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Thread: Training in China vs Everywhere else

  1. #1

    Training in China vs Everywhere else

    Has anyone studied CMA in both China and the home country?
    What were some noticeable differences in your training?
    Was there much of an improvement to justify traveling all the way to China to study CMA or did you find it to be in the end unnecessary because you realized you could have accomplished the same thing in your home country?
    Sometimes I wonder if we romanticize training in China a bit.
    I've studied a few TCMA styles and modern Wushu in both the US and in Mainland China and I came to the conclusion that mainland China really doesn't have that much more to offer in your CMA training than the US.
    Do you really need to travel to Shaolin Temple to train under a Shaolin monk? There are Shaolin monks who have set up shop all over the world, why can't you stay closer to home to study under them? Obviously, you have to be able separate the fake Shaolin monks from the real ones.
    Did you do it because you were hoping to study under a real Chinese Sifu? If so, why does matter if your CMA instructor in your home country isn't Chinese?
    I'm just curious to know if anyone found it beneficial and justifiable to travel to China to study CMA as oppose to staying in their home country to study.

  2. #2
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    If you reduce kung fu to just its movements, to some quantity, then no, you can learn that anywhere.

    But there is a huge difference within going to China, to small village, dedicating yourself to a master and learning a local tradition or training in a Wushu school in a major city with other foreigners. If you can immerse yourself in the culture, then it is very valuable as you will begin to see the world through very different eyes. But its about how much you separate yourself, how much of your world you need to take with you. If you really LIVE it then you will see Kung fu is a very different entity, an attitude of mind with a rich philosophical history and correspondence to all aspects of the holistic Chinese culture, a culture which you will not merely passively observe but actively participate in and revere.

    If you have a very specific purpose for learning Kung fu then I suspect it is not worth going to China, but if you are someone who simply lives it, then immersing yourself in the culture changes everything.

    For example, imagine learning about the Bible from a critical philosopher as opposed to from a franciscan monk. The content is the same but the learning experience is very different, learning from someone who knows about it or someone who has faith in it and lives by it. In the mountains Kung fu is a religion and form is its ritual of prayer. You can't reduce that to something you practice in a leisure centre for two hours a week.

    But take what I say with a pinch of salt, I am highly biased, I spent a lot of time in China.
    Last edited by RenDaHai; 07-17-2015 at 05:24 PM.
    問「武」。曰:「克。」未達。曰:「勝己之私之謂克。」

  3. #3
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    Sure there will be difference between the two. If the question is which is better, then there is no definite anwser. Training locally will likely to have a local flavour.



    Regards,

    KC
    Hong Kong

  4. #4
    the golden age for foreigner to train kung fu in china was 1980-1990. now the country is heading through big changes kung fu is not a priority and many normal kung fu ppl dont teach that much anymore. if u looking for spiritual experience by traveling to china to learn kung fu dont bother. kung fu can be a catalyst for self improvement but it is not enough alone to help you. sure if u go on an exotic kung fu safari you can experience spiritual feelings and wonder but when it ends nothing will have changed for you.


    many ppl kung fu quest outwardly seem like spiritual quest but if u think hard it is actually a quest for masculinity. i think for many of the 70's american kung fu generation their masculinity was damaged in one form or another.


    the common themes from old school chop socky movies often showed things lacking in postmodern society.
    Last edited by bawang; 07-19-2015 at 10:57 PM.

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  5. #5
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    you can train wherever you like nowadays.
    Kung Fu is good for you.

  6. #6
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    In China, you can train alongside thousands upon thousands of students every day

    Here in the U.S., it's a delight to train alongside a few dozen people regularly. In China, it's such a part of their daily experience that you can't throw a rock in a park and not hit Taiji practitioners. It's not at all odd to carry weapons around. Plus there's nothing like the feeling of practicing inside Shaolin Temple, or on top of Wudangshan, or even on the Great Wall. Sure, you can practice anywhere. But who cares if you mess up when you're practicing alone in your backyard? When you're practicing in China, you commit more, because you've worked so hard to get there.

