Technically correct movements – coupled with psychological awareness and conscious expansion. Even if the kicks, punches, blocks, parries, elbow-strikes, knee-strikes, shoulder-barging and precise foot-work of a particular style are precise and exact – the mind-awareness must be ‘non-attached’ and ‘detached’ from the body it inhabits and the environment it - and the body it inhabits, has to traverse and exist within. Being combat effective on one-side – and mentally detached and expansive on the other – is the essence of spiritualised Hakka gongfu. This spiritual reality continuous to exist regardless of what the body is doing – whether sitting in a dark cave – or sat eating at a table! When others are encountered whose minds and bodies are corrupted by greed, hatred and delusion, there is no negative ‘reaction’ but only a continuous sense of boundless loving-kindness, compassion and wisdom which reflects the external and internal world as it really is free of any delusion or misunderstanding.
For the mind to remain expansive and reflective (as explained in the Mahayana Buddhist Surangama Sutra), the cultivated control of the body must be attuned to the frequency of rapid physical deployment, movement and positioning, in times of dramatic martial necessity in the outside world! In other words, when greed, hatred and delusion manifest as brutal violence in the minds and bodies of those in the environment – a fully trained Hakka-warrior must respond in a perfect and unhesitating manner that manifests a radical non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion through the correct application of martial technique. Of course, this type of martial mastery is not unique to the Hakka Chinese community – but is evident throughout the world and within every culture and contemplative tradition. Indeed, wherever men, women and children have been required to defend themselves (such as the ancient Celtic peoples of the UK and Western Europe under Roman attack) – this type of martial mastery has been the inevitable result.
Although I am very proud to be Anglo-Chinese and to be British and Chinese – I am also very grateful to have been born with the genetics of the ancient ‘Keltos’ people – as the ancient Greeks referred to us! The Keltos became the ‘Celts’ that put up a tremendous military resistance to Roman imperialism, brutality and exploitation! It is recorded that the Greek explorer – Pytheas of Massalia (350-285 BCE) - visited the British Isles (the land of my birth) around 304 BCE, but most of his contemporaries refused to accept that there were any landmasses ‘West’ of what is now ‘France’ - a place the Greeks had already colonised to the South!
What is interesting is that When Julius Ceasar invaded Britain in 55 BCE – the defending Celts were still deploying massed chariots – a fighting method probably a thousand years out of date by then, but suitable for an island people who inhabited an idyllic and isolated landmass 800 miles long, 200 miles wides and teaming with wildlife and cultivated grain crops! I have even read of some Western European Celts still employing the ‘Phalanx’ of massed spears which perhaps they learned from the ancients Greeks at some point in their history a very long time ago! Win, lose or draw, as individuals all we can do is our best by manifesting our highest spiritual, psychological and physical achievements when the time is right! Our bravery now – will inspire future generations to do the same...
Everything that needs to be said can be seen in this photograph. Those who are suitably 'aware' and who have developed genuine self-respect - will treat others with respect and understand the true 'essence' of Hakka Gongfu! We train in old warring arts that would not work on the modern battlefield simply because they are out of date. Great martial skill could be wiped-out in a second even by a stray bullet! We train to uproot greed, hatred and delusion, so that warfare does not arise a) in the mind, and b) in the environment. This means we train to create, establish and maintain genuine peace in the world! Chinese culture evolved out of the requirement to 'fight' on the one hand (in 'self-defence') and develop the personality to the highest psychological, emotional and spiritual level possible. This is why Confucianism and Daoism include warriorhood within spirituality. Technically speaking, Buddha advises that ALL violence be given-up but the reality of the matter is that if certain groups of Buddhist monks and nuns had not 'defended' their temples from external attack - their temples (and very probably 'Buddhism' as a whole) would have been wiped-out in China! This is not to say that violence is 'right' or 'preferred' - but rather an acknowledge that Chinese society (and most societies in the world) need to evolve to a higher level of reality so that violence can nolonger exist or flourish!
