Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Japan Military Shotokan Karate
Sunday, October 05, 2008
A Real Chinese Kung Fu Master Fight in 1953
Very rare fight shaolin kung fu vs. Karate
Kiai Master vs MMA
Martial Arts Death Touch
Notice that Stephan Bonnar is one of the Carlson Gracie jiu-jitsu students who is apparently immune to the deadly technique.
Taekwondo freestyle - Nowy Sącz
Friday, March 24, 2006
by Vince Morris, 7th Dan
You know, it's a funny thing but you can always spot people riding hobby horses - they tend to stick out in a crowd!
Now, all things considered, I'm quite in favour of the odd idiosyncrasy - indeed it has been whispered that I myself have been held to hold the occasional odd notion.
However, when, out of the blue, a hobby-horse rider sees fit to launch a few barbs in my direction no-one should be surprised that the old defensive instincts gather themselves together and clamber creakingly out of the old war chest!
Sitting happily and inoffensively in front of my trusty (what a joke) laptop a while back, I found myself subjected to a discourse from a woman who vehemently objected to the fact that on the Kissakikarate.com website there is a photo of a senior instructor using a firearm.
Now being a courteous and civil person, I naturally tried to understand the reasons behind her objections, which - as I recall - seemed based upon the argument that firearms had nothing to do with teaching `traditional' martial arts, and, as such, this photograph was completely out of place on a website which was connected with such `traditional' arts.
I attempted - reasonably I thought - to point out that:
1. That Kissaki-kai was founded upon the reality of karate as a proper, fully sufficient method of self-defence.
2. As such it was necessary to deal with attacks by modern, as well as `traditional' weapons ("Cherish the old but embrace the new!" Funakoshi)
3. Kissaki-kai is a world association with many connections through its subsidiary (Law Enforcement Training Services International) with military and police training, much of which utilises modern weaponry.
4. Even in the UK there is a significant rise in the criminal use of firearms against innocent victims and a working knowledge of the threat could be useful here in the UK.
It seems, however, that riding hobby-horses causes deafness.
The response I received was so implacable that it was obvious that no-one was listening to any argument, but simply waiting for the moment to state the same points over again.
At this point I generally switch off, as life is too short to become involved in endless debates with those who are determined that the world is flat and the earth is the centre of the universe.
However, this time I feel it reasonable to bring the Kissaki-kai philosophy to a wider audience, as I believe it be important that the underlying moral basis is clear for all to see.
I spent what seemed like a life-time training in what is generally termed `traditional' martial arts, only to become painfully aware that mostly they were anything but traditional, mainly being sports based and formulated since the 1920s, existing through a set of rules which diluted the self-defence element, and inculcating the ego-satisfying desire to win medals and trophies.
The bedrock of Kissaki-kai is that the techniques and tactics must be fundamentally effective in self-defence terms, and must be taught in a milieu which encourages respect, civility and self-awareness.
This has meant questioning and changing some of the training methods which were handed down to us by the Japanese masters which they had altered from the concepts and precepts upon which the art of karate was originally based, taught by the Okinawans.
The fact is, much of what the Okinawan masters taught was and is much more appropriate in defensive effectiveness than is much of what came to be taught in the Japanese-based sports-centred styles.
Now, I in no way denigrate or decry anyone who chooses to follow this way! Indeed there are many in Kissaki-kai who also train mostly for competition, and much can be gained from this.
However, we place a great emphasis upon understanding the defensive paradigms and principles of the Kata, and place personal defensive effectiveness for all ages and both sexes above the acquisition of sporting success by fairly few - mostly young and athletic - karate-ka.
In truth, if anyone wishes to train in a system which actually does utilise the old traditional weaponry, then they will find no greater supporter than me.
I do object, on the other hand, to anyone telling me that learning defences against modern weaponry is wrong!
All the `traditional' weapons were once new and contemporary!
The basis of training in the use of old Japanese and Okinawan weapons was to be able to defend against them or use them as defences against other weaponry current in the society of the time.
Do you imagine for one moment that if Uzis had existed at the time they would not have been included in their practice?
In fact, the Japanese themselves eventually even took to using the firearm. Nobunaga a Daimyo (lord), at the Battle of Nagashino in 1575, for the first time in the history of Japanese warfare, made tactical use of muskets, which had been introduced by the Portuguese in 1543.
To claim, then, that including firearms in defensive training is wrong is not only logically questionable in light of the fact that many Kissaki-kai members throughout the world carry firearms on a daily basis, but flies in the face of historical fact!
I think a concluding comment by this particular person indicates that clarity of thought is not to assumed!
If my memory serves me correctly it was along the lines that she wood stick faithfully to training with `traditional' weapons.
And the next time she is attacked outside a nightclub on a dark night and she just happens to be carrying a rice-flail, Okinawan oar or indeed a piece of stick a metre or so long, I'm sure she'll deal magnificently with the situation!
In fact, the success of Kissaki-kai not only with martial arts students of all ages, but particularly in law enforcement circles, is that it does indeed deliver training which is fundamentally technically and tactically sound, which is a vital factor in life-threatening circumstances.
The real world generally cannot be found in the Dojo.
I will add this following passage from a student as an example of what hobby-horse riders seldom have to confront.
I tell you this story that happened to me and a few cops in my city Leuven (Belgium) after the week's special training with you in the police academy of Antwerp
I try to tell it in my best English but I am sure you will understand it.
We had a call to go to an apartment in the city because a young person (age 25) had got psychological problems.
It was night and dark . The emergency medics got there first
My partner and I arrived immediately after them.
The incident happened in an apartment on the first floor of a building.
When we got there, the young man was lying on the ground trying to commit suicide with a knife.
On the floor there were already 3 knifes covered with all over with blood.
While he was lying on his back the young man stuck the knife in his throat and there was blood all over everywhere.
He already cut his throat and there was a big hole in his neck. The knife stuck into his neck and with two hands he tried to force the knife deeper in it.
A normal person would not have lived through this (his gullet was cut wide open) but this young man had taken a cocktail of cocaine and heroin and he was very strong.
While the medics tried to help him the young man got very angry, and the medics and my partners had to leave the room very quick because it was getting too dangerous.
When I stepped up to him to try to remove the knife, suddenly he pulled the knife out of his throat, get up very fast and ran to me to stab me with the knife.
Because there was no space in the room ( it was a small kitchen 3 by 3 meters ) there was no possibility to step back and get out quickly, not even to draw my gun )
I already had my baton ready and with an X-movement I could fend off the attack and keep a little distance. ( I remembered your lessons ) So he could not touch me.
Suddenly he stopped, and he threatened me with his knife. He looked straight into my eyes while I was ready to hit him in the face with my baton if I had to. Suddenly, he turned himself round and without waiting he jumped head first out of the window straight through the glass from the first floor.
We all thought he was dead now, but on the ground in the street he was still fighting us. He could not stand up anymore because his back was broken but we still had to kick the knife out of his hand and with 4 officers we had to work on him to keep him calm so the doctors could do their work.
They had to give him several injections to stun and subdue him.
They had to take him to hospital with handcuffs on. It was very scaring to see, it was like a horror movie because his eyes came out of his head because of the pressure and everything was broken in his body and still he went go on fighting us.
A few months later he recovered and went home again. A few weeks later he killed a girl in an other city in Belgium and now he is in jail for murder.
He had a history of trouble and a few years ago they almost had to shoot him to stop him fighting the police.
After all this happened we had to do some talking with the psychiatrist to get over this all because it left us all with a very bad feeling.
The leading officer from the medics thanked us for saving the lives of his nurses. They sent a note to the mayor saying that without a few cops who were well trained, his people would not survived this at all.
This story is true and happened a few months ago. I had to tell this to you to have an example to what people are able when they took drugs. After being shot in the arm 5 years ago this was a second nightmare to me. But I am very glad I had a your good training. So it is true what you always say, cops have to train more often and harder to do their jobs better and to go home safe.
I just wanted to tell you this all.
Goodbye and thank you for the fine week in Antwerp.
(Name withheld for security reasons).
This and many situations like it happen to people trained by Kissaki-kai and LETS int.
To turn one's head away from reality and teach defences that will frequently only work in the comfortable co-operative world of the Dojo, and not recognise and prepare against the viciousness that exists in plentiful examples in today's society is stubborn and - to me - morally reprehensible.
To transcend anything, one must first understand it, be it your own weakness, your personal failures, your fears, your ego and so on.
In just the same way, it is necessary to confront the worst aspects of human nature, and transform them though understanding and by refusing to accept that the evil forces will always overpower the good.
The unavoidable principle was stated many centuries ago: `Know your enemy!'
I wrote a while ago that a contributing factor to King Harold losing the Battle of Hastings to William of Normandy was the failure of his house troops to adapt to the modern tactics and equipment used by the invaders.
They were rightly and justly feared as prime fighting troops. However, they fought anachronistically, not accounting for advances in modern weaponry (use of specially bred Destrier horses, the use of the stirrup and cavalry tactics).
In the end, they died and England was conquered.
Closing one's eyes to unpleasant facts does not make them go away; no more than training with rice flails serves to protect you against scum with a gun.
Now, lest anyone takes away from this the impression that what Kissaki-kai teaches is overtly violent, I am also appending a few remarks from a police inspector who has attended both the basic and advanced training taught at the academy:
Yesterday I finished my second week's course of your self defense training program at the police academy of Antwerp , Belgium.
It's a real privilege to be able to learn a few of your skills.
It's a great shame that not everyone understand the value of your lessons. They consider them to be violent , but it's the opposite! It prevents an officer from using excessive violence, because the opponent gets arrested within a few seconds with very simple, effective moves, without a lot of kicking and pulling.
Your training builds up my confidence and makes me aware of potential dangers.
I thank you very much and hope to see you again for many lessons in the future.
Inspector (name withheld for security reasons) Belgium 2002.
I have no desire to dictate to anyone what type of training they follow, nor have I the status or right so to do; all I ask is that argument and discussion be based upon the search for truth, not simply in order to enforce one particular point of view over another, regardless of the truth!
In other words - If you see a hobby-horse rider approaching - head for the hills!
Email or write if you would like to receive an regular newsletter by post or email.
Vince Morris 7th Dan
Chief Instructor: Kissaki-Kai & IIKR
Director: Law Enforcement Training Services Int.
PO. Box 17, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 4BY
by Vince Morris
This short article may at first seem a little technical, but if you are really intent upon developing fast, spontaneous reflex defence skills, it will be worth your while to persevere with it.
One advantage we have over the old masters, is that we can avail ourselves of all the modern knowledge gained from medicine and sports science.
