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  1. #1

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    Just wondering: your perspectives on CMA today

    Hi all, sorry, this is going to be a long post; I apologize, I just want to seek some perspective from people who have actually done CMA.

    I'll preface this by saying my CMA experience is limited (I've only done a little Tai Chi and one lesson in Wing Chun) and my current style is Karate, with an open mind to joining a CMA group later in life. I'm not here to rouse up flames, or make any presumptions about Chinese Martial Arts, or even debate its effectiveness. I've just developed a huge interest on the history/culture revolving the topic, and have been well... doing a lot of blog-reading and forum lurking.


    Anyway, to the chase:

    1) Obviously Wing Chun has stirred up plenty of controversy pretty much anywhere you see it, especially here. I'm not asking about its effectiveness. What I'm concerned about is how it evolved to the point it's gotten.

    For example, the lineage wars. Yip Man was not the only teacher to have ever taught WC in China; even if he was the first to teach Wing Chun in the open, there should be at least dozens of folks now who at best have a tenuous connection to him. So why the insistence that one teacher has learned the real chun, or the discrediting of contemporaries, etc.? Is that marketing tactic just THAT strong? I will admit that I wasn't aware of the style until I had seen Ip Man, but what continues to divide the branches? I've felt like they could benefit from trying to consolidate/resolve differences (the students, most likely, not say, Emin Botzepe or William Cheung).

    Speaking of lineages:
    2) Wing Chun, Weng Chun, Ving Tsun, etc. I know that those are common variations of the same style (perhaps with some differences); This question is not exclusive to Wing Chun; it could apply to other styles too, but it seems like the best starting point to discuss this.

    There exist styles with different characteristics that may share the same Hanzi/Kanji.
    for example, there exists Yongchun White Crane, Wing Chun, and White Crane, Sanda, Sanshou, and Guoshu/Kuoshu, Baguazang and Pakuachang, I could go on. What gets more confusing for the first three is that there is a Yongchun county in China as well. So would the names of schools or styles really mean much? It definitely feels like there is more to the story than just the names. Thoughts?


    3) CMA among diaspora: I.e. Kung Fu that has had at least a generation to mix with the cultures in Malaysia, Singapore, even Thailand (apparently a 14% ethnic Chinese population, though I am quoting Wikipedia so it may not be incredibly accurate): how can we distinguish actual diaspora flavor from fluff? (Besides the obvious no-touch chi knockout one stereotypes with Kung Fu instructors). Taking Shaolin-Do (I know that it has been established that some things were made up, just a theoretical example), what if people in Indonesia do indeed wear gis regardless of the origin of the system? Is it fair to judge arts based strictly on their country of origin when the country the school moved to may have strongly influenced it?

    4) I'm aware of some levels of fraud going on in the community- Sin The, Jake Mace, Freddie Lee, for example. Actually, the three I mentioned are still teaching in some capacity. With all the investigations made, Bullshido or otherwise, what keeps them teaching? Jake Mace still has dozens of videos online and I actually get good first impressions from him as a person, but a good chunk of kung fu practitioners still call him out on just about every video he does.

    (actually, Q4 is directed to It is Fake. I saw in an old thread that you taught him at some point. He released a video about sparring injuries on his channel and he mentioned a wrestling background of some kind. Can you confirm that at all?)

    5) And my biggest question:

    There is obvious interest in CMA from a cultural standpoint as well as many enthusiastic (read: regardless of authenticity) teachers and students. Yet I see plenty of ignorance regarding the topics. I mean, people talk about myth vs fact all the time, establishing things like Shaolin didn't invent all of the martial arts and that TaiChi was not invented at Wudangshan, yet those remain the main views of newcomers shopping for martial arts.

    It doesn't stop there: I've heard from some that CMA deemphasizes strength conditioning, though anyone who digs into the history would find that outside of a certain marketing period (1930s, 1960s, will have to look back), conditioning was always a thing. As was sparring or competing on the Lei Tai (and yet I STILL see the argument being thrown around that illegal techniques bar effective competitive use).