    Plus it's a lot of fun to see the world, and China is a huge part of that.
    Gene Ching
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    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  7. #7
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    I never trained in China, but I did live and train in Taiwan for several years. This was from the mid-80s through the early 90s. I experienced both good and not so good training there. The first school, not so good. My second teacher, very good. I learned a lot, and gained many experiences during the years I trained under him. One benefit was at the time, I could often train for hours a day, more than would have been possible in most schools in the States. Also, back then, there was very little CMA in my hometown, and keep in mind, when I went over there, it was years before the Internet. It was a leap of faith, and luckily things turned out good.

    Could I find as good or better CMA training here? Of course, and I did after I returned. Could I have gotten the same life experience of living abroad *on my own,* away from the tourist traps and foreigner 'expat ghettos' for years in a faraway country, experiencing the local culture and the people I met, and what I learned about myself through that? Absolutely not. There was so much more to it than just training Kung fu.

    Now, as a middle-aged man, with career and responsibilities, and new interests and goals, there is no way I could just go and experience that again. I can confidently say that most Americans will never have that experience. Even if they visit a place as a tourist, it's not the same at all. You may get quality training, but you will never have that type of life experience just staying at home in your local Kung fu school. Not everybody needs nor wants such life experiences, but I'm glad I did.
    Last edited by Jimbo; 07-20-2015 at 09:25 AM.

  8. #8

    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by Wuxia007 View Post
    Has anyone studied CMA in both China and the home country?
    What were some noticeable differences in your training?
    Was there much of an improvement to justify traveling all the way to China to study CMA or did you find it to be in the end unnecessary because you realized you could have accomplished the same thing in your home country?
    Sometimes I wonder if we romanticize training in China a bit.
    I've studied a few TCMA styles and modern Wushu in both the US and in Mainland China and I came to the conclusion that mainland China really doesn't have that much more to offer in your CMA training than the US.
    Do you really need to travel to Shaolin Temple to train under a Shaolin monk? There are Shaolin monks who have set up shop all over the world, why can't you stay closer to home to study under them? Obviously, you have to be able separate the fake Shaolin monks from the real ones.
    Did you do it because you were hoping to study under a real Chinese Sifu? If so, why does matter if your CMA instructor in your home country isn't Chinese?
    I'm just curious to know if anyone found it beneficial and justifiable to travel to China to study CMA as oppose to staying in their home country to study.
    If you find a good teacher, you will learn much from he or she.

    It does not matter where the teacher resides.


  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by bawang View Post
    the golden age for foreigner to train kung fu in china was 1980-1990. now the country is heading through big changes kung fu is not a priority and many normal kung fu ppl dont teach that much anymore. if u looking for spiritual experience by traveling to china to learn kung fu dont bother. kung fu can be a catalyst for self improvement but it is not enough alone to help you. sure if u go on an exotic kung fu safari you can experience spiritual feelings and wonder but when it ends nothing will have changed for you.


    many ppl kung fu quest outwardly seem like spiritual quest but if u think hard it is actually a quest for masculinity. i think for many of the 70's american kung fu generation their masculinity was damaged in one form or another.


    the common themes from old school chop socky movies often showed things lacking in postmodern society.
    The interesting thing was that I got more of that type of experience at my old U.S. Kung fu school than I did in China. At my old kung fu school in the US my sifu taught proper traditional kung fu greetings, culture, history, etiquettes, etc. Even when going to dinners together as a class he emphasized proper Chinese/Kung Fu table etiquettes. What foods were good for the body and mind.
    When I was in China and studied Chen style Tai Chi for a month. The Sifu chain smoked the whole time. Didn't explain anything about the moves. Basically, I paid money. He taught me some moves and then ignored me the rest of class. If I'm paying you to teach me to dance, at least watch me dance!


    While in China I did eventually find a good sifu and learned a lot from her. However, there was still nothing about culture, history, etiquettes, etc. taught or practiced in her class. You simple showed up, learned the moves, and went home.
    I'm not saying I didn't like the lack of "Safari kung fu quest". It really didn't care because Thats not what I was looking for.
    I'm just saying if someone were to ask where to go to experience their "kung fu safari quest" I would have no clue what to tell them because I witnessed no form of that in China in my experience.
    Like I said, I got more of that at home in my old US kung fu school than I did I'm China.
    Last edited by Wuxia007; 07-22-2015 at 06:47 AM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wuxia007 View Post
    The interesting thing was that I got more of that type of experience at my old U.S. Kung fu school than I did in China. At my old kung fu school in the US my sifu taught proper traditional kung fu greetings, culture, history, etiquettes, etc. Even when going to dinners together as a class he emphasized proper Chinese/Kung Fu table etiquettes. What foods were good for the body and mind.
    When I was in China and studied Chen style Tai Chi for a month. The Sifu chain smoked the whole time. Didn't explain anything about the moves. Basically, I paid money. He taught me some moves and then ignored me the rest of class. If I'm paying you to teach me to dance, at least watch me dance!


