Monday, April 15, 2013

What is Authentic?

I was reading a book on the history of Chinese martial arts by Peter Allan Lorge. Inside, he discussed about authenticity, about how people try to say their martials arts is authentic by tracing it back down its lineage. It reminded me about what I had thought about lineage before in this post and this post.

This quest to trace back lineage can actually hinder one's progress. Why? Because while forms are passed down the generations, there will always be changes, as students alter what they learn based on their experiences, their skills, their knowledge and their own understanding. While you may be able to trace lineage back to some founder of the school two centuries back, it does not necessarily mean that the form being taught now is the exact same thing being taught two centuries ago. In the quest for authenticity, in the quest for lineage, we may be overlooking the important things.

The important thing is to find a teacher who can help you learn what you want to learn. It is like the "coffee in different cups" story. What you want is good coffee, don't get distracted by what cup it comes in.

The 4 tigers of Chen style can all trace their lineage back to the same founder, but look at their forms now. So which one is authentic?

It is not important in what form the forms survive, what is more important is the set of techniques that gets passed down the generations. These are the techniques that have stood the test of time.

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