The great mystery of Kung Fu forms

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The great mystery of Kung Fu forms

Postby GrahamB on Fri Mar 19, 2021 10:37 am

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVlzjeVteCg



His research is good!

"In this video I discuss the unknown and perhaps unknowable origins of taolu 套路 or "forms" found in Chinese martial arts.

My performance of a saber form: https://youtu.be/MgnGcS04IM4

I also recommend checking out Scott Park Phillips Channel if you want to learn more about how theater and religion are related to Chinese martial arts.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCON3...​


Source Material:

Articles:

Holcombe, Charles. "Theater of Combat: A Critical Look at the Chinese Martial Arts." The Historian 52, no. 3 (May 1990) 411-431.

Mroz, Daniel. 2017. "Taolu: Credibility and Decipherability in the Practice of Chinese Martial Movement." Martial Arts Studies 3, 38-50.

Mroz, Daniel. 2020. "Tàolù – The Mastery of Space." Martial Arts Studies 10, 9-22.

Video:

Shaolin Staff Form: https://youtu.be/voUKfe4VUKs

Martial Application: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UgGL...​

Western Opera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuBeB...​

Chinese Opera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQWFd...​

Vintage Jian Form: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEwut...​
"
I could be wrong.
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Re: The great mystery of Kung Fu forms

Postby AJG on Sun Mar 28, 2021 2:12 am

I suspect everyone is too busy doing form work to contribute to this thread.

Seriously though i honestly believe CMA would be better without forms and just going back to single movements that people can then thread together themselves based on what suits them.
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Re: The great mystery of Kung Fu forms

Postby GrahamB on Sun Mar 28, 2021 3:54 am

He deals so gracefully and skillfully with the hoi polloi in his comments section on YouTube. Take this an an example:



The Scholar-General 墨將點兵
The Scholar-General 墨將點兵
1 week ago (edited)
First I would like to say thank you for watching! I have a few responses.

1) I never argued that Taolu originated from opera. I simply stated that some of the oldest taolu we have show a connection to opera.

The main thesis of the video is that the origins of Taolu are a mystery and we don't know where they come from. So, this is not in contention with Mroz and Morris. The conclusion of the video sums this point up beginning at 6:49

2) Although individuals in China's past certainly did not practice "a religion" they had a complex worldview informed by a variety of religious beliefs and some of these beliefs undoubtedly became an essential part of Chinese martial arts.

As to whether or not Ming dynasty Shaolin practice had many of these religious elements is less certain, but it would surprise me if religion did not play an important role in the life of warrior-monks. I would also posit that Christianity influenced the way that Teutonic Knights approached combat, which likely manifested in their martial practice, and I wouldn't exclude the Shaolin Monks from this phenomenon either.

That being said, I do think it is clear that religion began playing a larger role in cma as time progressed, and secret societies with anti-Qing sentiment likely played a crucial role in that.

3) Yes, you bring up some good points about systems which do not appear to have taolu integrated into their training. While this video was mostly diving into while taolu are fairly ubiquitous in modern cma practice I do not think that they were in all systems in the Ming and Qing dynasties. I have been looking into this aspect for sometime but I am not quite ready to make a video on the topic yet. It is entirely possible that taolu were very uncommon in Cheng Zongyou's day, but it is very difficult to say for sure.

Overall, I appreciate your critiques and welcome skepticism towards my arguments because I believe that this improves my own arguments and provides viewers with examples of counter-arguments in the comments section, so thank you and I hope to see more of you in the future!

Last edited by GrahamB on Sun Mar 28, 2021 3:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The great mystery of Kung Fu forms

Postby Bhassler on Sun Mar 28, 2021 8:50 pm

GrahamB wrote:He deals so gracefully and skillfully with the hoi polloi in his comments section on YouTube. Take this an an example:
<SNIP>


Nah. A real pro would have just told them they watched the video wrong. ;D

AJG wrote:Seriously though i honestly believe CMA would be better without forms and just going back to single movements that people can then thread together themselves based on what suits them.


