Looking to train in Chinese Straight Sword

Discussion in 'Chinese Swords and Sword Arts' started by isshinryu guy, Jan 28, 2010.

  1. jonpalombi

    jonpalombi Yellow Belt

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    Ni hao Michael,

    Yeah, I admit that I may be reading you all wrong. Furthermore, I was offensive and for that, I do apologise. I interpreted your comments as mean-spirited and am willing to concede that I could have been misinterpreting your intentions. I take back several of my adversarial remarks and furthermore, I bow to you.

    From you position, you are offering Ishinryu Guy and mtabone the absolute truth. Not holding your punches nor having the patience to mince words. You're being true to yourself and I do respect that. It may not matter to you if I challenge the tone of your delivery, since it's just my opinion anyway, but shouldn't we encourage the guy to discover something about the essence of jianfa? "Sorry, you're wrong and it won't work", is so discouraging. I've been on the receiving end of that attitude several times myself.

    Like Ishinryu Guy, I was excited to drop by E-Budo.com and Kendo forum, since I had trained in Japanese systems, many years ago. My intention was to communicate and share ideas. Despite to complex gap in methodologies, I believed we could connect and mutually bennifit from the exchange. The reaction to any discussion of Korean or Chinese swordsmanship was laced with sarcasm, arrogance and condescension. I may have been projecting some of my frustration about this kind of miscommunication, onto this thread? If so, I have done you a disservice.

    Yes, people do want to hear what they want to hear (especially if it's quick and easy to package). I guess I over-reacted to the abrupt force of your message? I've never been one to through the baby out, with the bath water. Say Ishinryu Guy memorizes half a dozen Chinese jian sword forms, from various systems? He does it "just for fun." He will obviously develop some errors in posture, which can lead to the corruption of the correct techniques. He will likely, even if only initially, overlay the body-mechanics of his own tradition upon any "Chines straight sword" form. Without a qualified 3rd party to point out and then correct these mistakes, something precious gets lost in the translation.

    I definitely agree with you but I feel this man deserves to explore the external movements, even in mimicry, given the lack of any local instruction. I still think he should pursue the DVD approach, since he is already doing so, because there is enough material there to ignite a genuine hunger for a closer look. The occasional seminar event, possibly leading to deeper and far deeper levels of study? With any luck, an authentic school will open near his home, sometime in the not-too-distant future. You feel he will learn nothing of true value or significance from DVDs. I feel he will learn enough to profoundly inspire him to search further. Let's agree to disagree on this topic. OK? As for the person who started this thread, I hope he returns to this forum for further exchanges and discussions. Unless I'm grossly mistaken, all are welcome to participate. Yes?

    Zai jian, Jon.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2010
  2. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I appreciate you coming back to the table, and no offense taken on my part.

    I'll admit, when this type of thread opens up, my response does tend to be fairly blunt. We see this kind of question, the merits of learning via DVD and whatnot, fairly often here. It gets hashed out over and over, so maybe my patience wears a bit thin with it. I've got to remember that the next guy who posts a new thread on this topic may be new to the forum and new to the martial arts, and was not around the last time it was discussed here. That's a point where I can work to improve on my patience. Thanks for that wakeup call.

    Now to get back on topic...

    I really do understand your points. When I was young, I was there too. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin that was a dismal void of martial arts instruction. I watched Kung Fu Theater on TV, and any martial arts movie my parents would allow me to watch, and I even convinced them to let me buy some shuriken, nunchaku, sai, and yes, even a jian (extremely poor quality piece, that one was). I didn't have any instruction (well, I did buy Fumio Demura's book on Sai, but I learned next to zip from it), and I just played with these things. Whipped around the nunchaku (with the occional smack upside my own head when I screwed up), threw the shuriken at trees, figured out how to flip the sai back and forth, and didn't really know what to do with the jian (didn't even know the name at the time, it was just a "sword" to me) except to wave it about. I was a kid endulging in fantasies, waiting for the day when I might get some real instruction, or something, not even sure if I realized what I was looking for with it all.

