Monday, 21 September 2009

Applying traditional kung fu concepts to modern self defense

Recently, Ive seen a lot of videos on modern self defense, and also, people who feel that traditional martial arts dont cut it in real life situations. While Im probably not the most qualified to criticise professional instructors, I feel that there is a lot of misunderstanding about traditional Chinese concepts in martial arts. A lot of this is due to mis-translation, such as Qi being translated as energy etc.

When I was learning Taiji in China, a senior student told me that i lack Shen (神)in my form. I didnt really know what Shen meant, or how it applied to martial arts. I just knew it translated as spirit, and it was something to do with Taoism. So I asked him to explain, and he said when you train martial arts, you develop Shen, it is something like spirit, but I think rather than being spirit as in soul, it is more spirit, like warrior spirit. A state of mind which has complete focus and determination in what you are doing. So, when I do my forms, I should be focussed, like my life depends on each movement being perfect. After spending a lot of time doing zhan zhuang, standing post meditation, he said I will increase my Shen. Later on I read that kung fu masters often have a glint in their eye, this is a sign of highly developed Shen.

This reminded me of a few things Id seen on TV. On Mind, Body and Kickass Moves, I saw an Okinawan karate master, who was sparring with the presenter, Chris Crudelli. But Chris couldnt touch him, every time he moved in, the master just glared at him and moved forward and Chris had to retreat. Its nothing supernatural, its the same kind of stuff Derren Brown works with when he does his tricks and feats of mind control. I saw a documentary about the life of Mike Tyson, and he was talking about his early fights. He said when he stepped into the ring, he stared into his opponents eyes, and didnt let them out of his gaze. As soon as he saw their gaze drop for a second, he knew hed already won the fight, so as soon as the fight started, he annihilated them.

These are examples of using Shen, which manifests as kind of piercing gaze, a deadly focus, and you will find that all self defense instructors will talk about psychology in a fight, using your fear and adrenaline as a tool to increase your power, well, adrenaline starts as a feeling in the pit of your stomach. Where does Qi originate? In your dan tian, the pit of your stomach, so isnt using your adrenaline the same concept as using Qi and your mind/intention (Yi) to increase your power. Have you ever noticed that some people have an air of power around them, and if they get agressive, you feel scared, well what if you can turn the tables on them and be mentally stronger than them. When I was young, my dad told me that being mentally strong is more important than being physically strong. It took me a long time to understand that. A lot of people avoid eye contact, feeling intimidated by it, so you can use that in a fight to psyche the opponent out, just like Mike Tyson and the Karate master.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

In 2 weeks, Im returning to China, to Kunyu Shan to study Kung Fu full time. It appears this blog site is blocked in China with their heavy censorship, so I may have to find another site, or get someone from home to post for me. Il let you know if I make a new site.