Friday, 1 March 2013

Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting - Except for the Taiji Guys!!

martial arts pioneer E.W. Barton-Wright
Sat back to watch BBC4's - Timeshift, Series 12, "Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting: The Rise of Martial Arts in Britain" last night. Its promo looked promising - 

Ticky Donovan
"Timeshift, the black belt of the archive world, takes a look at the rise of martial arts in Britain. From the early days of bartitsu, through judo and karate to kung fu, Britain has had a long and illustrious involvement with the martial arts. Gold medals have been won, Sherlock Holmes's life has been saved and aftershave has been worn - all thanks to the martial arts".
 
Judo pioneer - Sarah Mayer
Over the course of an hour the programme documented the early days of "Bartitsu" a Victorian Ju Jitsu inspired self defence system for gentlemen introduced by martial arts pioneer E.W. Barton-Wright. Bartitsu was such a hit that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had his hero Sherlock Holmes use it to save himself in a fight to the death with his arch-enemy Moriarty. Sarah Mayer the first non-Japanese woman to get a judo black belt in famous Butokukai club in Japan- from Jigaro Kano the creator of Judo no less. The deadly skills of Captain W.E. Fairbairn used by the British special forces in the Second World War. Those who think that cross training is a new phenomenon had obviously never heard of Fairbairn -versed in Jiu-Jitsu, Kodokan Judo, French Savate, Cornish Wrestling, Western and Chinese Boxing. Ticky Donovan the coach who developed the British Karate team into a formidable force that won the world championships 5 consecutive times - a feat not even the Japanese could manage. You get the general idea...
Fairbairn's devastating combat techniques


Finally in the closing minutes it got to "Taiji". Panning into a group that looked as if they were on their last legs in some anonymous old people's home the narrator dismissively concluded: "But martial arts has also evolved in the opposite direction, towards methods that seem as far away from combat as possible...slow moving zen-like type of exercise...for those least inclined to want to know anything at all about fighting"! 

There it is, the martial heritage of Taijiquan dismissed in a sentence! So what happened to the legacy left by the great Taijiquan masters of the past - masters of all styles of Taijiquan:  Chen Fake who single-handedly stood against the "Red Spear" rebels; or Yang Luchan dubbed "Yang the Invincible" for his peerless fighting skills; or Sun Lutang, Wang Peisheng, Chen Zhaopi....

More people than ever are doing "Taiji" but obviously somewhere along the line the martial aspect of Taijiquan is being lost in transmission. It is great that people of all ages can train TaijiQUAN, but where is the QUAN. There is a danger that as more and more people accept the above perception it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  
CTGB Cannon Fist training!








 

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