Today, there’s a growing trend to embrace sports-orientated fighting, a form of fighting that ignores the culture outside of a ring, rink or octagon. This is important in the martial arts world, if for no other reason it limits what one can learn to those environments (i.e., limits what one can gain and apply outside of those environments). This brings me to an important point, and one everyone seeking real self-defense should consider: the culture that shaped the martial arts one is learning.
Culture is generally defined as the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. But, as you can see from the image above, what bonds a collective together is much larger than the intellectual. Dreams and prosperity for the young, life and liberty, happiness, other goals, even survival all are a part of the overall meaning of life in any collective. So, why is this important to your martial arts learning? Let’s take an abbreviated look at Wing Chun’s history for an example:
Wing Chun is a system of kung fu (i.e., way of life) that was developed as a result of a collective tragedy. In 17th Century China a very important thing happened. Prior to the invasion of the Qing Empire’s invasions, there were two main empires in China: The Qing and the Ming.
(Ming Empire at the height of its existence.)
Located in the Ming Empire was the Siu Lam Monastery (Southern Shaolin). This temple was overcome and burnt to the ground during the Qing Empire’s invasions. Only a handful of “elders” survived. Of them were two important people in Wing Chun history: Abbess Ng Mui and Abbot Chi Sim. Chi Sim hid aboard an opera boat as a cook; while, Ng Mui hid in the forested mountain, called Mount Tai Leung. On that mountain was the White Crane Temple, where she stayed.
While separated, these two elders will be key to the development of Wing Chun.
Ng Mui, while in retreat in the mountains, came across a crane attacking another animal. Some say it was a fox; others say it was a snake. Regardless which animal the crane was attacking, it was at this time Ng Mui decided to merge, simplify and condense the Shaolin crane and snake forms of wǔshù (martial arts). (Some say she did this because she needed something efficient and effective to defend herself in old age; while, other say she did this out of pure interest and maturation in Kung Fu.) What came from Ng Mui’s efforts was a new form of wǔshù, a form that could defend her against larger, stronger opponents.
While in the mountains Ng Mui met Yim Wing Chun, a young woman who was fleeing a warlord. This warlord was trying to force Yim Wing Chun to marry him against her wishes. This is when Ng Mui taught her new wǔshù to Yim Wing Chun. After learning from Ng Mui, Yim Wing Chun challenged the warlord and easily defeated him. After defeat, the warlord left Yim Wing Chun to marry her fiancé, Leung Bok Chao. Leung Bok Chao, impressed with his wife’s wǔshù, learned the system and named it after his wife: Wing Chun.
Let it suffice this piece of history to demonstrate a bit of the culture at this time, a culture that lead to the development of Wing Chun Kung Fu. It was brutal, with the threat of invasion, and harsh consequences of that invasion, at any moment. It was a time and place where the actions of one’s life could not contradict the principles of self-defense without the liability of reduced ability to defend one’s self and community. It was a time and place where practical, effective and efficient living and self-defense was necessary. (The Chinese have a saying that goes: If it’s not practical, it’s no good.) It was a time where real reflection and work was put into understanding the necessities of survival – on and off the battle field. It was a time where these lessons were kept to the community in order to surprise the enemies of the community and protect the community’s life, principles, kung-fu (again: way of life).
What do you think would happen to your children if something would happen to you and your spouse? Would they grow up learning the values you want them to learn, or is there a strong likelihood they’d learn a variation of it or something different, completely? Would they understand your family’s lineage and its strengths and weaknesses? Would they be able to learn from those things?
Today, many learn martial arts like a hungry man engaging a cafeteria line: They pick and choose what interests them without regard to its origin, its lineage, its lessons of life and principles of self-defense (i.e., defense against anything that seeks to do one harm), its nutrition, its values, its ethics, its practicality, its efficiency, its effectiveness outside an arena, etc. Consequently, the life and community of those rich life-lessons and wisdom gets lost, as more people misrepresent the martial arts as a sporting activity – free from any real threat of life, as its founders lived and learned and developed . . . . (They are more like the warlord trying to force Yim Wing Chun into his bed than the free woman who finds and lives with a man who respects and nurtures her, and she can love, respect and nurture.)
While it’s nice to hope for a future without the need for self-defense, the reality is that we’re surrounded by things seeking to do us harm daily. And, if we aren’t proactive in learning from our ancestors and empowering ourselves to life™ we will be victim to the predators seeking to resource us without care of our well-being or the well-being of those we love. And, while many get away with being careless about the community they live in, waiting until that community is threatened beyond its ability to survive is too late to defend that community’s life, its culture.
Where will you be left if that happens to you and your family?
So, don’t sell yourself short. Learn real self-defense; because, when it matters most there are no participation awards, championship belts, or trophies. Never Again™ Never™ be a victim of a predator.
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