Jump to content
DragonClaws

Exit The Dragon? Kung Fu, Once Central to Hong Kong Life, Is Waning(Article)

Recommended Posts

Thanks for posting this artcile. I can't really talk for Hong Kong but I know this phenomenon isn't really new to China as well. Most people aren't even aware of Kung Fu being practiced anymore let alone be interested in it.

And yes I can confirm that if there is interest in Martial Arts it's definitely not Kung Fu. Youngsters are more interested in foreign styles like Karate or Taekwondo. And the reason behind all this is rather funny. They get to wear uniforms, belts and it's pretty easy to achieve a "higher" level.

I remember going to the hospital once in China with my Master (apparently I wasn't doing too well :D). The female doctor asked him who he was and or what he did. And she replied like: "Oh... I see, you teach Taekwondo. My son also likes that." After several attempts of telling her we study Kung Fu my Master just gave up. So awareness for Kung Fu is little to none in China. Apart from the hotspots like Shaolin or Wudang, where Kung Fu continues to be a thriving business.

I would argue that anyone who has ever set foot in a "real" chinese Kung Fu academy wouldn't be surprised in the lack of interest for that. These academies are run like a Military School with a very strict regiment; including physical punishment, curfew, regulated absence etc. Many of the students aren't really there because they want to. Some are dropouts, troublemakers or their families simply can't afford any other form of education. Don't get me wrong these Kids are still great and they have my deepest respect.

Generally, times are changing in China much like they do all over the world. Kids are more focused on their "social" life and future career. Kung Fu much like many other traditions have no longer any place in a fast moving society. It's sad but I'm glad to report that there's still individuals willing to uphold these traditions.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting this link @DragonClaws. The article is a sobering reality check as to the state of the Kung Fu genre in the very home of the Shaw films we love. But, I honestly can't say that I am surprised. Hong Kong would have to be at the forefront of the social and technological changes sweeping the developed world.

Technological advances, especially, have enabled social interaction between cultures and ideologies on a scale never seen before - the world is a small place now. Nowhere has this effect been felt more profoundly than among the younger generations. In Hong Kong, Western values have likely supplanted many of the traditional Eastern philosophies. For some time now the Western focus has been on the "self" and the rights of the individual. There is less emphasis on patience, perseverance, discipline, empathy for others, and respect for your elders. All concepts which form a foundation to the practise of Kung Fu and Wuxia, and often referenced in the Shaw films. The genres are so much more than just the fighting, they are a philosophy for life. 

A good point was made in the article by a master; the students nowadays, "They are used to living a comfortable life". In many of the films we enjoy, the Wuxia/Kung Fu heroes strive to prevail in the face of adversity or social injustice, to remain true to the ideals they have been taught. Years of training and self-sacrifice develop character; the ideals give a sense of purpose and community. Is it any wonder that in our stable modern societies, where our standard of living is taken for granted, that the values of the past forged through adversity are no longer seen as relevant? Technology itself exacerbates the problem. We now expect instant gratification, so attention spans shorten and expectations rise. Hard work and self-sacrifice for little immediate gain, as portrayed in the films, is always going to struggle to compete in such an environment. It was interesting to note that Thai boxing held appeal for some young people, simply because it didn't take as long to learn and was easier to master. But what of the philosophy behind the teachings?

As for the college graduate's opinion, "Kung Fu is more for retired Uncles and Grandpas", now I am really starting to feel my age! And I am neither retired, an Uncle or a Grandpa! But that statement certainly highlights the three decades between us. Still, it is my contention that the values inherent in the above mentioned martial arts genres are timeless and apply equally to all generations as a foundation for life. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 05/10/2017 at 10:32 AM, laagi said:

Thanks for posting this artcile. I can't really talk for Hong Kong but I know this phenomenon isn't really new to China as well. Most people aren't even aware of Kung Fu being practiced anymore let alone be interested in it.

No problem, thank for replying with a really good/strong post.

On 07/10/2017 at 9:22 AM, AgriWuxia said:

Technological advances, especially, have enabled social interaction between cultures and ideologies on a scale never seen before - the world is a small place now. Nowhere has this effect been felt more profoundly than among the younger generations. In Hong Kong, Western values have likely supplanted many of the traditional Eastern philosophies. For some time now the Western focus has been on the "self" and the rights of the individual. There is less emphasis on patience, perseverance, discipline, empathy for others, and respect for your elders. All concepts which form a foundation to the practise of Kung Fu and Wuxia, and often referenced in the Shaw films. The genres are so much more than just the fighting, they are a philosophy for life.

