The recent fight between MMA practitioner Xu Xiaodong and Tai Chi master Wei Lei was rather deceiving and left a stain on the heritage traditional martial arts. It proposes further reflection about the credibility and judgment of master Wei Lei. How can such an experimented and professional master accept a combat and lose without the faintest trace of a counter-attack, let alone a defense? Blind to his own abilities, it is evident that his preparation was lacking. It comes to us then to question the value of his formation.
First, we must underscore that in any society, the value of any formation is based on the recognition of your peers. What we receive at the end of long years of any formation is a representation of that recognition. Whether it's a diploma, an ostentatious title or an object that will be recognize by the community, it will support the bearers' value and an assurance that the person carrying it received the knowledge and skills to carry out their functions. It is quite normal to want qualified carpenters to work on your house, to be reassured that the surgeon who will operate on you completed his studies! To this end, we established a system of professional orders with strong ethical codes and guidelines. Nobody casts doubt about this system and the martial arts world should not seek to deviate from this model. Within a school, there is a hierarchy that defines the students' grades, which is all well and fine, but what about the system that regulates the value of all martial arts school? There isn't any or rather, there are none left.
Today we witness the rise of new masters of shady origins. Even now, a Vietnamese master named Huynh Tuan Kiet claims, through silly demonstrations, to be a powerful sorcerer with supernatural powers. This phenomenon, usurpers claiming the title of master, is rapidly becoming a problem of epidemic scale: the spirit of the times is for self-proclamation - that which a serious tradition cannot accept lest it undermines its reputation. Narcissism and worldly interests are the roots of this trend. It is very easy to proclaim yourself as a master before neophytes: approbation is automatic and the ability to challenge completely absent. If children acclaim their groups' leader, it doesn't change the fact that the leader himself is still a child.
The process Pierre François Flores began to meet the so-called master Huynh Tuan Kiet is perfectly aligned with the duty we have to protect students, but also to expose charlatans.
What modern society expects of martial arts schools is threefold:
The development and maintenance of an acceptable physical condition.
The ability to defend yourself against an aggression.
The appropriation of the philosophy and way of life.
In the first case, there are multitudes of disciplines which can achieve a similar goal. However, a traditional martial arts school should distinguish itself by the difficulty of its exercises and engage its students in learning perseverance and determination, so that they are better equipped for challenges later in their life.
Second, the teaching of self-defense is often misconstrued and misunderstood. A vast majority of schools will claim to have efficient styles of combat, yet will rarely (if ever) submit themselves to test their techniques. They believe the practice of drills and preconceived techniques will be sufficient. While these techniques do offer a vast array of possibilities, their practice always requires a cooperating partner. The illusion of efficiency grows and vanishes when faced with a determined aggressor. Traditional schools that have survived the test of time and multiple challenges know the methods to properly develop techniques that will be useful in combat.
Last, but not least, the philosophy represented in martial arts schools! It is easy to put up a sign with nice values like Respect, Honor, Integrity,etc. To determine its value, it is quintessential to observe acts and the philosophical direction of the school, otherwise they only hide themselves behind beautiful, but empty words. The path of Kung Fu itself impels us to a way of life filled with humanism that must be pragmatic – and all of our humanitarian acts are a demonstration of that philosophy.
In conclusion, those who are animated by the desire to learn, either in a traditional or modern setting, should take heed of these criteria. Time is our most valuable asset and rare are those who wish to squander it - thus you should choose your school wisely!
Red belt 4th Dan
Shaolin Wing Chun Nam Anh Kung fu