Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: between work and sleep
I'm away for 4 days and look at all this! Nice stuff, cool pictures!
Originally Posted by fearn
Actually, the farmer's martial arts were (and probably are) quite diverse in China, and most of them aren't practiced outside the country. As someone who practiced one pointed out, there's not a lot of difference between living in a temple and learning a martial art, and living in an isolated farming village and learning a martial art. Both are spartan conditions with lots of manual labor, and the relative lack of distractions (as would be found in a big city) means that the sifu can take up large blocks of time for training his better students, there being little else to do. He could also control their diet and other aspects of their lives to favor martial development.
Don't forget that Chen-style tai chi was a village martial art. The Chen village made its money growing and shipping medicinal herbs, and even before they developed tai chi, they had their own martial art for protecting their shipments from bandits.
As for weapons, we've all seen those village swords that Josh has. Beyond that, the village arts often use farm equipment (hoes, rakes, etc), along with staffs of varying lengths, and more conventional spears, jian, and dao.
Anyway, this is getting off topic, but it's worth remembering that in the last ~500 years before the Cultural Revolution, the state didn't do a lot for rural security. The peasants weren't all defenseless during that time, although the best martial artists were generally found in the big cities, where they could make more money.
I agree. I am not saying that that villagers did not have martial arts nor that weren't diverse. I was saying that martial arts was not highly regarded in Chinese values. Obviously the values aren't concrete and many seem hypocritical or over idealistic compared to the more mundane and ubiquitous Chinese values of loving money and face, and fearing death. Also the values are often coming from the mouths of high society, those who can afford to not be tough, who can afford to not serve in the village militia, who can afford to debate about Confucian and Tao values while living in relative luxury. To have to exert yourself physically was, in some ways, considered lower-class. These are just generalizations, there were wealthy martial artists.
Chen Tai Ji was a "village martial art", and Tai Ji (Supreme Ultimate Boxing) was a very very effective one. You've got to have something if you're going name your art something that cocky!
The stand-up grappling and close-quarters fighting exhibited in Tai Ji is amazing. Even more amazing is how diluted and commercialized Tai Ji has become, turning it into a peaceful, slow-meditation style of exercise for those in all walks of life - maybe helpful for many folks, but definitely not a supreme and ultimate form of fighting. The Yang family, at least in certain generation was known for really stream-lining and improving the martial arts...
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
In "Chinese Martial Arts Training" , Brian Kennedy and Elizabeth Guo, 2005, pp.137-141, there is interesting discussion on these private security companies from about 1800-1900, who employed martial artists.
Apparantly c.1800, one of the early and most prominant firms was named 'Hau You Biao Ju' (meeting friends guard service) and gained notoriety as it was owned by Li Lian Ying who was interestingly head eunuch of Empress Dowager.
As this service developed, it seems every province had one or more private security companies for personal, residence or convoy protection. It is noted that the 'hu yuan' was a bodyguard for residential service, while the 'zou biao' guarded convoys or goods.
Apparantly in the case of convoys etc. the triangular guidon or pennant of the security company was displayed to warn predators off, or at least ostensibly so.
It seems that much as often was the case of with Masonry, the bonds of brotherhood transcend business or political allegiances, and martial artists of like groups in many cases knew each other and trained together. In many instances the guards would contact potential adversaries in advance to establish guanxi, or diplomatic relations. It would seem these arrangements may have taken interesting turns at times, and perhaps there were instances of intrigue?
In any case, one of the martial arts weapons often used by these martial artists were these types of butterfly knives. In cases where ‘open’ weapons were used (spears, halberds, sabers) the triangular banners were displayed. On more covert matters, ‘secret’ weapons such as batons, chain whips and these types of knives were used, with no banner shown.
According to Thom Richardson in “China and Central Asia” ( paper in “Swords and Hilt Weapons”, ed. M.Coe, 1989, p.182), these type of paired weapons either swords or knives, seem to have come into use at the end of the 17th century. It is noted that most of the collected examples of these were made around the first half on the 19th century.
As noted in earlier post, I have seen examples of these with security firm markings from about 1860’s. These butterfly or paired weapons, along with swords with short, heavy blades were favored in the southern regions in crowded city streets.
I have that "Chinese Training Manual" book, a very good read and eye-opening for sure.
I'm glad you expanded on my comment on Security Companies and your own discovery of the Security Co. mark on the blade. Very nice.
It really makes me wonder... how come so many different martial arts styles have similar weapon forms? And the answer seems to have a couple of answers. Weapons are meant to work a certain way, thus techniques cannot differ by much. But, one can always train it, record techniques (forms), and use it better... so why the striking similarity (often same form and name)? Why is the 5th Son or 5th Brother staff so popular? Not only as a weapon, but why is the same form found in many styles? Perhaps it is because of the guan-shi
between martial arts societies that helped them share techniques and weaponry. But then you ask, wasn't fighting between schools and styles common? Why would they share? Well it would be hard to learn techniques while they are being used on you. It would also be hard to learn a form from a hostile person since people don't fight choreographed, they fight with the techniques displayed in the forms. Thus it seems unlikely that the forms were learned on the battlefield or deathmatch but from sharing or "stealing" of forms and techniques.
So I thank you for bringin' it up Jim, I hadn't thought of it myself...
Originally Posted by M ELEY
I am away from my books, but if I had to postulate on why the Chinese pirates were seen as such villians, I would point to several established points.
#1. These pirates preyed upon all shipping, even among those of thier own people. As such, they were seen as a direct challege to the government itself. #2. When the piracy of Europeans was in its heyday, there were an estimated 2000 scalawags in the Carribean. When the pirates were especially active in the South China Sea (as they still are today!) in the early 19th century, they had huge numbers pirates and junks to swarm down on their targets. Actually, from most of my readings, they don't seem as particularly more awful to their victems than any other pirate at the time. If they were unfortunate enough to be captured, it would cost them their heads (perhaps not as gruesome as a dangling hanging like the Western pirates). If I might conjecture yet one more possibility of why they created such derision-
When the "pirate king" was eventually killed in battle, his WIFE took over the pirate hordes and ruled with an iron fist. In China at the time, women were seen as quiet, subserviant types, not the leaders of whole navies! This must have shook the very foundation of the establishment at the time. Yes, I know the Empress Dowager would soon follow on the heels of this powerful woman, but she was far more subtle in her movements, hiding behind a child king.
Very fascinating. I would agree that Chinese pirates tended to swarm their targets and not fight it out ship vs. ship, but then again, one would be stupid to ignore the strategic advantage conferred by superior numbers.
Would it be safe to assume that the pirate-life appealed to many Chinese as an escape from traditional life? As a pirate, one did not have to till the land. As a pirate, one's place was dictated by personal ability and guile, not necessarily class. As a pirate, a martial artist could potentially profit a lot more than his thug, soldier, and bodyguard brethren. As a pirate, you had the heroes of the Marsh to look up to (and other wuxia characters), swashbuckling anti-government freedom fighters...
Still, it is amazing the resources and power that the pirate-rulers commanded. While we need to be careful not to over-estimate them, they were powerful in their own waters for sure.