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essay When Masters Hide Their Skill and When "Masters" Reveal Their Skill in Public Demos

Essay typically is a creative, free flowing, and self-contained complete article, but also a manner of unusually lively written interaction where formality is not a stifler.

Earl Grey

Gonzo Daoist and Dharma Punk
Moderator
One of the sayings of late Grandmaster David Chan was that there are two possibilities for anyone claiming master status and giving public displays: a) they know a lot more and are hiding their actual skill since a public demo can be recorded and copied by people who learn from observation, b) they are a complete joke and embarrassing themselves to actual masters while scamming those who don't know any better.

In the following video, the late Chen Yiren (Chen Yikyan) does a public demonstration of Liuhebafa, and as one of the foremost masters of the art who is publicly known, take a moment to ask yourself which of the two kinds of masters he may be according to GM David Chan:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQwxNxfaSYo


When you have your answer, proceed to the following text.

Now, if you didn't already know, GM David Chan was a student of Chen Yiren, and yet Chen claims that Chan has a superior Liuhebafa, in addition to having real internal power.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTjKa9LR4OQ

Was your answer correct?

Try again with Stephen Watson and Michael Winn:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVZRMYqx0v4



We won't tell you the answer to either of those two.

Finally, we'll show you the public demo of GM David Chan (and his son Johnson):


Having seen videos of public demonstrations and two categories of masters who do so, the lesson we can discern from this is that the skilled masters have a variety of reasons for holding back their knowledge.

The main reason is as stated earlier, they don't want to reveal what they really know, but as a public demonstration, it can be considered part of a marketing and recruitment process. For the most part, you will have people who watch, nod and smile, and go on with their lives. You will then have a secondary group who are interested, who go inquire about further demos or openings for students, and it is at this point someone will become an outdoor student or invited to see another demo where they can see actual demos reserved for prospective students or friends and family, which are often done in privacy. There will be subtle hints that they know more, but it can also be seen as a challenge to those who do know.

As for "masters", you will notice that a common occurrence is their insistence on wearing "traditional" Chinese clothing as though they were requirements or uniforms. When this happens, this is 99.99% a fake. If you notice in Chen Yiren's video, he's not wearing "traditional" clothing, he's wearing a suit and tie. Any videos or photos of masters in the early 20th century wearing "traditional" clothing wasn't because it indicated they were martial students--it's what people actually wore before modern ways of dressing became dominant.

Let's also bring up a member's comments on this as well (thanks @freeform !)


That is not Taiji - there is nothing internal going on. Notice the low stances - the graceful movements and the fancy silk pyjamas (that's usually a dead giveaway).


That shows some real internal Taiji - doesn't look deep, strong, wide or particularly graceful... in fact doesn't look like much on the outside - because most of the movement, most of the power is coming from the inside. The body mechanics work on completely different principles - that's why you can't detect how the power is being generated.

Following up on freeform's own comments as quoted above, this "traditional" clothing is a lie perpetuated via both western misunderstanding from classic martial arts films and the Chinese Communist Party trying to promote (here comes that word again) "traditional" culture--a culture that they nearly completely annihilated in the Cultural Revolution.

"Masters" are also trying to market and recruit and will play tricks such as talking about how profound the art is and how they have transcended the martial mindset that is "violent" and yet the giveaway that they haven't is that they have no martial skill or understanding, for a real warrior is pacifist in both words and deeds. You will find them either arguing in a condescending and provocative manner or talking about how superior they are, dismissing others for learning to defend themselves as though it were a bad thing, whereas a real master and fighter will seek to both understand and help others be better with few words, actions, or leaving them be and ignoring them. The so-called "pacifist" individuals claiming to be "masters" will get into verbal altercations to prove their value--the same way a used car salesman will convince you that he is honest and you are getting a good deal.

