "Once you reject experience, and begin looking for the mysterious, then you are caught!"I find it interesting that on the forums that are mostly populated by people training athletically. .ie: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, etc. when the question of streetfighting comes up, knives, multiple opponents, etc. . most say without hesitation they would run. I have posted the same scenario on "traditional" forums, populated by the kung fu, aikido, shaolin, silat, etc, folks. . .and you would think you had never run into a bigger bunch of bad asses, (at least over the internet). . . .of course reality is that they would be the first to pee their pants and haul ass. The only difference is that they would feel like cowards when they did it. Where as a real fighter, ala; a Rickson, or Royler, or Couture, or even a good wrestler like Stephan Neal, etc, has nothing really to prove. They know what they can do.
The answer to the abused child, and picked on dork is athletic training. That’s where you can learn about yourself, and they discover that they do not need to be ashamed or afraid around any other man. It’s the high road to self esteem. The pitfall for them is the world of deadly martial arts, and weekend commandos. In that world they can live out their fantasies, without ever confronting themselves. Becoming just another bitter geek filled with bullshit hippie philosophy.
Why do you say you don't teach Wing Chun type trapping anymore?
When was the last time you ever saw anything that remotely looked like a wing chun or "kali" style trap in a NHB competition? You probably never will either. . . . . .guess what....there is a good reason for that!
Sure, complex trapping combos may not work just like some train them. But, don't you think they help develop attributes like line familiarization, helping you see all the possibilities, and "hardwiring" your reflex's?
Sure, complex trapping combos may not work just like some train them. But, don't you think they help develop attributes like line familiarization, helping you see all the possibilities, and "hardwiring" your reflex's?
think about what you are saying. You say "sure, complex traps may not work but like kali flow drills they teach other things like line familiarization, the possibilities, etc". If it doesn’t work what possibilities and lines is it teaching you?!
It reminds me of the argument people make that say if you throw out that which doesn’t work...ie: complex trapping, you are throwing away the "art". Art of what?? If it doesn’t work, where's the art? People don't say Randy Couture is a great wrestler but he has thrown away the art part of wrestling, or Evander is a great boxer, but he's thrown out the art of boxing. Thats nonsense. The ART is in the performance! Not the repetition of dead patterns passed on through hearsay by a "sifu".
Matt, I'm going to have to disagree with you. If I misunderstood what you have to say, please correct me, but it seems that you're saying that all these drills are worthless. I agree that drills are worthless without sparring, but I also believe that if you have weaknesses in your game, they can be worked on in isolation using drills. And then you have to be thrown back in against live opponents again. Boxing and wrestling and Judo which all focus on competing against live opponents have plenty of drills.
As far as the BJJ example goes, I've heard a story about Kimo going into Joe Moreira's studio, wiping the floor with the blue belts and purple belts there and being awarded a purple belt on the spot. If this story is true, would you consider Kimo a good technician because he could wrestle opponents with less athleticism and strength up to a purple belt level? Or would you say he was an awesome physical specimen and fighter who had a lot to learn about technique?
First off the idea of training the drills long associated with the FMA such as hubud, sombrada etc, primarily for the "empty hand attributes" makes absolutely no sense when you stop to think about it. What do you think will develop better attributes for empty hand fighting...attributes such as timing, footwork, spatial relationships, flow, rhythm, etc. . . .actually sparring against an "ALIVE" opponent, and , or doing yet another meaningless variation on a dead pattern drill such as box pattern. You don't have to be a genius to figure it out...and yet instructor after instructor, person after person...we constantly hear the same rhetoric about "attributes" and self preservation vs self perfection....etc.
Also you must re think the notion that there is a difference between being a good "technician" and being a good "fighter". Have you ever heard a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor say to another "that black belt is a really good technician...but he just cant beat the purple belts in sparring."? Being a good technician in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu means you have a good groundgame in sparring. Not having a good groundgame in sparring means you are not a good technician! Fighting of all sorts, and ranges is the same. The idea that you can be a good technician without being a good fighter is another in a long line of myths that I hope you all come to question.
It's never disrespectful to question the answers, but it's cowardly not to speak the truth for risk of offending the long held JKD myths.
