The profound level materialises after years of training and ripens with age. It looks and feels very different to the manner in which other martial arts manifest and are manifested. It has more in common with Daoist martial expressions – but is reliant upon Buddhist mind expanding practices. There is a deep sense of peace emanating from within a profound and limitless void. Power manifests – and fades away in a cyclic motion. There is no rush and yet the power manifests according to the urgency of need – as if the required power is being extracted from the surrounding material conditions as the need arises. This lack of urgency coupled with the immediacy of the required power gives the false impression that a) nothing is happening and b) nothing will happen. These false impressions flash across the surface mind of the opponent and then there is the blinding flash as the power hits home. As there is the minimum of conflict – the highest levels of attainment seem very different to the more commonly available martial arts. Nothing is happening and yet everything is unfolding. Years of preparation generate the maximum conditions that dissolve as their function is performed. This process can repeat itself as many times as is required and in as many different ways as is needed. Winning is not the objective – but rather a cyclic survival. The feeling of a deep and permanent peace is similar to floating in space free of a gravitational pull and yet gravity is fully mastered and is under complete control. Seeing beyond that which needs to be created is the essence of being nowhere all at once. Freedom is a lack of artificially imposed barriers that have no place during the birthing or dying processes. Being at one with the empty mind ground is to be at one with empty space in all places and at all times. The mind expands because these (inner) false barriers are removed. As these (inner) false barriers are removed – there can be no (outer) false barriers. This reality is devastating for the opponent to encounter and ‘healing’ for the practitioner to attain.
It is interesting how the inner and outer body develops in relation to each fully rounded system, style and school, etc. Each lineage, although comprised of diverse elements from various and very different historical and/or cultural backgrounds, are welded together by a dominant founding-figure, so that a central (interpretating) ethos makes sense of it all! Therefore, if an individual practices a particular system for decades, the inner and outer 'frequency' of how their psychological and biological processes operate - takes on this exact ethos to the exclusion of all other alternatives. In other words, an individual becomes the epitome of the very martial tradition they have committed their life to following! Their thought and physical processes all start to manifest in a specific manner. Health is optimised - even when accidents happen or genetic illnesses appear. A transcending awareness starts to operate whereby the body (regardless of its state or function) is perfect just as it is regardless of conventional issues of health, well-being, ability or disability, etc. This is the mind transcending the body, with the body learning to operate through and around its own limitations, hindrances and obstacles. From a martial perspective, the job is done with efficiency and through the path of least resistance. This is particularly important for the experience of the ageing process - whereby a certain type of inexperienced strength and vigour gives way to a far more profound depth of understanding that is so powerful and exact that it lifts up the physical body (regardless of its state) like a cork floating on the ocean. The young people do not understand this and cannot predict its movement - hence their youth renders them susceptible to defeat through not paying attention and not applying the learning experience. Furthermore, although all aged Masters from different traditions no longer conflict and are well aware of the uniqueness of one another's path, they themselves also appreciate that their own style has bestowed upon each a specific frequency of functionality. Although they can progressively exchange technical information and advice - they also know the true meaning of 'lineage' and how it is like a flowing river from the past to the present, and from the present to future! I suppose we all get used to our own particular frequency of current!
The mastery of physical technique is an issue of training that should be achieved as soon as possible – even if the process takes a long amount of time in reality. This is irrelevant to the ongoing ‘inner process’ which continues continuously and without end regardless of physical circumstance, (i.e., standing, sitting, lying, walking or sleeping, etc). The mastery of physical fighting is the ‘external’ element of combat training – whilst the ‘inner’ processes far transcend the limitations of human conflict. Individuals can master ‘external’ combat without ever recognising the need or purpose of ‘inner’ training’.
Furthermore, it is also possible to participate within ‘inner’ training with no experience in ‘external’ combat. However, within genuine ‘spiritual’ Chinese martial arts – the student has to traverse the terrain of ‘external’ combat BEFORE being allowed access to the path of genuine ‘inner’ training. Many who develop a skill at ‘external’ fighting with no inner training, usually exhibit an increasing and strengthening of the egotistical mind-set and the tendencies to be one-dimensionally ‘selfish’, ‘aggressive’ and highly ‘ignorant’ in manifestation. As such a person becomes ‘older’ - their physical skills diminish and finally disappear – leaving them as a bitter person with no martial ability.
In fact, getting older is an important aspect of ‘inner’ training, as there are processes of internal mastery that are entirely reliant upon a profound transformation of the body chemistry and frequency of psychological patterning. Inner mastery can happen in a relatively younger person, but only within special circumstances, and only then if such a person retains a humble and accommodating attitude toward the further process of ‘maturing’ and ‘deepening’ of understanding as one’s age increases. Without this inner mastery – and older fighter will always be beaten by a younger fighter – but with inner mastery, the younger (less experienced) fighter will always be defeated.
