Posts Tagged ‘kung fu’

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Philosophy Tuesday

December 3, 2019

There was a funny thing that kept happening.  We* would ask Sifu a question about some move in the Tai Chi form, usually a move somewhere near the end of the form, and he would say, “Well, go back to your Wu Ji.”

Now, Wu Ji is the first move in the form.  It’s not even really a move – you stand in it.  Translated literally, it means something like “Empty” or “Nothing” stance, though the more proper meaning is “Harmonious” stance, with the idea of bringing your body and body tension together in evenness and harmony, like a circle.  It’s the starting position.

Which is why we would usually protest.  “No Sifu, I meant this move here…” and we would demonstrate.  “I know,” he would reply, “But go to Wu Ji.”

Despite our frustration, it does (Of course it does!  He was Sifu!) make sense.  If you don’t have your Wu Ji, you can’t “have” anything – your moves are all deficient** in some way.  We are thinking and asking to tweak something on this one particular move when really a) the problem doesn’t start there b) we apparently don’t even fully grasp the depth of the problem c) tweaking that move won’t really fix the issue and d) if we can adjust our Wu Ji, then we won’t need to fix the problem because the problem goes away.  Moreover, it doesn’t just go away, it e) creates a whole bunch of positive outcomes everywhere, in every single move we do.

It is a great way to express the concept of returning to the primordial.  Whether martial arts moves or societal systems, whether cultural or our own personal views and realities, or our own identities and who we see ourselves and others to be, it’s hard to poke and prod something so deep and at the end of a long chain and have it be all that impactful.  At best we can struggle and strain and maybe keep it (or our Tai Chi structure) from collapsing.  But the issues remain, and often compound on each other.  But when we get something fundamental and come from first principles, from the primordial, and adjust our Wu Ji so that we begin from a place of proper connection and intent, then massive shifts are possible.  Everything sings, compounds harmoniously, and we come to those places of strength with ease, naturally.

All wrapped up in a simple small phrase.  Thank you Sifu.

 

* While it would happen to all of us it seemed to happen to Steve the most… so much so that it has become our affectionate running joke now (and a way for us to remember and honour Sifu)

** Not bad, or wrong, but just missing something.  Something to discover, get, incorporate, and grow.

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Lion Kung Fu

October 31, 2019

No surprise I’m sure, but I absolutely love that last panel.  You don’t want to mess with that lioness!

by Oglaf (Totally NSFW, BTW)

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Wonder Wednesday

September 4, 2019

Shaolin kung fu and lynxes, clearly two great things that go great together!

(photo by Cloudtail)

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Philosophical Humour Sunday

July 28, 2019

I doubt very much this is an actual Chinese proverb… but I am in total agreement with the sentiment being expressed!

 

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Philosophy Tuesday

March 12, 2019

“Distinction” is a term that crops up again and again within the philosophical and ontological arts.  But what is distinction?  And why is it important?

A distinction separates something into its own category or concept.

A distinction lets us know/feel/understand/grok the difference or particularnless of a thing/feeling/thought/category/concept.

Once a distinction is created, it becomes a vessel into which we can pour our attention and inquiry and understanding into.

Distinctions allow us to see things in greater detail, bringing refinement and granularity to things or behaviours or thoughts that otherwise would be the same for us.

Distinctions, ultimately, open whole new worlds and perceptions and understandings and even realms of possibility, of being, and of living.

Before something is distinct, we can’t really focus on it, because, to us, it’s not yet a thing.

The same happens in the martial arts.  The distinction of “rooting” creates a new world to explore:  How do I root?  What does my body need to do to root?  How do I gain that stability?  How do I transfer forces into the ground?  What does it feel like?  What do I have to adjust?  Ok, what do I have to adjust now to make it even better?

As we practice, we use distinction between two states or positions to develop things further.  Feeling the difference in balance, power, and exertion between two different body positions lets us know which one is more in line with proper rooting.  “Here I have to struggle to resist an incoming force, but here I am at ease.  This is what it feels like to engage rooting.”

With that double distinction, we know what we’re aiming for, and we gain a better sense of when we’re on target, and when we are not.*

So too when we learn a philosophical distinction.  Whether it be about the stories we tell ourselves, or one of the logical fallacies, or about identity, or about the hilarious ways we continually subvert our rationality, whenever we gain a distinction in those realms we gain access to it.  Distinction turns it from being a blind spot that we can only ever inadvertently crash into it into something we not only can avoid but can also use to our ever-growing advantage.

