Saturday, December 17, 2011

Circus of Gladiators


For a martial artist  a martial arts demonstration is a place to learn and evaluate movements and ideas. Seeing the power of other styles can lead to gateways of how to unlock more potential power within our own art. There is nothing quite as fulfilling as feeling connected with such a long historic brotherhood.

Because the arts were designed out of war the demonstrations and friendly competitions are a great way to appreciate other martial artists without having to kill each other. These arts were developed in a severe time that most societies to date have completely forgotten about. Martial arts masters  had a status as respected as a doctor or police. Many of them were very wealthy because they often protected those who wanted to protect their money.

With the introduction of new technology martial artists were forgotten to the world. As my father often says, "They threw the baby out with the bath water." Leaving martial artists today in a world that teeters between gladiators and the circus.

Martial artists in a ring beating on other martial artists for the entertainment of a world that doesn't even want to understand them. Or worse the martial artists that have taken all of the nutrients out of their art in order to make it entertaining to the untrained eye. Ring fighting, no matter how good you are, will leave you eventually broken and empty. A martial artist who uses the art to dazzle people will never be quite as impressive as a true circus acrobat. Both are pathways that will leave both the practitioner as well as the art without meaning.

I'm not saying that demonstrations or competitions are bad. In fact they can be stepping stones that can help us find our direction. Still we have to look at what society sees us as, as a whole. Think about what kind of demonstration that Bruce Lee would do. He would do his best to share with an audience that doesn't understand, the power of martial arts. He would never show you a bunch of fancy meaningless moves because he cares for the art too much.

If you ask a doctor to perform for you, what do you think he would say? Of course doctors have demonstrations for other doctors to further and pass along knowledge just as true martial arts demonstrations. Yet a doctor performing for someone who doesn't understand medicine, is a waste of everyone's time. So should the medical industry suddenly try to find a way to make themselves more entertaining to the public? Should they put fireworks inside of arteries so they may gain a greater reaction from the crowd. A doctor cares about his duties and responsibilities. It should be the same for martial artist. The question is, "Do you know the purpose of your art?"

Some would say, "If you don't try to entertain people, then no one is going to want to see your art." I have two answers for this person. The first one is that someone who only seeks to be entertained would never become a martial artist anyway. They want to find something to fill the void in their own bored life. If I entertain a crowd of thousands, I may pull in ten or twenty good students. Students that came because they felt something within.

Secondly if I change my art for the purpose of entertainment then I will become an entertainer instead of a martial artist. Fighting people for the approval of others exposes the weakness within myself. Am I not confident enough to do my art for me?


That being said, it's time for us as martial artists to show the world our true strength. We are more powerful than your guns and fancy cars. Our life may not be as shiny as the lifestyles on MTV cribs, but we have purpose. Purpose is something that many actors and TV stars act out in a movie. But when they go home and face themselves in the mirror they know that they are not truly heroes. They feel as empty as anyone who has yet to do something meaningful. We who choose to better ourselves, strengthen our lives, educate our peers and protect our loved ones, are the true heroes. Martial arts is just a tool to be used to dig out the most from your life. Don't get used by the ignorance of the masses.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

誰看錯功夫?



     
  小時候三兄弟都不約而同的認為,成為ㄧ位武術高手比醫師或律師來的令我們更值得去追求與尊崇,當時我們壓根不覺的有比練功夫更好的生活方式。學習武術近30年的時間,見到功夫悠久的歷史背景下,產生出現今神祕且多元的表現方式 。



    
       我們三兄弟很小的時候就認為功夫就是要實戰實打,二十多年前種族歧視的社會依然嚴重衝刺著我們的生活,幼小心靈要防遇的不只是語言攻擊,還包括身體,所以學習武術不只是打為了好玩或興趣,我們是打為了我們的自尊,我們的命。我們喜歡練拳沈浸在武術的世界裡,看見自己日益強壯的身心靈,但我們實在不覺的真正的攻擊傷害別人是開心的事。終於我們一家人搬到一個不用每天搏鬥的環境,當然我們沒有就因此間斷,還是天天在練,還是一天比一天進步,還是每個禮拜找到不同門派(截拳道  忍術 合氣道  拳擊  泰國拳 巴西拳...等)的老師或是志同道合的人切磋切比劃與學習。