A specific technique used in China under the CCP is to find the prettiest girls to demo the art--take a look at the clothes she's wearing in this video and don't get distracted by her beauty the way the cameraman was:


You have "traditional" music, "artwork" that was commissioned rather than actual masterpieces or even calligraphy from masters, a pretty face wearing those clothes, and a wide-eyed westerner caught in the Oriental Mystique. "Masters" who do not have the budget of the CCP rely on talking too much, especially about themselves and how others don't know and don't understand.

A true master will find themselves agreeing more and more with Mike Tyson's well-known quote: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."

Be wary of public demos and don't take everything at face value--no matter how pretty the face may be or charming and intellectual the words they use to sell you the bridge they don't own.
 
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endbegin

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So, it was clear to me that Chen Yiren's was high skill. You can see the effortless intent and also, you've shown me the father & son one before 😉

The Stephen video is definitely crap 😅 No structure, just zombie hand moving. Actually, in Wudang, not just westerners but also Chinese, all dressed up, taking photos next to statues, outside temples, posing, clearly there to dupe the public and recruit. From what I saw, 90% of what is there is for tourism, and it's a real shame for the priests and monks to have to live with this.

The other vids are your state-of-the-art wushu. There's "competitions" as well for this sort of stuff. I don't hate on it, athleticism is is still better than lying around and eating chips, but it's a different game.

However, I have followed George Thompson for years, and he met Wumin at Master Gu's place. I think that her being pretty is coincidental lol. He seems to be working on promoting Gu's school, and was made a disciple very quickly, I admit (within 3 months?) George isn't a master, but his heart's in the right place. I can't speak for Master Gu as I didn't meet him, but my Master claimed that he once worked with him and he was useful due to knowing good English but didn't say much more.

The thing is, San Feng Pai schools, I steered clear when over there. They all seem heavy on recruitment and I met with an American teacher at one and I believe there was something like 80 students there? There was no sign of any master, I believe he was one of those that poked their head in every now and then, but I didn't fancy paying for that.

The lady at the hostel I started at seemed disappointed when I went off elsewhere and questioned me about my decision, due to the Chinese man I found (long story from here, and not relevant) "Where did you meet this man, and how will you understand?" she said defensively...

...we were using Google Translate thanks to her VPN...I answered something she'd understand, but what I meant to say was "Kung Fu speaks with the hands, not the mouth". How profund, right?

But my point is, to me there is a clear push for "schools" to recruit people into their heavy-western populated classes as I guess it's easy marketing from there. How good are you really going to get, stood with 80 others with no master to be seen?

"Master is busy right now, you will be seen when the time is right."

Yeah. Thanks, but no thanks 😝
 
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Corvus

Practitioner
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Mmhhh ... I cant tell anymore :D I realize I am comparing everything to the way Mr N demonstrated it . I guess I dont know enough about CMA . I mean the way the guy was stepping even and moving his body was nothing like I am used to . But then again , he was old .... Mr Sokens vids of when he was really old ... well, you can tell . But maybe that is the way one is SUPPOSED to step in that art ?

I can tell you my take on why Mr. N * 'hid' his skills but not why he did public demos, as he didnt do them either . His teacher ( and our original master ** ) passed on and it was thought he didnt leave a successor - formally , nor name anyone . Someone else claimed it, made a big noise about it and now is recognized around the world as the 'heir' . However Mr N looked after Mr Soken through sickness to his death and Mr Soken left Mr N. the 'authority board' his family's traditional swords ( Mr. Soken was listed in Guinness world records as the last born samurai - before tradition was banned ) and training weapons .

Basically Mr N was not interested in in rivalry , political in-fighting, etc . so he just didnt get involved . Another reason why he never had a 'school' club' dojo , etc ( although people came from all over the world to train with him ) ,was as he said " As soon as sign goes up, Yakuza turns up and wants money." Some knob queried that as he was a 'karate master' , why would he worry about them ? It was explained to knob ; " There are MANY of them , they have guns , I live here, I have wife and family ."

