Eye Opening Dragon boat practice.

Some may consider the drizzling rain crappy weather to be dragon boating in. Maybe it is in my DNA but I prefer it... The sunny days get me over heated.

But today's practice was particularly eye opening for my Martial Arts as well. Our stroke was from a more competitive boat.. and I learned once again not to judge by appearance. She did not have the "crew" body, tall and lean, but her reach, technique and power was incredible. I basically realized how I had been rowing wrong this whole time because I got to see the body mechanics and technique of the catch release and drive... and the power in her thighs in that drive... just like she was on an erg, or sitting in a crew shell. I hadn't been using those muscles... and even after doing it today better, it takes some time to develop that muscle memory. I saw her running through a marked version of the stroke without doing it and thought back to some of my Si Hing's you ahd gotten really into Kung Fu...

It turns out she has only been paddling for 3 years... but you could tell it was a focused 3 years, with intent and effort. I rowed with other people who did the festival for 5 years... but that doesn't mean they focused on their stroke like that. They participated for the fun of it. But were not intent necessarily on bettering themselves to that degree.

Although I have been doing Kung Fu for quite some time it reminded me that a three hard years with proper training can exceed me especially if I get lax. (which I have.)

And that body type matters.... but it is not everything.

Usually someone will bring up the fact that fighting in combat adds another but of something to training of an art.... but does it? This experience reminded me of Xu's fight with the Tai Chi master.. and of Kung Fu in general. Especially the way we broke down the moves today.

In a way Xu was right that Kung Fu needs to modernize.... but perhaps not in the way you might think.

You see, when you practice 3 years of Dragon boat the way our stroke today did, you gain more advanced technique... even though technically you are only doing variations on ONE move.

I don;t think our stroke practices 6 hours a day. But she focuses on her practices that fit in with the modern world and the other things she has to do.

The problem with Kung Fu, is the forms being taught to beginners.

You see if our boat had had such a technical lesson on the first day... it would have gone over our heads. We had to go through the endurance training first and the more basic style of paddling first. But because we went through that, we were responsive to today's practice.

Many of the older guys who did Kung Fu in the village say that all they learned was how to do horse stance and throw a punch... that they didn't learn anything.

But see, if you only learn that, you can total practice at home. It's easy to remember. And if you put in the effort you will be very good at that technique.

Now comes the added aspect of fighting. But honestly if you are trained to use it in a fight (ie through sparring with another partner in a real combat like game, where you actually try to defeat your opponent, but do so without crippling and maiming and having the same done to you (I would say that in modern times it is BJJ that has been most successful at this... boxers are getting all kinds of concussions) and not in a memorized sequence, then it is essentially the same no matter what you personality.

Not to say that forms are useless. It's just that look at where they come from and when they were used in "modern times" Take the Tai Ping or Boxer Rebellion, where a ton of Kung Fu guys came together and shared forms and memorized all that stuff.

Choi Lei Faht is supposedly heavily involved in the Tai Ping Rebellion. You have a bunch of guys (and girls) that are training to kill and also not allowed to congregate with the opposite sex. The killing is done with very simple moves and guns and gunpowder... and many unarmed people were often slaughtered or armed outnumbered soldiers killed by surprise. My point is that Kung Fu did not necessarily play a major role in battle. Except for very simple techniques that these farmers new from.. well farming.

They had the experience. That was the training. And then the simple moves which they probably drilled in groups and on their own, depending on the level of organization. And sometimes it was all a mess.

But the forms were a quick way to memorize a ton of moves for people in THIS kind of environment, an environment of constant violence.. but also a ton of down time with not much to do (no drinking or whoring allowed) except Kung Fu and Dragon Dance. (Two white guys, an Irishmen and a Bostonian,  who joined the Tai Ping mention a Dragon dance being quite nice. They left when one faction slaughtered the other, with gunpowder and total war, no quarter for women and children, n fact they were all participating)

My point is, in our peaceful and work balanced world... some sort of combat game MUST be part of the training to get you used to it. And also... the moves for beginners need to be so very simple. Maybe you should even touch a form unless you are planning on teaching, that is if you are learning as a serious adult. And then you can get to the level of Kung Fu that I saw our stroke get at Dragon boat.

I'm not saying not to not touch forms until 3 years in... after all there are all those warm ups... but just not to focus on them so much until you really have one or two basic moves down well and able to use them. And not every person has to learn the same moves just because they are learning from you. Hence variation in "style" of fighting.

But its easier to just run through the form that you were taught. There is confidence in that... that doesn't necessarily make you a better practitioner or fighter.

I think there is the fear of the forms being lost, hence teaching them so quickly and early. And then you can always figure them out later through your training of a few good moves for combat....

In any case, coming across someone serious at their craft was eye opening once again. Nothing I didn't know but every experience teaches you a lesson I would say. If she had been a martial artist, she very well may have defeated me in a fight despite having practiced a shorter time and learned less, but simply by being focused on her moves. I could just tell from alignment and all that.

 Don't ever underestimate someone based on appearance or by doing math games of who has been practicing longer or has been in more fights. It doesn't always work like that.