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comment by johnnyFive
johnnyFive  ·  154 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Bizarre World of Fake Martial Arts

Pre-viewing Thoughts

This came up on my own YouTube feed (since I'm a subscriber), but I haven't watched it yet. The problem is that the underlying premise is ... iffy.

I've been teaching a martial art (Ving Tsun, specifically) for about 3 years now, and training that same art for almost 10. One of the things I've noticed is that as my training has gone on, my idea of what we mean when we say a martial art "works" has changed quite a bit. Or perhaps better said, the fact that most of the time we don't actually know what we mean has become much clearer.

I've run into this a lot when trying to market myself. I dabbled with engaging with the subreddit for my area, but that didn't work very well. It takes a lot of time to explain why the generic "just train MMA instead" comments are dumb (and why I think MMA is at best a middlin' choice for self-defense), and that got exhausting really fast. It's also a lose-lose, because it's assumed that if I don't reply, it's because I can't refute what someone said.

But beyond this, this question of a martial art being "fake" or not usually involves some pretty narrow criteria at best. This is true even for those teachers who claim to be able to knock someone over without touching them (which is, I assume, a prominent point of the video). Because all of these attempts at critique don't really ask what they mean by "fake" or "works" when they're talking about it. Even the original post quotes someone saying that supereyepatchwolf has a ton of experience with "real" martial arts, but it's not actually clear what that means. And how can you have a "fake" martial art if there's no real definition of a "real" one?

I think we often conflate this idea of "real" vs. "fake" with whether a martial art "works." But even then, what do we actually mean?

You may say that a martial art "works" means simply "allows you to defend yourself." This is meaningless and arbitrary.

I "lose" fights (or sparring or whatever, although we don't call it that specifically) every class. Does this mean the martial art I'm studying doesn't work? Is it fake, then?

What if one of my students who's been training for 3 weeks loses a fight outside of class. Does this mean what I'm teaching doesn't "work"? What if someone who's been training for 3 years loses one? How long does someone have to train before their win/loss ratio is a reflection on the art itself? Doesn't who their opponent was matter? Or the person themselves?

If I've never used my training in a full-on street fight, does that mean it does or doesn't "work"? Let's say I lose such a fight. Does that negate the times my training has saved me from falling down the stairs or helped me avoid a car wreck? What about the simple health benefits of being in better physical shape? Does it somehow undo all the times other people have used it successfully to defend themselves? In other words, which instances of a martial art "working" count? What is the "worked" to "didn't work" ratio that something has to have to be considered "real"?

There are a lot more variables at play than we usually, actually consider. To me, the only thing that matters is whether training the art is a net positive for one's life. That's super broad, but it has to be. Losing one fight doesn't necessarily negate all the other benefits someone got from training something. (As an aside, anyone who is more likely to get into a fight after training is an asshole.)

Addendum after watching the first couple minutes

So far, he's not doing much to dissuade me that he's not asking the questions that need to be asked. Also, his history of martial arts in the U.S. is inaccurate. People were boxing well before WW2 (or does he not think boxing is a martial art, or that it was popular before the 1940s?). Greco-Roman wrestling was certainly a thing before then. Sailors were using things like savate at least by the 19th century, and that had some broader resonance (Sherlock Holmes was said to know it in the original books).

kantos  ·  153 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Off-topic. Does your school require hong bao to teach further forms? My Sifu hit me with that after teaching me Sil Nim Tau, as though wanting more on top the flat monthly rate outta no where.

johnnyFive  ·  153 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Absolutely not. Hong bao is always optional, and is usually only done at special occasions (e.g. sifu's birthday, Christmas, etc.). It's never been asked for directly, and I didn't even learn about its existence from my sifu (only from other students who'd been there longer than me). The only thing that learning something new is conditioned upon is whether you've put in enough time to be ready for it.

kantos  ·  153 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Maaaaan, I knew it was whack when I heard it.... Kinda a bummer, not worth paying the current school rate just to chi sai for the time I have left in town. Thanks for the insight.

johnnyFive  ·  153 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Maybe not, although there's no such thing as too much practice! But still, definitely sounds like you got a less-than-stellar teacher on that one.