"Self Defence" and Martial Arts

By Richard Lee

“Defend yourself” has this nice ring to it. You just have to do just enough to avoid the bad guy trying to mug you, hurt your family or do worse things. Just enough.

It’s true that most assailants and criminals aren’t particularly well trained. They are bullies looking for an easy mark, not a pitched battle. You’re not going to run into Morihei Ueshiba, Mohammed Ali or Huo Yuanjia in the street. You’re just defending yourself, so you’re not that bad guy who picks a fight with an old man you can underestimate. We’re good people- good people aren’t predators. The point of the book On Killing by David Grossman is the fact that the vast majority of people- more than 90%, do not want to kill and will take steps to avoid doing so. 

So, for a good person, adverse to violence, it should be enough to read a coffee table magazine on, “how to escape from a headlock” or “how to win a bar fight” while waiting at the dentist, right? It can’t be that hard? We have the glossy pictures- step 1 do this, step 2 do that and do this and you will escape. It’s so clinical, and matter of fact, and you don’t have to get your hands dirty and don’t have venom in it. Most martial schools sell this concept of “self defence” to the ones we love, saying you can retain your gentle nature with a little bit of knowledge. 

Yet is this true? Or a sweet lie? A delusion? Is planning to be nice about self defence enough to survive an encounter with a real mongrel? Is it enough to “survive” and what is the consequence of falling short?

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Martial Arts and Kung Fu

By Richard Lee

The thing about oriental martial art is the romance that swirls around it, about chi, ancient combat forms and weapons, and some “death touch” (dim maak) or mystical quality.  It is tied in eastern religion, rituals such as tea ceremonies and has the concept of discipleship and family titles tied into its practice.  Your master is your “father” in the system, and he dispenses what he knows to you on his own schedule, based on how hard he sees you work and how diligent you are in your practice. The senior disciples are your older brothers, and those who come after look to you as an example in the gwoon.   

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Bruce Lee and Kung Fu

By Richard Lee

I recall going to Hong Kong airport and, in a glass case neatly scribbled in pencil in Chinese script, was a letter from Bruce Lee to Wong Shun Leung.  The two have an interesting history that extends into the stories that teachers tell their students behind closed doors.  They include stories such as the time that Bruce Lee would come to the stoop first, tell other students “Wong is sick today” so that, when Wong Shun Leung came, he could monopolise Wong’s time- until he received a drubbing from Wong for his deception!  

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The Logic of Ving Tsun

There is one form of self defence that is quickly gaining popularity because it is more suited to our urban environment from the very beginning and teaches sound fighting principles.  It is a Chinese form of Traditional Martial Art called Ving Tsun Gung Fu (or Wing Chun Kung Fu).  Ving Tsun had remained a secret for a couple hundred years until it was decided to be taught publicaly by the late Grand Master, Yip Man.

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