How to Choose A Martial Art

  1. Set a budget. Some arts require a significant investment in equipment. There’s no point in getting interested in something you ultimately can’t afford to do.

  2. Determine your ultimate objective. The four major categories are usually as follows. (a) Health & Fitness with martial efficacy as a subordinate benefit. (b) Martial skill as the primary concern with a nice side dish of discipline and health & fitness. (c) Being part of a heritage and cultural tradition stretching back hundreds or thousands (depending on the art) of years. (d) Winning trophies in sporting events.

Chinese Kungfu

Chinese Kungfu

Chinese Kungfu

  1. Decide on a martial arts style. You might choose a hard style, such as Muay Thai (Thailand) or Western Boxing, a semi-hard style such as Tae Kwon Do or Hapkido (Korea), a soft style traditional art, such as Aikido (Japan) or one of the many Kung Fu styles (China), or a grappling/ground fighting art, such as Jiu Jitsu (Brazil/ Japan) and Western Martial Arts (Europe). Do you want to compete one-on-one in the ring with opponents who use the same style as you, or study the traditions of a particular culture’s martial art, or learn to defend yourself against real-life attackers on the street? The training methods are vastly different, and most martial arts schools focus on one aspect.

Chinese Kungfu

Chinese Kungfu

  1. Recognize your physical limitations. If you are older or not very acrobatic, Wushu (China) probably isn’t for you, but Tai Chi (China) might suit you nicely. Furthermore, recognize that striking martial arts like Karate or Taekwondo may or may not be well-suited for smaller physiques.

  2. Consider your cultural interests. If you have a respect for or interest in a certain culture, learning more through one of their martial arts can be a great experience. If that is part of your goal, choose a school taught by a native of that culture, or someone who trained directly under someone of that culture.

  3. Consider the effectiveness of the martial art as well. For example, a modern martial art such as Krav Maga (Israeli), reconstructed Western Martial Arts such as ARMA or the AES (European) or classes led by experienced soldiers or police officers will place a greater emphasis on the “martial” aspect rather than the “art.” This is not to say that traditional Asian arts are less important; it may take longer to learn basic self defense this way as many Eastern arts are about developing more than just basic self-defense skills.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

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Tai Chi Chuan and Ancient Chinese Philosophy

Tai chi chuan is a time-honored scientific way of maintaining physical and mental health. It is an art for strengthening man’s organism, developing his intellect and ennobling his soul. Based on the theory of yin and yang and of the unity of man and nature expounded in ancient Chinese philosophy, it helps the self-actualization and physical and spiritual emancipation of man.

 

Terminology

Chinese Kungfu

The name “Tai chi chuan” is held to be derived from the Taiji symbol, commonly known in the West as the “yin-yang” diagram.The term Tai chi chuan translates as “supreme ultimate fist”, “boundless fist”, “great extremes boxing”, or simply “the ultimate”. The concept of the Tai chi (“supreme ultimate”) appears in both Taoist and Confucian Chinese philosophy, where it represents the fusion or mother of Yin and Yang into a single Ultimate. And its theory and practice evolved in agreement with many Chinese philosophical principles, including those of Taoism and Confucianism.

 

Yin and Yang

 

Chinese Kungfu

Yin and yang are inseparable from each other; as extreme yin becomes yang and extreme yang becomes yin, the two transform into each other all the time. A similar relationship exists between emptiness and solidity in tai chi chuan movements: the two opposing aspects, coexisting in a single entity, are interdependent and interpenetrable, with each transforming itself into the other all the time.

The philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan is that, if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certain to be injured at least to some degree. Such injury, according to tai chi theory, is a natural consequence of meeting brute force with brute force. Instead, students are taught not to directly fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and follow its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin. Application of strength in taijiquan, for instance, is such that the movements appear to be slow and gentle but are actually charged with powerful force — just like a steel rod wrapped in cotton.

 

Contradiction and Unity

 

In fact, all tai chi chuan movements contain a unity of opposites: advance and retreat, upward and downward, slow and fast, stretching and bending, opening and closing, forward and backward, right and left, releasing and withdrawing, rise and fall, inhale and exhale, pull and push. Such a dialectical relationship also exists between motion and stillness in taijiquan exercise.