Our current understanding of how the body and mind work has made tremendous advances in the last fifty year, and athletes and martial artists can make use of this greater knowledge to enhance their training regimes.
I have written before of the need to learn the lessons of history and follow Master Funakoshi's admonishment to : “Cherish the Old but embrace the New!”
One area in which I continually make use of the lessons of modern sports psychology and science is in the training I develop and present at Police Academy for Officers and Special Intervention Squads.
Essentially I have to distil complex techniques and manoeuvres into their primary elements and devise teaching programmes which enable non-martial artists to understand the principles of the techniques and master their use so comprehensively that they go out onto the streets armed with effective defensive, restraint and control techniques which they have complete confidence in, and which are immediately effective in high stress situations.
Obviously, the time I have in which to develop this level of skill with the officers is limited, therefore it is vital that each minute is spent to optimum effect.
The essence of how this can be done is based upon an understanding of how the human brain processes input and learns new physical tasks.
Basically, when new techniques are repeated over & over again, a complex pattern of neural activity takes place in the billions of brain cells.
This new pattern of behaviour is initially only slowly processed into the memory, but as it is continually rehearsed the brain releases a fatty substance called myelin. This covers the new synaptic connections made between the neurons which are used in the process of learning the new behaviour, response or technique.
Every time the pattern is repeated, a new layer of myelin is laid down, and the thicker the coat, the faster & easier messages flow between the dendrites, those parts which act as the transmitters and receivers of the brain's neurons,
With sufficient repetition, the desired task is carried out with increased speed and power as the function is now 'grooved' into becoming a rapid response which needs less brain processing, due to this function of myelin.
This is sometimes spoken of as training 'muscle memory' and the value lies in the ability of the body to act spontaneously in high stress situations where split seconds can determine life or death.
Although time often seems to slow down in such instances, the truth is that initial defensive reactions must be spontaneous, and delivered immediately as a reflexive reaction, and this allows no time for conscious thought.
Having survived the initial assault, then the brain can intervene to propose specific control and restraint techniques, once the immediate task of survival is accomplished.
If, however, you are more concerned with developing excellence in martial technique in the Dojo, the lessons can still be useful.
I have spoken before of the problem of 'grasshopper' sensei, who - as a by -product of commercial demands to fill the Dojo - keeps the students' attendance rate high by continually moving on to something new, on the premise that the students are attracted to 'bright shiny objects' and must be indulged.
The minimum training time for this 'muscle memory' -grooving to start to take place is about 15 minutes, and then this must be repeated many times.
This time interval is seldom allotted to one technique or combination. Usually after only a few minutes of stopping and starting (ostensibly for the sensei to correct bad practice) the students are moved on to another combination or a further refinement of the original.
This seldom, if ever, allows the first waza to be properly assimilated, and in a few hours time the student will be hard pressed to remember it - even less to apply it correctly!
There is little wonder, then, that spontaneous reflex defences, triggered by appropriate stimuli, are seldom if ever learned by these students.
Paralysed with Fright
An officer in a violent situation, a student attacked in the street, neither can guarantee that their initial reaction will not be of a paralysing, mind-numbing overwhelming feeling of weakness and fear, unless they have trained specifically to avoid this reaction.
The experience of being paralysed by fear, fright or a sudden shock when startled by someone, or when suddenly accosted or assaulted is not necessarily due to the officer or the martial artist having no confidence in the efficacy of his or her defences.
Nor is it that they do not possess powerful defensive techniques.
Of course, it could be due to this if their training has been insufficient, but even a really well-trained and capable Dojo fighter can experience this, and it is not because of not knowing how to act, but derives from a lack of training with the correct stimuli to recognize the situation and immediately & spontaneously respond with the appropriate manoeuvre.
Highly repetitive training such as is required to build responses into fast reactions will not on its own be sufficient. What is required is a more scenario based training which as closely as possible reflects reality which will then be 'tied' to the repetitive training and immediately evoke it when the situation demands it.
A 'triggered' response is quite useless without a trigger!
To push the analogy even further, there would seem little point in loading a full clip of nine millimetre into a firearm, and then removing the trigger mechanism!
Continual repetition of a defensive manoeuvre in the Dojo will certainly increase the speed and efficiency of the technique itself, but without the correct stimuli it will not be triggered as a spontaneous reflexive technique in that vital half second which must be survived.
This is why I advocate that most officer training (and at least a part of Dojo training) should include scenario training.
More than One Option.
There is, however, another factor to consider when deciding upon the correct type of training.
For officers in the academy, and for experienced special squad members, the choice is simple, as in both cases they need only a few, simple techniques. They are not concerned with how pretty these might look, but only in their effectiveness.
I advocate the simplicity of defensive responses, and the concept of the multifunctional 'one tool'.
The human brain under the severe stress of an attack or assault is quite incapable of what I call 'horizontal' or linear thought.
That is deciding quickly between a number of existing alternative actions.
When the heart rate is sent very high by sudden shock or fear, the brain selects options 'vertically' - that is, one problem - one answer.
Much experimental work has been done to show just how drastically choosing between options increases the response time; and there is a proven correlation between the number of alternative choices available and the time in which a response can be effected.
Then experiments carried out by the PPCT (Headed by Bruce Siddle) demonstrate that simply by offering a choice of two responses instead of one, reaction time by increases 35%.
Another experiment demonstrated a 58% increase in reaction time, plus the addendum that the more complex any technique, the longer the reaction time involved.
When four different blocks to a punch were given as options, the response time leapt from an initial 183 milliseconds to huge increase of 481 milliseconds!
To sum up. If you are specifically concerned with training in a self-defence based martial art, you must find which techniques work best for you and then you must continually repeat them.
Do not become a `collector' of ever-more complex waza, these may possibly get you badly hurt or even killed
You must not just train all the time in a Dojo environment, but frequently in as realistic a one as you can devise, with the sights, sounds and actions reflecting common attack scenarios.
Finally you must put aside the quest for ever more fancy and complex techniques and concentrate on the few simple ones that are proven to be effective!
It is simply incorrect to assume that as a martial artist you have to be 'entertained' by new and 'interesting' methods of subduing an assailant.
More is not better, and to be honest, it will take you all your life to really master the essential waza.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Master of All Masters - Chang San Feng
What we know of Chang San Feng is that he lived in a simple straw hut on the holy Wu Tan mountain in Jupeth province, China. He dressed in a simple style, wearing only a light vest even in icy weather, and was often observed to go without food for days, weeks or even months.
Famous as a Taoist master he was sought out by the emperor T'ai Tzu for help with military strategy, and was instrumental in helping to defeat bandit gangs in the Wu Tan mountains. He was honoured by the emperor and a temple erected in recognition of his achievements still stands today. In later years Chang San Feng was canonised as a saint by the emperor Ying Tsung.
The Master was also famous for his healing abilities and his deep understanding of Taoist medicine.
Taoist Master Chang San-Feng
History, Folklore, and Legend
Taoist Master Chang San-Feng
One tradition claims that Master Chang San-Feng was born at midnight on April 9, 1247 AD,near Dragon-Tiger Mountain in Kiang-Hsi Province in the southeast of China. He is said to have been a government official in his youth, learned Shaolin martial arts whileliving in the Pao-Gi Mountains near Three Peaks (San Feng), and then living for scoresof years as a Taoist hermit and sage in the Wu-Tang (Wudang) Mountains. He is reported tohave lived to be 200 years old (1247-1447AD), but his death date is uncertain. He would have lived in the Sung, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties if these dates were accurate. (Jou, 1980)
Another tradition claims that there were two Master Chang San-Feng Taoist priests.
One was born in the Sung dynasty (960-1279), lived on Wutang Mountain, and combined
the thirteen postures with other Taoist practices and arts to create a style of internal martial arts. The second Master Chang San-Feng (1279-1368), was a native of I-Chou in Liao Tung Province. His scholarly name was Chuan Yee and Chun Shee. He lived on Wutang Mountain, was a highly regarded Taoist adept with many amazing magical powers, and was very popular with the local people.
Master Chang is known by a variety of names: Chang San-Feng, Cheng San Feng,
Chang Chun Pao, Chang Sam Bong, Zhang Sanfeng, Chang Tung, Chang Chun-pao,
Grandmaster Chang, Chang the Immortal, Immortal Chang, Zhangsanfeng, Zhan Sa-Feng,
Zhan Jun-Bao, Yu-Xu Zi, Chuan Yee and Chun Shee. There may have been a number
of male Taoists who chose to use the name Chang San-Feng.
The early legends about Chang San-Feng are linked with activities of Emperor Chengzu
(1403-1424) who searched for Chang and other political refugees. By 1459, Chang
had been declared an Immortal and, as with most saints, stories of his miraculous
powers became part of the folklore in the Wudang Mountain area. There is a fairly
long tradition amongst Wundang Mountain martial artists and Taoists that attributes
the development of soft style martial arts to Chang San-Feng and his disciples
(Yeo, 2001; Wong Kiew Kit, 1996). In 1670, Huang Zongxi wrote a book called Epitaph
for Wang Zhengnan in which Chang San-Feng was called the founder of internal martial
arts practiced near Mount Wudang. By the 1870's, Yang family Tai Chi Chuan teachers
were claiming that Chang San-Feng was the originator of Tai Chi Chuan.
(Wong, 1997; Wile, 1996)
More recently, some scholars and tai-chi historians have argued that Chang San-Feng had little or nothing to do with the founding of Tai Chi Chuan or internal martial arts. They contend that this aspect of the Master Chang legend was invented in the late 19th century by Yang family stylists to give their art form deeper historical roots. (Wile, 1996; Tang Hao, History of Chinese Wushu, 1935; Henning, 1981; and Siaw-Voon Sim, 2002.) These authors contend that the Tai Chi Chuan systems (i.e., forms, push hands, sword/staff, chi kung exercises, and Taijiquan principles) as we know them today (e.g., Chen, Yang, Wu, Hao, Sun), were all created as successive variants to the system developed by the military leader and martial artist Chen Wangting (1600-1680) of Chenjiagou Village in Henan Province.
People in China, Tibet, and India have for millennia used exercises to improve health, cure disease, restore vitality, and increase lifespan. Gentle stretching, breathing methods, herbal remedies, and use of postures for exercise can be traced back over 4,000 years. Martial arts training methods, of course, are of similar antiquity. Good old Master Chang, like the Bodhidharma of Shaolin fame, are just reference points for the imagination steeped in these many centuries of martial arts, health exercises, and the history of Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
At another level, Master Chang, Han Shan, and the Bodhidharma are also examples,
archetypes if you will, of the crazy saint, wise fool, and wandering hermit that
contrasts so markedly with the ordinary family-society lifestyles of the vast
majority in any culture or civilization. The Buddha himself, after military training
in his youth, left family life to wander and live the life of a solitary ascetic and
mystic for a decade.
