The Effects of Respect, Humility & Pride In Chinese Kung Fu practitioners.
A sound set of life principles is one of the most important things which makes martial arts a form of art instead of a mindless fighting method. And in oriental martial arts such as Chinese Kung Fu or Japanese Karate, such principles are highly regarded and taken very seriously. It is said that a man who has lost his honour has no more reason to carry on living.
Respect means the esteem of a person’s worth or excellence, or qualities or abilities. Let’s say if a person could endure hardship to develop good kung fu, he is respectable for that. Respect can only be given to you by others, it cannot be given by yourself.
Some people think they deserve respect like Huo Yuan Jia just because they practice Chinese Kung Fu as Kung Fu is popular for teaching martial ethics (武德: Wu De), thus they think that they are at a higher level than other martial artists. The problem is, did they score a win for Chinese Kung Fu like Huo Yuan Jia? Did they ever did anything to help Chinese Kung Fu? No ! They only did forms, some non-combative exercises and participated in debates on online forums. A True Hero is always humble and forgiving, showing his true worth in combat rather than before the fight. It is those who brag about themselves and insults others that bring shame upon themselves.
Realistically speaking, Chinese Kung Fu now is not receiving as much respect as it used to. Traditional Chinese Martial Arts are hardly scoring wins, there are no more open lei tai(擂台) competitions anymore and many Chinese Kung Fu practitioners who still wish to prove their worth have been defeated when put into a match with rules of modern combat systems(No finger, palm, throat, eyes, spine, occipital & groin strikes etc).
Nonetheless, we should respect the Kung Fu fighters who merely tried their skills and failed in modern combat sports competitions. Their intention is to bring back the respect for Chinese Kung Fu, we need more of these people. However those who do not take their modern combat sports opponent seriously or taunted their opponents should be ashamed. Likewise, those who took the opportunity to rub salt on the wounds of the defeated are also to be ashamed of themselves.
We should see people and situation as what they really are. At this point of time, there isn’t a modern day Huo Yuan Jia or Wong Fei Hung who proved the effectiveness of real Chinese Kung Fu skills in competitions like the Ultimate Fighting Championships or K-1. If one day there is a fighter who did that, he will be worth the respect and glory, even from the people who do not practice Kung Fu. So as Chinese Kung Fu practitioners, we should be even more humble.
What is being humble? Being humble is about not showing off and not being arrogant about one’s worth. In the past many martial artists were well-respected because they were very skillful, have high integrity and yet able to place themselves on the same level as the common people. If a highly skilled or capable person is humble, you will surely respect him, If he is already arrogant, you feel that he already has his pride, why would you want to give him respect? We also observe this effect in everyday life, humility attracts people, and arrogance shuns people away.
Besides Lei Tai and historical records, the true power of Kung Fu can only be witnessed in self defence situations these days. People who used Kung Fu to fight armed assailants will not brag about the incidents, and even if they did, few will believe them. It is safe to say that the videos of self defence situations shown on TV or the internet makes up less than 1% of the self defence that are going on every now and then. Without much prove to show the world how effective and deadly Kung Fu can be, Kung Fu practitioners must be even more humble and keep their words to themselves.
Speaking of which, I recalled an incident in the last decade when I was attending a martial arts event in Hong Kong. I met an old martial artist who showed me and my friend a few moves even though we wasn’t really prepared to learn from him. He showed me how fast he can be and amazed us with his techniques. Unfortunately, after showing us his moves, he commented that my sifu should be teaching me the way he did. This really offended me; I suddenly lost my respect for him. I was thinking, there are a better ways to win me over to his school other than to telling me this.
However, I did not shut myself off from what he taught me just because he told me something I don’t like to hear. In fact I am really impressed by his skill and I wanted to learn more from him. Even when my sifu later taught me moves which can neutralize his techniques, I continued to practice the techniques he taught me that day and they became useful tools in my arsenal. Till today I would still pick up this new moves. In other words, being humble & patient can give you more good than harm.
Hung Gar Great-Grandmaster, Hung Hei Gun learnt White Crane kung fu from his wife Fong Wing Chun and this is how we have the Tiger and Crane skills in Hung Gar. Wong Fei Hung learnt Mou Ying Geuk(No Shadow Kick) from a friend of his and now we have this useful weapon on our feet. Although Wong Fei Hung defeated countless rivals in his life, he explored the techniques of opponents who gave him a hard time. Even if he didn’t add most of these to his Hung Gar curriculum, he prepared himself and his students for facing such techniques.
Now instead of doing just one mode of movement and one pattern like some other styles of Kung Fu, we as Hung Gar Martial Artists have so many things to learn and train with, and our art is so comprehensive. We have such a wide range of moves and strategies which allow us to adapt to many situations. For this we have to thank our forefathers’ open mindedness. So from their stories we can see that pride can affect the amount of experience one gains.
Excessive pride will also shut a person in his own world, limiting his room for improvement. In the recent age, Chinese Kung Fu has been separated into two categories, external and internal Kung Fu. External being mainly Shaolin, Choy Lee Fut, Tai Zu and etc… Internal being Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua. Before the Qing Dynasty, there was hardly any differentiation, Kung Fu men will learn and train in both areas. There are many people who do not believe in nei gong(internal strength). These days there are some people who believe that internal Kung Fu is ultimate and has closed their doors to external techniques.
However nothing is definite in combat. There are cases which internal experts get knocked out by a single punch when their internal power failed to work. The blow is especially damaging because many internal practitioners do not condition their body to take hits. Some could not even carrying on the fighting when they get a nosebleed. There are also cases which physical fighters died after a few days from receiving ‘light touches’ from internal Kung Fu experts, without knowing what killed them. An internal martial artist who takes ‘external styles’ lightly may also get hit by internal force from an external practitioner. There are many styles of external Kung Fu that still retain their internal strength teachings but they do not call it internal strength, neither do they publicize themselves as internal martial arts. This is just like people who make naive remarks saying Tai Chi is slow, for it can be as fast as any other external style.
Sadly, there are also some Kung Fu practitioners who prefer to be ignorant, as they are shut within their own doors, stuck with their limited knowledge. The facts are, we are always meeting new people everyday, and if we keep our minds open we’ll learn so much more than we keeping our beliefs to our limited social circle. Since the old times, despite the rivalry between schools there are still open minded people who interact with people from other styles. Till today, Chinese Kung Fu practitioners have always interacted with friends from other Kung Fu styles. In fact, many non-martial artists feel that modern Chinese Kung Fu practitioners should be even more united now as many members of the public do not regard Kung Fu as a practical form of combat.
Although it is a common social practice for all mankind, one should never judge another person by first impression. One will only know the other person enough perhaps after a hour of ice-breaking and sharing information with each other.
There are some highly skilled martial artists(高手) or important figures that appear and behave just like a commoner. These people do not dress up or behave in an extravagant manner because they want to stay close and connected to the common people, despite having higher social status. At any point of time, a person your friend is speaking to may be the owner of a big company, or a martial arts master. If you treat the person without enough respect, you might offend someone you don’t want to offend. If you are willing to be courteous the people you met and hold a meaningful conversation with them, someday they may lend you a great help.
Since Kung Fu emphasizes on morals much more than any other form of martial arts, shouldn’t we do some self reflection and live with our principles instead of just big talk?