武术家赵道新眼中的中国功夫 – Chinese martial arts in the eyes of Zhao Daoxin – English

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There are not many people that can match the authority of Zhao Daoxin when it comes to Chinese martial arts. (http://baike.baidu.com/view/22909.htm. Is Chinese Kungfu useful in combat? Is it no more than self-deceit and a hoax? We ask Zhao Daoxin for his views on this Chinese skill. (Interview with Zhao Daoxin)


Interview with Mr. Zhao Daoxin


Zhao Daoxin – Huang Jitao


Day one


Huang: (After brief introductions) Some voices in today’s society are unpleasant to hear for martial artists, asking questions such as “Isn’t Jet Li all show an no substance?”, “Could Huo Yuanjia’s skills really stand up to today’s boxing champions?” and so on. What is your opinion?


Zhao: I’ve long since lost the willpower and the interest to test or judge someone else’s fighting skills. The truth is, the Chinese martial arts world, no matter how big, has been unable to compare itself to boxing in any objective, rational way for several hundred years. Propaganda has taken the place of tests of strength. The real matter is that Mr. Jet Li is the paragon of institutional Wushu, and Mr. Huo Yuanjia is the symbol of folk warriors. From the debate around these two characters, we can infer that today’s society is losing faith in institutional as well as traditional Wushu. That is to say, people are doubting that Chinese Wushu in its current form has value in modern society. It is precisely because our martial artists have not been criticized for so long, that other opinions are jarring and are ignored and suppressed without a second thought.


Huang: But Chinese Wushu has a long, well-established history, and is wide-ranging as well as full of wisdom. It is the cultural heritage of the Chinese nation. Surely this cannot be questioned. Wushu is acknowledged by the Chinese as well as all others in the world.


Zhao : Either you have read this opinion in a book, or you have heard it from others. But that book draws upon other books, and those people have heard it from other people. After so much hearsay, some people feel these opinions are justified, while others will play dumb for some vague reason or other. But truth does not lie in numbers. Without global research, or a public survey, how can you say that Wushu is “acknowledged by everyone in the world?” You say “this cannot be questioned”, but who says that I do not have proof to the contrary?


Huang: Are you saying Chinese martial arts do not have a long history and tradition? Is it not the spiritual and cultural heritage of our people?


Zhao: Well, let us ask ourselves if historical martial arts and today’s Wushu are even the same thing. Take a look at the kinds of fist fighting, wrestling and sumo common in China before the 13th century, and then look at the styles popular in the PRC, such as Shaolin, Wudang and Long Fist. We can see that the term for Chinese martial arts has remained the same, its location is the same, its people are the same, but the shape, content, concepts, and methods of the combat system have all changed beyond recognition, except for those forms passed down privately, such as Yinyang, Wuxing and Bagua. It does not matter if you consider this an evolution or a deterioration. To say that this is our nation’s ancestral martial arts, inherited by us, is no different from what happens in other cultures. Who then has the right to say they have a “long, well-established history”? Besides, to fight is part of human nature. China has a stone carving of thirty men in combat practice from the Spring and Autumn period, found at Heishanhu in Jiayuguan, but murals with wrestling scenes have been found in Egypt in tombs from 2000 B.C.. This is to say that China does not have a monopoly on “long histories”. Why does Wushu like to brag about its long history? Incompetent apprentices always go on about how great their master was “in those days”, just as ignoramuses on the international scene never tire of telling foreigners about “our four great ancient inventions”. In reality, yesterday’s feats do not make one great today. An ancient abacus is no match for a modern computer. In the end, it just shows a mentality of using past glory to hide today’s emptiness, of using long-gone strength to compensate for today’s flaws. A decrepit, dying old man will always reminisce about the glorious old days. What does that say about Chinese Wushu always yearning for the past and seeking out its roots?


Huang: There have been countless Wushu practitioners throughout Chinese history, with many talented individuals. We have hundreds of different styles, each with its own traits. You cannot be saying that Chinese Wushu lacks a wide-range?


Zhao : In the ancient state of Lu, everyone wore Confucian robes, but there was only one Confucius. In today’s China, there are thousands falling to their knees at one of the numerous schools, but how many of them actually intend to apply what they learn; to succeed in a lifelong undertaking? Most sports in the world, especially globally successful sports such as soccer, are made up of a handful of athletes and a magnitude of fans. In Chinese Wushu, it is the exact opposite: there are many practitioners and few spectators. Sadly, the average skill level of practitioners is not enough to be an athlete. Those people with swords and spears lying around the house, those people in the parks turning their waists to relax, those people in martial arts schools or sports grounds dancing to the tune of their coach: are they practitioners or fans? How many of them do you count among your “wide-ranging” circle? What worries me is that the amount of people in this circle is rapidly decreasing, because in today’s world there are many ways for young people to vent their energy. Let me just ask you this: when you wake from your “wide-ranging dream”, go and count whether there are more young people in the martial arts school or in the dance clubs; whether they are watching set forms or watching soccer. Furthermore, hundreds of Chinese fighting styles say they are unique and effective, but how many styles and techniques have produced anything innovative or practical? How many of those have made revolutionary improvements? It is just that China is too big for exchange between styles, and many martial artists are conservative and live in seclusion to maintain their mysterious aura by withholding information. Over time, the same fighting concepts, principles, and methods have become known by different names, have become entwined with philosophical principles, and have adopted many strange ritual movements that have nothing to do with attack or defense.  If we could dispense with all the secrecy, with all the “repeated inventions” that bred within the various factions, and analyse it scientifically, Chinese Wushu would suddenly not seem so immense anymore. And when faced with a strong opponent, this “not so immense” Kungfu would be nothing more than “punches + sidekicks + grabs”, and might not even be more than a vulgar village brawl. Where will the thousand styles of the Chinese nation have gone then? I am not saying our “treasure box” is empty, but neither should you say that it is so “wide-ranging”.


Huang: Are you in the same way saying that Chinese Wushu offers no wisdom either?


