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Category:Educational, Stunts
Tags:shaolin, kung fu, chi, balls of steel, I Didn Know That
Submitted:Old_Zircon
Date:10/31/13
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Comment count is 19
Sexy Duck Cop
There's way too much bullshit to cover here, but one of my favorite martial arts legends is "all forms of human combat originated with kung fu." Because it had never occurred to anyone, anywhere, in the whole of human civilization, to ball their hand up into a fist and swing it at someone.
Old_Zircon
You'd be better of listing the parts that aren't bullshit. Here, I'll start:

exy
I guess chi makes him move his entire body which is why a 0-inch punch is about chi instead of being about the massive wrenching motion behind a conventional shove.
Sexy Duck Cop
BTW, for those that are curious: The trick to eating the full-on dick shots is to tilt your pelvis slightly forward so the kick hits you in the taint instead of the balls.

This sort of fraud and bullshit is different from a lot of related fields of quackery because there is (or can be) some element of the truth in it. Obviously getting hit hurts, and obviously it is possible to condition yourself to feel less pain when getting hit, so it's easy to sell most people on the basic premise that these guys are Martial Arts Experts.

Proponents of Chi Power are also good at tailoring their claims to their audience. For TV show hosts and the gullible, chi is a full-blown electrowhatever force-field that can bend spoons. But when confronted by a skeptic or actual fighter, they'll recalibrate the definition of chi to "proper body mechanics" and then something something high school physics equations. This becomes even muddier when you realize a lot of these bullshit Shaolin monks actually do have real kickboxing records, giving them some degree of actual authority, even if they are using it to sell snake oil.
memedumpster
Do you know of the history of martial arts? As in a studied way? I was wondering if there was a correlation between the spirituality as it has been presented for the last thousand years and the weird trend around 100AD or so of religions both East and West being rewritten to be all uber spirit virgin birth ascended Buddha crazy talk. It's an odd coincidence and I am always looking for more instances of it.

PlusDome
Similar to a lot of feats, this is one of things more about belief and concentration. Like putting your fist through drywall, all the bullshit helps it work better.

Sexy Duck Cop
Memedumpster: More or less. This was a passion of mine for most of my late teens and mid 20's. I did two years of the shittiest karate on the planet as a teenager, so I have a lot of firsthand experience with the cult-like atmosphere you find in places like this, but I also did six years of BJJ and Muay Thai and only recently stopped. The differences are surreal. The vast majority of the MMA guys I've known were relaxed, funny, outgoing, and surprisingly intelligent, whereas the Chi freaks would wander into the gym for the first time and immediately launch into a wide-eyed, ten minute monologue about all the harpoons you could stab them with.

It's been a while since I studied this, so my dates and timelines might be a little off, but for the most part, "martial arts are a spiritual exercise" is a load of semi-modern bullshit. The most plausible theory is that it began with either Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan karate, or Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo, in the early 20th century. At the time, both were trying to popularize Karate by riding off a wave of xenophobic, anti-imperialist sentiment in Japan. Martial arts had a bad reputation as being a breeding ground for thugs and bullies, so to soften its reputation and make it more palatable for the authorities (as well as franchise their fighting systems to Japanese public schools), Funakoshi added a lot of vaguely spiritual hoo-ha. Basically, even the Holy Bearded Grandmasters made bullshit up to convince parents to sign their children up for lessons, not much different from how things are today.

The beauty of a system like this, and why it survived for over a 100 years, is that it lets literally anyone to operate a dojo without having to prove their qualifications. It allowed the Napoleon Dynamites of the world to open a gym, and when asked to prove his qualifications, simply hand-wave the request away with something like "Your desire for 'proof' tells me you are spiritually immature." Martial arts schools are terrifyingly unregulated; no one, anywhere, can stop a random dipshit from inventing an imaginary title and claiming to teach self-defense, and a student who receives fraudulent training has zero legal recourse if they get seriously hurt.

Old_Zircon
Watch what you say about bullshit. This stuff is horseshit, pure and simple. Bullshit is a rare and wonderful gift many claim but few posess.

glasseye
Sexy Duck Cop: The difference you describe is more attributable to the individual schools than the arts themselves. There are plenty of bullshit-laden idiots in MMA, they just tend towards the "I could take out so many dudes in a fight" type of bullshit rather than the chi bullshit.

You are correct that quality varies hugely, and that in most arts quality control is totally lacking (the "McDojo" problem). The art I do is rather small, but the flip side is that the quality is high. Senior members constantly monitor what's going on in the handful of academies and adjust accordingly.

In the end it's the instructors and the students that determine whether a particular martial arts school is worth anything. The system is not irrelevant, but it is definitely secondary.

Sexy Duck Cop
Glasseye:

I totally disagree. This is a generalization I am completely comfortable making. Certain arts (read: Most of the "ancient"/Eastern/Traditional schools) are way more susceptible to bullshit than others on account of overemphasizing ritual over results. It's incredibly easy to fake expertise if your art values tradition and hierarchy so much that questioning your superiors is taboo. That goes double in schools that minimize sparring or actual combat in favor of preset drills or forms. Everyone's a winner when they're hitting a bag.

It's extremely difficult to fake being good at MMA because, as a sport and as a culture, you are required to constantly prove your skill against real people who are actually fighting back. You're fighting at least half a dozen people every night, and even that is in service of fighting complete strangers at tournaments. If you claim to be a better boxer than Mike Tyson, it will take about five minutes to prove you right or wrong.