This ability is the product of a lifetime of a) suffering, and b) the transcendence of suffering. In other words, it is a product of experiencing ordinary life on the one-hand – and practicing (in my case) the Ch’an method of ‘stilling’ the inner mind. Stilling the inner mind is not the same as ‘stilling’ the outer environment. Stilling the outer environment is nothing less than wilfully ‘stilling’ the perception of the outer environment. Stilling the outer environment is a manifestation of the Dharmakaya (which is already there) but which is usually obscured by the ordinary mind and its habit of turning everything into a ‘subject-object’ dichotomy (duality). Within martial arts practice, this sudden manifestation of wisdom, compassion and loving kindness immediately takes away any option an opponent might have who insists upon using greed, hatred and delusion as the prime motivators of martial movement. Just as time appears to ‘stand still’ – the concept of ‘space’ seems to contract and becomes restrictive in the mind of the opponent. Within ordinary life outside of martial practice – the manifestation of this being reduces and disarms potentially o actively violent situations so the peace permeates the minute fabric of time and space. Those who are caught in this manifestation (which is very similar to ‘darshan’ found within Indian spirituality), lifts ordinary beings to new levels of inspire being, and quite often changes personalities and situations for the better! Advanced meditators within Buddhism are capable of manifesting this spiritual reality that has inherent within it the ability to alter the base frequency through which matter is resonating. This is an extension of the physical body (and brain) of the advanced practitioner whose mind is filtering (and protecting) this ability out into the environment through correct position and exact timing. The onus is on healing through wholeness, completeness and objectiveless love and profound understanding. As a function of the highest human spirituality, as an experience the recipient experiences a dissolving of greed, hatred and delusion – and all the conditioning premised upon the personal history experienced through this process. As ‘time’ is altered (slowed for the Master – speeded-up for the opponent) – the martial artist can move wherever is safest – whilst the opponent remains bewildered and unable to think clearly. This state of being can be manifest into any situation within life, as there is no preference or limit on human learning and human healing.
The point is to bring an end to all greed, hatred and delusion in the mind, body and environment. Although this a distinctly ‘Buddhist’ solution to the ills of life – generally speaking, it is also the solution of most ‘secular’ models of reality! An individual can choose their path and express their development in any way they wish or see fit – but in the end a definite ‘purification’ process is experienced which changes the inner and outer being forever! Inner peace is expressed through a deadly martial technique that is NEVER personal but always ‘indifferent’ and in a state of continuous ‘healing’ of humanity, the world and everything in it! Although wild animals can be extremely dangerous in their natural habitats – nevertheless it is important not to produce thoughts of ‘anger’ or ‘violence’ when taking suitable action to ‘avoid’ the danger.
This is using wisdom. Sometimes, even wild animals can be seen responding to ‘kindness’ in a manner that is considered very unusual! Even domestic pets can be difficult – but this is all the more reason to maintain a sense of inner and outer peace. Human-beings, by way of contrast, are often far more dangerous with their habitual anger and potential violent outbursts! Traditional gongfu training prepares human-beings for the maelstrom of combat in the outer world – whilst maintaining a calm inner terrain that remains ‘unruffled’ regardless of circumstance. Life can be hard, but it can also be beautiful, truthful and full of justice! The point is to always be ready to build upon the foundation of ‘peace’ and make the world a better place for everyone to live!
The physical techniques of the martial arts exist to empower an individual to protect their bodies, their community and their nation. The inner path is universal and transcends these narrow categories of potential violence! If combat happens, then the qualified Shifu must fight to prevail and never lose any encounters! However, this ‘victory’ should never be allowed to happen through ‘anger’ as this is ‘low’, ‘corrupt’ and ‘despicable’! As a situation can change in an instant, a martial artist must always be prepared to ‘adjust themselves to circumstance’ and never let a prejudiced view of reality take over the ‘flow’ of combat and conflict resolution. On the other hand, when combat must be successfully engaged within, then the sheer ‘weight’ of the cultivated ‘inner peace’ must quite literally ‘crush’ the violence that exists in the mind and body of the opponent! Peace must prevail over all.