Zhao : No, Wushu and Chinese medicine are both based on pre-Qin philosophy, and this kind of Eastern mystic philosophy has produced unimaginable insights regarding nature and humanity, so it certainly offers wisdom. But has the average level of cultural education of martial artists since ancient times been higher than that of the common man? If not, then how could this “wisdom” be understood and passed down over time? Over the course of two thousand years, the teachings of Confucius became “Confucianism”; who is to say that the “wisdom” of Wushu has not become vulgarized as well? Furthermore, how would the Chinese martial arts world look upon a theory that could combine all the wisdom of Wushu? Take an ignorant martial arts veteran, and a scrawny martial arts scholar; how would you see the two of them? Undoubtedly, you would see the former as the master, and the latter as a little girl. But remember that in the Soviet Union, a frontrunner in sports, athletes always have physicists, biologists, and nutritionists as their personal consultants. Our warriors on the other hand, like to wave around their fists shouting “I don’t need to understand theory to beat someone up!” And there is only one reason for this: the ancient philosophy and proto-physics found within our Wushu has already become so “wise” as to become otherworldly. It gives people the feeling of “wisdom”. It is a advertisement that never loses its touch. But under the protection of Wushu’s violence, it is free to spout nonsense.


Huang: You are exaggerating, and maybe you are even somewhat one-sided. Perhaps you are simply disappointed with Chinese Wushu? Or you despise it? Or you like being contrarian? We should study Chinese Wushu from every aspect in human society, and not just from its negative sides.


Zhao : The truth is, I speak from my love for Chinese Wushu. Let me ask you, should someone who loves Wushu approve of everything in Wushu? Is a doctor who tells a patient he has a serious illness not acting out of concern for the patient?


Huang : That depends on whether the disease is treatable or not.


Zhao : Do you think that modern Chinese Wushu is untreatable? That there is no cure? If not, then why is it such a taboo to point out our own weak points and illnesses? Why be so afraid to take off our mask? Love has at least two forms of expression. First, the love for one’s parents, namely loyalty, obedience, modesty, and being considerate. Secondly, the love for one’s children, where one needs to be frank and sincere in teaching them. The point is, do you see Wushu as your parents and idol, or do you see it as a tool to improve your physical capabilities? Does Chinese Wushu need flattery now, or criticism? And if it needs both, then I still think it has already heard enough “courtesies” from its followers. For a full understanding, it needs to listen to an extreme and one-sided diagnosis.


Huang : But many people in the martial arts world would find your odd way of expression your love hard to swallow. They do not understand why you would “be Chinese yet insult Chinese martial arts”. They find you an eccentric, a rebel, or a dangerous element. Some might even attack you.


Zhao : Oh yes, perhaps the biggest flaw of the Chinese martial arts world is that it refuses to admit its own flaws. An academic discussion can quickly turn into personal attacks and persecution. But can a martial arts expert or any kind of top athlete start a fight with his spectators, the commentator, or his coach when they criticize him after losing an international competition? No, only uncivilized fanatics get rid of other opinions by crazy means. Even though this invisible evil that roams our country is not nearly as terrible as that of Roman Catholicism during the Middle Ages, many martial arts masters and students in China fear that the fire that burned Giordano Bruno to death at the Square of Flowers in 16th century Italy will be lit again. All this is just to explain one matter: mainstream contemporary Chinese Wushu is not about skill, or art, or philosophy; all that is left is faith; it has become a religion.


Huang : The traditional organization of martial arts did have factions based on ancestral worship, but it was no religion. It is not the same as Buddhism, Daoism, or Confucianism, and neither is it like Christianity or Islam.


Zhao : What you have listed are the most well-known ancient religions, but these are different from modern religion. Modern religions tend to work on a small scale. Since the Qing dynasty, we have had small pockets of religion sprouting like mushrooms, such as the Lotus sect, the Eight Trigrams sect, the Yi Zhu Xiang sect, the Heavenly Principle Society, Yi Guan Dao, the Fists of Justice and Harmony, and so on. It is a time of more schisms in the martial arts sects and thus we see a smaller scale. Another characteristic of modern religion is that it does not take mythology, religion, or philosophical concepts as its basis, but a person or a personified diety. Modern religion worships some invisible natural mystery, and likes to associate it with some kind of practical skill. This way, religion and fighting skills merged to become the various kinds of martial arts; religion and health exercises merged to become Qigong. Similarly, as Wushu was replaced by firearms in the military, and as has not yet been able to transform into an attractive competitive sport, it has had to rely on religion during this time of soul-searching. Students really do not need to rack their brains anymore to learn how to “kill with their bare hands like Shaolin monks”. Lin Qing’s Teachings of the Eight Trigrams is a combination of “the Way of the Five Women” and Plum Blossom fist, right? The Boxer revolts in North China was also a “holy fist” that relied on talismans and martial arts to gather followers. And traditional martial arts all had their own idols, rituals, and religious regulations.


Huang : Society needs religion, so what is so bad about Wushu becoming a kind of religion?


Zhao : Yes, religion can be a sanctuary, it can be a cure for the stress of life or for spiritual traumas, it can provide the feeling of safety and belonging of a big family. But if you have a strong faith or desire for something otherworldly, it is best for you to join a real religion. Otherwise, if you get too obsessed about a certain skill, it can become a kind of drug addiction, where you cannot tell reality from fantasy, and you may do something stupid through a feeling of righteousness or sacredness. The blind devotion, conservatism, arrogance, factionism, purism, and nationalism of the Chinese Wushu world; the internal strife, mutual disdain, competition over status; all the ugly phenomena that fills everyone within and outside the Wushu world with scorn, disgust, and resentment are all related to this. In my opinion, Chinese Wushu’s top priority is casting off its religious aspects, and become a real scientific sport. Let us not wait for an “Opium War”, or an “Eight Nation Alliance” in the Wushu world before we wake up and do some self-reflection. I have written a paper on this matter, so if you are interested you can search it out. Let us talk more tomorrow.


Huang : Tomorrow, let us please discuss the combat value and the artistic value of Wushu.



Day Two


Huang: Yesterday, you were discussing the historical foundations for our belief in Wushu, but in my opinion it is of no importance if Chinese Wushu is not as glorious as people might believe, because frankly, what we young people really desire from Wushu are the skills we can use to “beat people up”, the “combat effectiveness” contained in fighting training that allows us to conquer others. Nothing else.