    I finally got some instruction, but in kenpo and it didn't include instruction in any of these weapons. It wasn't until years later when I moved to San Francisco and began training serious kung fu that I started to learn a bit about the jian, as well as some other Chinese weapons. Never did get any instruction in the 'chucks or the sai or the shuriken.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, yes, I was in the same position as the OP. I wanted to learn this stuff, instruction wasn't available, and I lived the fantasy as well as I could. It really got me nowhere, tho I didn't have access to any video tapes (this was way before DVDs came into the picture).

    I don't consider myself any kind of expert in the jian, or any weapon for that matter. But I've got some experience with it, as well as some experience with the base art (taiji) from which my jian training comes from. This is an important issue. The way these things are taught in the Chinese systems, is that they really are part of the system. They are not just stand-alone add-ons. You need to understand the base art in order for the weapon to make any sense because the method for using the weapon follows the method that the complete system is based on. Taiji sword is not the same as hung gar sword, which is not the same as Northern Shaolin sword which is not the same as bagua sword. There may be similarities, but they are not the same thing and they cannot just be laid over the top of each other like a template.

    So this is the problem. First, the OP states that he knows he cannot really learn the weapon thru DVD. He even states that he isn't really interested in trying. He just likes kata, really he just likes movement.

    That alone is enough for me to tell him, don't waste your time and money buying a sword and a bunch of DVDs. Spend $20 on a wooden sword and just play with it. "cause in the end, he will get as much out of it.

    Second, he wants to learn sword from several arts, including taiji, hung gar, and northern shaolin. But he has zero background in any of these, he has no access to an instructor in any of these arts, and it sounds like no real interest in pursuing it. Yet he wants to learn the sword from each of these, out of context of the full system. That just doesn't make sense at all. It's like if I said, I know nothing about automobile repair, I'm not a grease monkey, I don't WANT to know anything about it, I don't WANT to fix cars, not even my own, but I'd like to know how to replace a damaged cylinder. But I DON'T want to know how to dismantle the engine enough to even access the cylinders. I want someone to just open the engine up for me, so I can then fix the cylinder. I like cylinders. It's my fetish.

    No sense in that approach at all, see what I'm saying?

    Now lets look at the DVD issue on it's own merits. This is something that I find really offensive, to be honest. Martial arts are not just a bunch of movements. Here, wave your hand like this, step here, punch, block, kick like this, hey! you know kung fu! You lucky bastard!

    Sorry, no, it doesn't work that way. Every system of kung fu has A LOT going on underneath the surface, things that are subtle and not obvious to the untrained eye. If you don't know the stuff, you don't even know what you are looking at. You don't know if it is any good, or just terrible. And believe me, a lot of terrible stuff masquerades as good stuff, because people mask it with speed and flash and snap, and they bank on the uneducated public not knowing the difference and not being able to see thru the smoke screen. The only way to learn this stuff is under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher, and you need to develop a close, interactive relationship with that teacher in order to get good instruction. Most people never get this, even people studying in commercial schools. People just sort of follow along, mimick what the teacher is doing, but they never get the level of feedback and correction necessary to really get it right and understand it. They are just mimicking, and it is a mockery of what it should be. This is amplified in DVD instruction, because there isn't even the POSSIBILITY of feedback from the instructor.

    And I believe that deep down inside their cold black hearts, these folks who make and market these "instructional" DVDs know this, even if they'll never admit it, not even to themselves in a pitch-black room at midnight under a new moon. Because to ever say it out loud would admit to the fraud, and they wanna make money and they way the sleep at night is by convincing themselves that they are helping to spread the arts to those unfortunate enough to live far from a good instructor. They want to believe they are doing a good thing in the world. But they are perpetuating a fraud and people are paying them good money for it.

    For certain limited use, I believe a DVD can be a useful tool. If you are getting good instruction with a good teacher, then a DVD CAN be a reference tool. But people gotta be careful about WHAT DVD they use as their reference. There is a lot a variation within the martial arts, even among teachers of the same system. Most of them do not do things exactly the same way. So if you study under teacher John, but use a reference DVD made by teacher Frank, whom you've never met and lives a thousand miles away, you will probably get confused by variations, even tho Frank's video is the "same" material you are learning from John. Now, if John made a reference video for HIS OWN students to use as he teaches them, I can see the sense in that. But once he starts marketing that video to anyone willing to part with a buck, he's crossed the line.

