Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Somewhere along the way, we lost track...

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word 'dichotomy' thusly: a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities ; also : the process or practice of making such a division

Any practitioner of Kung-Fu who has been paying attention for more than twenty minutes knows exactly where this is going, however; I promise that this will not be the same bland rehashing of the same argument. My issue is that, if we as martial artists had kept the words of the sages and elders in our minds all along, this argument never would have happened.

My conclusion, set before my facts, is that Chinese martial artists are unsupervised children fighting over a bunch of fucking cookies. We didn't make the cookies. We don't know what the cookies are for. Maybe someone is saving them? Maybe the cookies are poisoned? Who fucking knows? Its pretty damn ignorant for us to say, "I know what a cookie is, I can make a cookie, I've eaten cookies so I can make some really big ass assumptions about what THESE specific cookies are for. Later, I'm gonna yell at some people for saying these cookies are their cookies or really even talking about the cookies in any way that doesn't clearly indicate their mineness."

Sound stupid? So does every person who claims their 'traditional' lineage is an untouchable line of bad-ass throat cutters. Their dipshittery is only matched by the thousands of 'contemporary' martial artists who claim that their connection to the Shaolin Temple dates back to when Walt Whitman and his dinosaur army built it. Shut the fuck up, guys, nobody believes either of you.

What is more, the intense hatred between contemporary martial arts factions and tradition lineages has created very real, non-philosophical differences in the art that are now harming practitioners as well as Kung-Fu's integrity as a whole.

Humor me for a moment more, I promise there's a point coming.

I have huge respect for contemporary wushu. The athleticism is uncanny, the training bitter beyond imagining, the dedication unearthly. I come from a traditional background and I believe firmly in the strength of traditional's training, ethics, spirituality and power. I was always trained that each of these two spheres of martial ability flowed into each other. They overlapped, in essence, making them... well... NOT a dichotomy. A talented contemporary martial artist has learned so much about the art of movement, about their own body and about the efficiency of combat that they would naturally gravitate towards the fighting methodologies practiced by traditionalists (who have over the last century especially proven themselves to be amazing fighters).

On the other hand, traditionalists seeking to learn more about their bodies, to turn themselves into a perfect physical conduit for their art would in turn move towards some of the contemporary training that has yielded such amazing physicality over the years. Why not? Those fuckers can fly just as well as we fight. Why waste a resource?

Apparently over dumb fucking pride.

Inside Kung-Fu published a rather insulting article last month regarding what a 'true' martial art is, essentially playing its traditional and contemporary readers against each other in a not-so-subtle way. Its bullshit and to have one of the only Chinese martial arts focused publications do it is further proof of their stunning lack of integrity.

This sort of animosity has, in turn, pushed both sides far from each other. Rather than overlap, sharing and natural flow the argument has polarized each side. Now, a wushu competitor must be capable of almost inhuman numbers of turns in competition to qualify for high ranking. Gymnastics. Flash without fire.

How has traditional martial arts responded? It has decided that the only martial styles and techniques that possess any sort of worth are the most brutally effective, murderous acts of barbarism that exist within the medium. What if I want to fight a guy without ripping out his throat (I know, I know, I wouldn't but... just imagine)? Well, if I do what Inside Kung-Fu says is 'traditional'... I can't. Gotta kill him. What is more, there is so much emphasis on these 'street effective' techniques that a lot of these Inside Kung-Fu 'traditionalists' look like... well, exactly what they are... fifty year old, bearded, aging fat old men who are pissed they can't do a 540.

It is our responsibility to move ourselves, be we traditional or contemporary, back to the center, back to peace and understanding. There is no point in this dispute, it serves no one, and only hampers the progress of a practitioner both as an individual and as a part of a whole.

And that is how it should be.

A whole.