The Truth About Traditional Martial Arts

drop bear

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Adam Hsu has written about the Shaolin temple. It can be found in his book The Sword Polisher's Record. The title of the essay is The Myth of Shaolin Kung-Fu and the opening paragraphs begins:

The Shaolin Temple is often thought of as the origin and center of martial arts. The Shaolin monks passed on their ancient arts, providing the seeds from which the numerous kung-fu styles grew over the centuries. In reality, Shaolin Kung-fu is mostly a fairy tale, and the origins of Shaolin kung-fu is more mythical than real.

When I posted the original videos my intention was positive. The videos struck me as interesting and informative. Being new to the forum I was unaware that some members would respond in the way they have. All history is debatable, and labels are open to interpretation. You can watch the videos if you choose, or ignore them. You can discuss the minutia of the topic until the cows come home - it is your choice. My aim was just to share something which I thought others would enjoy too.

Thank you once again for all your comments

You are better of doing your own commentary on the videos if you want to focus on certain aspects of it.

If you leave it up to interpretation. People will interpret it.
 

marvin8

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Adam Hsu has written about the Shaolin temple. It can be found in his book The Sword Polisher's Record. The title of the essay is The Myth of Shaolin Kung-Fu and the opening paragraphs begins:

The Shaolin Temple is often thought of as the origin and center of martial arts. The Shaolin monks passed on their ancient arts, providing the seeds from which the numerous kung-fu styles grew over the centuries. In reality, Shaolin Kung-fu is mostly a fairy tale, and the origins of Shaolin kung-fu is more mythical than real.

When I posted the original videos my intention was positive. The videos struck me as interesting and informative. Being new to the forum I was unaware that some members would respond in the way they have. All history is debatable, and labels are open to interpretation. You can watch the videos if you choose, or ignore them. You can discuss the minutia of the topic until the cows come home - it is your choice. My aim was just to share something which I thought others would enjoy too.

Thank you once again for all your comments
You are better of doing your own commentary on the videos if you want to focus on certain aspects of it.

If you leave it up to interpretation. People will interpret it.
Excerpt from "Contradicting a Shaolin Legend (Part 1):"

Salvatore Canzonieri said:
Written records from the Northern Qi dynasty (550 - 577 AD) describe the Shaolin monks as being able to lift hundreds of kilograms and were very good at boxing and horse riding. Written descriptions of early Shaolin Quan Fa depict it as an art that contained grappling, throws, joint-locks (Chin Na), and few kicks and punches. The monks were also proficient in the staff as a self defense weapon. Their fighting practice is described as both soft and hard in execution, using evasion and counter-balance to push or pull an opponent into submission, via curved motions, and finishing with joint-locking submission holds.

Besides this type of soft, close range, wrestling-like fighting, Shaolin had early on developed a harder, long-range boxing style. In it, punches, open-hand strikes, elbows, and some kicks were used much more. Countermoves were initiated by redirecting (blocking-like) movements meant to stop or defeat incoming strikes. Powerful attacks were done rapidly by shooting out the punch or kick with great momentum put behind the blow. The force was often delivered in a straight line, while the boxer walked in a linear manner. But, for both types of fighting, and what makes Shaolin Quan Fa distinct from military martial arts, breathing exercises were incorporated in tandem with the physical movements. These breathing techniques were meant to promote the cultivation of energy during the fighting practice, increasing one's health and vitality through aerobic as well as calisthenic means.
 

Tony Dismukes

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Okay, finally got through all 4 videos. He seems like an interesting guy, but I think I have some questions and points of contention with what he's saying. I'll break it down into a separate post for each video.

1st video

Point:
He offers his personal definition of "traditional martial arts" as being from the era when they were primarily battlefield arts with a primary emphasis on weapons rather than empty hand fighting. He further specifies that for traditional Chinese martial arts that would be pre-Qing dynasty systems.