Chinese Kungfu

The theory of taiji, with all its implications about the transformation of yin and yang and their contradiction and unity, is explained in writing in Lao Zi’s The Classic of the Way and Its Power (Tao Teh Ching) and graphically described in Zhou Dunyi’s Treatise on the Taiji Diagram. These simple yet profound philosophical ideas form the theoretical basis of taijiquan and serve as the guiding principles for the performance of all kinds of taiji movements.

To the minds of some Westerners, Oriental culture is a baffling mystery, and so is the Chinese art of tai ch chuan with its indescribable charm and grace. For them to appreciate the true value of tai chi chuan, it is necessary to know more about the philosophical ideas underlying it.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Wing Chun

Wing Chun (literally “spring chant”), also romanised as Ving Tsun or Wing Tsun, is a concept-based Chinese martial art and form of self-defense utilizing both striking and grappling while specializing in close-range combat.

Chinese Kungfu

 

Origin

The history of Wing Chun, like most of other martial arts, has historically been passed from teacher to student as an oral history rather than through written documentation, making it difficult to confirm or clarify the differing accounts of Wing Chun’s creation.

The common legend involves Yim Wing Chun (beautiful springtime), a young woman who has rebuffed the local warlord’s marriage offer. He says he’ll rescind his proposal if she can beat him in a fight. She asks a local Buddhist nun to teach her boxing. The style they develop enables Yim Wing Chun to defeat the warlord. She marries her sweetheart and teaches him the style. Her husband names it after her.

 

Style

 

Chinese Kungfu Chinese Kungfu

Wing Chun boxing emphasizes speed of play, keeping fists and feet close to one’s body for better protection, as well as to prepare for attacks and fighting the opponent at close range. When fighting, Wing Chun boxers contain their chest, arch the back, close their elbows and knees, draw in their ribs, and keep their thighs closed to protect the groin. When they use their feet for attack, they must also use their hands in cooperation. When they kick they do not expose their groin and when they deliver fist blows, their hands do not leave the front of their body.

 

Features

 

Tenets of Wing Chun include practicality, efficiency and economy of movement. The core philosophy becomes a useful guide to practitioners when modifying or refining the art.

Chinese Kungfu

Wing Chun techniques emphasize practicality and effectiveness. Most strikes have the intention to injure the target. Wing Chun concept is based upon the fact that the closest distance between two points is a straight line. In addition to efficiency being understood as the “shortest distance to the opponent’s core”, it is also important to understand the importance of energy efficiency within Wing Chun.

Wing Chun believes in using the least amount of required force in any fighting situation. It believes properly, correct timed position and movement can and should be used to defeat their opponent. A person using Wing Chun is said to be able to defeat a stronger person, but this is achieved through balance, body structure and relaxation.

 

Balance, Structure and Stance

 

Chinese Kungfu

Wing Chun practitioners believe that the person with body structure will win. A correct Wing Chun stance is like a piece of bamboo, firm but flexible, rooted but yielding. This structure is used to either deflect external forces or redirect them into the ground.

Balance is related to structure because a well-balanced body recovers quicker from stalled attacks and structure is maintained.

Structure is viewed as important, not only for reasons of defense, but also for attack. When the practitioner is effectively ‘rooted’, the force of the hit is believed to be far more devastating.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Qigong

Qigong or chi kung is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation. With roots in Chinese medicine, martial arts, and philosophy, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to balance qi (chi) or intrinsic life energy.

 

Etymology

Chinese Kungfu

Qi (or chi) is usually translated as life energy, life force, or energy flow. It is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. In Chinese philosophy, a person is believed to become ill or die when qi becomes diminished or unbalanced. Health is believed to be returned by rebuilding qi, eliminating qi blockages, and correcting qi imbalances.

Gong (or kung) is often translated as work or practice. The two words are combined to describe systems to cultivate and balance life energy, especially for health.

 

Training

 

Chinese Kungfu Chinese Kungfu

Qigong is not just a set of breathing exercises, but rather comprises a large variety of physical and mental training methods based on Chinese philosophy.

