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Can Southern Chinese Kung Fu Ever be “Internal?”

From the Archives: Can Southern Chinese Kung Fu Ever be “Internal?”.

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Rory Miller

I really enjoy Rory Millers Chiron Training Blog, this is a recent post, well worth reading and thinking on.

The “D” Man

Martial Mistakes

The list won’t be exhaustive, and I wish all of the things on here were simple and had simple solutions.  Most martial arts training isn’t effective for SD purposes.  Some of it is on the teaching end, and some of that is on the learning end, and some is in the culture.

That last sentence might take a long time to sink in, so examples:  Teaching by rote wires the reactions to the wrong part of the brain for use in a fight.  Bad teaching.  The most exciting aspect of training feels the most realistic, even if it requires the most artificiality to maintain safety.  The student will take away the wrong lesson.  Bad learning.  And a hierarchical cult of obedience is exactly what an exploitive predator dreams about.  Sometimes the culture farms victims.

The dueling paradigm.  Other than for fun or sport or balancing things within a social group, people don’t square off.  Because it’s dumb.  If you had to take out the biggest, scariest martial athlete you can imagine, how would you do it?  Exactly.  From behind with a weapon.  And maybe friends.

This has a lot of implications for MA/SD.  The paradigm sets you up to expect distance, time and warning, none of which will exist unless you are monkey dancing.  People who are successful at dueling or sparring believe (sometimes, I hope rarely) that the skills will transfer to ambush survival…and they don’t.

Unarmed.  With the exceptions of corrections, hospital security, and secure mental facilities, almost no profession goes hands-on unarmed.  Because it is stupid.  If you know things are going to go bad, you get a weapon.  And friends.  And intel.  And surprise.  Crime, by the way, is another profession that uses weapons.  And this goes back to the dueling/sparring paradigm.  To get good at unarmed dueling is to develop skill at a very bad strategy, a strategy which has the sole purpose of stroking your ego.  Don’t quit playing.  I love to play.  But don’t make it something it’s not.  If someone was trying to kill someone you loved would you tap them on the shoulder and step back so that they could face you at the appropriate distance?  Or would you hit them in the back of the neck with the best tool you could find?  Your choice, but one choice is stupid and that choice is the one you have likely practiced most.

Inbreeding.  You train together and you get used to dealing with each other.  When I taught at a dojo, my class were infighters.  They were really good at doing all the things that infighters do.  But nature of a class setting, they were spending all of their time practicing against other infighters, which is a pretty rare category.  Frankly, this is a slight problem for infighters and grapplers.  It takes very little to close range, especially at ambush distance.  But it can be a huge problem for strikers.

Bad metrics.  How do you measure if something works?  The military has a “Lessons Learned” program.  My team, and Search and Rescue and even the Reception crew when I was sergeant there used After-Action Debriefing protocols.  This will get you better continuously– provided you have actions to debrief.  Without those actions, it is much harder.  I wonder what percentage of students of an SD instructor are attacked on average, how often…  but I feel the numbers are too low.

When people don’t have a reality check they have this really stupid tendency to make up a reality check.  ‘Make up’ and ‘reality’ rarely belong in the same thought.  I almost always pick on karate for this.  When I look at their kata and kihon, they have possibly the best body mechanics for infighting that I’ve seen… then they choose to test it at sparring range, where it sucks.  Or, worse, point contact range where it sucks AND it screws up everybody’s sense of distance and time.

Scenarios can be solid gold to test some things, but only if the scenarios are incredibly realistic (ideally based on real events) and the role players are superb actors and the facilitator really knows his stuff, especially the debrief.  Without that it can ingrain incredibly bad habits.  Doing the instruct’s fantasy at high speed is still doing fantasy.

The Safety/Effectiveness scale.  Fighting, especially recovery from ambush, is a very dangerous thing.  One of the biggest challenges is training people to fight without injuring them.  Straight up, if neither you nor your opponent are scared or need medical attention, it’s not a fight.  It has nothing to do with fighting.  Trying to approximate the skills without the injuries is a very fine line.  Weapons arts have the advantage in that they can make the weapons safe.  Much harder to do with throws and neck twists.  MA tend to make the techniques safe…and more safe the higher speed the training.  And so the safety artifacts ingrain right along with the techniques.

Modality.  Related to metrics.  The measure of effectiveness is how much damage something does.  Do bones break?  Does the guy go down?  Again, less of a problem in grappling arts, but a hellish issue in striking arts.  When you can’t actually do what you are supposed to do (collapse tracheas or cause concussions, say) the instructor’s default seems to be whether it looked right.  Fighting is about touch, not about looks.  Pretty, crisp, geometrically clean can be seen.  Power and structure need to be felt.

There’s tons more here, but this is a start.

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The Falsehood of Form.

I guess that I believe in Evolution and not in Intelligent Design.

That is why as far as I am concerned “Form Follows Function”.

In my extended Wing Chun Kung Fu Family there are many, many people, most if the truth be known, that claim that the most effective training vehicle is the FORM, devoid of all intention to do any kind of Work, just the Form for its own purpose.

IN the begging was the Form…….

I find this idea incredulous, and have over the years developed the opinion that the People that follow this doctrine are in fact just Lazy, it is a lot easier to stand in a corner doing the Form than it is to get on the Mat or jump in the Ring. A lot easier to pretend that something works than it is to test it.

The idea that Forms contain things like power, inate working principles, superior Body mechanics, energy development and that if you practice nothing but Form it will give those things to you is just an extension of the Power of Attraction, you know, the idea that if you think about something long enough it will somehow just appear, this is wishful thinking at best and deception by the Folks selling it at worse.

Wow, is that you Ferrari outside….

Especially when most Students are constantly being corrected in the performance of their Forms, something that implies they are not doing it correctly.

If you are not doing your Form correctly how can it work, why bother pursuing this.

If it does work as you do it now why do you need to change it.

Does that Snake Oil come in a larger Bottle?

In simplicity Form doesn’t exist as a “Real Thing”, It is a figment of your imagination.

…except for that brief moment in time when you perform it, the moment when you decide that the Power of Attraction is all you need to do Kung Fu.

It exists for that brief moment and then it’s gone again.

The Form can only ever be an expression of what you personally believe at that brief moment in time.

The ONLY things  it contains are the Fantasies that YOU bring to the table in that moment.

All Forms are lies if they do not originate from Function.

To think that any Form has value without an intended Function, to think that Kung Fu can be studied without thinking about Fighting is like learning to swim on the Sofa.

However, if there is a Function, Forms can help you understand it.

 

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Spinal Awareness

A very large part of Wing Chun using the Choy Shong Tin Body Method is being aware of your Spine, and then being able to raise your energy through your spine, my good Friend John Cogan of Pangea Fitness Systems in Hong Kong has made a really useful Video to start you down this path, I am not real big on trying to steal other Peoples Thunder so here is John’s Video.

Practice and enjoy.