Zhao: That is true. Unlike other masters, you are not so hypocritical as to say “beating people up” is shallow and wrong, while also bragging about your combat effectiveness or talking about some great philosophical virtue. If there was a school of martial arts, with a dozen techniques and a dozen forms, that called itself the strongest, most profound style in the world, yet failed to bring forth any kind of talented fighter; none of its students dare to question what they learn, and in their delusion they happily keep on training their entire lives. Tell me, how would you feel about this school?


Huang: I would say they are cheating people!


Zhao: But do you not think that there are many cheaters hidden in the Chinese martial arts world today? People claiming to know supernatural skills, or ancient secret techniques, or people claiming their new flowery movements are backed by the latest scientific research, or based on the relics, writings, or pictures of some famous fighter?


Huang: Let us leave those quacks for what they are. The idea that “Chinese Wushu is strong in combat” is sufficient to make us believe that the martial arts that our ancestors passed down to us are the strongest in the world.


Zhao: I cannot talk about how things were in the past, but during the last few decades, its so-called “combat effectiveness” has been Chinese Wushu’s greatest lie. How many young people have been lured in by this lie, never to recover?


Huang: So if I understand you correctly, you are saying Chinese Kungfu is not effective in combat at all?


Zhao: I would not go that far. There are still techniques that are useful in combat, or that have the potential to be. But as a whole, modern Chinese Wushu truly lacks combat effectiveness. In the international fighting scene, it has already lost its competitive edge.


Huang: That is hard to accept. Let us talk about exhibition Wushu first. All the things learned in those sports academies, everything practiced by professional as well as amateur Wushu groups, the interclub exhibitions, every kind of Chinese Wushu shown on the sports channels; is it all just “flowery forms with no substance?”


Zhao: No one dares to admit openly that institutional Wushu are only “flowery forms”, but no one says those “authentic” traditional masters have “combat effectiveness” either. In fact, traditional Wushu is often accused of being no more than “Long Fist in a traditional dress”.


Huang: Institutional Wushu is mainly based on set forms, but practicing set forms does improve one’s physique, so it does improve combat effectiveness indirectly. At the same time, set forms are based on real fights, and it is only after becoming familiar with single forms as well as two-person forms that one should start sparring. Is this not one way to learn to fight? So I do not think you can say the set forms of institutional Wushu have no combat effectiveness.


Zhao: If anything that improves one’s physique is considered combat effective, then basketball, swimming, mountain-climbing, and almost every other sport is combat effective. I think only those qualities and skills that are entirely aimed at combat, developed especially for combat, can be called combat training. And I would not include set forms in this category, nor would I some other fighting techiques. And when it comes to applying set forms in “sparring”, that is just an excuse or an illusion for set form practitioners. Set forms can be used in a friendly setting, such as when a teacher orders the student when to attack, or when fellow students “feed each other attacks”, or when those of the same style “listen to each other’s energy”. But what when you are in a life-and-death sitution, or in a battle for glory? Even in a ten-hour chess match, you cannot just follow the “set forms” of chess strategy, so who would be able to choose the appropriate sequence from set forms in a blink of an eye during combat? In fact, the reactions used in set forms are different from those used in real combat. and training one kind will not improve the other. Furthermore, how could practicing over a hundred movements so many times a day produce any results?


Huang: Well of course the real combat essence of Chinese Wushu lies in traditional folk martial arts. These days, many folk Wushu practitioners are screaming “combat effectiveness is important”, and “rediscover tradition”; they want to revitalize the combat effectiveness of Chinese Wushu.


Zhao: During the Cultural Revolution, Long Fist was promoted within institutional Wushu by the government in the movement to ‘destroy the old and build the new’, and other styles were suppressed as medieval. Any of us who talked about combat effectiveness were “disturbing the public order”. Later, when restrictions were relaxed, old masters started to cry for combat effectiveness. Even institutional Wushu started to forego its pride and tried to rediscover folk martial arts; but what did they “rediscover”? A resurrected corpse, moldy handwritten tomes, mediocre braggarts with nothing to sell but their old age. In the end, was combat effectiveness really improved? I do not deny that there are those who fear that if real talent is found, it would threaten their own status, but I think the main reason for this are those who come to look for bits of gold in the traditional homeland of Chinese Wushu, but can only find yesterday’s palaces, relics, and a war-torn land.


Huang: So traditional martial arts also lacks combat effectiveness?


Zhao: Traditional martial artists criticize institutional Wushu for being “flowery forms”, but that does not mean they themselves are”real Kungfu”. True, institutional Wushu has turned away from combat effectiveness, while traditional martial arts seeks it, but to seek for something does not mean you have it. The real meaning behind “taking traditional combat effectiveness seriously” is “taking themselves seriously”. Just like institutional Wushu, today’s traditional martial arts mainly focus on set forms, and they try to pass off new developments as ancient techniques. From a combat perspective, many combat techniques are actually symbolic or ritual movements, which have nothing to do with actual fighting. As a method of training, there are still many primitive, inefficient exercises. They say these will improve your fighting power, but actually they are not much more than praying, suffering, and learning patience. Right now, there are tens of thousands of Chinese painstakingly training in traditional martial arts, but how many of those would dare to step up to international competitions to become world champions? Unless we are admitting that we are weak by nature as a race, then we must admit that our glorious traditional folk martial arts has become an old ox, a broken cart.


Huang: But when foreign fighters, strongmen, and challengers came to China to challenge us, the old generation of martial artists crushed them using traditional martial arts, bringing glory to our country and our martial arts. How is that possible if they had no combat effectiveness?