    Another useful thing for a DVD or other video, is to just see what kinds of things are out there. You can see the flavor of different systems, and kind of get a sense if you might want to pursue legitimate instruction. But beware, as I stated above, the junk masquerading as quality.

    I hope this helps you understand why I come down so hard on this kind of thing.
     
  3. jonpalombi

    jonpalombi Yellow Belt

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    True enough White Crane,

    Whenever any traditional master takes his/her lineage to the marketplace, there is a fine line between supplying students with a definitive guideline for the structure of the form or application they are currently learning... and a conscious effort to make money. Which isn't inherently cold or black-hearted, since we all have to eat but you do raise a noteworthy point. As long as the work is mastery, the product will reflect that. Many of these instructional tools are quite valuable, in conjunction with regular lessons.

    When I first began training with Sifu Rodell, he asked me if I had any background in Chinese martial arts, since he knew I had considerable experience with Korean systems, Olympic-style fencing and some small knowledge of Japanese iaido. As I had studied Yang-style taijiquan in college, I felt I was able to adapt myself to alternate systems, through video tapes and books. His response was, "When I hear people say things like that, it's like somebody scraping their fingernails down a chalkboard." I was somewhat taken aback by this comment but I soon realized that much of what I had memorized externally, in regards to internal Chinese systems, was hollow and lifeless. Yeah, missing most of the subtle nuances and major movements of Qi. Hell, the video can't say, "No, not that way. You are putting too much weight forward for this posture. Move more from your center. Turn your waist when you move your blade and draw the energy up from your root. Move the Qi through your body to the very tip of your sword." Etc, etc, etc...

    Personally, I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the times I have met enthusiastic newbies who have had their fascination for serious training fanned by the flames ignited by books, DVDs and such 2nd hand instruction. Ultimately, they realized that they were doing 10,000 things incorrectly but it led them to the school, the Sifu, the Way.

    Basically, I am trying to suggest that you can never really say, "Never". Five or ten years from now, Ishinryu Guy may well be enrolled in a legitimate school, following a genuine master of the Chinese sword arts and grateful for the encouragement he received, to pursue this path. Regardless of his considerable accumulation of errors in stepping, posture, timing and more than anything, his grasp of the Qi moving through his own body... the nectar of the art will likely create a tremendous thirst within him, for more. I cannot presuppose he will gain nothing relevant from his intended pursuit.

    With external styles, it is much more likely for a student to be able gather more useful information and grasp more of it's essence, provided the student is advanced enough to comprehend it. From my gumdo training, I was able to gain quite a bit of insight into iaido, yet I doubt I am getting enough from the books and DVDs to see my own errors. There is no Sensei to correct and adjust these mistakes, so I really do agree with you about this issue. On some level, I felt defensive, since I have often used videos to inspire and direct my comprehension. And yes, after enrolling in class, I had to unlearn a lot of my misunderstanding and learned-behavior. It is certainly a double-edged sword (pun most definitely, intended).

    However, when Sifus like Scott Rodell, Wing Lam and Yang Jwing Ming produce instructional DVDs for their student body, it only aids their understanding and nurtures our development. After more than 5 consistent years studying the Yang family teachings, I do find myself able to comprehend much of the data shown in the forms from Shaolin, Wudang, Chen and Wu styles of taijiquan. Enough to draw me closer to further levels of study, that is.

    Ideally, the two are meant to be used in conjunction, after most of the fundamentals are already firmly in place. I believe so, as even Qi Jiguang created his manual, Ji Xiao Xian Shu, to supplement the training of his soldiers. Without a solid foundation, most of this type of learning tool is superfluous, at best. Even so, they exude a magnetic pull, which often draws the intrigued practitioner deeper into that very system and eventually to a qualified instructor.