Counterpoint: His personal definition of TMA doesn't really match how most people use the term, but that's okay because there is no real definition of the term which is both widely accepted and internally consistent. He's letting us know up front what his own definition is and so we can discuss his ideas with that in mind. My bigger question is ... what pre-Qing dynasty arts is he talking about? The Qing dynasty began in 1636. I'm not aware of any CMA with a documented history going back that far (not counting legends) and if there were any they would have evolved considerably during the intervening centuries. I'm aware of a few people trying to recreate historical Chinese arts, HEMA style, from Ming dynasty military manuals, but I don't know whether you could consider those "traditions", since the continuous transmission has been broken.

Point: He talks a bit about how government intervention (specifically the communist government) worked to take CMAs away from their combat roots, making them less effective and more performance based.

Counterpoint: As far as I know, there's a lot of truth to that. He doesn't address the question of how that has or hasn't affected the diaspora of CMAs across the world outside the reach of the PRC government.

Point: He talks about the importance of pressure testing martial arts, including weapons systems and mentions arts like Kendo which have found ways to incorporate safe sparring methods with weapons.

Counterpoint: He doesn't explain how he personally incorporates weapon sparring in his training. I have particular concerns because the way he demos knife techniques doesn't match what I've seen in any kind of sparring or in historical weapon manuals. More on that later.

Point: He talks about the spectrum from weapon/killing techniques to Chin-Na restraining techniques, with unarmed striking in the middle. (For some reason he also refers to "grappling" as being in that middle zone and somehow separate from Chin-Na restraining methods.) He expresses the opinion that the middle zone is more of a breeding ground for social violence and ego than the ends of the spectrum.

Counterpoint: I strongly disagree with the notion that unarmed striking arts produce more ego or social violence than so-called "killing arts" or "restraining arts". I've seen no evidence for that in the 42 years that I've been training a wide variety of martial arts across that spectrum. I also don't understand why he puts "grappling" in the middle as distinct from Chin Na which supposedly restrains without harming. If you want to be able to restrain someone without damaging them, wrestling is a far more effective tool than joint locking.

Point: He ends up with a demo of how he can use the same body mechanics and tactics to do anything along that spectrum from killing with a knife to injuring with striking to taking someone down without damage. He also claims that his weapon work is what gives him the sensitivity and awareness to execute the takedown on a larger opponent.

Counterpoint: I actually am a fan of using the same underlying body mechanics and concepts for different aspects of fighting, from weapons work to grappling (although in my experience the optimal application of those principles will change a bit more in different contexts than what he's showing). I do have real concerns about his knife work. That sort of rapid fire slappity tappity multiple stabs at close range can absolutely be very effective with a knife against an unarmed opponent. But he specifically claimed earlier to be thinking in the context of battlefield weapon arts. In that context, you always assume that the other person has a weapon too. If both parties are armed with a knife, the approach he shows will 90% of the time end up with both parties getting stabbed to death. I've seen FMA instructors show that sort of combination in demos with a compliant partner, but I've never seen anyone do it in sparring. As far as the takedown that he says works for him because of his weapon training ... it's a legit technique, but mostly only works if you are a lot better than your opponent or just happen to get lucky. Perhaps his weapon training has helped him in learning the mechanics, but the fact of the matter is that the best practitioners of takedowns are overwhelmingly not weapons practitioners, so that's clearly not the only way to learn them.

I have more to say on the subsequent videos, but this took me a while to type, so I'll come back to it later in the day.

I do want to add that none of this is intended as trashing Mr. Chan. He seems like a thoughtful guy with some real skills and some interesting viewpoints. But since the videos were posted for discussion, I figured I'd bring up the questions and objections that I might raise if I was having a conversation with him in person.
 

Xue Sheng

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Okay, finally got through all 4 videos. He seems like an interesting guy, but I think I have some questions and points of contention with what he's saying. I'll break it down into a separate post for each video.

1st video

Point:
He offers his personal definition of "traditional martial arts" as being from the era when they were primarily battlefield arts with a primary emphasis on weapons rather than empty hand fighting. He further specifies that for traditional Chinese martial arts that would be pre-Qing dynasty systems.

Counterpoint: His personal definition of TMA doesn't really match how most people use the term, but that's okay because there is no real definition of the term which is both widely accepted and internally consistent. He's letting us know up front what his own definition is and so we can discuss his ideas with that in mind. My bigger question is ... what pre-Qing dynasty arts is he talking about? The Qing dynasty began in 1636. I'm not aware of any CMA with a documented history going back that far (not counting legends) and if there were any they would have evolved considerably during the intervening centuries. I'm aware of a few people trying to recreate historical Chinese arts, HEMA style, from Ming dynasty military manuals, but I don't know whether you could consider those "traditions", since the continuous transmission has been broken.

