Friday, June 19, 2009

Kungfu: Areas of Study - Part 1

The term Kungfu doesn't generally mean the fighting arts in Chinese, but means skill, ability and hard work. It also comprises three major areas of development:
a. Self Defense,
b. Health and Fitness, and
c. Character Training.
The term Kungfu is readily accepted by all people to mean the Chinese fighting arts and more. The Chinese now are trying to correct this misnomer by using the correct word for fighting arts, termed "Wushu." But what would you rather study, Kungfu that requires skill, ability and teaches hard work or Wushu the war arts?I think the Chinese are doing an injustice to the Chinese fighting arts by pushing this term. In fact, most traditional schools are now calling themselves Kungfu schools, making a distinction between the new Chinese fighting arts and calling them Wushu. Even tournaments now separate traditional or old Chinese fighting arts (Kungfu) and Wushu (modern Chinese fighting arts) into separate categories. It seems most traditional Kungfu students and instructors have little use for the modern version and vice versa.The more modern version of Chinese fighting arts encompasses more gymnastics with less emphasis placed on the self defense and conditioning that promotes health and longevity. The new modern Wushu arts are geared more for younger students, much like modern gymnastics. The old traditional Kungfu has been around for hundreds of years and teaches self defense, health maintenance, and character training. Thus old style Chinese fighting arts can be practiced by anyone no matter what their age.Kungfu and Chinese martial arts in general encompasses a wide variety of subjects for study. Most Chinese martial arts have, to one degree or another, all of these subjects: basics, combinations, self defense, forms, partner sets, weapons, pressure points, joint locks, sparring, Chi Kung, and herbal medicines and basic first aid. Below is a synopsis of each of the major subjects of Kungfu.
Basics
Basics are individual techniques that are practiced by students to perfect the form, coordination and power for each technique. Some of these techniques are punching, blocking and kicking. As the student progresses in skill and concentration they learn new basic techniques that are harder to perfect. This always keeps the student challenged to perfect his mind and body to higher degrees. Each basic technique is made up of a collection of elements that the student learns and perfects. For example, elements for a punch are: wrist straight, twist the hand, elbow in, and toward the middle of the body. The student must gradually perfect each of the elements that make up each of the basic techniques.
Combinations
Combinations are basic techniques that are put together to develop greater coordination and concentration. The student should have a good foundation in basics before trying to do the combination techniques. Some combination techniques might include upper circle block and punch, punch and kick, or even an upper circle block - punch and kick. Combinations involve the integration of the mind and body to work together. Like basic techniques, each individual basic technique must have the proper speed, power and coordination, and since Kungfu uses a lot of circular techniques coordinated with the hips and body it requires total mental concentration and focus.For example, a student might circle one hand in an upper level block while the other hand travels in a straight line for the strike. The student now has to make sure his block is relaxed, circular and smooth, while the punching hand is fast, coordinated and has power at the end. This involves both hemispheres of the mind and is the reason why many students have trouble with combinations when they first start. After they develop better concentration the techniques become easier to do.
Self defense
Self defense is the process by which you learn to use the moves against specific attacks and attackers. At Lamka Shaolin School, the students learn a systematic approach for self defense. This means we teach a series of moves for each type of attack. The student learns to flow from one movement to another.The basic idea of Kungfu is to move like the wind or the water...continuously. This continuous movement can create tremendous force like a tidal wave or hurricane. This continuous movement also means that the student never has to rely on one technique to handle a self defense situation. That way if he misses with one or the attacker moves or does something different, the student already has countered the movement or he flows to the next defensive technique without any hesitation and never has to worry about what do to next. These classes teach why Kungfu uses the smooth flowing movement and the practical applications.
Forms
Forms are the encyclopedia of your Kungfu techniques. They contain all the movements in combination with each other. Forms can be as short as 10 moves or as long as 1000's of moves. Forms are similar to combinations, but much harder to do because now you have to perform a long series of moves in combination with each other and maintain the proper basic technique elements.Forms help the student develop tremendous concentration, coordination and discipline. Chinese forms emulate different animals. The most common animals are the tiger, leopard, snake, crane and dragon. Each animal represents a specific attribute the Chinese practitioner learns. The snake teaches breathing, the dragon builds flexibility, the leopard speed, the crane balance and the tiger develops strong muscles and bones.Each Chinese form also contributes specific developments to the student's overall abilities. Some forms develop stances, while other forms develop kicks or breathing.Forms represent the essence of Chinese Kungfu for in them are found all the elements and secrets of the Chinese arts. Students learn mental and physical control, patience, and discipline, along with discovering the secrets of self defense, conditioning and flexibility.
Partner Sets
Like forms, partner sets are a series of movements put together in a sequence that can run from ten to hundreds of moves long. The difficulty of partner sets is that they are done with a partner as if one is actually fighting the other. Partner sets require more coordination and concentration because one slip by either, causing a missed block or strike, might cause an accident to one or both partners. These forms teach the students flow from one movement to the next without using their movements against actual attackers. This also teaches the student timing and distancing. These two attributes are necessary to develop exceptional self defense skills and confidence. Partner sets come in two types: open hand (without weapons) and using a variety of weapons.
Weapons
Weapons are taught as part of the Chinese Kungfu tradition. Though these weapons are not used today, they play an important part in the development of strength, dexterity, concentration and coordination. Weapons require much more skill to perfect than regular open hand forms and some are quite complex. Weapons forms can also vary from ten to hundreds of moves.Chinese weapons are classified into several major groups: long, short, and flexibility weapons to name a few. The reason for this is that Chinese Kungfu teaches over eighteen different types of weapons from the basic staff to the steel chain or double broadsword. Chinese Kungfu is the only art that specializes in this wide weapon variety and it makes the study of Chinese martial arts both complex and fun.
Pressure Points
Kungfu teaches the use of pressure points to maximize the potential of grabs, strikes and kicks. Most all techniques are aimed at or are using pressure points in one form or another. Pressure points include those along the bone, shutting off blood flow and those that attack the air flow. Pressure points are weak points on everyone's body, so Kungfu practitioners can defeat attackers much larger or stronger than themselves.There are about 308 points on the human body. Thirty-six of these can cause great injury or even death. Some of the major pressure points that most people are familiar with are the groin, throat, eyes and sides of the neck. Kungfu always takes full advantage of these points during confrontations. Students learn about these points through forms and self defense training methods. To be continue.....

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