I was recently asked (by a prominent [British] Muay Thai practitioner) to write a short text about the cultural differences between ‘Western’ Thai Boxers when compared with ethnic ‘Thai’ Muay Thai counter-parts. He was particularly interested in the different cultural patterns of ‘effort’ that are in effect in the Thai Boxing ring in Thailand. He explained to me that he knows full well that many dedicated and very respectful Westerners travel to Thailand to compete in ethnic Thai Boxing competitions (not ‘adjusted’ to the sensitivities of the international community) - and as soon as they step-off the aeroplane suffer the beginnings of a psychological collapse and the development of tremendous feelings of doubt!
Furthermore, despite bravery and stoicism – as soon as the ‘smiling’ Muay Thai Warriors the ring and being the traditional ‘Ram Muay Wai Kru’ - an ancient ritual of respect that praise the Hindu God – Rama – as well as the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha – a very strong sense of ‘alienation’ manifests. This sense of ‘cultural’ distinction is made even more pronounced as the Thai practitioner also ‘praises’ his or her family ancestors, parents, teachers and fellow students, etc. Perhaps this is one of its main purposes. This ‘dance’ is in fact a ‘secret’ martial art that only true Muay Thai Masters know how to interpret and use in combat. Muay Thai Masters have told me that it is a Thai manifestation of ‘internal’ martial art similar to the Taijiquan of China – which is often performed nowadays to ‘music’ as is the ‘Ram Muay’ (this is the shortened title my ethnic Thai friends us who live in the Warwick area of the UK).
I have had the privilege to train in the UK with students of Master Sken and Master Toddy over the years – despite never meeting these two experts in person. When some of these practitioners have passed through Sutton (South London) - they have come into our gongfu training hall on Sunday mornings and we have worked together. They have always been respectful, tough and very dedicated. Other than this contact with Muay Thai, my family frequent the Buddhapadipa Temple in Wimbledon, and on occasion, the Forest Hermitage (Wat Santidhamma) in Warwickshire – both of which serve the British ethnic Thai population and the Theravada Buddhism they practice. Years ago, when I lived in Hereford, I sparred full-on with ethnic Thai visitors and I was impressed with their ‘relaxed’ attitude and ‘fierce’ manifestation when fighting! I was inspired by how they live and breathe Buddhism first and foremost – and throw punches and kicks only after they have learned the Buddha’s Teaching fully! This is why I often seek-out special Theravada Bhikkhus living in the Buddhist temples in the UK. Unlike in the Thai villages and forests – this is not a common occurrence in the UK – but occasionally I get lucky!
I have also discovered that the Head Monks are often reticent to discuss this issue in the temple due to many Westerners developing the wrong attitude about Buddhism and Muay Thai. The way this works is that if the Head Monk wanted Westerners to learn Muay Thai – he would make its presence known and organise access. When I have discovered Muay Thai practice in the Buddhist temples – it has always been by mistake. This has also included incidents of special ‘tattooing’ sessions – whereby ‘sacred’ images and spiritually empowered mantras are ‘tapped’ into the skin – using a pointed-bone and coloured ink... These marks are considered ‘sacred’ and ‘divine’ as they grant the carrier with special spiritual powers. Interestingly, when I asked the Head Monk about how a person should begin their practice of Muay Thai? He answered that I should read the Pali Suttas about ‘correct breathing’, and about ‘stilling the mind’ - whilst living in an isolated meditation hut for at least three-years. Without this foundation of ‘Dhamma’ - I was told – I cannot practice ‘genuine’ Muay Thai.
