Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Can Martial Arts Books Teach You?

I can say the answer right off with ..NO! books can not teach you how to do a Martial Art. Books don’t teach only human can do that. But books can help you in many ways to better understand the vast world of Martial Arts. Bruce Lee had an extensive library, and I also have a hugh library I have collected over the years, but I can say it was my Teachers who showed me the moves and corrected my errors, not the books.

If you are now training with a Teacher then books can be useful to read and better understand history, or theories of movement. I wont say that books are useless because they are not, they can be great help to better understanding of styles and systems. It like when you go to high school, you have to buy the books, but it is the Teacher not the books that grades you and corrections you misunderstandings.

However, having said all that, there are some wonderful martial arts books out there that have be written that can very enlightening while in training with a legitimate school of learning. Some of these books titles I will mention in future writings for those who may be interested in which books are well worth reading. Some books are pure garbage and a waste of your money to buy, believe me own a few of those myself, these books served me well in starting a cozy fire in my fireplace on cold nights.

I am often asked, What if there is no schools near me then what?, can books be of help? I still hold to my comment, not really. Books can not correct you and to learn Kung Fu skills you need the presence of a Teacher to correct the many error new practitioners have in starting out. I have always told my students, If your Kung Fu is Bad, don’t use it, it would be better to fight the way you always fought, because bad kung fu will not work against a polished street fighter.

I love books so please don’t get me wrong, I am an avid reader and much of what I have read has illuminated my thinking in many ways. But this does not have anything to do with actual fighting skills which I learned under the eye of my Masters criticism and corrections.

I always tell me students to study which means reading, because knowledge is good and can certainly help in better understanding of complicated theories and or Kung Fu history which can become clouded at times. Books do have a place in the Arts but not for teaching a beginner basics, Absolutely nothing replaces a Teacher standing there looking at your moves and making the adjustments to your errors. Books will never correct your mistakes, and it is these mistakes that will cause you to lose in an encounter.

If there is no school near you may have to travel as I did over my years of training. I went as far as China and Taiwan to find the best Teachers of the day. Oh by the way, my last Master Chang Tung Sheng had little or no library to speak of. He was not a book man, as most great masters are not, they learned the old fashion way, Hard work, sweat and injuries under the eye of their Masters.

Some will argue books can teach you, well maybe some things for sure, but the arts requires a certain type of movement that can only be taught by hands on experience under the eye of your Teacher. So if you serious about learning the true Art don’t expect him/her to come to you, you must seek out the Master if you really wish to learn...... then read all you want..........


  1. It's always amazing what a wise teacher can see that you would never realize yourself - even with a mirror.

  2. Agreed....thank you Grandmaster for your efforts to enlighten our minds and souls, I will add the blog among my links in my website. Thanks a lot!
    Horacio Di Renzo, from Buenos Aires, Argentina