One of the most basic ways to explain the meaning of kungfu is to say: skill developed over consistent time and effort. Kungfu (gongfu in pinyin – “kungfu” is an older romanization of the word) is at the heart of what we do every day when we train. As martial artists, we are actively and every day trying to get better. We are improving our body, improving our mind, and improving our skills. This is so basic that it is sort of like the minimum definition of what it takes to be a martial artist. You have to show up to class to train. You have to train at home. You have to force yourself to learn and improve at something, all the time; and you don’t stop, you don’t give up.
One of those long-term goals I personally have for my group is to someday be like one of those old training groups in the parks that I would see in Asia during the days that I was there. It might be a wide selection of ages, but they meet up, without fail, every day, working away at getting their reps in. They warm up, they exercise, they practice solo and partner drills, they practice their forms, they wrestle, push hands, spar until it’s time to leave… and then they keep on doing this. They all get better over time. New members to the group come in, they get the experience and wisdom of not only the teacher but the whole “family” of members that together are working on this stuff every day and have their own unique ways of explaining things and their own unique methods in the art. And slowly, the rising tide will raise up the levels of all who are there for the ride.
If you go on Youtube or the Internet and see some elder fighter, elder martial artist, or elder movement specialist performing into their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s you aren’t seeing someone who started all that recently. You aren’t seeing someone who only practices once a week or once a month. You aren’t seeing someone who gives up, you are seeing someone who keeps on pushing through the adversity and the distractions. You are seeing discipline.
Now, we all have to contend with many things in our lives. We have family, financial issues, careers, etc. that just feel at times to conspire against our discipline. Every necessity has a weight to it. And discipline itself is not just a monolithic unchangable block.
There is the discipline of minutes and hours. We must hold stances longer to build our base and our strength. We must concentrate without distraction longer so as to build our mind. There is that disicpline within ourselves to look back on our training period, on that one class, and not only to make sure that we are improving ourselves in that one effort, but that we take the effort to see the improvement in ourselves that might otherwise be glossed over without reflection.
There is also the disipline of weeks, months and years. We learn to forge ourselves into the martial artists that we wish to see. We set goals and accomplish them. We learn to train and to fight. Although nearly everyone with some cajoling can force themselves through one class; how many have the discipline, the drive and the fortitude to make themselves into a martial artist, into a fighter? I’ve seen many over the years that can become great fighters. There are many young guys out there that might start their training in their teens or early twenties and might last for years, building up their skills, perhaps becoming a skilled fighter, perhaps gaining acclaim or victory over others.
Beyond the discpline of learning “how to fight” comes the disciple of decades and the discipline of lifetimes. A true martial artist will not waver in his dedication to improvement. He will continue to train and refine his skills, his body and his mind. Every life is different and there will always be set-backs, but without these things there is no need for that discipline. Not everyone has to be the best at everything at all times throughout their life. That is not expected.
But, my hope, is that everyone in my class, in my group, among my like-minded friends, will continue to strive towards their own self improvement. They will not waiver, they will not give up. They will continue their disipline as a martial artist.