Thursday, June 3, 2010

William's Historical Study Of Chinese Martial Arts



Fellow Dojo Rat William filmed this video on a training visit to Tim Cartmell's "Shen Wu" school in California. As you can see, Tim includes a huge amount of grappling in his training, but his foundation is in Chinese internal martial arts. You can spot William in the private training session with Tim, William is in the black t-shirt.
William and I trained together in Seattle when Tim came up for training sessions with Jake Burroughs, and as you can imagine, there was lots of throwing.
William has been writing in to Dojo Rat as "Tianshanwarrior", and has put together a thorough history of Chinese martial arts. Take a look at William's past articles at his Chinese Martial Arts site, LINKED HERE.
And here's a few paragraphs he posted in the comment section of one of our last discussions:

"Tianshanwarrior said...
There is however a good starting point for the transformation of martial arts to a more holistic approach during the transition between the Ming and Qing dynasties that both Shahar and Ma Mingda agree on. The internal classification is, as Tim Cartmell points out, fairly new, starting with the publication of the Epitaph of Wang Zhengnan at the start of the Qing, as was revealed by Hening and Wyle. To say that there is such thing as internal or external only goes against the theory of Ying and Yang. There are examples of the application of both in military texts like the Jianjing written by Ming general Yu Dayou or the tale of the Lady of Yue, were the hard and soft complement each other.
During the republican period martial skills were emphasized in order to prepare against the Japanese; after the opening of the Central National Arts Academy, Zhongyang Guoshu Guan, two national examinations were organized. The examinations, according to professor Ma “placed an equal demand on set-performance and combat training and emphasized the integral relationship between the two, stressing that one should, (Xian Zi Wu, Hou Bi Shi, 先自舞 後比試); first dance on his own, then engage in competitive matches, which included both empty-hand and armed martial arts”. No theatre or religion were never part of the curriculum (unless we want to include the fact that pupils of the academy had to attend a morning Christian service). Several practitioners of the “internal” art of Xingyi Quan placed in the finals of the examinations. Martial arts, specially the so called “internal” martial arts had been hijacked by those who are too afraid to test their skills for real, and instead prefer to live in fairy land. Just my two cents."

And William and his wife are involved in other writing projects:

"I have been researching quiet about CMA, and have more material including primary sources. My wife and I recently published a survey book in Spanish on CMA history based on English and Chinese material scatter everywhere. We have been also blessed with the frienship of scholars like Stanley Henning, Meir Shahar, Andrew D. Morris, Dennis Rovere, Ma Lianzhen and his father, Brian Kennedy and Elizabeth Guo who have helped us a lot. We are working on publishing a few articles and a book on the Central National Arts Academy in English.
CMA is a very interesting topic that requires thorough research from many sources."

Good luck with your projects William,
And it's always good to touch bases with a training partner that has thrown me to the mat a few dozen times!

6 comments:

Scott said...

So there are what, 7 short texts about martial arts in the Ming and Qing Dynasty? Even Wile tries to explain a couple of them as politically motivated. You're not going to convince me that an art which was widely practiced for 500 years, with over 100 styles, has only 7 texts written about it. These folks are simply been looking in the wrong place. With the exception of Shahar who admits that fictional literature about fighting monks(and by inference, the stage) actually comes before the training starts at Shaolin Temple. I'm afraid Shaolin is and has always been a theater school, albeit with some serious fighting skills.
Yes, duh, the New Life movement, and Guoshu movement rejected anything combining theater, religion and martial arts. Why did they need to reject it if it wasn't the norm? Think about it.

--just my opinion...

Tianshanwarrior said...

Thanks John you are too kind to include me in your blog.

Scott, are you the same person who wrote a review on the Xingyi Quan of the Chinese Army and got quiet the response from Dennis Rovere?

You have offered no sources that support your opinion. Anybody is entitled to his/her own, but if you are commenting on scholarly works you better back it up with dozens of references.

I am not against the idea that CMA were included as part of artistic expressions. However to say that theater is the reason for CMA is way off. Granted that the only extant military manuals come from the Ming and couple from the Song. The manuals have one thing in common; they clearly state that practical fighting skills are the most important goal of their practice. Just imagine people in the all days practicing CMA for show, what do you think it will happen when faced against an experience foe? Which was the case when Qi Jiguang faced the wokou and had to devised a way to match the Japanese warriors skills and weapons; the Koreans during the Japanese invasion of their country were only able to fight back the invader with the use of the famous turtle boats and the help and technology from Ming China (King Seonjo used Qi Jiguang training manuals for his soldiers). Kang Gewu mentions that during the Qing, the Jianqing Emperor criticized the martial arts of the Green (Han) Banner as flowery and useless in warfare.

We don’t need to go too far in time to see that this practical approach is still live in modern military units. The PLA’s approach to training in special units of the army discourages its recruits to have any previous training in martial arts, especially modern theatrical flowery wushu. If you know your history, there are few CMA manuals that were ever written before the Ming, there are scatter mentions to martial arts in many sources, like the Hanshu and its entries on shoubo that await discovery. As for Shaolin, the monastery had the task of translation of Buddhist texts, not a theater school!!! I think all your shaking is clouding your judgment a bit.

Cheers,

Scott said...

I may yet publish, but if you are expecting citation on a blog...hmmm
"The Mongol dynasy,...Of the three arenas in which martial arts were normally practiced, military, theatrical and private--the military and private were banned to Han Chinese during this period...and as a result, theatrical martial arts reached unprecedented heights. The civil service examination being abolished, theatre also became one of the only outlets for literary talent. Literature and martial arts, traditional rivals, now found themselves in the same boat, or should we say on the same stage." (Wile 1999: 7)
There were some rather shrewd generals, and about 7 texts focused only on fighting technique, and that is about the extent of your evidence. I have 10's of thousands of stages in every province, and endless accounts of people participating in martial arts theater festivals.
You don't seem to understand why Mainlanders and people associated with the Guoshu movement in Taiwan are not reliable informants--They are repeating propaganda.

Tianshanwarrior said...

Ten of thousands of stages? what does this mean? The Mongols suppressed the Han from practising martial arts, to the extreme of only allowing fake weapons in ceremonies and plays. There has always been a difference between the "martial arts" practice by civilians which did include "hua fa" methods vs. military martial arts; besides that martial arts were/are used in festivals does not indicate it is their main purpose, at least not in the past where self preservation was a necessity. I'd would love to see how your theatrically trained students match with those who are training martial arts the “wrong way”.

Tianshanwarrior said...

Ten of thousands of stages? what does this mean? The Mongols suppressed the Han from practising martial arts, to the extreme of only allowing fake weapons in ceremonies and plays. There has always been a difference between the "martial arts" practice by civilians which did include "hua fa" methods vs. military martial arts; besides that martial arts were/are used in festivals does not indicate it is their main purpose, at least not in the past where self preservation was a necessity. I'd would love to see how your theatrically trained students match with those who are training martial arts the “wrong way”.

Scott said...

Why did you say this?
"I'd would love to see how your theatrically trained students match with those who are training martial arts the “wrong way”."