|Chinese martial arts|
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Fighting art or martial art?
Some styles of martial arts were designed to be fighting arts; for individual combat, personal protection and self defence.
Other methods were adopted and employed by the Chinese military - these were martial arts, not fighting arts.
'Martial' means military
Military combat is quite different from self defence or sport; more serious... And it is usually features weaponry. In tai chi, the old/classical Yang style is the only style actually used by the Chinese military.
The other tai chi styles are technically speaking fighting arts.
The modern off-shoot of Chinese martial arts is called 'wushu'. It combines martial arts-style movements, gymnastics, acrobatics and dance choreographed to look exciting.
Wushu is all about aesthetics, theatrical displays and entertainment. Traditional Chinese martial arts are not performance art, nor sport.
The popular book Chinese Boxing by Robert Smith refers to kung fu as being 'Chinese boxing'. Is this term correct? The 1899 Boxer Rebellion in China was a historical event in which kung fu exponents sought to expel foreign influences from China, so the term has been used for some time. The question is - did the Chinese exponents call themselves 'boxers' or the terms Western in origin?
Although most people think of Chinese martial or fighting arts as being 'kung fu', the actual term kung fu is fairly recent and only came into more common use in the 1960's.
Most martial arts rely on strength, tensed muscles, speed, force against force, locked joints, aggression and using the arms independently of the body. This is thought of as being 'external'.
Internal martial arts (neijiaquan)
A handful of Chinese martial arts use the body in a very different manner, relying upon timing, balance, relaxed muscles, whole-body strength, whole-body movement and whole-body power.
These arts are called 'internal' or neijiaquan. The training methods are more advanced and harder to learn.
Tai chi was created in the Wudang Mountain range in Hubei, China. This mountain region is famous for Taoism.
Although bagua and xingyiquan are often referred to as 'Wudang', neither of those styles originated in the Wudang Mountain range. Only tai chi is from Wudang. Bagua is from Emei.
Advanced martial art
Internal martial arts (neijiaquan) cultivate a very different attitude in the student. They necessitate an unfamiliar approach to body use, combat and living:
Health and combat are equally important
Age is less of an obstacle
Significantly more refined, detailed and sophisticated than mainstream martial arts
Strength is built using unconventional means
Cross-training: massage, leg stretches, qigong, neigong, form, partnered work, martial sets & drills, combat and weapons
Physically and mentally challenging; but in a very different way to mainstream martial arts
Body must be trained to move in a manner that is unfamiliar
Organic, natural, flowing
Striking and grappling are trained together
Hidden, restrained, subtle
Uses 4 ounces of pressure, stickiness, sensitivity
Incapacitation is the aim
Composure is vital
Allowing, leading, misdirecting, listening, sensitivity, adaptation
Reliance upon spontaneity and timing
Being in the body and sensation-oriented
Blending rather than blocking
Feeling your vulnerability
Loose, fluid and relaxed musculature
A highly developed technical understanding is cultivated
An understanding of the meaning and application of the martial Classics
The art is a vehicle for exploring the many insights offered by 'taoism'
The training is done
carefully, gently - in a controlled manner -
without exertion or strain
In tai chi we do not train
ourselves so our bodies are distorted in one way to achieve something
(Chungliang Al Huang)
Page created 25 March 1994
Last updated 16 June 2023