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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Traditional vs. Commercial

The Difference between a traditional Gung Fu Gwoon and a Commercial Gung Fu Club

There are many differences between a traditional gung fu gwoon and a commercial gung fu club. The main difference is that a traditional gwoon exists to pass down the traditional art whilst the commercial club exists to make a profit. Any thinking person reflecting on this will realise that these two orientations inevitably lead to very different experiences for the student. 

The commercial club has to provide a visible index of progress. This led to the development of grade levels and uniform syllabi across the different branches of commercial organisations. This presents at least some semblance of uniformity and encourages students to continue training. Also, commercial clubs are able to use tournament wins in their marketing. Thus they will sponsor and support the sportification of gung fu. The whole “champion” ethos has thus developed and is fostered by those who practice gung fu as a sport.

The proprietor of the commercial club realises that training cannot be so difficult as to be beyond the abilities of the average weekend participant. This leads inevitably to either, or both, lower standards or longer learning periods. Longer training periods because of slow progress is acommercially a “good thing” – because it means more fees! It also leads to a deliberate two tiered club – those who are fit athletes and able to compete for the club (and recruit new members) and those who are simply filling out the ranks. The latter usually make no, or minimal, progress and are deluded into believing that they might be able to apply their art in real world self defence.

Another difference between the traditional gwoon and the commercial club is evident at the outset. Approaching a traditional gwoon for membership does not mean the student simply walks in the door and slaps down the fee, demanding membership. I call this the “supermarket model”. With the commercial club, this is all you have to do – “buy” the art. (Actually this is an illusion as it is impossible to buy genuine skill or knowledge). In the case of the traditional gwoon, you approach the sifu with the right respectful attitude and ask him to consider you for membership. The sifu makes the decision – as he ought to, because he knows best who to teach and who not to! The “supermarket model” is “come one, come all”. The traditional gwoon is like a university in that you have to earn entry. Entry cannot be bought. The commercial club is financially transactional – buying something. The traditional gwoon is based on relationship. The former is a commercial commitment. The latter is a personal commitment.

So, the question is: which do you think is going to teach you genuine gung fu?