Point: He talks a bit about how government intervention (specifically the communist government) worked to take CMAs away from their combat roots, making them less effective and more performance based.

Counterpoint: As far as I know, there's a lot of truth to that. He doesn't address the question of how that has or hasn't affected the diaspora of CMAs across the world outside the reach of the PRC government.

Point: He talks about the importance of pressure testing martial arts, including weapons systems and mentions arts like Kendo which have found ways to incorporate safe sparring methods with weapons.

Counterpoint: He doesn't explain how he personally incorporates weapon sparring in his training. I have particular concerns because the way he demos knife techniques doesn't match what I've seen in any kind of sparring or in historical weapon manuals. More on that later.

Point: He talks about the spectrum from weapon/killing techniques to Chin-Na restraining techniques, with unarmed striking in the middle. (For some reason he also refers to "grappling" as being in that middle zone and somehow separate from Chin-Na restraining methods.) He expresses the opinion that the middle zone is more of a breeding ground for social violence and ego than the ends of the spectrum.

Counterpoint: I strongly disagree with the notion that unarmed striking arts produce more ego or social violence than so-called "killing arts" or "restraining arts". I've seen no evidence for that in the 42 years that I've been training a wide variety of martial arts across that spectrum. I also don't understand why he puts "grappling" in the middle as distinct from Chin Na which supposedly restrains without harming. If you want to be able to restrain someone without damaging them, wrestling is a far more effective tool than joint locking.

Point: He ends up with a demo of how he can use the same body mechanics and tactics to do anything along that spectrum from killing with a knife to injuring with striking to taking someone down without damage. He also claims that his weapon work is what gives him the sensitivity and awareness to execute the takedown on a larger opponent.

Counterpoint: I actually am a fan of using the same underlying body mechanics and concepts for different aspects of fighting, from weapons work to grappling (although in my experience the optimal application of those principles will change a bit more in different contexts than what he's showing). I do have real concerns about his knife work. That sort of rapid fire slappity tappity multiple stabs at close range can absolutely be very effective with a knife against an unarmed opponent. But he specifically claimed earlier to be thinking in the context of battlefield weapon arts. In that context, you always assume that the other person has a weapon too. If both parties are armed with a knife, the approach he shows will 90% of the time end up with both parties getting stabbed to death. I've seen FMA instructors show that sort of combination in demos with a compliant partner, but I've never seen anyone do it in sparring. As far as the takedown that he says works for him because of his weapon training ... it's a legit technique, but mostly only works if you are a lot better than your opponent or just happen to get lucky. Perhaps his weapon training has helped him in learning the mechanics, but the fact of the matter is that the best practitioners of takedowns are overwhelmingly not weapons practitioners, so that's clearly not the only way to learn them.

I have more to say on the subsequent videos, but this took me a while to type, so I'll come back to it later in the day.

I do want to add that none of this is intended as trashing Mr. Chan. He seems like a thoughtful guy with some real skills and some interesting viewpoints. But since the videos were posted for discussion, I figured I'd bring up the questions and objections that I might raise if I was having a conversation with him in person.

Bak Mei - Ming
Taizuquan (Long Fist) - Song Dynasty
Chaquan - Ming Dynasty
Chuojiao - Song Dynast
Fanzi - Ming
Huaquan - Ming, possibly early as Tang
Hung Ga - Possibly Ming
Nanquan =. Ming dynasty
Northern Shaolin - Tang Dynasty (spear and Staff) Ming dynasty change to empty hand
Shuaijiao - traces origin back to jao d which is 6000 years old. Considered the oldest CMA.

Chinese martial arts, virtually every style, is made up of Qinna, kicking, punching and Shuaijiao to varying degrees of each.

And his definition of Qinna is in fact incomplete, Qinna is joint locks but also includes muscle and tendon destruction. Striking also includes pressure point strikes.
 
