View Full Version : Response to Zhang Lipeng Interview (EZine)

04-18-2005, 03:43 PM
Although I agree with many of Zhang Lipeng's opinions regarding martial arts, both historically and now, I feel that he seems unfortunately cynical regarding the nature of martial arts. I wish to address certain points he made in his article.

300 years ago, the master did not look at your size. They trained all sizes - tall, short, skinny, fat. He looked at your spirit, your self-esteem. They did not look at your body. If you want to do it, anything is possible. So the master will teach you if you're a little bit bigger, he'll teach you something else.
My Sifu does still teach this way. Perhaps it has to do with his history. As Zhang Lipeng points out

Chairman Mao wanted martial arts ended. He saw his bodyguard, Shi Xuyu, was so good at training in martial arts. Can you imagine if somebody else - in China there are so many people who can do training very well - if somebody else used him, then what? So that's why he changed them to martial arts.
My Sifu's father was similar to Shi Xuyu, he was a general in an army that opposed Mao. However unlike Xuyu he did not join Mao, rather he fled Hangzhou to Hong Kong. My sifu was trained by his father and by other pre-communist Sifus (such as Wong Sil Jang, a student of Lam Si Wing) and then moved to Canada for University. He liked it so much here that he decided to stay. Although I pay great respect to my Sifu I am not naiive enough to believe that he is one of a kind. There are other Sifu's who were trained in Chinese Martial Arts devoid of Mao's interference even in the same telephone area code as my sifu (I doubt that Pan Quing Fu was trained first in modern Wushu for instance).

Now these Sifus may face the problem that North American students, for the most part, do not have the dedication to the martial arts to practice them in a manner that Zhang Lipeng would call Kung Fu. But occasionally somebody does develop that dedication.

Anyway at my Sifu's school are everyone from short and thin to the bulky and tall. And he does customize teachings to a certain extent. I happen to have a bit of a natural affinity to Hung Gar and he has taught me more Hung Gar than a lot of other people at the school (including parts of the Iron Thread, something he has only taught a few people any of at all) while others have recieved more training in other areas (Wing Chun and Staff - I am a bit clumsy with the staff - come to mind) but have not had my training in Hung Gar. So some Sifus still will tailor the teaching to the student in order to ensure the continual improvement and progress of their skills by exploiting their strengths and by drilling the basics enough to limit their weaknesses.

Zhang Lipeng: It is. It's the spirit. It's over. It's over.
It's not over though. I see it every day so clearly in my brother, he nearly took the tip of his pinky finger clean off in a weight lifting accident yesterday, the ER doctor told him he was lucky that he didn't have to have the top joint amputated. Today he was back to training again, he just wasn't using that one hand. And that spirit is infectious. I've always been fascinated by it, I even started doing it in a half-hearted sort of "gotta lose some weight" way before he did but his passion has, over the last two years, passed to me. So even if the spirit of Kung Fu seems to be fading, it is not over and won't be so long as someone remains who understands the importence and dignity inherent in a skill honed with hard work, time, perserverence and patience.

you don't need martial arts to protect the country.
Actually many people have suggested that the changing nature of warfare has increased the significance of close combat skills in the last five years.

You don't need martial arts to protect your life. Nobody's going to kill you. In history, everybody would carry a big knife, a straight sword. It didn't matter where you went, if you went into a restaurant you would still carry a knife because you always had to defend yourself. Right now, if you want to kill somebody, you shoot him - you have a gun
In Canada this is not the reality. In fact in most parts of the (developed) world aside from the USA this is not the reality. Guns are highly regulated, expensive and if the user is caught after shooting someone, even if their victim survives, they generally face very harsh penalties. For some reason this is not enough of a deterrent to stop the rediculously high levels of gun crime in the USA but in Canada (for certain) and I believe in most of Western Europe and large swaths of Asia (Japan, probably China, South Korea) the levels of gun crime just aren't anywhere near as high. However stabbings are regular occurances, ESPECIALLY at nightclubs. Someone was killed in a stabbing at a bar just over a week ago in sleepy London, a city of 300,000. Self defense with melee weapons and against melee weapons is still very much a reality.

You can defend yourself better than people with no training, but you cannot fight against 20 people. It's not possible

This I agree with 100%. I am always getting down on people who train in a manner that will not encourage the development of real skill in a fight. I strongly agree in the importence of stress testing techniques and I will always pick an ugly but effective technique over a beautiful but useless one. Also I recall one person who defended the poor performance of TCMA in events such as the UFC by claiming that TCMA was designed for multiple opponents specifically, this sort of claptrap has always bothered me.

