Generally speaking, the first part of any culture that gets exported is its products. It is pretty easy to understand why we got silk, spices, and china from China before we got philosophy and Kung Fu. Trade goods don’t need context, just cash.
China has been trading with the West for thousands of years. But where trade flows, ideas inevitably follow. You start to see transmissions of language, as it makes it easier to trade. And some people become interested in the culture producing the products. This is when you start to see the transmission of the deeper arts.
In the beginning, much of the arts transmitted are those that can be understood intellectually or physically. Scholars can learn the language and those with athletic inclinations can copy movements.
But the deeper spiritual aspects of Chinese culture take a lot more. When you get to this realm, you have to be taught the actual practices of cultivation and the esoteric meaning behind the language. This is why finding a good interpreter is crucial, as we previously mentioned.
The intersection of Eastern and Western culture was greatly facilitated by events of the 19th and early 20th century. Although the colonial period was generally a dark period for China, it did make it possible for both cultures to truly meet and interact.
The combination of Western education with traditional Chinese training produced a generation of Chinese scholars who were reasonably conversant in both cultures. The fall of the mainland to the Communists in 1949 resulted in an unusually high concentration of the military and scholarly elite in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
That is why my grand teacher, Christopher Casey, went to Hong Kong and Taiwan to learn traditional Chinese culture, particularly the highest levels of Kung Fu, or Chinese Boxing as it is also called.
Mr. Casey (Kai Sai was his Chinese name)* studied Tai Chi from Tao Ping Siang, Pa Kua and Hsing I from Wang Shu Shin and Shen Mou Hui, Fukien White Crane from Masters Chen and Hsieh, and Wing Chun from Lo Man Kam. He also studied Qigong and philosophy from the Hong Men Hui.
Not only was Mr. Casey’s martial skill great, but as a student of Western philosophy he was able to organize and synthesize these arts, providing a method to teach them in a systematic way. I believe he even advanced the arts in certain areas.
I have been fortunate to study with several of Mr. Casey’s students and some of his teachers. My main teacher of Mr. Casey’s art is Mr. Alsup. Although he learned many arts, his specialties were Fukien White Crane, Wing Chun, and Kai Sai Kung Fu, Mr. Casey’s personal boxing method.
* Kai Sai is what Casey sounds like with a Chinese accent, get it? But it also happens to mean “Victorious in Every Encounter” — which is a pretty cool nickname for a Kung Fu dude.