Archive for Gongfu

Baseless

Posted in Asceticism, Buddhism, Fighting, genius, God(s), karma, martial arts, Monasticism, Mysticism, Philosophy, Reality Bites, Religion, society, tai chi, taijiquan, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , on January 21, 2010 by wizardsmoke

So, the big question on everyone’s my mind is whether or not martial arts teachers, yoga instructors, and their religious gurus are “enlightened”. In stuff like Tibetan guru yoga, you are supposed to view your teacher as enlightened — sometimes even if they aren’t. It’s part of the practice. I don’t do it, but it makes sense as a practice, in order to discover your belief is malleable and useful to that end. There is no god(s) if you don’t believe in them, and vice versa.

Although Taijiquan is my big psycho-physical investment at the moment, I am willing to believe it’s not the same spiritual ace-in-the-hole for other people. How could it be so? People need to be unique, independent. But at the same time, the big problem of human existence is social friction. How do we deal with other people? This is a big portion of Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy: the existence of another creates a new perception of oneself and one’s surroundings. They are no longer a portion of selfless existence, but exist in contrast to oneself.

Amidst others, we seek to validate our own views, yet for what reason? There is opposition to all views, and human reason and rationale is endless. It is supremely difficult to co-exist with others in peace. And peace is a difficult subject to address, because the moment it is broached and given our conscious attention, it ceases to exist. It is simply the absence of conflict, and the absence of selfish views. But that’s too often misconstrued as being a doormat.

The other strange thing is that, although Taijiquan or dream yoga or Alexander technique or Zen or Sufi or Benedictine chant or whatever else may work for some people, these practices are not guarantors of ability or insight. They are more like rocket boosters that can change one’s mental, physical or spiritual trajectory, but the original trajectory for real insight has to be there in the first place. Those are prior causes, the manifestation of which is natural genius. But then for some reason, hard work seems way more important.

Killer Apps

Posted in Exercise, Fighting, martial arts, Stayin' Alive, Ultimate Reality, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by wizardsmoke

The idea of martial art forms and applications… forms are just a method of meditation and ingraining solid body mechanics and physical movement into the practitioner. Forms in karate, gongfu, whatever — they’re always wider, exaggerated movements than when the “moves” are actually being “used”. But the funny thing about forms is how they, like any position the body finds itself in, can have “martial applications”.

What MA nuts love about fighting gurus is the way they can make offensive/defensive use of every physical situation they get into. In other words, for an experienced fighter, every physical position that exists becomes one with martial applications. In that sense practicing the forms are just like practicing musical scales and exercises — they appear over and over everywhere, and thus are re-emphasized. They just appear more subtly in the gist of actual movement (melodies and harmonies).

This is why it’s so funny to watch super-tough bouncers show “applications” of Taiji/Tai Chi movements. Because experienced fighters could show you the application of any movement — opening the refrigerator, turning on a lamp (the titty-twister!), throwing a frisbee, clapping your hands, drinking a beer, and so on. Destruction is available from any angle at all times — it just takes the right intent and structural coordination. A deeply experienced fighter can pull it out of anywhere. A person who is an expert with one move can pull it out of almost anywhere if you aren’t paying attention.

So on this level, everything in existence is a form that can be utilized to one’s advantage. So I suppose in practicing MA, this is what one learns — not killer death moves or street fighting talent — but a nuanced, complete understanding of the patterns and ways our bodies move and connect to each other. In this regard, I like the adage at Weakness with a Twist — that we should cultivate weakness. The weaker we are, the more perfectly we move. Everything is an application in progress.

Flow’s Way

Posted in Buddhism, Daoism, Fighting, martial arts, Monasticism, Religion, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Somewhere along the way, internal martial artists and “soft” Aikido-type people got the impression that being gentle was the path to power. But really, the point is that experts on power no longer have to use much effort to exert themselves. It becomes subtle, natural, easy. I think when the Dao De Jing says things about soft overcoming the hard, it really means that the strong or unyielding are destroyed by the flow or tide of the world, mostly because they don’t take the time to recognize the changing direction of life.

