Have a seat, a nice cup of coffee (not too strong or you won’t sleep!) and hear the ramblings of a Kung Fu practitioner.
I’m going to give you an offer you can’t refuse (now where did I hear that line from? Haha).
I have a machine right here that can instantly, in a blink of an eye, transfer knowledge of a thousand Kung Fu techniques from the various schools into your brain. All the moves are available for you to use right this instant (however, I am not liable for injuries and accidents caused as a result of overly enthusiastic displays of Kung Fu movements); No-Shadow Kicks, Hung Gar Tiger Claws, Praying Mantis Kicks, even the dreaded, legendary Dim Mak!
..or, I can teach you one move. Just one. And then proceed to beat you senseless with my training cane until you get the postures right. You must repeat the move 1000 times, both left and right modes. Nope, no toilet breaks allowed. So go get some diapers ready.
So, what choice will you make? It’s really not that hard. Some would say it’s a no-brainer. I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t read minds, but I guess most people would go for the machine. Hey, this is the information age after all, what with all those fancy iphones and such.
Knowing many techniques is not necessarily a bad thing. It expands your horizons and your arsenal. It gives you more choices when faced with certain situations. You can choose to utilize a chin na grip or a surprise counter, for example, when an opponent launches a Fierce Tiger against you. This, of course, assumes that you have sufficient force, perfect form and experience with the techniques.
This is where skill comes in. A Shaolin axiom says, “Strength cannot match techniques, techniques cannot match force, force cannot match speed, and speed cannot match the marvelous“. Let’s say that there’s a fighter called Victorious Fist Lau. He was always victorious because of just one technique; a simple straight punch. However, because of his hard work and dedication spent practising and mastering this technique, it became his trump card. Sure, his many opponents employed all sorts of tricks and moves against him. Throws, kicks, takedowns, punches, headbutts, hidden weapons, and maybe even a bite to the ear, but I’m not sure of that. You name it, they used it. And yet Lau was always victorious. He won because he had developed sufficient skill in technique, force and speed borne from years of practise to successfully implement his move and strategies in the fights.
Now, knowing and expanding one’s repertoire of Kung Fu moves is certainly encouraged, but in order to develop the skills necessary to successfully use your Kung Fu and not let it degenerate into mere Kung Fu dance, one must always practise, practise and practise.
I shall relate an interesting story, told by my Sifu, in relation to techniques vs. skills in my next installment.