Friday, 1 April 2011

In-fighting: actual & political

Like most people I live my life in neat compartments. In my case they correspond to the sub-headings of this blog. Once in a while one of these will spill into another:

My chosen martial art of Wing Chun has a pretty bad rep these days. Thirty years ago it was the bad-ass of the martial arts world. Partly this is a question of fashion - Karate exploded in the west in the sixties then in the seventies Wing Chun was the enfant terrible. The original  style of Bruce Lee  that by-passed the stylised formality and choreography  of traditional Karate and replaced it with the simple practicality of Hong Kong street fighting. Then along came along Brazilian Ju Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts - the new kids on the block that made everything that went before look staid and unrealistic. Of course none of this is, or has ever been, true or does justice to any of these arts but always  in fashion perception is everything.

And the Wing Chun world imploded. We lacked the discipline and structure of the Japanese and Korean styles, which were also reinforced by the need for governing bodies for their sporting aspects, and we turned in on ourselves. Rival schools and lineages engage in wars of words - and less frequently of fists – trying to prove they are purer/more authentic / more effective than each other.  Some of this is just simple commercial rivalry – and some of it is born of a sense of inadequacy. Go online and have a look at any Wing Chun forum - it is a depressing minefield of infantile bitching and macho posturing. 

So sadly the style that I love and have practiced now for over 20 years is in some respects now frankly something of an embarrassment in the wider martial arts community.  But that doesn’t make we want to give up or change to another style - although it does make me less mindlessly loyal to my own tribe and a bit more reflective and respectful of other lineages, styles and traditions. Funnily enough talk to most mature practitioners of any martial art and you’ll often find the same. Maybe it’s because if you’re confident in what you doing, tolerance and open-mindedness isn’t a betrayal of your tradition.

And there’s an inescapable parallel to be drawn with the politics of the Left …


ray said...

You're right of course. We do tend to live our lives in compartments. But it's on the interface between those compartments that the most interesting and exciting stuff is to be found. My own efforts many years ago to find my politics in my martial arts teaching was, well, interesting. I seem to remember Nino as being one of the good guys BTW

Dojo Rat said...

Hey, I am now into Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua. Even more obscure, but fun and practical.
I have years in other arts to draw on.