MEDIOCRE KUNGFU, GOOD KUNGFU, GREAT KUNGFU
QuestionOnly when I turned fifteen I started relating everything I believed with the concept of chi, and consequently with chi kung and kungfu through books. Finally I started training kungfu, and I can say that nothing in the world makes me happier and more complete than training kungfu, even though I wished I could do it more. I study at a University, so time, unfortunately, is short. But one day, and that's a promise, I will try to be honoured enough to train at the Shaolin Temple.
-- Gabriel, Brazil
You are right in saying that everything — be it a tadpole or a star, answering an exam question or digesting your food — is related with chi. Our own being as well as the whole universe is made of chi. Every process in the world or in the cosmos is a process of chi.
Chi kung is the art of managing chi or energy. But chi kung as well as kungfu should be practised for their practical benefits, not just studied for their knowledge. This does not mean that reading about chi kung and kungfu from books is not useful, but we must remember that this knowledge, no matter how beautiful and profound, is only useful when it helps us to get practical benefits. It is like a map, it shows us not only the routes but also what the destination is like when we have successfully arrived. Without this map, people waste a lot of time and effort. But we do not merely hold the map in our hands, we must do the travelling.
Basically kungfu is a martial art. There are many types of kungfu, varying in purpose, method and achievement. Good kungfu not only enables you to fight well, but also contributes to your health and vitality, whereas great kungfu besides giving you combat efficiency, good health and vitality, expands your mind and leads you to high spiritual development. You must also realize that the same type of kungfu may be taught and practised in countless different ways. Hence, even if your type of kungfu is great, but if it is taught or practised badly you will not get good results.
The above paragraph is a very concise map giving you all the basic information you need to have for a fruitful journey in kungfu. It is obvious that you are sincere and dedicated in your kungfu training. You should therefore review your training with the help of the map to ensure that your time is well spent.
First you should find out whether you are really practising kungfu. This is quite easy. Spar with some friends to see if you can defend yourself with what you have been practising. If you can, then you are practising kungfu, and you can proceed to find out whether yours is good or great kungfu. If you can't defend yourself, then yours is not even mediocre kungfu. But this does not mean you should automatically discard what you have been practising. If it has made you happy, you should continue its training, but you may at the same time look elsewhere to fulfill your kungfu needs.
If yours is kungfu, you should find out whether it is good kungfu or only mediocre. Find out whether you have been healthier and have more vitality as the result of your training. But if you feel painful and angry often after your training, then yours is mediocre kungfu.
If yours is good kungfu, you should next find out whether yours is great kungfu. Is your mind clearer and fresher? Do you feel inner peace? Do you find it a joy to be alive, irrespective of your financial and environmental conditions? If you answer yes to these questions, then you are very lucky. Nowadays, even to practice mediocre kungfu is not easy, but you have such a rare opportunity to practice great kungfu.
You probably do not know that traditional Shaolin Kungfu is not taught in the Shaolin Temple in China today. Around the Shaolin Temple, there are many schools teaching modernized wushu. But modernized wushu, even if it is taught by modern Shaolin monks, is different from traditional kungfu.
Although the word “wushu” actually means martial art, I would not consider it kungfu because wushu students do not learn self defence. Wushu training will make you fit, but mind expansion and spiritual cultivation are not its training objectives. If you like modernized wushu, which will give you elegance and agility as well as chances to take part in international competitions, the wushu schools around the Shaolin Temple are a good choice. But if you are looking for traditional kungfu, you would have to search elsewhere.
The above is taken from Question 4 of Jun 2002 Part 3 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.