Frivolity in Kung Fu

14 03 2013
I have always said that martial artists with good skill on the path to mastery have no time for silly things. Where you find a martial artist who is preoccupied with rank, politics, online battles, bragging rights, and money, you will often find the most poorly skilled among us. There is a saying that martial arts politics–be it money, rank or power–is for those who have little useful skill. That is a very true statement, because the skilled have little interest in those things. This is the reason that every school has a group of men who are low Black Belters or under belts, who are the best fighters in the school–yet they have yet to test for higher rank:  they have little use for anything that does not improve their skill.
Why don’t you chew on that one for a minute?
See, as martial artists we should have two things foremost in our minds:  the development and improvement of our personal skill, and the promotion of our reputations–our school’s reputation, and our teacher’s reputation. And that emphasis on reputation brings you back to your own personal fighting skill. Anything outside of those two things–who is recognized as “senior” in your system, who has the “real deal” version of your teacher’s teacher’s art, who was teacher’s favorite, which master can lay claim to the creator of a concept or style, I could go on–means nothing. Nothing, if the man in front of you has the superior fighting skill. Please don’t forget this.
But what of other martial arts skills? Like brick-breaking? Chi Sao skill? Form performance? The number of forms learned? The ability to hold a strong stance? Physical Strength? Speed? Flexibility?
Listen. If those things will make a difference in your ability to put a man on his behind after you learn them, then I say go for it. I have had my own classmates talk of going to Hong Kong and bringing back a different version of the forms we learned here in America. They talk of learning the second version of a Broadsword form we learned from our teacher 30 years ago. My question is, will these things improve our fighting ability and the functional knowledge we have of our style? Probably not. So I’ll pass. But it is a personal choice. Some people enjoy learning new forms, and that’s fine. But let’s not get so preoccupied with it that our judgment of good Kung Fu vs mediocre Kung Fu or authentic versions vs illegitimate versions is not affected by adding all this stuff.
We love history, foreign-language terminology, arguments about what to call our arts, titles and ranks we should be using, blah blah blah. But those things are silly non-issues for the true warrior. And anytime you meet someone obsessed with those things, I guarantee you that you are in the presence of the inferior martial artist. And that’s why you will be wasting your time until you get away from that conversation and back into the gym.
Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.
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