Thursday, August 03, 2006

July Meet Up Summary

Jerome Keating sent me this summary of the July Meet Up on Martial Arts...


Martial Arts Presentation by Brian Kennedy and Scott Sommers at the Shannon Pub. The pub was convivial and we had the back room to ourselves. We could draw the curtain but still it was a tad noisy. We had a mike, but for some reason it broadcast more loudly in the rest rooms than in our room (leaving some patrons bewildered as to whether they had had too much to drink or they were getting some divine inspiration as to their next career.)

Brian decided that he could speak more effectively without a mike soon into his presentation. He opened with a discussion of the development of martial arts in Taiwan and divided this into 4 periods, the Qing Dynasty, the Japanese Occupation, Post war Period and the Contemporary Period. The main focus of Brian’s talk was that martial arts as we think of them is completely unrelated to the historical fact of how they were practiced in Taiwan.

Historically, martial arts were military skills practiced by the local militias of Taiwanese townships. Following the Japanese occupation of the island, this was replaced with the sport practices of Judo and Kendo. The KMT replaced this with an exercise system based on martial arts, but otherwise only marginally related to fighting practices of the early militias. With the lifting of martial law, this system has fallen in to confusion and the current state of martial arts in Taiwan is highly fragmented.

Taiwan Martial Arts History

I. Overview of Chinese martial arts

1. “typical” martial artists development were driven by the military not “monks”, Taoist masters or wandering Knight Errants

2. “Systems” of Chinese martial arts varied.

II. Taiwanese Martial arts history

1.Why Taiwan is important

--It served as a repository during “bad times” for martial arts in Mainland China (the tradition was kept alive here)

--It served as a major “exporter” of martial arts 1960 to present

2. Marital Arts and politics

Chinese governments (be they KMT or CCP or Imperial) don’t like martial arts groups---why? --Popular-religious- rebel groups: Taipings, Red Spears, White Lotus, Boxers, (and groups such as I Kuan Tao, Fa Lun Gong) could easily be a threat to the government.

3. Martial arts “culture” in Taiwan: past and present compared

In the past the martial arts were much more interwoven into the culture and into daily life. Nowadays the practice of martial arts tends to be “separate” from one’s other activities.

III. Four Periods of Taiwanese Martial Arts history


Japanese period


Modern times

Qing era

Pirate Island

Yen Ssu-tsi. brought 3,000 chinese immigrants over to Taiwan in 1621. Martial arts were part of Taiwan’s history from day one and from day one, skill with a sword, saber, spear or one’s fists had great practical value in protection against aborigines and in claiming territory..

Koxinga, Ming soldiers and fraternal organizations

(aside) History repeats itself: Koxinga and the KMT

Two Groups: No love, little law=“Wild Wild East”

There exist in the Qing era, numerous criminal law case records from central Taiwan (the Dan-Xin case archives) and the cases recorded often involve fights, both legal and physical fights, often armed with staffs, swords or spears between the Hoklo and the Hakka. Each needed martial arts for self-protection.

Militias and Martial Arts--The Sung Chiang Battle Arrays

Japanese Era

Japanese cops and judo and kendo

There was a nominal ban on Chinese martial arts; not good to have the locals too strong and a threat to the colonial rule.

The Righteous Thief:

Liao Tien-ding, the Righteous Thief of Taiwan kept the tradition alive.

Post WW2 and the Arrival of the KMT

Major influx of martial artists arriving from the Chinese mainland in the late 1940’s. There numbers included such luminaries as Cheng Man-ching, Wang Shu-jin, Chen Pan-ling, Chang Tung-sheng as well as many others.

The Modern Period

Foreigners to Taiwan

Robert Smith pioneering series of books on Chinese martial arts.

Mixed Martial Arts

Virtual martial arts kills physical martial arts Tai Chi for health is the only known survivor

Brian and his wife have produced a book titled:
Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals: A Historical Survey

Published by the American publisher North Atlantic Books; it is available on Amazon but Brian has not seen it in any of the Taiwanese bookstores (i.e. Caves, Eslite, PageOne.)

Following Brian’s talk, Scott Sommers spoke about mixed martial arts (MMA) in Taiwan. MMA is a form of full contact fighting practiced primarily in the USA, Brazil, and Japan. With the innovation of highly paid professional leagues, MMA is spreading rapidly throughout Asia and the rest of the world. Unfortunately the general confusion of martial art in Taiwan has resulted in a very poorly organized MMA industry here.

MMA in the Philippines is extremely well organized. In addition, the government in China has established an official MMA training center in Beijing bringing together the best coaching the country has to offer. Despite a long tradition of martial arts, Taiwan is missing its chance to promote competitors internationally in MMA

A brief outline of Scott’s presentation follows:


Mixed Martial Arts, a type of full-contact fighting


No Holds Barred, another type of full-contact fighting (this appears more nasty)


Ultimate Fighting Championship, an MMA in the USA that first used a special kind of cage called the eight-sided fighting ring. (Only one comes out?)

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,

3 ranges of MMA, Striking; Entry and take down; Ground fighting, ground and pound. This last one seemed only for the die-hards.

In the question & answer period, the inevitable question came up. What style is the best?

Answer: The style that you train is not what's important but how you train. There is a big difference when sparring as to whether you have a cooperative partner or uncooperative partner. i.e. in the cooperative practice, the partner goes through the series of thrusts, blocks and parries that you are trained in. Unfortunately in a real fight, your opponent does not follow script and uses whatever works, so there is no one practice that will help here.

Naturally we were all hoping that Brian and Scott would mix it up a little so we could see classical style vs. down and dirty, no-holds barred style but we had to content ourselves to look at some of the equipment and protective gear Scott had brought.

Those wanting to learn more can contact either Brian at

Or go to Scott Sommers' Taiwan Weblog

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