Can you imagine every day a small guy training with swords for twenty years - do you think he's gonna fight with you for twenty minutes? As soon as he moves his swords, you don't even know what's going on, you're already finished. It's over.

True with weapons. One mistake when fighting with swords or knives and you are dead, no second round. However this is not necessarily true in bare-hand challenge matches. Remember the infamous Bruce Lee vs Wong Jack Man match? About the only thing all parties CAN agree on is that it lasted about 20 minutes to half an hour. And that was not a modern UFC style match; according to Jack Man potentially lethal or maiming techniques were employed in the fight.

Create the form.

Again I find some common ground. My Sifu would definately approve of his advice within the context of the question asked by Barbara Malvik.

04-19-2005, 06:38 AM
Geez I would have thought that SOMEBODY would have had an opinion about this one.

04-19-2005, 11:47 AM
I just got around to reading this one. I find it quite a good read and an insightfull interview. I find that I also find a common ground with many of Zhang Lipeng's ideas of modern martial artists.

This particular bit stood out to me.

they classify you by size, and the fights are not fights, it's like punch, punch, grab somebody's leg, boom boom boom; hey, that's the modern way of fighting. They don't have real kung fu anymore. It's just if you're stronger or bigger or you know grappling, you know how to punch and kick, then you can fight. That's why people think if they've been training for a couple of years they can fight, but that's the modern way of martial arts.

Many people do not understand what kung fu is. Many modernists denounce kung fu as a valuable asset, simply because they do not understand the factors involved with the actual aspect of the multitudes of movements, and how the aspect of actual kung fu does not come into play until you have the ability to axcess the fundamental uses of these movements. They dont realize that even though they do not practice CMA, they themselves have kung fu. Its ironic really.

BM: They do fighting now for sport...stuff like boxing.

Zhang Lipeng: That stuff has become like business.

In history, the fights led to death - to save themselves life. They didn't fight for twenty minutes; they'd fight for one minute or two seconds and then it's over. They didn't fight that long. You die or he dies. Your leg broken, his leg or arm broken - it's one second; then it's over.

I think this is the major difference in todays martial society. Traditionalists, and modernists alike. MMA, Kung Fu, Karate, Judo, BJJ. Its all the same. None of these arts train like people used to.

And not only the chinese arts are inlcuded in this old way of training. Look at how Europians used to be. An actual knight would own anyone in the UFC or SanShou circuts. Those guys wore metal clothes, imagine how strong they were, not to mention they killed for a living.

Ok Im getting sidetracked here now. Point being though is this; NO ONE trains the way actual warriors used to. Its all modern, which is not actually better. The actual traditional, historical way of training in martial arts was for reality based applications. Not every fighter was an actual fighter. But the people who were actual fighters, would train with traditional methods, then for actual reality based practice, they would go fight, not in a ring, not in a school setting, but in an actual life/death situation, via challenge or war. This goes for all cultures, every single last one of them.

There are the occasional gems out there who have had the opportunity to feel the experience of being an actual fighter through traditional training means, and actual combat experience. Unfortunately these gems sparkles are fading fast with the passing of time and life.

I HIGHLY recomend this article for reading to anyone who has not specifically studied what the traditional arts of wushu kung fu entail. To those people who never thought traditional martial arts were worth anything, I pity your self induced ignorance through one pointed evalutations.

Are we at the point of realizing traditional, in the historical sense, martial arts are on the brink of being gone forever. It saddens me to know that the vast majority of modern sport fighters will never truly understand what historical fighters represented or what the capabilities were. We are at a time where actual accounts are being viewed in the same light as Leonardo da Vinci's submarine or helicopter were seen. This analogy of course works in the opposite time flow but has a very similar mindset.

"Its just not possible that people could operate to that level"

"Its just not possible that people could creat such a machine"


04-19-2005, 11:57 AM
I pity your self induced ignorance through one pointed evalutations.


i can see where your coming from but until people stop saying i have nothing to prove nothings going to be proven.

04-19-2005, 12:01 PM
Hey GDA where is that quote coming from?

04-19-2005, 12:09 PM

i can see where your coming from but until people stop saying i have nothing to prove nothings going to be proven.

lol, um out of context... :eek: :eek: :D :p

04-19-2005, 01:56 PM
I'm always hoping that our e-zine articles get discussed here. After all, what's the use of our forum if what we publish isn't discussed here? Wait - don't answer that - I don't need all your smart ass remarks ;)

For the record, the article is Interview with former Shaolin monk, Zhang Lipeng (http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=591).