Zhao: If we had so many victories over the foreigners, then why is it that we only hear about it from the victors on our side, while the newspapers on the losing side report nothing? It is possible the foreigners do not talk about their own defeats, but then are Chinese not too ashamed to talk of their own defeats against the foreigners too? That’s why we still do not know how many wins and losses we have had against the foreigners in all these decades. Moreover, if it was a cat that Wu Song had beaten to death at Jingyang ridge, he would not have been a hero for all these centuries, and what kind of fighters were these foreigners that our masters did beat? My master once fought a Russian strongman; I myself also fought a Danish boxer, and others from my style also fought all kinds of challengers. But really, our opponents went down after one strike, it really was not much of a fight. Chinese martial artists have not fought any “real tigers” yet. In those days, you became famous for defeating foreigners, but the real opponents were other Chinese. No foreigners dared to sign up for the leitai full-contact fights at Hangzhou or Shanghai, and those who practiced authentic passed-down traditional styles, whether they were some unknown monks or some famous local master, either got their skulls broken or they were too scared to fight. But even though those winners claimed to represent one of the many traditional styles, they all had their own secret combat training next to their traditional martial arts.


Huang: But those who know the real essence of Chinese Kungfu never reveal themselves in public.


Zhao: Not necessarily. Maybe they are that modest, but maybe they are just bluffing. In times of trouble, when the people feel they cannot rely on the state, they either start praying to Bodhisattvas or they turn to some Kungfu hero. One is god turned man, the other is man turned god; both might not actually have any power at all; they just need to stay hidden and maintain a mysterious aura so that people can worship them and feel safe.


Huang: Do you have any proof to your opinion? Can you disprove the possibility that China has lost some hidden traditional techniques that were never made public?


Zhao : My proof is that there is no one with convincing proof that Bodhisattvas or Kungfu heroes exist. Furthermore, how could some hermit have real insights or be globally competitive while living in seclusion, cut off from information, living in destitution? How could he test his techniques with others to measure himself? How can we know that his skill is better, than he grasps the essence? How does he even provide for his basic needs, his food, money, or things? If he earns his own living, and spends much of his time meeting his needs for clothing, food, and housing, what kind of training could he do? As for us losing traditional techniques, I do not think that is always a bad thing. Even though some people would find it cause for mourning, in the end it is just natural selection. It is the elimination of things that are unviable, useless, inefficient, or overcomplicated.


Huang: Perhaps we have a different understanding of what “combat effectiveness” is.


Zhao: That is quite possible. “Combat effectiveness” is a very vague concept. What would you say “combat effectiveness” is?


Huang: It is hard to explain. It is something like, “powerful”, “unbeatable” etc..


Zhao: Yes, but clearly we should compare styles, not individuals. If someone wins a fight, we can only say that he was strong at this time; even if he always wins we can only say that this person is strong; only when several people practicing the same style are often victorious can we say the style is combat effective. Talking about the combat effectiveness of “untested” styles is a waste of breath.


Huang: So you are saying that “combat effectiveness” is the probability of winning in battle. But in a boxing match, a wrestler will probably lose, while in a wrestling match, a boxer will probably be defeated. So which of those is combat effective?


Zhao: That is exactly why we need objective standards for testing “combat effectiveness”. Whether it is in open competition or in a private match, there are always implicit or explicit rules to be followed. The style that is most suited for these rules will be more “combat effective”. But there is also this “rule”: when you do away with all rules except for being allowed to use only your own physical strength, it often ends with killings, duels, and other extremely violent tests of strength. Under these circumstances, we have a kind of “absolute combat effectiveness”. In theory, martial arts should have a high degree of “absolute combat effectiveness”, but in reality this is difficult to test, because we would end up with many injuries and casualties; it would also be too brutal for spectators, and there would be no “techniques” to speak of. Actually, what people think of when they speak of “combat effectiveness” is not just about the ability to hurt or kill, but a psychological need for “defeating others with powerful, graceful artistry”. This is the middle road between elegance and roughness. But today’s Sanda, pushing-hands, and set forms are too “elegant”, and stirs little enthusiasm with people; while ancient wrestling was too extreme in its roughness for the general public.


Huang: Maybe the combat effectiveness of Wushu is a kind of subjective need for spectators or Kungfu fans, but what about the Chinese martial artists who want to turn themselves into masters or Kungfu heroes? Even though they have little hope of achieving this, and they sometimes complain they do not receive the “real teachings”, they apply themselves their whole lives. If there is no objective combat effectiveness, then what is it they are searching for?


Zhao: Those who like to watch Wushu try to fulfill their own natural desire for combat through the athletes; those who practice Wushu are driven by fear. There are many kinds of fear: watching people die or seeing a live tiger is one kind; fear of heights, or fear of public speaking are other kinds. Do not think that fear is only for weaklings or cowards; fear is the natural instinct for self-preservation of any healthy human or animal. Now, what is man’s greatest fear? It is the fear of the unknown and the mysterious. When faced with a “fearful situation”, such as when facing death, or a fugitive on the run; when entering a competition or a war; whenever we feel our fate is unknown we experience a surge of fear. Even a dauntless hero might kneel down and pray to a shrine; would he still do this if he understood the unknown like the back of his hand? When a young person leaves his familiar home to enter the unknown, mysterious outside world, he to fill himself with a kind of “strength” to drive away his fear. What kind of “strength”? It can be the law, it can be morality, religion, etc., but the most primal, natural instinct is to worship one’s own body. People always want their own fists to be reliable in any situation, to have the best weapon. And so victory in combat becomes a talisman. I think this is why people seek combat effectiveness in Wushu.


Huang: Isn’t this kind of reasoning absurd? Modern man faces guns and bombs; has Wushu’s direction not changed from “combat effectiveness” to “artistry”? To experience beauty and dreams through practicing “movements” and “energy”?


Zhao: One can say that the value of modern Wushu is to give people a feeling of beauty, but this kind of beauty is not as simple as we often might think. A young energetic person might enjoy poetry or science, while also enjoying combat or romance. Achievements and crimes both stem from people seeking happiness in life, 而各種人與動物沒什麼兩樣的快 感經過長期的社會攪擾,逐漸被抽取出經絡,再根據時代的需要雕刻成我們活著的人所喜歡的樣子。This way, our base desires are transformed into a higher appreciation of beauty. The beauty of Wushu is the kind where society admires the the beauty of strength. Strength can allow someone turn away from the love of his parents to still have a feeling of protection and security. Therefore, all the different individual kinds of appreciation of Wushu are always united by its basic “combat effectiveness”. Set forms merely parasitize on combat effectiveness, and if forced to stand on its own, it will immediately find another host to parasitize on, such as dance, and become a dance telling Kungfu stories. Ofcourse this is how institutional Wushu has become a kind of gymnastics, how traditional opera has become acrobatics, how Qigong has become magic, and how folk martial arts has become a religion.


