By Nicholas Gregory –
“Wise men don’t need to debate; men who need to debate are not wise” –Tao Te Ching
“Men argue, nature acts” — Voltaire
“It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue” — Oscar Wilde
The web these days is full of online debate regarding martial arts or anything else for that matter. One of the common themes one is that if something is posted, one should be able to take constructive criticism. But is that really the case? Does constructive criticism really help, or is the person criticizing really just fueling his or her own ego, fueling a carnal desire to always win a debate?
Sometimes one has to wonder how much we can actually learn from debate, and more importantly, how much time and energy we waste debating. It seems the source of issues in our community come from linage wars, which are ultimately seeded from debate.
Watching martial arts sparring and training clips online is both entertaining and educational, but does every clip have to be the subject of debate? Or should clips be limited to watching and enjoying for what they are? Granted, if someone is practicing in a dangerous manner, he or she may benefit from some friendly advice from fellow martial arts brothers. But when there’s simply a difference in approach, is heated debate really the way to progress our art further?
Of course, not saying that all debate, disagreements, and intellectual discussions regarding martial arts are negative — seeing different perspectives with an open mind can help anyone grow in any field. But the vitriolic nature that stems from most debate’s passive aggression, intellectual superiority, and personal attacks may be doing more harm than good.
Consider this: many martial artists have lives outside of their kwoon or dojo, so having a target on their backs could affect their livelihood. The inevitably negative feedback they will receive upon posting a sparring or training clip may actually be preventing them from sharing their art with the world. In this case, having a “thick skin” or being “able to take constructive criticism” has nothing to do with practicing privately. The fear of being lashed out by the martial arts community may be preventing amazing practitioners from sharing a piece of themselves, and this fear can stunt martial arts’ growth as a whole.
When Nicholas Gregory first met up to train with Danny Horgan last fall for a Chi Sau session in NYC, his impression of him was that he was a headless chicken with no skill, someone who just used his reach and aggression to dominate opponents in push hands. I simply wanted someone taller to spar with. Horgan’s reasons for meeting me were different.
“I didn’t know much about Nick before we met up to train, but I wasn’t expecting much,” said Horgan. “Men who live in Manhattan are generally hipster frauds who have given up on their manhood by listening to bands like Mumford and Sons and Bon Iver.”
Interestingly, both Gregory and Horgan had experiences where training without debate had been the norm. Gregory had trained intensely for a month in Shaolin in 2008 training in Chinese kickboxing and then the following year in Guilin studying Tai Chi. In both places, Gregory could not speak the local language and the coaches had a weak dialect of English, eliminating any type of verbal debate from the training.
Horgan’s training had consisted of sparring martial artists from a variety of disciplines, including Muay Thai, Karate, and other Wing Chun practitioners. There was never any need to debate the ins and outs of fighting; Horgan and his sparring partners would discuss with their fists.
As we have stated on this blog before, it was that fall meeting between Horgan and myself that started the Brotherhood. We gained a new-found respect for each other, and we discovered characteristics in each other we never would have found through the Internet alone.
Gregory and Horgan both had a different approach than the norm to improve our fighting skills. Gregory became a worldwide traveller in combat, from training Muay thai in Thailand, Chinese kick boxing in Shaolin, Tai chi in Guilin and Wing Chun in Hong Kong. Horgan’s approach was similar yet different. Horgan decided to use his journalism skills to create the Wing Chun Blast channel which allowed him to touch hands with many of the top Wing Chun practitioners in the US.
When Gregory and Horgan met in the fall of 2013, we quickly went into pushing hands and then to sparring. No debate happened. When we were tired we stopped and agreed that it was fun and to do it again. Nothing was posted online and no debate on forums happened. After some time they spoke again and realised this is the way training should be and WC Brotherhood was formed. The idea was to create a community where people from different backgrounds/lineage could meet and train/spar without a ceremony or forums fighting coming after. Gregory had followed Nicholas Gabriel from the Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood and felt this is what Wing Chun needed and is essentially where the name came from. Horgan, challenging the mainstream thinking of the community with his Blast channel, was the perfect person to work with on this project.
We live in a world where opinions seem more important than facts. Between media and the endless debate we see online, being “right” in a debate is becoming more important than actually getting to the truth.
The truth is we don’t know whose Wing Chun skill is the best. Even in professional sports where athletes consistently compete for money, debate on “who is the best” still runs rampant. The constant debating really does fuel our egos and takes us away from training and doing the things we enjoy.
This article will inevitably inspire debate. And that’s fine. We are all free to follow our own path. But know that there is alternative path to follow.
Its about the journey,