As human beings we exist (and have evolved within) a gravitational field. Most traverse their entire lives unaware of this fact in its practical and/or theoretical basis. External martial arts are the product of young people using their will-power to move their torso and limbs through this gravitational field in an inefficient but useful manner which sees the generation of a great force (only at the highest levels) which is far beyond the level of energy expenditure used to manufacture it. To achieve this the cardiovascular system must be made efficient (through running), whilst the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons must be 'toughened' through regular usage. The mind is strengthened and focuses through repeated arduous training and familiarisation with the corresponding (physical) pain. The mind learns to use the body very much like a 'slamming door' with no regard to the state of the inner body or the health of the inner organs. At the external level (which must be mastered), the physical body is 'forced' through the gravitation field and it is the resulting 'resistance' which can generate substantial force. This type of power is entirely dependent upon the body being at a continuous peak of physical fitness - which is a state very difficult to maintain without the body structures being allowed regular periods of complete rest (so as to recover). A problem with this method involves illnesses and injuries getting in the way of achieving peak levels of fitness - and the ever-present problem of the ageing process. Within ancient China, the external training for combat could produce confident and solid soldiers in around three-months of continuous and systematic training. However, if an individual survived both the training and the combat experience on the battlefield, then what? The ancient Chinese understood that with age came both enhanced understanding of reality and a much more subtle appreciation of the human body and the environment it inhabited. This is how 'internal' training was established often hinted at by Confucian and Daoist ideology - and later Buddhist thought. This involved the mind being trained to be aware of how gravity operates through the bone-structure of the skeleton. The ancient sages realised that without any muscular effort (or corresponding psychological angst) whatsoever, gravitational 'force' effortlessly drops down through the centre of the bones (stimulating the bone marrow in the process), and enters the ground ('rooting' the practitioner) before a 'rebounding' reaction occurs which sees a corresponding 'force' travel back up through the centre of bones to the top of the skull. This process occurs simultaneously without interruption, contradiction, or paradox. It only ceases when the human body leaves its familiar gravitational field. (Chinese Cosmonauts have been experimenting in the zero gravity of space to see if a modified Taijiquan can assist in the preventing of soft bones during long space flights). The internal practitioner trains their mind to become aware of this free reservoir of energy and to propel it throughout the body, regulated by the martial techniques of Taijiquan, Baguazhsng/quan and Xingyi, etc. This means that without having to move to generate power (as in the external model) power is immediately available 'here and now' whilst standing on the spot. As virtually no undue effort is required to produce it - this power is far stronger, penetrative and destructive than its external variant. The nature of internal power is like a spinning vortex whilst remaining free of any contrived violence. This is deployed in combat not through any form of aggression, but rather as a matter of gentile timing and positioning. Providing this skill has been thoroughly learned, then there is no need for any undue effort. At the highest levels, quite often it is the case that elements of the external and the internal are deployed simultaneously without contradiction and allows from the higher ground of the internal perspective. This is why old Masters with considerable health problems are still unbeatable in the training hall - even days or hours prior to their deaths! I wanted to make it clear that by mastering the internal method - poor health due to age, injury or genetics is transcended. Where many cannot detach themselves from their physical characteristics, the internal Master 'has already left' so-to-speak. Either way, and whatever the case, there is only love in the process with the internal giving the maximum chance for a possible recovery of poor health - even if it is unlikely. Seated meditation, by the way, is essence 'internal' and this is why the old Masters practiced it. Life can be preserved and prolonged even within illness and poor health. For some people this is needed because they have unfinished business to complete.
