Through a Lens Darkly (58): Contesting Wushu

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I recently noted that it is necessary to begin historical discussions by specifying whether we are examining events (or practices) as they actually happened, or the evolution of ideas about them.  This is not to say that these two spheres are totally separate.  Indeed, our beliefs about what is proper, and where practices came from, tend to have a notable effect on how things like the martial arts develop.  But different types of research questions often call for their own sources and methods.

Once we decide that we are going to address the history of an idea, we must still specify who held these beliefs and how they evolved over time.  While ideas about martial arts might be more widely spread than their actual practice, they are still far from universal. Such images are always partial, fungible and slowly shifting.  It is that incompleteness that makes them useful to…

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Polishing the Sword

by Phillip Starr

I was teaching a class on use of the Chinese broadsword and a young man approached me with his sheathed weapon. He explained that it was a steel blade and asked if he could use it instead of a wooden replica. I asked him to unsheathe it and when he did, I saw several rust spots on the blade, indicating that this sword hadn’t been maintained at all for quite some time. I told him that he could use his broadsword and then spent several minutes chewing on him for failing to care for it.


Many gong-fu stylists own one or more weapons, from staffs to swords, and practice various forms with them. However, I have been surprised at the number of them who don’t bother to properly care for these tools. Metal weapons are unpolished and often pitted with rust, wooden weapons are sometimes just tossed into a corner. No respect is shown them at all. “But these aren’t REAL weapons” is the most frequent excuse I am given.

In a Japanese dojo, the weapons (most of which are wooden) are kept placed neatly on a rack against one wall (never the front wall where the kamiza is placed). Although a bokken is wooden and modelled after the steel katana, it is recognized as a very real weapon. It has been used in the past as a weapon and it’s perfect for practice; if it breaks, it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to replace. The same is true for most of the other weapons.

Chinese training halls really don’t exist in China, Most training is held outdoors and students, if they’re learning the use of a particular weapon, bring their own from home. These weapons are often unmaintained; oiling metal things such as swords is all but unheard of. This is terribly unfortunate. And brass polish (such as Brasso) is unheard of. I insist that all of my students who own traditional treat them with proper respect and keep them maintained. Even if a sword is wooden or, like the iaito (sword used in iaido training), unsharpened or made of a zinc alloy, they are to be treated as real weapons.

For instance, long wooden weapons, such as staffs and spears, should NEVER be leaned against a wall as this may foster warping, especially if the environment is warm and humid. If they can’t be kept on a proper rack, they can be laid on the floor beside a wall (where they’ll be less likely to be stepped on). Metal weapons should be polished and oiled regularly to prevent rusting and pitting.

Our weapons are “tools of the Way”; tools that can help us better understand our martial art and carry us further along the way. As such, they should be treated with the proper consideration and dignity.

Check out this video on how to clean and maintain a sword. 

Research Note: Kung Fu Diplomacy During the Cultural Revolution

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An advertisement for a “revolutionary opera.” Many such shows were staged during the Cultural Revolution.

The History of Practice vs. The History of an Idea

This post continues an occasional series looking at the ways in which the traditional Chinese martial arts were discussed in the PRC’s propaganda and cultural diplomacy efforts from roughly the early 1950s to the early 1980s.  We have previously seen some newsreel footage of important martial artists during the early part of this period, as well as an English Language article on a critical event in the development of modern Wushu which was staged in 1953. This article is a little different in that it jumps ahead and examines a discussion of the TCMA dating to the final years of the Cultural Revolution.  Published in China Reconstructs (the PRC’s premier Cold War era English language propaganda magazine) it is an important (if somewhat…

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Martial Arts and Politics: Silat in Defense of Religion and the Malay Nation — Kung Fu Tea

Lawrence N. Ross. 2017. “Demi Agama, Bangsa dan Negara: Silat Martial Arts and the ‘Third Line’ in Defense of Religion, Race and the Malaysian State.” In Sophie Lemiere (eds.) Illusions of Democracy: Malaysian Politics and People. Vol. II. Strategic Information and Research Development Centre: Malaysia. Martial Arts and Modern Politics Over the last few […]

via Martial Arts and Politics: Silat in Defense of Religion and the Malay Nation — Kung Fu Tea

Kunyu Mountain Shaolin Kung fu Academy – Latest Review

by Samson James Land

I choose to study Kung fu in China , as China is its birthplace, and I wished to learn from the masters who would know it best, who wouldn’t let me give up and push me passed my limits, to reach a style, to push myself and to not let the masters, coaches or fellow students down, to show my respect for them.

Studying in Kunyu Asamcademy has given me many things, confidence in myself. Pride in my accomplishments, life time friends, discipline in both mind and body, and education of an amazing history. But my greatest gain from my training has to be my evolution. I have become a happier and better person since coming here.

