Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I have read that historically, a good martial artist would learn only one or two styles. How can someone be good if they say they learn several styles of martial art?MARTIAL ART SYSTEMS AND STYLES
A: For the most part, it is true that many martial artists only studied one or two styles towards mastery and that the standard of skill was higher. There are several reasons for this.
First, accessibility to the information was limited. You couldn’t just go through the yellow pages or go ‘window shopping’ from school to school. Second, it was not easy to join a kung fu family; you had to first prove your worth. This also took time. Third, once the learning began, it was slow. Masters were often protective about their knowledge, but they also believed, based on their understanding of human physiology, that proper martial arts development had to follow certain stages. One crucial stage was the very lengthy period of intense training of the horse stance. Until this skill was attained, no other techniques were taught. This period could take up to three years.
However, most well known top masters with open minds studied more than one style. There are many examples of such masters in history. Similarly, several famous kung fu styles were created by combining other styles together. Choi Lei Fat and Praying Mantis are only two examples.
In modern times it is possible to excel in more that one style of martial arts because of the following reasons. First, accessibility to the arts is excellent. You can choose your martial art similar to choosing what you will have for dinner at a restaurant! Second, it is easy to join most schools; they are in the business of teaching martial arts for money, not training armies. Third, our understanding of human physiology and health, from both an Eastern and Western perspective, is much greater than in ancient times. This allows us to maximize our training time to benefit in our busy lives. Avoiding injury, expediting healing and promoting continual progress are some of the ways this insight can benefit us today.
By combining the martial arts theory with traditional medicine theories, modern science, physiology and teaching methods, we can reach the same goals in a shorter time.
Q: What about fighting skills? In ancient times, the skill of the martial artist in comparison with today, was much higher.
A: The human body was the weapon and martial arts determined life and death. To train for this level of skill is possible, but not practical, for this requires a lifetime of commitment, and many great personal sacrifices. Few people could live up to this requirement.
Historically, the combat advantage was skill in a few techniques. Diversity is our advantage in fighting today. We are not limited to a set style or group of skills. In combat theory, we have the advantage of learning from history.
The martial artists of old rarely had a formal education, and most could not read or write. Our society’s health, nutrition, education standards are superior. Learning in all areas of society are accessible, creating the opportunity to become well rounded martial artists, and human beings, in all areas of life.
Q: Aerobic martial art and boxing ‘fitness’ classes are very popular right now. Can I gain the same benefits as learning a classical martial art?
A: No. These fitness classes which take boxing or martial art moves and put them to music are essentially aerobic classes with a primary focus appeal to the masses. Combined with effective marketing and promotion, these classes have grown in popularity, promising a lot of results for little effort.
Martial arts adapt very easily into the aerobic workout routine. At best, doing ‘martial’ type moves might develop a certain level of increased confidence, which may lead one to take the next step into trying a real martial arts program. In reality, the classes are an excellent way to improve aerobic fitness and cardiovascular health.
Improving basic muscle tone and weight loss are a product of any exercise done at an aerobic level. Proper martial arts training naturally includes these health benefits, but aerobics and fitness boxing do not include real martial arts benefits.
These courses do not develop martial skills or self-defense knowledge anymore than playing a video game teaches one how to program a computer. From a martial arts perspective, this is icing without cake it is not complete!
Q: What is a complete martial art?
A: A complete martial art is one that contains these five basic elements: Comprehensive Attack And Defense Technical Repertoire, Philosophy and Moral Code, Medical methods for Health and Healing, Aesthetic and Artistic Refinement, and the Practice of Qigong, or techniques for internal and external energy development.
Q: When talking about the self-defense and fighting element, what does it entail?
A: Self-Defense and Combat techniques in kung fu cover all possible fighting ranges: Long, Medium, Short and Close (Touching) and a wide variety of scenarios and combat formats.
Q: Why is Self-Defense and Combat Training Important?
A: As martial artists, it is imperative that we have a working understanding of self-defense techniques and develop the necessary skills and instinct needed to respond readily to a wide variety of scenarios. By having the understanding, confidence and skill to handle different situations, we also gain control over our own lives and greater opportunity to avoid conflict.
Q: Why are philosophy and morals important?
