Wikipedia is a wealth of sagely advice – much of it misleading, incomplete and out of context. For instance, the author dealing with the ‘Tai Sabaki’ page - states that the usual interpretation of Tai Sabali in the West which involving ‘evasion’ is ‘wrong’. However, if an individual can ‘read’ Chinese and/or Japanese ideograms – it is obvious that whatever this concept is - ‘evasion’ forms a central aspect of it. The author in question does not fully comprehend the entire concept of Tai Sabaki and is attempting to join the two ends of an idea together whilst omitting a (vast) theoretical centre-ground!
1) 体 (Tai) - Japanese Equivalent of Chinese ideogram ‘體’ (ti3) = ‘body’
This is related to a body (comprised of - and structured by - its internal bone structure) which is augmented in the physical world through musical rituals (involving drumming) and the adornment of jade of jewellery. The body is enhanced by the placement and alignment of its inner structure and the means (rituals) through which this body traverses the outer world. That which is ‘detrimental’ is avoided and that which is ‘nourishing’ is embraced. There is an implication in the Japanese language that ‘体’ (Tai) refers primarily to the trunk and the abdomen – and only secondarily to the limbs. It is the ‘centre’ of the body which has priority over the ‘periphery’ of the body.
2) 捌 (Saba) - Japanese Equivalent of Chinese ideogram ‘捌’ (ba1) = Disentangle
This ideogram - (in its Chinese interpretation) can mean ‘eight’ - an alternative form of ‘八’ (ba1). A ‘hand’ which expertly uses a ‘knife’ - cuts through the flesh and bones of a fish so that it is separated into ‘eight’ clean parts (probably a generic term meaning ‘many’). There is also the central idea of ‘disentanglement’ - so that no unnecessary error (or resistance) is met. This is because ‘entanglement’ means ‘hindrance’ - and the skill referred to here involves the ‘avoidance’ of such self-imposed difficulty. Evading ‘resistance’ is the correct path that leads to such a skill. The blade of the knife skilfully feels its way around (and along) the natural contours of the bones – and does NOT cut directly (at right-angles) into the bone-structure at any time. There is a ‘going with’ rather than a ‘going against’. This ideogram is the central element of this Karate-Do principle - and probably means slightly different things within the various styles which make use of it.
3) き(Ki) - Japanese Equivalent of Chinese ideogram ‘幾’ (ji3) = Skill
There is an indication of ‘quantity’, ‘measurement’ and ‘refinement’ within Japanese language dictionaries. The suggestion is that the correct manipulation of exact amounts is a great skill which has to be mastered in any successful avenue of life. This idea spans both the material and the spiritual world! An individual can carefully follow the established criterion laid down by those who have gone before – or if such an individual possesses the correct (and right) amounts of psychological insight and physical strength – then they might set out on their own path and become an inspiration for those who are to come!
When taken as an integrated whole – the martial principle of Tai Sabaki (体捌き) suggests that the physical body (its central core and not just its periphery) is skilfully used (manipulated) in a combat situation so that there is no direct conflict between the defender deploying this technique - and an attacker ignoring this technique. Tai Sabaki (体捌き) is NOT just the skilful movement of the arms and legs in ‘protection’ of the central core (the torso). Tai Sabaki (体捌き) is a ‘centre-out’ technique that requires the core and periphery to work in concord. Strength does not clash with strength. The ability to assertively ‘give-way' is the key to this technique. Indeed, when the timing is perfect - ‘giving-way’ becomes far stronger than the momentary strength associated with a dramatic (but short-lived) show of strength! Giving-way, at its highest manifestation, not only ‘absorbs’ and ‘nullifies’ ALL incoming power – but when performed correctly, generates the basis for ‘greater’ power to be produced that is not reliant upon linear (muscular) strength – but rather the ‘circular’ movement associated with the structures of the bones and joints! The bodyweight ‘drops’ into the ground through the shaft of the (aligned) bones and rebounds upwards through the centre of the bone-marrow – producing a seemingly endless supply of ‘muscle-free’ power! As this power is greater than that associated with the muscular ‘tension’ of thuggery – the defender occupies a unique time-space frequency within which the attacker cannot access (or penetrate) regardless of the willpower exhibited. The linear attacks cannot land on an object continuously moving in perfectly timed circles. Once such a level of mastery is achieved – the defender can decide the level damage perpetuated upon the attacker depending upon circumstance. Should the body of the attacker be temporarily or permanently disabled? Should the body of an attacker be only (gently) nullified as if in play? Someone who has mastered Tai Sabaki (体捌き) possesses all these choices. This is why the Wado Ryu Style of Karate-Do posits the highest ideal of a defender possessing the ability to prevent damage to both their own body AND the body of the opponent! An ideal of the highest nobility!
