Yes, although Hong Kong has been famous for its ‘kung fu’ movies for decades, the scene of ‘one defeats five or six’ was nowhere to be found in its infamous eight-hour long riot on Feb 8/9 overnight local time.
What was really taking place there was simply arbitrary and brutal combats with fists, metal bars, rubbish bins, bricks, trolleys and alike between the messily organized police force (many officers were on leave for the Lunar New Year celebration) and hundreds of youngsters, thus leaving more than seventy policemen and three journalists wounded.
Through idolisation by several series of popular fictions, some writers claimed that these practices evolved into a number of ‘schools’ of modules over the past hundreds of years and that a master-grade fighter could triumph over ten or more opponents.
What may be closer to the truth is that when the monks, who were supposed to believe in nothingness in the present world and to wait for their next life at a higher level after death in the due course of metempsychosis, they lived like hermits. To maintain their physiological health for, say, joints and ankles, the monks practiced some physical exercises as a sort of routine in their daily life, alongside farming (for biological strength) and studying (for the soul’s purity).
Therefore, the motion was very slow, mainly to relax their muscle or stretch their tendon after a long time of meditation. It was never to be meant for aggression, not to mention fatal strike. If there must be a reason to connect such a daily routine with the secular community, it was essentially for self-defence — to protect themselves from the bandits.
Without practical benefits, very few Han Chinese in reality learn and practice ‘kung fu’. It was not an interesting feature of the Chinese culture until Bruce Lee (1940-73) made a fundamental change to it.
Having understood the slow nature and uselessness of ‘kung fu’, the greatly talented Lee trained his body crazy hard in general and legs in particular to develop ‘Jee Kune Do’ to speed it up. He did it. Spectators said Lee’s kick was so swift that the shadow of his legs’ locus could not be “seen” at all. Lee uplifted his fight module to the combat level and to the extent that he was able to have a real fight even with the tall and muscular American fighters.
Unfortunately, so far, Lee was the only one who was able to move his legs (particularly the left leg) sufficiently fast and furious for real fight. What all others can achieve is to turn ‘kung fu’ into show business for entertainment, or sports, or artistic performance. Therefore, despite a hearsay that some of those arrested have been trained with modern wrestling techniques, ‘kung fu’ was absent from the Hong Kong riot.
If there is a philosophical or political meaning for ‘kung fu’ in the Chinese culture, I would say it is the spirit of self-defense. The Han Chinese is not a truculent nation. Their ideal has always been scholarly Confucian intellectuality. A simple look back to history will tell you that they focused on poems and dissertations to the extent that they lost their mainland first to the Mongolians (Yuan Dynasty 1271-1368) and then to the Manchurians (Qing Dynasty 1644-1912).
The fireworks and firecrackers invented by the ancient Han Chinese were for fun, festival celebrations and signalling during battles. Rather, it was the Arabians and then the Europeans who transformed them into guns and bombs. Both ‘kung fu’ and various self-defence capabilities of any form failed them repeatedly in the past one thousand years. What the Han Chinese on the mainland doing right now is still struggling to have their self-defence capacity upgraded to the level that humiliation to their legacy will not happen again. By all means, the ultimate goal of all Chinese modernisations is the same as ‘kung fu’ — self-defence.
- China wants respect, but doesn’t know how to get it (chinadailymail.com)
- Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin returns to Beijing in challenge to President Xi Jinping (chinadailymail.com)
- China keeps changing excuses for South China Sea claims (chinadailymail.com)
- Germany presents Xi Jinping with historical map of China, which excludes Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang (chinadailymail.com)
- The Uighur people: In defence of the minority, their identity and autonomy (chinadailymail.com)
- The Yuan Dynasty and the Suppression of the Han Chinese (5ocietyx.wordpress.com)
- ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ says Happy Chinese New Year! (onenewspage.us)