The Golden Age

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

The Golden Age

Postby GrahamB on Wed Jun 16, 2021 12:24 am

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Re: The Golden Age

Postby yeniseri on Wed Jun 16, 2021 9:24 am

Let the truth be understood! The above passage is Kryptonite to many in the Tai Chi World ??? ;D

Most people fail to understand that the reason for Beijing24shitaijiquan was that what we call tai chi today was not known to the general public (citizenry) in the 1930s and 1940s. In order to "promulgate" tai chi as a cultural tradition and its less than useful function in a post Qing era (guns were becoming the tool of war, public/village defense, invasion against the barbarians, etc) much of the nation building propaganda borrowed form other sources in building up tai chi for a modern society. This is not to discount many of its past attributes but taijiquan was always a village art of Chenjiagou. When it became more public (more information heing presented in the citizenry) that is when individual/groups began to ursurp the Chen origin and introduce other varaibles having nothing to do with said origin.

When I first began to learn taijiquan (Yang style), the routine back then (I was 12 years old!) you had to be Chinese or have a relative of Chinese heritage with the local Self Help Benevolent Association. I had a family friend vouch for me and although I didn't stay long (it was a YMCA type tai chi group) what I learned (recollection at that time) was far different from my later years introduction to US tai chi.
Personally and objectively and according to the historicity there was never a Golden Age for taijiquan and if it did exist, it was local to Chen village ONLY.
Last edited by yeniseri on Wed Jun 16, 2021 9:30 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby Kelley Graham on Wed Jun 16, 2021 9:52 am

Ahhh yes, the wonder and certainty of Post Modernism. I question the author's basic premise that all search for objective authenticity is fantasy. History exists and we can all agree that it is useful. The concept of 'essence' is useful and valuable. For the author to lump all such legitimate inquiry into, essentially, a vague term 'fantasy, is to show a shallow understanding of the analytical tools being employed. <meh> Here's a similar kind of analysis that stays true to the Post Modern Methodology. https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Essentialism%2c+memory+and+resistance%3a+aboriginality+and+the+politics...-a013929896
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby Ian C. Kuzushi on Wed Jun 16, 2021 1:56 pm

Ahhh yes, the wonder and certainty of Post Modernism.


If there is any commonality among "postmodern (one word, by the way)" thinkers, it is that certainty should be challenged.

I question the author's basic premise that all search for objective authenticity is fantasy.


Strawman. He is specifically talking about modern interpretations of martial arts, not that "all search[ing] for objective authenticity is fantasy. This is also not a postmodern idea, it's Hobsbawm 101: Invented tradition.

History exists and we can all agree that it is useful.


Yes, including postmodernists. Although, historians disagree on what History is and what historical practice should look like.

The concept of 'essence' is useful and valuable.


Sure, but it's not the same as essentialism.

Here's a similar kind of analysis that stays true to the Post Modern Methodology. https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Essentia ... a013929896


I can't tell if this is posted for critique or to be held up as some sort of standard. It's not very well witten and also seems to invert some basic understandings. Very confused. For example:

"...political correctness (which is currently organized around a critique of essentialism)."

WHAT? Identity politics are based precisely on essentialism.
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby Steve James on Wed Jun 16, 2021 2:24 pm

THe Golden Age metaphor is really classicism. The idea is that the oldest aspects of a/the tradition are handed down without change. It's very difficult to find traditions that haven't changed. Yet, people like Sun LuTang argued that martial arts had an "essence" that could be retained. And that's what "essence" implies, the thing that exists "there" and nowhere else. People will disagree about what the essence of bagua is, but it's what makes it bagua.

Most practitioners want to believe they are carrying on the tradition of their art.
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby Bob on Wed Jun 16, 2021 2:44 pm

One page isn't enough to draw solid conclusions about the author's (s) objectives and/or intent

Access to the entire book, sources, citations and academic background is really necessary to make sense of the "probabilistic" statements in the page - solid conclusions and supported generalizations are very limited on the basis of reading 1 page of the entire text.
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby Doc Stier on Wed Jun 16, 2021 4:43 pm

The 'essence' of any martial art style or system is contained within its core concepts, foundation principles, and basic body methods. These are then expressed in the movement patterns of various form set sequences, drills, preferred applications, and combat strategies built upon those essential basics.

Within the Chinese IMA styles, for example, no individual style, system, school, or lineage holds a monopoly on the best expression of 'essence'. This observation is validated by the fact that every major IMA style has produced very knowledgeable and highly skilled practitioners despite significant differences in their standard form sets, drills, and signature stylistic appearances.

Thus, the only discernable factors leading to the same or similar training results appears to be the 'essence' of shared concepts, principles, and basic body methods, which transcend any individual stylistic expressions or variations of the common themes. This proves that the qualitative aspects of training, both inwardly and outwardly, are of greater importance and influence in skill development than are the external quantitative aspects of posture shapes and sequences, or the unique stylistic expressions of specific styles and lineages.
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby GrahamB on Wed Jun 16, 2021 10:41 pm

The parts I thought were most intersting were near the start:

"The fixation on tradition and origins in martial arts discourses and practeces is a uniquely modern phenomina, one that emerges precisesly because in (urban) modernity the connection with something like an origin feels lost. "

"The origin that is imagened or believed in is somethign that has actually been retroactively construted and is essentially a fantasy construct, but it is imagened as having existed in some pure 'golden age' back in the mists of time.