No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If any part of a system that an individual practices doesn't make sense or doesn't fit their needs, then it's up to the practitioner to ask their own hard questions and make their own hard decisions. It's when people just look at their own little slice of the pie and think that they somehow know what everyone else is or should be doing that things just get silly.
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Re: The great mystery of Kung Fu forms

Postby HotSoup on Mon Mar 29, 2021 12:13 pm

I was skeptical about it when I had heard about the opera influence for the first time, but the more I learn the more I am getting convinced that as with many other cultural constructs, there have always been multiple sources and massive cross-pollination later. In case of CMA those most probably were sword dancing, military/militia training, opera, circus, and street performance.

The important question is, how does it impact one’s training? Having clear goals really helps, because then all the origin uncertainties become less important. If I am getting the results that I want, be it a better shape, self-defense skills, physiotherapeutic effects, socializing, or something else, who cares if what I practice came from Bodhidharma himself or a troupe of green parrots on a wire?
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Re: The great mystery of Kung Fu forms

Postby Doc Stier on Sat Apr 03, 2021 7:04 pm

AJG wrote:I suspect everyone is too busy doing form work to contribute to this thread.

I know that's right. ;D
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Re: The great mystery of Kung Fu forms

Postby dspyrido on Sun Apr 04, 2021 1:18 am

Bhassler wrote:No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If any part of a system that an individual practices doesn't make sense or doesn't fit their needs, then it's up to the practitioner to ask their own hard questions and make their own hard decisions. It's when people just look at their own little slice of the pie and think that they somehow know what everyone else is or should be doing that things just get silly.


I think the baby needs a good hard talking to.

Many CMA's devolved into "I learnt the form. I'm ready for the next one". Worse still is when they started creating libraries of them & giving belts or badges as they were learnt. The ones that became cultural dance routines were dead.

The traditional approach of learning is as spartan as anything we see in the western sports styles. As AJG said - take a move & really learn it. Train it. Apply it. Test it. Condition it. Build the speed, power & naturalness. Repeat with another move. Then another. Over time combine them. A single form broken down would take years to truly master but the moves would be ingrained. Heck the forms would be very different & more refined if they were learnt this way.

Most people learning the style & following the sifu unquestionably will not be learning this way but the learning the tradition & fluff.

Do this for a couple of generations & bam things have devolved.

Assuming individuals will get that is the sad part to watch. Most won't & the few that do quite often come out bitter that they wasted a decade or more of their training lives.
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Re: The great mystery of Kung Fu forms

Postby Bhassler on Sun Apr 04, 2021 9:33 am

dspyrido wrote:
Bhassler wrote:No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If any part of a system that an individual practices doesn't make sense or doesn't fit their needs, then it's up to the practitioner to ask their own hard questions and make their own hard decisions. It's when people just look at their own little slice of the pie and think that they somehow know what everyone else is or should be doing that things just get silly.


I think the baby needs a good hard talking to.

Many CMA's devolved into "I learnt the form. I'm ready for the next one". Worse still is when they started creating libraries of them & giving belts or badges as they were learnt. The ones that became cultural dance routines were dead.

The traditional approach of learning is as spartan as anything we see in the western sports styles. As AJG said - take a move & really learn it. Train it. Apply it. Test it. Condition it. Build the speed, power & naturalness. Repeat with another move. Then another. Over time combine them. A single form broken down would take years to truly master but the moves would be ingrained. Heck the forms would be very different & more refined if they were learnt this way.

Most people learning the style & following the sifu unquestionably will not be learning this way but the learning the tradition & fluff.

Do this for a couple of generations & bam things have devolved.

Assuming individuals will get that is the sad part to watch. Most won't & the few that do quite often come out bitter that they wasted a decade or more of their training lives.


I basically agree, but junking the whole thing (CMA), or importing parts from other modalities (sport fighting) to prop up broken systems isn't a very satisfying answer, as far as I'm concerned. Better to acknowledge that most of what's out there is crap, but the good stuff does still exist. Better to keep searching until you find it, or move on to something else. Similarly, there's no need to invent new narratives to try and justify things just because the meaning has been lost in the aforementioned crap schools. If you know how all the stuff in your system works, there's no need (or room) to start talking about taoist cosmology, or opera, or dance, or whatever.
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