The Kung Fu Bum, Redefined (Made in China) pt II

18 07 2014

This article is a continuation of this article. When you get a chance, go back a read it, I’m sure you will find it educational.

The Kung Fu Bum is not an outdated lifestyle, as many school owners will claim. It is not useless or foolish. I was taught this as a young man with a school of my own. I rubbed elbows with some martial arts millionaires as well as small school owners like me who were making a pretty good living. I found one thing in common with all of them that I just couldn’t swallow:  They made excuses for the mediocrity of their students and would blame it on the times.

Can you feed yourself with your martial arts? I can.

Most people walking through the door don’t have the discipline needed to train the way we used to.

A system needs representatives to exist. There are many GREAT Kung Fu men with no students.

I disagree terribly.

If you aren’t willing to miss a meal for Kung Fu, you don’t deserve to say you’ve Mastered it. No more than a man who says he loves a child, but is unwilling to work at McDonald’s or miss a meal to feed him. Kung Fu must be sacrificed for to achieve the higher levels, and many teachers were unwilling to sacrifice to learn it. As a result, they have little more to offer students besides certificates, forms, and the chance to dress up in “Chinese” clothing and drop names and philosophy. There are levels of understanding in the martial arts and the problem is that many who do the Chinese Martial Arts have their priorities in the wrong place, and we are speaking out of place.

You have Forms guys trying to talk like fighters.

You have traditionalists who put down fighters.

We have Lion Dancers disguising what they do as “Martial Arts”, when it’s only “Martial-like” Arts.

You have Chinese style McDojos dressed up as traditional Kwoons and pretending to be one. Many go so far as to invite emissaries from China and take frequent trips to rub elbow with “the Chinese” in the hopes that what they do looks more credible.

(Don’t get hurt or offended, please. This was only meant to define the roles of various types of Sifu.) I could go on.

We have Sifus who consider Chinese Chinese arts good, and non-Chinese Chinese arts okay–regardless of skill level.

We have students who will only study in a school if it’s dressed up to look like an MMA gym.

We have students who will only study in a school if it looks like the set to a David Carridine sit-com (sorry, bad joke)

And here, we arrive at my point. The true Kung Fu lifestyle is not a thing of the past, nor is it something that can only exist in China. Good Kung Fu should be strived and sacrificed for–regardless of who you pay to get it from. The Kung Fu Bum is actually not a bum at all. On occasion, a Kung Fu Man (which is what I call him) has been able to navigate this economy to find his place, professionally, as a Kung Fu expert. In the days of old, Kung Fu men became soldiers, security men, body guards, taught soldiers and police. Today, the process is more complex, but this is still the option for a Kung Fu man besides simply opening a school. Or a Kung Fu man who does open a school would just have to figure out the formula to success using his art–without watering it down, as many claim you must. Once you learn the art, develop the skill, you must then find a way to transform that art into a marketable, sustaining form of income. This, in turn, will allow you to spend more of your time in a Sei Ping Ma and in front of a punching bag–rather than a desk–and continue to see where the potential of your Kung Fu skill will take you. Kung Fu need not be a burden, and it is as valid a path as any academic endeavor. Should you pursue Kung Fu the right way, even those called Martial Arts “Masters” will admire your skill, rather than your wallet or reputation.

I have some suggestions. Stay tuned. In the meantime, please see our “Offerings” page and donate $19 to receive a copy of my mini-book “Make a Living with Your Backyard/Garage/Community Center Dojo”.

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.





The Kung Fu Bum, Redefined (Made in China)

18 07 2014

In my archives, I have a booklet entitled, “Stuff I’d Like You to Know”, which was given to any new Jow Ga student I took during the 90s and early 2000s. In those days, my school was a Filipino Martial Arts school, and I only taught Jow Ga privately. In the booklet, I introduce my new students to the life upon which they are about to embark–as this is not a class, I tell them… it is a lifestyle.

In it, I have a section about the Kung Fu Bum:  A man, who, while perhaps highly skilled in Kung Fu, is a loser in life because he defined himself by the martial arts and neither completed his formal academic education nor pursued a successful career. This is a man who foregoes study in college to study martial arts, who often attends classes free because his Sifu sees him as a great protegè although he cannot pay tuition. We all know them; often they are vagrants who still live with family or parents–but when it’s demo time or sparring time, even his class mates who are doctors and lawyers envy him. I was a Kung Fu bum, but I found a little financial stability by opening a school. Few of us martial arts bums do, however–so I did my best to persuade my students not to follow in my footsteps and choose life over martial arts.

Boy, was I wrong.

Kung Fu, it turns out, is a way of life. Not all paths lead to financial prosperity, and that’s okay. Not everyone measures himself by homeownership or what kind of car is in his driveway. If this art is to flourish and prosper, someone will have the carry the torch of the Masters before us and undertake the burden of a Kung Fu gatekeeper. All of this, in spite of the fact that some of us will sleep in our gyms and have to skip a meal when it’s tuition time. I may draw criticism from many of my own brothers by saying this, but when you are gone from this Earth, styles will mostly be remembered by the heroes who represented this art as a Tiger in the jungle–not by the many smaller animals who sat as prey in his presence. This is not to say that those of us who have many students are insignificant or less credible as Kung Fu men. There is room for all types of martial artists in this community, and there is room for all degrees of knowledge and skill on a system’s family tree… There is a role for everyone in every system, including the Kung Fu Bum.

Like it or not, martial arts must be trained daily and full time to reach its potential. I have a Si Hing who is criticized by other Si Hing for talking some of the younger generation to forego college for martial arts. I have my opinion about his approach and his motive, but I am also thankful that he introduced me to this idea, as many have done the martial arts for years and have never known the feeling of being dominant over most others in their presence. There are many Kung Fu men who are simply called a “Master” because they have many years in the system and have many students and grand students. Yet there are still some men (many unnamed and largely unknown) whose skill shadows those Masters, and they serve as role models to those who knew them. Some of your Si Gung and Si Jo were such men. They died penniless. They were not famous. But they possessed skill that most in the martial arts have never witnessed in person or in the media, and the stories told about them as myth were, in fact, true. We didn’t get these martial arts greats by some guy practicing a few hours a week after work. These men developed such a level of skill because they didn’t have a traditional career; to them, the martial arts was not a hobby, not a job, not a business–it was a calling.

When your Master said that you would be lucky to have 2 great students in your life time, he wasn’t speaking of “good” martial arts students… he was talking about the Kung Fu Bum. Or, as you will one day call him:  A Master whom you would hope to one day be as skilled as.

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.