I really liked this, in particular the last setence.

On 07/10/2017 at 9:22 AM, AgriWuxia said:

A good point was made in the article by a master; the students nowadays, "They are used to living a comfortable life". In many of the films we enjoy, the Wuxia/Kung Fu heroes strive to prevail in the face of adversity or social injustice, to remain true to the ideals they have been taught. Years of training and self-sacrifice develop character; the ideals give a sense of purpose and community. Is it any wonder that in our stable modern societies, where our standard of living is taken for granted, that the values of the past forged through adversity are no longer seen as relevant?

Another section I really agree with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that interest in kung fu and martial arts movies went to Thailand, with Panna Rittikrai and Tony Jaa's movies being hugely successful there. Classic HK cinema also remains popular in Thailand. One of the reasons why I loved Ong Bak and Warrior King so much.

Speaking of which, does anyone know what happened to the 35mm prints of Born to Fight (1984)? It's one of the best Thai martial arts movies I have seen and quite popular in Thailand, and even the UK DVD seems to be a fullscreen transfer, but I know that it was definitely shot in 2:40.1 on Eastmancolor film because there are clips all over YouTube of the film reels being screened in Bangkok which seem to have faded to a reddish hue (as Eastmancolor film tends to do) and are quite scratched up, presumably from being played so much.

Thing about these Thai movies is they rarely get released on home media outside of Thailand and are rarely even subtitled in English.

Edited by TheKungFuRobber

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Crooks carry guns, etc. Also, other sports are more fun- basketball has always been a huge favorite of the Chinese, for example. Tae Kwon Do is very popular as well as Karate and Judo. Wu Shu is not Kung Fu, so it doesn't count. MMA will be the next big thing. People are focused on "classical" kung fu, without realizing that many of the training aspects are recent creations. What I mean is, some of the forms that are "traditional shaolin" were created by masters in committees and in the 1910 to 1935 periods. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
33 minutes ago, NoKUNGFUforYU said:

People are focused on "classical" kung fu, without realizing that many of the training aspects are recent creations. What I mean is, some of the forms that are "traditional shaolin" were created by masters in committees and in the 1910 to 1935 periods. 

 

I'm amazed there's any Kung Fu styles left at all, when you think about how many times China's been invaded. Often with the enemy imposing their own beliefs, while trying to burn and remove the Chinese history/culutre, they disliked or hated the most. Not to mention, its often own government/rulers, stopping them from praciting the fighting arts, at diffferent times in History.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, NoKUNGFUforYU said:

The Boxer Rebellion had a huge impact.

 

 

Quote

The Boxer Rebellion, Boxer Uprising or Yihetuan Movement was an anti-foreign, anti-colonial and anti-Christian uprising that took place in China between 1899 and 1901, toward the end of the Qing dynasty. They were motivated by proto-nationalist sentiments and by opposition to Western colonialism and the Christian missionary activity that was associated with it.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wasn't Kung Fu to be taught only to Chinese for very long ? Also, I recall a lot of trouble between central spots in Kung Fu (like Shaolin) and the powers in place, various emperors went on to (try to) destroy the Shaolin Monastery overtime - just try to find the date of its birning, there's like a dozen different periods -, and Mao's regime made Shaolin an outcast for decades until China went back to embrace it, though more for economic reasons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Secret Executioner said:

Wasn't Kung Fu to be taught only to Chinese for very long ? Also, I recall a lot of trouble between central spots in Kung Fu (like Shaolin) and the powers in place, various emperors went on to (try to) destroy the Shaolin Monastery overtime - just try to find the date of its birning, there's like a dozen different periods -, and Mao's regime made Shaolin an outcast for decades until China went back to embrace it, though more for economic reasons.

Kung Fu was never as popular as the movies make it seem. Chinese culture is not that into violence, and martial arts were historically related to gangs and the military. A good book to read is Chinese Martial Arts Manuals, A study, by Brian Kennedy. Think of it this way, could a tiny monastery develop and army of troops to fight off the Ch'ing army? And monks are pretty non violent, in reality. The different tyrants that have run China would never want the populace capable of using martial arts, so it was always frowned upon. There were no Samurai or Warrior class, just soldiers and guards, and the classes were scholar, merchant and very poor. They can't even find a Shaolin Temple in the south, as it is all from a fictional novel. Kind of like American's believing we were all bad ass gunfighters in the old west instead of impoverished dirt farmers barely getting by. 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×