So, we sometimes look to these fellows, real and imaginary, and ask them
"So, old man, what have you learned that can help us?" We listen to their advice,
and sometimes follow their recommendations. Sometimes we laugh at them and
bang their copper hat. In moments of whimsy, religious fervor or desperation,
we give some of them, like Chang San-Feng or Chang Po-Tuan, magical and marvelous
powers - to disappear and reappear at will, powers to cause rain to fall, powers to
prevent disaster, powers to chase away malevolent spirits, shamanistic skills, techniques for defeating our enemies, methods for calming our troubled souls, and amazing skills at divination. Most important, and what intrigues most folks, is that these hermit seers might hold the secrets for living over 150 years in good health, or rising from the dead, or pointing to the Way for us to attain eternal life as an
Immortal - a Chen Jen: Realized Being.
"Breathing Out -
Touching the Root of Heaven,
One's heart opens;
The Dragon slips by like water..
Breathing In -
Standing on the Root of Earth,
One's heart is still and deep;
The Tiger's claw cannot be moved.
As you go on breathing in this frame of mind, with these associations, alternating
between movement and stillness, it is important that the focus of your mind does
not shift. Let the true breath come and go, a subtle continuum on the brink
of existence. Tune the breathing until you get breath without breathing; become
one with it, and then the spirit can be solidified and the elixir can be made."
- Chang San-Feng, Commentary on Ancestor Lu's Hundred-Character Tablet
Translated by Thomas Cleary, Vitality, Energy, Spirit: A Taoist Sourcebook, 1991, p. 187.
Poetic interpretation by Mike Garofalo of expository text of Chang San-Feng.
Tai Chi & Taoism
Lao Tsu, the founder of Taoism, wrote:
Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight.
-- Tao Te Ching (22)
He who stands of tiptoe is not steady.
He who strides cannot maintain the pace.
-- Tao Te Ching (24)
Returning is the motion of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao.
-- Tao Te Ching (40)
What is firmly established cannot be uprooted.
What is firmly grasped cannot slip away.
-- Tao Te Ching (54)
Stiff and unbending is the principle of death.
Gentle and yielding is the principle of life.
Thus an Army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.
-- Tao Te Ching (76)
There are some interesting inspirations for the movement philosophy of Tai Chi within the writings of Chuang Tzu, for example:
"The pure man of old slept without dreams and woke without anxiety. He ate without indulging in sweet tastes and breathed deep breaths. The pure man draws breaths from the depths of his heels, the multitude only from their throats."
"[The sage] would not lean forward or backward to accomodate [things]. This is called tranquility on disturbance, (which means) that it is especially in the midst of disturbance that tranquility becomes perfect."
Talisman of the Jade Lady. Talisman of the Jade Lady.
This approach is reflected in the entire movement philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan. There is, moreover, a long tradition of Taoist monks practicing exercises. Some of these were referred to as tai-yin or Taoist Breathing. Exactly what these were and what their origins were is obscure but they are mentioned in Chinese chronicles as early as 122 B.C.
Then in the sixth century A.D. Bodihdharma (called Ta Mo in Chinese) came to the Shao-Lin Monastery and, seeing that the monks were in poor physical condition from too much meditation and too little excersize, introduced his Eighteen Form Lohan Exercise. This approach gave rise to the Wei Chia or 'outer-extrinsic' forms of exercise.
Later in the fifteenth century A.D. the purported founder of Tai Chi Chuan, the monk Chang San-feng, was honoured by the Emperor Ying- tsung with the title of chen-jen, or 'spiritual man who has attained the Tao and is no longer ruled by what he sees, hears or feels.' This indicates that already at this time there was a close association between the philosophy of Taoism and the practice of Tai Chi.
In the Ming dynasty (14th to 17th centuries), Wang Yang-ming a leading philosopher preached a philosophy which was a mixture of Taoism and Ch'an Buddhism which had certain associations with movement systems.
In any event the principles of yielding, softness, centeredness, slowness, balance, suppleness and rootedness are all elements of Taoist philosophy that Tai Chi has drawn upon in its understanding of movement, both in relation to health and also in its martial applications. One can see these influences (of softness and effortlessness) in the names of certain movements in the Tai Chi Form, such as:
* Cloud Hands
* Wind Rolls the Lotus Leaves
* Brush Dust Against the Wind
* Push the Boat with the Current
* Winds Sweeps the Plum Blossoms
Moreover the contemplation and appreciation nature, which are central features of Taoist thought seem to have been reflected in the genesis of many Tai Chi movements such as:
* White Crane Spreads Wings
* Snake Creeps Down
* Repulse Monkey
* Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain
* White Snake Sticks Out its Tongue
* Grasp Sparrow's Tail
* Golden Cock Sands on One Leg
* Swallow Skims the Water
* Bird Flies into Forest
* Lion Shakes it's Head
* Tiger Hugs its Head
* Wild Horse Leaps the Ravine
* White Ape Devotes Fruit
* Yellow Bee Returns to Nest
The story comes to us that Chang San-feng watched a fight between a bird and a snake and in this event saw how the soft and yielding could overcome the hard and inflexible. Particularly significant here is the reference to the White Crane (The Manchurian Crane, Grus japonensis), with its red crest an important symbol for Taoist alchemists.
Certain features of Taoist alchemy and talismanic symbolism have also penetrated the Tai Chi forms. As part of their contemplation of nature the Taoists observed the heavens and were keen students of astronomy and astrology. Movements of the Tai Chi Form such as :
* Step Up to Seven Stars
* Embrace the Moon
* Biggest Star in the Great Dipper
* Encase the Moon in Three Rings
* The Smallest Star in the Big Dipper
* Meteor Runs After Moon
* Heavenly Steed Soars Across the Sky
Meditating Under the Protection of the Big Dipper. Meditating Under the Protection of the Big Dipper.
Reflect this Taoist astrological concern.
Symbolism was a potent force in Taoist thinking. Taoist magic diagrams were regarded as potent talismans having great command over spiritual forces. They invoked the harmonizing influence of yin-yang and Eternal Change; the Divine Order of Heaven, Earth and Mankind; and the workings of the Universe through the principal of the Five Elements. These were symbolized by the Five Sacred Mountains (Taishan, Hengshan [Hunan], Songshan, Huashan and Hengshan [Hopei]), central places of Taoist development and pilgrimage.
Thus it is no surprise to find that the symbolism of names has, in important ways, infiltrated the forms of Tai Chi. There was a numerological component to this symbolism as well. The number '5' has a special mystical significance to Taoists (and to Chinese in general). There are the symbolic five mountains, five elements, five colours, five planets, five virtues, five emotions, five directions, etc. all of which have a mystic significance. Hence we see five Repulse Monkeys or Five Cloud Hands in the Tai Chi form. There are many instances where the numbers '1', '3', '5' and '7' figure prominently in the structure of Tai Chi.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Harimau Silat Tuo
o The Sumatran Tiger is revered throughout Southeast Asia for its spiritual magnificense, strength, agility and ferocity.
o These are some of the characteristics and attributes which embody Pencak Silat Harimau.
o The actions of the Sumatran tiger includes: clawing, tearing, catching, gripping, maneuvering to the ground, springing from the gournd, as well as maintaining a strong base from which it can leap up to six feet or more. These actions and movements enable the practitioner to be able to stalk, trap and overcome adversaries at will.
o From the ground, the Harimau practitioner is able to leap. kick & use a devastating array of attacks, with sweeps and leg locks to disable his or her adversaries.
o At times the Harimau fighter tends to disappear from sight, or a clear view, maintaining low stances, utilizing ground fighting and leaping with pivoting and leg trapping movements, catching opponents neck, arms and legs.
o Low combat positions enable practitioners to spring quickly and forcefully upon the attacker with terrifying ferocity.
An Introduction to Pencak Silat
Pencak Silat is a compound word. Pencak and Silat have the same meanings and are parts of the culture of people of Malay race, that is, the ethnic group who are the native inhabitants in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.
The word Pencak is commonly used by people in Java, whereas the word Silat is commonly used by the people who live in the other regions of Indonesia as well as in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.
The combination of the words Pencak and Silat into a compound word was made for the first time when an organization of the unity of Pencak schools and Silat schools in Indonesia was founded in Surakarta in 1948, which called Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia (The Indonesian Pencak Silat Association), abbreviated as IPSI. Since then, Pencak Silat has become the official term in Indonesia. This term is also used by the schools in many different countries which teach Pencak and Silat derived from Indonesia.
In the international communities, Pencak Silat has become the official term since the international federation organization was founded in Jakarta in 1980, which was called Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antarabangsa, abbreviated as PERSILAT, (The International Pencak Silat Federation). Nevertheless, people use the words Pencak and Silat separately as a single word due to the dialectic habit.
The following analysis is the resume of some important things about Pencak Silat included : history, philosophy, kinds, styles, schools and pendekar, research and writing, development and dissemination and challenges against Pencak Silat. The whole analysis will be summarized as a general conclusion.
The principal needs of human being are security and prosperity. To fulfill those needs, men invent and develop various means (techniques) and equipment. The men's invention concerning the need for security, are physical means and equipment to deal with and overcome many kinds of threats, challenges, obstacles and annoyances. The means are among others then so called "jurus" and weapon.
Jurus is a technique of effective physical (body) movement for self-defense or attacking with or without weapon. It's early stage form was very simple. It was an imitation of animal's body movement conformed with human's anatomy. Then it was developed continuously, coinciding with the development of men's culture. The used weapon was also developed in the same way.
The Malay ethnic people are agrarian society and their social relationship is accomplished through paguyuban (Gemeinschaft) system. The social characteristics and social relationship of such a system have shaped the wisdom and way of life which hold the religious values and principles and the people's morality in high esteem.
In accordance with the social system mentioned above, jurus should be used in a responsible way. It can be accomplished if the performer practices self control. Jurus can only be used for self-defense. Man also invented means (techniques) and equipment in different kinds to fulfill his prosperity (welfare), among others by developing jurus into artistic and sports forms which can supply physical and mental welfare.
Through their social and cultural development, the Malay ethnic people have absorbed foreign influences into their life, which are in harmony with the religious and moral values and principles they hold in high esteem. Related with that development, the Hindu philosophy has been absorbed and applied to put the wisdom and the way of life of Malay ethnic in order.