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.
I have written elsewhere about the Chinese (martial) cultural concept of ‘凌空劲’ (Ling Kong Jin) often erroneously translated in English as ‘Empty Force’ (and subsequently misinterpreted) - but what follows is a list of similar concepts. These all encapsulate the idea of striking an opponent ‘at a distance’ - without making physical contact (as is required in Western Boxing or Mixed Martial Arts, etc).
1) 隔山打牛 (Ge Shan Da Niu) = Smashing Mountains Striking Oxen
2) 隔空打人 (Ge Kong Jin Ren) = Smashing Empty Power (into) Opponents
3) 印掌 (Yin Zhang) = Imprinting Palm
4) 百步神拳 (Bai Bu Shan Quan) = Hundred Step Spirit Fist
5) 透劲 (Tou Jin) = Penetrating Power
6) 棉花掌 (Mian Hua Zhang) = Cotton Flower Palm
As these concepts are misunderstood both in China and outside of China, it goes without saying that they are much maligned. (Number '6' actually involves striking and breaking bricks - experiencing the impact as something like 'hitting cotton' - although many also consider this to be a 'fake' skill similar to 'hitting at a distance'). Part of the problem involves the exploitation of these concepts for monetary profit by those who possess no real idea about what these concepts mean. When these frauds are exposed (usually during a sparring match) - the logic employed suggests that the concepts these people are peddling are as corrupt as the personality that is misrepresenting them! This is incorrect – but as there is no separation between the defrauding element and the legitimate martial concept itself – no debate can be developed when the baby is being thrown-out with the bath water!
Obviously, ss someone who firmly rejects capitalism (and the liars it produces) I am certainly NOT supporting any variation of these frauds. I also make no secret of my opposition to the Eurocentric racism prevalent in the West that is routinely aimed at Chinese (and all ‘Asian’) people and their culture. When confronting this type of ignorance, there are a lot of components to unpack. I am not going to waste my time ‘arguing’ with racists – as I would rather confront these morons before they can do any real damage to my family and/or community. As for the genuine people – do not be deceived by charlatans (of any type) and always look beyond the horizon for better and more complete knowledge! Do not fooled by misrepresentations of Chinese (martial) culture.
Chinese Language Source:
As I get older, physical training seems to be spilling over into a continuous psychological or conscious manifestation that is circular and spiralling in manifestation and ethereal in nature! Yes - training must be rooted in the material realm - but once properly rooted, that is, once all the appropriate martial skills have been learned, practiced, perfected and applied, something happens with this experience which is like an echo broadcasting out into the wilderness, except, of course, it is none of these things, even though it shares certain characteristics with these things. It is like thunder and lightning appearing as two different aspects - even though both are intimately related. Sometimes, when sat meditating, I experience all the gongfu forms being practiced simultaneously as if I am sat in a central nexus surrounded by light! When I re-emerge, the material world appears just the same and I get on with life. In fact, when I perform the gongfu movements again, there is often a new freedom dependent entirely upon the meditative experience.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.