The Marketing Gimmick that’s damaged Kung Fu

There’s an insidious marketing gimmick that’s wormed it’s way into the martial arts.

In fact, it’s become so pervasive that it’s become ‘common sense wisdom’ at this point.

Many teachers & students spread this myth without even realizing it’s a marketing gimmick.

You’ll recognize it when you hear it, and like all good lies it’s partially based it truth, so bear with me and I’ll break down why it’s so effective and why it’s so destructive.

It can come in many forms but usually it goes something like this:

“It takes many years to learn the martial arts.”

“There is no quick fix to becoming proficient in any martial art”

“Becoming proficient in any martial art system (meaning a foundation with good basics) takes a few years with hard practice.”

“Very few can actually utilize Taiji well enough to fight! This idea that you can use Taiji to fight with after a few years, is ludicrous….”

This message is very powerful and it resonates with a lot of people.

There is some truth to it. Complex arts like Tai Chi or Bagua do take a long time to master. There are many advanced skills which take many years to develop. You will continue learning new things about these arts your entire life.

After all, the term ‘Kung Fu’ does mean “skill through hard work over time.” Students are told to “eat bitter.”

This message also builds on the Kung Fu movie mythology of wise men training on mountain tops and grueling training montages.

Also, a lot of folks are fed up (rightly so) with our on-demand culture where everybody wants everything now and we want to cure all our problems with a quick fix pill.

And so this myth appeals to us greatly and it resonates with our sense of truth and righteousness.

Now, here’s the problem.

Mastering an art and basic proficiency are light years apart.

These arts were created for survival.

When old kung fu masters taught their kids, do you think they said,

“Son, in a few decades you’ll be able to use what I’m showing you to protect yourself in this violent world.”

No, they taught their kids how to protect themselves as quickly as possible.

Sure they spent many years honing their skill and refining it and learning more advanced things.

…but basic, I can use this to save my life, functionality? They taught that very quickly to their kids.

So how did the time it takes to master an art get confused with how long basic proficiency takes?

Like I said, it’s a marketing gimmick.

If you sell someone the idea that it takes years to become proficient, then they’ll keep coming back for a long time and you don’t have to deliver very much.

It’s a way for the teacher to avoid responsibility for a lack of skill in their students.

What if the student doesn’t listen, they don’t work hard enough, maybe they just learn differently and need to be shown in a different way.

With this myth the teacher doesn’t have to take responsibility for the effectiveness of their teaching method. They don’t have to learn how to connect with people and how to teach in different ways for different people. They don’t have to be there for their students to help them learn how to learn and develop good practicing methods.

They can blame the art.

…and they can keep this going for years or decades before the student catches on.

Teachers who talk about getting results in short periods of time are not common.

…and for good reason.

If you tell someone that they can learn a skill quickly, then you have to deliver.

Anyway, I’m putting away my soapbox for now.

If you’d like to learn the self defense method that Sigung Clear teaches his children, it’s here: