Red Jade Martial Arts
Traditional Martial Arts for All Ages
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Sifu's Tea Table

Sifu's Tea Table

Drunken breaks the Rules


Drunken style is considered an advanced system of training and evidence of this can be seen in the placement of Drunken training in other systems. It is found at the highest levels of advanced training most of the time and is generally either kept secret from most students and the public or given only lip service and done as a dance without being heavily explored. The style is truly difficult and for this reason it is rarely explored with real depth and understanding. Drunken Breaks the Rules

The rules of the body are the first broken in Drunken training and it is easy to see how this can turn people away from taking it seriously. Removing the orthodox ideas of structure and body alignment are terribly difficult and tend to destroy the practitioners power, balance and structure overall when practicing. After years of toiling through a system to understand how the body “should” be aligned to create these attributes in a player why break those same rules near the end of a styles training methods? Simply put by first pushing the boundaries of those orthodox methods one finds their true limits and by pushing past them the Drunken training shows the practitioner other, unorthodox ways to understand balance, power and structure.  A good example is the idea that standing up straight and having good posture is equivalent to finding verticality in the body. While a Drunken player bends over backwards for example in the movement “Drunkard lifts the Barrel” the straightness of the body is compromised but verticality and structure should not be by using the line from the heels to the heart as the vertical line of force and structure. Pressing the heels into the ground and the heart towards the sky creates a vertical line that can be trained enough to hold a lot of weight on the chest, in some cases allowing entire other people to stand on them. This gives the Shuai Jiao throw associated with the movement the power and structure to be done as an actual application.

The rules of engagement are another part of standard martial arts training that tend to be affixed in a practitioner’s mind throughout practice. Fighting fairly, “may the best man win”, and such are generally the rules that are unspoken in training, sparring and competition and rightfully so as the students of any school need to work together in safety. However, it is not just a case of “fighting dirty” when it comes to Drunken, yes, the number one targets are always the most vulnerable to cause pain, distraction and open other possibilities when fighting, eyes, throat, groin etc. But use of the most unorthodox methods should become standard fare for the skilled practitioner. Feigning injury to lay ambush, attacking unusual targets like the hands or feet of the enemy, use of unusual and improvised weapons like ones’ coat, a nearby chair, a trash can on the street or even an oncoming bus must become normalized in the mind of the Drunken practitioner. The truth that what one trains is what one becomes is evident here when working to understand the Drunken system as students often feel they are “cheating” or would only do these things in a “real fight” is flawed thinking. If you do not practice it, it will not be natural for you and something being unnatural causes pausing both physical, mentally and emotionally to perform the action. When seconds count any pause can be too long. Training with safe alternatives to improvised weapons, uneven terrain and different rules of engagement open the mind of the practitioner to unorthodox thinking.


” If a normal martial method is like throwing rocks harder and faster to get them to pass through the blades of a whirling fan, Drunken Boxing is like throwing a bucket of water at it. Some of it will make it through and the fan will short out in the process.”


The rules of motion are changed when training in Drunken fist as well. Origin point of movement, the body is hollow and filled with wine which sloshes through the torso and adds weight the limbs, stance and steps are to be due to opponent movement not your own decision and so on. Generally, these run counter intuitive to orthodox martial training. The concept of faster, harder, more skilled, immovable stances and powerful steps are commonplace. The idea of moving due to an opponent’s intent and remaining soft and finding advantage of the new position without forcing anything to take place is difficult to make sense of and even more difficult to make work in combat. Drunken pushes the player to reverse many ways of thinking about movement and train long enough to make those new unorthodox ways work anyway. If a normal martial method is like throwing rocks harder and faster to get them to pass through the blades of a whirling fan, Drunken Boxing is like throwing a bucket of water at it. Some of it will make it through and the fan will short out in the process.


Oblique thinking is the key to oblique strategies and movement and Drunken is filled with both in training as well as combatively. The Drunken method is famous for its deception but what is never mentioned is just how deceptive it is. Drunken is deceptive enough that it fools its own students into thinking it is something it is not.  Approaching it as though it is a martial art like any other is the first issue, it is not simply another combative method for defeating opponents. Its primary focus is defeating your own thinking and paradigms about martial arts. If you are still thinking in terms of winning and losing, then Drunken will be a very difficult nut to crack.  Investing in loss is not just a training method in Drunken but a lifestyle change, winning by accident is the goal. To refer again to the analogy of the bucket of water the practitioner is just as surprised the opponent wanted to spill it as the opponent should be surprised he got wet. There is no planning of movements or strategy there is only the result of carrying the momentum given by the opponent and taking advantage of it. The Drunken player themselves should feel as though they won a confrontation by accident or they are trying too hard. Attachment causes suffering as the Buddhists say and attaching to winning while trying to use Drunken Boxing will cause the player to suffer every time as their opponent takes advantage of their broken art.


Drunken is meant to be a reflection on your art, to take your perspective on martial arts and turn it inside out. If a method so strange can exist and be useful, powerful and viable as a martial art then it should cross inform what other arts you practice. On a fundamental level it can be a system you can switch in to when your position becomes strange or resembles something from Drunken during combat but more so than that it should be a lens to see how much tension you hold when moving, how control is an illusion in combat, how to use the terrain and your personal items like jacket, water bottle (drunken gourd), and shoes as weapons, and realize that if you’re not cheating you’re not trying hard enough. Taking those lessons back and looking at your first art only makes it stronger and more alive.

Martial Arts are not meant to be dead, fixed positions and postures, they are meant to be alive, changeable, evolving arts that gain life from within each practitioner, have a few drinks of Drunken Fist and let your perspective change, do not begin to learn it and try to make it fit into your own way of thinking, moving and practicing. It is unique.


Neil Ripski


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