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Xue Sheng

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@Tony Dismukes

Should also add, any style that you can actually historically link to Shaolin, pre its destruction by the Manchus, would be pre-Qing. And there are a few

Also, Yes Xingyiquan is "allegedly" from a spear art, but that is not actually proven beyond doubt. What is proven is Xingyiquan comes from Dai family Xinyi.

Also Xingyiquan, still has spear, and staff in its training. Also to note about xingiquan, throughout the Qing Dynasty, it still managed to train a vast array of weapons, and was used as the style of choice for hand to hand by the Chinese military during WW2 against the Japanese.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Yeah. But that is just how fighting works. Not really to do with a rhino guard.
Any 2 arms guard will work as long as you can force (or bait) your opponent to punch from both sides of your arms (not between your arms), his center will be exposed.

I always have question about the WC centerline theory. If my arms occupy the center line, your arms have to go around my arms. When you do that, I can take your centerline. But if you have to deal with my arms first, you are doing chasing arm. So, chasing arm is not a bad term. You have to open my guard before you can attack me.

If you want to disable my arm mobility, you have to know where my arms are. That's chasing arm.
 
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Kung Fu Wang

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historically link to Shaolin,
The Shaolin MA was brought into Shaolin temple from outside.

If you committed a crime, you shaved your head and became a monk. You then hide yourself in Shaolin temple. You taught some students in Shaolin temple. Your MA then became Shaolin MA.
 

Xue Sheng

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The Shaolin MA was brought into Shaolin temple from outside.

If you committed a crime, you shaved your head and became a monk. You then hide yourself in Shaolin temple. You taught some students in Shaolin temple. Your MA then became Shaolin MA.

Yes, but not the point of the post and martial arts from pre-Qing dynasty
 

drop bear

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Any 2 arms guard will work as long as you can force (or bait) your opponent to punch from both sides of your arms (not between your arms), his center will be exposed.

I always have question about the WC centerline theory. If my arms occupy the center line, your arms have to go around my arms. When you do that, I can take your centerline. But if you have to deal with my arms first, you are doing chasing arm. So, chasing arm is not a bad term. You have to open my guard before you can attack me.

If you want to disable my arm mobility, you have to know where my arms are. That's chasing arm.
Not really. Move sideways.
 

marvin8

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Adam has mentioned learning material from Steve Smith and Jesse Glover. Also, Fook Yueng has taught (e.g., Red Boat Wing Chun, etc.) Steve, Jesse and Bruce Lee. Below are videos of Steve and Jesse doing similar movements to Adam's OP videos. I see some useful things but not aliveness.

The Little Dojo Steve Smith
Feb 19, 2023

Video of a seminar of Non-Classical Gung Fu and Steve Smith IFYCA Sticking Hands, Chi Sao.

I am very sorry there are a bunch of repeated clips. Fast forward through them.
Want to remember Jesse R. Glover, Ed Hart, Fook Yueng, David Harris, Sonny Umpad. Also thank you to everyone at https://www.seattlencgf.com/ and www.adamchankungfu.com

They are where I would send folks who want to learn Gung Fu.


The Little Dojo Steve Smith
Feb 19, 2023

Jesse Glover teaching a Little Ninja at our school. The second half is him teaching an adult class.

 

mograph

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... Yes Xingyiquan is "allegedly" from a spear art, but that is not actually proven beyond doubt. What is proven is Xingyiquan comes from Dai family Xinyi.

Also Xingyiquan, still has spear, and staff in its training. Also to note about xingiquan, throughout the Qing Dynasty, it still managed to train a vast array of weapons, and was used as the style of choice for hand to hand by the Chinese military during WW2 against the Japanese.
So military spear fighting might have come from xingyiquan spear and staff, not the other way around? I could buy that.
 

Xue Sheng

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So military spear fighting might have come from xingyiquan spear and staff, not the other way around? I could buy that.

Not sure about that if we are talking pre Qing, but it is very likely as it applies to WW2, they also trained Dao

images


But the question is where does Dai family Xinyi come from. All I am pretty sure of is that Xingyiquan did not come from General Guan as some will claim. However the spear art being referenced may have.
 
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Oily Dragon

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The Shaolin MA was brought into Shaolin temple from outside.

