A Take on Adam Hsu’s “Life Is Too Short For Bad Kung Fu”

Adam Hsu Kung FuGrand Master Adam Hsu’s new book, Life Is too Short For Bad Kung Fu, is a call to arms to save Chinese martial arts.  In this book he examines the current path Chinese martial arts is taking.  There may be some ruffled feathers at some of his profound statements on areas of needed improvement to rescue Chinese martial arts away from what today’s society, current practitioners, and teachers perceive as Chinese martial arts. As the book states, kung fu movies, novels, and video games are not the heart and soul of Chinese martial arts.  They glorify heros and personify hollow usage without demonstrating the basics of the art.  As the grandmaster states (paraphrasing here), basics are the foundation upon which the art was built.  And repeated over and over in this book is basics, basics, basics…

Also discussed is the idea that just practicing forms without basics is akin to dance. Not adding the basics to your form practice won’t give you the needed training to apply the form.  Further discussed and rightfully so is that Chinese martial arts are not the same as other martial arts, meaning that other martial arts today are either westernized or influenced by competition (trophies, ranking) and promotion for financial gain.  Competition and tournaments are good for the art only as long as they represent the true nature of the art, what the grandmaster calls the DNA of Chinese martial arts. 

The book tells us that daily practice is needed, if not twice a day.  With daily usage comes continuous improvement.  This gives the understanding of your body and the needed correction for you as an individual, not just to copy others, but to take ownership and build self-confidence.  Also, once you have learned the form, changing the sequence of the form postures should be practiced ensuring the basics are present.    

Internal and external is explained and demystified by pointing out the there is no magic superpower that internal kung fu has.  It should be the ultimate goal that the two are eventually unified as your development of the art increases. 

Contributing to the decline of Chinese martial arts was the introduction of firearms on the battlefield.  The weapons and hand combat used long ago are no longer able to resist the modern technology used in today’s conflicts.  This brings up the point of modernizing Chinese martial arts.  Grandmaster Hsu points out the modernization of the art is a natural evolution that occurs in all things.  Though it does need to be guided carefully to ensure that the basics are not lost in the evolution. 

There are many insights within the pages of this profound book that will inspire the reader and the martial practitioner to come away with a renewed view of Chinese martial arts and hopefully will instill a need to preserve it.

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2 Responses to “A Take on Adam Hsu’s “Life Is Too Short For Bad Kung Fu””

  1. Walter Schwarz says:

    With all due respect, to my opinion the request for 2 times per day training is not realistic. Today most adults are not able (or willing) to train 2 times per week.
    Maybe we must find ways to adapt e.g. to try improved the “splintered” situation of styles. Kind Regards

  2. Yaphett Pruitt says:

    Concerning the book review of Adam Hsu’s “Life is Too Short for Bad Kung-fu”: I am a large Adam Hsu fan. I’m the guy you describe that is willing to put in the training with Shifu if I could get to him (or if my wife would allow for that kind of devotion to practice). So it didn’t take this article to tell me that I’m going to need this book.

    But my real comment is that Kung-fu, in my opinion, is too significant an art to die out, for the same reasons that you cite. It has helped too many people to this day. From the thrill of the best old-school Kung-fu flicks to mental and physical rehabilitation that some practitioners thought they’d never find until they met Kung-fu and had their affair with it. I do believe the romance of Chinese martial arts with the human heart is enough to keep it alive.