Typically a qigong practice involves rhythmic breathing, coordinated with slow stylized repetition of fluid movement, and a calm mindful state.

 

Application

 

With roots in ancient Chinese culture dating back more than 5,000 years, a wide variety of qigong forms have developed within different segments of Chinese society: in traditional Chinese medicine for preventive and curative functions, in Confucianism to promote longevity and improve moral character, in Taoism and Buddhism as part of meditative practice, and in Chinese martial arts to enhance fighting abilities.

Chinese Kungfu

Qigong is now practiced throughout China and worldwide. People practice qigong for many different reasons, including for exercise and recreation, prevention and self-healing, meditation and self-cultivation, and training for martial arts.

 

Health Benefits

 

Chinese Kungfu

As a form of gentle exercise, qigong is composed of movements that are typically repeated, strengthening and stretching the body, increasing fluid movement (blood, synovial, and lymph), enhancing balance and proprioception, and building awareness of how the body moves through space. In recent years a large number of books and videos have been published that focus primarily on qigong as exercise and associated health benefits.

As a healing art, qigong practitioners focus on prevention and self-healing traditionally viewed as balancing the body’s energy meridians and enhancing the intrinsic capacity of the body to heal. Qigong has been used extensively in China as part of traditional Chinese medicine, and is included in the curriculum of Chinese Universities. Throughout the world qigong is now recognized as a form of complementary and alternative medicine, with positive effects on diverse ailments.

Chinese Kungfu

Qigong is practiced for meditation and self-cultivation as part of various philosophical and spiritual traditions. As meditation, qigong is a means to still the mind and enter a state of consciousness that brings serenity, clarity, and bliss. Many practitioners find qigong, with its gentle focused movement, to be more accessible than seated meditation.

 

Martial arts training

 

The practice of qigong is an important component in Chinese martial arts. Focus on qi is considered to be a source of power as well as the foundation of the internal style of martial arts. Tai chi chuan, Xing yi, and Baguazhang are representative of the types of Chinese martial arts that rely on the concept of qi as the foundation. Extraordinary feats of martial arts prowess, such as the ability to withstand heavy strikes (Iron Shirt) and the ability to break hard objects (Iron Palm) are abilities attributed to qigong training.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Drunken Boxing

Drunken Boxing, also known Drunken Fist or Drunkard’s Boxing, is a style of boxing that imitates a drunkard in its movements, involving both offensive and defensive skills. The striking features of the boxing are its fast speed and unpredictable changes in beating the opponent. It is also known for its unique appreciating, health-boosting and practical values.

 

Origin

Chinese Kungfu

It is said that Drunken Boxing was derived from the fighting skills used by Wu Song, one of the characters in the novel Outlaws of the Marsh, when he beat a hooligan surnamed Jiang after getting drunk, as well as the attacking skills used by Lu Zhishen, also a character in the novel, when he caused an uproar in the mountain as he was drunk. The movements of Drunken Boxing are guided by the principle of “drunken in appearance but not in spirit”.

 

Style

 

Chinese Kungfu

The postures of Drunken Boxing are pretty much like the staggering movements of a drunkard, but the boxing is actually well choreographed with no drunkenness at all. It is a routine of martial art skills involving stringent arm, leg and body movements.

Chinese Kungfu

Even though the style seems irregular and off balance it takes the utmost balance to be successful. To excel one must be relaxed and flow with ease from technique to technique. The major postures include beating, pushing, throwing, rolling, leaping and jumping. While retaining the beauty of body art, all the postures are practical fighting skills. Swaying, drinking, and falling are used to throw off opponents. When the opponent thinks the drunken boxer is vulnerable he is usually well balanced and ready to strike. When swigging a wine cup the practitioner is really practicing grabbing and striking techniques. The waist movements trick opponents into attacking sometimes even falling over. Falls can be used to avoid attacks but also to pin attackers to the ground while vital points are targeted.

