I find the UFC distasteful – it’s too excessive, and put simply, I don’t quite see the point, but I have my wacky theories about how this stuff fits in. Does my distaste for the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) make me a girly-man? Do I care? No.
In the 1880s Judo was born. People talk these days as if Jujutsu (in its various styles) is the traditional form, and Judo is the simplified – and therefore inferior – sporting equivalent. But Jujutsu was a military system. If you were training a warrior or soldier class, what makes sense to me is to give them a competition with strict rules where the risk of injury or damage is relatively low. In competition you can tell if a practitioner is skilful, if they can endure a certain degree of stress – mental and physical – if they’ve been training and if their training serves them properly – you can tell if they have a deep and practical understanding of their art. The actual training they would be doing – military training – would not be limited to what yields competitive success – it would include a whole bunch of other stuff that would only be applicable on the battlefield. And you’d test that in other ways, ways which didn’t run the risk of crippling your pool of best warriors.
Tai Chi (also Tai Chi Chuan and Taijiquan) is a martial art. The martial arts of China are numerous and can be categorised in almost as many different ways as there are individual styles – but one popular way of delineating between different types of martial arts are to look at the internal and external methods. Traditionally Tai Chi concerns itself with combat and self defence, but like other internal martial arts, the primary focus has pretty much always been on improving the health of the practitioner first, and developing combat skills second.
It’s difficult to write with certainty about the history of martial arts in China. There’s a lot of mythology and fantasy that you need to wade through, and mostly we’re writing about things that were oral traditions. Before the last hundred years or so, very little was written about martial arts – I’m under the impression the study of the history and culture of martial arts was not seen as a particularly worthwhile pursuit by the literate minority. These days, people like to tie martial arts culture in with religious and spiritual philosophy, and medicine, and all kinds of things – and I think there’s certainly an argument for it, but it’s difficult to verify the stories.
Old Chinese Martial Arts: Bagua
I’m not sure how I feel about discipline. It’s a two edged knife that cuts both ways. Shiiiiiing! It can be very useful, but it can also lock you into obsessive behaviours that are not genuinely in your best interests. What it’s not, is necessary for fitness.
We’re often told we need discipline and dedication, but what I think we actually need is awareness, curiosity and a genuine care for our own well-being. You don’t need to ‘be disciplined’ in order to exercise – the only thing you need in order to exercise is – to exercise. Don’t over-complicate it. You don’t need to change your personality so that you can train. You can do it as the you that you are.
It needs to be said that discipline will certainly get you started, but it’s not enough to keep you going. My martial arts practice has spanned about fifteen years. We usually associate martial arts with the development of self-discipline, and although that’s part of it – the reason I kept training was because I liked it. It wasn’t because I was ‘disciplined’ – that was just the icing on the cake, so to speak. The cake that I sliced with my two edged knife.