You must eat bitter

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by aaradia, Feb 2, 2015.

  1. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    My Sifu was talking about this a while back. Apparently, there is an old Chinese phrase "you must eat bitter." The idea behind it is that you must endure hardship in life to reap the benefits and joy in it.

    My Sifu was talking about it in a martial arts context (of course). He said that to become a good martial artist you must do some of those practices that are not easy and fun. He was particularly talking about stance training and slow motion kicks. Those not so exciting foundational exercises that are oh so easy to skip in lieu of the more "fun" parts of our training.

    Honestly, I was not focusing much on "eating bitter." But we had a seminar where I learned directly from our school's founder for the first time. And it brought home what my Sifu had talked about. Frankly, I didn't do so good in some foundational drills- all focused on balance and leg strength. I was embarrassed by my performance. For example, he had us locking out kicks for 5 seconds. I couldn't do it to save my life. I am considered an advanced level student, I SHOULD have done better.

    So, I have a new commitment to "eating bitter." I will learn and grow from that experience. It's only been a week, but I have a new commitment to stance training and slow motion kicks.

    It got me wondering. About those two exercises and the larger concept both.

    So, if you are a traditional MAist and are supposed to to them, be honest? Do you to much stance training and/ or slow motion kicks? Or do you find reasons to focus on other parts of your training?

    And to everyone, do you have some sort of foundational exercise like these that you maybe don't focus on like you should? What are they?

    And when you have focused on them, have you reaped the benefits?
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
  2. belltoller

    belltoller OffTopic MonstreOrdinaire Supporter

    I can vouch for the Chinese belief in 'eating bitter' - literally. I dread catching a cold and try to hide the symptoms for as long as I can as I know the wife will trot out her bags of dried chinese herbs and soon I'll begin smelling that familiar foul aroma.

    Bitter - the English word cannot adequately describe the taste of the thick, black soup which will soon follow [​IMG]
  3. GoldShifter

    GoldShifter The MachineGun Roundhouse

    We put a small emphasis on those things as an underbelt, we drill those in for pretty long. We also sometimes use specific days on just drilling those during class, like maybe once or twice a month as black belts.

    When I used to focus on them, I noticed I had stronger kicks and strikes because those exercises activated many of the supporting muscles that normal weight training and body weight training exercises have a very hard time hitting.
  4. Guitar Nado

    Guitar Nado Valued Member

    I can identify with what you are talking about. I know that doing the stance training and slow kicks that I practiced in Kung Fu class has helped me out, even doing Muay Thai, if you can believe it. In my traditional Kung Fu class we practiced slow front, side and round kicks a lot, and I feel it has given me control and stability I wouldn't have had without that drilling.

    I am a middle aged guy, and honestly no competition in terms of fitness or toughness to a lot of the folks in my Muay Thai class. But I have to admit I feel good when they comment on my flexibility and some rare occasional things that come up that I am pretty good at. A lot of times these things are due to the Kung Fu training I did before doing Muay Thai.

    The Muay Thai classes I go to have their own eat bitter, too - these drills of doing round kicks over and over and over. Various drills or conditioning things that you just know are going to be horrible when the instructors tell you what to do. Burpees. Ladder drills with round kicks, whatever and burpees. But in a way, doing things like switching from horse stance to bow and arrow stance - over and over in Kung Fu class prepared me for that - mentally at least. You just have to accept that doing something like that isn't necessarily pleasant, but you are going to keep at it. It's not enjoyable when you are doing it, but it is cool when you are done and thinking about it as you drive home.
  5. matveimediaarts

    matveimediaarts Underappreciated genius

    My shihan is EXTREMELY picky about detail. If some kata or technique is incorrect, you get to do it over and over till you get it right. This probably sounds harsh or unreasonable to some people, but my shihan is interested in passing down the material as accurately as humanly possible. Besides, having solid technique beats relying on strength any day. :)
  6. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    I'm familiar with the saying. The author Mark Salzman talks about it in his book (and film) Iron & Silk. You might check it out. It's a quick, but very good, read about a guy who travels to China to teach English and learn wushu.

    That said, I think that FMA (my primary style) doesn't tend to frame things in that way. In FMA, we tend to talk more about "playing." You see that in various other styles as well. It's not that we don't spend a lot of time on fundamentals. We certainly do. It's just that the experience is described differently. I think that's mostly just a question of cultural expression versus an actual technical difference.
  7. Giovanni

    Giovanni Well-Known Member Supporter

    when i saw the thread title i was looking forward to recipes for dandelion greens. mmmm...nice and bitter.
  8. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Sounds like a good expression. "Embrace the grind" sort of thing. I have to ask though, what's important about keeping your leg up for five seconds? :p
  9. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    Works on balance and leg strength. Particularly those stabilizer muscles.
  10. StrikingDragon

    StrikingDragon Valued Member

    I thought it was about the alcoholic drink!

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