Many parents feel that rather than combat sports, they prefer their children to learn Martial Arts. They feel that combat sports may promote violence and do not educate their children about the ethics seen in martial arts. Their main concern is that their children may grow up to become aggressive and abusive people, becoming bullies in school and eventually gangsters on the streets. In Kung Fu, there is no doubt we practice fighting methods just like combat sports. However in order to be able to master and use these methods of fighting, a person need to possess the mental and emotional values. Such involve calmness and confidence in oneself when facing another in combat. Outside combat, one also need to have the discipline to practice and refine the skills.
Chinese Kung Fu is not for impatient people who takes shortcuts and 'duct tape solutions'. Like other aspects in life, one will not go far without genuine effort in a clear direction. You can compare Kung Fu to studying in school. Let’s say Kung Fu is a subject in secondary school, you probably spend 3 hours a week in Kung Fu lessons, and you may need to do homework and revision for this subject. If you spend 4 years at this rate, you would’ve developed very good kung fu by the time you graduate from school! Kung Fu is not much harder than studying in school, with practice and studying comes mastery. Patience and determination is a quality which Kung Fu will develop in an individual. Like I’ve said in the beginning, if you don’t have the self motivation inside you, no amount of quality teaching your teacher provides or encouragement from your social circle will help build your Kung Fu.
Controlling violence is a very very important part of Kung Fu. Everyone must know the reasons which they engage in combat, and be responsible for any consequences. Like how every Chinese family will say: "we would rather keep our conflicts and problems within closed doors than affect people outside". We do not wish for any disciple in Kung Fu to badly hurt other martial arts practitioners or other people, so we teach them to practice restrain when using Kung Fu. During training, for every technique we practice we stop short of hitting when we know we have scored a hit. This is because we are practicing a technique and your training partner is kind to help you practice. We must respect our training partner and protect them from injury, by holding back and conceding defeat when we are hit by them. Without this, there will be violence and vengeance, creating conflict which is a vicious cycle.
Having restrain requires one to be aware of others and able to cooperate with other people. We strive to train boys into gentlemen who are honest, open and take pride and honor in their actions, that is why you hardly see thugs using Kung Fu during ghetto brawls.
Why do we emphasize so much on mental qualities? This is because in Chinese Kung Fu there is much more content than most non-Chinese martial arts, hence the practitioner finds more room to improve and more things to learn. The difference is like subjects in a university compared to subjects in a secondary school. It is in fact more of a lifetime practice rather than a short term activity to indulge in. That’s why people learn Kung Fu, the qualities you develop for overcoming obstacles in learning Kung Fu can be applied in many other areas of life, qualities like discipline, courage, problem solving skills and self-awareness.
It’s not just the yin and yang which are at play when you practice Kung Fu, it is those qualities which empower your effectiveness in Kung Fu. In combat we often need to use techniques which we learned. Some techniques look complicated to the laymen but are very effective when used by a skilled Kung Fu practitioner. To be effective, the person must not just have lots of practice with the techniques, the person must also be confident and decisive on his move. Much of the time it’s not the fault of the technique that it fail, it’s the lack of the mental factor to carry out the technique. Be confident and decisive, and it will work for you. You can also call this positive mindset.
Just like the Yin and Yang, if you are too indulged and headstrong in one area and the other side gets neglected, your effectiveness will be diminished. Besides confidence and commitment, you need to pay attention to the surrounding. This is especially important, this is usually harder for martial artists who are trying to advance into higher levels. Self mastery takes understanding and awareness of a person’s own ability. Examples are, being aware of where your body is relaxed and where strength is being exerted, and being aware of which movements to string together. These will make Kung Fu moves more effective and give the practitioner more economy of motion. Much of the time it’s not just awareness of yourself which comes into play, you have to be aware of your opponent and surroundings.
The lack of the latter form of awareness is very visible in novice martial artists, they make movements which seem to disregard the threats posed by their opponents, they ‘do their own thing’ and let fate decide the outcome. This is surely not the aim of good martial arts, good martial arts use strategy and technique to bring victory. This is the same thing for real life, we don’t ‘do our own thing’ without considering the circumstances, instead we watch and analyze the situation and come up with the best solution. We don’t live in our own world, we are highly interdependent on the external factors.
You see that the greatest masters of Kung Fu are composed and handle problems with confidence and grace. Some believe that they are either born very smart or born very strong. However, much of the time it’s the spirit to improve and the passion for what they are doing which drives them to become who they are. Mind over matter, you can even ‘tell’ yourself to be smarter, it’s simply a decision which you make once and keep to it. Kung Fu is not merely a contest of body strength, it’s much more than that, and learning Kung Fu can sure give you much more than a strong body.