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why I left kungfu

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  • why I left kungfu


    just wanted to share some thoughts and experiences:

    I trained in tong long (preying mantis) for about six years during university, and achieved my black sash during this time. I ended up leaving the style and have since been doing BJJ for the past 5 years.

    Whilst KF still holds a special place in my heart I have to say that in general it falls well short of being an effective martial art for many reasons, and I think much of this has to do with the training methods and the chinese culture that underpins the way things are done.

    By and large CMA schools are headed by one guy who is 'the man'. The discipline and culture of the school is such that no one can ever hope to challenge the instructor let alone reach a point where they would match or surpass his skill. This is classicly displayed in schools such as LT Wing Chun and Cheungs Wing Chun. These schools are run by old men but still people believe that there is no way they could ever hope to surpass them in fighting skill. Nonsense. By comparison Helio Gracie, the now deceased legend of BJJ was always revered by BJJers for his past deeds and skill, but no one was under the illusion that he was going to still be able to beat a 20-30 yr old black belt when he was clearly past his prime.

    The other difference is that instructors in BJJ (and basically any other combat sport) are more than willing to particpate in the training and constantly put themselves to the test through sparring, randori or whatever other form the contest takes. By contrast most CMA teachers stand aloof from their students, some even teaching from a chair, because they know the culture is such that they will not be challenged. The nett effect of this is that the style actually turns toward a downward trajectory of skill rather than evolution and enhancement. A free exchange of ideas and pressure testing are the only means by which improvements are ever made in any field (Thomas Edisons hundreds of failures with his inventions come to mind here) before success is reaped.

    The other aspect which ties into this is the training methods. In kung fu we waste so much time doing things that have no practical application or purpose. Spending hours perfecting a strike in the air in a horse stance only serves to give you leg strength in an unnatural posture and makes to really good at striking the air. Whilst the dedication to do this is admirable the transfer to fighting is limited at best. Forms training is the other waste of time if your goal is fighting effectiveness (and I acknowledge that many people enjoy forms for their artistic, physical and other benefits so I'm not down on forms per se). Again the end result is that only a fraction of the typical KF class is spent doing things that actually develop a fighter. Contrast this with the Muay Thai person that spends the entire session working fighting fitness, strikes and techniques against pads and with a free moving and free thinking partner then ties it all together with the meat of the training which is some form of sparring.

    I had the fortune of attending an MMA comp on the weekend. The odd thing was that a local kung fu school had entered three of their men. Two of them were defeated by MMA students in less than 30 seconds (one in less than 9 seconds) both by rear naked choke. The third lasted 2 rounds but interestingly his opponent was a traditional JJitsu guy, neither of them looked particularly impressive and the match decended into a pub style slug fest.
    The thing that stood out to me was that these guys were doing the same old stuff that KFers have been doing for decades and IT STILL DIDN'T WORK. Yet I'm sure they will return to training in exactly the same was as they always have only harder. Is this not the definition of insanity?

    This post hasn't quite turned out the way i intended and I don't mean to bash kung fu, but to me after more than 10 years in the martial arts the recipe for learning to fight (if that is your goal) is simple: combat sports, particularly MMA are the road to travel. Boxing, Muay Thai, Sanda, Judo, BJJ, Sambo, Wrestling etc are all feeders to MMA and they all have the same thing in common. They test you mentally and physically and train you to become better at combat in whatever phase they emphasise. Simple.

    If you want to get better at striking, then spar with striking; identify weaknesses or challenges, drill them specificaly in modified sparring, then bring that small piece back to the whole game of free sparring. If you want to be able to defend against a stick attack the SAME PRINCIPLE applies though the techniques will be different. Test, question, isolate, re-test.

    Sorry for the long post. Best wishes

  • #2
    Ah, a nice general statement for countless schools and numerous styles. . . . . .


    • #3
      Yeah funny, all the KF schools I've gone to the instructor is the main participant.

      In fact it was mandatory that everyday you spend some time with the instructor or one of his associate instructors.

      You didn't get to be an associate instructor unless you could prove your ability against the head instructor.

      The traditional train of thought is that if you don't spend time training directly with the instructor that you are not training properly.

      I have seen TKD classes headed by 11 yr old black belts.

      What you are referring to are the McDojos of KF and are no more a true representation of the art than WWE is of actual wrestling.


      • #4
        Originally posted by kiddbjj View Post

        I trained in tong long (preying mantis) for about six years during university, and achieved my black sash during this time.


        • #5


          • #6
            my apologies, you're correct I have over generalised in my post. I just have very mixed feelings about my time in kung fu. I learnt some great things but also think I wasted so much of my fittest years learning an impractical style.

            all the best


            • #7
              There are a couple of hair dressers here who are sure to take your experiences as a personal offense to them and a certain ponytailed old man with whom they are unnaturally 'close.' Don't worry it about it too much.


              • #8


                • #9
                  When I was in a few kung fu clubs we sparred hard and fought very rough. Often on hard floors.


                  • #10
                    tigerclown, haven't you gotten the message yet? STFU.


