Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What is a Traditional Martial Art?

Below is an excerpt from the NYSanda blog. It explores the question of "what is tradition and why should we care. The full post may be read here. Enjoy.

People in the so called “traditional” martial arts community react to my particular approach to Chan Tai-San’s teachings in a wide variety of ways. Some clearly understand my approach, but I would say for every one of those people there are at least three who are at least puzzled. Some ask me if I still teach the empty hand forms that Chan Tai-San taught? I do NOT, and so many of them then ask why I am not keeping his “tradition” alive? Of course, on the most negative end of the spectrum, some have accused me of abandoning Chan Tai-San altogether.

What exactly is “tradition”? In the case of Chan Tai-San, clearly this is a question worth pondering? I was formally adopted by Sifu Chan as a disciple of his Lama Pai lineage. Yet, that lineage was anything but a straight line. In addition to his primary teacher Jyu Chyuhn, Chan Tai-San studied several other versions of Lama Pai, including a Manchurian version from Ma Yi-Po. Chan Tai-San’s “Lama Pai” included influences from other “Lion’s Roar” teachers he studied with, those affiliated with Pak Hok Pai (Tibetan White Crane) and Hop Ga (Knight / Hero Family). I would suggest that Chan Tai-San’s “Lama Pai” was what he considered to be the best available material, rather than a concern for a particular “tradition”.

If you ever had a chance to see Chan Tai-San perform, or have seen any of the sets he taught, you might have also noticed that at times his various methods bled together. That is, you’ll see in his Lama Pai some of his Choy Lay Fut. And in his Choy Lay Fut, you saw some of his Lama Pai. And you’d also see bits of his Bahk Mei (Pak Mei / White Eyebrow), Hung Kyuhn and Mok Ga. Some might consider this some sort of “blasphemy” but, again, in Chan Tai-San’s school this was the norm. Sifu Chan taught what he felt was the best methods, he had virtually no interest in things like “purity”.

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