Kung Fu: The Hard Way

I just watch the first part of this 4 part video made by the BBC in 1983.  It's quite good, it's asks most of the right questions, sometimes it's answers are too brief and too general, but if we started from this very good basic explanation, how did we get side tracked?  The basics are here, Kung Fu was a devotional and exorcistic religious practice, a highly developed form of actual fighting skill, it played a roll in social cohesion, children's moral and physical education, triad organizations, rebellion, theater, dance, medicine, health and music.  The well established ties between Indian and Chinese civilization during the Han and Tang dynasties likely played some roll in it's development, especially in the realm of meditation and yogic action.

In answer to the above question I've come up with five reasons that the nascent field of Kung Fu studies has been so retarded.

  1. When Qigong fever got out of mainland China it really confused the issues of Kung Fu's origins with a false narrative.

  2. This particular BBC documentary focuses on Hong Kong, and manages to avoid getting caught up on the propaganda narrative of Chinese Nationalism dominant in both mainland China and Taiwan.

  3. The Western ideas of mystical energy, self-defense, moralistic non-violence, and the belief that categories must be clear and distinct-- all have played a roll in inflating, diminishing or obscuring some aspect of the actual history of Kung Fu.

  4. Buddhism exploded in the West, which amplified the 'Shaolin comes from Bodhidharma' narrative and tinted the glasses through which we look at everything Chinese.

  5. The traditional Chinese distinction between Orthodox and Heterodox religion was so 'foreign' to Western notions of religion that it took over 100 years of scholarship and cultural exchange to become comprehensible.  (See here,... here,... here ... and here.)