When I thought of the discussions on martial arts, I was reminded of a particular manga series titled 'Kenji'... it is a story about a Japanese kid with an interest in martial arts (principally Bajiquan) who travels across China and ends up learning and adopting several martial arts along the way. The story is supposedly loosely based on the author's own experiences, but it does at least accurately portray some of the basic principles, and also features some real-life martial artists.
There's a particular conversation in the series that got on my nerves. The backstory to this scene was that a local master (in this case, a real master named Su Yu-Chang) did a demonstration in which he rather easily defeats a number of Western military soldiers who were undertaking advanced martial arts studies.
The discussion begins here --
Note : This is a Japanese manga, so the panels actually read in right to left order and then top to bottom, unlike American comics where the panels read left to right.
I can sort of accept that having a basic understanding of the woo-woo mindset can help elucidate reasons why the different styles are the way they are, but to say that understanding the styles from a kinematics and dynamics point of view gives an incomplete understanding of the martial arts is extremely ridiculous. To say that there are some sort of truths which cannot be explored through rational means is to say that you don't understand it yourself.
The whole "borrowing energy from the Earth" thing is ridiculous on the face of it, but when you put it in the framework of analysis of the motions, you can kind of get how it can be a suitable metaphor. Bajiquan, for instance, has a characteristic "stomp" to it with many of its more powerful moves, as well as its straight leaps which are its primary mechanism for closing the distance. That stomp is really the effect of lowering your center of gravity which gives you greater stability and therefore support for powerful moves which can be carried out with a combination of upper and lower body strength. Okay, so "energy from the Earth" is a nice metaphor for this, but to make the extension that it is more than a metaphor and trusting it as more than a metaphor and that is the only way you can understand Chinese martial arts is really absurd and betrays a certain arrogance wrt their own culture.
Granted, I don't want to judge the real-life Su Yu-Chang on the basis of this manga. There's no indication that the man in reality really believes that. The event depicted probably never actually happened, and it is really the philosophy of the author. What I don't like is the perpetuation of this belief that detailed intellectual study of martial arts can never really bring about a true understanding. Were that true, Bruce Lee should have had no success as a martial artist, Jack Dempsey no success as a boxer, and quite a lot of MMA would amount to a pointless waste of effort.