Its Time

If you are a Chinese martial artist, I believe that you may have noticed many of the strange phenomena happening in Western Chinese martial arts society for the last twenty years. Many of you may have noticed these phenomena and let them happen. Many of you may get upset and feel you cannot do too much about it. If you are an enthusiastic Chinese martial artist, I invite you to read this article carefully and think about it. It is our future and responsibility. It is we who must change the wrong path into the right one. If we do not try our best to correct this path, it is we who should be blamed in Chinese martial arts history for the Western world.

Strange Phenomena

How many times when you have gone to a Kung Fu tournament have you noticed that, during the forms competition, most of the competitors demonstrate a high degree of skill, yet when they fight in the sparring competition, they fight like Karate Again, even when you go to a Karate tournament, those who wear Kung Fu uniforms also fight like Karate. It would seem that there is no difference between Kung Fu fighting and Karate fighting. The questions then arise: Can Kung Fu really fight and can its techniques be used against Karate competitors Why do they train Kung Fu when they actually fight like Karate If we think our styles are right, why do we change Kung Fu into Karate-Kung Fu Does it make sense to you

If you go to Asia and trace back the oriental cultures, you will see that more than 60% of oriental culture originated in China. China was considered the "Center" of all the Asian countries. China is called "Jong Kuo," which means "Center Kingdom" because China was considered the "Center" of all Asian cultures. For example, more than 50% of the Japanese and Korean "alphabets" are Chinese. It is the same with the martial arts. Many Japanese and Korean publications have traced back the origin of their martial arts culture and admitted that Chinese martial arts were the ancestors of theirs. From such historical background, don't you feel it strange that most Westerners think Kung Fu is a form of Karate and should be classified in the Karate section of the Yellow Pages Don't you feel uncomfortable when people think that the Kung Fu you have worked so hard to learn is only a type of Karate Don't you feel strange when many Kung Fu schools use the Karate belt system in their ranking Have you ever asked WHY Kung Fu society has been gradually absorbed into Karate society

Why are there more American styles of Kung Fu (like American styles of Chinese Food) spread around the country than there are traditional schools Why do they keep making money, misleading generations of innocent young students Why are there not more tra- ditional schools Where and how do these styles originate Typically, they are a mix of some Chinese Kung Fu and Karate kicking. Unfortunately, they do not keep the essence of either side.

Kung Fu means energy-time. Any training which takes a lot of patience, energy, and time to train is called Kung Fu. Kung Fu includes both physical and spiritual aspects. However, in today's Chinese martial arts society, spiritual and moral cultivation have been ignored. Self-discipline has become secondary to money making. Money has become the first consideration in both training and teaching. How can someone really find a true master and build up a relationship which is not under the influence of "money"

Why do so many magazines which claim to be "Inside" Kung Fu or showcase "Real" Kung Fu keep publicizing American styles of Kung Fu or strange styles They are not only promoting the wrong things, but they also simultaneously deny the traditional styles of Kung Fu the recognition they deserve. The responsibility of a magazine should be to promote the true arts and to educate people to the right path. Unfortunately, many of the magazines are short-sighted, looking only as far as their circulation desks. They do not know that they are poisoning the root and destroying the essence of that which will enable them to last forever. The worst part is that when they choose an article, the decision is based on whether this article will impress people and make money. They care only to cash in on the latest fad, and do not even research whether or not it is accurate. They are leading innocent people into false beliefs and reinforcing the misconceptions which the public has about our art.

In order to impress people and receive more students and money, many masters are willing to place a heavy mask on their faces and demonstrate some kind of amazing power which can be performed only on their own students. These charlatans seem to breed like flies, and the situation is becoming worse and worse. How long can this kind of magic trick endure, and what will be the damage to these people's reputations when they are finally exposed More importantly, how will this reflect on the Chinese martial arts community as a whole No wonder so many Karate players scoff that Chinese Kung Fu is fake and is only tricks. What do you feel about this

In order to understand how all of the above strange phenomena began, we must analyze the past and trace back their origins.

How did it happen

The worst influence was probably Bruce Lee's motion pictures. If you trace back Bruce Lee's background, you can see that he studied Wing Chun for only a few years before immigrating to the United States. In China, Wing Chun is only a branch of White Crane. After arriving in the United States, he started to mix the Kung Fu he learned with some kicking techniques. What he performed was a modified form of Kung Fu, and even the Kung Fu he knew was only a tiny portion of its style. Naturally, the martial arts he demonstrated in motion pictures cannot represent traditional Chinese martial arts. Though we cannot deny that because of his movies the martial arts market in the United States skyrocketed, we cannot ignore that he has mislead the general public into a distorted understanding of Chinese Kung Fu. In order to make money to survive, many Kung Fu schools started to emphasize the way he fought in the movies, pulling out their own root which they had cultivated over many lifetimes. I am not trying to say that Bruce Lee's films are not entertaining or bad for what they are. I do however feel that Westerners have been brainwashed by his films even though we can be reasonably sure that this was not his intent.

