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Thread: "Martial arts" in the wuxia sense - an Asia-only phenomenon?

  1. #1
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Default "Martial arts" in the wuxia sense - an Asia-only phenomenon?

    It would be inaccurate, presumptuous, and perhaps even somewhat racist to say that martial arts belong exclusively to Asia. After all, the fighting skills developed and used by aboriginal Africans, Americans, Australians, Europeans, and Pacific Islanders throughout the course of history are also martial arts, and are not necessarily the inferior of any martial art developed in Asia.

    It is true, however, that the heroic legends and stories of other peoples do not feature the same kind of martial arts as those depicted in Chinese wuxia stories.

    The kinds of abilities attributed to wuxia characters are essentially superhuman: the most powerful wuxia characters can shatter stone walls with their bare hands, project concussive energy over extended distances from their bodies, fly through the air like birds, use melee weapons with a degree of speed and skill that seems impossible, heal grave injuries, etc. The martial arts of other peoples around the world, as far as we know, do not enable their practitioners to do these kinds of things. In European knight tales, for example, a knight who is a good fighter is merely stronger and better skilled at using his sword than are his opponents. He has no "superpowers" within his body, and any extraordinary or miraculous advantage he might gain is attributed to magic charms or spells given by fairies, wizards, or angels rather than a natural force than exists within his own body (and that he can learn to cultivate and manipulate through training and practice). The European knight is a martial artist of the first order, but his martial arts are not like the martial arts of wuxia fiction.

    In Jin Yong's novels, no truly European characters appear other than Princess Sofia of Russia in DUKE OF MT. DEER, and she was no martial artist in any sense of the term. In Jin Yong's universe, "martial arts" in the wuxia sense seems to be limited to the continent of Asia. Surprisingly, Jin Yong allows that the reach of wuxia-type martial arts stretched as far west as Persia and as far south as India. A number of powerful martial artists in Jin Yong's stories hailed from Persia (i.e. Wan Hak Sai of ROCH and the Persian Ming Cult members of HSDS) or India (i.e. Lui Mor Singh of ROCH). Damo was from India, so Jin Yong probably had no choice but to concede that wuxia-style martial arts were practiced to a high level in India, but Persia was a surprise (Persia is geographically part of Asia, but the natives of Persia have more in common culturally and physically with the peoples of Europe than with the peoples of China and the rest of eastern Asia). One would imagine that as far west as Persia, there would be no practitioners of Chinese-type wuxia martial arts (with inner power, hing gung, etc.). On the other hand, Jin Yong did maintain a sort of Chinese or East Asian bias, often emphasizing that no matter how fantastic certain foreign martial arts were, they were ultimately inferior to Chinese martial arts.

  2. #2
    Senior Member CC's Avatar
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    SWORD GOD Zhu........ ok ok ok! Don't faint yet Ken.

    2 parts. One is the JY world, one is the real world. No quibbles with the JY world, its written by Chinese for Chinese. So Central plains rule. Foreigners are all inferior!

    If your question is why the western world did not have wuxia style stories, its probably due to :

    1. Wuxia (neigong dragon palm LDA type wuxia that is) is relatively modern. The older stories like RTK and Outlaws of the Marsh don't feature long distance palm strikes or immobilising people by hitting accupoints.

    By that time, Europe was already going thru the Reinassance and the presence of gunpowder made wuxia powers not so dominating. (thats why the West has Superman but the East doesn't!)

    2. Christianity. Writing or talking about these Satanic like powers would probably get one burned at the stake. I don't think the Inquisition appreciates such stuff.

    3. The concept of Chi is tied into Eastern medicine. The west was in the bloody dark ages and had no time for these things (plus see pt 2) and by the time of the Reinassance, they went the path of modern Western medicine which had no place for Chi and Neigong.
    Its BIxie Jianfa Gawdammit you guys!!!!

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    Senior Member AnhHung's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CC
    SWORD GOD Zhu........ ok ok ok! Don't faint yet Ken.

    2 parts. One is the JY world, one is the real world. No quibbles with the JY world, its written by Chinese for Chinese. So Central plains rule. Foreigners are all inferior!

    If your question is why the western world did not have wuxia style stories, its probably due to :

    1. Wuxia (neigong dragon palm LDA type wuxia that is) is relatively modern. The older stories like RTK and Outlaws of the Marsh don't feature long distance palm strikes or immobilising people by hitting accupoints.

    By that time, Europe was already going thru the Reinassance and the presence of gunpowder made wuxia powers not so dominating. (thats why the West has Superman but the East doesn't!)

    2. Christianity. Writing or talking about these Satanic like powers would probably get one burned at the stake. I don't think the Inquisition appreciates such stuff.