Although Britain used 'opium' grown in India as a means to unnaturally pollute the minds and bodies of the Chinese people (so that they could be more easily controlled by the European invaders), it is also true that traditional Chinese medicine has for centuries used 'opium' as a means to control psychological, emotional and physical pan. Indeed, for thousands of years 'opium' remained the ONLY naturally grown plant that could perform this task. Obviously, a doctor genuinely 'relieving' pain and thereby reducing the suffering of another human-being is very different from a European invading force within China that mis-used 'opium' to 'stupify' the minds and bodies of the already healthy masses so that they could not effectively organise a resistance to Western occupation and annexation of their country! The result of this despicable behaviour has been the literal demonisation of 'opium' when in fact when it is used in the right hands it is a very effective and legitimate medicine. Indeed, even modern Western medicine makes use of opium-derivatives in the production of the pain-killer 'morphine'.
Description of 'opium' pipe owned by Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993). The 'smell' and 'taste' of the last 'smoke' is still evident.
Bamboo stem (main-body) = dark brown in colour.
Copper bowl and lower stem (all one design) = Reddish-brown in colour.
Length of bamboo-stem plus copper-bowl = 19.75 Inches - 50.2 cm - 1 Foot 7.75 Inches - 0.502 Metres.
Length of bamboo-stem minus copper-bowl = 17 Inches - 43.18 - 1 foot 5 Inches - 0.43 Metres.
Copper-bowl Diameter = 1 inch - 2.5 cm
Design on lower stem situated on the copper-bowl consists of six individual dots arranged around a single central dot (forming a flower motif). Four Old Style Chinese Characters are arranged equidistance around this 'flower'. A single row of Chinese characters run in a straight-line down back of the short copper stem (immediately behind) the copper-bowl.
The external method of withdrawing blood flow away from the surface of the body involves either bathing in very cold water – or rubbing ice all over the body. The cold closes the capillaries and diverts blood flow away from the surface skin area as if the outside environment were very cold and the body had to defend itself against the possibility of ‘freezing’. Blood flow (as ‘heat’) is diverted away from the surface area and into the inner organs to keep the much more important inner organs functionally healthily. For fighting that could risk the possibility of the surface body becoming bruised or cut – with drawing the blood supply away from the surface skin is an important attribute. Within the Ch’an Dao Style we do not make use of the this ‘external’ version of closing the surface capillaries using ‘ice’ or ‘cold water’, indeed, we do not any external substance. We practice a Hakka Gongfu (internal) meditational method which ‘withdraws’ blood supply from the capillaries as a matter of cultivated ‘will-power’. Just as the mind conceives the requirement for the outer blood flow to be diverted toward the inner organs – the body makes the adjustments. As sparring of this kind traditionally occurs between 10 am-12 pm – the Hakka Gongfu practitioner often finds the blood flow habitually ‘withdrawing’ in the morning so that, for instance, it would be difficult for a doctor or a nurse to take a sample of the blood from the arms or hands – as the capillaries are ‘closed’ at the surface where the needle penetrates. Blood flow returns to the surface of the skin as the body heads into the afternoon – unless a sparring match or honour match is set to happen. This prevents extensive bruising and cuts that might lose a lot of blood. Following the meditation usually means that the capillaries will close regularly every morning and open in the afternoon. Very advanced Masters of the Hakka Gongfu martial arts have been said to stop the extensive bleeding often associated with terrible wounds such as having hands or feet partly or fully chopped-off! Although unconscious this ability has saved their lives.
Every genuine martial arts style from North China is quite often linked to the Shaolin Temple of Henan – or contains techniques that are associated with temple’s gongfu training. The Chinese term ‘罗汉’ (Luo Han) refers to the Indian Pali term ‘Arahant’ - and in this instance includes the so-called ‘Arahant Fist’ (罗汉拳 - Luo Han Quan) - an ‘enlightened’ martial art which Bodhidharma brought from South India to China around 520 CE. An ‘Arahant’ is a man or woman who has achieved enlightened within the Early School of Buddhism – represented by the Theravada School today (and its Pali Cannon). This article presents exercises that are often linked to ‘squat-kicking’ in various styles – or exercises used to a) build the external (physical) structures and strength of the entire leg area, and b) develop the ‘internal’ awareness of how energy and bodyweight manoeuvre through the centre of the bone marrow. Quite often the exercises remain the same or are only slightly altered to build the foundation for the next stage of training. Below is the ‘Arahant’ exercises for building ‘internal’ strength, power and endurance through the entire bone-structure of each leg. As the ‘circular’ structure of the joints and bones are incorporated – the ‘iron vest’ armouring of the legs is also developed. This develops the advanced internal ability to harmlessly absorb, reject or deflect any incoming power from a hostile blow.
