Beginning a New Martial Arts Journey

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Sep 21, 2005
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San Francisco
He comments on today's Shaolin, not mentioning traditional or modern.
Which is why I am trying to give his comments some context and clarity based on what I understand he has, and has not, trained. Because it matters, and he isn’t in a position to comment on something with which he has no experience.
Do you disagree with Ranton's message "Effectiveness ... the overwhelming amount of Shaolin Kung Fu classes do not include sparring, do not include chin na, do not include shuai jiao—removing all of the parts that make an effective martial art?"
I don’t know the answer to that question because I haven’t trained in other schools to be able to comment on what they do or do not do. And apparently neither has Ranton.
Ranton's Shaolin training or knowledge does not affect the answer. To argue "There is not an overwhelming amount of Shaolin Kung Fu classes that do not include sparring ... because Ranton has not trained traditional Shaolin" is an error in reasoning.
Ranton’s experience or lack thereof is directly important here. Ranton does not know how the majority of kung fu schools trained. He hasn’t trained with them. How could he know? He only knows modern wushu, which specifically and deliberately excludes those things. He is correct in that schools teaching modern wushu are unlikely to include those things. But he isn’t qualified to comment outside of modern wushu, and his comments need to be understood to be only valid with regards to modern wushu.

Let me ask you this: let us suppose that someone states that he has been eating Fruit Loops for the past eight years and he has come to the conclusion that, as much as he loves Fruit Loops because they are delicious, he must face the truth that breakfast cereals have zero nutritional value. Would you accept this statement? Would you recognize that there are many other types of breakfast cereals, many of which have at least some nutritional value? So his comments need context and need to be limited to what he has experience with.

Renton has trained in the Fruit Loops of kung fu. He does not know what other kung fu is like, nor how it is trained.
An implied suggestion from Ranton's video that may be meaningful to the OP (the reason it was posted) is to ask prospective MA schools if they teach fighting principles, concepts and techniques that can be applied in sparring.
In the spirit of that comment, a valid point would be simply to say that Modern wushu is unlikely to give one effective combat skills. The problem is, Ranton simply calls it Shaolin, implying all Shaolin martial arts, which modern wushu is not. It is misleading. I am simply trying to clear up that misleading information.
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Green Belt
Apr 24, 2017
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Washington, D.C.
Hello everyone

I trained in Hapkido back when I was in high school (from when I was 15-18); I'm 43 now (yeah...that long, LOL)

Anyway, I've been meaning to get back into training in some form of martial arts for a long time, but my problem is that I feel/believe that a lot of martial arts are too common. I suppose that's to be expected with how much history martial arts in general have. While I've always been fascinated with arts like Ba Qua or Tai Chi or Praying Mantis, I feel like in Chicago, you'll find those in many parts of the city so they're not as obscure as in the past.

It doesn't matter if the art is mainly offense or defensive, if anybody has any suggestions for a martial art that you would consider to be "unknown" or "not commercialized" or "an acquired taste" I would be glad to hear it. I realize, also, that this might be sounding too simple or whatever, but hey, I'm giving it a shot. Thanks for your time!! o.o

Hoo boy...there's a lot to unpack here. Seems like a lot of the other posters here have already said most of what I wanted to say. I will add one thing though, at the risk of sounding like a grumpy teacher: it doesn't seem like you're ready to learn anything. I don't think I've ever said that before, or if I did then it definitely has not been often. It seems like, even though you've been out of martial arts for quite a while, you've formed your own uneducated opinions about what is practical and what isn't. Again, I'm not trying to sound rude here so I apologize if it's coming across that way through text, but a lot of the arts you mentioned that you don't want to do are actually popular for a reason. I'm not sure why you're equating "popular" with "bad". When something is producing noticeable results then word spreads fast today in our world of instant communication. Not that everything is popular because it's good, but that you just can't rule something out simply because it's popular. It's good to do your own research. What you should figure out first is what you want out of martial arts, then see what's available in your area, then see which of those has the best teacher(s). Then you can figure out the other stuff like pricing/plans/etc.

Just my two cents.

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Sep 3, 2009
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Pueblo West, CO
It's only worthwhile if hardly anybody studies it?

I bet you'd love to have a Reliant Robin as your only car.


Orange Belt
Aug 7, 2013
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Are you mainly worried about the quality control associated with more common martial arts? Are you looking for something more unpredictable? Or something fun and that you want to learn more about / dive down the rabbit hole of?

Kung Fu has been mentioned much here, and rightly so. Tons of variety there. Outside of this, have you considered archery (I am aware of Korean and Japanese arts specializing in this) or other weapon related arts?


Blue Belt
Mar 17, 2021
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Crikey, I go away for a few months and come back to a Shaolin blow up!

I saw Ranton's video and thought he made some good points and was very honest about the whole thing, from his perspective, his experience and his current situation. That does not mean that the same would be true for everyone. However as has been pointed out by a few people here there is a lot more to the topics he raises than what he covers.

I ended up making a video in response, because these are topics that I've talked about a lot in the past and felt it would be good to bring it all together and summarise, because Ranton has a big audience that do see him as an authority. To what degree you might trust him as a source I shall leave to your judgement. But I do think there have been some unduly critical comments here.

If you care to give to a watch you can check it out here:

I think it is also worth clearing up a couple of additional things here which have been raised:

1) Traditional Shaolin definitely does still exist. It is not all modern wushu. Yes there are performances and purely performance forms, but all of the Shaolin schools in and around the temple and Dengfeng teach traditional Shaolin too- basics, acrobatics, forms etc. all deriving from tradtional Shaolin. The idea that Shaolin was lost is and always has been a myth, don't believe Michael Jai White, the Shaolin community is not just the temple building or even its inhabitants. Which leads on to...

2) You could define traditional shaolin in a few ways. There is a more modern style which is more duanda based- closer range, expert vs expert, rotational mechanics. This probably emerges around the 1700s and grows in popularity. The even more traditional long fist methods where body mass and translational mechanics play a bigger factor are still maintained in other parts of Songshan, such as villages in the area which have been practicing Shaolin kung fu alongside the temple for many hundreds of years. Bear in mind as a religious institution it was part of the monk's duty to interact with and support the wider community.

So both the more modern and the more traditional versions of Shaolin kung fu exist. I have trained both, and there are very clear direct links between the two. You trace one form through and you can see the changes taking place as the focus on different mechanics changes. If you've seen the video I posted on Gong Bu within Shaolin you can see this evolution quite clearly in Qi Xing Quan.

3) Shaolin kung fu has always been about fighting. It was used for defence, warfare etc. and still has the capability to be used as such with the right understanding. As Ranton said, all moves in the forms have applications, and indeed sequences are determined based on those applications and their potential follow ups. This is very different from modern wushu where routines are designed to look beautiful and be hard to execute, thus garnering more points.

4) Ranton did not train exclusively, or from what I understand, primarily, modern Wushu- although you can certainly see some of this in his movements. He did train traditional Shaolin temple style kung fu, however for the vast majority of schools there is a split between traditional basics and forms and sanda. It is therefore no surprise that he didn't get fully educated in the fighting aspect of traditional shaolin.

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