Then this philosophy is applied in relation with the control of using jurus. Since this applied philosophy focuses its attention on the budi pekerti luhur or noble mind and character, or sublime ethic, so it is called the philosophy of sublime ethic. The control of self defensive, artistic and sports jurus with its philosophy based on the high esteemed religious and moral values and principles by the Malay ethics as a unity and oneness, is called Pencak Silat.
Thus, the identity of Pencak Silat is determined by 3 principal things, that is :
1. The culture of the Malay ethnic people as its source and pattern.
2. The philosophy of the sublime ethic as the spirit and motivation of its usage.
3. The substance of Pencak Silat itself which has mental spiritual (self control), self defensive, artistic and sports aspects as a unity.
Pencak Silat with such identity came into existence around the 4th century, when there were kingdoms which became the cultural development centers in the living regions of the Malay ethnic people. At the time of these kingdoms, firstly Hindu, secondly Buddhist and lastly Islam, Pencak Silat was developed and spreading widely.
When the living regions of the Malay ethnic people were under the authority of foreign colonial powers from West Europe, the education of Pencak Silat which was regarded as a means to grow nationalistic spirit, was restricted and the prohibited. But the educational activities of Pencak Silat went on secretly.
During the Japanese occupation, the colonial government allowed the people to develop their culture freely in order to get their support for the Japanese warfare against the Allied Powers. At that time the education of Pencak Silat was conducted again as it was in the beginning and was spreading widely.
After the living regions of the Malay ethnic people had been freed from the foreign authorities and then independent countries emerged such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, the growth and dissemination of Pencak Silat became faster, particularly after the founding of national organizations of Pencak Silat in those countries, namely Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia (IPSI) or The Indonesian Pencak Silat Association, Persekutuan Silat Kebangsaan Malaysia (PESAKA) or The Malaysian National Silat Federation, Persekutuan Silat Singapore (PERSISI) or The Singaporean Silat Federation and Persekutuan Silat Brunei Darussalam (PERSIB) or The Brunei Darussalam Silat Federation.
Pencak Silat has also developed and spread outside its original countries, particularly after the founding of Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antara Bangsa (PERSILAT) or The International Pencak Silat Federation.
The Philosophy of Pencak Silat is called the philosophy of budi pekerti luhur (noble mind and character), because it focuses its interest on the sublime ethic. According to this philosophy a peaceful, secure, orderly and prosperous society can be created maximally if all of its members keep the code of sublime ethic. Therefore, the way of life which should be made their principle is the one that forms noble mind and character in themselves. Budi is a dynamic psychological aspect of human being which possesses the elements of cipta, rasa and karsa. The three of them are the dynamic forms of akal (reason), rasa (sensibility) and kehendak (volition). Budi (mind) can be seen in the form of pekerti (character). All of them must be luhur (noble/sublime/ideal). What should be achieved in shaping this sublime ethic is the ability of self control, especially in using the technique of effective physical movement for self defending or attacking which is called jurus. Jurus should be used only for keeping up truth (righteousness), honesty and justice in relation with the exaltation of the religious principles and people's morality as well as for creating "masyarakat tata-tentrem karta-raharja" (a peaceful, secure, orderly and prosperous society). In other words, the exalted ethical philosophy can also be said as the self controlled philosophy.
With his noble moral (ethic) and highly self controlled ability, human being will be able to fulfill his exalted moral obligation as God's creature, individual creature, social creature and universal creature, that is to devote himself to God, to raise his personal quality, to put the people's interest above self interest and to love his living environment. A man who is able to fulfill his noble moral obligation is a man of high dignity.
THE KIND AND STYLES
Based on the aspects inherent in its substance, Pencak Silat can be categorized into four kinds. The performance of each kind of those Pencak Silat has its own purpose and based on that purpose the performance will emphasize a certain aspect but without ignoring the other aspects.
The four kinds of Pencak Silat are :
1. Mental-spiritual Pencak Silat or self-controlled Pencak Silat, whose performance has the purpose to strengthen the ability of self control and therefor emphasizesmental-spiritual aspect more strongly.
2. Self defensive Pencak Silat, whose performance has the purpose to defend oneself effectively and therefore it emphasizes self defensive aspect more strongly
3. Artistic Pencak Silat, whose performance has the purpose to show the beauty of movement and therefore it emphasizes artistic aspect more strongly
4. Sports Pencak Silat, whose performance has the purpose to gain physical fitness and sports achievement, therefore it emphasizes sports aspect more strongly
The other aspects which do not become the focuses still can be seen in different degrees of proportion, some of them are obvious and the others are disguised. Therefore, all kinds of Pencak Silat always have four aspects as a unity and oneness.
The performance of jurus Pencak Silat of any kind, is practiced in various styles. A unique style with its outstanding characteristics and easily distinguished from other style. Whatever unique the performance of a style is, the values of the four aspects of Pencak Silat, that is, ethics, techniques, esthetic and sports as a unity, must exist and can be seen. If not, it has no values as a style of Pencak Silat.
It is not easy to distinguish the styles of Pencak Silat and only those who are experts and who understand various jurus Pencak Silat thoroughly, can do so. The difference of the styles is only concerning the physical practice aspect and it is not concerning the mental-spiritual and philosophical aspects. Therefore, the styles is not the system or sect. No matter whatever kind or style of Pencak Silat, it is always inspired by (based on) the sublime ethic philosophy and has mental spiritual aspect as its self-controlled aspect.
In self-defensive Pencak Silat, there is a style which uses paranormal or a kind of supernatural powers in performing its jurus. Paranormal which is called tenaga dalam (inner power), debus or ngelmu kanuragan is a kind of strengthening jurus or physical invulnerability. Not long time ago there was a theoretical explanation about the paranormal and the practices of how to achieve the skill, but the explanation and its proof were not based on the result of intensive scientific research. The existence of the style used paranormal has enriched Pencak Silat.
THE SCHOOL AND PENDEKAR
The meaning of Pencak Silat school is often confused with Pencak Silat style. Pencak Silat school is an education institution where one can berguru or be a student of Pencak Silat.
Berguru or to be a student has a connotative meaning of studying (learning) intensively and the process of which is observed, guided and supervised directly and completely by a teacher, so that the progress of the ability and morality of the student can be known clearly. The teacher will not educate and upgrade anyone nor extend his education to anyone whose mentality is regarded unworthy. For that reason, it was not easy for a person to be a student or member of Pencak Silat school in the old time. One should take hard or difficult tests concerning mental attitude and pass them before he was accepted as a student.
In view of the kinds of taught Pencak Silat, there are four categories of Pencak Silat school, that is :
1. Mental-spiritual Pencak Silat school, which emphasizes its education intensively on the mental-spiritual aspect of Pencak Silat with the purpose of building a high ability of its students or member.
2. Self-defensive Pencak Silat school, which emphasizes its education on the self defensive aspect of Pencak Silat for its students, with the purpose of building high technical skill of self defense by or without using various weapons.
3. Artistic Pencak Silat school, which emphasizes its education on the artistic aspect of Pencak Silat with the purpose of building the skill in performing the beauty of Pencak Silat movement of its students or its members, with or without traditional music accompaniment and by or without using weapons, in accordance with the rules of wiraga (basic bodily movement technique), wirasa (creativity and improvisation which make the bodily movement more beautiful) and wirama (harmony and conformity of movement with the music rhythm accompanying it).
4. Sports Pencak Silat school, which emphasizes its education on the sports aspect of Pencak Silat with the purpose of building the ability of practicing Pencak Silat techniques which have sports values for the sake of keeping physical fitness or competition. For the sake of competition, the education is conformed with the valid rules of contest.
The self defensive Pencak Silat school are the most popular of all, some of which teach paranormal or physical endurance and skill which can be seen like paranormal. Since 1970's, there have been many self defensive Pencak Silat school which teach sports Pencak Silat on behalf of competition with the purpose of making their students or members be permitted to participate in the Sports Pencak Silat championship, because only this kind of Pencak Silat is competed. But since 1990 there is another kind of Pencak Silat can be competed, that is Artistic Pencak Silat. Self defensive Pencak Silat and mental-spiritual Pencak Silat are not competed, but matched in the forms of show and performance.
In view of demand of the modern era development, Pencak Silat schools can be categorized into 3 groups, that is :
1. Traditional Pencak Silat school, and its outstanding characteristics are among others :
a. the top leadership of the school is hereditary
b. The acceptance of its students is through selective test and strict probation period
c. The education method is monological
d. The violation of the school disciplines is punished with the dismissal as a member
e. It has no attributes or written forms regarding the school and its education
f. If does not collect school fee or contribution from its members
g. The activity cost of the school is paid by the leader (owner)
2. The modern Pencak Silat school, and its principal characteristic are among others :
a. The leader and the officials of the school are elected from its cadres who are regarded as reliable candidates
b. It is open and free for anybody in accepting students
c. It does not arrange probation period, but it applies educational period as the primary level
d. The school disciplines are enforced through guidance speech
e. It has attributes and written forms concerning its school and education in limited number
f. It does not collect school fee but it does not refuse contribution from its members
g. The activity cost is paid by the leader and contribution
The implanting of philosophical values and moral-spiritual education an all Pencak Silat schools is not carried out specifically but is inculcated while training is held in the forms of brief instructions, taking the oath of allegiance or loyalty to the school.
In conformity with the demand of social development which becomes more rational, all the traditional and transitional Pencak Silat schools will develop and change into modern ones with professional characteristics of management and education.
In general, the qualification of the leaders of Pencak Silat schools is pendekar which is the highest status related with the grade of skill in performing Pencak Silat according to its rules (principles) or the facts of applying the philosophical doctrine of Pencak Silat consistently and consequently which is worth following as example.
In modern school society, the term pendekar is used as a title of a grade of a grade of skilled ability of Pencak Silat, and there is also such a title which is graded into ranks. The usage of pendekar seems to follow the Japanese model of self defensive school which gives the graded title of Dan to its member who has mastered a high skill of self-defense. The title of pendekar or Dan is translated into English as grand master or principal master.
RESEARCH AND WRITING
The scientific research or writing on Pencak Silat has not been done a lot until nowadays. In general, the research and writing which had ever been done, were focused on the technical aspect of Pencak Silat. They lacked of or had no interest on non-technical aspect, whereas both aspects formed a unity.
The books on Pencak Silat which have circulated widely were the works of Amy Shapiro entitled "Martial Arts Language" and Don F Draeger entitled "Weapons and Fighting Arts of the Indonesian Archipelago".
