Monday, October 19, 2009

Your Weapon and You

In our style of Bagua there are many different types of weapons. The sword, sabre, spear, hooks, deer antlers, staff, double sticks, Guans blade, two sided spear, etc. All of the weapons have there advantages for different situations, as well as different variations. I have seen many masters that carry "special" weapons around to practice, compete, or just show how bad ass they are. My master has always told me, "Real kung fu is all about your weapon." Initially I thought I understood the meaning, but after training for a long time with the various weapons I have deepened my understanding of what the weapon's purpose is.

Of course in the times of war these weapons had many places of more obvious use. Choosing your weapons was a matter of deciding what type of strategy that you want to use kill. Disarming, penetrating armor, distance, surprise, or whatever was your most effective tool was the deciding factor. This is actually one of the more surface level understandings that I originally had about weapons. Through training I have been able to see more significant effects in my techniques barehanded directly related to my weapons training. When I train the staff my stance strengthens, the deer antlers give me better footwork, the sabre increases my trapping power, the spear gives me more snatching and palm power, Guan's blade increases internal power and endurance, and on and on. Therefore if someone favors using sword techniques, it is probably true that it helps them master another unarmed attack. This makes me especially curious about those masters with the"special" weapons.

The first stage of learning a weapon is much like ourselves when we are first born. Useless. Without training or direction we lack purpose. In a sense when we begin to master a weapon we begin to identify and master ourselves. Or maybe its better to say that the weapon is just a reflection of your personality. The hardest part of course is first getting past yourself so that you can begin to learn. I know everyone has picked up a pair of nunchucks and swung them around until BANG. Then their little dreams of being a teenage mutant ninja turtle were crushed. No pain no gain, no guts no glory, whatever doesn't kill you...blah blah blah. Do whatever you need to get back up and do it till its done.
In any case I strongly suggest that you become acquainted with a weapon from any of the arts. To master a weapon is just the same as taming a tiger. Something that may have been dangerous can turn into your protection.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Connection Between Kung Fu and Calligraphy

I have heard many times about the connection between the Chinese characters and martial arts movements. This is what actually stimulated my interest toward learning Chinese and gathering a deeper understanding of the "root" of martial arts over ten years ago. I believe it would have been impossible for me to gather such an understanding of Bagua or the internal arts without seeing and understanding the characters with my own eyes. At first glance the list of movements appears to be the explanation of the techniques and how they are practiced or applied. But there are many places where they use "words behind the words" or "meaning behind the meaning." It's almost like trying to decipher a song that Shakespeare and Tupac wrote together. Every year reviewing these scrolls and continuing my training I am able to peel a deeper level of understanding of the words and adjust my training accordingly. Don't worry you don't need to be able to understand Chinese to understand martial arts at all, I am just explaining my personal journey in the understanding of new concepts.

Recently I have focused an extra amount of time in my writing practice. Writing these complex characters over and over smaller and smaller have given me a great deal of hand control.

It is the same feeling that I have when practicing accuracy with my sword. At first you are just doing or immating the movements that you see. Through practicing yearly you begin to gain a sense of structure. A standard in how things need to be done. Through this structure you finally find real power. Then you realize that it is the same structure that has given you power, that must be forgotten in order to achieve free flowing power. Only with this free flowing power do we have a real understanding of martial arts, Chinese characters, or life.

This is the process of refining ourselves. Real martial arts, calligraphy (or whatever vehicle you choose) is about cutting away at the part of us that is a weakness. A weakness can take many forms inside of ourselves and continually distracts us from becoming free. Pride, Vanity, Fear, Greed etc. are the parts of us that are not our personallity. They are flaws that we can choose to refine out of our lives completely. First we just need to find our one focal point. Then, slowly let that expand through out the rest of our lives.

If it was easy, we'd all be masters by now. Keep up the fight of positive energy.