    How did that come about and what realistically can be done to help steer some of that ignorance away? Clearly a handful of individuals who do know the truth and inform people at a conversational level isn't enough in the case of the latter.



    Thanks and I appreciate anyone who had the patience to read this through. A couple of years ago I wasn't aware that there were so many apparent problems in the CMA community and, at the risk of sounding dorky, exploring the topic ended up becoming something of a hobby of mine.

  2. #2
    3
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quote Originally Posted by Krottyman View Post
    Hi all, sorry, this is going to be a long post; I apologize, I just want to seek some perspective from people who have actually done CMA.

    I'll preface this by saying my CMA experience is limited (I've only done a little Tai Chi and one lesson in Wing Chun) and my current style is Karate, with an open mind to joining a CMA group later in life. I'm not here to rouse up flames, or make any presumptions about Chinese Martial Arts, or even debate its effectiveness. I've just developed a huge interest on the history/culture revolving the topic, and have been well... doing a lot of blog-reading and forum lurking.

    Anyway, to the chase:

    1) Obviously Wing Chun has stirred up plenty of controversy pretty much anywhere you see it, especially here. I'm not asking about its effectiveness. What I'm concerned about is how it evolved to the point it's gotten.

    For example, the lineage wars. Yip Man was not the only teacher to have ever taught WC in China; even if he was the first to teach Wing Chun in the open, there should be at least dozens of folks now who at best have a tenuous connection to him. So why the insistence that one teacher has learned the real chun, or the discrediting of contemporaries, etc.? Is that marketing tactic just THAT strong? I will admit that I wasn't aware of the style until I had seen Ip Man, but what continues to divide the branches? I've felt like they could benefit from trying to consolidate/resolve differences (the students, most likely, not say, Emin Botzepe or William Cheung).

    Speaking of lineages:
    2) Wing Chun, Weng Chun, Ving Tsun, etc. I know that those are common variations of the same style (perhaps with some differences); This question is not exclusive to Wing Chun; it could apply to other styles too, but it seems like the best starting point to discuss this.
    It's a pretty recent art IMU, like many of the other southern CMA. I think you'd have better luck finding chinese researchers articles translated into english, as there seem to be some associated with chinese martial arts magazines who have tried to collate written sources on the content.

    Quote Originally Posted by Krottyman View Post
    There exist styles with different characteristics that may share the same Hanzi/Kanji.
    for example, there exists Yongchun White Crane, Wing Chun, and White Crane, Sanda, Sanshou, and Guoshu/Kuoshu, Baguazang and Pakuachang, I could go on. What gets more confusing for the first three is that there is a Yongchun county in China as well. So would the names of schools or styles really mean much? It definitely feels like there is more to the story than just the names. Thoughts?
    I think this has more to do with english-chinese translation as much as anything else. Some of what you mentioned are locations in China, some are art names, some are variations on the same name with different english spelling, some are variations on the same practice with different chinese characters, etc.

    If you can just look up the chinese (typically you can find it in wikipedia or with a quick google search), start with the characters there.


    Quote Originally Posted by Krottyman View Post
    3) CMA among diaspora: I.e. Kung Fu that has had at least a generation to mix with the cultures in Malaysia, Singapore, even Thailand (apparently a 14% ethnic Chinese population, though I am quoting Wikipedia so it may not be incredibly accurate): how can we distinguish actual diaspora flavor from fluff? (Besides the obvious no-touch chi knockout one stereotypes with Kung Fu instructors). Taking Shaolin-Do (I know that it has been established that some things were made up, just a theoretical example), what if people in Indonesia do indeed wear gis regardless of the origin of the system? Is it fair to judge arts based strictly on their country of origin when the country the school moved to may have strongly influenced it?
    Gi's were old school modifications of HanFu from China anyway. They're generally a lot tougher fabric than typical chinese "kung fu" clothes too.

    I think the question is twofold. Efficacy and usefulness of the training methodologies, and historical accuracy/lineage.. although with overlap. Both questions can be broken down into their own huge conversations, and those are pretty much heavy topics of discussion on any CMA forum or thread I see.