Huang: So you are saying developing both set forms as well as combat effectiveness is wrong?


Zhao: Set forms can be separated from combat, but do you think that is the situation today? Why does the Wushu world keep tricking beginning students into thinking that set forms are the basis for combat practice? That pre-set sparring or pushing-hands are the model for real combat? 而奇式怪招、搏人丈遠是技擊的目標? In Wushu, set forms and combat have always been connected, and their relationship becomes closer or farther depending on the teacher’s needs. Those pursuing combat effectiveness look down on set forms, but sometimes they still use set forms to cover up the boredom of combat practice; and just like the Duke of Ye, who claimed to love dragons but could not face a real dragon, practitioners of set forms often use combat effectiveness as a front. Well, it is getting late, let us continue tomorrow.


Huang: Tomorrow, let us discuss the content of Chinese Wushu.




黄:您独到的武学思维令我心里时常涌出一种豁然开朗的感觉,可您对当今中华武术的技击威力的怀疑和否定又使我心 中忐忑,当然,我知道少数拳法和高手即使再“厉害”也救不了中国武术。但是,如果真正叫人心服,恐怕还得更具体地对中国拳术的主要“经络”的结构进行剖 析,指出其中的弱点来。其实,我也曾很讨人嫌地向许多拳术家请教过他们本门拳法及整个武术的不足何在,可“回答”只有三种:第一种拳师自称才疏学浅,不具 备指责拳术的资格,并劝我老实学拳,勿胡思乱想;第二种拳师借此痛骂旁门或旁人,其中多为对某个人或某件事的私怨,而与学术无关;第三种拳师则表示不满, 好象说:“呸!你这叛徒,大不敬,大逆不道之流。我的拳术中国第一,中国的拳术世界第一。”


赵:可他们都在对你说:“我们都很害怕”。害怕触犯了那个东西,害怕看清了那个东西,害怕得罪了其他的害怕者。 实际上,那个东西不是现实中的国术,而是幻想中的国术。拳术在幻想中越传神,在现实中就越失真;而拳术在现实中越贫乏,就越想用更神圣的幻想来弥补。中国 武术理论和技术的破裂由此与日俱增了。








赵:中国技击若想发展,现在试行的拳术分类法必须全部打破。这倒不是说这些分类很不合理,而是说这些分类只能部 分地划分拳术的演练特色,而丝毫不能说明拳术的技击特点。拳术类型的分割应该是“打”出来的,而不是“练”出来或“编”出来的。它应该反映人体和不断翻新 的技术,而不是千百年一成不变的宗教式的门派习俗。少林、武当、峨媚、终南等分类恰说明了古时交通不便所带来的交流障碍,今天早该成为陈迹了。而内家,外 家来源于尚武的书生为抬高身价而妙笔生花,然而谁也不愿承认自己是“外家”。其实,在荣辱生死悠关之时,谁的拳脚都是“无家可归”的。




赵:“刚柔”的意思更加含混和泛泛,它只能作为拳师对其他门派品头论足的口头禅,一旦用到自家的拳技便都“刚柔 相济”,“内外兼修”。好象自己总是站在 “刚”与“柔”的居中点上来评审别人是“偏刚”还是“偏柔”。太极拳等柔技真的靠“四两拨千斤”来闯荡江湖吗? “以搏人为主”的形意拳为什么属于“内家” 呢?西洋拳击也是人的创造,那它是“刚”是“柔”呢?








赵:国术的打法忌讳太多,除了避讳某些不约而同的东西外,各门各派还有各自的禁忌,譬如,每门拳法总忌讳与其它 的拳法雷同,于是追求奇异,冷僻成风,说一个练八卦的很像大极会使他难堪,说一个练形意的很像拳击他会觉得耻辱,要知道最能表现拳派风格的并不是打法,而 是故意摆出的门派礼节性招式。这类招式在表演和对峙中还算有用,但在短兵相接时则完全是多余的,笨拙的。另一个忌讳是怕摔倒。在中国民间的徒手格斗较量 中,有一条不成文的规定,即除两脚之外身体任何部位着地都意味着失败、屈服和“栽跟头”。所以南方器重“马”,北方推崇“桩”。国术也多要求步距大、重心 低、上身中正,殊不知这种四平八稳的技巧实用的代价是什么?其一,在“抬腿半边空”等影响下,失去了下肢的进攻,特别是极富杀伤力的高踢和高膝强击。其 二,中国最优秀拳种中的“蛙劲”只不过是力求使动量沿人体某一路线尽可能低损耗、长距离的传输。还没有自觉地利用不平衡所产生的大质量部位的惯性运动来发 力。其三,时时提防“失重”必阻碍步法与身法的闪动和灵巧。上述我们所丢弃的东西也正是现在国际搏坛最宝贵的东西。传统拳术是“老人拳术”,“老”是圣 贤、权威和高深的同义词,而老年人当然是抬腿艰难,倒地危险了。这样,在授拳时掩盖“圣人”弱点的托辞自然就是拳术忌讳“不平衡”了。但是,拳术并不仅仅 是摔跤赛。以失稳换来凌厉的一击,即使倒地也值得。打法我就先说这点吧。




赵:我们的拳师总喜欢在招数和打法上寻求独创和隐秘。其实,真正独特的、能保密得住的是训练,俗称功法。训练方 法决定着拳术的优劣。而中国现存的传统功法基本上是低效的。表现为“功夫上身”所花费的时间太长,即使有了“功夫”也不完全在某种格斗中顶用,并易出现伤 害、劳损和疾病。训练是一门庞大的综合学问,决不是几十年如一日、起三更、练三九就能成功的。在这儿我不多说了,我只谈几个“错位”:首先是练法与用法的 错位,不管哪门拳法都以不能散打为耻,可哪门事法把大部分时间花在散打上呢?国术大师们在练功上有两个很可笑的错觉,一是认为真搏实打是拳术的最后一课, 只有“功力”精纯后才能试着临敌;二是认为精熟了推手、对练等近似格斗的技能就等于提高了真正格斗的水平。当然,在低陋的条件和训练术下很难实现肉搏,业 余拳迷也不愿总是肿脸瘸腿去上班。但拳术想上高层次,“错位”就必须弥补,最终的决战怎么用,学习的开始就怎么练。另一个“错位”是疲劳和强度,民间拳手 只知天天长时间埋头苦练,实行低体力消耗战术,自身的肌肉,神经等格斗所需要发育的组织并未被充分刺激。他们对更新训练器具、设备或请助手陪练有一种天然 的憎恶,他们更愿意在黑暗或无人的角落里独自比划和默想。我真搞不清武士们是为了人生而借助中国武术,还是为了乞求“中国武术”的怜悯而苦行。此外,理沦 与实践有错位,技术与素质有错位,公开性操练与闭门秘练有错位……我就只举这几例吧。




