There is something interesting I've noticed about weapons forms and training in Choy Li Fut over the years. It has nothing to do with uniqueness or special techniques based on weapon attributes or pairing, and it's not something you see in every weapon form. In fact, there are really just a handful of times you'll find these techniques at all, but a to me they're a real testament to the creator of the form's foresight and engineering.
The first thing I want to point out is context for the weapon, some weapons were used specifically on the battlefield and didn't need versatility as much as development of basics and repetition of common and practical combinations, like a long handled broadsword or a halberd. Then there's the interesting and unique weapons that also add flash and performance value through weapon spinning and even acting. For this, however, I want to look at the common day implements that could be weaponized in a moments notice for everyday self defense (even though most are not as everyday common as they once were). Weapons like cane, shoulder pole, flute and fan, or farming implements like hoe, rake, spade, branch cutting knife, and so on.
When it comes to tools of self defense, I am totally onboard. Why punish your body and put yourself into danger when you could just swing a baton, whip, bag, anything else into the scuffle. It makes perfect sense. Even if you carry to intimidate the potential aggressor, makes sense too right?
However there are a ton of problems that arise when it comes down to weapons/tools for self defense. Number one is a false sense of security and reliance on simply possessing the tool. "I have an extendable baton just in case..." great, so do you actually know how to use it?
This is a great time to google the effectiveness of pepperspray, and the most common reason for failure...
This is a simple fix that requires work on your end so pay attention: Get professionally trained in how to use it, and practice/train routinely. One time in a one hour class is not enough!
The second problem that comes up is that even if the person is trained in using the implement, when it comes down to the situation, did they have enough time to deploy the tool and effectively use it as planned? A clip on pocket knife in a back pocket can easily become inaccessible once the person ends up on their back on the ground. Most times, there is not time to assess the situation and produce the tool in time before the attack.
The fix for this is two-fold. 1) Strategically carry your implement in an easily accessible place. You don't have to carry it in that place 24/7, but plan ahead when you go into an area you might need it and 30 seconds to place it before you go is all you need. 2) Add deployment training to your practice schedule; take time to practice your quick draw from multiple angles and positions.
The last problem I'd like to discuss is when everything goes right and you seamlessly deploy your tool of self defense that you regularly train with... and still get beaten up the moment they catch/disarm your weapon. The problem is a complete reliance on the weapon. This is very common in martial arts weapons training and sparring. Once the weapon is in your hand it becomes your only weapon. This is dangerous thinking as you forget about the rest of your arms, legs, and any other tools available around you. That's why it is important to routinely train your hand-to-hand combat skills and spar! An ideal sparring session would include hand-tohand sparring, weapons only sparring, and finally a freestyle weapons and hand-to-hand session with full gear and range allowing stand up and ground fighting. This is a great way to further explore the use of your weapon of choice as well as make your martial arts complete and well rounded.
These are two very important factors to look at in your self defense training.
Earlier this week I had, by far, the worst tai chi session I've had in a very long time. The strange thing is that I can't attribute it to lack of practice or injury. I practice tai chi daily, and I currently have no injuries, hell I slept very well the night before, but the session ended up being frustrating as I'll get up.
My forms were disconnected, I would skip sections or repeat movements, I got turned in wrong directions, my movements were clunky and my footwork was clumsy at best. Each form I practiced seemed worse than the last, and it seemed like after a while, every mistake became a fight to continue or just skip the rest of the workout and I was at wits end.
I pushed through. I did every form in frustration, but I still pushed through to the end. In the grand scheme of things it was just another day regardless of positive or negative feelings, but as a martial artist it is these types of sessions that forge the spirit to handle the truly difficult circumstances and overwhelming moments in our life. Like weightlifting for our willpower. The next day my session was normal and has been since, no special abilities or increase in skill, it was just a weird random occurrence in my training.
So why am I writing about one bad session, especially since it had no significant effect on my training either way? Because I want to let you know that these days happen, and pushing through a session is not easy, but it is important to do it. It's a mental mountain that you are forced to climb, and rather than skip it the best thing to do is go for it, because in the end you will reach the top of the mountain. And the next day, the entire ordeal will be nothing, non-existent, and in the long run you'll probably forget that specific day. Your training however, will not have a gap and remain consistent and just as the old saying goes "Practice a day, gain a day. Skip a day of practice, lose a week."
Back in the early 2000's after watching Kill Bill, my friends and I decided we would make our own gory/martial/hiphop/western. Our production was cheap and so were our props, but the heart was there, we had a vision. Although we shot 80% of the film, we never finished and nothing came of it, except a very particular lesson that I still bring up to this day.
In one fight scene my character with the Chinese broadsword was pitted up against the lead antagonist with a Japanese katana. My sword was a cheap flimsy wushu pressed steel sword and his a cheap smoke shop katana, so we didn't mind making direct blade to blade contact as they could be easily replaced. We filmed our fight for just over an hour and were satisfied with the shots so we decided to pack up and head home for the day when we looked at the damage.
The katana had many bites, burrs, and serious gaps up to an eighth of an inch deep whereas my flimsy, wiggly wushu sword had only a few scratches. We laughed at how cheap the swords were and went home. But I kept thinking about it. The katana was really not that bad in quality and the blade was much thicker than the pressed wushu steel, so how come the situation wasn't reversed or at least equal?
I realized later that it all comes down to experience and energy. Though my friend was an avid martial arts fan, he had absolutely no experience that some film combat we would do, so he had no fundamental structure. I had already learned and had been working with swords regularly for a couple years at that time. The other, and most important factor was energy. His blade took the damage of each clash even when he was striking, because my movements had weight and the energy I was using was more than what he was putting into it. This is not "energy" like chi, but literal momentum, force, energy. Each impact went back into his weapon and even a simple flimsy wushu blade could cut into a katana.
Just in case you were expecting an opinion of which style is superior to the other... this isn't it. It's just the beautiful lesson that is learned when cheap swords clash 😅
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.
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.
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.