If you committed a crime, you shaved your head and became a monk. You then hide yourself in Shaolin temple. You taught some students in Shaolin temple. Your MA then became Shaolin MA.
Shaolin MA has many influences, both inside and outside. Prior of any Chinese construction, there was a proto-Chan diaspora emerging across the continent that was a couple millenia older, from India, that ended up well beyond China, into Japan, Korea, the Phillipines, Vietnam etc. Bodhidharma gets a lot of credit but most of that is posthumous. Still, he loved to talk about this stuff.

Shaolin arts are at their core, Indian martial arts, with Chinese-made weapons. I can imagine exactly what Chinese monks would have looked like, had it not been for Yoga.

Shaolin Si was also a major mixing pot of Taoist philosopher-martial artists, military leaders of various dynasties, and scholars. Once upon a time, if you wanted to be a warrior-poet, you might have sought out the Shaolin way. They took care of the veterans.
 
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Oily Dragon

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So military spear fighting might have come from xingyiquan spear and staff, not the other way around? I could buy that.
Military spear fighting is older than the pyramids.

Chinese spear fighting is also very well documented back into the BC era, but there are several prominent families that claim the mantle of Chinese spear-fu.

Xingyi is definitely a strong contender. I'm more of a Fifth Brother, Eight Trigram guy myself. 鈭怠行
 

JowGaWolf

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Do you think his opponent throws 1 punch and he counters back with

- 1 block, and
- 9 punches

is realistic?

I can't stand stuff Ike this. This should only be used for action movies.

This is an example of a self-inflicted wound on TMA
 

JowGaWolf

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I think the whole premis he is coming from is all sizzle and no steak.

he has just placed this value on things. Without really demonstrating why.
I haven't listen to the video but. I've seen similar. Sell it for action movies and don't dress it up as functional fighting.
 

JowGaWolf

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Chin Na which supposedly restrains without harming. If you want to be able to restrain someone without damaging them, wrestling is a far more effective tool than joint locking.
Chin Na was never made to restrain without damaging. The entire concept of Chin Na is that restraining is easier once the damage to the joint has occurred. That other Idea is romanticized and created by people who never did traditional conditioning of Chin Na which includes breaking twigs of a tree and developing crazy grip strength.
 

JowGaWolf

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Okay, finally got through all 4 videos. He seems like an interesting guy, but I think I have some questions and points of contention with what he's saying. I'll break it down into a separate post for each video.

1st video

Point:
He offers his personal definition of "traditional martial arts" as being from the era when they were primarily battlefield arts with a primary emphasis on weapons rather than empty hand fighting. He further specifies that for traditional Chinese martial arts that would be pre-Qing dynasty systems.

Counterpoint: His personal definition of TMA doesn't really match how most people use the term, but that's okay because there is no real definition of the term which is both widely accepted and internally consistent. He's letting us know up front what his own definition is and so we can discuss his ideas with that in mind. My bigger question is ... what pre-Qing dynasty arts is he talking about? The Qing dynasty began in 1636. I'm not aware of any CMA with a documented history going back that far (not counting legends) and if there were any they would have evolved considerably during the intervening centuries. I'm aware of a few people trying to recreate historical Chinese arts, HEMA style, from Ming dynasty military manuals, but I don't know whether you could consider those "traditions", since the continuous transmission has been broken.

Point: He talks a bit about how government intervention (specifically the communist government) worked to take CMAs away from their combat roots, making them less effective and more performance based.

Counterpoint: As far as I know, there's a lot of truth to that. He doesn't address the question of how that has or hasn't affected the diaspora of CMAs across the world outside the reach of the PRC government.

Point: He talks about the importance of pressure testing martial arts, including weapons systems and mentions arts like Kendo which have found ways to incorporate safe sparring methods with weapons.

Counterpoint: He doesn't explain how he personally incorporates weapon sparring in his training. I have particular concerns because the way he demos knife techniques doesn't match what I've seen in any kind of sparring or in historical weapon manuals. More on that later.

Point: He talks about the spectrum from weapon/killing techniques to Chin-Na restraining techniques, with unarmed striking in the middle. (For some reason he also refers to "grappling" as being in that middle zone and somehow separate from Chin-Na restraining methods.) He expresses the opinion that the middle zone is more of a breeding ground for social violence and ego than the ends of the spectrum.

