Advanced martial arts practice is ethereal even though it involves the movement of the body. In fact, moving the body is basic gongfu training, a mastery of which should be gained in one’s youth if possible. When the body ‘ages’ - a practitioner does not want the problem of mastering martial technique whilst coming to terms with how ‘ageing’ changes the mind and body. Knowing how to stand, fall, get-up, moving, kick, punch, block and evade, etc, are foundational issues that must be thoroughly absorbed into the deepest levels of the mind and body well before middle-age is reached. Of course, this is not always the case, as some people take-up the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts late in life – but with regards the more robust and rugged ‘external’ techniques – youthful practice is preferred. This is why many older people (with no previous experience) start their martial arts training through one of the ‘internal’ arts – which are a product of an ‘advanced’ and ‘mature’ mind-set.
On the other hand, if an individual is able to build 20-30 years of training prior to hitting 40-50 years of age – then the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and inner organs have all had time to experience a ‘hardening’ process over-time - and are far more ‘robust’ whilst the individual traverses into older age. Probably the greater reason for early martial arts practice is that the ability to produce massive (internal and external) impact power (with minimum) effort must be mastered before the body transitions into older age. This observation does not mean that older people cannot achieve this ability later in their life – but to already possess this devastating power is one less burden – particularly as we may also have far more responsibilities as mature people than the average young person. However, with the right type of instruction from a genuine Master, anyone of any age can ‘master’ gongfu regardless of circumstances. Motivation is the key to it all.
The mind must be ‘still’ and ‘expansive’. Its psychic fabric must be simultaneously ‘empty’ and yet ‘envelop’ all things without exception! Although there is much experimentation in the West with the physical techniques of the many (and varied) gongfu styles – very few practitioners are interested in the spiritual or higher psychological aspects of traditional Chinese martial arts. This is because gongfu has been taught the wrong way around in the West to suit the cultural bias of the fee-paying audience. Whereas in China kicking is learned before punching – in the West punching is taught before kicking (because of the influence of Western Boxing). Whereas in China a gongfu practitioner learns to stand still and to stand ‘solid’ whilst defending the ten directions – in the West students are taught to move around before being taught how to ‘stand still’ (this is because Western students do not understand the important of achieving inner and outer ‘stillness’). Whereas in China gongfu student learn to ‘relax’ before assuming postures – in the West students are taught to ‘stretch’ using yoga-like techniques (mostly unknown in China). Whereas students in China learn to ‘strike’ various wooden objects to condition the bones of the hands and feet – in the West, students are encouraged to hit ‘soft’ pads that give a false impression of what it is like to hit a ‘real’ body! In the West, the mind is ‘entertained’ as a means to secure continued fee-paying through class attendance – whilst in China the Master continuously looks for new ways of ‘testing’ the virtue of the student and for any reason to ‘expel’ them from the training hall!
All this ‘inversion’ must be remedied if the highest levels of spiritual and physical mastery are to be achieved. This has nothing to do with rolling around on a padded floor wearing padded-gloves – and everything to do with ‘looking within’ to refine the flow of internal energy. The awareness of the mind must permeate every cell of the physical body whilst the practitioner sits correctly in the meditation posture. What else is there? When advanced practitioners ascend to a certain age of maturity, reality has nothing to do with the ego pursuit of ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ in petty disputes that ultimately mean nothing. Most of the combat sports of the moment are fleeting and exist merely to make money – and they are ineffective on the modern battlefield and not practiced by the military! The final lesson is to ‘leave the body’ with the minimum of fuss when the time presents itself. In a very real sense, a genuine Master of martial arts has ‘already’ transcended the boundaries of material limitation whilst still living. This sense of ‘completion’ and ‘transcendence’ is what draws the already perceptive into his or her presence to receive instruction...
ORIGINAL CHINESE LANGUAGE ARTICLE BY: QIANFENG DAOIST MASTER ZHAO MING WANG (赵明旺)
(TRANSLATED BY ADRIAN CHAN-WYLES PHD)
A few days ago, a venerable 70-year old man came to visit me in Beijing (at the Qianfeng Hermitage) from his hometown of Weihai in Shandong province! His name is ‘Jiang Daochang’ (姜道长) and he is a Disciple in the ‘Wudang’ (武当), ‘Sanfeng’ (三丰) School of internal martial arts practice and mastery! Indeed, Jiang Daochang has dedicated his life to the pursuance of Daoist gongfu (功夫)!
In his search for genuine Daoist self-cultivation knowledge and technique, he has travelled far and wide over many mountains and across numerous rivers! He is a Master of the ‘Taiji’ (太极) ‘Long-Sword’ (剑 - Jian) ‘Law’ (法 - Fa)! Eventually, he has settled in the ‘Wudang Sanfeng School’. However, he has also been aware of the Qianfeng Pre-Natal School and has attended a local study group for many years. It has been his positive experience with this group that led to him taking the decision to travel to Beijing and visit the Headquarters of the Qianfeng School.
He is a straightforward person who understands that usually a student must study with a Master for at least three-years (usually after three years of visiting other Masters) before being accepted as a ‘Disciple’ - but this situation is a little different due to Jiang Daochang already training in the Qianfeng School and the fact he is a Taiji Sword Master of many years standing! As is his right as an enquiring student – he requested that I ‘prove’ the efficacy of our School.