 

High Requirement

 

Chinese Kungfu

Drunken Boxing techniques are highly acrobatic and skilled and require a great degree of balance and coordination. The postures are created by momentum and weight of the body, and imitation is generally through staggering and certain type of fluidity in the movements. So it is considered to be among the most difficult martial arts styles to learn due to the need for powerful joints and fingers. It also has a fairly high requirement on the practitioner in terms of the person’s flexibility in the waist, legs and joints as well as the functions of internal organs, willpower and moral integrity. In addition, the performance of the boxing is supposed to give a straight, light and graceful feel.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Training in Shaolin Temple

With a history of more than 1,500 years behind, Shaolin monastery is a home to Mahayana Buddhism, a cradle to martial arts, and, along with Wudang of Daoist tradition, the indisputable regal seat of the world kung fu.

Chinese Kungfu

Shaolin training is something of interest to many in the western world. Ever since the Chinese kung fu movies arrived, people have been trying to learn their moves. However, there is another dimension to the supreme conditioning and discipline of Shaolin monks. On the surface it’s all kung fu, fancy skills and extreme conditioning, but that’s not really the point of the discipline.

 

Shaolin Training

Shaolin monks train their whole lives in various disciplines. They train in kung fu, mindfulness meditation and many gymnastics-style physical skills. They also have strict nutritional guidelines that they live by.

Chinese Kungfu

The whole magic of Shaolin training is in their consistency, not their “secret” methods. Shaolin monks practice their arts every single day, rain, hail or shine. There are no days off or breaks to go watching TV or go drinking with their friends.

 

Mindfulness Meditation

 

The primary training of shaolin monks is mindfulness meditation. This is a practice of meditating whilst sitting and practicing awareness whilst walking and performing daily tasks.

Chinese Kungfu

Mindfulness meditation is simply consistent training of extreme awareness. When a person practices this sort of meditation, they are training to be aware of the present moment without judgment or attachment in any way. The attitude is that things and circumstances are what they are and nothing more. There is no good or evil, positive or negative, everything serves a purpose.

Chinese Kungfu

This sort of practice develops extreme mental awareness of a person’s surroundings and enables the practitioner to develop laser-like focus.

 

Physical Conditioning

 

Chinese Kungfu

Shaolin training also consists of extreme physical conditioning. This is evident in the exhibitions and shows they perform around the world. The monks, despite their size, are able to perform phenomenal feats of superhuman strength, agility, coordination, speed etc.

This is accomplished through drills and exercises like reaction time drills, continuous repetition of martial arts techniques, progressive physical skills, obstacle courses, weapons drills, partnered coordination exercises and many other things that they practice on a daily basis. This sort of training is conducted for many hours per day. This is why Shaolin monks appear to possess superhuman abilities.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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The Benefits of Chinese Martial Arts

 

Health and Fitness

By health, we mean not only being free from illness, but the ability to sleep soundly, to work energetically, to think clearly, and to be calm yet alert. By fitness, we mean not just physical strength, but the ability to react quickly, to endure hard work, and to concentrate without mental fatigue.

Chinese Kungfu

Kung Fu is better than other forms of exercise for promoting health and fitness. In swimming, jogging, and karate, for example, the fitness acquired diminishes as one grows old, but in Kung Fu it is enhanced. This is because Kung Fu is more than physical exercise; it develops the inner faculties of vital energy and the mind. A Kung Fu practitioner will exhibit more zest and vitality in both work and play than an ordinary person, and have calmness of mind and clarity of thought even under demanding situations.

 

Character Training

 

Chinese Kungfu

Kung Fu teaching emphasizes moral development as well as physical training, stressing values like respect, courage, tolerance, and reverence for life. The very nature of Kung Fu training is a long process of character building. Wholesome qualities like endurance, perseverance, discipline, loyalty, and a calm disposition are prerequisites for progress, especially at higher levels. All these qualities, acquired through Kung Fu training, are transferable to daily life.

 

Self-Defense

 

Chinese Kungfu

Self-defense is the essence of Chinese martial arts. True Kung Fu teaching always instructs students to be tolerant and avoid fighting, but the ability to defend oneself is a valuable asset. It is only when we know that we can defend ourselves effectively that we gain self-confidence. In this way self-defense can be applied to non-combative situations, such as job interviews or school exams. In modern society, this need for psychological self-defense is perhaps more important than the need to actually fight.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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