Everybody helped me during the training. The master and coach pushed my limits further showing me new heights to achieve for. My group helped me feel welcome, as well as helping me learn. The school earned my respect and I would not let anybody down.

The lessons were hard, but the sense of pride gained when you overcome a precious barrier is ecstatic. The friends you will make help you in every way and in return you wish to help them too. The masters have knowledge to share if you are willing to learn and always help. They smile a lot and are friendly making you want to study harder. The translators are friendly and also teach you a lot.

The only way I can describe Kunyu Shan and the surrounding area is: Paradise on Earth. Everything is beautiful, the city has everything you will ever need. Kunyu Shan is now part of my family and I will be returning.

To book your place at Kunyu Mountain Shaolin Kung fu Academy simple click the link to learn more about the prices per month and to book your place.

Chinese Martial Arts in the News: March 22, 2019: Kung Fu and its Discontents — Kung Fu Tea

Introduction Its been over a month since our last news update, which means that there is no better time to get caught up on recent events! For new readers, this is a semi-regular feature here at Kung Fu Tea in which we review media stories that mention or affect the traditional fighting arts. In addition to discussing […]

via Chinese Martial Arts in the News: March 22, 2019: Kung Fu and its Discontents — Kung Fu Tea

Master Si Jun Tao – Wudang Taiji 24

This short post is dedicated to Master Si Jun Tao. Who in the video clip performs Wudang Taiji 24 Step. This summer I trained with him on Wudang Shan, and brought a group of students to learn both qigong, taichi at his school.

The school is uniquely located just 3.4 kilometres from the Golden Top. Staying at his school is a unique experience. You’ll be welcomed as one of the family and treated to expert taichi tuition followed by traditional Chinese tea.

Master Si Jun Tao’s daoist name is Li Jing and his lineage is of the Xuan Wu Sect of Daoism. Master Si Jun Tao has won a number of competitions for his Martial Arts. In the Shenzhen 5th wushu competition he received a gold medal for his fist and sword forms. In the Shenzhen 1st traditional martial arts boxing competition he received a gold medal for his staff form and in the traditional martial arts competition he won the 65kg Sanda title in 2007. Master Si Jun Tao focuses on helping his students reach their training goals. Master Si has a very pleasant nature and is currently in his mid thirties and is both energetic and enthusiastic about teaching his students.

www.StudyMartialArts.Org – Best for Martial Arts Adventure Travel & Training.

“Old Sports” in New China – Reporting the 1953 National Exhibition and Tournament

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A poster from 1957 showing various Chinese national sports.

The Source

As part of my ongoing research on the role of the traditional martial arts within the creation of China’s public diplomacy strategy, I am reviewing several propaganda sources produced in the 1950s and 1960s.  By in large these printed outlets have little to say on the subject, preferring to focus their rhetorical energies on the rapid pace of China’s industrial growth, or its success in the building of massive dams and hydro-electric power plants. This is very much the sort of material one would expect to find in a Communist country’s propaganda from early in the Cold War.  But occasionally some mention of the martial arts does manage to fight its way through this tide of socialist progress, and it is worth considering how China’s new Communist government discussed these practices when presenting them to the world.  What follows…

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Yang Lu Chan’s old house and Tai Chi in Yongnian — The Tai Chi Notebook

The Wu Yu Xiang style Tai Chi I found this video recently of an old gentleman called Mr Han practicing his Tai Chi form in the courtyard in front of the old house of Yang Lu Chan (the founder of the Yang style, pictured top left) in Yongnian County, Hebei province. The video says he’s […]

via Yang Lu Chan’s old house and Tai Chi in Yongnian — The Tai Chi Notebook

The Tai Chi form of Yang Shau-Hou

The Tai Chi Notebook

220px-Yangshaohou Yang Shou-Hou

Below is a video, shot in 1977, of the Tai Chi form of Xiong Yangho who was a student of Yang Shau-Hou, the (much) older brother of Yang Cheng Fu. Born in 1862 he was effectively of a different generation than his brother Yang Cheng-Fu who was born in 1883, which is 21 years later.

You can see that the form follows the same pattern as the Yang Cheng-Fu version but has a few unique characteristics. Again, this hints that there were different ways of doing the form before Yang Cheng-Fu standardised it into “Yang style”.

These different interpretations are a bit like the Gnostic Christian gospels – they’ve been rejected from the main orthodox canon, but they have just as much validity as any ‘official’ version of the form.

The description reads:

“Taiji Grand Master Xiong Yang He (1889-1981) The Interpretation of Taiji Quan The Teaching…

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