                    • #11
                      He'll never get the message.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jubaji View Post
                        There are a couple of hair dressers here who are sure to take your experiences as a personal offense to them and a certain ponytailed old man with whom they are unnaturally 'close.' Don't worry it about it too much.
                        There you go again you horny little puppy...

                        don't get too excited now...


                        • #13
                          Ah, they must have activated their secret signal rings!


                          • #14


                            • #15
                              to be fair I think my old kung fu school was pretty good compared to other places i have seen.

                              The training was physically exhausting and mentally demanding and the atmosphere was open to questioning but still very much traditional ie. everyone knew their place in the pecking order. i was brought to the verge of tears on at least a few occassions I can remember during brutal conditioning sessions that had me wiped out for days after (they did the trick though as at my fittest point I was able to perform 140 pushups consecutively, 140 situps consecutively, followed immediately by 50 burpees, 50 plyometric jumps then 50 one leged squats). Brutal.

                              We spent plenty of time working basics in the air and on pads; kicks punches hand strikes elbows knees as well as forms and applications. By a large the forms and applications were impractical and only seemed useful on compliant partners (though they were very good for anaerobic conditioning). I was there for 6 years (others had been there for 15-20) and they still were unable to perform much of what was taught in the forms or applications during sparring. At the time i thought this was odd (for example no one ever was able to perform a mantis hand catch where you parry and grab the wrist of an opponents punch, yet this was one of the foundation movements of the style). But eventually I just thought of the forms and applications as improving my balance and coordination, whilst the pad work, basics and sparring drills helped with the fighting aspect. Interestingly the Master of the style had introduced the pad and basics work after being influenced by Bruce Lee and Mas Oyama. It had not been part of the training he had undertaken in HongKong.

                              When we sparred we took advantage of all targets but were expected to go light to the head and groin. Hard kicks, punches, elbows, knees to the body and legs were accepted amongst the senior students however i came to realise that (much like Kyokoshin Karate) this style of sparring does little to improve your ability to defend against punches to the face. It also means that your ability to read and avoid full power strikes is poor and your ability to slip, cover and parry are marginal. This is a major weakness and I guess has more to do with the method of training or the limits placed on sparring for the sake of safety than the style per se.

                              At the time I had an insatiable thirst for martial arts knowledge and often watched videos and read books on other styles. During my last 2 years training KF i discovered BJJ via the UFC, and also Muay Thai videos. One thing that struck me almost instantly about Muay Thai in particular was the mechanics used. These were quite different to the way we were learning to strike in KF and the difference in power output was phenomenal(sp?) to say the least. I can honestly say that Muay Thai strikes are far more powerful than what we were doing in KF, simply because the mechanics were so much better. Too much of KF strikes, particularly hand strikes, simply do not generate enough power. The chain punch is a classic example as it relies on the shoulder and triceps without much help from the hips. The punches are super fast dont get me wrong, but the power output is woeful compared to a boxing style right cross or even a stiff jab. And don't even compare them to a boxers hook, those things REGULARLY end fights in the ring and the street thanks to power transfer from the legs and hips. Sacrificing power for speed seems on the surface to be a good idea as it allows continuous barrages of strikes, but I can tell you from experience that good boxers/thai fighters are more than capable of weathering a barrage of weak but fast strikes by covering and waiting to take your head off with a hook or elbow.

                              We also spent time learning weapons forms and some applications, though again these were largely impractical. At the very least they made you comfortable with a variety of traditional weapons in your hands and you could generate a good powerful blow with them. I only recall doing weapon vs weapon sparring on one occasion during the 6 years, though we sometimes did empty hand vs stick or knife. A good eye opener that defending weapons is tough work.

                              We also spent a good amount of time discussing chinese philosophy and practicing meditation. This was interesting and enlightening but again, it took away from time that could have been used to develop fighting skill.

                              Overall I would say it was an excellent school with great teachers however, as seems to be the case with KF, the style is simply too broad and tries to be too many things for too many people. Its simply not possible to become a skillful fighter, forms demonstrator, philosopher, spiritualist, athlete and weapons person without dedicating your life to the entire KF existence completely. and even then I would say that it is still unlikely as everyone has their favourite specialisation. I have been to China twice and seen the Shaolin monks; although they are excellent athletes (acrobats) and perform beautiful forms, most cannot fight for nuts. Only the ones who specialise in Sanda/San Shou or even Shiao Jiao have some combat ability (from what I have personally observed). And i believe that any honest sanda coach would admit that the punching in sanda could benefit greatly from cross-training in western boxing the same way that Muay Thai has improved its punching.

                              Lastly, one of the biggest issues I have is that most kung fu schools fall into the big fish small pong trap, whereby they rarely if ever test themselves against other styles or schools even within their own style. Contrast this with the combat sports (BJJ, MMA, boxing etc) where you can match yourself against anyone in the town, state or world and this is quite the normal and acceptable practice because it keeps the style evolving and growing. KF seems to stagnate and in some cases regress.

                              So thats a bit more of my opinions for you guys to tear apart: enjoy!