    I think it depends on your goals and interests though, what perspective you will take on either of/both of those questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Krottyman View Post
    4) I'm aware of some levels of fraud going on in the community- Sin The, Jake Mace, Freddie Lee, for example. Actually, the three I mentioned are still teaching in some capacity. With all the investigations made, Bullshido or otherwise, what keeps them teaching? Jake Mace still has dozens of videos online and I actually get good first impressions from him as a person, but a good chunk of kung fu practitioners still call him out on just about every video he does.
    Everyone has their own goals in practice. Some people just want exercise, and if Jake Mace calls it shaolin kung fu, that just makes it feel like extra-special exercise, and who doesn't want to feel extra special?

    Even if they could look up historical authenticity, would it matter to them? Even then, what does historical authenticity mean? If a form or standing pattern is 200 years old, is it historically authentic? 300 years? 400 years?

    Does that make it more effective for your goals just because it's authentic? Maybe or maybe not?

    Does authentic mean the form is the same? Or if the principles underlying it are the same is it authentic? If the form movements are the same, but they don't have the underlying principles is it authentic?

    How do you know if they have the underlying principles? The average person isn't going to have any way to even look into these questions, let alone judge them on objective criteria.


    Quote Originally Posted by Krottyman View Post
    5) And my biggest question:

    There is obvious interest in CMA from a cultural standpoint as well as many enthusiastic (read: regardless of authenticity) teachers and students. Yet I see plenty of ignorance regarding the topics. I mean, people talk about myth vs fact all the time, establishing things like Shaolin didn't invent all of the martial arts and that TaiChi was not invented at Wudangshan, yet those remain the main views of newcomers shopping for martial arts.
    Well I think as far as we know, Taichi as we know it did come from cross-pollination of styles at/around shaolin temple. In fact, Sal Canzonieri traced back the early Chen forms to longfist (changquan), tongbei, hong quan, and other common shaolin routines.

    Now many of those routines may have come from other areas in China as well, but were again cross-pollinated at Shaolin with neigong and other early body mechanics.

    Here is Sal's breakdown of the movements from Taichi and other common Shoalin sets
    http://www.bgtent.com/naturalcma/ima...ble%20only.pdf

    And another link from earlier in Sal's research about the origins of Chen taiji:
    http://www.bgtent.com/naturalcma/CMAarticle30.htm

    Basically, the chen's learned in or around Shaolin, and Chen Village is really close to shaolin as it is anyway. And other TJQ forms were derived from there.


    Quote Originally Posted by Krottyman View Post
    Thanks and I appreciate anyone who had the patience to read this through. A couple of years ago I wasn't aware that there were so many apparent problems in the CMA community and, at the risk of sounding dorky, exploring the topic ended up becoming something of a hobby of mine.
    You might be interested in Sal's research. Some of his early articles are on this page:

    http://www.bgtent.com/naturalcma/index.htm

    He wrote a book recently with more updated information as well, and he runs a small outfit in NJ where he teaches this stuff, but he's one of the most well-written english-speaking TCMA researchers that I'm aware of.

  3. #3

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I've recently started studying bājqun myself. I've had minimal instruction in tijqun and come from a karate background. I was always interested in the Chinese roots of karate, especially when I studied Shorin-ryu. Naihanchi-kata especially piqued my interest, as my sensei had pointed out its relations to a lot of commonly-found moves in Chinese styles.

    I dont know much of Wing Chun or whichever romanization various denominations follow, so I'll just add what very little I've encountered. I've known a few guys who have done JKD and delved deeply into WC to try to find out more about the roots of the style, and try to find more common links, but aside from the myths repeated ad nauseum of Ip Man and the founding story, they never had much to offer in the way of verifiable historical events. Generally, the Wing Chun I see is a bunch of talk about centerline, simplicity, trapping, and then fat guys getting bodyslammed by fighters from more respected and realistic styles. I'd love to see an effective Wing Chun fighter in a match, but I haven't. Ron Balicki had some success with JKD, but I don't recall much trapping.

