Chinese Kung Fu is a complex discipline with a long history.  More than just a means of combat Kung Fu has history, traditions, philosophy, ethos and its own culture. It has roots that extend back into the distant past and connect us with a long lineage of dedicated masters. Hence it gives us an identity and a sense of belonging to a great family with a distinguished past. And this gives us a strength and a stability which in present times is becoming increasingly rare.

When we join a kung fu lineage we become part of an extended family which traces its roots back to Bodhidharma (Tat Mo) the Indian Monk who is credited with founding both Shaolin Kung Fu and Chan (Zen) Buddhism as well as introducing both shoes and tea into China.  We listen to the stories of past generations and share pride in their achievements.  We learn of their diligence and perseverance in training and perfecting their art and take inspiration from it.  We feel part of the tradition and do not want to let it down by giving less than our best.  Hence we improve.

The culture and ethos of Chinese Kung Fu is based on three principle philosophies: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.  It emphasises respect, especially respect for parents and teachers and also for elders in general.  We respect our teachers, follow their example and do our best to make them proud.  And doing so brings out the very best in us.  We say in Kung Fu:

饮水思源 (Yin Shui Si Yuan): Drink the water and remember its source.

When a teacher passes his art to a student he passes with it a responsibility to safeguard it and pass it on to the next generation, hence preserving the art and the unbroken lineage of teachers.  Most certainly the measure of a teacher’s success is his passing on his art.  If it survives to the next generation, then he can die content.

In past times people naturally respected their elders as teachers – and often the most important teachers were the parents.  People knew their place in the family and in society.  In the modern world with the breakdown of the family structure and with society losing its values and identity increasing numbers of people feel lost and directionless.  Kung Fu provides a solution.  A structure in which people have a clear place, in which they are valued, in which they have teachers and senior students who can give support, advice and inspiration.  And this is why the popularity of Kung Fu is growing so fast!  What I see is that groups who have lost their tradition, lost their roots are often in decline.  Those who remain faithful to their art are flourishing.  This is Karma.

Respect your association, respect your teachers, respect your art and respect your self.  This way you are practising real Kung Fu.

Iain Armstrong,

Chiang Mai, December 2017.

An article by Master Iain with a video by Andrew Nummey.  Published 2018
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