Traditional Chinese Martial Art (TCMA) history has always been HIGHLY controversial! Chinese history itself is filled with legends and mystical stories so entangled with historical events that it is extremely difficult to separate the two. For example, it is extremely dificult for scholars to authenticate various authors of classical Chinese texts! Many historians debate the true existence of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and Huang Di. Even in other parts of Chinese history this problem is further compounded by the Chinese' cultural bias to name an originator of a technique, writing, or w/e under a previous master or other person. 'In Chinese culture it is more desirable to have antiquity instead of personal merit.' To take a serious look at TCMA, and the various masters that make up its history without keeping all this in mind and applying critical thinking is to be terribly naive.
In TCMA circles embellished stories run rampant, students worshiping their masters add fuel to the fire. Egos fueled by impossible claims are epidemic in TCMA communities. It destroys the face of TCMA and is like a sickness that takes good Kung Fu to an undeserved end and it deters growth.
When potential students look into the community, see the confusion, lack of concrete focus, and the woo woo that is spread around it pushes them away from having anything to do with this great art and healing practice!
Knowing that all this goes on, how can we look to traditional martial arts or the masters of old and gain value?
The answer is simple, seek the truth by cross-examination. Regardless of the embellishment, seek the principles that are taught by the movement or story. This is why in Chinese classics the author is not important. The importance is placed on the material and usefulness thereof.
I'm currently writing a book on Kwan Yin Do (Kwan Yin Chuan). Master Feeman Ong (pictured above from a demonstration that was done in 1959) is a topic of great controversy in Chinese Martial Arts circles around the Ohio area. People have issues with some of the ways he taught and marketed himself. Although one thing is always clear, his martial and healing skill is always said to be of very high esteem! Regardless of his uncertain history or explanations of techniques, I personally have always benefited greatly from the practice of Kwan Yin Do, my students have as well.
Something else I find ironic is that the name of Kwan Yin Do (Chuan) 群英拳 means "Way of the honorable masters". With so much controversy surrounding its founder and various teachers within the lineage. It makes me think very much about the true meaning of the art. The Way of Honor! Seek the honorable 'masters' and give them honor through your practice. More so seek to emulate the way of honor that is found in them.
All of us have faults, we are human after all. It is important in training and learning from a teacher to learn ALL the lessons! Find the good yourself, PRACTICE it HARD, and what is tainted DISCARD IT! Don't make your teacher into a master, grand master, or God. Respect him as your teacher yet also an equal. Learn from him, trust his experience while coming to your own conclusions. In short be a good student, not a follower, but a student.
Keep purity in your practice, within reason. Should you want to benefit in health, practice health. If you want to benefit in martial application then drills and applications must be practiced. If you seek spiritual enlightenment or personal development seek the root of yourself!
The impact of history on your martial practice should be the same in all of life seek the good get rid of the bad. Find the warnings and guidance of the past, then put it to good use in your practice.
Here's the link to the article that the photo was taken from. good article.
Daniel R. Hyde
Licensed Massage Therapist
OIF, OEF Veteran
U.S. Marine Corps
Tui Na, Chinese Massage
Shiatsu, Japanese Massage
Tai Chi Chuan
Kwan Ying Do Kung Fu