10 Reasons You Don't Want to Study Kung Fu

Liu Feng Cai, Bagua expert

Liu Feng Cai, Bagua expert

They call it the mother of martial arts, Kung Fu. Considering its age and the powerful influence it has had on all other martial arts on the planet, this is probably true. On the other hand, as we all know, the designation “mother” isn’t always positive as in “That’s a mother of a problem.”

And Kung Fu IS a problem because, over a period of thousands of years, it has taken on so much more than the average person can even imagine. It’s like the difference between studying math (ugh!) and learning just enough numbers to make change.

Here are just a few reasons you want to avoid this wonderful art:

1. It’s about life, not just fighting. People always call martial arts a way of life but they really aren’t sure what they mean. Here’s a clue: a way of life challenges, not reinforces, simplistic rules and regulations. Kung Fu does not claim to have answers, just a method.

2. It doesn’t teach confidence. Confidence has become a product which just about everyone guarantees. To be truthful, if you have confidence all the time you’re probably not paying attention or, more likely, you really don’t have much confidence at all. But every commercial martial arts school in the world will promise you confidence: just squeeze and turn.

3. It’s complex. People don’t really like simple; you can tell this from what they do to their own lives. But they like to think they are simplifying. Kung Fu? Sorry, the most complex and varied of all martial arts. How big is Kung Fu? Well it pretty much equals all the other martial arts in the world combined .

4. It’s cultural. When you stand in a Kung Fu stance the space beneath your feet feet is China. Let’s be honest, the whole idea of an Asian art being superior grates on a lot of people’s nerves. Best thing is to just keep re-framing the discussion so whatever smacks of someone else’s culture just sort of drifts away. We only have room for our folk heroes, our viewpoint. Other cultures just think they have something of importance to preserve.

5. Kung Fu is customized. No belts, no tournaments, no overall plan, no super-grand-ultra-master ranks. Oh, sure, some people have grafted all that stuff on but it’s not Kung Fu, it is Karate redux. The Chinese have a pithy saying, “If you call yourself “master” you can practice alone.”

6. Weapons. Why would anyone want to learn a weapon one thousand years old? Well, guess what, we KNOW they are no longer used. Kung Fu has for many centuries utilized weapons to teach specific skills, not necessarily the weapon itself. But mostly I get calls from people who want to get into weapons because “they’re cool” with no interest whatsoever about what they represent or the purpose of their practice. It’s just another version of cultural xenophobia, that’s all.

7. Kung Fu is not perfectable. Old saying, “Three lifetimes is not enough.” Absolutely true. Who wants to do stuff where you can’t get an “A”, a certificate, or your picture up on the bulletin board?

8. Kung Fu, unlike many arts such as Tae Kwon Do, refuses to give up the Asian view of life. Yeah, that’s right, yin and yang, harmony and all that stuff…

9. Kung Fu is beautiful. There are a lot of very skilled, acrobatic, aerobic and strong martial performers nowadays, especially when some schools actually specialize in “movie audition” philosophy. But in reality the quality of performance is all muscle and little brains. Back flips are barely comparable to the flick of an expert’s wrist. The trouble lies in the fact that the aesthetic is Asian and therefore discountable. We want to see that flip flop into the splits! (as though every Asian girl past the age of six couldn’t already do that.) It’s very simple the aesthetic has moved from the experts who know what they are looking at to the the audience who loves thrills, of course, especially if they are performed by young family members. Martial arts as entertainment, not a study.

10. Finally, and the worse yet, Kung Fu invests in loss; definitely not a hi-five, sports/entertainment philosophy. The Chinese are into enduring, not endurance: enduring. This is not just some Asian philosophy. The nature of Kung Fu goes opposite to what is known as “intrinsic skill”–In other words the guy with big shoulders who can punch hard the moment he walks into the school. Kung Fu, real Kung Fu, has for over 1000 years concentrated on basically undoing the learned attributes of the student. To really study Kung Fu you have to unlearn almost every way you move, nothing is intuitive. The point of this is that Kung Fu is no fun if you want, as children often do, to start jumping and kick and spinning before you’ve learned any basics.

So that’s it. At this point we realize you should probably click to another site. Oh, well.

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