    3. The concept of Chi is tied into Eastern medicine. The west was in the bloody dark ages and had no time for these things (plus see pt 2) and by the time of the Reinassance, they went the path of modern Western medicine which had no place for Chi and Neigong.
    Nice
    You do know that it is just fiction, dont you?

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    The European hero might not feature any specific mention of supernatural inner power, but they sure do things which imply its existence. I'm thinking Beowulf here when he jumps into a lake, searches around, and enters an underwater cave to fight with a large monster. Good breathing technique

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CC

    2 parts. One is the JY world, one is the real world. No quibbles with the JY world, its written by Chinese for Chinese. So Central plains rule. Foreigners are all inferior!
    Reasonable enough. A bit chauvinistic, but understandable.

    Quote Originally Posted by CC
    1. Wuxia (neigong dragon palm LDA type wuxia that is) is relatively modern. The older stories like RTK and Outlaws of the Marsh don't feature long distance palm strikes or immobilising people by hitting accupoints.
    I didn't know that the depiction of such phenomena in wuxia stories was such a recent development. I thought that such conventions had been in place since early in the genre's history.

    Quote Originally Posted by CC
    By that time, Europe was already going thru the Reinassance and the presence of gunpowder made wuxia powers not so dominating. (thats why the West has Superman but the East doesn't!)
    That's true for any European action-adventure story taking place during a time corresponding to China's Ming or Qing Dynasties (i.e. the 14th Century - 20th Century), but during Sung and Yuan times, the use of gunpowder in combat was still very limited. Firearms did not become the norm in European combat until around the 14th or 15th Century. Until at least the 13th Century, Europeans still had to rely primarily on physical fighting skills.

    Quote Originally Posted by CC
    2. Christianity. Writing or talking about these Satanic like powers would probably get one burned at the stake. I don't think the Inquisition appreciates such stuff.
    The Church definitely wouldn't have, but I wonder what stopped Jin Yong, Gu Long, or any of their contemporaries from incorporating any European martial arts or martial artists into any of their stories.

    Historically, of course, very few Europeans visited China until the 17th Century (largely due to xenophobic Ming Dynasty policies).

    Quote Originally Posted by CC
    3. The concept of Chi is tied into Eastern medicine. The west was in the bloody dark ages and had no time for these things (plus see pt 2) and by the time of the Reinassance, they went the path of modern Western medicine which had no place for Chi and Neigong.
    That's a good reason.

    A European visitor to the wuxia China of Jin Yong or Gu Long would have been both awed and terrified by what these men of the East could do.

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    Senior Member CC's Avatar
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    That's true for any European action-adventure story taking place during a time corresponding to China's Ming or Qing Dynasties (i.e. the 14th Century - 20th Century), but during Sung and Yuan times, the use of gunpowder in combat was still very limited. Firearms did not become the norm in European combat until around the 14th or 15th Century. Until at least the 13th Century, Europeans still had to rely primarily on physical fighting skills.

    As I mentioned, wuxia as we know it did not exist until rather modern times.

    As to why JY and GL did not incorporate western martial arts, I think there is no need too and there wasn't much east/west contact back then anyway. Plus again, there is this whole 'foreign barbarian thing'.
    Its BIxie Jianfa Gawdammit you guys!!!!

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    There's one thing that's never seen in international, blockbuster wuxia films, and it's always bugged me- the concept of internal energy/palm blasts. In the successful international films (CTHD, House of Flying Daggers, Hero, are there any more?), the characters possess and use things like lightness kung-fu and an above average fighting ability, but no explanation is given for things like this; they can just fly, apparently.

    In contemporary wuxia, we are given an explanation for 80-90 year old martial artists staying all powerful and whooping younger fighters; it's because they have high levels of internal energy, and this concept has become sort of a foundation for most wuxia stories. Sure, internal energy doesn't make them immortal, but it definitely prolongs their life to some extent.

    Now, is the reason for excluding this concept is that it's too unbelievable for a majority of audiences in different parts of the world? I mean, if they can suspend their belief for the artistic use of lightness kung-fu, surely they can handle someone using XL18Z (or whatever). It's just weird to not see this in the "popular" wuxia hits.

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    Senior Member kyss of the sword's Avatar
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    back in those ancient times, the lands to the west of asia, towards greece practised martial arts from wrestling, boxing, jumping and runing and weapons. skills like savate and ciprano have an element of physical training, but arts like yoga and qigong were mostly from india and china and nations that have relations to these two countries. the wuxia style martial arts that depend on inner power does not exist outside the asian region.

    however, in trems of building ataining longevity and physical superiority, the ideals and practise existed even at ancient greece. in fact, the idea behind the priginal olympics was 'to atain a state as close to godhood through physical perfection'. according to ancient greek philosophers.
    Last edited by kyss of the sword; 10-19-06 at 02:11 AM.
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