The realities of fighting styles and commerce

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

The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby GrahamB on Fri Apr 02, 2021 1:19 am

Chinese soldiers were capable of taking pride in what they did which was not really related to their meager pay and poor living conditions. Opera performers were just the same. Yet when the martial reformers of the 1930s, or even the 1890s, attempted to reconstitute these fighting styles and promote them to the public, they fundamentally failed to capture the essence of this earlier social reality.

How could they? The Chinese economy and society had evolved and fundamentally changed. The industrial revolution had started to spread, cities were growing rapidly and more of the economy was invested in fully monetized markets. Martial reformers like Sun Lu-Tang were attempting to sell hand combat instruction to a middle class urban market in places like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou which did not even exist one generation before.

This was an era characterized by the sudden emergence of choice. One could choose to study boxing, or one could choose to study western ballroom dance. In point of fact dance was actually the much more popular discipline. Likewise in Beijing one could choose to study Taiji, Bagua or Xingyi Quan.

Suddenly everything about these arts, from the spaces where they were practiced, the fame of their teachers, what was said about them in the press or their creation narratives, became a means for consumers to evaluate what they wanted to buy. It might be tempting to assume that things like the creation narratives “changed” when they became advertising tools in the current era. Yet this is what they really had been all along. It is their essential function.

Yes, the traditional fighting arts of China are in some very important respects commercial “brands.” All of the institutions that surround these pedagogical methods exist basically to channel consumer behavior. Often they do this so well that we don’t even realize what is going on. What we see is “traditional Chinese culture.” We are unaware that much of this is actually a comparatively recent invention. For example, it might be a unique vision of “Chinese culture” designed to comfort a displaced country youth who suddenly found himself in Shanghai during the 1920s or Hong Kong in the 1950s.


Excellent article by Ben Judkins on martial brands, special lost lineages that contain the "real" martial essence, and the realities of commerce.

https://chinesemartialstudies.com/2021/ ... al-arts-3/
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby yeniseri on Fri Apr 02, 2021 7:35 am

Thank you, sir! Excellent read...
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby Doc Stier on Fri Apr 02, 2021 11:46 am

There is no doubt that the increased political and military presence of several European nations in China during the early years of the 20th Century had a major impact on how the Chinese government and population perceived the traditional martial arts. It quickly became very clear to all that foreign troops with modern firearms and other weapons of war could generally dominate opposing forces or individuals who still employed classical weapons, whether cold steel straight swords and broadswords, or spears, archery bows, and so forth. Even famous martial arts masters could easily be killed from a distance by soldiers with rifles, who would never be able to defeat them in close quarters hand to hand combat.

Thus, the previous demand for individuals with high level fighting skills to provide security transport services as caravan escorts, or to provide bodyguard services, diminished dramatically upon realizing that people with firearms could be equally effective in these jobs, even if they lacked martial arts expertise.

As a result, the then current heads of famous kungfu families or various temple styles transitioned into professional teaching of their arts in order to replace the lost income. This transition usually also required substantial modification and reorganization of traditional practice material and training methods in order to attract and keep enough students to protect their rice bowl, i.e. a sufficient, sustainable cost of living income from teaching.

Larger group classes, therefore, became more common, rather than the small handful of initiate indoor disciples typically instructed by the older generations, who didn't depend on teaching as the primary source of income from their martial arts.

Nonetheless, even with these gradual changes from 1890-1900 to WWII, there were always some practitioners and teachers of the older styles and methods who chose to retain and perpetuate the classical, more practical application versions of their arts, because they perceived the older methods to be superior in many ways to the newer modified and edited versions of their styles.


So both then and now, the older versions of most traditional styles and systems survived in the high hands of at least a few masters in every generation since then until today. They simply no longer represented the official standard curriculum version of their styles. They became the exceptions, rather than the previous norm, and remain so to date.
Last edited by Doc Stier on Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:07 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby wayne hansen on Fri Apr 02, 2021 12:48 pm

