Eating Bitter

Discussion in 'Chinese Martial Arts Articles' started by 47MartialMan, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    Eating Bitter

    There is a Chinese maxim: "Eat Bitter or "Eating Bitterness", known as Chi Ku. It is a Chinese phrase for enduring hardship. Or as Occidentals would say: "Grin and Bear It." Other references are: “Keep on Truckin”, “Hang In There”, “Stick It Out”, “Suck It Up”, etc., all to mean to endure something unpleasant in good humor. Or to continue despite difficulties in a general phrase of encouragement meaning to stay focused. In relation to, quoted by; “If you're going through hell, keep going.”-Winston Churchill. / “We acquire the strength we have overcome.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson. / “I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.”-Jewish Proverb. / “There is no success without hardship.”-Sophocles.

    Eating bitter seems to be an aged-old saying, like a parent to a child, upon having the child do something without complaint. It has the meaning of working hard and tolerate some agony in order to acquire what it is one is hoping to achieve. However, one should examine “eating bitter” beyond the psychological perspicacity.

    Almost a manner to which one can exclaim; “Practice makes Perfect”, “Eating Bitter”, in a martial art sense, is taken to mean practicing very hard, enduring both the mental and physical hardships. Of which are required in Chinese martial arts, to excel. This is evident from the anxiety of practicing, which is the struggle to endure mental challenges. And the actual pain of training applications, the physical such as discomfort and injury. In all, to endure the aspirations, as well as certain desolations of martial art training.

    In martial arts, this would seem appropriate of the mannerism and exchange between teacher and student. But in recent society, what is the extent of the commitment from either, the teacher or the student? In other words, unlike the very distant past, when it was exclaimed “teacher say, student do”, seem to implicate that a student should do as he was told without questioning.




    The literal translation is, in fact, "eat bitter" or "eat bitterness". It comes from the fact that life, or anything, is about good and bad, ups and downs, sweet or bitter., etc. When something is the opposite of positive, in this sense, it is a hardship. Without hardship, i.e., bitterness, there can be no sweetness. But, in some instances, there is a continued state of hardship, per poverty, or a on going illness or disease, oppression, etc. there may never be an “icing on the cake”, or the reward from such state, in relation to martial art gains. Therefore, "eating bitterness" could also allude to suffering hardship, going through a bad time, having terrible misfortune, etc. For example: Homeless Bob has had misfortune for most of his life, he has eaten bitterness." Therefore an example behind something not gained from hardship. A better translation would be "to be able to- endure hardship".

    Eating Bitter/Chi Ku:
    To break down the expression, Chi Ku, (Cheh Qwea), would be;

    * Chi: (pronounced as Cheh/Chui )

    *(1) to whip with bamboo strips - *(2) salted fermented beans - *(3) keep in order / stern / to order / direct - *(4) extravagant / wasteful / exaggerating - *(5) surname Chi / name of an ancient city - *(6) hornless dragon - *(7) to scold / shout at / to hoot at - *(8) step with left foot - *(9) imperial orders - *(10) flame / blaze - *(11) laugh at / jeer / scoff at / sneer at - *(12) unstring a bow / slacken / relax / loosen - *(13) spoon - *(14) wing - *(15) tooth - *(16) pond / lake / body of water - *(17) shame / disgrace - *(18) run fast / speed / spread / gallop - *(18) to blame / to reprove / to reprimand / to expel / to oust - *(19) to hold / to grasp / to support / to maintain / to persevere / to manage / to run (i.e. administer) / to control - *(20) *a Chinese foot / one-third of a meter / a ruler / a tape-measure / a musical note on the traditional Chinese scale / one of the three accupoints for measuring pulse in Chinese medicine
    *(21) to eat / to have one's meal / to eradicate / to destroy / to absorb / to suffer / to exhaust.

    Chi, used in this context, is totally different that Chi (Chee) to mean internal force.
    * Ku: (pronounced as Kwoo, Kwea)

    *(1) to cut open / rip up / scoop out - *(2) broken utensil - *(3) blight - *(4) to cry / to weep – *(5) harsh/rough - *(6) ruthless / strong - *(7) one of the five legendary emperors - *(8) cave / hole - *(9) skeleton - *(10) dried up - *(11) warehouse / storehouse - *(12) trousers/pants - *(13) to suffer losses / to come to grief / to lose out / to get the worst of it / to be at a disadvantage / unfortunately - *(14) to toil - *(15) to bear / hardships - *(15) bitter / hardship / pain / to suffer / painstaking

    In conclusion, Chinese dialect could take on dofferent meanings.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2010
  2. Gazz

    Gazz New Member

    Wrong information

    Hi
    actually you were wrong about the different meanings of the chinese word 'chi ku' or 'eating bitter'. All those alternatives you said might sound like the character 'chi' or 'ku', but they are all represented by different characters; making them completely different to 'chi or 'ku'
     
  3. New Guy

    New Guy I am NEW.