Lifting pose: Standing up naturally, with feet shoulder-width apart, arms relaxed and hanging, all ten fingers slightly bent, eyes level, and the whole body relaxed. Get rid of distracting thoughts, concentrate on the pubic area. Breathing should be natural, slow, deep, and even, with 7 breaths as appropriate, with blood flowing through the whole body. (figure 1)
1) Stand upright: hold both hands on the top of the head from the side of the body, cross your fingers with the back of your palms facing up, and inhale at the same time, then turn your palms toward the sky, do not touch the top of your head, slowly bend your knees and squat, and exhale at the same time; When squatting, the head and body are upright, do not lean forward, bend the knees as far as possible not to exceed the toes, intend to guard the Yongquan (涌泉) point, then slowly stand up, and inhale at the same time, squat 7 times, so the blood flows through the whole body. (Picture 2～3)
2) Sunrise Over Eastern Mountain: Make a fist with both hands, flexing the elbows and raising them on both sides of your shoulders. Still in the squat rises slowly, with breathing, 7 times is appropriate, the rest of the requirements are the same as above. (Picture 4～5)
3) Worshipping Buddha in Ten Directions: Put your hands together in front of your chest, palms together, and do the same squat slowly and rise 7 times. Breathing is the same as other requirements. (Picture 6～7)
4. Embrace the moon with your arms: hold your arms in a round shape, with your fingers facing each other, palms facing inward, and do squatting and rising slowly for 7 times. (Picture 8-9)
5) Two Dragons 'Spit-Out' Pearls: Make a fist with both hands, elbows with both arms flat in front of the chest, in balance, with fists facing down, still slowly squatting and raising 7 times, and the rest are the same as above. (Picture 10-11)
6) Swallow Yin - Build Yang: Fold your hands behind your waist with your palms facing outwards. Do the same slow squat and rise 7 times. The rest of the requirements are the same as above. (Picture 12～13)
7) Ten Thousand Dharmas Return to a Single Source: Fold your palms on top of each other, palms facing inward, place your the hands on the lower abdomen and down into the expand the attention into the pubic area. Squat up 7 times with slow breathing to keep your pubic field. It also requires that the head be straight and the knees bend but toes. (Pictures 14-15)
Closing style: The method and essentials are the same as the starting style. Key points of Arahant Seven-Postures: When squatting up, do not bend your knees forward over your toes, let alone bend your head down, keep your eyes straight, keep your body centered, and keep your spine as straight as possible.
Chinese Language Article:
Holding the horse stance (馬步 - Ma Bu) requires a stable, physical structure which is permanently held regardless of the emotional or physical feeling’ that is present. This includes – but is not limited to – the pain experienced in the muscles when deep stances of this nature are assumed and maintained over a set period of time. The structure must prevail over every other consideration. The structure must prevail over a determined time scale no matter how tired the mind and body appear to manifest. The point of this mode of psychological and physical discipline is that although the physical structure is deemed ‘permanent’ for the duration of the exercise – the ‘feeling’ capacity of the mind and body is understood to be fleeting, changeable and impermanent. This being the case, feeling tired, distressed or overwhelmed is not a good enough ground to ‘stop’ holding the physical structure of the horse stance!