Distinctions are the root power of transformation.  And from those roots grows a glorious life full of power, joy, and peace.

 

* And as we gain further distinctions, our idea of rooting improves, which improves our grasp of where we should aim, which we then refine through testing and feeling, and thus the cycle of growth in ability continues evermore.

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Philosophy Tuesday

February 19, 2019

The spear is the third weapon taught in Northern Shaolin kung fu.  Before you begin learning the set proper, there is a basic drill to practice that familiarizes you with the feel of the weapon as well as ingraining an effective and basic technique.  It’s three motions:  circular snap to parry by your leg, circular snap to press onto the opponent’s hand, stab forward to the full extension of the spear.  Pull back, and repeat.

Once you get the hang of it, you drill it with speed.  Swoop, press, stab.  Swoop, press stab.

“Now, practice it 100 times a day,” Sifu instructed.  When Jay learned the drill, he was way more eager than that.  “I’m going to practice a ton, get good real fast.”  And so he’d go into the kwoon to practice well before class, he’d practice after class, practice on days he didn’t have class.  Any moment he had.  Swoop, press, stab.  Swoop, press stab.

Several weeks later while Jay was practicing in the kwoon, Sifu walked by and noticed that his form was really suffering.  The movements were slow, the trajectory all off, and the energy all erratic.  “You seem to be regressing,” he called out.  Jay could only nod unhappily.  “Yes Sifu, I don’t know what it is.  I’m practicing, but it’s just not getting better.”

“Let me see your left hand,” asked Sifu.  Jay held it out.  The web of flesh between his thumb and index finger looked as though someone had attacked it with a belt sander, all raw and split and bloody.  “How much have you been practicing?”

“Oh I’ve been real good,” said Jay.  “I’ve been doing it around 300 times a day!”

A silence hung in the air.  Sifu looked from Jay back down to his bloody hand then back up at Jay again.  He mock smacked him upside the head.  “That’s why I said 100 times a day!”

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Philosophy Tuesday

January 15, 2019

There were many things that were amazing about my Sifu.  I learned so very much from him.  One of which he never taught me directly… he was simply an embodiment of it.

Sifu loved Kung Fu.  That may seem like an unnecessary statement – of course Sifu loved Kung Fu, you’d think.  After all, he practiced it diligently for so many years.  But this is not just some matter-of-fact thing.  Sifu loved Kung Fu for its own sake.  When Sifu practiced, he practiced because of that simple enjoyment.  There was no “in order to” behind it.

And that was the great insight, lesson, and wisdom he demonstrated.

Often times in our lives we take on something, practice something, or do something “in order to” accomplish, have, possess, or gain something else.  We don’t do it just for the pleasure, satisfaction, or pure difference it might make in the world.  We do it “in order to” get that other thing.

We train martial arts in order to feel manly or not scared.

We run marathons in order to look sexy and have something impressive to tell others.

We take a job in order to make money*, because we want money in order to feel powerful.

We buy something in order to distract us.

We like a particular band to fit in socially

We seek conflict in order to avoid loneliness.

Sometimes we undertake things because of some perceived flaw in ourselves.  Other times, we may not even be aware of the hidden purpose,**  the “in order to” remaining hidden from our view.  “I like it!” we think.  “It’s just what’s needed,” we add.  “I have no choice,” we finalize.

While these “in order to”s can be great motivators, pushing us with an intensity and persistence in our pursuit of that goal, they also rob us.  Rob us of freedom, rob us of satisfaction, rob us of joy.  Rob us of the experience of the moment.  And, most ironically (though you can probably guess), they also rob us of our performance.  They get in the very way of the thing we’re trying to get.  If anything starts to slip, we become frantic.  Small or large, any panic will stunt our game.

When we set aside our “in order to”s, new levels of growth and delight are available.  When we practice, do, or take on something for its own sake, we free ourselves to play and dance.  What we do becomes a self-expression, leaving us energized and fulfilled.

And In that space, we love it.

 

* As distinct from earning a living.

** Or we don’t want to admit it to ourselves…