The value of traditional martial arts lay in their teaching systems. Even if a martial artist trained to the highest level of ability, if he was unable to produce a method of teaching to guide later generations to reach this level his expertise would follow him to the grave and would have little effect on mankind’s culture.
The sole reason that any school of traditional martial arts has been passed down through the generations is because it developed its own ‘teaching method’. What was preserved and handed down by each generation’s ‘transmitter’ was precisely this ‘teaching system’. The knowledge and understanding of each generation of followers might vary and their attainments differ but with the teaching system as a foundation the cultural value of a school could stretch out in a continuous flow.
Right down to the present day it has been difficult to explain what in fact a ‘teaching system’ for martial arts schools is. This is because for a long time many martial arts students have been function orientated – only studying what they need – so there are many people who study several schools at the same time and few people who study a complete system from beginning to end. Consequently the former only experience a limited range of moves, postures and forms in isolation with fragmented explanations. As a result some people say that forms are no use and some arbitrarily change the movements of moves and postures since they cannot see the wood for the trees and do not know the design of the complete jigsaw puzzle.
If we are only speaking of the functions of combat, keeping fit or exhibition then anyone can make changes to meet their own needs at a given time and place. So we have ‘free combat’ ‘Taiji for health’ and ‘sport wushu’ , none of which is my concern. However if we turn our attention to ‘preserving the basis of culture’ then we must be modest and prudent since when it comes down to it the lifespan and influence of a culture are much more long term than an individual person’s.
When in the past I have pointed out misconceptions in the world of martial arts about moves, postures and forms in the school of Bagua Quan’ it has been based on this understanding and not a nitpicking criticism of any one individual. I also think that quite a number of fellow martial artists do not put enough value on traditional culture and that this has led to a number of traditional martial arts being changed beyond recognition.
What is called ‘traditional’ is to link yourself between the past and the future and to start to carefully and prudently assume responsibility for the heritage. If an individual mentally loses this ‘feeling of linkage’ or deliberately avoids this type of relationship, the issue becomes very difficult to handle.
I am trying to give a brief explanation of the structure of the ‘Bagua Quan system. I realise that my own ability has limits and I cannot be certain that I have enabled everyone to understand. However I will try my best.