In the book written by Amy Shapiro, the writer distinguishes Pencak from Silat in their meanings. According to the writer, literally Pencak means skilled and specialized body movements and Silat means to fight using Pencak. Don F Draeger also distinguishes Pencak from Silat, in his book, but both of them can not be separated. According to him, based on the concept of Minangkabau people, Pencak is a skillful body movement in variation for self-defense and Silat is the fighting application of Pencak ; Pencak without Silat is purposeless.
In accordance with the explanation described in the Preface, the words Pencak Silat are derived from the language of Malay ethnic people and both have the same meanings. This is in conform with the explanation about Silat in the dictionary compiled by WJS Purwodarminto.
According to Hisbullah Rahman in his book entitled Sejarah Perkembangan Pencak Silat di Indonesia or the History of the Development of Pencak Silat in Indonesia, in the glorious age of Sriwijaya Kingdom, the University of Nalanda in that country had become the developing center of Buddhist religion and the spreading center of Pencak Silat as well. Many Chinese people came there to learn Pencak Silat and then spread it in their country later.
The books on Pencak Silat in Indonesian language which are circulating widely in Indonesia, were written by Mariyun Sudirohadiprodjo, Mohamad Djumali and Januarno. All the three books are about technical guidance of learning or training of sports Pencak Silat.
Malayan language magazine Pendekar published in Malaysia, gives special attention on information about Pencak Silat. Pencak Silat magazine published by PB (Pengurus Besar) IPSI or Central Board of the Indonesian Pencak Silat Association, whose first publication was published in May 1990, also gives special attention on the same things. Information about Pencak Silat techniques is given a lot in some magazine published in different countries.
The Devastating Art of Pentjak Silat
In Malaysia, there are approximately 500 styles. In Indonesia there are perhaps 200 styles with many styles preferring not to be recognized by their respective governments. Accordingly, there may be an incalculable number of styles being practiced today. Archaeological evidence reveals that by the sixth century A.D. formalized combative systems were being practiced in the area of Sumatra and the Malay peninsula. Two kingdoms, the Srivijaya in Sumatra from the 7th to the 14th century and the Majapahit in Java from the 13th to 16th centuries made good use of these fighting skills and were able to extend their rule across much of what is now Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The Dutch arrived in the seventeenth century and controlled the spice trade up until the early 20th century, with brief periods of the English and Portuguese attempting unsuccessfully to gain a lasting foothold in Indonesia. During this period of Dutch rule. "Silat," or "Pentjak Silat" (as it is known in Indonesia today) was practiced undergound until the country gained its independence in 1949.
With the crisscrossing of wars, trade and immigration of various cultures across this region since the 6th century, the effect on present day Pentjak Silat is evident. These influences can be seen such as Nepalese music, Hindu weapons such as the trisula [forked truncheon], Indian grappling styles, Siamese costumes, Arabian weapons Chinese weapons and fighting methods. Pentjak Silat still plays an important role in the lives of thousands of people across the Malay world with the rural village dwellers practicing and making it part of their daily routines.
The word "Pentjak" means; the body movements used in the training method and the word "Silat" means; the application of those movements or the actual "fight." Each style of Pentjak Silat has its own formal curriculum, history and traditions, some shrouded in secrecy and some open to the public. "Silat Pulut" is a method that is openly displayed to the public, seen at public ceremonies such as weddings. "Pulut" means glutinous rice, the sticky kind often eaten at Malay parties and wedding receptions. Thus, this "Rice Cake Silat" is characterized by flashy, aesthetically beautiful moves that have very little to do with real self-defense. Silat Buah is rarely shown in public. Buah means "fruit," implying that part of Silat which is useful. It is the applications or techniques for self-defense. Many systems inter-relate, function and integrate as a whole. Every move, physical or mental is consistent with a certain belief system and fighting rationale, making it a devastating self-defense system.
There is no overall standard for Pentjak Silat. Each style has its own particular movement patterns, specially designed techniques and tactical rationale. However, although all styles use hand and foot motions, the percentage of use of either one depends on the style and the tactics being used. A quite remarkable tactic is the one used by the Harimau style from Sumatra. In this method, the practitioner's movement pattern resembles the antics of a tiger (the name of Harimau), with heavy emphasis on staying close to the ground using crouching, lying, sitting and semi-squat positions. The leg strength and flexibility required is impressive and the Harimau stylist can use his hands like extra feet or his feet like extra hands. He can start the fight from the ground position or will invite his opponent into a trap then take him to the ground. Other types of Sumatran Silat are Menangkabau, Podang, Sterlak, Lintau and Kumango. On the other hand, many Javanese styles use a percentage weighting that is more balanced between hand and legwork. Many Javanese styles require the practitioner to move in close against the enemy in an upright position, then use various hand and foot moves to express the techniques. Styles such as Tjimande Serak, Tjikalong and Tjigrik, all demonstrate this fact.
The names of style can be traced to many diverse origins. Styles are named after a geographical area, city or district, after an animal, after a spiritual or combative principle, after a person, or after a physical action. For example, there is a style called "Undukaym Silat" which takes its name after the footwork actions that mimic those of a hen scratching the ground. Seitia Hati meaning "faithful heart" is named to represent a spiritual principle. Mustika Kwitang is named after the Kwitang district in the city of Jakarta. Serak is named after the person who founded the style. Menangkebau Silat is named after an ethnic group, the Menankabau people. Sterlak Silat is name after a quality and means "to attack with strength." The variety and diverseness of names is not limited to any one style.
Finding good teachers that can pass on the knowledge is not easy. Traditional Pentjak Silat is highly clandestine and secretive. Teachers never compete for students and usually keep to themselves with their small groups. To find a Silat master is usually always by introduction through a family member or friend. The acceptance process is often very selective and the probation period is strict. Each teacher has his own particular criteria he uses to evaluate a prospective student that is often based on the studentís character; specifically his temperament and judgment, his demeanor (his outward behavior, his manner towards others) and his morality and ethics. The student's willingness to learn is also of great importance because the training will be severe. In many styles, the student, once accepted is required to take an oath to the style.
The probation period serves as a screening time so that the teacher may directly observe the behavior of the student and draw a conclusion of his sincerity. The instruction is almost always one on one, supervised directly by the master, so that the ability and morality of the student can be distinguished clearly. The teacher will reject anyone whose attitude or personality is deemed as unworthy. Discipline is harsh and violations often result in dismissal of the student. Learning the "old way" is not an easy thing to do and consequently the number of people practicing is very small. It is not meant to be open for everyone. Such a relationship and training regime is regarded as sanctified and is taken with the utmost seriousness by all involved.
Self-Defense Verses Sport ñ The Old verses the New
There is a movement today where the various governments in Southeast Asia are trying to organize Pentjak Silat on national and regional levels as a sport; with competitions, tournaments and in the educational system with various standards in order to collectively regulate the great diversity of styles. However, according to the traditionalists, the goal of Pentjak Silat is always self-defense and not physical education or sport. The development and transition of Silat, an art designed for self-defense to one for sporting and physical education applications is a favorite subject among the old veterans and masters of Silat. Many of these masters refuse to participate in the "modernizing" of their art, preferring to stay to themselves teaching in small groups in the traditional manner. They feel that if Silat is developed as a sport, its combative vitality and values will be compromised and eventually weaken the effectiveness of it as a fighting art. This view certainly has merit. With these combative aspects watering away, certain protective techniques deemed vital such as guarding the groin, throat, eyes, and joints are eliminated and considered unnecessary to practice, as the rules of the sport do not permit an attack to those targets. How you practice is how you will fight. Old style Silat develops reflex habits that allow the practitioner to automatically counterattack to the assailant's vital areas while remaining keenly aware of his own vulnerability.
In sport Silat, this awareness is lost, resulting on a dangerous dependency of a deficient fighting art no longer designed for real self-defense. The traditionalists also believe that sport Silat will be influenced by tournament success. Schools will develop and train with the objective of winning these tournaments and a "tournament style" of Silat will result, with special techniques designed only for the objective of winning according to the rules. These new creations have nothing to do with real self-defense.
Sportive combat also presents another problem of values. Traditional Silat is mostly defensive in attitude and physical expression. Rarely will the Silat man attack first. The practitioner prefers to wait for the attack before he moves into action. The values of sport are different because the student is training to attack to score points, so he develops the attitude of attack and not the attitude of counterattack from defensive posturing. Training to be a sportsman, develops sportsman-like thinking such as "fair play," and the "you can't win 'em all" idea of being a "good sport about losing." A Silat man has everything to lose because his personal safety, maybe even his life are on the line. He cannot be a good loser. The values of the old fashioned Silat is about protecting your life at all costs, doing whatever is necessary to survive because the only reason you are fighting is to protect your life or the lives of your loved ones. This is why the student is taught to think of his training partner as an "assailant" attempting to take his life. If the student were to think of the assailant as an opponent, then it would negate the meaning of the art, the spirit of combat of actual fighting. In Pentjak Silat training, students are taught to also consider the climate, clothing being worn, time of day and night and the terrain, upon which they are fighting. These all combine to determine the tactics used and the emotional atmosphere of the fight.
The emphasis in physical education and sport on aesthetics and not function is also why in the newer sport versions of Silat, there is an increasing amount of "showmanship" and gymnastics. What looks flashy and pleasing to the eye may or may not have anything to do with combative function. These useless moves added for entertainment value eat away into the fabric of combative Pentjak Silat and begin weakening its structure much like termites over time eating away at the frame of the house. The old folks believe that the practice of traditional Pentjak Silat has all the personal skill and artistry needed without having to weaken it by making it into a sport or an exhibition art.
Fighting Multiple Opponents
All serious styles of Pentjak Silat teach the student to consider multiple opponents. The student maintains the awareness of these multiple assailants while participating in solo training exercises or with a partner. Many styles consider a minimum of three enemies and build up to exercises involving five to seven enemies. A great deal of Silat technique is a mix of grappling and hitting. The grappling is a "loose" type of grappling where the moves are used for take downs, off-balancing sweeps, and tying the opponent up momentarily. Even in the intricate and deadly holds of the Buah Kunchi of Malaysian Bersilat, the trainee can still quickly dissolve the hold in order to engage another assailant. Being able to disengage from one person in order to move to another is essential in fighting multiple opponents. The trainee is not so committed to applying body pressure and leverage where he cannot make an immediate escape. Hitting is used to tenderize and soften up the assailant before going into these intricate and complex techniques. This grappling / hitting mix gives the trainee flexibility and adaptability to meet the changing situation, whatever it is, that he finds thrust upon him.
