Friday, 29 January 2010

What Is Kung Fu Really and What Does It Actually Mean

Many people practice Kung Fu throughout the world. Many people also know how the word translates into English, hard work, perseverance, skill acumulated through years of training etc..

But I feel like there are many practitioners who dont put that into practice. Kung Fu is about more than just learning some cool forms or being able to spar or hit a bag well. It is about disciplining yourself. When you train, you have to be focused on what you are doing. You have to drive yourself to improve and put in 100%. It is too easy to get into a comfort zone and then you become stagnant, you have to drive yourself to do more each time. Kung Fu is much more than just the techniques, its about developing yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. You need to train your body in a special way, so it can take much more than a normal person. I think of training as a way to improve myself, like a sculptor who takes a plain block and chips away at it to reveal an inner beauty. "The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war."

The way masters teach in China often seems strange, but it is very methodical. They may not answer all your questions or validate things, you have to trust them. If they just answer all your questions then you are just becoming a robot that repeats what they say. You have to learn and understand for yourself. Basics often seem a bit pointless, circling your arms around, kicking your leg straight up in the air, holding strange stances. But with time and perseverance you can come to understand how they are useful, how they build up strong foundations and good body mechanics.

You really cant rush Kung Fu, you need to spend a lot of time on basics, the slower you progress the better. There is a saying in Kung Fu, "three years of horse stance" which doesnt literally mean you must only do that for 3 years, but that you must spend a long time to build up good foundations, they are the key to your progress later on. Another saying which illustrates this is "practice begins after 1000 repetitions, perfection after 100,000." When we practice basics at the beginning of every Mantis class, Master Qu makes us do a few rounds of arm circling movements and basic straight leg kicks, which I always thought were a bit useless, but then recently he explained how they are applied and what they train and it made so much sense and I see how applicable they are.

Also, it is important to spend some of your free time practicing and reviewing, so in class time you can progress more. Sometimes masters will mention a key point only once, so if you dont get it and practice it in your free time, its gone. You need to keep practicing everyday without fail to improve. Another saying in China, "miss one days training and you will know, miss two days training and your master will know, miss three days training and everyone will know." This shows the importance of daily training and perseverance. You need to drill the movements into your subconscious. Kung Fu requires your body to move in a strange way, you have to have coordination and body mechanics to be able to generate power and have good technique.

Here at Kunyu Shan, there is so much each of the masters has to teach, not just techniques, forms or theories, but something much deeper, the importance of self development, perseverance. These things are not so apparent on the surface, you have to be open to receiving it, its easy to miss. They all have their own unique personalities, teaching styles, experiences, which makes them all pools of knowledge and if you show them you want it, you can get it.