There is an ongoing debate in the Chinese Martial Arts world–in America, particularly–about what direction Kung Fu needs to go towards. I don’t live in a town with many real Kung Fu schools (there are only about 5 or so), and out of those schools none fight on the circuit where I would meet and bond with them. Over the years, and recently on social media, I have engaged in this discussion with enthusiasm.
My philosophy is the same now as it was in the late 1980s when I began teaching Jow Ga: Kung Fu people must modernize their view of their martial arts.
Notice I said we must modernize our view, and not modernize our styles.
Lately, I’ve come to enjoy another blog discussing the Chinese martial arts, NY Sanda–run by Master David Ross. He is a student of the late Master Chan Tai San, practicing Choy Lay Fut, Lama Pai, Bak Mei and Jow Ga. Sifu Ross is one I consider to have kept up with the times. I approach my modernizing slightly differently than he does, but I do not disagree with any of his methods. When you get a chance, make sure to get over there and see what he is up to. He is a Sifu that I believe if a challenger walked in his door, that challenger would be leaving with some body parts rearranged. We can’t say that about too many Kung Fu teachers.
When I say that we should modernize our view, I am referring to how we treat our arts. How we train, and what goals we set for the fighting skills we teach, are vital to whether our arts are outdated or useful. Too often, Kung Fu practitioners value their arts by how many forms they know, how well they perform a form, or how popular/famous they or their teacher is. But Kung Fu is not measured in those things in the mind of a non-practitioner. We do our systems a disservice when we cannot easily relay what we do to a non-martial artist in terms they understand. The non-CMA guy doesn’t care who our master was, how popular our style is in other countries, where we got write ups.
In the modern world, the usefulness of a Kung Fu school is measured by:
- Combat usefulness on the street or the ring
- Its relevance for health–REAL benefits like weight loss, lifestyle changes, mental health benefits, and repairing/healing the body
- Works the Kung Fu school has done for the community. Not for paying students, but the community. Basically, does your school’s presence benefit those who are NOT members?
- How the students’ experience in your school has enhanced their lives once they are no longer attending classes
- The respect other martial artists will have for your lineage and your system after encountering you and your students
Some things to talk about and consider. Ponder on this, and I will expound in the next few articles. I estimate this to be at least a five-part series.
Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.