As the practitioner finishes off his assailant with a take down and follow-up, he immediately crouches, covers, and assumes the "on guard" stance and posture combinations of his particular style, because another attacker may be on his way in. The assailant that he just took down may not be finished after all. He may have been able to take all that punishment or as in many styles of Silat, he may be feigning his hurt condition, hoping the student drops his defenses and he can surprise re-attack. It is important to take the assailant seriously at all times; that he is always dangerous even when down and especially when practicing in order to build this attitude so it is a habit. This cautionary awareness has resulted in the overkill principle, which seems to be prevalent in all types of Southeast Asian self-defense. This being the repeated use of follow-up techniques after the assailant has been thought to already have been taken out. Experience tells Silat people that one or two strikes or breaks seldom finish the job at hand, therefore, for safety purposes, a variety of backups are built into the trainee's reflexes. Each backup technique has its own back up!
The Use of Weapons
Of course, the classical study of Pentjak Silat demands that the trainee learn to wield the traditional weapons such as the knife, the stick, the staff, the tjabang (branch), the short sword, and the sarong (cloth) or rope.
As Draeger notes, "No Pentjak Silat system is combatively idealistic, so foolish, or so naïve as to require this exclusive use of empty hand tactics for solving all combative situations."
The use of these weapons and objects are based on the same technical rationale as the empty hand curriculum of djurus (hand movement) and Langkahs (footwork). In this way, objects from his daily surroundings such as pens, combs, drinking receptacles, shoes, belts and eating utensils, even a salt shaker can be brought into play to enhance a particular technique. In self-defense Silat, the environment is to be used when possible if time permits, because the assailant, even if empty-handed may be concealing a weapon of his own. His moves must be treated extra carefully.
With this unifying, coherent system firmly planted in place in the trainee's mind, he can substitute and transfer the use of weapons to the techniques he already knows empty-handed. His skill is already built in from his empty hand training. This is unlike Filipino methods that teach weapons use first and empty hand derivations second.
The unifying principles of Silat are used to help the trainee fight his fight without being confused about what he should do next. These unifying principles are based on the physics of efficiency of technique and economy of motion, and are kept as secrets of the systems. The unifying principles help the trainee to understand the endless variations of empty hand techniques. There are so many in fact that it is impossible to name them all. They all stem from the root techniques of the empty hand curriculum and are recognized by "insiders" as such. Silat practitioners make use of all parts of the body for locking, joint breaking or as striking weapons. Substituting a shoulder for an elbow, for example, one can produce the same joint / lock conceptually. The various hand formations similar to the crane beak, tiger claw, eagle claw, panther fist, like those used in Kung Fu can be adapted in the moment, to the various techniques. The trainee, at some point in his study designated by the master, learns the vulnerable points of the body to be exploited with the techniques he has already learned. Often times it is a matter of reviewing the techniques already known and adding this knowledge as a finishing touch. Like a road map, the routes are already known and in place, the teacher just makes the student aware of a few more stops and points can be hit, pinched, torn or squeezed and add a rich dimension to the techniques already mastered by the practitioner. They are especially useful against larger assailants who need prodding and convincing in order to make a technique work or escaping holds and locks that the practitioner has somehow found himself caught in.
The Esoteric Spiritual Core
No system of traditional Silat is complete without strong spiritual training. Known as "Kebatinin" or "Llmu," it is considered very important so that the student may be prepared for the violence and consequences of real combat. Some confuse the spiritual aspect of Silat with the common spectacle of street magicians as evidence of spiritual power and mastery. These spectacle include stunts such as eating razor blades and crushed glass, putting needles through different parts of the body, lying on beads of nails, etc., and are used to impress the uneducated and to justify the art's potency. However, true spiritual training is difficult work on the inner self, it is the search for those truths which lead to humility and a reverence for life. There is no room for mysterious tricks and mystical illusions in real Silat. If a student learns to depend on mysticism he doesn't understand, then he learns to depend on something outside himself, and to depend on something outside of himself is to weaken his own nature.
True spiritual Silat strengthens the individual will and knowledge so he can rely on himself. Emphasis on mystification usually indicates the absence of true knowledge and understanding. As Pendekar Paul Dethouars, of the Serak system says, "The truth of combat is hard enough to understand, so why mystify and create more obstacles to it?"
One aspect that is surrounded with the mystical is the use of amulets, prayers and rituals designed to induce invulnerability and protection for the student should he find himself in danger and be forced to use his skills. These methods are unique to each teacher and style of Silat, and are private and never exposed publicly. Amulets and prayers in all the styles have a common function of a physical reminder of the student's connection to the real mystery, the Creator, the Infinite, the Cosmos. This physical reminder can also help reinforce the particular belief system he has been taught. For example, if he is wearing an amulet of tiger's stone, or the tooth of a tiger, then that is a physical reminder that when he uses his Silat he becomes like a tiger in his attitude and takes on the fighting attributes of a tiger. Tenacity, great courage, daring ferocity becomes his mental state.
All methods of Silat involve the understanding of a particular belief system, particular to the style and the master teaching that style. The belief system may be based on the teacher's own religious background and he may use that as a basis for his philosophical teachings, morality and ethics, along with his personal experiences of life. If the teacher's religious background is Hindu, like many teachers on the island of Bali in Indonesia, then the philosophy and spirituality of his system will reflect that religious view. Many Silat teachers are Muslim, so their spiritual system reflects the tenets of Islam. More recently, with the arrival of Europeans in Southeast Asia, some teachers have embraced Christianity, so their philosophical and spiritual teaching reflect Christian ideals. This is very common among the Filipino Escrimadors of the central and northern Philippines where Catholicism is very strong. Some teachers will not accept a student into the higher echelons of their spiritual teachings unless the student embrace his teacher's religion. Other Silat masters are more tolerant and liberal using other criteria to judge a student's character. The end result of all systems regardless of religious orientation is a belief system for the student, that produces the heart of courage, confidence, and the will to fight on the side of truth and justice. This is a tremendous base and back up for the Fighting techniques he has learned.
Not all of the philosophical teachings of Silat systems is based on a particular religious point of view. The physical techniques of Silat also provide for the study of the esoteric philosophy of Silat. Much of the physical truth of traditional Silat leads to the development of a philosophy of life. The parallels between the physical concepts and the mental-spiritual concepts are important for the study of life.
Some examples of this would be that just as the student works hard to refine his physical technique, so he works hard to purify his character strengths and weaknesses, his relationships with others and his relationship to the Creator. Just as he devotes himself to the study of the locks, take downs, sweeps, and weapons, so he devotes himself to the review and examination of his own life, i.e., in all areas; mental, spiritual, career, financial, social, family, physical and spiritual. The old timers say they can tell a lot about a person just by how he practices his Silat. If he hurries through his solo exercises all the time, then he is probably going to hurry through his work in life, leading to sloppiness and poor results. The teachers of traditional Silat are ever vigilant! Every detail is important! Every effort is a step forward! When a sufficient number of steps have been taken, success or achievement is the result. The student may have finished the curriculum and may have known it for a long time, but only when he begins to THINK, LIVE, and above all FEEL, that which is taught him, then and only then will he KNOW the real contents of the lessons he has been taught even though he may have physically and intellectually known the facts of the systems for years. The lessons and knowledge is of value only when it is actually applied. As progress and development proceed, the student reaches down within himself and gradually comes into consciousness of this understanding. Learning the traditional Silat, is never easy, if it was it couldn't be worthwhile. Just as in life, things that one had to work very hard for are valued and appreciated. Things that come easy are never valued for long.
There is an old saying among Silat people that goes, "You do not choose Silat, Silat chooses you!" By the nature of the difficult work necessary to master the art, the art itself selects its worthy initiates and ultimately transforms them.
In 1219 when after capturing China Chingiz-khan went to the west many arabians and persians became moved to China. Such people were called "semu" ("men with colored eyes"), they had less rights than mongolian but more than chinese. In official documents of Yuan dynasty they were called "huihui". Moved on the east moslem infantrymen and artillerymen in 1275, due to order of founder of Yuan dynasty "in all places entered in communities of border inhabitants", became peasants. From these people, arabian immigrants came to China on ships during Tang and Song dynasties, and chinese men converted to islam formed "huizu" nation ("moslems").
Huizu lived on state lands only. Conditions of living were bad, there were many rebellions. It is known that when Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew Yuan dynasty, many of his soldiers and officers were moslems. Most known of them were generals Chang Yuchun and Hu Dahai. At the end of Ming dynasty there was Ma Shouying in Shaanxi province. His nickname was "lao huihui" ("old moslem"), and nickname of his detachment was "lao huihui ying" ("batallion of old moslem"). They went through battles to North-West and joined to Cao Wangli's rebellion.
During Qing dynasty moslems were under a great supression, and there were rebellion after rebellion.
During more than seven hundred years huizu was indissoluble connected with wushu. They considered wushu as self-defence and as holy action, stimulated moslem's spirit.
Moslems are wide spread in China. During many years they exchanged martial arts with hanzu, took good sides. It is hard to say which styles of wushu are moslem styles. Below are styles popular among all the huizu.
4. Stick fighting, also known as Ali's stick. North-Western art of stick fighting includes one-head stick of mother and son and two-heads stick-stripe.
5. Pole of Sha family and spear of Ma family. These styles are mentioned in the general Qi Jiguang's "New book of notes about achivements" (Ming dynasty). Now there are no specialists of these styles.
6. Huihui shiba zhou
11. Xinyiliuhequan (fist of heart, mind and six coordinations), a brunch of xingyiquan (southern version, from Henan province). Main part - "10 big forms" and "4 cock's grasps". According to legends this style is transferred from moslem wushu master Ma Zhuangtu, who lived during Qing dynasty. Now this style is popular among moslems of Shanxi and Ningxia.
12. Art of sword jian. It is said that in the past there were such a sets as "Suleiman's sword" and "Koran's sword"
The Muslim Master of the Old Empire
by Gigi Oh, with Gene Ching
This is the complete interview. The article that appeared in the magazine was a shortened version, but it included the Chinese characters and additional informational sidebars.
Ma Xianda "In an effort to standardize Chinese martial arts, the People's Republic of China (PRC) established a national ranking system for masters, the Duan system. Officially commencing in 1997, there are nine levels of Duan. Currently, only four living masters have been recognized as the highest level, Ninth Duan. The youngest of which is Grandmaster Ma Xianda of Xian, China's old capital.