A: When you learn the skills of combat you need to understand how and why they are used, as well as when they are not. There is a saying in Chinese martial arts, “Before you learn the skills, you should first learn proper manners and etiquette.” Without this principle governing your behavior and understanding, your are merely a fighter with some skills but lacking inner refinement.
Q: What is the benefit of learning healing techniques?
A: These methods range from simple prevention, diet, the treatment of martial injuries and health qigong (energy work) to help your own health and training progress, to advanced studies whereby you can develop the ability to help and treat others. Kung Fu is something that we can practice our entire lives. We respect the body and take proper measures to protect it, prevent injury, and heal it properly to avoid conditions that might limit our health as we get older.
Q: What is the benefit of aesthetics and artistic refinement?
A: Artistic and expressive movements serve to develop the innate sense and appreciation of beauty and creativity that is within all of us.
Q: I thought that all Eastern martial arts have a concept of Chi or ‘Ki’, and address its development in their training.
A: Yes, this is true. However, only Chinese martial arts have complete methods for its development, specific to every stage of human life and applicable for a wide variety of uses, which includes martial arts.
Q: What is a style of martial arts?
A: A style of martial arts is a recognized school of thought and methodology in martial training and/or philosophy. A style is a method of martial arts, for example: Hung Gar, Praying Mantis Boxing, Shotokan Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Baak Hok Kuen. A style is identifiable by any one or more of several aspects, including aesthetics, philosophy and theoretical basis, genealogy, geography, and nation of origin.
Q: What is a system of martial arts?
A: A martial arts system is a recognized school of Chinese martial arts comprised of a distinct philosophy, theoretical basis, and training methods, and which may specialize in a single, unified and comprehensive approach to martial arts development, or may be diversified, comprised of several distinct styles of kung fu. For example, Shaolin System, Wudang System, Chung Wah System. While a style is usually identified as a single approach, a system is generally broader-based, combining distinct elements from several styles. A system is the entire tree; a style is like a leaf or the fruit.
Q: What is the best style of martial arts?
A: There is no best style. All have their strengths and weaknesses, determined by time and experience. If there was one single ultimate style, it would have resulted in all other styles falling into extinction.
There are many different types of people and therefore there are many different types of martial arts. The best style is the one that suits you and motivates you to invest the time and dedicate your life to the study of martial arts!
Q: How many styles are there in Kung Fu?
A: There are in excess of three hundred and forty distinct styles of classical Chinese martial arts. This number easily exceeds the combined total of all other martial styles in the world. This aspect is but one of many intriguing complexities involved with Chinese martial arts. It may be argued that every traditional martial art in the world has a developmental connection to the martial arts of China.
Q: What is Wushu?
A: Wu war, (martial, combat) Shu ( art, technique) literally means ‘martial arts’. This is the generic Chinese term for any style of martial arts, classical or modern, of any country. However, today, this term also has a different meaning.
In China, there were many periods of turmoil and political unrest. There were times when martial arts were banned from being taught or practiced. Students and masters of kung fu were persecuted and severely punished. However, through good times and bad, kung fu has survived, adapted and continued to remain a steadfast part of Chinese culture.
Eventually, the Chinese government came to recognize that there were many merits in the study of martial arts. At one point, China, in an attempt to revive nationalistic morale, promoted its cultural activities and arts. Martial arts were given a new title, Guo Shu , the ‘Nation’s Art’. The martial arts of China were once again actively promoted with a primary focus given to their health and aesthetic aspects and practice geared toward competition and sport.
Spreading to other countries during the late 1970’s and 80’s, international performance standards were set. The contemporary martial art of China became popular around the world, known simply as ‘Wushu’.
Q: What is the difference between contemporary Wushu and traditional Wushu (Kung Fu)?
A: Contemporary Wushu refers to the aforementioned; the competitive, acrobatic martial sport. A summary is as follows:
The drawbacks of Contemporary Wushu, being similar to any professional sport, include:
Classical or Traditional Wushu, or Kung Fu, has many aspects to it.
Q: How do I know if the Kung Fu offered at a school is ‘authentic’?
A: In the old days the martial arts were kept very secretively and students were carefully selected. It was less common for renegade and imposter schools to exist. Now, determining a style’s authenticity is a little more challenging. There are many fake styles and numerous teachers who only know a little but profess to know a lot.
There are three basic ways to look at a style’s claims to authenticity. Any one or all of these is sufficient for a style to be deemed authentic.