And anyway, Mr N was just a lo profile guy , at his funeral heaps of martial artists turned up from all over the world , and his neighbors where amazed ; " Why so many people ? " - they didnt even know he was a martial artist .... to them he was the guy that made and distributed bento boxes (and if you went to train there , you might not pay fees , but you would be helping in the kitchen for sure . )

Also its a problem with us 'gaijun' .... we dont know their ways nor understand them , they might be very polite with us on outside but on the inside .... and that results in what they teach . But a pleasant respectful and understanding person that went there and made friends with them .... they got the 'inside juice' ( the 'secret stuff' inside the outer 'base form' *** - ' Okinawan Crane ' ). They also wanted students to learn and STUDY ... STUDY ... not just learn, practice and perform well .... study , including the study of Okinawan culture . That has side benefits , for example in a lot of Okinawan tradition dance some wonderful 'moves' can be learned , applications for moves in kata , ways of disarming a staff attack, dance moves that easily translate into things that look just like some aikido moves , and so on .

Mr Soken did both ; hid his stuff , but also did public demos . The reason he hid is stuff is rather obvious, I figured it out years back , but got a more recent confirmation from Mr Soken himself ; he was ticking of George Dilman ; " Americans very rude to us , the behave badly in WWII , kill many people , you bomb everything ... EVERYTHING ! ... everyone, then you come here and stay , bases * everywhere and Americans STILL rude in our country today . You come here train, get one dan , go back to America, make big clubs , many students , lots of fees then, somehow you have 5, 6 even 7 Dan . How ? You not come back Okinawa study ! How you go from 1 dan to 7 with no study ? " Basically it was ' Fuck you guys . But my family is starving , I need money, okay I show you 'martial arts ' then for money " , and that was ....

*** base style - what they taught the American servicemen on the bases (in their gyms and halls ) but base style outside of bases as well . One guy I know went to train with Mr N and Mr N said ; 'Show me what you know ' , so he did some stuff and the polite reply was " Oh yes, very Good ! .........'s style ( ie. mate's instructor / 'base style' ) ... very good ! " Mate said " Mr N . ( and bowed ... ;) thats the way to do ) , no disrespect to ....... but he is my instructor in Australia , if I want to learn from him, I just drive across town . But now, I have flown half way across the world to see you, so I can learn anything that you would please like to teach me . " Then he was taught a wealth of a whole range of very different stuff (not base style but Okinawan Crane ) over many days and offered accommodation and no charges ! Now another guy that tagged along with a team went there, had attitude, and at the end of the first class went up near Mr N. and took a ready , lets go pose ..... ooops , that aint the way to do it . He was on the ground with dislocate knee in under a second and had to go to hospital . Mr N was ' He want to fight me ! " , the others where trying to explain " No no..... he wanted to SPA with you ." It was considered a cultural mistake ... MR N agreed ' So sorry, cultural mistake ." But on the inside, I reckon ; " Who the hell is this rude gaijun, I havent been introduced, he didnt bow, he didnt ASK if I would do him the honor of personally instructing him by sparing with him, and then he shapes up to me like a street punk with a cheeky grin on his face ???" - Yeah ... one can make a big mistake in that culture .... if you have not STUDIED ! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honne_and_tatemae ;)

The reason Mr Soken did demos was he could not believe the mess old style Karate had turned into ( during and after WWII) , he left for Argentina to pursue a career in photography and didnt get back until after WWII and witnessed something so different that he had to ask what it was people where doing . They where surprised he didnt know ... its karate . Nooooo .... he said , that isnt karate . So he would demo sometimes to show old style karate . But also hide it most times in instruction . Oh yeah .... he 'demo ed' it on George Dilman ;)

[ Dilman said " He (Soken ) wants Kumite ! That means fight ! he is 85 years old ! I cant fight this guy , if I kick full power, even if he blocks it, I might break his arm . I cant refuse , but if I hurt him , my name will be mud . I better do something so people will know how good I am, but I will have to hold back so I dont hurt the old man . "

.... ( Dilman pauses in recounting this )

" Well, my plan didnt work . He knew everything and he could do everything ... and he could HURT me . Everything he hit or even when he did a block, it hit a pressure point - everything hit a pressure point ! It got to the stage where my body itself tried to shut down . Soken was there saying 'Come on ... come , bring a punch to me .' I wanted to , I was intending to but my body was saying no dont do it and my fist would not leave my hip . I finally forced myself to punch him one more time and he hit me with a backfist, one knuckle into some nerve point on the back of my hand ...... I thought I was going to die ..."