    Well make sure the actual character is "吃苦" and it should be alright.
     
  4. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member


    Not wrong. I merely gave examples how people "could" misunderstand.
     
  5. Clavicle

    Clavicle Valued Member

    Semiotics aside, I think the essential meaning of 'eating bitter' is a valueble principle to remember. Something to remember during tough training sessions!
     
  6. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    it wasnt about "me" beong "wrong". it was listing how many "other" people may think "otherwise"
     
  7. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    You train because you like to not because you have to. If you don't enjoy doing it and feel like hard work, you will quit soon or later. The western approach, "No pain no gain" is not the best attitude. The better attitude should be, "I have fun of doing it. I want to do some more but I force myself not to, so I will look forward to my next training session".
     
  8. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    Some people train because they believe they have to. Some people ont train because it is hard work. Nothing is gained without hard work.
     
  9. Fire-BST

    Fire-BST New Member

    A respectful reply to "youknowwho", i dont think any top altheltes in any discapline of martial arts, or in any sport for that matter, got where they are by stoping themselves half way through. Real advances in almost anything in life can only be achieved with hard work, the harder you work the greater your achievments, so i guess it comes down to how high you set your goals, and how hard you work for them
     
  10. liokault

    liokault Banned Banned

    Yup, got to love it to be great at it.
     
  11. Fire-BST

    Fire-BST New Member

    I agree completley that you have to love it, why else would you do it in the first place if you didnt? my point is that if you stop your training session once the novelty wears off you wont get and real advances in skill, flexibility or fitness, there only way you can get your body to initiate "the training effect" is by pushing it to its limits, why not ask Lance Armstrong if he won the tour de France seven times by stopping his training sessions when he was bored of riding his bike? To cut out the waffle my point is there will be highs and lows in every ones training regimes, and if you want to progress you have to put the work in, in my opinion "no pain no gain" is the perfect moto for martial arts, and its one that i apply.
    (another respectful reply)
     
  12. Pocari Neko

    Pocari Neko Learner Ninja

    :cool:


    And for a moment I thought the original thread starter was referring to bitter melons/gourds.

    Silly me.


    The kind of "Chi Ku" is like having the grit to bear the daily grind, the resilience to battle through difficulties and hardship, which IMO in our modern city lives it's not all that common. Especially with government grants and supplements and benefits and all things that the tax payer contribute to those who won't work...


    And being able to chi-ku is not just about martial arts. It's those who endure hardship and succeed - like when one parent is a factory worker and has a second job as a janitor, and the other parent works at a restaurant as a dish-washer. And you're the kid who studies hard and gets scholarship to go to Ivy league school. THAT, is what IMO "chi-ku" is all about. Living hand to mouth and still coming through with some success and prosperity.

    Sheesh, I feel so Chinese now.
     
  13. New Guy

    New Guy I am NEW.

    I have been through a similar situation, but not as extreme.
     
  14. KFSON

    KFSON Valued Member

    If you expect bitterness, that is exactly what you will get.

    If you expect the miraculous without bitterness, that is exactly what you will get.


    If you expect the dam to break, that is exactly what you will get... it's all in the mind.
     
  15. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    IMO, we should only use 80% of our energy in training. Save the other 20% for something unexpected. After we have spent 100% energy and get ourselves so exhausted by working out in the gym, on the way out we may not be able to out run some fat cops if we need to.

    There are some training that no matter how long that we have trained it, it will always be painful (such as the tree hanging). In order to be able to continue to train like this for the rest of our life, we cannot push ourself too hard to the point that we hate it and don't want to do it any more.

    Having sex 24/7 may destroy our sex life. We may run away from women for the rest of our life.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2010
  16. Rhizome

    Rhizome Super Valued Member

    im going to take this abit differently but have looked at TCM principles.

    the western diet is largely deficient in the bitter aspect of diet, bitters are great they stimulate the bitter receptors at the back of the tongue which inturn stimulates the vagus nerve to release stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes, bile secreation, has a flushing/cleansing effect on the liver and gallbladder.

    probably why they sell chinese bitters which are usually much better than swedish digestive bitter products which contain stimulant laxatives.
     
  17. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    Eating bitter is not about being force to do something. It is about overcoming obsticles and the determination to do what has to be done.

    Like for example; the slight aches and pains of stretching. Knowing there is a end result and self-satisfaction.
     
  18. Pitfighter

    Pitfighter Valued Member

    I'm more than willing to experiment with that :D
     
  19. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    You may need some additional help with this. :)
     
  20. Ducard

    Ducard Valued Member

    Growing up I usually heard....

    Eat bitter to taste sweet.

    The way I interpreted is that the hardship we endure makes us stronger to enjoy the fruit of our labors.
     

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