Where Kung Fu Falls Short

Kung fu is a fighting art.

Of course, there are peripheral benefits such as improved focus, physical fitness, mental fortitude and discipline — all things that you can also acquire in a ballet class The difference is – kung fu is a fighting art.  A martial art.  A ‘warlike’ art.
The ability to move your hands and feet around in fancy positions does not make you a martial artist.  Far too many kung fu practitioners today; both sifu and student have lost sight of this.  They get stuck on forms.  Only forms.  Over and over.  Forms certainly have their benefits.  I’m a huge advocate of practicing them as part of your regular routine.  But they should only be one component of the larger picture.

If you’re not incorporating a well balanced array of all fighting elements into your training, then you’re not practicing a fighting art.
1. Speed Work
2. Strength and Conditioning Work
3. Technique Applications
4. Sparring
5. Improvement of Stamina
6. Improvement of Overall Fitness

And if your instructor doesn’t promote these skill sets, go somewhere else.

Speed Work.
I don’t care what physiological explanation someone throws at you;  if you train slow, you will fight slow.  You will react slow. Your muscle memory will plateau at that sustained slow pace.  Fast twitch muscle fibers that are not utilized and non-existent in practice will not magically appear in combat.
Slow kung fu:  Beneficial in other ways? Yes.  A fighting art?  No.

Strength & Conditioning Work.
Your body is a machine.  Optimize it.  You may be 300lbs and able to generate massive power. But how long until you gas out?  Keeping your cardio at its highest level will be extremely advantageous to you when you face off with someone of similar ability, but zero stamina.
Power lifting? No. But you should incorporate some type of weight training into your routine. Just be sure it fits within the specificity of training for your art. Example: hip abduction and adduction is very beneficial to Wing Chun practitioners and those of the 3 main Hakka arts: Pak Mei, Lung Ying & Southern Praying Mantis. It strengthens the inner and outer thighs, which aids in maintaining a firm stance while the upper body moves at high speeds.

Technique Applications.
This is the academic part of training. Learn the function of each movement and extremity. Learn the angles involved in offense and defense. Get a sense of the distance involved to land or block a strike effectively.
Self analysis is equally as important as formal instruction. Learn how these techniques work for your body type and skill sets.
It’s OK to do the old’ “if I do this, you do this” on occasion.  Just don’t let it be the pinnacle of your comprehension of your system.  That lies in sparring.


Apply everything mentioned above into real time. Real speed.  Real power.  Real reaction time.  You’ll soon get to know yourself; your strengths and weaknesses.  You’ll learn others’ strengths and weaknesses as well.
You’ll learn which techniques work for you and which don’t. My Sifu always emphasized that no one will master the application of all techniques. It is smart and efficient to find your strengths and cultivate them as sharply as possible.

  • Don’t be that guy who claims to be able to break bricks with a mean glare.
  • Don’t be the guy who claims he can flick his finger and knock 10 people across the room.
  • Additionally, and somewhat off topic; don’t be the internet sifu posting nasty and pretentious comments on Youtube telling people that their “footwork is off by 1 millimeter” (said in Arnold Horshack’s voice) during their form.

All of the above are an embarrassment to kung fu – and are key players in “Where Kung Fu Falls Short”.

  • Be the guy who can apply his system’s techniques during sparring.
  • Be the guy who examines and hones all aspects of training and is constantly out to improve his skill and understanding.

Be honest to yourself:  are you a martial artist or not?


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