    While in China I did eventually find a good sifu and learned a lot from her. However, there was still nothing about culture, history, etiquettes, etc. taught or practiced in her class. You simple showed up, learned the moves, and went home.
    I'm not saying I didn't like the lack of "Safari kung fu quest". It really didn't care because Thats not what I was looking for.
    I'm just saying if someone were to ask where to go to experience their "kung fu safari quest" I would have no clue what to tell them because I witnessed no form of that in China in my experience.
    Like I said, I got more of that at home in my old US kung fu school than I did I'm China.
    I'm willing to bet there was no culture, etc., taught in your sifu's class in China because you were IN China; meaning, it was expected that being there, you were already immersed in it. Maybe this teacher did not ordinarily cater to foreigners, and thus did not feel, nor have, any responsibility to teach Chinese culture. In the USA, Chinese culture is seen as 'alien' or 'exotic'. So some Kung fu schools will offer certain aspects of traditional Chinese culture and etiquette, etc., to attract those interested in that.

    But the experience you describe is not unusual. When I lived in Taiwan, I saw many old teachers who chain-smoked, especially many from the mainland. It wouldn't be any different in China itself, and probably in HK as well. My first teacher in Taiwan (northern mantis/Long Fist) was an old mainlander from Shandong. His teaching method was much like you described of your experience in China. He was an excellent MAist, but a terrible teacher. He had many, many students, including some really good senior students, but he had no organized teaching curriculum. In fact, it was his senior students who did the bulk of the teaching.

    My second teacher in Taiwan (also northern mantis) was much younger, and also highly skilled, though only a couple years older than myself. He was very hands-on. His class could be regimented or informal. He taught basics, applications, sparring, form, etc. He also discussed various aspects of 'Kung fu etiquette', etc. I was acquainted with him for a few months before I switched over to him. If he saw you were genuinely passionate about KF, *and if he saw that you had some natural talent for it and could grasp and retain concepts quickly, AND worked your @ss off*, he showed you a lot. I guess I was lucky in that regard. If a foreigner came along and wanted to study only a month, he would teach them, but barely, and he didn't care if they got it or not. Because, he felt, 'Why should I bother if they're leaving in a month anyway?' And he had no tolerance at all for people who were either slow learners or lazy. That might sound harsh to some, but that's how he was, like it or lump it. He didn't smoke, but he drank. A lot. Yet he was in very good condition.

    I'm willing to bet that both approaches are pretty 'traditional'.

    I will say that whatever cultural experiences I got were from living over there. This happened not in a month, but over several years. It wasn't exotic or mysterious, as some foreigners seem to expect (I'm not saying YOU, but many Westerners in general), just different. It takes immersion and adjustment, which isn't always comfortable. My adjustment took different stages, from seeing everything as new and unique, to culture shock, then gradually adjusting into it. That takes a lot more than a month.
    Last edited by Jimbo; 07-22-2015 at 08:29 AM.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Wuxia007 View Post

    While in China I did eventually find a good sifu and learned a lot from her. However, there was still nothing about culture, history, etiquettes, etc.
    .
    it is basically impossible to find traditional kung fu teacher for "culture history etiquette" in north and central china as a westerner because anti foreigner sentiment is a pillar of traditional northern kung fu culture. i dont condone it but it is what it is.

    i dont even think they teach other chinese people from the big cities
    Last edited by bawang; 07-22-2015 at 04:55 PM.

    25th generation inner door disciple of Chen Style Practical Wombat Method
    Officially certified by Ethiopian Orthodox patriarch Abune Mathias
    grandmaster instructor of Wombat Combat™®LLC Practical Wombat Method. international academy retreat

  12. #12
    I think the main advantage is that, if you want to find a qualified teacher of X style, there are always going to be more of them here in China.

    The catch is, if you really want to be traditional, you have to accept that the guys teaching nine hundred foreigners often aren't that guy, or aren't that guy for you. You need an introduction, which means you need some face, which means you need a deeper integration into Chinese culture than learning a few lion dance moves will get you.