赵:我们先不谈官方武坛的组织方式。仅就民间拳界而言,学生藏在心底的选择明师的标准是什么,历史不明的神秘老 头儿为最佳;能椎推搡搡,会高谈阔论的居中;不能打,不会聊,只在拳术某一方面有研究的则很勉强。虽然人人都说这样不科学,可某“大师”道临时却人人都动 心。另外,一师多徒制的“牧羊式教拳”能培养出高材吗?授拳不同于中小学,它需要师生更密切的接触,科学到了高水准也需一师一徒制,拳术则应更进一步,施 行“多师一徒”制,只有各派拳师,体育专家,医学家,营养师等等与技击有瓜葛的领域的方家通力合作,才可能造就出中国真正的高手。








赵:别那么说。咱们先谈谈形意拳,如果说二、三十年代全国擂台上的优胜者中形意拳手居多,那现在的形意就“差 劲”多了。原因是最讲究“合一”的形意拳除染有国术的通病外,还有“不合”之处。首先,“招”与“劲”不合,形意是“打人”的招“推人”的劲,用在击打上 吧,拳掌发出只能打动对方,力量少有破坏性;用在推揉上吧,伸掌伸拳又难以将对手远掷。其实,形意拳家至今未搞清形意拳是专用于“散手”还是“推手”的技 术。此外,“形”与“意”不合。都在高唱“形意并重”,都在走极端。一些人讲求“形骸”成癖,一些人追寻“意念”成疯。前者被三节、四梢、五行、六合……捆 成了五花大绑,后者则躲在幽处独享精神激战。还有“拳法”与“功法”不合。谁要是想终生若练五行拳、十二形、杂式捶或直接用拳招来格斗就能“升堂入室”那 就太天真了。人们喜欢把形意拳与西方拳击比较,但人们也害怕这种比较。中国事就非要纯而又纯地“走自己的道路”,哪怕是与洋人的拳技有一点偶然的巧合也要 立刻删去。可依我看仅就训练方法和比赛制度而言,形意拳就该好好向拳击学习。




赵:形意八卦的互补最初来源于董海川、郭云深及门徒间良好的私人关系,后由张占魁创拳,但形意的欠缺不是八卦都 能补上的,八卦掌也有不少缺点,同样也不是形意能补的。例如,八卦掌有层很厚很厚的“皮”,不易看穿,外观却给人以复杂和神秘的感受。使人着迷,也使人上 当。第一层画皮,是董海川和继承者们的侠义故事,“水分”极大。第二层表皮,是八卦学说往八卦掌上硬套。历代八卦拳师谈掌法必言易理,但没人真能找出它们 之间的一丝必要的关系。除了哲学启发外,在格斗中推敲阴阳八卦,就像点穴、气功、轻功一样,是一种精神上的胜利法和麻醉法。第三层真皮,是基本掌法与实搏 打法混为一谈。就连八卦大师也在苦思冥想:这些变化莫测的换掌游动究竟怎么“用”呢?那些用“蹚泥步”来绕对手飞转,以八个方位来打击“中心点”或凭抽身 穿掌来绕到对手身后的妄想是教唆自己和他人当“炮灰”。在三层“皮”之外的爱好者撑着双掌,在精确的小圆圈上,像初学滑冰的人蹑手蹑脚地蹒跚着,不时地换 掌亮出了几乎人体所能达到的最别扭的姿式。这难道就是传奇、圣典、怪招三位一体通向“雪花山”的捷径吗?




赵:一个外行,由于没有成见,他的印象往往是正确的。太极拳有自己的较量方式——推手。干嘛不仅此引以为荣呢? 非得是专门用于你死我活的决斗的技术才算是拳术吗?民国时期,大极拳家曾公开辩解:太极拳手之所以在各类技击赛上成绩不佳,是因为太极拳太高深,人们难以 掌握的缘故……这是掩饰,还是坦白?太极拳理论文辞瑰玮,堪称传统拳谱楷模。其主线为一绝顶的阴阳辩证关系。你要“刚”吗,那就尽量地“柔”,柔到莫此为甚处,突然变成纯粹的“刚”;你要“快” 吗,那就尽量地“慢”……且慢,这套“物极必反”的哲理很诱人,但有谁灵验过吗?不,你若能偷窥到那些发劲放人脆快的太极大师关在庭院内都秘练些什么就会明白的。




赵:明代的将军就是以你这种心情去拜谒少林的,但是他们失望了。今天许多少年逃学离家奔向少林,他们也同样灰心 了。千百午来各地少林人总向往着练出这种或那种常人难以达到,甚至常人难以想到的功夫。其实,这类惊人高功充其量也只能算作某种杂技。插砂、拍树、跳坑, 踢桩、卸骨、点穴、一指禅等等等等,对格斗训练而言是落后的“土”办法,但加上点魔术在表演开石、上吊、挨棒打、手指倒立等倒颇为引人入胜。我记得,马良 的“新武术”和现在的“武术”,这些练传统的花拳绣腿们都责骂的“花架子”,是脱胎于少林拳术的。我记得,二、三十年代,那国术的“最后王牌”军在拳台上 被乳臭未干的后生追得抱头鼠窜的场面。少林门少有文人的参与,处于理论真空下的放任自流,它的轮廓很实际,但细节很不科学。