Back in the early 70's when I started all the good people came to Kung fu
Those who wanted the spiritual
Those who wanted the physical
Those from other martial arts
I didn't even know what tai chi,Hsing I,pa kua were
Tang shou Tao in Australia was advertised as Chinese Karate
Now it is different those who want to learn fighting go to mma
The pool of students is much reduced
Real martial arts is hard the drop out rate is huge so a reduced pool means a reduced success rate
So even if the real stuff is out there it is a leaking pool
You just have to see what is written and what is on you tube to know that
Many spend years in training with those that spin a good tale
In the end they stop training because the real rewards are not there
I don't mean fighting that is easy to learn
I mean complete satisfaction with what you do
People often ask me how you find a good teacher
My answer
Be lucky
I watch those who have learnt one art badly take the mistakes from that art into a string of other arts with dubious teachers
And then preach their misunderstandings to the world
I know of one teacher who has a son out there passing on his fathers teaching
The difference with the father and son is the father knew where he got what he was teaching from
The son and the students believe the sources and stories are real so it becomes history
One theory I had that I told this teacher he was spreading a week later while still learning the forms from a book
My theory was spread as if it was part of history with a lineage going back generations
It is not what you learn that is right that counts
It is how much time you waste on what is wrong
You can't get that time back or reverse engineer the ingrained errors
Don't put power into the form let it naturally arise from the form
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby GrahamB on Fri Apr 02, 2021 1:54 pm

Hi Doc!

I would recommend brushing up on the evolving relationship between Chinese martial arts and Firearms.

Start here:
https://chinesemartialstudies.com/2012/ ... tial-arts/

and have a look at this too:
https://chinesemartialstudies.com/2021/ ... 77-1878-2/

And on the point of caravan guards:

"Period photos are quite interesting. They show a number of different types of weapons existing and in use at the same time. Traditional swords have not vanished and obsolete Qing matchlocks all exist side by side with modern handguns and rifles. Caravan guards would make a point of carrying highly visible traditional weapons and less flash (but very practical) modern ones."

Image

To your later point about "retain and perpetuate the classical, more practical application versions of their arts," I think we should perhaps wonder if the original version of these arts was in fact the serious leisure activity of already tough men. And let's not forget Charles Holcombe's classic article Theater of Combat (1990) "Western enthusiasts often feel impelled to strip away these religious trappings and construct a version of the martial arts that is neither simple gymnastics nor religion, but emphasizes true hand-to-hand combat skills. The question remains, is this an authentic understanding of the martial arts?"
Last edited by GrahamB on Fri Apr 02, 2021 2:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby Steve James on Fri Apr 02, 2021 5:16 pm

In WW2, the Red Army had a very famous Chinese saber division, and it makes sense that they --like gurkhas-- also carried firearms. It only makes sense that everyone used firearms when they were available. Soldiers and Marines still carry knives, and Rangers use tomahawks in combat. This seems more like an issue of primary and secondary weapons.
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Afa warfare, firearms became part of martial arts long before the 19th century.
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby wayne hansen on Sat Apr 03, 2021 5:09 am

As I understand it the big sword division used swords to do Gurilla attacks on the Japanese because they couldn't use guns
They were outnumbered so guns would alert the whole camp
So they went in silently killed as many as possible and got out silently
Huang Hsiung hsien was meant to be one of these
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby Steve James on Sat Apr 03, 2021 7:34 am

All combat soldiers carry knives. Stealth is stealth. Gurkhas used gurkhas (oops, kukris). Marines use/d Kaybars. SAS have their own close quarter blade. I'd say a Fairbains dagger, but I really don't know.

The primary reason for the Red Army used the dao was that it was easy to make in rural forges. In a jungle environment, like Burma, the dao was useful for clearing a path through foliage. I'm not sure that the Chinese were ever outnumbered. They had fewer weapons, but after every successful attack they'd have more. And, if they had guns, they wouldn't use them; but, it doesn't imply they didn't have them. The dadao was also a symbol of national identity.

I'd say that if you have a knife, and someone develops a sword, you will adopt the sword, and keep the knife. If someone then comes along with a spear, then decisions have to be made. Then someone comes up with the bow and arrow. What would you do? If this is translated to the modern era, soldiers are practicing bjj, but still carry knives, and firearms.

