Sunday, April 15, 2012

TCMA is dead...............

TCMA is dead, long live the new generation!

We need to address a serious concern in the Chinese Martial Arts that many people are avoiding like the plague, because they are scared of the answer.  What has happened to the skill level of our generation?  Why did the masters from before have greater abilities and skills than we have now?  Many people train just as hard as those who came before, and they research and seek to understand everything about their art using modern science and physiological understanding.  The amount of information and knowledge about the human body and how to best train it has never been greater in history.  But even the hardest training of our time can't match the quality and skill of the masters from before, right?  This leaves only 2 possible answers...........Either the teachers that came before could not transmit their knowledge and they had a poor teaching ability, or the greatest masters were only human like us and didn't have the skills they were reputed to have.  Those are the ONLY 2 explainations available as to why the older generation is supposedly better.
Now for an deeper look at the answers and lets use Occam's Razor to make a selection as to which answer is more likely.

Option A- That the masters before were poor teachers.  This is the least likely explaination of the two, mostly because many times the greatest masters had many famous and skilled students.  Take Dong Hai Chuan for example.  He became very famous for his skills and his students also shared in that fame.  One of them even protected the Empress Dowager when she escaped Beijing.  So we can assume that they had great fighting skills, enough to be promoted into that position.  But what has happened today?  Why can't most bagua fighters move like Dong Hai Chuan was reportedly able to?  I have had the good luck to meet several excellent Bagua masters, and their years of effort have yeilded nothing compared to what Dong was supposedly able to achieve immediately after appearing.  He never gave an account of his training, or how long he trained for, but we should assume that he happened on a great way to train physical strength and movement and used those new abilities to power his martial arts training from before.  And he passed this training knowledge on to his students and they in turn passed it to their students and so on, even until today.


Option B-  The Masters from before were the same as us, with 2 arms and 2 legs and fought just as hard to protect their families as any person in modern times would.  They trained very hard and reaped the rewards of that training and gained fame and fortune for their hard work.  We have to assume that people are all the same, even across time, so thinking that, we have to assume that there were MANY lazy martial artists then as well as now, and used tricks and intimidation to gain students.  And when they were forced to fight a great master like Dong Hai Chuan, they were thoughly beaten and the match was recorded as a legendary victory for the winner.  The stories and legends grew over time due to the human tendency to embelish stories if it makes them or their school look better. Another human foible is ancestor worship, and that can account for a lot of the reputation that the old masters have.  When people tell amazing stories about their teachers and grandmasters, they feel more special and important because they are attached to those great practitioners.  It allows them a shred of credibility as martial artists even when they haven't put in the time to earn the respect for themselves.  This was not only the students fault, many teachers used this tendency to increase their school size and maintain a solid hold on their students.  In essence it was a control mechanism mostly forced on students by insecure teachers and their lackey disciples.

Lets face it............the old generation is dead and gone except for a few notable and skilled masters.  Now we as their martial descendants must chart a new course for our arts in the modern world, we have to create a place for our arts that will continue after we are gone.  The masters before us left precious little of their knowledge written down, so much of it is passed down orally, and that method is notoriously unreliable.  If one idea, or one phrase is remembered incorrectly, then the whole meaning of a poem or song can be changed.  So we must save all the knowledge that has survived, but at the same time we must use modern science and logic to gain a deeper understanding of the skills that the founders of our arts discovered through trail and error.  They were correct in what can be gained through correct practice, but in many cases they were totally wrong when it came to WHERE the development came from.  We can't prove that many of their theories are correct, but we can show the physical progress, measure it and understand how to continue improving.  And most importantly, our biggest challenge as the new face of our arts, is to realize that we CAN match the skill level of our teachers!  We have the same physical abilities they had and we have the same drive to practice and learn that they did.  We use our arts to fight and protect our families the same as them as well.  If you believe that your art is complete and has been handed down in its entirety to you, then you HAVE to accept that you can attain that level of skill.  In fact a truly great teacher will hope and strive to make sure that their students surpass them in skill level.  If the students never match the teacher, then the art dies a little with each passing generation.  But if the teachers push their students to excell and the students pass the teacher, then the art will flourish and thrive for all time.  But even though we can match our ancestor's skill level, we still need to show appropriate respect and reverance for the sacrifice and care that was taken to ensure the art survived.

My whole point of this article is.........Have faith in yourself and your abilities, train hard, and you can become a master to rival any in your lineage.  So get to it!


  1. "Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Isaac Newton.

    Nice piece. I enjoyed this and agree whole-heartedly. I thought you might enjoy the above two quotes (personal favourites) that I felt related to your piece.

  2. Hey! Thanks a ton! I like those a lot! Would love your opinion on my other articles as well if you have time!


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This is a blog devoted to the Chinese Internal martial arts. Our school is located in Vancouver, WA and currently accepting students for group classes, and limited private sessions.