Saturday, March 9, 2013

Thoughts on Kung Fu

   I've studied various forms and styles of kung fu along with other martial arts since I was a child. Over the years my view and understanding of what kung fu really is and its true purpose has grown and come very far from where I started.
  When I was a boy and I had first started studying, I thought that kung fu was a style of fighting that I could use to assert my power in a world where previous to training, I was considered amongst the weak and disabled. This theory was formed alongside some internal struggles and conflicts that I was going through at the time.
  As I continued in this line of thought, I learned quickly (though not as quickly as I should have) that there is always going to be someone stronger than you and someone who will always be over you in some capacity. Realizing this I came to the conclusion that in studying martial arts, one must be content with his/herself in order to progress within. Allowing for internal progression would have external results I had thought. Channeling the emotions I had at the time about myself into each strike, each movement would allow me to progress.
  Continuing on that path I found that my strength can only take me so far. I had to accept that there were limits that everyone had regardless of physical ability. Why though? I kept asking myself this question as I moved between different schools trying to find my answers.
  As I grew older I began to see the responsibilities that came with what I was learning. There had to be a strength of mind, strength of character alongside the physical in order to truly progress in my training.     Many trails and tests came after as I sought to grow and train my spirit and mind as well as my body. It is only recently that I have come to the conclusion that kung fu, true kung fu, is a lifestyle. Not a means of fighting only. Its something that you commit to and study and train for your entire life. Its amazing how two completely different countries can create a martial art for completely different purposes and still have similar concepts and techniques. That proves to me that the "basics" aren't all that simple. There is far more to what we study than we realize and there are far more implications and results from what we learn then we can imagine. You never stop learning no matter how many techniques you master. I am still learning and I look forward to learning with you all. growing as a family and teaching just as much as I learn from all of you.


  1. Thanks for sharing this progression of perspectives, Charlie. For me, the rationale for participation/ practice has also passed through many developmental phases. It is a lifestyle, for sure, and more. I found that during the periods when I didn't practice, the martial arts would haunt me. Physically, my body would begin to feel disconnected, like in the sense that my arms were by themselves, or my legs, like I wasn't moving as one whole being. And of course I'd miss the culture and socialization of it. Kung Fu becomes synonymous with who you are and, even though I'm not particularly talented, I don't feel complete without it. In terms of other understandings, where I am now, I see some other aspects of it. I recognize it as an artistic metaphor... as much as it is a preparation for surviving human combat, it is also an actual, present battle against illness, disease, poor health, bad posture, and all kinds of mental problems. Also, it offers the opportunity to explore and engage in the range of movement that we were meant to, as human beings. This is one of the aspects I'm particularly interested in right now, something that fits very well into the scheme of my wider project of how to engage with my environment as I am naturally meant to, rather than as a pawn of various industries

    1. Awesome comment! It's like a post in itself. Quick question, I was thinking about you today and your views on deciding to take the path of No Rank, I understand why you chose that path for this kwoon but why did you end up deciding to partake in the bodybuilding contests but yet not partake in the Rank Path?

    2. My main purpose for participating in the bodybuilding contests is because they are opportunities to do something with my brother. While we hold some values in common, we are very different people, and we live far away from each other, so there are few opportunities to engage in each other's lives in any meaningful way. He grew up with me, and my martial arts practice. In some respects, I think it gave him a complex, and that it's ultimately part of what compelled him to become a professional body-builder, as a means to build his ego. Unfortunately, he chose to value the surface appearance too highly. As a result, he's lost two marriages and who knows what else. My participation in his Ab Challenge has been crafted primarily as a demonstration that physical appearance is secondary to ability. I have not participated in a conformist manner, sticking to the minimal requirements, but have instead given it my all, and have several times been ridiculed for it

      I see this non-conformity as similar to my approach with FMK. It's not a rebellion. I love my brother, and I'm very proud to be a part of FMK. Yet there are many good reasons to opt out of pursuing rank, if the choice is available. Foremost among them is to avoid the psychological limitations that can come with rank. People who have earned title, in many walks of life, not just martial arts, can become complacent. I'm aware of my own susceptibility to that. More significantly though, the choice to opt out of rank fits very well with the overall project mentioned above in response to Charlie. I'm trying to realize my human potential, to engage with my environment as a human being. I see martial arts, and movement in general, as crucial in this project. But rank would likely be a distraction/ detraction. I'm not against it. I just don't want to become limited by it... especially self-limited

    3. Ryan,

      to your first comment I say, you are so right! I too have felt that off-putting disconnect whenever I wasn't training and I agree that through training and study, it can become so much more. I would say this though to your answer to Sifu's question, I do agree with you that it is more important to build yourself up spiritually in your training and that should supersede if not surpass rank. I can understand why choosing the path of no rank would be more appealing, especially in today's world where MMA is the dominant thing that is practiced and in truth, there is no internal discipline but merely ego within its rank. However, I do think that rank serves a necessary purpose. I personally view each rank as an increased level of trust between you, your fellow todais and Sifu. I remember that earlier last week, Sifu was talking about how there needs to be increased limits as to who he trains and in what setting. Rank signifies a heightened level of respect that has been earned and that should be granted by the person of that rank. I feel like your rank will only limit you if you allow it to. Its like Sifu was saying, in order to achieve rank, no longer will there be merely a physical test and thats it. Each person must be spiritually and emotionally ready as well as the physical. Not that I'm dogging on you for choosing the path of no rank, I respect you for it. Personally, I just see more benefit to the kwoon as a whole as well as yourself internally on the ranked path.

    4. Charlie, thank you very much for contributing your thoughts on rank, I think they are excellent and demonstrate a very in depth look into the subject from someone that has clearly had a lot of experience within the realm of participating in Martial Arts schools.

      Ryan, what I am very interested in is having YOU help me determine a nearly "flawless" ranking system that would even appeal so much to you that you would even want to genuinely take part in. I truly value creativity within a Martial Arts school, but how can we integrate this aspect of rank to not only motivate those who are commonly motivated by these type of external motives but also motivate those who truly value the creative aspect of the Martial Arts and are already self-motivated?

      How do we get people involved to run a Chicago Marathon when they already run Marathons on a weekly basis without even having to be motivated by medals, recognition, and things like that?

      I have never been a group person in my life, no group was ever the right group for me, but now I am creating my own group and making it as "perfect" as I can.

      I see all the drawbacks and flaws of rank, but this is an opportunity where I can do my best to fix these flaws and create a whole new standard for the Martial Arts that is beyond anything anybody has ever seen. You are quite self-motivated, as am myself, it takes those who are self-motivated to design a way of rank for those who are not so self-motivated to continue to excel until the very end.

  2. Love the post Charlie, as stated you have very much to contribute to this kwoon from all the experiences you have had in various Martial Art schools. Because we do not have much time to speak in the training, most of your teachings will be best when you share it on this blog, it will provide a great supplement to our direct training. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences.

    1. Thank you Sifu. I will do so as often as I can.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.