Matt, I agree with much of what you say. But I still think you guys are now teaching a 'sport' and not combat! Combat, "streetfighting" is much different. What about military style training methods, and people who just need COMBAT techs?
No problem. I appreciate your questioning. . sincerely. I also completely understand your point. I just don't think its very valid.
You see, how do you test reality for the street? Do you purpose streetfighting? Beating up some drunks in a bar? What does that prove. You say science. Where is the acid test?
I don't follow the logic of "streetfighting". It is a philosophical dead end. It is impossible to prove, and it is constantly used as an excuse not to train athletically. That may not be the case with you. . .but you must understand that 99% of the people that rail against NHB as being a 'sport' and not for street, are Aikido, and kung fu geeks that couldn't fight there way out of a wet tissue paper bag. They are looking for the 'secret' Chinese master thats to 'humble' to actually spar, as he has no 'ego'. And will teach them to beat up those naughty football players that have picked on the poor kid since he was in grade school. Do you see? Its all a big cliche, a joke!
As far as the streetfighting stuff goes. . believe me, I have heard it all before! The military training methods.etc. I was in an elite unit of the military. We didn't learn much of anything for hand to hand. Its not a priority. . .as most encounters are handled at the end of a 5.56 round. What is taught is a simplified version of what we do. Simplified due to time constraints. . not effectiveness." -Matt
There is more but, this is what I liked.
Posted On:12/13/2009 5:00pm
Excerpts from The 8 Prohibitions of Che-style Xingyi by Prof Che Xiangqian, as translated and reported at the excellent Wu Lin Ming Shi blog:
1. The restrictive ‘5 elements theory’ that each fist corresponds to an internal organ and a sense organ and that the 5 element fists mutually create and destroy each other seems to have become a ‘classic’ of xingyi.
[ but ] Crushing Fist [beng quan] is actually found in all other martial arts, where it is called a straight jab. It’s also the most common and practical move used when people fight.
The previous generations explained crushing’s characteristics as: fast, simple, and straightforward, but capable of change and chain-punching. However, some books introduce crushing like so: “Bengquan [crushing fist] is wood. Wood creates fire and destroys earth, Beng creates Pao and destroys Heng” [ and so on through the 5 element rochambeau ] The explanations of Drilling, Pounding, Splitting and Crossing are also explained in this fashion. In Che style, we don’t believe in these connections, because application has shown that these theories do not hold true in practice and that there is not necessarily any connection between Crushing fist and, say, the eyes. Such theories only serve to hold people back.
2. We don’t believe in applications of Daoist alchemy without first seeing hard proof. I started learning xingyi in 1950, but it was only in the 80s that I heard of another ‘classic’, talking of ‘3 ways of practicing’, ‘3 steps of gongfu’, ‘3 layers of meaning’ and the ‘3 levels of breathing’. Pronouncements such as “ming jin [obvious power] is in the hands, change in the bones, turning jing into qi, breathing through the nose and mouth”; “an jin [hidden power] is in the elbows, changing the sinews, turning qi into spirit, dantian breathing”; “hua jin [neutralising power] is in the body, changing the marrow, returning to the void, breathing through the skin”. In the 90s I heard of an even higher level, to become all-seeing, all-powerful and at one with the Tao, a level which had only been reached by one person in the entire history of Chinese martial arts. The previous generations of Che xingyi in Taigu did not talk about this, nor did Guo Yunshen’s inheritors in Shenzhou (in Hebei province), nor did the inheritors of Zhao Zhenyao (Geng Jishan’s disciple)’s xingyi such as Professor Yang Shaoyu in Beijing, or Zhang Hui’an-Yu Chonglin in Wuhan. These terms come from Daoist alchemy. Not a single living person has displayed any of these phenomena through practice of xingyi. This is because there are no real martial artists in whom obvious and neutralising powers, or hitting and neutralising powers are separated; because the internal and external changes together in people who pracice xingyi in a scientific manner; nor is there any way of proving that someone has ‘returned to the void’ or ‘become one with the Dao’; nor can any of these ‘Grandmasters’ stop up their mouth and nose and breathe through their skin or dantian. That’s why Che style teachers don’t talk about it, and students don’t believe in it.