    My current school is wushu, with a focus on 80% traditional forms. Conditioning is heavily stressed, my sifu wanted to know about my weightlifting and cardio routines and found them good (Stronglifts 5x5 and elliptical or stationary cycle, because I hate running), and is planning on showing me some more advanced calisthenics and whatnot whenever I'm ready for that. He emphasized aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and flexibility both from static and dynamic points. As for leitai, I don't really know what he does. Another school in the same city does, or did, Sanshou and their workouts for both the traditional training (Hung Gar and Choy Li Fut) are apparently gut-wrenchers, but from what I've heard, soft and fat Hung Gar boxers are rare, anyway.

    My instructor now doesn't speak much about history or myth. I do my own research. I was a history major at one point and only dropped it because I've known plenty of unhappy restaurant managers who have Bachelor's of Arts with history majors. Bājqun attracted me because of how it looks and because I loved Shenmue as a kid. Plus, I was good with Kokoro in Dead or Alive. Most of the trumped-up stories of Li Shu-Wen are pretty suspect, and hard to prove or disprove. But, given my training in research from some excellent teachers in high school and college, I will of course enthusiastically look into evidence for either.

    The best way to steer away from that is the same kind of thing that's taught us that Nero didn't light the fires that burned Rome and that he actually did lead a fire brigade, and that the Crusades were motivated by defense more than religion. Empirical evidence, scientific reasoning, multiple objective, primary sources, and even a bit of my favorite, experimentation with replicated materials and circumstances. An example of that would be a research project I found years ago that involved the construction of the Ancient Greek linothorax, a cuirass made of laminated linen. The students made several using different types of linen of similar weave and of similar material to what the Greeks would have had, down to handmade glue, and shot them with arrows as similar to Greek and Persian designs as possible to see how they would react. As for getting this widely-known, that's probably not going to happen as long as teachers are desperate for students and see the great propaganda potential of stories of Indian monks inventing kung fu or grandmasters killing banyan trees by punching them.

    Really, it falls to the practicioner to find his own answers, through research and training. Maybe the stories were intended as inspiration, similar to the Zen concept of a koan where the answer is not the real goal. I'm actually learning Mandarin because I want to learn to speak the language of my new style, and even if it's total fucking garbage in a fight, I don't care. That's why I pack a Beretta and took boxing and jujitsu. Bāj is almost LARP'ing, I guess, but it's damned fun.

    But, I'm a n00b to Chinese styles. So, take that as you will.

  4. #4
    Rivington's Avatar
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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I'm sorry, what the **** is your actual question?

  5. #5

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    Rivington, sorry, tendency of mine to try and squeeze questions into one thread. Old email habit I haven't broken. Just looking for opinions on all of the questions, from people who know more than I do.

    Other than that, great answers so far. Thanks! I'll definitely look into that link that was posted.
    Last edited by Krottyman; 8/05/2015 4:25am at .

  6. #6
    Permalost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krottyman View Post
    Rivington, sorry, tendency of mine to try and squeeze questions into one thread. Old email habit I haven't broken. Just looking for opinions on all of the questions, from people who know more than I do.
    That's not a question either.

  7. #7

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    True, I didnt phrase it like one.

    I had five questions that arose from my reading which I felt were loosely related, and I strung them together for this thread. Can I get some insight on what this community knows about these topics?

    I'll condense my five questions:
    -Why lineage wars?
    -Sanshou/San Soo, same characters, different styles. Yong Chun White crane, Wing Chun, same story. Why or How?
    -Kung fu in other countries, what is the difference between what is made up and what is genuinely influenced from teachers reshaping their styles in another country?
    -Shaolin Do, Freddie Lee, etc. That they claim more than they know has been established. Why do they still teach?
    -myths are common in lots of arts, what can be done to dispel them effectively, since only so many care to do lots of reseatlrch?

