Ron Goninan

To K.I.S.S or not to K.I.S.S?

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To K.I.S.S or not to K.I.S.S?


I have been giving the matter of our syllabus and Taolu (forms) some considerable thought over the past few days.


Traditional Chinese Martial Arts were simple, direct and to the point. The writings of respected Chinese Martial Arts historians as Brian L. Kennedy, Ma Mingda, Wong Yuen-Ming, Kong Lee, Andrew D. Morris and others point strongly to this being so.


The "Expansionist" path is to add more techniques, more drill, more forms etc, collect heaps of cool stuff and teach more to maintain the student's interests for as long is possible. This is a commercial approach. The disadvantages is that with more to learn, the students are less likely to be able to apply or understand in any real depth that which they have learned.


Traditional Chinese Martial Arts are in essence "Reductionist" in approach, following the K.I.S.S. Principle as touted in the West ("Keep. It. Simple. Stupid"). This approach can also have its problems as it can lead to the professional school of martial arts not having enough "padding" in their syllabus to keep the students interested and returning for more. Such students fail to see the depth within this approach in technique, forms, concepts and principles.


Taking the middle road seems to be for many the best option. I am however, a purist at heart when it comes to the spirit of the Chinese Martial Arts. So to me, a reductionist or so-called simple approach seems the way to go. Teach a student well, not just load them up with technique after technique, form after form. Chinese Martial Arts are like a very thin yet deep line.


As such, I have decided to drop Wu Xing Shou, Ershi Quan forms from the syllabus. I also feel that a simplified approach to Baihe Ba Shou should be considered and looked upon for the future. In the main, the most important form for developing a Crane Body and Crane Mind is BaBulian embodying the SanZhan (3 Battles) principle.


Traditional, history tells us that each form was considered to be a tradition in itself. We do not need hundreds of forms to embody the Crane Spirit. A minimalist approach which embodies great depth over and above quantity is what is sought.


This is the way it was in Fuzhou. Great Master dropped the practice of Hua Ba Bu form because it was an outgrowth of BaBulian Form except for slightly differing footwork.


This is important to me as though I love the art for the art I also want it to be practical and applicable, after all that was and is its primary function.


Real Chinese Martial arts were not fancy. That came later with the Shaolin Temple Myth and many "martial artists" being actual street performers so the more elaborate the form and demonstration, the more money they made from their performances and "teachings".


I also don't believe in "stacking" the art with more and more complex things just to keep students around longer to draw more money out of them (We are a non-profit, private and community based group).


What are your thoughts? which approach is better?

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Well the infamous quote from Bruce Lee is that, "I don't fear the man who has practiced 1000 techniques once, I fear the man who practiced 1 technique 1000 times". I feel like reading about a lot of historically famous fighters, many of them have had signature techniques, some specialty they were really good at- everything else they learned was to compliment that and allow them to use it better.


I guess there are a lot of ways to look at it. It's not very good from a marketing standpoint. Because training is boring. Learning techniques is the easy part- it's getting to the point where you can actually USE them effectively that is 99% of the work. You already know how to do everything and what you do, you just have to DO it. In some cases, even if the person knows what you're going to do (as in the above fighters), there's nothing they can do to stop it.


But if you don't plan on taking the "one technique" path, I would take a page from the MMA playbook- have a plan for everything. Be able to punch, kick, throw,, grapple in close quarters stand up, move your body, wrestle, joint lock, escape, and maybe a couple of other things. Make sure that you have at least 1 thing which can address each of them. Make sure you are competent in all of those areas at least a little bit. If there's a particular form or technique you like or want to emphasize, that's fine, but that form/technique should handle each of those aspects at the very least.

Edited by Sloppy Zhang

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