    It's impossible to know Ishinryu Guy's degree of accomplishment within his own lineage, simply from his post. So I still believe he will be better off with the approach he is already taking, albeit waaaaaay too overly-ambitious. I insist my original intention, with a welcoming and friendly attitude, would help this brother more than shaking him out of his inspiration (however fraught with potential disaster). Pointing out some good examples of masterfully executed sword forms, would serve him more that the hard slap of reality. I urge him to return to his thread and get some valuable advice and a more grounded game plan.

    There are some really fantastic videos and DVDs featuring Grandmasters like: Cheng Man Ching, T.T. Liang, Wang Pei Sheng and Chen Zheng Lei (to name just a very few) doing wonderful jian forms! Better to mimic good performances of traditional CSA, than dance around with a weapon that has specific parameters and defined methodologies, like the jian. Even erroneously misinterpreting the dynamics of these systems and developing some bad habits in the process. It is significantly better than making up your own stuff. I know you meant to be "cruel to be kind", however, the absence of Ishinryu Guy in this discussion, underlines the loss of a good opportunity to help and share something of the experience we are gaining, by adhering to a traditional lineage (through gradual persistence).

    BTW Michael, I checked out your website and your maritime jewelry line is awesome! http://www.flyingcranedesigns.com/Pieces.html You are quite a gifted sculptor. Are your designs cast from wax carvings or clay? Very lovely work, man. Do you do any sword pendants? I have been a jeweler for 26 years, now. I did an initial batch of jian pendants 3 years ago but need to get some serious changes done with the proportions and details. Then... expand the concept to other sword types. This is my blog if you want a view. Just scroll down for a stretch and you will see the jians: http://jewelrydesignsofjonpalombi.blogspot.com/

    Be well and practice often, Jon
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2010
  4. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I'll come back later with some comments about your comments, but I wanted to thank you for this. I do lost wax casting from wax sculptures, and I work with a local factory that reproduces from my originals. I'm just not set up to do any kind of volume production, but I have just enough equipment to make originals.

    I've not done any sword pendants, but it's something I've considered. Haven't had much time to work on these for quite a while, life has been busy and it's a side business for me. I've got a full time job and lots of other obligations, so I sneak it in when I can.

    I also rebuild swords. Hilts and scabbards are my specialty, I don't make blades (not yet, anyway). I've got a few of my earlier examples posted in the photo albums, and I did a thread here a while back with a couple newer examples. You can look about and probably find them easily enough.
     
  5. billc

    billc Grandmaster

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    I may have a solution for you. Try training in the fillipino martial arts, in particular, look for Kalis Illustrisimo, DTS Kali(dekiti tirsia sirada) or one of the other sword oriented FMA's. I say this as someone who has studied Iaido for 6 years and the FMA's on and off since Remy Presas was on the cover of Black Belt magazine back in the 80's. I love the sword and it's techniques in just about every culture that had them. I had been doing iaido for six years and was looking to do the chinese jian. The problem was, one, you typically have to train a number of years before you are allowed to train in its techniques, second, no one really does application with the jian or any other chinese sword. Luckily, I happened onto DTS kali. It is a fillipino sword based art. The really cool part is, from the first class you are hands on with weapons, sword, stick or knife. The really, really cool part is that you learn how to apply the art against people who know how to use the art. An extra special aspect is that this art has been used in the backwaters of the Phillipines for self-defense, against the imperial Japanese army, Bolo knife and barong vs. Japanese swords and bayonets. This means that many people you might train with will be no more than one or two generations of instructors away from someone who used the art to survive in combat. For example, go to FMAtalk.com and ask on the forums how many of the teachers of teachers have actual experience fighting with the art. I know at least two and there are many more. I know it is not the jian in its pure sense, but I have learned a great deal of how to use a sword, or knife, for fighting in just over a year. Finally, finding an FMA instructor will not be as difficult as finding a qualified jian instructor. You could do FMA until you do and you would be bringing a lot of practical knowledge to the jian. Think about it if you really want to learn the jian. Thanks
     

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