Saturday, February 21, 2009

Square One…

There are many components that form the structure of training in traditional Chinese martial arts.

Depending on the context in which these methods are taught and practiced, some are good, some are outdated, and some need to be clearly defined in order for them to be understood and appreciated.

Typically, traditional training in Southern Chinese martial arts emphasizes:

歷史 lik si (history)
獨練 duk lin (individual training)
練功 lin gung (drill for skill)
對練 deui lin (partnered training)
自衛 ji wai (self-defense)
兵器 bing hei (weaponry)
拳理 kyun lei (fighting theory)
氣功 hei gung (breath/energy skill)
跌打 dit da (fall and hit / traumatic healing)
舞獅 mou si (lion dancing)

For the most part, a practitioner may train in each of these areas; a disciple may learn them; a sifu (teacher) may understand them; and, a master will be able to properly pass them on to a subsequent generation.

The beauty in attempting to embrace a system in its entirety is that it is a discipline – one that would ideally transfer its finest attributes across all aspects and sectors of a practitioner’s life. However, it is also important to understand that not everyone approaches a study of martial arts in this manner - and that needs to be respected.

In some systems, certain characteristics of training may be deemphasized or even absent due to the instructor’s perception of its relevance to the curriculum. For instance, lion dancing may not be a part of a teacher’s syllabus. Does this mean that the system is lacking – which can lead to questions about its integrity as a whole? Absolutely not. This just points to the fact that the instructor may have never learned this aspect of the art or has deemed it unsupportive toward developing one’s fighting orientation. [Within our lineage, Master Kwong Man Fong does not teach lion dance.]

In Pak Mei Kung Fu, the emphasis has always been on fighting (then again, so is every martial art’s focus; otherwise, they wouldn’t be called martial arts).
In your twenties, something such as iron palm training is considered essential to your conditioning and imperative to your progress (also, you really have no choice when your sifu says that you have to do it).
But as we age and our life situations shift, iron palm may not necessarily be the best area of concentration for our efforts.
Instead, deepening your knowledge of self-defense within the system’s principles may better suit your needs; or furthering your energy output from cultivating and enhancing your understanding of hei gung, or energy circulation; or even expanding your herbal awareness arising from that curious formula for dit da jau that always accelerated the healing of your bruises from iron palm training.

As a potential student or an established veteran of the arts, it is always important to assess what your priorities are, what stage your life is currently in, and where you eventually want to be with regard to your journey in the arts.

Ultimately, the art becomes yours. But, you must acknowledge that it is, rather than pass it on as representative of an established style or system.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. I especially like the statement in red. For me, it's the difference between the artist and his work. And the same as the sifu and his student. A student should stand on his own feet, not on the accomplishments of his teacher.