赵:我的“东西”是从错误和失败中泡出来的。我年轻时争强好胜,总爱充当一些名家的“打手”来和另一些名家争个 高低。漠视他人,特别是失败者的长处,这不但阻碍交流而且伤害感情。另外,由于与中国武道的意识主流分歧悬殊,故始终与武术界保持着距离。至今有人叹我怪 癖执拗、不识时务。起初,为解释传统劲法编了一趟“心会掌”,其实它只是个套路,并不能有效地提高人的格斗能力。现在才着手把给我带来益处和我认为较有效 的训练术和交手术总结起来,补充“心会掌”。但是,世界徒手竞技的方式在不断变化,我的“东西”也在不断被淘汰掉,不会自己“找岔”,自己更新,就谈不上 先进。最近,我对“心会掌”中下肢爆发力的训练就很忧虑,至今还未解决。我更希望有后生对我批评。








黄:几天来,您站在另一个高度,把武术血淋淋地剖开,使我们这班乐知天命的人感觉到一阵阵地颤抖,我想会有人说 咱们这是在无事生非、自寻烦恼的。但是,您很像隐居在武林深处的一位痛苦的先觉者,自然会先天下之忧而忧,不断向人们发出危急警告的呼号。今天,您是否愿 作为一个明师为我们年轻人,为我们的武术的未来指明发展的方向呢?


赵:你知道当今中国武术界最危险、最丑恶、量强大的“拦路虎”是什么吗?是独裁,是武道内部已经司空见惯了的专 制。这是一套从上到下复杂的关系网。其中关键人物有两个:其一,门派中的头人,包括祖师爷、老师父等,谓之“拳霸”。其二,与武术有关各部门的某些政府官 员,可谓“官霸”。他们有一个共同的嗜好——发号施令,教导徒弟或下级该干什么,不该干什么。




赵:拳术是人的文化,人是最关键的因素。而这“两霸”最出色的能耐恰恰正是压制人,尤其擅长迫害那些比自己更有 才华,而又不怎么俯首贴耳的人。另外,作为副业,他们也不时地杷别人的成果和功劳窃为已有。请你特别注意:哪个地区的武术界死气沉沉,一盘散沙,那里头就 一定有拳霸官霸。让“花架子”肆虐,而不敢真搏实打,是因为“官霸”不敢担责任,“拳霸”害怕栽跟头。




赵:你应该问:“谁不是拳霸官霸”?我们这帮老头都或多或少地有些“霸”气,只是多数人自己不觉得罢了。当然 了,谁也不想当恶霸,但在这个武术体系下,不管多么善良、谦虚的人,一旦被捧到了某个高度立即便身不由己了。有一种伟大、正义的感觉推着飘飘然渐入化境, 看每一个武术爱好者都欠自己的情,看他们都处在蒙昧的状态等待着自己的教化。于是,把自己那点经验一滴一滴地挤出来,调追随者的胃口,并尽可能多地换取崇 拜者的钱财和赞颂。结果怎么样,青少年、叛道者、创新家……这一群最容易出现拳术英雄的人,也是最 脆弱、最没地位的人被一“网”打尽了,变得温顺、圆滑了,其中的宠儿慢慢地也熬成霸业,再进一步压制他的后辈。总之,武术遭殃。所以,那些宗师、权威、武 术家还是闭嘴吧,除了就某些问题进行一番平等的讨论外,最好不要以天然的坛祖和领袖的面目为拳国的子民指点迷津了。




赵:庸师往往把年纪当成经验,用来驯服徒子徒孙。而明师的任务是为学生尽快超过自己创造外围环境。“经验”应放 手让徒弟去闯、去干、去创。干出来的经验使师徒俩都受教育,这才是正常的扶植。但绝大多数老拳师却觉得这样做不合算。因此,你们年轻人不要上当,如果你的 老师真要把你培养出来,或许他在人格上和生活上需要尊严,需要你的尊敬,但在学问上在技术上他决不能作你的家长,而应作你的伙伴、你的随从。如果他觉得这 样作师父吃亏,那你就不要再理睬他,应远离他。最多他也只能搬出那套“武德”来咒骂你,可你却保住了事业和青春。




赵:过去可能是的,但现在的实际效果是什么?“武德”在中国的半空中悬了千年,谁也没有看清它的全部内容。“杀 富济贫”之类的豪言的现代解释是:先进的事物不许冒尖,腐朽的东西也不要死亡。“替天行道”现在也可翻译成:年轻后生不得“犯上”,以保障拳坛独夫作威作 福。现在,捧着这套过时的“武德”来整人,挑别人的不是,则是最最缺德的。




赵:“中国武术”是没有前途的。当然,整个世界武术的日子也不好过,你不要看那一时的辉煌、热闹。武术若今后没 有一个革命性的改变就会被那个伴在它身边的 “千古难题”逐渐地困死。而“中华武术”若照此下去便等不到那个时候,早就自身腐烂了,在快要咽气的时候再挨 上“外国拳术”致命的一击。




赵:什么是武术?武术是“尽量安全地表现残酷”。可这是一个矛盾,想安全就不能残酷,想残酷就不会安全。自古以 来,有人用金钱和奴役来淡化安全,从而提高了残酷的表现:有人创造出拳击、摔跤、推手等项目,以护具和技术约束来降低残酷,从而加强了人身安全。然而,武 术要求“安全”与“残酷”这两方面同时提高。但到目前为止,人们还只能做到以牺牲一方来补足另一方。武术缺乏安全会让人畏惧,缺乏残酷会让人厌倦。这是几 千年地球上生来死去的多少聪明人未能解决的难题。而武术想活下去,我们或我们的后人就要赶快解决它。












赵:我曾说过,政府就没有真正重视过武术。他们瞧不起武术,觉得它远不能与田径、足球、体操相比。有些人害怕武 术,怕聚众搞迷信、怕小青年打架,怕摆擂台出事。咱们再看看怎么个“走向世界”:培养几个洋“花架子”在国内观摩观摩;找几个初学乍练的老外带上中国的 “行头”让中国选手尝尝赢的滋味;派几个“嘴把式”到国外把东方的“实战术”传给西方的养生爱好者,或者引海外崇拜者“朝圣”,再高薪教几个大鼻子徒弟……说这是“卖国”有点夸张,但至少是在“卖拳”,在廉价出售。








