DF: REAL history of kung-fu

Clark Kent

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REAL history of kung-fu
By pstevens - 03-02-2009 06:46 PM
Originally Posted at: Deluxe Forums

====================

My understanding is that many kung-fu styles that are around today either inventions of the Chinese Government to entice tourists, off-shoots of original styles (without true knowledge of them), or integrated styles from other martial arts (karate, tkd, mt, etc)...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the "heart" of kung-fu; which is shaolin was destroyed long ago and nothing survived. In fact, I remember studying Choylifut long ago and recall some of its history. I don't remember specifics, as I was only 7, but the founder learned some sets from his teacher, who learned some sets from another. They didn't know enough, so they sent the young man to learn from another... And in the end, he created a system based on these sets. He DIDN'T create system based on self-defense, he just combined all these sets into something that pleased crowds in lion dance festivals.

My own personal theory regarding kung-fu is this:

Long ago, kung-fu was a relevant self-defense and exercise system founded on the principles of grappling, striking, leverage and correct breathing. This is based on the fact that when it traveled to Japan and other parts of Asia, where it didn't change as much, the self-defense aspects still remained intact.

However, as it became immersed in Chinese tradition, the two became inseparable. Over time, styles developed as purely aesthetic artforms to showcase the beauty of the art. During this time, the fighting and spiritual applications of kung-fu was at its peak at shaolin. Unfortunately, when the Temples were burned and its teachers hunted to extinction; real kung-fu disappeared.

What remained was scattered ideas, sets and remnants who carried partial kung-fu knowledge and added their own ill-conceived ideas to make them whole. Years later, with the popularity of kung-fu movies, the Chinese Government would implement ways to re-invent shaolin kung-fu through wushu.

I'm not implying that no real kung-fu exists at all. I'm simply stating that most kung-fu that tries to trace its origins to shaolin are exaggerating. I'm quite certain some kung-fu styles developed on their own outside of Shaolin and even during modern times; Some of which are more adapted to real fighting than wushu.


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Xue Sheng

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REAL history of kung-fu
By pstevens - 03-02-2009 06:46 PM
Originally Posted at: Deluxe Forums
====================

My understanding is that many kung-fu styles that are around today either inventions of the Chinese Government to entice tourists, off-shoots of original styles (without true knowledge of them), or integrated styles from other martial arts (karate, tkd, mt, etc)...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the "heart" of kung-fu; which is shaolin was destroyed long ago and nothing survived. In fact, I remember studying Choylifut long ago and recall some of its history. I don't remember specifics, as I was only 7, but the founder learned some sets from his teacher, who learned some sets from another. They didn't know enough, so they sent the young man to learn from another... And in the end, he created a system based on these sets. He DIDN'T create system based on self-defense, he just combined all these sets into something that pleased crowds in lion dance festivals.

My own personal theory regarding kung-fu is this:

Long ago, kung-fu was a relevant self-defense and exercise system founded on the principles of grappling, striking, leverage and correct breathing. This is based on the fact that when it traveled to Japan and other parts of Asia, where it didn't change as much, the self-defense aspects still remained intact.

However, as it became immersed in Chinese tradition, the two became inseparable. Over time, styles developed as purely aesthetic artforms to showcase the beauty of the art. During this time, the fighting and spiritual applications of kung-fu was at its peak at shaolin. Unfortunately, when the Temples were burned and its teachers hunted to extinction; real kung-fu disappeared.

What remained was scattered ideas, sets and remnants who carried partial kung-fu knowledge and added their own ill-conceived ideas to make them whole. Years later, with the popularity of kung-fu movies, the Chinese Government would implement ways to re-invent shaolin kung-fu through wushu.

I'm not implying that no real kung-fu exists at all. I'm simply stating that most kung-fu that tries to trace its origins to shaolin are exaggerating. I'm quite certain some kung-fu styles developed on their own outside of Shaolin and even during modern times; Some of which are more adapted to real fighting than wushu.


Read More...


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exile

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I'll admit right away that I'm not a CMAist. But the mythmongering that plagues my own art, TKD, seems at least as alive and well in the (pseudo)histories of the Chinese arts, and it takes a knowledgable, dedicated researcher using full-tilt academic historical methods, sometimes, to scrape the rubbish off what facts there are. Consider in this light the article 'The imaginary world of Buddhism and East Asian martial arts' in a recent Classical Fight Arts magazine by Stanley Henning, one of the most respected academic historians of the MAs, and the following interesting observation:

Although the Shaolin Monastery serves as a symbol for Chinese martial arts, and there are a number of styles being practiced that are named for the monastery, there is no clear evidence that any of these styles actually originated in the monastery, or for that matter, that they were even necessarily practiced there. The more likely scenario is that various martial arts were brought into the monastery, practiced by its residents, and sometimes taught to others on the outside. Also, Shaolin was not the only monastery where martial arts are known to have been practiced. The historial records also mention Mount Funiu in Henan, southwest of the Shaolin Monastery, and Mount Wutai in northern Shanxi Province.... Visitors to the monastery during the Ming period reported seeing the monks practicing boxing and weopons routines. General Yu Dayou visited the monastery at one point, but was not impressed with what he saw, so he selected two monks, took them with him, and trained them while directing his anti-pirate operations.

(2.12, 2008, pp. 38&#8211;39; emphasis added). I've omitted the detailed documentation that Henning supplies for this critique of the fanatasies that have grown up around the Shaolin monastery, but it's there in the footnotes if anyone has a mind to pursue the primary records.

The centrality of Shaolin to the CMAs is thus largely fabricated nonsense, romantic mystification of a kind that the martial arts seem to be particularly cursed with. Even if you don't pursue the critical literature that has been devoted to this kind of issue, surely it doesn't make any sense to think that all of the hundreds, or even thousands, of local MA styles that are known about in China, in that vast human and natural landscape, across its length and breadth, can be traced to this one single point of origin!
 
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clfsean

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I've posted on that board on his post...

Granted, it's only about CLF, but he mentioned it & said correct him, so....
 
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