Keeping Tradition Alive While Making Kung Fu Relevant in Modern Society



Recently I read an article called “Why Kung Fu Masters Refuse To Teach” By Sascha Matuszak. The article was very well written and discussed some interesting points on the traditional martial arts styles of Kung Fu. There are many good points in the article that I agree with but also some I respectfully  do not. Please follow the link to view the article.

I think the article highlights in many ways the reasons why traditional Kung fu has had a hard time claiming its stake in the modern world of martial arts. The article seems to make the case that the older masters feel that there are not any students worthy of learning their style and dedicating themselves to becoming proficient. To me it is almost the opposite as to why Kung Fu is not thriving and growing in comparison to many of the popular martial arts systems that seem to be. There are many dedicated individuals out there now studying many different systems of martial arts. They have the drive and dedication to push themselves and train day after day for the long haul because they have made it a part of their lives. A great example of this is the non MMA Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community. The students that study this art are extremely enthusiastic and dedicated to training the techniques of BJJ. They go train everyday and know that the path to a black belt can take at least eight to ten long, hard years. But they don’t care about the belt. They embrace the belt that they are at. It’s about the journey and not the destination. They are there to learn and test themselves in the martial art that they are being taught. They stick with it not because they are told it is effective and practical but because they get to see for themselves.

The way I see it is this. If the truly qualified  Kung Fu teachers out there who know how to apply the art would openly teach it and show the students the effectiveness of the style, it would have plenty of dedicated students eager to keep training. Unfortunately what I feel has happened is the unqualified “Masters” have hidden behind the wall of saying they don’t need to test themselves and are worried they may lose face if they do. So these poor quality teachers say they will only show the application or fighting portion to those that have to work endlessly for years doing something that will not prepare them to protect themselves. Since they truly don’t understand how to use the art they lead on their students until they get discouraged and move on to something that they see has real life application to it. When a new student is being taught a long form or some hand movements but are not being taught how they work for self defense it does not motivate them to dedicate themselves to the long hours of practice.

It’s tough for Kung Fu practitioners because we have a lot of tradition and history that we hold very dear to our hearts. But we have to not get carried away and create an unrealistic tradition that forces the arts to fade away. Some of these traditions are not even true for the most part, or they have been fabricated by 70’s Kung Fu movies that have perpetuated an almost superhuman fantasy about the effectiveness of its practitioners. There is no magic to Kung Fu, only blood, sweat and tears.

Something that I have been discussing a lot with my fellow Kung Fu brothers and students is, we need to maintain our traditional system but make it relevant. People need to know that what they are learning can go toe to toe with any other style and have a fighting chance. It is up to them to train and push themselves to make it work. We can’t rely on stories of old masters winning challenge matches so therefore our style is proven. We need to test it and keep proving it for ourselves to ensure that we are not drifting off the path and becoming a secretive society that won’t allow a friendly sparring match.


-Sifu Nick

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