The second reason was that many of the martial arts magazines are run by businessmen who have little or no knowledge of Chinese martial arts. Their motivation is making money, not promoting real Chinese martial arts. For this reason, Bruce Lee was built up as a hero and his fighting style was widely encouraged. As long as they could make money, they were willing to mislead the American public and encourage the American styles of Chinese martial arts. Unfortunately, the innocent public has been brainwashed.

Due to the above influence and again the need to make money, many traditional Chinese masters started to fight like Bruce Lee's Karate, even though they still trained traditionally. Naturally, the main reason for this is that there has never been an authorized organization which could offer tournaments with feasible rules that could fit all of the Chinese martial styles. In order to satisfy the students' desire to fight and compete, they have to bow, however unwillingly, to the Karate tournaments. Because of this, most masters either directly or indirectly support and promote Karate while denying their own arts. They don't realize it, but they are destroying themselves.

The last main reason, indicated above, is probably that there has never been an organization with the authority to set up rules, and the ability to provide for fair judging. Many Chinese martial artists believe that it is impossible to set up rules which can be feasible for such a great number of different styles. Because of this they must follow the Karate rules, which have been set up for Karate training. For example, in Karate tournaments, the points are the most important. Points are given only for attacking. Good blocking and defensive strategy are never given points. This is because today's Karate training emphasizes mainly attacking instead of defending. With their rules they deny that defense is more important than offense. As long as you kill the enemy, you do not have to worry if you are also killed.

Another example is that because of all the high kicking, Karate must forbid kicking to the groin and sweeping the legs, which are normally exposed to attack when a person kicks high. Not only that, punches to the face and the back are usually illegal. I always wonder how these rules can be used to train a fighter who can fight on the street. Street fighters usually train themselves to attack the groin, face, and even the back. Tell me, do you really think that Kung Fu should also fight according to these rules

Now that we know how it happened and what we have done wrong, let's discuss how we can correct our path.

How do we correct our path

Stop criticizing and blaming each other. Unite all of the Chinese martial arts, sit down with open minds, and discuss feasible tournament rules. Many martial artists are relying on the rules which are still being experimenting with in Mainland China or Taiwan. Naturally, we should consider their rules; however, their rules may not be the best ones. If their rules are the best, why have they kept changing them for the last twenty years Nobody can deny that finding feasible rules will take a long time and require a lot of experimentation. We will need a lot more experience and even more patience. We should not surrender to the obstacles and difficulties which lie ahead of us. The obstacles must be removed and the difficulties must be conquered. I deeply believe that as long as we work together with open minds, we will finally be able to reach a solution.

Repel and discourage the American styles of Chinese Kung Fu. Invite them to join us and help them to correct their paths. Let them understand that they will have a future only if they join us and correct their current paths.

Force all Kung Fu magazines to improve their quality and cover only legitimate Kung Fu. Editors who do not have a knowledge of Kung Fu should not be editors. You do not give a car to a child who does not know how to drive.

Participate in and encourage students to join tournaments such as the one in Houston, hosted by Jeff Bolt. Join the group with an open mind and express your opinions. If you agree with what I say, then do something, don't just sit and watch.

Stop encouraging students to fight like Karate. Whichever style of Kung Fu you teach, those are the skills that they should apply in their fighting. Fighting according to the rules set up for sport Karate will pull up the root of your training, and you will lose the meaning and the real purpose of defensive Kung Fu training.

Now, you are probably asking how we can set this whole mess straight. Naturally, open minded discussion will bring up many more ways, but for now I would like to point out a few ways which we can use to realize our dream.

How can it be done

The hardest part is to find qualified judges. This is especially critical at the beginning of this unification. In the beginning, in order to win over the competitors, we should use well known masters who have demonstrated their high talent through either demonstrations or publications. Later, those who demonstrate a high level of talent during tournaments or demonstrations should be invited afterwards to be judges at future events. Those masters who would like to be part of the group of judges should not hesitate to demonstrate their talent and obtain recognition. Potential judges should be interviewed by a committee, which should vote on their qualifications.

In order to lead the fighters to the right training path, for the next five years only Kung Fu techniques should be allowed in tournament competition. Judges should evaluate the naturalness of the reactions, rooting, and the fighting strategy of each style, rather than just count points. Offense and defense are equally important. For example, the single kicks of every traditional style all emphasize the rooting of the other leg. If the heel is up when the kick is executed, then the kicker should be considered to have lost his root. Naturally, it is important to have only qualified and knowledgeable judges at this beginning stage. In the future, once the rules are set and more judges are qualified, then everything will become easier.

Dr. Yang has been involved in Chinese Gongfu since 1961 and has more than thirty years of instructional experience. Dr. Yang has published twenty-four books and twenty-eight videotapes on the martial arts and Qigong. Currently he is president of Yang's Oriental Arts Association, Boston, MA.