Hatsumi’s philosophy interested me for the way it turned me on to one major concept: that one resists illusion and the destruction of powerful people by failing to stand out. Normally this sounds like some mass-religious peasant nonsense, but I am willing to accept that his message tells us to live internally aloof from the way of the world.

But if one has no interest/investment in the world at large, they will become a martyr or a loner. And one with strong interests in the world (“the world” being material wealth, power and prestige, sexual desire and conquest — basically violence, anger, greed and lust) will often become blind to their own presence and actions.

One must go with the flow in life because the flow is life. Even the most powerful people are destroyed if they resist the flow of life and society. However, on the other hand, it seems a person becomes self-aware by resisting the flow of the world, purportedly pointed out by the Buddha upon achieving awakening (religious figures! yay!). I really would like to believe that some people are so totally beyond the competitive world that they just aren’t moved to act in its vicious ways. But resistance is not enacted by some mystical nonsense, it’s all done by people like you and me. It’s not hard at all to do, it just takes persistent effort. The effort that happens right now is easy, it’s just hard to keep doing something consistently. And I think that’s what I forgot to mention in that slightly delusional post about martial arts enlightenment the other day: martial enlightenment is possibly the ability to keep going regardless of one’s circumstances.

I just wonder where all this interpretation that internal martial arts are magically soft and relaxed, and therefore stronger than “normal fighting” (a debate continuously ruminated over on the Formosa Neijia blog). Every martial art is fundamentally the same (in their original theories, not how they are dogmatically taught) because there is only so much efficiency to moving the body. I happen to think some arts like Taijiquan and Baguaquan merely have a much better teaching method of transmitting the body’s subtle movements and personal health and combat applications. This does not make them internal or mystical, it just makes them more complete “boxing” strategies. I feel like older dudes don’t need to spar (and probably shouldn’t) because their perception of space and intent is so developed from their rougher, younger days. 85 year old dudes may not still be able to drop kick you in the face so easily, but some of them sure as hell can still toss you around in push-hands.

But everyone who practices something long enough will figure out how to make it work. That’s why all success is only hard work. Even if you suck or are magnificent, your hard work will be the final word. And individuality, internal individuality compared to the flow of the world — that takes a lot of work.

Eight basic energies

Posted in Exercise, martial arts, Mysticism, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , on August 26, 2008 by wizardsmoke

In the magical science of Taijiquan, there are eight basic movements. They are the fundamental ways to react to oncoming force and neutralize it. A lot of martial arts and philosophies actually have eight basic movements/ideas/potentials, so it’s not that big of deal (or maybe that means it is). But I’m just talking about Taijiquan here so lets keep moving.

These basic movements all represent a kind of energy. When you’re pulling someone off balance, you’re using cai or “pulling” energy. When you suddenly expand your arms to block a hooking punch, you’re using peng or “ward-off” energy. There are distinct moves in Taijiquan forms that implement these basic movements; in fact the forms are pretty much exclusively made up of variations on them. But the thing is, we can’t get attached to the actual movements themselves. We want to implement into our minds, as if some kind of full-body hermetic tantra, the ideas behind these various energies.

So the eight basic movements really exist symbolically. That means, every time something expands, it is peng energy. Every time something is efficiently shrouded and deflected, that’s lu or “roll-back” energy. Within these definitions, the movements work like the Hermetic ideas about the elements — that fire represents expansion and the notion of heat, whereas water represents contraction and the fundamental notion of cold. Similarly, in Chinese five-element philosophy, the elements are (obviously) symbolic. For example, metal symbolizes things rendered and removed from direct association with the earth or elements (tools, technology, and so forth).