" Yes, rude American ... I give you free lesson ... we do kumite ... I 'instruct you ' . " :D


{ see : 56 Reflections Dillman and Hohan Soken - YouTube }


Mr N was more liberal in teaching the old tradition . Sometimes its funny to watch our film archive , there he is training with some of the Oz boys ( we are very few in number - more so today **** ) ; here is Mr N , doing a kata with the moves showing the 'hidden stuff' and right alongside him are people doing it and 'learning' from him but still doing base style .... < shrug> ,.... he doesnt seem to care ... unless you NOTICE something is up :D

I think its a case of ; stupid gaijuns, whatever , let them do whatever , if they are smart enough they will get it , but I won't be handing it to them on a platter or telling them more than once .

I dont get the 'keep it secret ' though , although that may apply in older Chinese traditions . There is a story that MRs N and S used to have a giggle over though .... its about Master Funokoshi ( the 'father' / founder of karate < smirk> ) getting caught peeking through the fence when they where training once .

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosei_Nishihira

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hohan_Sōken

*** Base style was what most servicemen and westerners where taught it is what virtually all modern karate looked like, say up to about 20 years back ... before they added the back flips and fluorescent plastic weapons , etc . It came from remnants of old style karate, which began to disappear after the class system and samurai class where disbanded . Many proponents ( eg. bodyguards ) where now out of work . One came up with the great idea to adapt it as a physical education course and marketed to the school board to get primary school kids fit , of course it had to changed first so it was more suitable for children . Then THAT got taken to Japan by Funokoshi and later taught to the Americans and westerners . Both Japanese and westerners then made further adaptations restrictions and changes to develop it into a sport .

** I would say 3 in Oz , including me . Thats been recently realized and we have been asked to come to a seminar and teach , some people that used to train in the tradition years back . The senior guy died last year and that bought some people together that the weapons traditions had been lost , they all just do empty hand now . No, it isnt lost at all . - but the thing is , my 'instructor' who supposedly knows it all, doesnt ! And what he does know is rapidly evaporating , he has always had a problem with it but now, old age and the beginnings of senility have taken their toll - just this morning he got stuck and sorta started spasming doing the same move over and over again , like jumping record or a robot stripping its gears ** . And his form and movement have become terrible ! The other one doesnt know it all and he isnt coming anyway . So guess which little black duck is going to have to actually demo and teach this vast compendium ! ( 17 empty hand , 5 bo 1 jo, 2 eku, 3 sai, 3 karma, and various sword , 'patterns ' some with u to 56 moves in them . )

- and guess which other little black duck is gonna get the acclaim for this workshop ? ;)

**** the problem was he cant do any move of a patten, while doing that pattern , unless he starts at 1 ...2 .... 3 ..... start i the middle ? nope . Do one move outside of doing the pattern, yep . Do the last two moves of the pattern . nope ... not unless he ; 1 .... 2 .... 3

so me being who I am :) are standing there while he is having this repetitive 'short circuit' of the nervous system ; " Whats up ? Are you stuck, ?? ?... try this ; do it from the 6th last move and all in reversed back to the first move ....... whilst reciting Swinburne's Chorus from Atalanta in Calydon ......... on one leg . :)
 
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Earl Grey

Gonzo Daoist and Dharma Punk
Moderator
The other vids are your state-of-the-art wushu. There's "competitions" as well for this sort of stuff. I don't hate on it, athleticism is is still better than lying around and eating chips, but it's a different game.

Yeah, if we're looking at it as fitness and wushu rather than internal skill, then it's not a problem. The problem is that they try to pass it off as synonymous with the other and this is most definitely not the case, because it gives people the wrong idea.

