Kung fu in schooL

My theory is that martial arts, specifically “kung fu” should be taught in schools throughout America. Firstly because of the physical exercise, our children need it. Secondly, there is ample evidence that some styles and practices can relieve stress. Thirdly the philosophical influence, the building blocks of habitual discipline, and improvement on morals, it has proven to have on young practitioners. Hopefully by the end of this paper I will have convinced you that Chinese martial art in its entirety should be integrated into schools around the country.

The actual word “kung fu” has nothing to do with the self defense arts, it has more to do with the measure of skill one has, for instance one could be “kung fu” at video games or beat-boxing. The Chinese term Wushu is the literal term for “martial art” “Wu” “Shu”.

The very first concepts of Chinese martial arts were conceived around 4000 years ago; during that time there was a high demand for heroes and self-defense. Now according to legend the Yellow Emperor Huangdi was the one who was the pioneer of the early fighting systems within China. In his lifetime he was general and a scholar, who wrote many a lengthy transcript on medicine, strategy and not to mention many military treatises.

Later on, during 509 BCE the scholar Confucius had suggested that common people have more access to things previously private; such as Martial arts and reading and writing, things that were typically reserved for royalty, military and religious schools.  Confucius the philosopher was one of the most influential persons to effect how Chinese martial arts developed into what they are today.

Through the ages Chinese martial arts has taken on many forms of philosophical aspects. One of the well-known articles that are related to “kung fu” is the Zhuangzi. Which is a Taoist text of fairly significant importance to the religion.  The passages within the text pertain to the practice of things like psychology, plus it has references to martial arts and techniques that refer to hard and soft styles of kung fu.

The Tao Te Ching is another Taoist text that can be closely related to techniques in kung fu. Similar texts of Confucianism have suggested that Archery and charioteering are a large part of the martial practice, as well as a part of the six pillars of Chinese arts, which include: rites, music, calligraphy and mathematics. One of the most popular books involving martial methods and beliefs is still read today, “the Art of War” which was written by Sun Tzu.

The Monks at the shaolin temple on Song Mountain, as the legends go, are the ones who supposedly modified different aspects of Chinese martial methods into what we know today as kung fu. The monks on Song Mountain are a very peaceful sect, and have been know only on the rarest of occasions to actually use the techniques of self-defense against attackers or in some cases for assaulting bandits. Only when the need is truly needed and the right thing to do would the monks ever consider fighting. What is also interesting is that martial arts has integrated into their Buddhist practices that they had to integrate new Buddhist lore.

References of martial arts in texts from the late Ming dynasty have suggested that the shaolin monks may not have actually created their own style but absorbed from multiple places exercises forms and stances, however much evidence goes to prove that the shaolin monks did create a weapons style of fighting. The legendary shaolin bamboo style.

Through all this history there have been hundreds of different techniques and styles developed through generations of masters and students of the arts to benefit the body mind and soul. For instance styles like qigong and tai chi chuan have been know to relieve stress and help the flow of blood.

Around that time some people attempted to use martial arts for supporting patriotism. The attempt at promoting national pride to build a strong nation was incredibly successful, training manuals were published, an Academy was constructed, biannual examinations were organized, and demonstration teams were sent over seas. Through this china has a strong backbone for something the country was based off of.

Similar to the Israelis after the holocaust, a style of street fighting was taught to everyone called krav maga which was based off of boxing and wrestling.

My proposition is to promote the same type of patriotism that was promoted in china. As well as teach common people to defend themselves, level the playing field so to speak. Maybe to take it even further and bring people together into a community of wise teachers to spread the physical and spiritual aspects of kung fu.

China of the past two thousand years has developed a long martial art history, and as such developed hundreds of different unique styles. Each style has its own distinctive set of techniques and philosophies. Yet there is also common ground that the different styles share, families’ sects and schools. Stances and exercise are also common ground for many of the different styles. Some styles even mimic animal movements as well as taking it even further to take on aspects of Chinese myth and legends.

Different styles are categorized by location, like Northern and Southern. The main and specific difference between the two is the north is supposedly more focus on fast fluid movements and high kicks and jumps. The south is more focused on focused on strong arms and near immovable stances, and fast footwork. There have been a few experienced and notable martial arts masters that say there is no difference between the north and the south. They go on to say that there is also no external and internal styles, pertaining to whether they are separate is one or not is not the case each and every style has its own aspects of “hard” and “Soft” movements and applications.

