People say today's society is getting more and more violent. Often you hear that modern, western influ enccd martial arts have been created to deal with to day's circumstances and that the streets of today are a battlefield. However, if you stay away from nega tive things then you should not have any problems. If you go out on a Friday night to a pub that is known for being violent then of course you can expect it to be a bit rough. Why learn martial arts when it would be much easier just to avoid the trouble spots? However, the England of two hundred years ago was certainly more violent than the England of today.
In China, one hundred years ago, I doubt you could always rely on the police force to uphold the law. A family would have to use it's Wushu to defend itself, so their traditional Wushu must have been effective. Why then does it seem that modern influenced martial arts are often seen as more practical? It is probably all in how we define 'practical'.
When you are young, you do not have to rely on good technique to defend yourself, you are strong enough to fight and fast enough to run away should you want to. Yet martial arts always seem to attract younger people. Why practice then? You practise when you are young so when you are older you have something that you can use. It is like a pension scheme, you save money when you are young so that when you are not so able you have something to sup port yourself with. So you learn martial arts when you arc young so that you remain healthy and develop enough techniques and experience to be able to defend yourself, if you have to, in later life.
You can never know when you will get into a fight, but you can be sure that you will one day bccome old. In China, one hundred years ago, there was no National Health Service. Your health was your responsibility and without it you would probably not survive. It would be stupid then to sustain injuries through Wushu training. This is why traditional Wushu emphasises Qigong. It then becomes your own personal survival kit, keeping you healthy, and preventing other people from hurting you. This is a much better definition of 'practical'
Often in the west, a martial an only seems to offer half of the equation. A so called hard or external manial art in the west does not seem to offer health benefits. They will exercise your cardiovascular system and muscles but there is a lot more to do with health than that. After all according to TCM there are five major internal organs which all need to be kept in a state of balance. Pumping up the heart and the lungs will only cause problems with the other organs.
Similarly, so called soft or internal manial arts as practised in the west, do not seem to develop fighting ability. Many people even question whether they offer any health benefits except to the already old and infirm. Hard styles are often seen as a quick way to
going that I began to really enjoy sitting meditation.
learn how to fight while soft styles are seen aj taking much longer to train. How many times have you heard someone say, "It will take you at least ten years to be good at Tai-jiquan."
However, traditionally, hard styles are considered just as difficult to master as soft styles, and soft styles are not regarded as some unobtainable goal as they are in the west. If you talk about hard and soft, yin and yang, then if something is yang on the outside then it must be yin on the inside. Therefore, inside a hard style there must be soft, tranquil and calm. Is a cup yin or yang? On the outside it is hard so that it can hold and give form to the liquid, but its function is to be yin because it is contains and receives.
Before I studied North Shaolin Quan Forms and Hard Qigong, I had studied a lot of Soft Qigong, yet whilst I had studied these soft forms, I never found meditation easy to do. It was only after studying the 'hard' side
"To develop as Taiji you dear idea of going that I began to really enjoy sitting meditation.
After a session of North Shaolin or Hard Qigong, you feel yang on the outside, but inside you feel empty. By that I do not mean exhausted, it just feels very clear. When you sit down to meditate you just feel great. Sometime I only practise half an hour of Shaolin or Hard Qigong and then just mediate. Practising more just seems to spoil the meditation.
Therefore I would say that a hard style gives you correct posture and form, and it is this form that enables you to 'hold qi', just as a cup is able to hold water. A hard style has as much to do with Qigong as a soft style. It is just that hard styles are connected more with Hard Qigong, whilst soft
styles are connected more with Soft Qigong.
In fact, the standing meditation that Taijiquan people love is really more connected with Buddhist styles than with Taoist styles, and it is even said there are some Taoist styles that have no stationary exercises at all. However with Shaolin styles, the first thing you learn is Ma Bo or horse riding stance, and you are expcctcd to train it diligently. Even in Wing Chun Kuen (a southern Shaolin style) the first form contains a standing position that you should be able to hold for at least half an hour.
To develop a soft style such as Taiji you must have a clear idea of where you arc going, especially if you wish to develop the martial arts side, which you should, otherwise you would be better off studying purely Qigong. Most people claim that Taiji takes a long time to develop simply because they themselves arc not very good. I admit that any correct posture, whether Taiji or other-
a soft style such must have a f where you are wise, takes a long time to master, but you can't practise forms aimlessly for years hoping that fighting prowess will suddenly come in a flash of enlightenment.
Some teachers teach soft styles that lack strictness of external form and so it is much easier to practice them badly. This I think is why they have a reputation for being difficult to master. If you don't understand the principle, then no matter how long you practise, you will never be any good. If you have a clear understanding, then with diligent practice you will progress very quickly, in some ways faster than with so called external styles.
This is why Taiji has pushing hands, so that you appreciate what you arc trying to develop. Xingyi Quan has a lot of conditioning exercises for this purpose too. You can see why internal styles are said to emphasise the mind or intent. The intent is for fighting, so you must understand the nature of fighting, which makes internal styles Yang on the inside.
Whether you train a hard style or a soft style, you should make sure that it is traditional, with a clear principle that defines its approach. A traditional hard style will contain a lot of meditation to balance it, whilst a traditional soft style will have a lot of fighting exercises to give it balance. Hard or soft, remember these words arc relative so don't be blinded by the merits of one over the other. Often people abuse these terms in order to claim that their style is better than the others.
A lot of western martial artists like to become 'complete' fighters, knowing a technique for every situation and every distance - long range, short range, on the ground, etc. - but I don't think this is necessary. You just need to train one style. It doesn't matter that there are people out there who are fast, strong, highly trained killing machines, since in the real world you are much more likely to get in a fight with an untrained fighter.
To defend yourself you don't need to know many techniques. All you need to know is a few techniques and to know them like the back of your hand. You should know their strengths and weaknesses. This is what Kung Fu means. You train one style because within that style any conflicts between the various techniques it trains have been eliminated. All styles have a unifying theme that connect their individual techniques and stances.
How many times have you heard someone say that it would be great to combine this style with that style, so you will cover all eventualities. If you look at all traditional styles, then a whole system will be based around the founder's favourite technique or the founder's favourite stance. This is because you can only ever train your body to do a small number of things well. A style will focus on one particular technique, and the other techniques will be used to support that technique, cover its weaknesses and make the style balanced as a whole.
For most of us there is no point in combining styles. They say that good artists have good ideas, whilst great artists copy great ideas. The same is true for martial arts. Why waste time and effort trying to create a new style when you can study an existing style from an experienced teacher.
We are not like boxers who train for a prearranged fight three months away. They know they have to put in the required amount of training otherwise they will not be able to compete. For the average person there is no point in training hard for three months or even three years and then never train again. When you train, never take short cuts. After all, there is no hurry to learn. You may get in a fight tomorrow, but you probably won't. In fact you may never have a fight for the rest of your life, so take your ,,meB by Daniel Poon
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