“Chinese Martial Arts: The Secrets of the Old Grand Masters” Course was inspired by questions posed by curious people interested in practicing Chinese martial arts who have come to our Practical Hung Kyun school over the years.
Even I myself asked the exact same questions years ago when I started practicing Gung Fu. It was originally written as a book, but I have decided to publish it as an interactive Course, with special downloads, quizzes for the readers and other additional materials.
How can I find a great Master and what should I actually look for? Have you decide for yourself what are you looking for? Health? Strength? Practical self-defense? Competitive sparring? Each school can be more or less focused on one or the other.
The term Gung Fu, today used to describe the Chinese martial arts, has linguistically almost no relation to combat – it´s basic meanings are „time“; „effort“, „skill“, „mastery“; „hard work“. Paraphrased translation of the word could therefore be a skill or a mastery in a certain area of human activities (not necessarily martial arts), achieved through a long-term and demanding training.
A beginner might feel that this or that Chinese martial arts system consists of many and many various techniques, and that he must learn and master all of them. As we will see later, the training of martial arts is focused first of all on training Gung („skill“, „strength and conditioning“) and quality, not quantity of techniques.
Chinese martial arts training is often summed up in the brief phrase „learn – practice – master“. Learning new techniques may initially take a lot of time, but most of your time will definitely be taken up by practicing.
How often do I need to practice? Many students practice once or twice a week, then skip a week, then once the next one, then skip a month, and then gung-ho five times a week… This is no way to improve your Gung Fu. Let me remind you once more that Gung Fu means not only effort, but also time – not only how long, but how often, how regularly.
Is it enough to practice “shadow” techniques, forms and sparring sets? Practicing sets is an important, but by far not the only aspect of practicing Chinese martial arts. Gung Fu composed only of practicing forms degenerates into “Gung Fu gymnastics”, or as the Chinese masters say “flowery fists and embroidery kicks” – a visually attractive art, suitable for exhibitions and competitions, but without a practical (self-defense) purpose.
If I practice diligently, after how long will I be able to defend myself in a potential situation? In a discussion about martial arts, we obviously cannot ignore also the self-defense aspect. We have already established that strength, speed etc. are more important than the number of techniques we have mastered – however, even these are not a guarantee of success.
How long will it take to be good at Gung Fu?
A Chinese proverb says: “The one who hurries slowly will go farthest” – don´t be impatient and don´t expect miracles overnight. If you have spent the last years with no active movement, you are not going to become a new Bruce Lee after a couple of practice sessions. Stick to the training method (= be a good student), practice diligently and regularly and you will surely see improvement. Don´t forget that Gung Fu is not only effort and hard work, but also time.
Does “traditional style” means the training is the same as it was hundreds of years ago? “Tradition” is the topic of many martial arts discussions. However, thanks to romantics, “Gung Fu movies” fans and admirers of the “golden era” of Chinese martial arts, the word “traditional” has been heavily distorted.
What are the most important benefits of practicing Gung Fu? Self-defense is not the only one, let alone the most important aspect of Chinese martial arts…
What awaits the Gung Fu student further down the path? As was mentioned in the previous parts of this series, the introductory months of Gung Fu training stress building firm basics, both technique- and fitness/strength-wise: loosening up, gaining power, forming proper technique structure and proper movement habits.