赵:不,只要抓住一个问题,其它问题便迎刃而解了,那就是要“打”,参加竞技,只有把武术在全人类中间“打”个 热火朝天,老人才会自动变得谦虚,官僚才能被自然淘汰,人们才可真正知道中国功夫在世界上倒底“算老几”,安全与残酷的比重才会被恰当地把握。但是, “打”不是儿戏,它要求我们中国人再多拿出些胆量和度量来。就是说,首先必须有“敢输”以及“敢死”的精神准备。然后,请国外真正的搏斗高手到国内来叫 阵,并请国内的功夫好手去征泰、征日、征美、征战欧洲。




赵:就是要敢输,只要我们的拳手尽力了,就再也没有比惨败而归更好的事了。一些有识之士看到了中国武术的内幕 后,劝武术还是不要走向世界为好。可我认为国术还是走出国门,去亮一亮丑,挨一挨揍更好。虽然这样做会使广大的外行心里感到耻辱,我们也会有汉奸、卖国贼 之嫌,但这会打破国人心中的中国功夫不可战胜的神话,彻底使旧武术体系“休克”然后“重新启动”。只有这样,武术才有希望。








赵:这是实质性的问题,我们的武术工作者整天忙于编几趟拳术,创几招打法,搞几套训练等等,其实这并非振兴武术 的关键,真想闯出“有中国特色”的武术就要悉心研究出几套或十几套比赛的形式。不要只在“散打”、“推手”这两个干巴巴的赛制上打转,应该先学学人家的职 业化,人家的奥林匹克,人家的拳击柔道,然后自己搞更新的竞斗方式。最终把各式各样的格斗赛亮出来,打一打,让观众来取舍,让人民来评点。一个能唤起观众 极度狂热的比赛方式一旦定型,拳手和他们的指导者就会拼命地寻找在这个赛制上更实用的技术。于是,更具实战价值的拳术就会自然而然地不断涌现。中国武术的 技击性才能真正被加强。




赵:这又回到了那个“难题”,它虽然还未得到根本的解决,但我不相信中国人就那么缺乏冒险精神,现代人敢登雪 山,敢潜海洋,敢只身去北极,敢在飞机翅膀上跳舞,总之,连大自然的破坏力都不怕,人的拳脚的那点能量又算得了什么。其实,骑摩托车摔死是意外,而被对手 用脚踢死却是故意的,所以感情上过不去罢了。当然一名拳手无论他如何伟大也只不过为广大拳迷的快乐而充当牺牲品,为武术事业的进步而充当实验品,但作这样 的人值得。话说回来,人不是那么容易被打死的,我一生好“动手”,与名家、选手、挑衅者都有遭遇,其中不乏生死决斗,但几十年来连一颗牙都没被打掉。在武 术圈中,作为一名勇敢的选手我想他会有一些 “敢死”的精神的。




赵:你见过马路上为一点小事而吵嘴和打架的吧,近年来是不是围观的人越来越多,劝架的人越来越少。为什么呢?是 我们的格斗文化贫乏得已经逼使人们不得不去欣赏那些低层次的街头殴斗,而且一些人起哄、流连忘返、尽力鼓励打斗继续下去。另外,在电影、戏剧、小说里人们 也渴望看到真实、激烈的武打场面。故此,人们需要格斗,需要亲眼看到格斗或亲身体验格斗。我想,在这个时代,如果格斗比赛的形式恰当,选手训练科学,武术 是会超过足球而成为世界第一运动的。从某种意义上说,观众的热情就等于金钱,通过广告、资助、门票、电视转播等等渠道可积累丰厚的资金,资金反过来又促进 武术水平的提高。而武术水准提高了会使其明星们更加耀眼,使拳迷们的信仰更容易寄托,更好地享受神秘。




赵:中国人干吗非要追求某种独特怪异的拳术呢?使用什么样的拳术要按比赛的规则而定,传统拳术在新型的比赛中虽 有可借鉴的地方,但其主体,上至形意、太极等名拳,下到裘先生的螺旋拳和我的心会掌,恐怕都免不了要进博物馆。今天对我们来说至高无上的东西,那时可能一 文不值了。但是,这并不等于我在完全否定中国武术的价值。泰式拳击之所以能够称雄今日世界,空手道、跆拳道之所以能够大行其道,除了它们都有赏金制等比较 恰当的比赛形式这个重要因素外,不要忘记它们也都脱胎于东方古老的拳术,而这种古老的拳术中国大陆有得是,母庸说那些响当当的名牌拳种,仅就我的那套心会 掌中的部分技术而言,一旦能配合优良的竞斗秩序,我敢说它亦能与世界最厉害的搏斗术抗衡,我想其它许多拳派也能如此。令人遗憾的是,目前,不是我们学习人 家的赛制,而是我们忙于教人家那点“国粹”。搞不好,中国的这些“玩艺儿”又得丢给外国人去发扬光大,然后再借鉴回来,瞄准人家的尾巴穷追猛赶。




赵:我说过,中国武术将不复存在,它只能作为一种地方特色罢了。中国人欲在世界格斗领域内有所作为,就应创建出 多个有特色的格斗比赛,并在此类比赛中保持优势,而这类比赛的最低标准是不能让观众抱怨说:“这不是真打”,或说“这不公平”。当然解决那个“千古难题” 中国人应义不容辞。其实,让我预言更遥远的事情是极不现实的,当今中国武术所走的每一步都踏在一个十字路口上,谁知它朝哪个方向拐弯,即使有个预言指出了 灾难,而武术听从了预言结果避免了灾难,你说这个预言准确还是不准确?




赵:不过,我向你提个意见,这几天的闲聊中显然是你问的多,我谈的多,比较起来我就“专横”多了。以后,你不要 客气,不要因面子阻碍学术。我既讨厌别人强迫我承认他的正确,同时也讨厌强迫别人承认我正确,对任何人都是如此。好了,让我们暂时抛开武术。你出差时,在 江浙一带请帮我打听一下我的学生薛恒源和吴天甲的下落……

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About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact julien@marcopoloproject.org