Adam Hsu on Sparring

In my own teaching, I frequently apply lessons derived from Sifu Adam Hsu’s observations. Having trained with Hsu Sifu, I have had the experience, more than once, of “aha” moments. Sometimes the “aha” was not pleasant, but in every case the thinking was logical and truthful.

So it is with great pleasure that I announce, here, a new book from Hsu Sifu that Plum will publish in the next year. Keep an eye on Kaimen for details, but in the meantime, enjoy this excerpt from Lone Sword on Sparring.

Adam Hsu On Sparring Very few people today can do real Kung Fu sparring. I don’t know about other styles, but as far as I am concerned, many of the so-called Kung Fu sparring bouts I’ve seen from mainland China, Taiwan, the United States and other countries are just typical sparring. Most examples of sparring today are pretty much like common fighting. Don protection gear, follow the rules, omit dangerous movements that would disqualify you, and jump into the ring to do it. Win or lose, almost no technique is needed. In other words, you don’t even have to study a martial art.

Some years ago there was a joke shared among some of us sifus in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of them are world renowned and very fine martial artists. Once when we were invited to sit at ringside to watch Kung Fu sparring, I remarked that it wasn’t very enjoyable to see our ancestors from the Han dynasty fighting in the ring. At the time of the Han dynasty, I think the martial arts level was low. Fighters relied on lots of natural power, that is, muscle strength, action/reaction, courage and cunning, either to kill or be killed. Today, two thousand or so years later, what’s the difference with what we are doing now?

Later on from Han to Tang dynasties, and from the Ming to this present century, Kung Fu continued to develop and advance. The level of Kung Fu in its maturity is very high, the techniques numerous and rich. Yet, we do not see this in contemporary so-called Kung Fu matches. This is the big trouble.

I have to say something bad about tradition. Traditional teachers were supposed to hide away the real usage and save the full training only for a very few of their best and most loyal students. In earlier days, it was a matter of public safety. Not to do so would be like putting a loaded gun into the hands of unskilled and unscrupulous people. We see the tragic consequences of this in the news every day.

Towards the end of the 19th century, there was no longer any need for this secrecy because by this time, firearms had became the lethal fighting weapons of choice. Yet the masters continued this practice and today the real art of Kung Fu fighting is almost extinct.

Excerpted from Lone Sword Against the Cold Cold Sky.

As he has developed and spread his observations, many of them downright controversial, he has met with resistance and acclaim. At PLUM we are proud to be the English language publishers of his newest  book, filled with observations and raw insight. We will keep you posted as this promises to become the “bible” of Chinese martial arts.

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