Training is what I propose for the schools of America that we teach our children techniques to defend themselves as well as was to grow physically and mentally. Not to mention the disciplinary skills it teach to all the young impressionable minds. A complete training would not only be beneficial in these way along with insight into Chinese culture and beliefs, a possible solution to prevent racism even.

The basics are what make a martial art student. The saying goes “you cant go anywhere without knowing how you got there” essentially saying that without knowledge of the journey the destination is pointless. Ergo the basics need to include conditioning exercises to strengthen and flex different parts of the body as well as rudimentary techniques to develop muscle memory for specific moves. Basic training is made up of simple movement that is performed over and over. Other examples of training are simple stretches, meditation, strikes and throws. Of course without strong and flexible muscles, proper use and knowledge of Qi/breathing, or simple understanding of body mechanics, then a student cannot progress any further.

Stances are the building blocks of kung fu and without them Kung fu wouldn’t be the same. Stances are the structural posture performed and held for some time in order to build muscle strength. Usually deployed into training exercises. In some cases stances can be a “tell” as to what style the stance is from. Of course some styles have stances that are very similar and sometimes use the same name, a very common stance is horse, where both feet are spread twice the distance of your shoulders, and squat so your legs make a 90-degree angle with your thighs parallel to the ground.

The concept of chi is another piece of kung fu that I would like to integrate into our learning. The belief that everything that lives and moves has a life force and this is the life force from which movement comes from.

Ones chi is meant to be strengthened through physical and mental exercises know as qigong. However qigong is not a martial art itself, many different Chinese styles use this as an integral piece of training to strengthen ones internal abilities.

The majority of Chinese styles make use of weapon training. The practice of weapons helps with conditioning of the body as well as train ones basic coordination and tactical drills. The basis for weapons training is to believe that the weapon in question is simply an additional limb, an extension so to speak. Typically the foot and body coordination with weapons is usually based off the parent hand-to-hand style.

The application of kung fu is the simple and practical use of combative techniques that is ideally formed around efficiency and effectiveness, also another great lesson to learn from, kung fu. The application practices are usually referred to as sparring, sometimes following a prescribed set of rules to avoid maximum damage to students. 

Forms are predetermined moves combined so they appear as one linear set of movements. Of course as the styles change so do the forms. They were originally used to pass on the traditional art to advanced students to continue the arts lineage. Each movement within the forms, are able to be broken down and extract and practiced with drill to applicable uses of each and every movement.

Through the ages as how kung fu itself has changed so has the training. Originally the forms themselves played a very small part in the practices, the traditional way of training was drilling and conditioning and of course sparring. The idea that forms assisted in building a kung fu student into a martial artist, by strengthening oneself flexibility, internal and external strength, speed and stamina and to master balancing and coordination. Forms have developed into both practical and applicable, techniques to promote proper flow, movement meditation, flexibility and coordination.

Older more traditional schools of kung fu, deal with kung fu, not only as a means to defense and mental training but also to teach a system of ethics.

Wude is the code I try to live by. The term Wude is a combination of wu meaning martial and de meaning morality. Wude is a combo of two aspects. Morality of deed and morality of mind. The morality of deed concerns the social aspect of our lives. The morality of mind deals with the balancing of our emotional minds with the wise mind, the all around goal is to reach a state of mind called “no extremities”. Which is closely related to wu Wei meaning “being without being”. The best example I can give is when you know the location of where something is but you can’t find it, and just as you give up to make a sandwich there it is under the bread. Simply having things turn out just the way it’s supposed to.  

To simply put it, our country and its children need what kung fu has to offer. Every generation is less interested in everything than the last and I know that’s how kids are supposed to be, but I know what kids are like, they want to be heroes. They want to grow up so they cannot only help themselves but people around them as well. By teaching children how to defend themselves not only helps our chances learning to fight back against crime but also helps give insight into another culture. Something that says we stand together and we are not going to take it anymore! America can be a safe and intelligent place where everyone is equal in all respects.