The movement of various energies becomes a mental exercise. After training with physical structural concepts for a while, one practices with others, and here one becomes adept at maintaining utmost single-pointed concentration side-by-side with sensitive “listening” skills. By harmonizing the basic energies with the body movements, one begins to respond appropriately to physical engagements by perceiving the duifang (uke, opponent, whatever) intimately in the mind — as a subtler mental manifestation. This is where one begins to “see into the 4th dimension”.

What really kicks ass about all this is that one gets to the point where the physical senses no longer are the primary sense faculties. They certainly are in so much as they indicate immediate qualitative distinctions in the immediate physical environment to the individual’s brain. But they cannot project onto our minds the bigger cosmic picture, they cannot sense predators or impending catastrophe. It is only as these peripheral, intuitive mental faculties increase in sensitivity from our training (again, not necessarily MA or Taiji), a greater awareness of the universe opens up.

The Way of ‘Smoke

Posted in Buddhism, Fighting, martial arts, Reality Bites, Religion with tags , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by wizardsmoke

It’s un-Buddhist to be a martial artist, right? Everyone should live in a vanilla-flavored paradise where we all get along for ever and ever, amen. There are insecure macho types, as well as sadists, who become fascinated with martial arts and wear it on their sleeves for all to see and televise. Eventually these people become experts. Some of them even claim to say violence is bad — when they themselves are obsessed with violence!

But… isn’t religious doctrine a response to the way the world is? Isn’t that a similar indoctrination along the lines of what martial artists are teaching, that one should not get carried away by the aggressive nature and activities of the world? Sure, there are messed up martial arts teachers, maybe more so than religious teachers, but I don’t think that’s any more surprising than the amount of crappy people in any profession, social group or hobby.

It’s just worrisome that fighters physically hurt people. Even when you go to a class to learn or practice fighting, you feel violated after someone hurts you unexpectedly; even after you’ve heard a million times that you should expect to get injured in learning a martial art.

I think just as many people become evil lawyers, businessman, politicians, gangsters, pornographers, oilmen, mercenaries, or spies. Some of them are probably attracted to the martial arts too, but the arts themselves are neutral — insofar as they exist. Practicing over the years has never made me enjoy violence or think about it more. Instead, I don’t react very emotionally to actual physical pain, I’ve learned to sense intents right away and I yield or react very naturally and smoothly when someone or something is about to hit me. But some would say, certain professions are devoid of neutrality, right? Like being an assassin, or an oilman, or a mercenary, or a gangster. How can these people be neutral or decent? Some people will actually say the same thing about martial artists or anyone who practices these things seriously, or tells you Taijiquan is a violent martial art (which it is).

Sure, the Taiji forms usually emphasize movements that old people and sick or injured people can do too. But it’s because the person’s ability and structural strength is built up over time. At Weakness With a Twist, a bunch of good posts were made regarding the subject, that muscles often develop to make up for a structural imbalance creating stiffness and pain. Cleaning up one’s structure melts away excessive muscles and allows one to move without relying on them.

That’s the “magical” part of Taijiquan that makes doctors or Buddhists or whomever else approve of it. But it’s pretty freakin’ hard to get the full benefits of Taiji without learning the full martial skillset. A lot of people decry martial arts because they find the stuff intimidating or dysfunctional. They don’t want to put the hard work into practice. Doing some kind of meditation every day is pretty hard in itself, just like doing anything everyday is pretty hard. Yet I find it’s easier to be a little lazy with meditation practice. With martial arts practice, if you don’t put total effort into it every time, you’ll immediately realize you’re wasting your time when somebody (your buddy) smooshes your pretty-boy nose. One perfect nose, ruined forever! Bam!

Blah blah blah, gong fu (lifelong virtuous work) is amazing. Not really. It’s like blogging. Who’s in it for the long haul? Blogging everyday, even when you feel like shit, just because you have to is more gongfu-relevant than the people who go on meditation retreats once a year and then just sit with a group once a week the rest of the time.