Word play

If you ever join or read an online forum or Facebook group dedicated to Chinese martial arts, you will find virtually no Chinese people in them.

Okay, that’s just a tad specific and I need to explain. I’m referring to English-speaking groups and forums dedicated to Chinese martial arts, such as Wing Chun, Tai Chi, or Hung Gar, which have a large following in the English-speaking world. Chinese-speaking practitioners obviously outnumber English-speaking ones by orders of magnitude, and they naturally inhabit the Chinese-speaking groups and forums. But English-speaking Chinese people like myself are not uncommon, and one would think we’d be able to inhabit both the English and Chinese-speaking groups.

The thing is, we don’t. When it comes to the English-speaking groups, Chinese people are a rare occurrence, if at all. And I did not realise this until a sifu from the UK asked openly why this is the case. In a world where we are trying to share knowledge and understand each other’s cultures, this seemed like an odd situation to him.

I messaged him in private and explained it to him: Chinese martial arts is very deeply rooted into our language and culture. And while many white people have done their level best to understand it, there is a huge amount of it that is simply and often hilariously wrong. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if twenty Chinese people chime in to correct the same mistake: white people won’t accept it. They would sooner believe whatever obscure mistranslation or rumour they found on the Internet or the back of a chip packet than people for whom it is just common sense. To be fair, some of them learned it from teachers who were, in turn, grossly misinformed – but I digress.

It follows that we won’t waste any further time trying to change their minds, much less participate in their misguided conversations. They will always be perceived ignorant to us because they have always consciously chosen ignorance. We know what’s right and wrong in Chinese and, frankly, that’s all that matters.

The sifu thanked me for my candour. He said, as an African man living in the UK, he long suspected this was the case.

This is all a very long-winded explanation for the video series I created: Fighting Words, dedicated to the style that I practice, Wing Chun. I’ve made two episodes available here. It’s not meant to be instructional… it’s more like a comedic take on the questions I’m often asked by the students I teach.

I am so close to the material that I have no idea who these will appeal to, nor whether anyone will even find them funny. The only thing I’m sure of is I wish somebody else would make more so that I can sit back and have a laugh myself.

But feel free to leave feedback. Every decent comedian needs feedback.


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