There have been many discussions on traditional vs. modern on the subject of martial arts. Many traditionalists say that the old ways are best and that modern training can’t cope with non-sport combat. They see modern martial arts as lacking the spirit and respect of ancient arts.
Many modern martial artists say the traditional arts are no longer valid and that they need to be adapted to today’s world. The forms are too rigid, the training lacking and they can’t deal with the modern fighter who knows boxing and ground fighting.
Now I consider myself to be a traditional martial artist, but I have to agree with the modern view in regards to traditional arts. But the issue isn’t with being traditional, it’s actually the loss of traditional training that is the problem.
Too many Kung Fu schools focus on learning forms to perform in tournaments, so focus on power and spirit is traded for flashy speed and ridiculous poses. Their classes lack hard physical training such as body conditioning and their applications are robotic and unrealistic. This type of training will not hold in actual combat. But, is this how the Chinese used to train?
If you’ve ever read, or have seen documentaries about Chinese warfare, I think you would quickly realize that they were very methodical and practical in their approach. Over thousands of years of Chinese history they developed all kinds of technology such as the compass, printing press, gun powder and war machines. So why do people think they didn’t have basic concepts of bare hand fighting? Do you really think that after thousands of years of fighting for your life and developing the martial arts, that they needed the UFC to show them their flaws? That fighting in a cage for money over a few decades is what brought about real training that “works”. Now this is not a slander on UFC fighters, as they opened the eyes of a lot of people about fighting and martial arts; but logically it doesn’t make sense. So where is the problem?
The problem lies in the fact that the traditional arts are not being taught or practiced the way that they were. I’m saying that the modern way is actually the traditional way but that the training was lost. What happened to martial arts in China is another story, but for now I’ll say that what is left is just a shell of its former glory. So, how do we make our traditional art “modern” and useful? I have a few ideas.
1. Conditioning – Even if you have good techniques and understand them, they are useless without the strength to use them. Push ups, squats, leg raises, qi gong etc.
2. Use common sense – If you’re partner performs one attack and you perform 2-5 counters while he stands there, then you’re doing it wrong. The exchange has to be realistic. If I throw a punch and you block that’s one move. Now you can counter, but by that time I can throw another technique. The enemy will not just stand there while you throw a flurry of attacks! Anyone can learn to hit someone. You need to learn to move and strike, cover and take a hit. You need to work up to practicing full speed and then You NEED to pull the technique off during free sparring, or it doesn’t work!
3. Train Hard! – although this kind of falls into the conditioning portion, I’m talking more about pushing yourself mentally. A physical altercation is stressful and incredibly intense. If you go through your training like a Zumba class, when the time comes you will be too shocked to react. You need to do everything with the intensity and emotional involvement of a fight. I’ve seen bigger and stronger guys lose to someone who was more aggressive and determined to win. People seem to forget that this is how martial arts were trained and this type of psychological training will help you deal with other stressful moments in your life. It’s also another benefit (besides self-defense) of practicing Kung Fu the way it was intended. If you’re not willing to sweat, hurt, and push yourself to your limits, you are not getting the full benefit and you are not doing Kung Fu.
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