Two things stuck me about this. The first was the enteral Confucian class harking back to a golden age. You find it throughout dynastys in China, but particularly in the Song, and especially the Yuan - our last xing yi podcast was about the harking back to a golden age of the Jou dynasty - when in fact, this 'golden age' never existed.

The second was, "this sounds like every "kung fu" club I joined in the 90s". There was always this background narrative - not necessariy a foreground mission, but it was always there buzzing in the background - about the origins of the style, what made it special, what made it different. And this sense that the club was continuing the lineage in a hope of recreating this once had 'golden age' of the style. In JKD for example, it was to find this special something that Bruce Lee had found - to kind of 'get back' to what he had discovered - the 'golden age' being when he was at the height of his powers. Every Tai Chi club had tales of old masters, and the things they could achieve in their 'golden age' - to get back to these was the lofty goal. These stories may be true, or not - who knows. but it was this felt lack of connection with the origin was real, and was always in the process of bridged.
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby GrahamB on Wed Jun 16, 2021 11:09 pm

Then I started to think how this applies to BJJ - there are definitely factions within jiujitsu that hark back to a 'golden age' of master carlos and master elio, but - specifically because of the sport side - BJJ generally is looking forward towards innovation. And it's the 'self defence' people that hark back to the golden age, not the 'sport' people.

Occasionally you hear cries to 'get back to the real jiujitsu', but the general momentum is forward towards something, not back to something.

"in (urban) modernity the connection with something like an origin feels lost." Is this just the general yearning of souless modern man, divorced from his roots in nature, or in the lifestyle we had for thousands of years before we got civilised, trying to reconnect with something, anything, from a 'time before' ? Does martial arts offer a way back to the 'garden of eden'?
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby GrahamB on Wed Jun 16, 2021 11:44 pm

Shuai Jiao seems less interested in a golden age - is it because it has the sporting aspect? If we want to 'get back our connection to nature' there's no quicker way than in a resisting contest against another human - it's direct contact with reality.

Is the only way to really go back, to go forward? Discuss. ;D
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby Steve James on Thu Jun 17, 2021 5:31 am

Is the only way to really go back, to go forward? Discuss. ;D


It has always been a question of necessity. It's like asking why do armies develop new weapons and tactics. There no need at all for a "traditional" martial art to improve. And, an art's "golden age" is usually a pinnacle achieved in the past that contemporary practitioners strive to emulate. At the same time, they'll usually admit that achieving it is close to impossible, and improving upon it is impossible.

Who's going to say that they're better than Yang Lu Chan or Dong Hai Chuan? The same is true for Helio and Carlos Gracie, I'd imagine. Otoh, have their arts developed at all since they were practicing? Were they in the Golden Age, or are we in that age, or is it on the horizon? Otooh, do all martial arts decline after their golden ages?

So, maybe there's no such thing as a Golden Age, except in the imaginations of those who recall a past. When it comes to competitive sports, imo we can only talk about people we've watched compete. And, this is strictly generational: eg., was boxing's golden age in the 50s or 80s? Was Ray Leonard as good as Ray Robinson? Has boxing improved?

But, what about the fact that change is inevitable? There must be progress or decline.
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby Giles on Thu Jun 17, 2021 6:53 am

(I'll sidestep the issues of postmodernism, essentialism etc.) The observations at the start of the page gel with the general human tendency to idealize or romanticize the past: "back in my youth /back in my grandfather's day etc. etc. things were much better".
While at university I encountered the Classical Greek/Roman concept of the "Ages of Man". Various (mythical) ages showing a progressive worsening of the human condition. Starting with the Golden Age and all downhill from there. So it wasn't just Confucianism or Christianity that had this tendency. -->
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ages_of_Man.
In the West, it was from the Enlightenment ontwards that the concept of 'progress' actually began to gain traction.

Of course, that doesn't preclude the possibility that some skills really were better back in the day. Archery in its various forms was almost certainly at a higher level than archery today; pretty much a no-brainer. But unarmed combat, or at least some aspects and areas of this? Maybe, maybe not. I think one can make a reasonable argument in both directions.
That aside, I'm convinced that some aspects of (I)CMAs confer other benefits (alongside an ability to defend oneself) that modern combat approaches or sports mostly don't have.
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby Steve James on Thu Jun 17, 2021 7:32 am

Of course, that doesn't preclude the possibility that some skills really were better back in the day.


I think "skills" have to be correlated to some competitive outcome that is measureable. We can argue that people who were compelled to practice archery to preserve their lives were more skillful than today's archers. But, we can't know that Robin of Sherwood would beat an Olympic archer shooting at targets. Of course, we can know that today's Olympic archer probably couldn't draw the typical English longbow.