There are two other articles about Master Zhang on our website:
There was our 2002 Shaolin Special cover story (http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/magazine/article.php?article=145)*

Zhang also published on our e-zine before - see Modernity and Traditional Shaolin Kung Fu Part 2 (http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=427)

For extra points, you can see two references to Zhang in my Shaolin Trips e-zine column. The first opens my first Shaolin Trip Shaolin Trips - Episode One: Open Two Doors (http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=469) . The second is in a Shaolin side trip, The 10 Year Anniversary of Kungfu Qigong Gala Benefit Hangover (http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=257).

*note that our 2005 Shaolin Special (http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/magazine/article.php?article=590) is on the newsstands now. :cool:

04-19-2005, 02:03 PM
Yet another fellow romanticizing the past.

The world has been going to hell in a handbasket since abstract thought existed.

"**** whippersnappers! They don't know what's what! Back in MY day...."

04-19-2005, 03:24 PM
In Canada this is not the reality. In fact in most parts of the (developed) world aside from the USA this is not the reality.

I love gross generalizations about the US perpetuated by the media.

04-19-2005, 04:06 PM
No hes right red5. Here in the USA we constantly have to battle off gun toting maniacs. I am glad I practice the worlds deadliest art, because otherwise I would get shot on a day to day basis.

Its pretty sad really, just this morning a 7 year old pulled a glock on me and told me he was gonna kill me if I didnt cough up some lunch money. Good thing I have a good base in disarming 7 year old gun weilders.

04-19-2005, 08:33 PM
lol, um out of context... :eek: :eek: :D :p

Yeah, I caught it that time. GDA didn't credit you with it and I missed it the first time through. ;)

Also on the issue of Gun Violence: I wasn't saying that the average American is lucky to get through the day without getting shot. Nor was I saying that Canada and Western Europe are Utopias where murder never happens. What I said is that in Canada, unlike the states, the VAST MAJORITY of street murders are NOT with firearms but are more likely with knives.

04-20-2005, 08:24 AM
What I said is that in Canada, unlike the states, the VAST MAJORITY of street murders are NOT with firearms but are more likely with knives.


But we have to remember that this is ONLY because access to firearms is greater in the U.S.

My point is that a person who has decided to kill, is going to kill, regardless of the weapon.

However, the emotional/psychological trauma of killing with a firearm is quite a bit less in most instances, because you increase both the technological and physical distance between you and the victim. It's easier to do the killing - but that does not have anything to do with the DECISION to kill.

Point being, firearm deaths are not a function of guns per se, but of the human desire to distance themselves from the act of killing.

04-20-2005, 08:42 AM
What I said is that in Canada, unlike the states, the VAST MAJORITY of street murders are NOT with firearms but are more likely with knives.

yeah because canada has a big asian society in canada. in china its hard to get a gun so they just chop people up, so they do it in canada too ;)

Wang Rui Xuan
04-21-2005, 09:42 PM
Thatís an ignorant statement Shaolinlueb. Even though you think it is a joke, what you are essentially saying is that most viloent crimes with knives in Canada are committed by Asian people, or more specifically Chinese people. Care to qualify that statement?

If those are the kind of jokes you make about Chinese people who I am assuming you feel 'close to' I would hate to hear what you have to say about other nationalities.

Wang Rui Xuan

04-25-2005, 09:44 AM
I'm not a gun owner, but I do own a lot of knives. And swords. And plenty of other sharps...

Guns have a definate effect on martial arts practice, but that has been an issue for a few centuries now. Arguably, guns are more accessible now that ever, as are plenty of weapons. I'm not sure, but I think Americans have only been able to carry chemical mace for the last few decades, and tasers have only existed for a few decades. This all has an impact on martial arts strictly as a combat practice. But I'd tend to say that it's more about time allocation. We tend to work longer hours in modern society and less of us have jobs that are physical. Go back a century or two and almost every job was physical. Even getting from one place to another was more physical. Now we just don't have the time on task that we would have had in days gone by. So to me, the 'gun effect' is more than just the literal possession of guns. It's more about the whole advancement of technology and society. It's about the shift of a medieval practice trying to remain valid in 2005.

04-25-2005, 10:18 AM
You have a point there, I think we are doing an alright job of keeping 2005 medievil...Ill be right back, gotta go feed the horse.

04-25-2005, 04:01 PM

But we have to remember that this is ONLY because access to firearms is greater in the U.S.

Sorry but in the case of Canada, not true.

It's only been recently that Canadian Tire stopped selling firearms. For Shotguns and Rifles there was almost no regulation. Our current registration and licencing requirements are a joke! If a Canadian wants a gun and doesn't have a criminal record with a firearms ban they get one. It's also perfectly easy to buy illegal firearms, just as easy as buying illegal drugs. It's EASY to access firearms in Canada. The reason people prefer the stabbing is because:

1: It's easier to conceal a knife.
2: It's easier to get away with it.