Sunday, November 7, 2010

Re-post: Western Boxing Influence in Asian Martial Arts

In the course of our discussion of the "close cover" as opposed to extended guard, I'd like to take another look at a post I put up in May, "Western Boxing Influence in Asian Martial Arts":

In our recent review of the book "Chin Na Fa", we read that author Liu Jinsheng held Western boxing in great regard:

""Those who have practiced these (edit-Chinese martial) arts twenty or thirty years have never defeated anyone who has practiced Western boxing or Judo. Why is this? It is because the practitioners of Shaolin and Wudang styles only pay attention to the beauty of their forms - they lack practical methods and spirit and have lost the true transmissions of their ancestors. Hence, our martial arts are viewed by outsiders merely as rigorous dancing."

In a discussion in the comments section, I brought up the theory that Western boxing had influenced the development of Wing Chun Kung Fu. This is something I had heard and read about, but never confirmed.
Sean Ledig, who writes from "Tales From The Carport Kwoon",

Karl Godwin, a Wing Chun instructor in Altamonte Springs, Fl., wrote an article about that idea for Black Belt in 1986.
I can't remember which issue, but Google books has a complete collection of Black Belt from the first issue to present day.
Karl hypothesized that Wing Chun was a synthesis between Western Boxing and Taijiquan.
I've heard similar things. I'm sure there's some cross-pollination between fighting arts. Good teachers and good fighters, no matter what country they're from or what time they live, are always on the lookout for anything that they can add to their arsenal."

As it happens, I just started reading "Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals - A Historical Survey" by Brian Kennedy and Elizabeth Guo (review to follow).
In a short chapter on Western boxing, the authors write:

"Noted Chinese martial arts researcher and teacher Tim Cartmell wrote, "When the Chinese army was researching and developing their hand-to-hand combat, (which later evolved into the modern San Shou/San Da tournament fighting popular today) they researched all the popular forms of martial arts, including their own. The conclusion was that Western boxing hand techniques, when it came to developing practical striking and defensive abilities in a reasonable amount of time, were superior to all others, including their own".

So it appears that there is no doubt that Western boxing had a great influence on Asian martial arts, especially after 1900.
However, in my opinion, Western boxing is not necessarily in the "Art" category. Western boxing combines exercise, sport and combat skills. It is perhaps the most effective and easily learned fighting method, but it lacks the philosophical grounding that would put it in the "Art" category for me.

Combat brings necessary pain. Art necessarily brings pleasure.

This opens the door to a future discussion, also fueled by Kennedy and Guo's book "Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals" on the integration of religion, morality and the martial arts.


With all that said, I still like the extended guard for something approaching at long range, but the close guard just makes sense when the hitting begins.

1 comment:

Sean C. Ledig said...

Great info from Cartmell. Thanks for sharing it.