Anyway, see https://chinesemartialstudies.com/2012/11/26/693/
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby wayne hansen on Sat Apr 03, 2021 12:36 pm

Outnumbered within the camps and out gunned
There may have been more people in China but they were trying to disrupt and assault the troops where they slept
Most of the havoc done in Nanking was by bombing using aircraft
The troops only came in to mop up
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby AJG on Mon Apr 05, 2021 6:33 pm

wayne hansen wrote:Back in the early 70's when I started all the good people came to Kung fu
Those who wanted the spiritual
Those who wanted the physical
Those from other martial arts
I didn't even know what tai chi,Hsing I,pa kua were
Tang shou Tao in Australia was advertised as Chinese Karate
Now it is different those who want to learn fighting go to mma
The pool of students is much reduced
Real martial arts is hard the drop out rate is huge so a reduced pool means a reduced success rate
So even if the real stuff is out there it is a leaking pool
You just have to see what is written and what is on you tube to know that
Many spend years in training with those that spin a good tale
In the end they stop training because the real rewards are not there
I don't mean fighting that is easy to learn
I mean complete satisfaction with what you do
People often ask me how you find a good teacher
My answer
Be lucky
I watch those who have learnt one art badly take the mistakes from that art into a string of other arts with dubious teachers
And then preach their misunderstandings to the world
I know of one teacher who has a son out there passing on his fathers teaching
The difference with the father and son is the father knew where he got what he was teaching from
The son and the students believe the sources and stories are real so it becomes history
One theory I had that I told this teacher he was spreading a week later while still learning the forms from a book
My theory was spread as if it was part of history with a lineage going back generations
It is not what you learn that is right that counts
It is how much time you waste on what is wrong
You can't get that time back or reverse engineer the ingrained errors



Wayne has summed up the issue with CMA. CMA is only as good as the students that study it and how hard they want to work and that is measured in sweat.

I remember the conditioning we did back in the 80s which came from the same school Wayne referred to. We did a tonne of the type of conditioning they do in Judo. I remember reading somewhere that Hung I Hsiang adopted a lot of conditioning he saw in Judo.

We used to train indoors with people who were fit and wanted to spar. Did the forms look as pretty no, did we spar more like kickboxing yes, was it fun yes. It was only in the 90's when the park sifu's from mainland china came out that things really changed for the worse. Then again they may have adapted as the students who liked to fight and spar and test were long gone by then. As Wayne said the pool is small now and that's a problem.
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby wayne hansen on Mon Apr 05, 2021 9:38 pm

As I understand it both Hung and HSU were judo champions
When Japan occupied Taiwan a lot of the school kids did Japanese arte
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby AJG on Mon Apr 05, 2021 11:47 pm

Shame they didn't incorporate Judo into their curriculum (at least that I know of).
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby taiwandeutscher on Tue Apr 06, 2021 12:12 am

wayne hansen wrote:As I understand it both Hung and HSU were judo champions
When Japan occupied Taiwan a lot of the school kids did Japanese arte


Nearly still the same!
In today's Taiwan, CMA aren't popular at all, only the elderly wave arms and move mouth in the parks. Very few martial groups are struggling to find younger people, while Kendo, Karate and Taekwondo are much more popular with the younger generation, in schools and clubs, (if they work out at all).
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby Strange on Tue Apr 06, 2021 7:04 am

the famous 29th Army Broad Sword Unit was not its original name
Its original name was 29th Army Handgun unit
due to very limited resources (guns and bullets), the unit was issue guns and more grenades
to play to their strengths and at a time of the enemy's weakness
attacks were carried out in the dead of night with their broad sword chopping off head
it was said that their reputation made japanese soldiers wear metal collars around their necks when they slept

my understanding is that in China martial arts or sports universities, the broad sword form is a compulsory subject
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Re: The realities of fighting styles and commerce

Postby windwalker on Tue Apr 06, 2021 2:15 pm

Image

In general, career options for martial artists – those whose focus purely on weapons and empty hand skills (vs broader studies involved in military arts), are few in traditional society. There were basically four:

1) The best, most ideal situation is one where the master has his own school. Here the students come to you. This requires the highest level of skill, as you have a known, fixed location, and anyone can come and challenge you. If you lose, by custom you have to leave and cede the school to the challenger.

2) The next level is being a teacher, but you don’t have your own school, you have to go to where the students are – you work for someone, or you teach in the military.

3) The third level is one where you have to risk your own life for protect the life or properties of private clients/masters.

Examples are security company jobs, and bodyguard services.

In the later scenario, normally you would be live at the household you are protecting.

Here the head of security can be a prestigious position, but the rank and file are basically servants of the house.

In general there is a huge fall-off in prestige between the second and third level, as people think only the desperate would risk their lives like that.

4) The lowest level is in entertainment. Whatever people say about those who risk their lives for private clients, they must have a certain level of fighting skill to make a viable living doing that. The requirement for fighting skill in performance and entertainment is much lower or non-existent.


https://internalmartialart.wordpress.com/?wref=bif

Good read
covering the change of martial arts and teachers practices according to conditions and need.
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