Kung fu School

Who Killed Kung Fu ?

I stumbled across a video sometime ago posted by world renowned Brazilian Jujitsu coach and rubber guard master Johnny Bravo responding to a question about who killed kung fu.
Since I’ve been doing internal martial arts for about the past 14 years it made me stop and think about the question awhile.

“The Truth Killed Kung Fu “was Eddies answer


And I thought well he’s right…

But he’s wrong as well…
Now I know Kung Fu gets no respect these days, commonly referred to as Kung Foolishness or something of the sort.
So let me qualify what I’m about to say which of course is only my humble opinion. First off I don’t have a Kung fu movie collection, nope, not even one Bruce Lee flick gathering dust somewhere, but I do confess that I’ve given serious thought to grabbing a few at some point. My kids need to see some of those classic Bruce Lee flicks.
I’m also no delusional Kung fu fanatic that lives in a seemingly parallel universe who can drop dumb statements like a “A Real Master Would Have Ended that Fight in Seconds” after seeing a Kung fu fighter getting their ass handed to them in a Kung fu minute. Or worse yet… using a movie scene to refer to how something should’ve actually been done in real life.
I certainly can’t speak for all systems of Kung fu either, I only became curious about the internal systems of Kung fu after having someone in my Japanese Jujitsu training whose skill I had really admired mention that he had done some internal training as I talk about in a post here.

Now Eddie is right in the sense that effective martial arts systems have proven themselves within the confines of octagon and UFC. What we know since its inception is the same thing that martial arts innovator Bruce Lee said as well, many years before the UFC, that any fight can evolve into 3 possible ranges of combat. Kicking, Striking, Grappling and also the in between range which can be considered a 4th range which is before any take down attempt is made; the hand fighting and clenching range.

Does Kung Fu Bring Anything To The Table?

And this leads me to why Kung fu gets no respect. Jeet Kune Do has done a better job at integrating the redirecting and trapping principles of Wing Chun into their system within this range of combat. Now before you say Wing Chun isn’t effective in MMA either… keep in mind that I’m not talking about the traditionally used version when I mention this art.

I’m talking about the way it’s used in JKD which uses boxing at the longer distance then once the distance is closed blocks, traps and re-directions then come into play.
But I believe there is much more in the way of principles that have yet to be fully realized. I know MMA coach and former Shoot fighting champion Erik Paulson has a JKD background but I’m not sure how much of that was integrated into his fights. So other than Cung Lee there hasn’t been anyone with any Kung fu type of background that I can recall that has had much success in MMA.

Chinese Sanda is very similar to MMA without the submissions, Muay Thai type of kicks along with upper body throws similar to Greco Roman and Shuai Jiao leg sweeps and throws all of which are very effective, but not significantly different.
14 years into my journey of internal martial arts I have to say that I believe there is real value in systems that really attempt to incorporate principles of Tai Chi which is the father of all internal martial art.
I have to say something that I know is going to be controversial, from my experience wrestlers and submission grappling arts in general incorporate internal principles as well, just not to the extent that the internal martial arts do.
For the sake of length though I’ve decided to split this post into 2 posts, part 2 focusing more on the relationship between grappling and internal.

High Return On Your Investment

This 4th range is where I believe internal martial artists could show something that is unique in relationship to other martial arts. But certainly not in terms of looking different aesthetically just to look different. Like I said this is the hand fighting range in which contact is made with the opponent before clinching.
Ideally the energy generated is to prevent someone from being able to grab or lock up your structure to be spherical while allowing you take advantage of their structure.This is the range where internal martial arts practitioners play. But internal practitioners need to actually play with people that aren’t playing our game to refine this range.

This is where I am at these days in my own training, my competitive days are long behind me, but I’m finally playing with people who have skill at the grappling ground fighting range.  Which I will discuss more in Part 2.
All of the (tui shou) commonly referred to as push hands training internal martial arts practitioner’s do is supposed to develop abilities to access an opponent’s center of gravity to off balance them without having to drop down and grab the opponent’s legs. The off balancing is all done through contact with the arms.
Problem is many times this just degenerate’s into shoving hands and into what we refer to as wooden strength. Ideally the training should develop higher levels of kinesthetic awareness while using the ground to produce either throwing out or pulling in forces; centrifugal and centripetal force.

Although I don’t believe Kung fu is dead I clearly understand what Eddie is talking about. The years of training in internal martial arts several things come to mind.

The Inner Door

The biggest damage that I think has been done to internal martial arts is that whole inner door outer door student thing. If you’re not familiar with this then let me explain..

This is where the instructor decides to teach just the surface part of their martial art to most of his students and only divulge the deeper concepts and principles to a select few, his inner door students /disciples.
This is the fastest way to destroy any knowledge of something; you just can’t keep information secret only divulging core principles and insights to only a  select few handpicked students here and there between generations and expect your art or knowledge to survive.
The result is that you wind up with teachers that may have a few tricks up their sleeves but no real depth of knowledge. In many other cases you wind up with teachers that are all form and no function.

I remember one of my past teachers who took a trip to China looking for some high level master, I guess his thinking was since this was the birthplace he wouldn’t have any much trouble finding plenty of high skill level internal martial artists.
What he came upon was a lot of low skilled teachers along with one too many fakes before he actually found someone with a high skill level. And that’s the problem with being too secretive and limiting access to information.

Beware of The Tee Shirt

You remain consistent to things that you have committed to, especially consistent to those things that you say and do publicly.
University of Arizona psychology professor Robert Cialdini wrote a landmark book many years ago that specifically addresses this. Heck, in his introduction he admits to being what he himself called a patsy for most of his life. He wanted to understand the underlying social influences that lead to his actions.
In this case it’s the law of commitment and consistency. So if you say I’m a student of such and such martial art you will remain consistent with that. The danger in that is relying entirely on your instructor’s perceptions and opinions about combat /self defense.

Contrast that with saying I’m a mixed martial arts fighter /student whatever. That statement in and of itself is liberating. It pretty much means I’m open to other effective martial arts systems.

I’ll be the first to say that if you have an immediate need as far as self defense or protection, the internal path is not the way to go.
Internal development is not easy stuff, quite the opposite it’s extremely difficult. But I will say this as far as refinement and reaching higher levels of awareness and bio-mechanical function it’s an incredible journey that can produce a high return on your investment.

Part 2 Wrestlers Use Tai Chi Principles?

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