Translator’s Note: Although ‘劍‘ is pronounced ‘Jian’ within Putonghua (which is the dialect of the Chinese language spoken in Beijing) - also known in the West as ‘Mandarin’ (the language of the scholar-officials) - within the Hakka language ‘劍‘, is pronounced ‘Kiam’ (in the ‘Sixian’ variant) and ‘giam’ (in the ‘Meixian’ version). As the Hakka language is considered far older as the language of Northern China used by the ruling elites, It would seem that ‘kiam’ and ‘giam’ were the normal ways of pronouncing ‘劍‘ - and that the Cantonese people of the South (originally the ‘Tang’ people of the North before they migrated en masse) - logically adopted ‘gim’ as their rendition of ‘劍’. Of course, I am assuming that the Hakka pronunciation is ‘older’ and probably the ‘original’ rendition of ‘劍‘. The Hakka people, in full or in part, probably ruled China through the Qin and Han dynasties from the North of China (but not Beijing), before being forced into a number of historical migrations Southward over two-thousand years. Certainly, our ancestral ‘Hakka’ village in the Sai Kung area of the New Territories of Hong Kong not only upholds the Hakka martial traditions of North China – but when I was young, we were taught to refer to the ‘long sword’ as the ‘giam’ - a tradition we retain to this day. The ‘long sword’ is used within our practice of the single and double sword routines as is exclusively associated with advanced Taijiquan practice. ACW (21.2.2021)
This ideogram dates back to the Bronze Inscription Characters of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties (c. 1600 BCE – 300 BCE) and was depicted in the following manner (amongst a number of similar of variants):
This means that swords designed to be ‘long’ and ‘thin’ to varying degrees (made out of metal) probably developed during this era. Today, these ‘劍‘ (jian4) swords are around three-foot long and constructed from a sharp double-edged blade. Although designed for the expert (and ‘effortless’) ‘piercing’ of the opponent – such a weapon can be used to ‘hack’ and ‘slash’ if the situation demands (although this is considered very much a ‘secondary’ skill). The Confucian scholar carries this type of sword as a symbol of his ‘learning’ and his ‘academic’ authority – although like with the bow and arrow – such a scholar was expected to be a ‘Master’ of self-defence, particularly if he held Public Office. The opponent’s defence (and body) must be decisively penetrated without any undue effort due to a perfect timing, positioning and movement. Furthermore, as such a scholar possesses a ‘calm’ and ‘wise’ mind – at no point in the execution of his sword technique does his weapon become ‘entangled’ with the weapon of the opponent! All ‘movements’ pursued with the long-sword must be effortless and ‘touch’ nothing other than the surface of the body that is to be ‘pierced’.
‘劍‘ (jian4) is composed of the left-hand particle ‘僉’ (qian1) - the top part of which is ‘亼’ (ji2) - an ‘inverted mouth’ that is used here, to denote the meaning of ‘gathering in from three-sides'. The bottom part of which uses a double ‘兄’ (xiong1) which refers to ‘an elder brother’. The right-hand particle is ‘刂’ (dao1) which refers to a ‘knife’ or a ‘single-edged; blade. ‘刂’ (dao1) is a contraction of ‘刀’ which within the Bronze Inscription Characters is drawn in this way (despite the character dating further back to the Oracle Bone Inscriptions:
When all this data is assembled into the ‘劍‘ (jian4) ideogram – it seems (to me) to read ‘community defence’. The elders of the community – symbolised by two mature but physically ‘fit’ older brothers used to bearing responsibility – unite to ‘protect’ a community (that is drawn together on three-sides) to form a more ‘solid’ centre that is easier to defend with ‘weaponry’. The ‘weapon’ in question has evolved from a simple (and shorter) single-edged blade – to that of a longer double-edged ‘sabre’ or ‘sword’ that requires an incredible amount of skill to use effectively in combat. As ‘劍‘ (jian4) is so complex when compared to the far simpler ‘‘刀’ ideogram depicting a short-knife – it would seem that an element of ‘elaborate’ ritual is implied in the formulation of a long-sword' that extends to its ‘ownership’ in peace-time, and its ‘usage’ in times of war!
Certainly, Confucian scholars are considered academic ‘warriors’ who often carry the scabbarded long-sword in their right-hand which means they have no intention of ‘drawing’ and ‘using’ it. Order within society is maintained simply by the ‘presence’ (and the ‘use’) of the long-sword – although this level of harmony and tranquillity manifest in the outer world implies exactly same level of attainment within the mind and body of the scholar-warrior! Should a ‘divine’ violence be required on the physical plane, then the scholar-warrior carefully places the scabbarded long-sword carefully into his left-hand whilst he right-hand secures a firm grip upon the long-sword handle... Having to resort to ‘violence’, however, would be thought of as a ‘failure’ by the scholar-warrior – as ‘peace’ is always preferable to ‘violence’.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.