Who Owns Kung Fu?
There is a unique side to the Traditional Chinese Martial Arts community, and that is trying to claim ownership to know the most authentic and original style of martial arts ever.... A great example of this is when watching a fight or match and then pointing out every single movement that is a part of their style (especially the ones that win). This is not to say that any one punch is unique to a specific style, humans have been hitting each other for much longer than standardized martial arts, so the same punch can exist in multiple arts. It is not the fact that the fighter knows it from whatever background they have, but more importantly, that they knew when to use it in combat. So in the end, what I'm trying to say is, it is your punch, and it is my punch too, no need to claim it to your art.
The other side of this is when practitioners claim other arts as byproducts of their own, boasting that their art is the original style. I come from a background in a relatively young art, barely over 100 years old. I know it's not the first or original Chinese Martial Art so I already stay out of that competition, but I constantly see people arguing over who existed first. Again, our ancestors have been hitting each other for way longer than any of the martial arts we know existed...combined... there is no reason to call shotgun, to be first, it's not a race...
This has been kind of a rant, but in the end I just want it to serve as a reminder that no one owns Kung Fu, no one owns Martial Arts, we're all on our own journeys along this path so why not focus on improving our skill instead of talking about it.
"How I Was Taught"
There's a silly phenomenon among people who share similar interests, like martial arts. It is the feeling that they learned the purest and most correct version ever taught based on their lineage or instructor, but even more so, because they really really believe that they are the most correct exponent and god's gift to martial arts. Now yes, lineage and qualified instructors do better your chances of learning things more efficiently or effectively, but then again how well did you interpret their teachings?
Simply put, every school, every instructor will teach things differently whether they try to or not. Language and body movement facilitate this, how they word their descriptions, where they emphasize their movements, and what speed it is performed. Not to mention, an instructor can place a specific emphasis on a detail pertaining to that particular student, that eventually the student shares and perpetuates to their own students. The cycle continues, the effect becomes much greater, and the further the art deviates from the original teaching.
An evolution of the art is constant, and I try to be optimistic that the evolution is positive, especially since we have better ways to safely test and understand the art and techniques with protective gear and controlled sparring sessions. However, it doesn't change the fact that the art is changing and I would rather embrace the differences than cut each other down because of from whom or when they learned it.
I dunno, that's just how I was taught.
China vs Kung Fu "Masters"
Over the years a man named Xu Xiadong has rocked the Chinese martial arts world by openly challenging and fighting various kung fu masters, all of which have ended promptly with the kung fu masters being knocked out or giving up. Many have targeted Xu as a bully, and just trying to prove MMA superiority over traditional martial arts, but it is not a good vs evil kind of battle as many try to make it. Xu Xiaodong is an MMA fighter, but he is not trying to prove superiority of MMA, but more to silence the self proclaimed "Masters" who often perform no touch knockouts and proclaim that their death touch can defeat any MMA fighter. As long as there's money to be made, there will always be a conman to take it, and martial arts has had plenty of those over the years. Xu's path is similar to McDojo Life, to out the con men and keep the martial arts legitimate.
However, following the fame of such matches has brought a new generation of fakes into the spotlight, staging fights and boasting their martial arts just to be beaten, and get publicity and money. To call yourself a kung fu master and fight in the ring these days is seen the same as WWE is seen in the United States.... just worse, because these guys are jumping in with no skill, and getting beaten up by real fighters. Kung fu is becoming a joke, and it has hit the point that now the Chinese government is stepping in to put a stop to self-proclaimed "masters."
I'm not sure how this will end, but I do know that one defining element to distinguish the self proclaimed guys from the legitimate kung fu exponents is through verifiable lineage. In the traditional martial arts world it's very common to hear people boast about their lineage and teachers, which I used to think was kind of silly... you could have a world famous teacher, but you could still be an awful martial artist. Now it is true, your chances of being an exceptional martial artist go way up when you have an exceptional teacher, but clinging to the name doesn't automatically make you good. I always looked first at skill rather than lineage, but it looks like after all of this, both will be equally as important.
Thoughts, memories, lessons and the little tidbits of martial philosophies I stumble upon along my journey.