Spiritual mastery defeats an opponent on the spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical level – and it does so BEFORE any movement is even made. Without spiritual mastery – two fighters physically ‘clash’ and entangle their arms and legs in a chaotic manner with the ‘winner’ being that who prevails through an arbitrary set of rules. Onces the movement of the arms and legs are mastered; the emphasis forever moves inward and away from the physical body. This is a preparation for the (natural) dying process experienced at the end of life. This is how the martial arts is a vehicle for ‘life’ and ‘death’ which has nothing to do with the rather banal activity of physical combat.
“At age fifteen years of age I set my heart and mind upon learning (whilst transcending inner confusion and outer chaos). At thirty, I planted my feet firmly upon the ground (and achieved ‘rootedness’). At forty, I no longer suffered from perplexities and doubts (as the mind and heart were ‘stilled’). At fifty, I fully understood the Will of the Divine Sky (as the mind and heart were all-embracing). At sixty, I clearly perceived reality through a docile ear (as none of the ‘senses’ discriminated). At seventy, I could follow the dictates of my own heart and mind; for what I desired no longer overstepped the boundaries of what was right in the Divine Dao.”
Confucius – Analects (Lun YU) 2:4
This is a famous blue-print that the Great Sage Confucius (Kong Fuzi) constructed during his lifetime (551-479 BCE) within ancient China. It is a remarkable set of observations that have stood the test of time. There is a natural ‘mastery’ of mind and body which unfolds providing the aspirant is a) ‘aware’ and b) is ‘seeking’ such an achievement of mind and body maturity. If an individual merely fumbles aimlessly through life with no grounding or higher yearning, then these stages often remain unrecognised and unfulfilled. As I get older, I find a deep sense of ‘certainty’ pervading my mind and body. This is a permanent state that does not fade or intensify but which is forever present – still and shining. It seems to be the underlying reality of sensual and psychological existence. It is comforting, empowering and healing.
When the mind is permanently ‘stilled’ and has become ‘all-embracing’ - a certain ‘wisdom’ (Prajna) is activated which allows the mind to naturally (and instantaneously) perceive reality and understand exactly what physical action is required in a particular situation. This is true for help others with education, healing, housing or feeding, etc, as it is during times of human conflict. Within the limitations of martial arts practice, such mastery manifests in the expert manifestation of ‘action’ and ‘non-action’ and vice versa. Moving forward (with tremendous generated force) or seeming to ‘disappear’ inti thin air by a radical ‘withdrawing’ from direct contact and-or confrontation. As every moment is both ‘identical’ and entirely ‘different’ without inner or outer contradiction – all momentary decisions emerge in a pristine and timely manner.
Such a state of being is not fleeting but always present. The nature of such an awareness is both peaceful and tranquil. It is like a permanent sense of inner ‘Spring’ whilst stood in a beautiful forest clearing. All animal and plant life understands this directly – with other humans perceiving that something is present that is out of the ordinary. Although ‘nothing special’ this sense of mastery is exactly the same for all of humanity regardless of life activity, culture or time-period, etc. It is like a might river that all martial arts systems quite naturally flow into. Masters do not argue despite their very different life-paths and distinctive martial schools. The state of true Mastery sits quietly in the centre of the universe and attracts all things to itself. All is ‘healed’ and ‘reconciled’ and there is no ‘conflict’ or ‘contradiction’.
As we get older, our perception of our training changes. This is not only crucial, but also essential. Getting old is important for Chinese martial arts mastery. Getting old is not an error or a failure. We must give-up all of our younger perceptions as they are now out of date. Younger perceptions are for younger people as that is where they belong. Ego ad its ‘giving-up’ is the key. Young people are taught that ‘winning’ is everything in this (Western) culture, but in China the prevailing attitude is that ‘cooperation’ and ‘assisting’ one another are the glue that holds a civilised society together. Even ‘sparring’ in the Chinese cultural sense is very different to its ‘hate filled’ Western counter-part. An opponent exists, within the training context, to assist you to develop, they do not exist as cannon-fodder for the ego! Training to boost the ego means that when the body ages and changes, the practitioner quite naturally ‘gives-up’ as he or she can no longer muster the required aggression to train or fight! What a pointless waste of time all this is! Grace under pressure is what Westerners should be aspiring to achieve. Psychological and physical relaxation in the face of potential violence and danger is the standard once the physical techniques of combat have been mastered! Getting older is important to deepen understanding and develop a more profound perception of reality. Fighting is awareness and understanding which manifests evenly through both ‘stillness’ and ‘movement’ performed at the right moment! Most people find it very difficult to be ‘still’, although generally people think they can ‘move’ around quite well. Both assumptions are false. Clearing and deepening perception will lead to correct ‘stillness 'of body and mind. Again, age leads to an enhanced awareness through which the body moves with an almost divine capability regardless of circumstance! This is why getting older is important and to be welcomed!
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.