The most recent testimony of Ma's expertise that Americans might recognize is his student, Gao Xian, who played a major supporting role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But Master Gao is only one of Grandmaster Ma's remarkable legacy. More than twenty of Ma's close students have earned the coveted title of Wu Yin or "martial hero," a title conferred on athletes who have repeatedly placed in the top three positions in national competition.) Ma's own sons, Ma Yue and Ma Lun, are national champions and noted masters as well. Ma Xianda comments that Ma Yue got a lot of spankings when he started at age five, but actually he was "pretty good." At age 11, Ma Yue won the Xian city and Shaanxi province all round championships and beat renowned International Wushu champ Zhao Changjun. In 1983, he won a four "gold award", placing first in fanzi, pigua, short weapon and straight sword. Ma Lun captured the National Sanda (free sparring) Championship when he was 17. Now he is a respect coach and international certified referee of Sanda. And of the six Sanda Wang (free sparring kings) that now reign in China, two trained under Ma Lun. Beyond his kin, Ma also coached the aforementioned champion Zhao Changjun for a while and even taught Jet Li what would become one of Jet's favorite forms, Fanziquan.
Ma was born in 1932 to a Muslim family who trace their martial arts roots back six generations. Since 9/11, Muslims have been so profiled, but it's easy to forget that there are many types of Muslims today. Chinese Muslims, or Hui, represent the largest minority of the largest population in the world and have as much connection with. Bin Laden as Christians have with Hitler. Originally from Hebei, Ma learned from his father Ma Fengtu and uncle Ma Yintu, both noted masters in their own right. Ma Fengtu was a general under famed warlord Feng Yuxiang. Ma Yingtu also produced Zhang Wenguang, another ninth Duan holder. Ma Xianda learned many traditional Wushu forms including Tongbei Pigua, Kaimen Baji, Ba Shan Fen, and Cuo Jiao and also studied western boxing, wrestling and fencing. In fact, Ma was one of the very first Chinese to study western martial sports.
In 1952, the first martial arts championship was held after the founding of the PRC in 1949. Ma captured the Lei Tai championship, a free fighting event where fighters knock each other off an elevated platform, defeating Tongbi master Deng Hongzhao and Cuo Jiao master Li Xuewen. He also took the Short Weapon Fighting Champion and the Wushu Performance Grand Champion. He won all this at the young of 19. The following year, Ma won the Huabei Short Weapon Tournament. This included competitors from Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shaanxi and Inner Mongolia. Ma won every single bout.
Ma went on to dedicate his life to the martial arts. After graduating from Hebei Teachers’ College, he took a position at the Xian Physical Education College to teach Wushu, Boxing and fencing. He became a full professor there and taught for 30 years. Ma estimates that he has taught nearly 10,000 students, both Chinese and non-Chinese over his expansive career, including many national coaches and champions. Ma authored many books and papers on Wushu, including editing the Zhongguo Wushu Da Cidian (Chinese Wushu Encyclopedia) and earned many illustrious titles over his long career. Probably the most illustrious came in 1995 when he was recognized as one of China's Top Ten Professors of Chinese Martial Arts.
In 1998, Ma was recognized as a Ninth Duan holder. In May of 2002, Ma celebrated his 70th birthday and Kungfu Qigong Publisher Gigi Oh caught up with him for an exclusive interview. As an outspoken authority on Chinese martial arts, we are pleased to be able to bring you the first interview with Ma Xianda in English.
On the Development of Chinese Martial Arts
If we use Chinese communist jargon "I am a lao bing (old soldier.)" My whole life has been devoted to the martial arts. I am a professional martial artist. Wushu has been developing since 1949. Indeed, our government has devoted itself to making many improvements but some of those improvements have a degree of flaw. Just like our Chinese old saying "Even if you have a good heart, you don't get best reward" we don't see a good effect. I can even go so far to say that there is a certain degree of damage to our ancient cultural inheritance. This is due to some misguidance of government policy. For instance, in 1949 we had a policy of wa shang ding (literally translates as "a three-legged wine cup from the Shang Dynasty" but it was used as a catch phrase meaning "dig out the ancient treasures.") That was good until 1955, when the whole policy changed 180 degrees. The government revoked what they were doing and pressed down Wushu, especially the old, traditional, good part of Wushu. That was for a long time. Also they were trying to promote modern Wushu, not the old traditional good stuff."
For example, take China's historic hero, General Qi Jiguang. Historically, his position should be higher than the legendary Yue Fei. Yue Fei fought against the people of the Jin minority. Qi Jiguang fought against the Japanese pirates. He led his troop of 7000 soldiers to defend the Zhejiang coast for 10 years and he totally destroyed the Japanese pirates there. Even many Japanese respect him because they know he was a great general. He was also a promoter and teacher of Chinese Wushu. In his famous 14 chapter book, Ji Shou Ching Hua, he devoted 4 chapters to Wushu. Chi Jiguang was very opposed to flowery Wushu, only pretty or elegant for show for an audience. It's like a beautiful mansion that is empty inside. The Wushu that Qi Jiguang wants to promote is real ability and combat fighting. Surely this is the central core of Wushu. But it is not complete Wushu. Wushu still needs longevity, health and mind cultivation to make it complete. But never forget, the central core is ji (strike.) You must have real combat fighting ability, definitely not a "flowery blooming, only for watching" Wushu.
Following 1949, we have been following in the path of flowery type of Wushu and that caused a lot of damage to Wushu. If you strike or kick, they call you weiji (only want to fight.) Not long ago, Zhongguo Wushu magazine interviewed me and I revealed two hats -one is weiji, the other is fugu (recover ancient.) I think the general public misunderstood me. I am definitely not weiji. I objectively look at Wushu as a whole. Even Taijiquan has an aspect of ji. As soon as you start, you have the "hands holding a ball" posture and that can be used to strike. They all have ji.”
After 1949, the government invested a lot of money to promote Wushu. The communists actually put in more money than the Republic of China (ROC.) Chiang Kai Shek set up the Zhong Yang Guoshuguan (Central Guoshu Institute) and appointed General Zhang Zijiang as the director. The Board of Directors included noted martial leaders such as Lin Sen, Chiang Kai Shek, Sun Ke (a relative of Sun Yat Sen,) Dai Chuan Xian and others. They placed it under Department of Education and also established the Guoli Guoshu Tiyu Zhuanke Xuexiao (Guoshu Physical Education Academy.) Every province established its own guoshuguan (martial arts training hall) under the direction of the governor of that province. The Vice Director was actually the administrator and did all the work. This frame is huge. Big hats, no money. Titles without pay. A lot of good stuff was done during the General Zhang Zijiang, because they tried to combine Wushu with western physical education. Wushu can’t be stuck in the nan bing qi (cold weapon) period, that’s too obsolete, so you have to combine it with physical education. The special character of Wushu is still gong (offense,) fang (defense) and jinen (combat ability.) Wushu and physical education has the same quality. That is culture. We can use Wushu's three special characters combined with western-developed system. That is a very good thing that General Zhang Zijiang did. He also got rid of some of the weeds of Chinese Wushu. Wuhua was not all good. It still had some bad parts.
When the Cultural Revolution hit, it got even worse. They pulled out the essence – the fighting combat. They only left the empty frame. And they still say they are promoting San Shou, Short Weapon and Long Weapon. If you say Wushu has ji, then you are the guilty party and you will be pi pan (publicly humiliated). I cannot say I’m a warrior fighter, but all along I insist on the core part of Wushu. That is the base of Chinese Wushu.”
The Gang of Four corrupted everything, then Deng Xiaopeng came up and the Open Door Policy. A lot of frames were opened. Wushu was suddenly alive again. Sanda came up. Now we can talk about da. Also, the folk martial artists came out and ordinary people could practice Wushu. This is good. However, the policy of the governing body is not quite right. This is why we didn't get our expected result.
In the early 70's, I was training the first Wushu group going to the United States, but because I was not a communist and my background was not very good, I couldn't go. Nonetheless, I did all the ground work and wrote all the explanations. I wrote all the literature and terminology. I couldn't explain Wushu so I just translated it phonetically. After the U.S.A. trip, many American magazines described Wushu as traditional Chinese ballet - very pretty like a butterfly. But this was because they could only see the outside. They could not see the offence and defense capability.
On Kungfu, Guoshu and Guoshu
Ma_Xianda During the ROC (founded 1911,) and even today in Taiwan, it's called Guoshu (literally "national art.") They have their own reason for doing so. My father gave it the name Guoshu. He was the martial brother of Zhang Zijiang. At that time, Chinese painting was called guohua (national painting,) language was called guoyu (national language) and Chinese medicine was called guoyi (national medicine.) Naturally, Chinese Wushu was called Guoshu. And at that time, in Shandong, Hebei and Henan, the folk people called it bashiye (respect.) During the Qing (1644-1911) and Ming (1368-1644) Dynasties called it wuyi (martial skill.) The Qin (221-206 BCE) and Han (206 BCE-220 CE) Dynasties called it shoubo (hand fighting.) The Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) called it bian (whip.) Mabian (literally "bridal reign") were the bodyguards. The bian was also a weapon used to hit people. After 1949, they called it Wushu to distinguish it from the ROC term. Overseas people called it Kungfu, but I don't think this is correct because drinking tea has Kungfu. Kungfu is the degree of your achievement. Kungfu contains time and degree or level. If you use modern language, you can say it is your level of achievement.
On Olympic Wushu
In China, Sanda Wang is very hot because of media attention and the commercial packaging. On the contrary, taolu (forms competition) is standardized. It is more like dancing, so even the higher level national tournaments, there are not many spectators. Nobody likes to see 100 people doing the same thing. Even if Wushu Taolu went into the Olympics, it is not necessary a given that people will want to watch it. Not every category of the Olympics has an audience. If Wushu does not go into the Olympics, then all kinds of Chinese martial arts will bloom at the same time. But if it gets into the Olympics, and the government only pushes those little categories, other categories will die down. They will only feed that small group of professionals to represent the entire Chinese culture, over 1.2 billion people. This is the general feeling of Wushu societies.
It's all the result of some officials. They want to show that they accomplished something. They want to leave some legacy. If Wushu turns into a sport, then it will not really be an ancient Chinese treasure anymore. Thai boxing cannot get into the Olympics, but people still watch it. Olympic boxing and basketball does not have as big a following as pro boxing and pro basketball. Soccer has a big audience but it still not Olympic.
The modern wuxia (literally "martial knight", a genre of martial fiction) books with flying and such are not real Wushu. Those movies are actually preventing the Wushu healthy development because they are so exaggerated. You cannot put Wushu into a fairytale. You must bring their scientific side out. It must be based on science. Critics shouldn't press down Wushu with comments like Chinese sanda can not fight against Thai fighters. Wushu is something you can train and practice, but it also has combat. If we cannot compete against Thai boxing, it is because the method was not right. Nowadays, those Wushu professionals learn for four years in college. That's too short to learn Wushu in depth.”