    I don't need every responder to answer every question per se. In fact, I responded to Rivington because after reading my original post, I realized my intent was probably obscured by the huge wall of text. I'll try to be more concise next time or try to condense it to one question.
    Last edited by Krottyman; 8/05/2015 12:27pm at . Reason: reposting questions with less surrounding text

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Krottyman View Post
    True, I didnt phrase it like one.

    I had five questions that arose from my reading which I felt were loosely related, and I strung them together for this thread. Can I get some insight on what this community knows about these topics?

    I'll condense my five questions:
    -Why lineage wars?
    -Sanshou/San Soo, same characters, different styles. Yong Chun White crane, Wing Chun, same story. Why or How?
    -Kung fu in other countries, what is the difference between what is made up and what is genuinely influenced from teachers reshaping their styles in another country?
    -Shaolin Do, Freddie Lee, etc. That they claim more than they know has been established. Why do they still teach?
    -myths are common in lots of arts, what can be done to dispel them effectively, since only so many care to do lots of reseatlrch?

    I don't need every responder to answer every question per se. In fact, I responded to Rivington because after reading my original post, I realized my intent was probably obscured by the huge wall of text. I'll try to be more concise next time or try to condense it to one question.
    Lineage wars are similar to rivalry between high school football, baseball, or hockey teams. Nothing new there.

    Wing Chun is one romanization of the Cantonese, Yong Chun is one of the same characters probounced in Mandarin. There are multiple romanization methods for Chinese, the most common for Mandarin being Pinyin. I try to use Pinyin when I know the tone. It's similar to "jiu-jitsu" vs. "jujutsu" or "jujitsu" because the hiragana for "ju" is constructed in such a way that it combines two characters for one syllable: a modifier for the "j-" sounds and "yu." I've seen older romanization methods that spell that "jyu," as a matter of fact. The "jitsu" vs. "jutsu" I've never figured out.

    As for changes in other countries, hell yes, that happens a lot. Especially in karate (Nagamine, Funakoshi, Lewis, for example, are very different, but still definitely karate), or Muay Thai from the motherland vs. in Holland. How much is made up, well, that's what this website was originally designed to find out, really. There's definitely a lot of bullshit, and sometimes just differences in opinion. Master Leong in my hometown of Seattle moves very differently than what I saw of Master Bucksam Kong's student's students in Tulsa, OK, and it was more than just practice. It had differing emphasis, subtly different angles, stance depths, etc. It's up to the individual to choose if he likes the style as practiced enough to sign up.

    The other ****, ah, ****, I dunno. Shaolin-do seems suspect, and as for myths, just refer to my previous post.

  9. #9
    Scott Larson's Avatar
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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    As for your first two questions, I think you can find those out with a little more research that is already out there. I think a good resource for you would be www.kungfupodcasts.com . You can get a lot of other links and sources from what TW Smith has compiled.

    3. I think Matthews answered this question. Marital arts should be continuously evolving. Respect should be given to those before you, but times change and just because something worked 400 years ago, doesn't mean it will work today. Someone(s) "made up" every style. What matters is how they created the style.

    4. People are easily fooled because they want to be. See James Randi's work.

    5. Myths and legends are a valuable tool in the martial arts. As long as people don't take these for facts, there's no problem. Unless you are referring to incorrect assumptions, which in that case, see number 4.

  10. #10

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    Cool! I have Sal and these podcasts to read/listen to now. Thanks!

    I agree with number three- I just attended a tournament where multiple practitoners of Isshin Ryu Karate performed many of the same kata- Saeunchin, Wonsoo, Sunsoo to name a few. Everyone practiced it differently, emphasizing different things. It may have resulted from differences in which Shimabuku himself modified as times went. So what was learned in the States could easily differ from the original teaching. The same probably applies to other styles, i.e. the five Tai Chi styles.


    As for 5, what makes myths and legends valuable to the art, outside of cultural/mythos interests? I will admit that I did like hearing about the creation story for Wing Chun, but some of the theories for its actual origin sound pretty fascinating too (i.e. guys at an opera house practicing for rebellions).
    Last edited by Krottyman; 8/09/2015 9:25am at .

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