    As for the chain smoking teacher, I am perhaps biased in saying dude's totally traditional. Confucianism is all about doing for those close to you, and not doing for those not close. No introduction, no 关系 with the guy, I would never sign on to a program here with people I didn't know well. No way.

    You want to immerse yourself in the culture, go to a backwater, or a small city, not a tourist trap. You can do it in the big cities, too, but you have to avoid so many foreigners in order to not just live like an American in China.

    The two best teachers I've met here, I met because of 1) Befriending a cook, and 2) Befriending a woman whose brother is a cop who trained kung fu for years, who then introduced me to the teacher. One of those teachers trains sanshou champs, the other is well known for his colorful youth.

    If you have no friends in a culture, you are not immersed in it, especially China. I think there are so many ways that people who are young and have a desire to do this could actually live in china for a few years and have a better chance of training well by simply having a job and a life here, if they are disciplined enough to learn some of the language and be picky about what teachers they train under. Package tours, if you have money to blow, seem like a fun idea, but people need to decide what their goals are, and if such tours fulfill them.

    Just my thoughts on it...
    Last edited by Faux Newbie; 08-16-2015 at 12:50 AM.

  13. #13
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    I think everybody above made good points. Some knowledge of the language and being immersed in the local culture rather than just living in expat circles really makes the difference. IME thought, the good teachers I have met have usually had at least a couple of foreign students. As Jimbo pointed out from his experience in Taiwan, it is very hard to get a teacher to open up and really show you much in a short time. Although they are still happy to take your money, they dont feel any need to "advertise" themselves, usually the attitude is you came to the teacher, so you should prove yourself to him, not the other way around.

    Regarding the comment somebody made about not teaching you culture in China, well, these kind of things will just come naturally from being there. I spent several Chinese New Years at my Shifu's home in Shandong, and I learnt to make Jiaozi, we would burn paper money outside, and I got to see the whole process of how an old fashioned family would celebrate new year. Also, through just being there and training everyday, sometimes in a group, sometimes privately, I would see the etiquette of how other students would treat my Shifu. Then there's also the local dialect and slang which is specific to martial arts.

    If it's just learning the forms or some fighting skills, you can get that anywhere, but if you want to really understand how martial arts came about, how, where and why they developed, I feel you need to spend some time in China or other parts of Asia. When you see the old yards or training areas where people used to train, you see the terrain or the layout of the villages, you can start to understand more why they might use certain footwork or movements.

    PS, besides training with several decent traditional teachers, I have also spent some time in a large commercial school just foreigners, and I feel that was also a valuable experience.

  14. #14
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    It has been my experience and the experience of others I know in China that the most skillful and impressive people we have faced have always been Westerners who have learned Chinese styles, and not the Chinese themselves.

    I think the reason for this is that the Chinese generally don't care about practicality enough to train realistically and honestly. Westerners care a lot more about the effectiveness of what they're doing, and therefore they train in a way that emphasizes usability in fighting. The Chinese often just do the moves, maybe demo/discuss applications, but don't train them in any realistic way and often believe their own bullsh!t, like breaking bricks means they are superior fighters.

    And this is often because the Chinese who train traditional martial arts often do so because that's just the tradition in their family or village, and not because they want to become good fighters.

    I say all that to say this. For many styles, if practicality is what you're after, you're probably better off going to Europe or the States. If you are already a reasonably good and experienced fighter, you can probably already defeat whatever teacher you find in China, from Beijing to Guangzhou.
    Last edited by LFJ; 08-16-2015 at 03:57 AM.

  15. #15
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    I think it's a generational thing. A lot of the old timers I met have got the goods, just dont have the students who are interested. They have pretty much watered down what they teach to fit in with what Chinese society wants.... which is people gathering in public places to get in shape, socialise and connect to their Chinese roots. Said teachers grew up in a time when there was a lot of turmoil, and violence was commonplace in the streets until the late 90s. Things pretty much changed into the 2000s, however it does still go on and I know some pretty tough people in Shandong. How would they stand up in an MMA ring I dont know, but at least on the street they can handle themselves pretty well.

    But yes, on the whole, if you want to be able to use your MA in a pretty short time-span, a serious school in the west is probably better. In the west we have more structured and modern teaching methods, which are geared for getting results.

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