The stages of Kung Fu

‘A previous article was written on anticipation and perception. It was mentioned that perception was the third stage in achieving or learning Kung Fu. It must be stated that this is a simplification. There are of course many stages which the individual will experience change of both mind and body. Indeed these changes never stop, as long as you live there will be development, change, improvement, etc (such continual change is primarily of mind and spirit).
Back to the simplification. There are basically 4 stages. What follows is another extract from the book “The Secrets of Kung Fu”.

The Four Stages
1.Catch up

1. Catch up
We must look at “catch up” as a primarily defensive attitude. Catch up basically refers to the individual who waits to see what will happen. This could be a beginner or just as easily a 15-20 year “experienced” practitioner who has simply missed the point!
There are many practitioners and indeed teachers who will always be stuck here. Bogged down in analysing set techniques for set situations, always waiting for adversaries to move first, or looking to see what they can work from after being attacked.
There is no intent here. No real spirit for the kill. A lack of willingness for the fight, encouraging the sparring attitude, which on the street does not exist.
Basic external levels (don’t miss the point here, I will always emphasise the importance of basic foundations, External or Internal!) such as reflex, speed (if he has it!), hand-to-eye coordination are the primary concerns.
Using “catch up” can lead you into the trap of anticipation. Anticipating something which does not happen can be fatal. Fighters who are good at tricks and feints (e.g. Boxers) will beat you easily.

2. Synchronisation
This is really an improved form of Catch up. The individual may seem to move quicker. Almost as if moving “with” an opponent.
At this stage the individual is more aware of weight disposition in their adversary, not just relying on the movements of limbs or extremities to initiate a reaction. Especially in one who is not relaxed, preliminary movement or “wind up” prior to striking is common.
There can be a lot to see here. Shoulders dipping or rising, eyes widening, an arm being pulled back before it strikes, body weight shifting to one side before a kick is delivered, etc, etc.
As with catch up this is all still primarily external. The attitude is defensive. Again, no real intent. You are still in danger of anticipating.

3. Perception
(As stated earlier, there has already been a useful article about perception and anticipation.)
At this stage the individual has begun to learn that the most important thing is intent. In order to achieve good perception and make it work for you, you must “get in”. The last two stages then are about aggression, attack, fighting spirit and intent.
Perception owes itself to touch as well as vision. You have to be close in to make this work. You feel and sense as much as you see. This makes it easier to perceive when there is a “gap”, either physical, mental or both, and to exploit and finish the fight, although the individual is not necessarily conscious of any thought process.
There cannot be any question of “chasing hands” here. Any strikes are often neutralised with natural use of the forearms and elbows, etc. Some argue there is more danger of being hit closer in – not so. There is more danger in staying away and not closing in. Of course you may be hit – it is a fight! But a glancing blow from an enemy as you smother him is a good exchange of energy!

4. Pre-emptiveness
Fighting/Kung fu – the very nature of the thing is violent and aggressive. The quicker this violence is carried out the better for all concerned. The less chance of injury to yourself and the less chance of any pondering minds who might think about joining in, when they have plucked up the nerve!
An old saying goes, “You can retreat into your castle and pull up the drawbridge. You might not lose, but you cannot win.”
If you know conflict cannot be avoided, but you forego the opportunity to strike first, it could result in retreating into your castle. You lose the initiative. The chance to get that step in front might not come again, if you consider how quickly the thing is over.
It can be very dangerous to let an adversary you do not know strike first. Depending on your capabilities, they could be faster, stronger, fitter, etc. You have to attack in order to win anyway, so you might as well do it first. This could also give you the element of surprise. Your enemy may be expecting an exchange of words and gesturing before physical violence. If you are going to fight then fight, do not talk.
Pre-emptiveness requires a heightened state of awareness and control of the emotional mind. It requires the individual not to give away intent physically/externally. The intent is pure relaxation. Hence the purest intent is “no intent” at all.
Note:- It is not the intention to mislead or have the above text misconstrued. It may not always be possible to strike first, especially when attacked for no apparent reason, or from a flank. Knocking down anyone who gives a sly look is not a good idea either!
There are normally preliminaries to a fight – staring, abuse, etc. Your state of awareness should have meant you avoided this in the first place! This comes with training, experience and age!
Remember, the one underlying reason he wishes to fight you is that he thinks he can win. You simply have to change his mind as quickly as possible.’