Last month, the below video shown an amateur MMA instructor beating a Tai Chi master to the ground within 10 seconds. Many stated that the MMA instructor wasn't active in any fight circuit as he suffered a career ending injury a decade ago and he hasn't been competing since 2004, so he wouldn't be as good as a pro fighter will be. However, the Tai Chi master was claimed to be one of the top experts of all Chinese Martial Arts in the whole of China.
Tai Chi practitioners also like to differentiate themselves from 'Wai Jia Quan' which means external styles, as they are 'Nei Jia Quan'. They say that Wai Jia Quan use speed and physical strength to fight while 'Nei Jia Quan' practice slowly and with 'hidden strength' to fight thus it bears deeper meaning. Tai Chi also advocate against aerobics or resistance exercises using muscles like push ups and weight lifting.
I frequently hear Tai Chi practitioners say that people who do Wai Jia Quan will eventually have weak knees and weak stamina when they grow old, and they eventually have to give up their straining mode of exercise and take up Tai Chi which is a low impact activity and is suitable for prolonging the lifespan of senior citizens. This is complete nonsense as there is no statistical proof that the entire Tai Chi population has higher life expectancy than normal people. In fact, there are also many old folks who start doing weight lifting and hard, muscular style Kung Fu, and they turn out to be fit and mobile even in their 80s and 90s.
When I ask many Hung Gar and Southern Kung Fu old masters about this, they say it is all about the mentality and individual willpower. The best strategy is to learn from a young age. Most importantly they said, is never to stop training consistently from the day you start to the day you die. There is no start stop patterns in their lifestyle.
In Hung Gar Kung Fu our direction is to train the body to be harder and stronger than other martial artists who don't have such a focused and structured training system. We position our limbs in squarish structure with the muscles pressing against each other to be firm and hard. Tai Chi emphasizes on the circular frame and relaxation. We focus on being nimble and having mobile joints after the strength foundation is there. This is to hit faster and longer. Our techniques such as the tiger claw and hammering backfists are clear and direct. At this stage students are already able to hold their own in a fight and strongly deter their opponents because being hit or blocked by a Hung Gar practitioner is very painful due to his stronger bones and muscular joints.
Only in the advanced stages do students learn to use qi and soft power to augment their strikes. This will bring their skill to a whole new level. However, Tai Chi places soft and passive power as the first thing their practitioners must achieve before moving on. This is very idealistic and it is like very abstract art, they believe that they will not be able to hold themselves in a fight without at least ten years of developing soft, passive power.
Tai Chi practitioners are usually at least 50 years old and most started learning Tai Chi because of aging problems such as knee pain and weakening organ function. They believe that other options of exercise are not possible for them. Whereas we Hung Gar teachers welcome young people who wish to transform their body with traditional fitness methods, in fact it's been proven that even middle aged people with a young heart can become athletc Hung Gar experts.
Hung Gar Kung Fu comes from a completely different part of China. It comes from the part of China that shelters the Ming Loyalist fighters. It is also the part of China that supported Sun Yat Sen in overthrowing the corrupt Qing Dynasty leading to the modernization of China in the 20th Century. Hung Gar Kung Fu embodies fighting spirit and a strong ambition to defy all odds. Tai Chi was developed in Northern China and specially tailored for the sedentary aristocrats of the Manchurian imperial family.
The Tai Chi master whom MMA instructor Xu Xiaodong beat up is only 4 years older than Xu, and is around 96 kilograms, 8 kilograms heavier than Xu. Xu Xiaodong didn't have the physical advantage. The Tai Chi master have much more body fat though. Both martial artists were not wearing gloves to absorb any damage. His defeat was due to an overinflated sense of ability, without any physical fitness training.
What we can do as practitioners of practical Kung Fu is to build up our toughness, stamina, hitting power and do more sparring. It is very beneficial to spar with modern styles. If you are obese, physically weak and only do forms or patterns, most likely you are not capable of any effective combat. So you should not tell people you know martial arts. This is a good way of protecting yourself, so you do not disgrace yourself and your Kung Fu the way the Tai Chi master did.
Article by Leroy Kwok