Posts Tagged ‘kung fu’

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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…

 

 

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Philosophy Tuesday

November 13, 2018

If you want to draw water,

You do not dig six one-foot wells.

You dig one six-foot well.

Variations on this phrase have been attributed to many great philosophers and thinkers over the years (be it Sufi or Buddha or some other), but no matter its origin (which I’d wager is more likely to be pedestrian rather than profound), it remains a lovely little didactic parable that nicely encapsulates a number of philosophical hooks to leap from.

For one, it can be taken as a tale of intention and perseverance: “To flit about and abandon things quickly may not always yield that which will slake your thirst.”

It may also be taken as a tale of collaboration and unity: “When we dig only for ourselves, we come up short; when we dig together, we can reach rewards of superabundance.”

And for me, the most profound comes when I take it this way: “Remember that there are many valid paths, and everyone ends up drinking from the same water.  We don’t need to divide ourselves based on the specific well.  The important part is that we are digging our well, that our well aims true, and that we dig deep enough to reach the water of spirit and enlightenment.”

In both martial and philosophical arts, I have found that any “style” or “method” or “philosophy” developed to a high level begins to sound the same.  They start talking about the same things.  They have to.  Because we are all the same human body, and the same human being.  They may talk about things differently, or have different conceptual frameworks, but ultimately they are all pointing to the same thing.  The same water.

Search to find a good spot for a well.  Set yourself down.  And start digging.

When you find another drinking from a different well, revel in the water below.  Look down their well to see what new things might reflect back for you.   Share the experiences of the waters you have reached.

When we cease our flitting, begin our digging, work together to bore downward, and support each other in our well building efforts, we can all reach and revel in that sweet, cool, water below.

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Philosophy Tuesday

August 28, 2018

One of the activities the Black Rock Kwoon often hosted was a push hands* meetup organized by the Dread Pirate Lee.  It was a great time to meet fellow practitioners and to get to push against a wide variety of people from all sorts of backgrounds, lineages, and experience levels.

One year, mid-way through, I began to develop a sense of something.  Taking it on as an inquiry for the rest of the meetup, I began to formulate a principle/theory I quickly coined as the Tai Chi Push Hands Skill Differential Exponential Experience Factor (or TCPHSDEEF for short**):

If I have 1 level of skill, and you have 1 level of skill, to me it will feel like you have 1 level of skill.

If I have 1 level of skill, and you have 1.1 level of skill, to me it will feel like you have 1.25 level of skill.

If I have 1 level of skill, and you have 1.5 level of skill, to me it will feel like you have 3 level of skill.

If I have 1 level of skill, and you have 3 level of skill, to me it will feel like you are a god.

As the skill differential grows, the one with the greater skill gains the multi-whammy ability to be more relaxed, have less openings, sense the other’s movements and openings with greater clarity, and has the techniques to be able to engage those openings, AND those techniques will have greater subtlety, compounding the lesser sensitivity on the other side to respond before flump!  You’re off balance.

The upshot of it was this: when I pushed against those at higher skill levels than me, it almost always felt like I was light years behind (both physically in the movements/responses but also metaphorically), being tossed this way and that.  On the other side of the skill coin, however, it mattered little what my partner would send my way, even if I was unfamiliar with the technique.  I could remain centered and able to redirect with seeming ease.  I felt very much in control.

While the idea of the compounding nature of skill, and the abilities that it grants us, was important enough, it was the experience, the feeling, that came with that really struck me (and stuck with me).

Especially as this, as they so often do, ranges far beyond just implications for the martial arts.

No matter what skill we may aim to develop, whether it be tennis or skiing, drawing or cooking, working or playing, listening, giving, caring, or even in the realm of profound skills such as being peaceful, generous, passionate, expressed, loving… for any of those skills it means that the high level of ability is actually closer than we might think.

For one, that compounding nature works in our favour.  But more importantly, it further means that things that may seem out of reach are not really that out of reach.  We need not accuse ourselves of lacking talent, or fall into “I can never…”, or relegate ourselves to the dustbins along the margins.

It is nigh-well inevitable that we compare ourselves with others and their skill level(s), but any vast gulf that seems to scream at us that we (still) suck is illusionary and, in actuality, an overly dramatic scream.

We may see someone, interact with someone, be with someone, and come away with the feeling that they so own that skill that it must be ingrained, and I must have an equally ingrained difficulty with it.  And yet that feeling is just the Skill Differential Exponential Experience Factor (SDEEF for short…?) at play.

Thus, we can let that feeling be the feeling, and continue to play.  For that is what great push hands is, play.  You play, you teach, you learn, and ultimately grow, enjoying the moment now and enjoying the fruits and fulfillment that comes with the ever-deepening skill.

 

* Push Hands is a practice from Tai Chi to develop the basic concepts of sensitivity, following, emptying, redirecting, and effortless pushing, beginning with simple drills where one partner pushes while the other receives and empties, followed by a switch in roles, continually back and forth.

** Well, OK, not really for short…

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What’s the opposite of a KF epiphany?

June 5, 2018

Well… continuing to explore that crazy amazing insight, I’ve hit that point where now nothing seems to work anymore, where all the amazing feelings and results from just last week now I cannot reproduce one iota and everything falls apart at the lightest push.

When you deepen your understanding and dive into a new or deeper concept, the masters have noted, it will feel as though you are beginning all over.

So, intellectually I know this is on the path, but dang if it still ain’t a bit demoralizing!

And I’ve already got the next practice scheduled to keep on playing.