There's no equivalent of that in most traditional arts. Too often, a traditional school will hand-wave away the question of combat efficacy with a convenient excuse like "We're too lethal for sparring" or "If I punched you I'd collapse your lungs." The result is a creepy Cult Of Sensei where the instructor becomes a god-like figure and not just a normal dude who's happened to train longer than you.

TheOtherCapnS
This is all well and good, but what do you faggots think about ponies?

EvilHomer
I was fortunate to have a really good sensei who was squarely on the skeptic side of the Bullshido culture wars. He taught our class a "mystic" chi maneuver, the legendary "Iron Arm technique of Wu Kong Xing Monks" (or whatever).Then, when we were all suitably impressed by how awesome it was, he debunked the technique to prove his point. It's a really neat trick and it's super easy to do, so I'll give you guys the lowdown, in case you want to try it.

To start the demonstration, tell your audience that you've been studying ancient Chinese martial arts for many years now, and you can PROVE just how powerful Chi Mastery can be. Flex your muscles, and hold your arm out straight in front of you. Get into a stance, make a big show of tensing up your body, and invite a member of your audience to grab hold of your arm; one hand on your forearm, one hand on your bicep. Tell him that his job is to try and bend your arm inwards at the elbow, and that you will use your RAW PHYSICAL POWER to resist. Grunt and flex a bit more. Scream at him a little.

He'll have no trouble bending your arm, and you'll look like a jackass.

Take a deep breath and say, OK, OK, shit, you got me. Let's go one more time. But THIS time, you're not going to rely on your physical strength; oh nooo, this time, you're gonna use YOUR MAGICAL CHI POWERS. Take a few seconds to do some "chi shit", like Ooommming or doing a Buddhist Monk pose. Look real calm, and say, OK, grab my arm and bend it again. Oooommmm. Do not tense your muscles at all. Do not fight against him. Just relax and look confident and detached.

He will not be able to bend your arm at all. He might push you around a little, especially as he gets more and more frustrated, but your elbow will stay rigid and unbent.

Now *in reality*, this is just a parlor trick. As my sensei explained to us, all you're doing is making sure your muscles aren't working against each other. When you tense up your arm the first time, the push and pull of both sets of muscles counteracts each other. Your body becomes more fluid and malleable, but also loses rigidity, and from a physiological standpoint it's very difficult to keep your arm straight if someone's trying to bend it at the elbow. When you relax, your muscles become far more economical, and will only fire to counteract the bending force. It's got nothing to do with "chi", it doesn't require "martial arts training", and it's not even any use in a fight. It's just a neat trick that anybody can do, but which some assholes use to sucker people out of their time and money.

glasseye
Sexy Duck Cop:

Shrug, in my traditional martial art we do sparring and grappling every week; drills and conditioning followed by round robin matches. Plus there's free sparring after class. And weapon fighting on the weekends.

We share a space with an MMA club, and they seem to spend nearly all of their time hitting a bag and talking about the latest UFC fights. I've never seen them spar.

MMA is no more "real fighting" than boxing is, IMO. It's a sport, with its own rules. Our sparring and grappling is sport-like too, but it sure is competitive and a hell of a lot of fun.

didcotmassif
My old Kung fu teacher, would tell us not to worry about chi. If pressed, he would describe it as "sometimes its having good blood flow or good breathing, or being efficient in your movement so you get as much power as you can into a move. Not magic not an invisible force."

I moved city and found a new teacher who taught the same style. To him Chi was a magical power to be harnessed and did the silly yellow bamboo chi punch/hypnotism on his followers. I stopped doing kung fu the day I saw him do that
glasseye
The people in my martial art are more like your old kung fu teacher than the other guy, though there are a few "true believers". Thankfully it's a pretty small part of the art, and the few "chi exercises" we do have are typically framed in the context of promoting focus and proper breathing.

Sexy Duck Cop
That's what's always bothered me about Chi: No one can agree on what it is. The gullible and fraudulent will tell you it's The Force. Reasonably intelligent people, like your old sifu, will mumble something vague about body mechanics or leverage or breathing, and then change the subject. The Buddha will tell you it's a cynical attempt to confuse and deceive people to make money.

baleen
Ever read books by Terry Dobsen?

In one of them he mentioned Aikido communities where they are constantly testing one another, surprising attacks and so on. I don't know if this is true. I had a sensai who moved to a remote town in Washington to start such a community, or least that's what I heard.
Dobsen will tell you ki is a force, but also goes into the mechanics. He was very anti-New Age, that man. And Morehei Ueshiba was far from a fraud. Despite being tiny, he proved himself as an Olympic gold medalist in judo, among other things.
Reading the Art of Peace, it's hard not to "fall for it," but I believe his beliefs were genuine and not merely a means of selling certificates to Japanese children.

As for creepy cultish sensai worship, I've picked up on that as well. But I believe very strongly that those environments should be places of respect and discipline. I've been in classes where roughnecks wanted to get to kicking ass, and it was disruptive and dangerous.

bac
In a recent episode of QI Stephen Fry breaks some cement blocks.
glasseye
It's fun and visually impressive, but really pretty easy until you get to a rather big stack.

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