The saying is similar to "No pain, no gain" philosophy. Literally, the phrase: 練拳不練功，到老一場空 translates to: Practicing the arts of the fist without putting in effort, manual labour or 功 (pronounced as "gong" in Chinese) in conditioning and drills, upon reaching old age, one will gain nothing. The phrase can be applied any facet of life.
If you wish to excel in painting an art piece, one must put in effort or work or 功 to practice and master the strokes of the brush putting ink on the canvas.
If you wish to sing very well, a singer must put in 功 or gong to train one's vocal chords.
Similarly, the practice of martial arts require one to put in 功 to build oneself physically, mentally, emotionally. Hence, the term kung fu comes from the term "功", gong, as in Chinese characters 功夫 or "gongfu". While practicing kung fu, one has to put in effort to train one's body physically to be stronger, more resilient, harden one's bones or more flexible, better endurance, quick, whiplash like movements yet almost impervious to breaking as like bamboo which is the name of the kung fu academy, Bamboo Kung Fu.
The traditional training principles of Choy Li Fut states that:
- "Train hard: Endure pain or hardship to develop mental discipline."
- "Relentless and continuous grinding, polishing, and pushing skills on a daily basis: Skills must be continuously sharpened through training. Because one is always evolving, one must continuously develop skills."
Upon attaining a level over a certain threshold of competency in gong training, one's physical and mental capacity allows the learning of multiple techniques of variety of complexity and challenges beyond normal human capacity. Hence, kung fu training is a training of mental, physical capacity and also a training of character development.
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