I think it's perfectly reasonable to argue that a wrestler (like Farmer Burns) or a boxer (like Dempsey) couldn't compete today. It's possible that there was someone so extraordinarily talented that no one has been better. Sure, there's a GOAT in all sports. Otoh, there's always someone better, sooner or later. Yet, few people will assert they are better than their teacher, or their teacher's teacher.
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby oragami_itto on Thu Jun 17, 2021 8:31 am

To improve on something you need to approach it scientifically. Hypothesize, TEST, Record Observations. Make changes based on what can be observed to be true and factual.

AKA Fuck around and find out.

Problem is with a lot of these traditional arts is that they get to a point where they stop finding out. They just keep fucking around and treating their hypotheses like fact without submitting them to testing. Introducing noise. Degrading the signal. Devolving the art.

Whatever it becomes seems to be a worthwhile practice for them, but it's something different than a martial art.
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Re: The Golden Age

Postby Bob on Thu Jun 17, 2021 9:27 am

A good starting

https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/ ... 29061202-5

Brief history of Chinese martial arts
Authored by: Lu Zhouxiang

The Routledge Handbook of Sport in Asia
Print publication date: July 2020
Online publication date: May 2020

Print ISBN: 9780367183776
eBook ISBN: 9780429061202
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9780429061202-5

https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/author/Lu_Zhouxiang

https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007% ... -15-4538-2

Chinese National Identity in the Age of Globalisation

Editors (view affiliations)
Lu Zhouxiang
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/main_pop/kpct/kp_song.htm

Central Themes and Key Points
KEY POINTS IN DEVELOPMENTS IN EAST ASIA >> 1000-1450 CE
China’s “Golden Age”: The Song, the Mongols, and the Ming Voyages

This period of Chinese history, from roughly 600-1600 C.E., is a period of stunning development in China. From the Tang (discussed in the unit on the Tang Dynasty) through the "pre-modern" commercial and urban development of the Song, ca. 1000, to the Ming voyages of exploration (1405- 1433) with ships that reach the coast of Africa. (The achievements of China under the Song are the subject of Marco Polo's "fantastic" reports when he journeys to China under the Mongols, who rule in China for eighty-nine years (1279- 1368) as the Yuan dynasty, between the Song and Ming.

China's Preeminence under the Song (960-1279) and Commercial Development

The Song dynasty (960-1279) follows the Tang (618-906) and the two together constitute what is often called "China's Golden Age."
The use of paper money, the introduction of tea drinking, and the inventions of gunpowder, the compass, and printing all occur under the Song. (The fact that the dynasty spans the year 1000 may make it easier for students to locate these developments in time.)
The Song is distinguished by enormous commercial growth that historians refer to as "pre-modern" in character. The growth in a) the production of non-agricultural goods in a rural and household context ("cottage industries" such as silk), and in b) the production of cash crops that are sold not consumed (tea), leads to the extension of market forces into the everyday life of ordinary people. When this commercial development takes place in European history it is labeled "proto-industrial" growth by historians, important in European history because it is succeeded by industrialization where the production moves to cities. (In Japanese history, historians see these pre-modern and proto-industrial developments taking place in the Tokugawa period, 1600-1868.) In China, the production of nonagricultural goods at the household level begins in Song and remains an important form of production and market development in China until the 20th century. China is distinguished by early development in this area.
Students might consider the question: Did commercialization have to lead to industrialization, as it did in the West? This is a common assumption. Were there other factors influencing the economic development of the West? Is the Western pattern the "norm" or the Chinese pattern? What made each country's economic evolution follow the path it took?
Urbanization accompanies commercial growth and Chinese cities are the largest and most sophisticated in the world at this time. (Marco Polo came from one of the most sophisticated cities in Europe of his time, Venice, and yet he wrote in awe of the organization of Chinese cities which he visited in the 1200s.)
During the Song there is enormous growth in Chinese population and a shift in the locus of this population to southern China. Under the Tang dynasty, which precedes the Song, the population is concentrated in the north of China, in the wheat growing area. After 1127 when the Southern Song makes its capital in Hangzhou, below the Yangtze (Yangzi) River, there is a corresponding shift in the concentration of the Chinese population to southern China, below the Yangtze River. Rice is the staple crop of southern China and it produces a higher yield per acre than wheat and supports a larger population. By the end of the Song, 2/3 to 3/4 of the Chinese population is concentrated below the Yangtze.
The Grand Canal, built during the Sui Dynasty, connects the Yangtze and the Yellow rivers, facilitating the transport of agricultural production from the south to the north and helping to unify the economy of China.

http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/main_pop/ ... x.html#kp2

ASIA FOR EDUCATORS

TIMELINES KEY POINTS PRIMARY SOURCES LESSON PLANS

Central Themes & Key Points

KEY POINTS IN DEVELOPMENTS IN EAST ASIA
Organized according to the time periods of the National Standards in World History and the College Board, these documents highlight major developments that educators may wish to focus upon in courses on East Asian history.
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