Counterpoint: I strongly disagree with the notion that unarmed striking arts produce more ego or social violence than so-called "killing arts" or "restraining arts". I've seen no evidence for that in the 42 years that I've been training a wide variety of martial arts across that spectrum. I also don't understand why he puts "grappling" in the middle as distinct from Chin Na which supposedly restrains without harming. If you want to be able to restrain someone without damaging them, wrestling is a far more effective tool than joint locking.

Point: He ends up with a demo of how he can use the same body mechanics and tactics to do anything along that spectrum from killing with a knife to injuring with striking to taking someone down without damage. He also claims that his weapon work is what gives him the sensitivity and awareness to execute the takedown on a larger opponent.

Counterpoint: I actually am a fan of using the same underlying body mechanics and concepts for different aspects of fighting, from weapons work to grappling (although in my experience the optimal application of those principles will change a bit more in different contexts than what he's showing). I do have real concerns about his knife work. That sort of rapid fire slappity tappity multiple stabs at close range can absolutely be very effective with a knife against an unarmed opponent. But he specifically claimed earlier to be thinking in the context of battlefield weapon arts. In that context, you always assume that the other person has a weapon too. If both parties are armed with a knife, the approach he shows will 90% of the time end up with both parties getting stabbed to death. I've seen FMA instructors show that sort of combination in demos with a compliant partner, but I've never seen anyone do it in sparring. As far as the takedown that he says works for him because of his weapon training ... it's a legit technique, but mostly only works if you are a lot better than your opponent or just happen to get lucky. Perhaps his weapon training has helped him in learning the mechanics, but the fact of the matter is that the best practitioners of takedowns are overwhelmingly not weapons practitioners, so that's clearly not the only way to learn them.

I have more to say on the subsequent videos, but this took me a while to type, so I'll come back to it later in the day.

I do want to add that none of this is intended as trashing Mr. Chan. He seems like a thoughtful guy with some real skills and some interesting viewpoints. But since the videos were posted for discussion, I figured I'd bring up the questions and objections that I might raise if I was having a conversation with him in person.
We get in trouble when we do things out of context for which a sytem or technique is intended for. In all the talk about wrist locks, I don't think anyone has talked about the process of separating the bone from the joint when applying some wrist locks.
 

Oily Dragon

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Chin Na was never made to restrain without damaging. The entire concept of Chin Na is that restraining is easier once the damage to the joint has occurred. That other Idea is romanticized and created by people who never did traditional conditioning of Chin Na which includes breaking twigs of a tree and developing crazy grip strength.
When I was first introduced to chin na, I was horrified at the prospect of ever using it. To this day I'm very careful with it with partners.

Judo and BJJ have a very gentrified version of some of the older limb destruction techniques. Kimura vs Gracie in 51 is probably the best example of watching this in action. If you've ever broken your arm, you know.
 

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Any 2 arms guard will work as long as you can force (or bait) your opponent to punch from both sides of your arms (not between your arms), his center will be exposed.

I always have question about the WC centerline theory. If my arms occupy the center line, your arms have to go around my arms. When you do that, I can take your centerline. But if you have to deal with my arms first, you are doing chasing arm. So, chasing arm is not a bad term. You have to open my guard before you can attack me.

If you want to disable my arm mobility, you have to know where my arms are. That's chasing arm.
To answer you WC question no this is not how it works. Center line theory is not just attack along a center line connecting 2 people. It is about attacking through the opponents center. One whole form teaches how to regain the center line when the other person takes it or you have lost it.
Setting foot work aside. If you attack up the center I attack through your attack toward you center. I do not go around your arms. I do not need to open your guard to attack you. Bui Jee,Gan sao ,Quan sau, Kau sau,Fak Sau,whipping fist,rising fist,inserting fist,tok sau are some some of the methods to take or recapture the center without chasing arms. There are no blocks in wing chun. You cover space. Footwork methods and stance changes, dropping stance,floating stance,rising stance, swinging stance shifting etc make the arm methods much more effective when recovering and taking the center.
 
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