Traveling Lightly vs. The Hoarder

2 09 2016

In the journey towards perfection in the martial arts, whether one is a student or a teacher, there are two basic schools of thought:

  1. Those who travel lightly
  2. Those who try to bring the whole house in a suitcase

While they both have their merits, only one is a guarantee of success.

If you look at the development of Kung Fu styles, both modern and classical, you would notice that there are no original ideas in the Chinese martial arts. All styles, concepts, and systems originated from another style or teacher. In Jow Ga, we are a combination of Hung Ga, Choy Ga, and Northern Shaolin. However, our founders did not including the entire systems of Hung Ga, Choy Ga, and Northern Shaolin. On top of that, there were five founders, each having his own set of martial arts experiences. No doubt, some of them had exchanged with various teachers outside his own systems and picked up techniques, forms and ideas along the way. Yet, today, what modern Jow Ga practitioners have today represents only a fraction of what was collected and learned. Much of this knowledge was fused with other knowledge and new techniques, forms and ideas replaced older ones. Some of this new knowledge is condensed from the combination of several ideas. Ultimately, Jow Ga is not a “collection” of the three systems–but a concentrated, repackaged, fused combination of the three systems. Furthermore, downline from the founders–individual Sifus and sub-lineages of Jow Ga will be new concentrated versions of Jow Ga, based on the research, testing, and findings of each Sifu. Some will be repackaged classical Jow Ga–while others will contain knowledge from outside systems and influences.

Yet, rather than combine and concentrate all of their learning into a newer version of their knowledge, many teachers today do the opposiste; they leave entire forms intact, combine systems and techniques that are completely unrelated, and give theirĀ  students more than they could perfect. Instead of combining flour, eggs, oil, sugar and fruit to make a beautiful cake–those Sifus throw everything in the bowl and hand students all the ingredients, unmixed, unblended… Just a messy bowl full of strawberries, powder, whole eggs and oil drenched on the mix. For some, ego causes teachers to boast of knowing 50+ forms and systems. For others, I believe it is pure laziness of not investigating and developing enough. And for a most, teachers feel it disrespectful to change or combine what they learned into a homogenous, new creation. This last category, I believe has hurt the Chinese martial arts. It is both selfish and egotistical, to prevent self-expression. When a teacher bans proficient students from investigating their arts until skills leak into other learning, he is suppressing his student’s progress. In his own way, he is ordering students to remain a student forever, and never acknowledging that the student has progressed enough to know what to strip away and discard. He does not believe that the student is capable of determining for himself what piece of the art he will specialize in. Teach this art the way I taught you, and never develop a mind of your own.

I call these Kung Fu men “Kung Fu Hoarders”. They are collectors of new arts, new forms, new versions and techniques. They never allow the new information to blend with the old; to gain an identity of its own within their own repertoire. They never allow Hung Ga concepts to become applied towards their Choy Ga. They never use their Whipping power of Choy hands to enhance their Northern Shaolin punching. They never allow Northern feet to back up their Hung Ga. As a result, their Kung Fu knowledge is never internalized, but merely memorized. Looks good on paper, but in the frenzied confusion of a fight–very few of those skills will manifest themselves into actual, deliverable applied fighting skill.

We all know them. The guys who will pull you to the side to show you what Master So-n-So taught them, and they’ve got plenty. But they can never don the gloves and show you how this skill looks in real time. At demos, they impress others with their “vast knowledge of forms” from other systems. This is what they do, they’ve committed these things to memory and can recall anything for your viewing pleasure.

Unfortunately, this is not useful in the pursuit of Kung Fu perfection. We must remember that in order to perfect a skill, it must be practiced, used, thrown, executed an average of 10,000 times. Very few men reading this article has ever practiced anything ten thousand repetitions. This is why most people calling themselves “Master” are using the word as a title, rather than as a verb. One can be a master, or one can master a skill. Very few martial artists have the stomach to train anything in their art enough times to truly master it. The more you have in your arsenal, the longer you must train before approaching proficency–and even longer to approach mastery. There are those who travel lightly, combine skills, eliminate waste, perform enough research to fuse ideas and create new ones; they are the only ones who will most likely master what they know. The true masters of an art understand that in order to master a system, one does not have to master everything in the system–especially those who are studyings arts with multiple forms, weapons and skills. In the training and investigative process of ones own style–many cuts will be made. Forms and techniques will be eliminated; as well as strategies will be created and fine-tuned. Each generation of an art should not become more and more diluted.

This is the outcome of having too much in the curriculum; mediocrity. Sure, students will know up to 8 or 10 different weapons and 15 or so forms. But how much of this knowledge will be perfected? Can those students fight with superior, dominant skill, with all 8 weapons? Or will they only be able to demonstrate forms with them? Will the student’s skill be good enough to win a forms competition with any form in his arsenal? Or can he only demo the other forms, while only performing one or two to the best of his ability? Think about this, seriously and honestly… Are you really trying to perfect your systems or are you merely preserving what’s been picked up over the years? Can you honestly take everything in your skill base and bet the house on it against all comers? Or are you traveling with years and years of barely memorized forms, techniques you can only talk about, and fighting skill that has nothing to do with 99% of your curriculum?

Those who dare to let go of the unnecessary, will have a concentrated, potent skill set he honestly feels is the best around. Those martial artists have the time to devote to the best of their knowledge, and only the best of their knowledge. While others travel with everything their brains can hold–most likely, must do so with mediocrity. Quality over quantity. It is a very simple, but universal concept.

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.

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