The advanced holding of the horse stance must ‘root’ the practitioner to the ground, whilst the inner energy is circulated through micro and macro-cosmic orbits (simultaneously or alternatively as required), with a deep and full breath that empties and fills the (mind) and body without fail and in a continuous and powerful manner. The mind should be calm, expansive and all-embracing so that the physical body and immediate environment seem to manifest within the fabric of the mind all at once! Energy flow is optimised in an existential and historical manner, with the individual mind ‘detached’ from both whilst permanently interfacing with reality in an indifferent attitude of all-encompassing awareness. All types of feeling is understood to be ‘fleeting’ - whilst the powerful nature of the horse stance is considered the essence of all martial ability.
The structure of the Book of Change (Yijing) hexagram is the model which all effective horse stance training should follow. The legs are the bottom two lines, the torso (and arms) is the second to lines) and head is the top two lines. Although not representing any particular hexagram (six-lined structure), the body of the martial artist holding the horse stance represent ANY and ALL of the sixty-four hexagrams that transition from into another. In my training, I often visualise the second hexagram of ‘earth’ as the six ‘yin’ lines symbolise the ‘dropping-down’ activity of ‘water’ sinking into the ground! Of course, as the energy rises up the spine, I visualise hexagram one – or ‘divine sky’ to assist in the ‘lifting’ of force! Any part of the body can represent any hexagram, whilst the entire situation can also be represented a an over-all and defining hexagram! This is an area of study that must be built-up over-time and which requires and in-depth and drawn-out study of the Book of Change (Yijing).
The ‘external’ component represented by the numerous ‘gongfu’ styles extant in China – perfects the ‘leverage’ of the joints on the horizontal plane. As this is generated by contracting muscles (which operate through the ‘awareness’ of the positioning of the bones and joints in relation to one another), very high levels of physical fitness and psychological conditioning must be pursued and mastered. This also involves the understanding of ‘torque’ or ‘deliberately’ employed muscular tensions to generate and increase impact. Bodyweight is also used across the horizontal plane – joint, bone, muscle bodyweight and psychological focus build ‘external’ power and erupt this force into a relatively small area of contact through the contacting limb and/or body-part. This type of power is quite often ‘shocking’ to encounter and difficult to recover from once a clean blow has been landed to a vulnerable part of the body. This skill can take five, ten or more years to perfect through traditional Chinese martial arts training (which builds a practitioner’s mind and body from the ground upwards – like the construction of a Book of Change hexagram). The most efficient martial arts style that I have seen that can convey this ability to a new student (with little prior experience) in the modern world – is that of the Shukokai Karate-Do style as formulated by O-Sensei Shigeru Kimura (1941-1995).
Integrated or ‘mixed’ power is a rarefied and highly refined skill of the highest martial order! A Master of ‘integrated’ power possesses the ability to continuously switch between power-generating systems (as in ‘external’ or ‘internal’), or apply only an ‘integrated’ approach. Furthermore, within the few seconds of a complicated fight – a fighter might have to switch rapidly from one power-expression to another because this is exactly what the situation calls for. The opponent could be highly skilled and a diverse approach necessary to ‘unlock’ their defensive patterns. Being ‘trapped’ in a restricted space might prevent certain techniques (and types of power generation) from being deployed – so the most appropriate mode should be selected. Where horizontal space is missing in the environment – then ‘vertical’ power can and should be used (with the orientation of power-generation adjusted to meet circumstances). Of course, the ‘iron vest’ ability to use the ‘aligned’ bones to absorb, reject or deflect any incoming attack is always in operation with the intention of ‘damaging’ the opponent’s attacking limb through using its own power and ‘deflecting’ it back into the structures of the attacking limb. This coincides with the maintaining of the perfect ‘rooted’ footwork.
External Power = 外功 (Wai Gong)
Internal Power = 內功 (Nei Gong)
Integrated Power = 雜功 (Za Gong)
The ‘neigong’ (or ‘neidan’) component is a vast subject that is very complex and directly linked to Daoist practice. This requires a qualified Master to lead the way. However, I have relayed above the basic requirements for ‘power production’ in our Hakka Family Style of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts.
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...
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.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.