I first explained the ‘Essential Life Mind-Body' (性命双修 - Xing Ming Shuang Xiu) self-cultivation method as preserved within the Qianfeng School. I then assessed the health of his mind and body – and immediately ‘opened’ ALL of his energy channels throughout his body. As the transformation was ‘immediate’ - Jiang Daochang stated ‘This is the genuine Daoist self-cultivation! Without this method, the essential nature (精 - Jing) cannot transform vital force (炁 - Qi) in the mind and body!’ After experiencing this – Jiang Daochang immediately requested ‘Discipleship’ and he was formally accepted into the Qianfeng School!
Jiang Daochang is very concerned for the health of those who have practiced Taiji martial arts all their lives but who have also reached middle-age. When this stage of life is reached, it is important to replenish the ‘jing’ and ‘qi’ (精炁) so as to nourish the bones and inner organs. This is the same advice for ‘internal’ or ‘external’ martial arts practice! These activities consume a lot of ‘Jing’ (精 ) and ‘qi’ (气) - and this foundational store of energy needs to be replaced. This is a primary issue for athletes and people who like to keep-fit. Of course, this is also the same issue for everybody else – but at varying levels of use and replenishment. Many just burn themselves-out wasting their internal energy on frivolous pursuits! It is the ‘Essential Life Mind-Body' self-cultivation technique that can easily remedy this situation!
Qianfeng Pre-Natal School
Qianfeng Hermitage: Zhao Ming Wang
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2021.
Original Chinese Language Source Article: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_64e533c90102yssx.html
Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) was of the opinion that ‘Taijiquan’ (太極拳) is an advanced martial art developed by Confucian scholars for the perfect of archery skills. After twenty-years of my own research - I would agree. Of course, Taijiquan is very much part of the Daoist tradition – but as it is premised upon the philosophical principles of the ‘Change Classic’ (易經 - Yi Jing) - specifically those elucidated within the ‘Great Treatise’ (大傳 - Da Zhuan) of the associated commentaries. This is where we learn about the ‘Tai Ji’ (太極) concept which serves as the centre of the Confucian world view - ‘cosmology’. Tai Ji’ (太極) literally translates as ‘Grand Ridge-pole'. In this early model of the cosmos (the content of the ‘Da Zhuan’ probably developed over a thousand-year period – c. 500 BCE – 500 CE, etc, with the concept of ‘Tai Ji’ being included in its earliest strata – perhaps 300 BCE). The ‘ridge-pole’ equates to the human-spine which unites the ‘head’ to the pelvic-girdle and legs – which in transit also includes the arms and hands. This is the human-body as it exists in the material world. The early Confucians assumed that the spiritual (unseen) realm mirrored exactly the material (seen) realm – and so the human-spine was transposed onto the cosmos so that it linked the ‘divine sky (head) - with the ‘Broad Earth’ (lower body, legs and feet). Just as a developed martial artist positions the limbs in perfect repose through the timely ‘turning’ of the spine – the cosmos rotates its cycles around the ‘grand ridge-pole'! Just as the cosmos turns around a central-point – and the planets rotate around individual suns – the seasons come and go in a timely manner – just as night turns into day and vice versa.
This fits-in with the Confucian attitude of everything occupying its rightful place at the correct time. Movement is always timely and only performed for a good reason and never impulsive or ill-disciplined. A Confucian scholar brings order to the mind and body – and through his or her example – a similar order is brought to the material world. The Confucian scholar practices the unarmed martial art of ‘Taijiquan’ so that the foundations of ‘long-sword’ and ‘archery’ can be imbued in the mind and body well before a bow or a sword is ever picked-up. The ‘Taijiquan’ practitioner learns effortless ‘penetration’ of the opponent – this gives an insight into how a sword and arrow-tip ‘penetrates’ the target. More to the point, the ‘Taijiquan’ element of ‘inflating’ the joints with a buoyant qi-energy prepares the mind and physical-frame for the drawing and releasing of the arrow from the bow! When a bow is drawn (a Confucian scholar was expected to draw and fire with an equal accuracy from both sides of the body) the physical-frame is brought under a great intrinsic ‘pressure’ from the draw-poundage of the bow! When the arrow is released – this accumulated energy ‘rushes’ out of the body with the arrow!
By aligning the bone-shafts and joints so that the body-weight drops into the floor through the centre of the feet – a rebounding ‘force’ is generated from this ‘rooted’ stance that raises up through the body and which can be released through any part of the body. Any stance and shape that is ‘held’ can be ‘rounded’ to such an extent that an ‘intrinsic’ force is accumulated in the joint areas – which can be ‘released’ as a striking-force where needed (adding to the rebounding body-weight). This ability of the advance ‘Taijiquan’ practitioner to accumulate this force mimics the reality of drawing a bow. It just so happens that when accomplished without holding a bow – this ‘massive’ force can be ‘released’ through any part of the body as an overwhelmingly powerful strike. This skill can also be used as a ‘brick wall’ that stops an opponent in his or her tracks! When I have demonstrated the ‘immovable’ posture – usually the biggest man present puts all his strength into pushing my palm – but as I ‘reflect’ his force back at him – the more he tries the greater the force I have at my disposal to reject his intention! He gives me all the energy I need. This is just like drawing a bow...
Probably around 2008, Tony Smith 5th Dan (of Hereford Goju-Ryu Karate-Do) returned from an extended visit to Japan and Okinawa. When I eventually met-up with him, he presented me with these two clay lions from Okinawa, which appear based upon a Chinese design.Although there is no pearl or ball - one lion has his mouth open and looks to the left - whilst the other has her mouth closed and looks to the right. Both lions keep all four paws firmly upon the ground:
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.