Chinese martial arts in the past
Prior to the end of the Qing dinasty (1912),
chinese martial arts had just one goal, pure and simple:
winning confrontations through intimidation, the use of weapons
or the use of fists. On those times, martial arts were considered
a physicall, a manual skill; they were not linked to any esoteric philosophy,
nor were they viewed as a form of character development.
If properly taught, chinese martial arts can still be an outstanding form
of self-defense. ”IF” because in modern times the goals of martial arts training
(chinese, korean, japanese, vietnamese etc.) has broadened considerably
beyond self-defense and fighting:
– a form of exercise and health maintenance
– a form of spiritual development and character building
– an enjoyable form of recreation and even socializing (!)
– a form of sportive competition ( with or without contact).
Of course, the goal a person pursues in chinese martial arts
dictates to some extent the way that person trains.
In the past in China, when martial arts were strictly pursued strictly
for their combative value, training followed these general lines:
First was basic physical condtioning, divided in two categories –
– weigong (external) and neigong (internal).
Into the weigong cathegory fell basic calisthenics (push-ups, pull-ups etc.),
different forms of weight training, isometric and stance training
(holding deep stances for extended periods of time), aerobic
and anaerobic conditioning (climbing, sprints, long distance walking).
The neigong cathegory includes exercises to train such qualities like
coordination of muscle groups to act as a whole,
the ability to coordinate the breathing with the movements
and the ability to stay relaxed and responsive in a confrontation.
They are called ”internal” because they don not involve
any obvious external action. Weigong and neigong
are the two halves that when put together equal achievement
in chinese martial arts and any well designed system makes use
of both categories of training exercises.
Oftentimes, especially in the West, there is an overemphasis
on the more esoteric neigong side of training, but without a weigong basic,
neigong is largely useless. ”Coordinated strength” means nothing
if you have no strength to coordinate. Part of this inbalance in training
comes from an overemphasis on Qigong (exercises for the development of Qi).
In addition to weigong and neigong, there’s also a category of
”special training methods” and the best known of these are the various forms
of ”iron hand” training, wherein the student wants to bring his hands
to the point that he can hit with maximum impact without damaging
his hands. In its more esoteric versions iron hand is supposed to allow
the practitioner to strike his opponent with what appears to be a soft strike
which does great internal damage.
Built on this foundation of basic physical skills comes technique practise,
which consists of repetition of the basic techniques of the system.
For striking systems this will involve the hand and legs attacks
and the blocks of the system; for a grappling system – the basic throws
and locks. This single technique practise can be done alone,
in unison with a group, working with a partner, or against a striking device.
In many systems a great deal of time is devoted to ”paired practise” –
partner training with various degrees of cooperation.
Chinese martial arts also use a wide variety of striking devices:
free-swinging bags, wall-mounted bags, bags mounted on posts or set on tables
and different forms of ”wooden dummies” ( a cylinder of wood
with projecting arms and legs.
Training also includes practise of the forms of the system –
set routines choreographed to link together different techniques.
They can contain from a few movements to hundreds; they can be static or with steps.
The footwork may involve simply moving up and down a straight line
or some more complicated patterns. Each system has one or more forms
and each form has a name. Considerable time may be devoted to learning
and perfecting the sets, while in other systems they are of lesser importance –
depends on how critical the instructor believes they are
and on how the students define their goals.
Although many modern teachers do not emphasize it, in the past
when combat skill was the sole goal of chinese martial arts, sparring
was a central part of training. There are different forms of sparring
with different rules: light contact or full-contact, with or without protection.
Physical conditioning, basic technique practise, forms and sparring
are the four corner-stones of traditional chinese martial arts practise.
In what precise proportion each of these four occurs in any training program
depends on the goals being pursued, the student’s experience level and the teacher.
Source : ” CMA training manuals – a hystorical survey ”