For example, in 1999, there was a fight in Hawaii (China vs. U.S.A. Art of War) where my son was a referee. It was not so good. I criticized our sanda in front of the top leaders. Our sanda looked like yin yang ren (yin and yang mixed up in one body) because the sanda technique there did not contain Wushu. It only had some western boxing, and even the boxing was not that good. I was one of the first Chinese to train boxing under a western expert and I was a world champion. The kicks didn't look like Chinese kicks. Chinese martial arts have beautiful kicks but nobody there could do them. It's just like wearing traditional Chinese attire with a western mustache. You look "in between." You can't tell the difference between a sanda strike, Korean, Thai, or Japanese.
I was the first sanda champion in 1952. I was only 19. They only had three divisions - lightweight 54 kilos, middleweight 54- 80 kilos, heavyweight 80+ kilos. I was a middleweight. In that time, Shaolin, Wudang, Xingyi, Bagua, everyone came out to fight. But you could tell which system they belong too. Now in sanda, you cannot tell. No character. Even in boxing, you can tell the different styles, British from American. Now no one takes the time to learn basic Wushu. The problem is that basic Wushu training is too weak. Nobody bothers to study what is Chinese sanda or what is Wushu.
In the future for sanda, we should put more Chinese martial arts in it. Actually over the last 100 years, Chinese martial arts were only talked about on paper because you couldn't physically fight. Now we can fight again. That is good. However recently, some Chinese media have exaggerated saying Wushu is so good that they beat up Russian fighters. But the Russian was not a boxer, he was a weight lifter. Chinese people like to boast because we have this national pride. The reason for this is that we were so weak for the last 50 years. The British and Japanese came in and took our land away. Our spirit was weak and our countries physical might was weak. So we exaggerate the result of any little something because we want to overcompensate. Now we really should use the scientific method on our Wushu. If you say you have some extreme secret technique, you should examine it scientifically and find out how it works. You cannot just have it in the mouth or on the paper. That's not going to the real. What is the experimental lab of Wushu? That is the tournament or the battlefield.
I like to joke about Taiji players. You guys said Chen Taiji founder Chen Wanting dreamed that he was learning Taiji from the mythical Taoist warrior Zhen Wu and with it, one person killed 100 enemies. You use this legend and you believe this. That's also a joke. This is the non-scientific side of Wushu. This, plus the long period of time when we could not fight, weakens our Wushu. So now, Wushu has to be scientifically proven. It is a culture. It is knowledge. That knowledge has to be tested. If it can not be tested, it's not real Wushu.
Chen Taiji push hands
In the 60's, people brought Taiji to Japan and now you see Taiji associations all over in Japan. In 1985, I did a seminar in Osaka and I told them it shouldn't be called a Taiji association, it should be a Wushu Taiji association. It's a mother and son-like relationship. Back then, they even put Shaolin in Taiji. But now Japanese have changed. They call it a Wushu Taiji association.
On Short Weapons Sparring
The history of short weapons in China has been up and down many times. In 1949, it had good momentum for development. Then it was bad during the Cultural Revolution (1967.) It opened up for a couple years after, but then it folded again. I fully believe that we have to train the basics first, including fist fighting. If you don't do that, it's just like sanshou – no training and you just go to fight. We should know what the roots are. Sanshou should be a category of Wushu. Short weapon, Taiji, they are all only single categories of Wushu. Wushu is big umbrella. Nowadays people who say sanshou is sanshou and Wushu is Wushu, that's wrong.
After the common folk started competing (in short weapon sparring,) the Beijing governing body decided to regulate it. They figured that common folk were going to do it anyway, so the government should promote this event. So I have been assisting in the development short weapon sparring. The rules have been established. The details of this method are being developed. Now there is standard protective gear designed just for short weapon sparring. Everything is now regulated. I am designing a weapon to be trademarked. It's around 400 grams and between 1 to 1.1 meters long, depending on whether the user is male or female.
The history of jian (straight sword) goes back to the Spring Autumn (770-476 CE) and Warring States (476-221 CE.) The historic warrior Zhou Wen Wang killed 300 people by sword. Sword practice always cased fatalities, so this slowed down its development. Not as many practiced it. How can we improve upon short weapon practice so people are not injured, yet still can show their technique? This is the direction we should go. Today Wushu is still cultivated for health, so this is our first priority.
In 1928, we had the Zhong Yang Guoshuguan headed by General Zhang Zijiang. Under him, my father and my uncle tried to develop short and long weapon. That time also he established guoshu tiyu zhuanke xuexiao (physical institute). The student's standard of quality was very high. They combined Chinese martial arts and sports together, producing many influential students. That influenced practice all the way to Indonesia and Singapore. Even today, the people in the Philippines still call it guoshu not Wushu. They also started long weapon, short weapon and sanshou.
In the United States, there is no real short weapon competition as of yet, only two-man sets. In China, we have already started a short weapon competition and the long weapon is coming up soon. I have heard that in Canada and Japan, long weapon fighting already exists at tournaments.
On the Wushu Culture of China
Americans are very strong because their science and weapons are very strong. China was very strong in the past. Emperor Qin Shihuangdi built the Great Wall. We also have a living great wall, and that is Wushu. If we didn't have this cold weapon of Wushu essence, we would have been conquered long ago. But China keeps coming back. In 1930, my father (also my teacher) wrote a paper titled Wuhua wei wenhua zimu (martial culture is the mother of Chinese culture.) After 1949, Mao Zedong asked "Do we have wuhua or wenhua first? Martial culture or scholar culture?" My father was about the same period as Mao, just five years older. I never tried to discuss this paper because Mao is a leader saint and my father was just a common person. A common person cannot have the same opinion as a saint. But those two old men had their own reasons. That is they both agree. If you don't have wu culture, how can you have wen culture? Of course, they both have a little degree of error. In the ancient times, the human fights with a tiger or leopard for survival, either to protect themselves or get food. This is their survival skill. You cannot call that wu culture. Common people survive by cultivating the land. This is really not wu culture either because they are just trying to survive. Later when they add weapons, wuge (dagger axe) and wuji ("methodical" strike) then you kill the tiger with real productive technique. That contains a part of human culture. That is wuhua.
Chinese Wushu is the essence of Chinese culture. Why is this important part disappearing? In Song dynasty, they established lixue (everything is reason) and zhong wen, qing wu (heavy wen, light wu - author's note, Ma includes science in wu.) If you know how to write baguwen (an eight-level formal paper format) you will pass the test and be a lower officer. That’s why our science is backward too. You don't need to think. You just follow the mold – the frame. Even though we boast about ourselves, recalling that Chinese discovered paper, gunpowder, and the compass, but we haven't done anything in between. What's so good about it? Our gunpowder couldn't even fight off the British. We threw our science away. How could we defend against the Japanese and British people? Wushu also has the same problem. During this whole period, we started to disappear, to shrink. Our Chinese spirit is dying because Wushu is a part of our spirit. Even though we have 5000 years culture and we used to be magnificent, not any more. This is because of the Song dynasty.
Chinese Wushu should have Chinese flavor from the outside package. In the old days, we know the general all wear flags on their back. Thai boxers have a Thai prayer and dance when they come out to fight. Everyone respects that. Even in the old days, when the folk people came out to do marital arts, they bowed first. Then they would say "jian shou" ("laugh at me" – a humble gesture to say "my skill not good, don’t laugh.") But under Mao, we threw these old traditions way. He even humiliated Confucius. We should recover all those old traditions. Thailand, Korea, Japan and a lot other Asian cultures were all influenced by Chinese culture. Those little brothers try very hard to save what part they have. But this big brother just threw out whatever we had. After 1949, we did have a lot of improvements in some areas. But in other areas, we destroyed a lot of traditional Chinese culture. They wanted only one theory - Mao's theory. Is Mao's theory good? Indeed, he has some good parts. I enjoy reading Mao, especially his battlefield tactics. But you cannot squeeze others out and only promote one. Mao promoted baihua qifang ("100 flowers blossom simultaneously" used as a catch phrase meaning "support all the systems.") Treat the country folks fairly from the bottom of your heart. In that way, you can save all those traditional martial arts. If China is trying to return to its former glory, then we must have the right direction. Without this we will not reach the goal. We are improving, since few people are starving anymore.
Just recently I went to the 90th birthday celebration for a master. In my speech, I congratulated him for teaching successfully since his students respect him deeply and gave him such a big birthday party. He must have told them how to respect the elderly and zunn shi zhong dao (respect teachers and philosophy.) Nowadays the society's ethics are corrupt. All Chinese society, including Taiwan, has this problem. The old common laborer doesn't have high social class but he has good students. And his students have a lot of de (integrity.) They learned martial arts from their teacher and are now successful, so they gave their teacher such a big birthday party. That's proof that the teacher is successful.
Jiang Zemin said you have to use de as policy to guide the country. Chiang Kai Shek also promoted de. At the time we had siwei bagang (4 virtues, 8 guidelines) li (courtesy,) yi(civility,) lien(honesty,) chi(ethics,) followed by chong (patriotism,) xiao (filial piety,) ren (benevolence,) ai (compassion,) xin (trustworthiness,) yi(grace,) ho (righteousness) and pin (harmony.) That is de. We Chinese all saw those posters all of the time, but now we don't even know what is li and what is yi, so how can we talk about de? The first thing we need to learn is xiao, then chong. We have to respect our parents first. Nowadays, a lot of people don't even know how to respect their own parents, so how can you show you have de? De is what we really have to emphasize. De includes include wude (martial ethics.) Wude is not just empty, not just a name. You must have wude. Only then you can have wucai (martial ability.) Only then you can show your martial arts ability.
In the Three Kingdoms period (220-265,) we all know Lord Guan, Zhang Fei and Liu Bei. All three heroes together could not defeat Lu Bu. You can find temples to Guan, Zhang and Liu but none to Lu Bu - why? Lu Bu was the better warrior. It's because Lu Bu does not have any de. He killed his stepfather for a woman. He had three step fathers and he killed them all. That's why Luo Guanzhong wrote the novel Three Kingdoms - the first person he disgraced was Lu Bu. So de and cai must be combined.
For all Martial Society, including American Martial Society, the question is: How do we establish a higher standard of wude? How are we going to cultivate and promote this? If wude is strong and everyone follows up on it, the whole society can be strong bringing everything to a higher level. I hope that your magazine can bear that. Show all the lovers of martial arts what is wude."
Grandmaster Ma's new book on Chinese Short Weapons is just about to be published. He plans to follow it with books on Baji, Ma Jia Fanzi, Ma Jia Pigua and Chinese Long Weapons.