I have followed George Thompson for years, and he met Wumin at Master Gu's place. I think that her being pretty is coincidental lol. He seems to be working on promoting Gu's school, and was made a disciple very quickly, I admit (within 3 months?) George isn't a master, but his heart's in the right place.

George seems like a nice guy--though I'm not sure I'd take his appraisal of what's good or great, and we can't really blame him because it's what he has been shown so far. What I don't like is how he has other videos running a business of teaching the philosophy of Daoism in a very platitude-like manner that is manufactured by the CCP's own version of its oriental mystique--something that they revere as part of their distant past and heritage and yet because they erased so much of it, they can rewrite and re-imagine what it means to suit CCP agendas.

"Kung Fu speaks with the hands, not the mouth".

I remember this as a taunt in Street Fighter from Cody! "Fightin's done with fists, not words." Considering the universe of that game, this guy is dealing with supernatural fighters who can electrocute you, throw fireballs at you, and mad scientists with psychopathic dictators, he shows his fighting prowess by meeting the force of their sonic booms, hadoukens, and yoga flames with...rocks he picks up on the ground that he throws at them really fast.

Translating that to something more of a real world example, imagine a scrapper behind prison walls of Luton dealing with police and prison guards often full riot gear while he's naked and smeared with butter, but still a threat who requires 15-20 men to subdue him...and you have Charlie Bronson, portrayed by Tom Hardy in this scene recreated from Charlie's own autobiography. This particular fight didn't have them in riot gear, but trust the prison records and former guards and inmates: Charlie is a fighter (and he has enough to take on anyone with Xin Yi).

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCT0yhihKj0
 
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Neirong

Magus
Teacher
Skill can often be recognized only by people with training and a deep understanding of those arts. It is naive to think someone untrained without experience can fully grasp the "skill ceiling" and the level of the Masters. This principle is universal.

If we take Martial Arts, or any competitive environment, when you get stomped(destroyed) in 1 move, you won't be able to feel the difference between Master A and Master B and tell which one is stronger. Masters who look equally potent compared to beginners may have an even more, vast and the substantial gap between them.

Thus recognition by laymen and untrained bystanders is worth nothing as a measurement of someone's development. A beginner may look to be a mighty master if all he does is stomp newcomers and weaklings.

You don't even know how high the mountain is until you start climbing.
Essentially, those whose only goal is to look excellent and mighty in public, not improve their art, are getting stuck at the very basement of the mountain instead of climbing it higher and higher.
Significantly, high levels may have nobody to understand them.

And, yes, people with all certainty discussing one and another tradition, without ever being a part of it, are simply fools or quacks.
 
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Earl Grey

Gonzo Daoist and Dharma Punk
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Significantly, high levels may have nobody to understand them.

The biggest mistake is that people either judge by their external framework and don't know what they're looking at or looking for, and then whatever they are exposed to publicly for internal arts is quite bad or outright fake, so it is the same as measuring how much water is in the ocean with a strainer: there are better tools to use, but there's just so much that it's hard to grasp the totality of it, so you need to approach it from a more pragmatic approach with the related disciplines such as mathematics at the very least.
 

Neirong

Magus
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The biggest mistake is that people either judge by their external framework and don't know what they're looking at or looking for, and then whatever they are exposed to publicly for internal arts is quite bad or outright fake, so it is the same as measuring how much water is in the ocean with a strainer: there are better tools to use, but there's just so much that it's hard to grasp the totality of it, so you need to approach it from a more pragmatic approach with the related disciplines such as mathematics at the very least.

Stereotypes and ideology often enslave humans; there are whole sets of what a master should be, look like, talk like, and so on.

It ends with an anecdote about a girl dating men; she finds a guy and asks him if he owns a 2-level house and a Toyota car. He honestly says no, and she leaves elsewhere, searching for her happiness.
Then the guy talks with his friend, "what for a girl, I should turn my 4-level home into a 2-level and sell Maybach to ride Toyota?" No, she is attractive, but this is too much of a sacrifice.
 
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