3. We don’t practice neigong that ignores the external. Our forebears were of the opinion that the internal and external should be trained together, at the same time. Training in a scientific manner measurably strengthens all the organs and systems of the body. If someone sweats, shakes and becomes breathless after ten minutes of sparring, that means there’s a problem [ ... ] For so many years, we have heard a lot of talk of ’stress the internal, dismiss the external’ and ‘abandon the form, stress intention’. The older generation of masters warned students that ignoring the external shape in favour of practicing neigong cannot produce a master, nor will it lead to health and longevity; instead, it can easily lead to monkhood. There is factual proof of this.
4. We don’t pursue ’superpowers’. In martial arts tales and books, there are many training methods that can enable the practitioner to withstand sword cuts, lift great weights, vault over walls, even to move objects with the mind or eternal youth, etc. Our forebears were always dismissive of these kinds of claims.
[ ... ]
8. We don’t take the path of ‘wushu-isation’ or the ‘mystification’ of xingyi [ ... ] there are two tendencies in the xingyi community. One is wushu-isation: the movements and names are xingyi, but the postures, coordination, power and rhythm are all ‘long-fist-ised”, meaning that the performance is neither good long fist nor good xingyi. The other tendency is the mystification of xingyi, where people force daoist, buddhist, confucian, or TCM concepts onto xingyi, turning xingyi into a religion, almost. This ‘mystical’ kind of xingyi I call ‘neigong-style’ xingyi. These two trends have existed have a long time, but are particularly rampant now. When Che Yonghong [aka Che Yizhai], Li Fuzhen and Bu Xuekuan were alive, these two tendencies had no place or market among Che stylists. Since 1980, these two trends have flooded the xingyi community. Regarding this phenomenon, the older generation of masters impressed upon us that we must preserve Che style’s simplicity, practicality and emphasis on skill.
Posted On:12/13/2009 5:56pm
Zhang Xiaowu, one of Chen Zhenglei's disciples, lays it down:
If taijiquan is to be used for combat, the student doesn’t need to learn the forms, the basis and focus of the training should be laid on power training. [ ... ] ‘old-man’s taiji’ and ‘performance taiji’ are only one part of taiji, namely its form. In original taiji quan which emphasised fighting ability, forms were least important. And yet, for various reasons, during taiji’s evolution forms have gradually become the ‘core’ of taiji, to the point where very few people know what real taiji is about. The professional performers and the hobbyists all say they ‘know’ taiji, actually all they know is the taiji form. The main difference between them are in the quality of performance and the difficulty of the movements. Taijiquan has become a form of calisthenics; most of the taiji that we see should be called ‘Taiji Cao’ [ taiji exercises ] rather than Taiji Quan [ taiji fist ].
Does ‘real’ or ‘complete’ taijiquan still exist then? The answer is yes, but it is only to be found amongst those who have learnt the complete system and were willing to put in the time and effort to train. These people are not necessarily taiji ‘grandmasters’, nor do the famous ‘grandmasters’ of taiji necessarily have the skills.
When our reporter asked about whether the student should also practice pushing hands, Zhang Xiaowu replied, “Pushing hands is just a training drill, the aim is for it to act as an intermediary for progressing on to sanshou. [ ... ] A lot of people who are good at pushing hands think that they have developed gongfu, when in truth they have only mastered a skill under cooperative conditions, which isn’t real gongfu. Taiji’s true essence is in its sanshou, which has no set moves. [ ... ] If someone wishes to become an expert fighter, they should devote more of their time to non-cooperative sparring.
Some people studied taijiquan with Zhang Xiaowu purely to learn ‘real gongfu’, they only learnt fa jin, no forms, but barely any of them managed to see it through to the end. Training for real gongfu is tough, hard work, whereas learning forms is relatively comfortable. However, if you don’t learn forms, outsiders think you don’t know taiji. The gradual trend towards emphasising forms is an inevitable consequence of our modern society, where combat ability has very few uses. Zhang Xiaowu realises that taijiquan’s market in a fast-paced modern society which leaves people stressed out and fatigued by their jobs is in its ability to make people healthier. This is why Zhang stresses taijiquan’s health-giving properties and not its fighting ability when he teaches.
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