       之後我跟大哥都很幸運能找到ㄧ群真的喜好將武術實以用之的老師,接著十七歲在西岸的武術比賽拿到了冠軍,雖然冠軍這個頭銜是好的象徵,但我依然感到空虛,因為對予我來說打得比別人好,不表示我的程度在提高,反而是一種停滯。我開始思考起比賽的意義,是否贏得只是膚淺的歡呼聲,只是種驕傲的證明而已。習武十四的我,十八歲,我已經很難找到我心目中的老師,所以我開始自己成為老師,授課。我發現當我在教人的時候,其實自己才獲益良多,在這過程中我遇到一位台灣的朋友,他說:『要學更多的功夫,就必須學中文。』

      當我真正開始學習中文候後才發現,我對武術的歷史知識和了解還不透徹也不夠豐富。當時我們三兄弟都是已開始傳授他人武術一段時間。一天,二哥給我看一個影片,而其中一段是在解釋八卦掌,第一次看到它就決定有一天一定要找到最完整的八卦掌,在我學習中文三年後,學校剛好有機會能把我送去中國交換學生。中國浩大,要找到ㄧ位真正好的功夫老師其實不易,尋尋覓覓下,我還是找到八卦掌老師學習了半年時間,回到美國馬上想與兩個習武兄弟過幾招,讓他們見識我新學的功夫,出乎自己意料的,我被打的是落花流水。我開始意識到武功的理論與實際搏鬥的差別,但我繼續每天練我學過的拳法,只是希望能更進一步找到功夫的精髓。接著,這是我人生的轉捩點,台灣!



    兩年的時間,兩年尋找師父的時光,終於我遇到我的師父,柔身連環八卦掌掌門人吳國正先生。我想,師父兩字即是老師以及父親的意思,非常清楚描述了吳國正先生在我心中的重大意義,他帶我進入了真正屬於高手的武林世界,帶給我無限的關懷教誨,並帶領我探討文化歷史外,更別說八卦掌那八千八百三百年也練不完的動作了,我遇到對我人生中最需要保護傳承的珍寶,八卦掌。勤奮辛苦的跟師父練了五年的時間,不論颳風下雨或工不工作我都堅持每天練上三個小時,因為我不知道什麼時候,我又必須回美國。

    當我接受了如此淵博珍貴的武術精神洗滌下,我突然發現別人想要看到的功夫並不是真正的功夫,而是有如馬戲團只是快速飛躍彈跳,喊叫式的表演,在功夫以外的世界的人不是不屑一顧覺得沒有用,就是不了解什麼才是功夫,正因為如此,不幸的是真正的武術正在慢慢的消聲暱跡,所以,我現在在美國練武不是因為還像孩童時想要打某人亦或表演比賽,而是為了給人正確的教育,幫人找到屬於自己的力量。如今,我依舊一往如常,不論下多大的雪,下雨或是天氣多麼酷熱,我堅持天天練下去,為的是下ㄧ代不會遺忘我們,我不再浪費我的拳做很多只是“表面功夫”的事,我的掌是用來豐富別人,在功夫上指點迷津,還給功夫該存在的立足和地位價值,用我所有的精神告訴這世界,真正的功夫才是最精彩最值得一看的。




Saturday, December 3, 2011

The secret of the Roses



In the midst of my search of better ways to fight, think and react to life, something stumbles upon me. I get sick. Something about the viruses in America being different than the ones of my home in Taiwan. It could also be related to the stress of not knowing which country I will be settled in. Always continually searching for the place that the seeds of Bagua will be most fertile, I find myself awake at night with possibilities and ideas. I am usually able to keep sickness at bay  through my Qi training, but some days you're just destined to get sick.

As my body shuts down my mind turns on and casts lights at shadowed questions in the room.  The loudest question being the one all martial artists continually ask, "How do I get better?" Next to a cup of used tissues I scan across videos of the masters I met in Taiwan. While watching the videos I felt I was with them again as we exchanged different ideas on what it meant to "Get better."

We spoke of different theories and concepts about power development, focus and life.  The discussions were important, but not nearly as important as the conversation that took place without words. Every gesture and facial expression said far more than the polite words that were spoken about the tea. I payed attention to every detail and movement that was made amongst the masters. After a person has practiced thousands of movements, millions of times, they even breath differently.

With this sickness in my system, I was certainly breathing differently. Coughing through out the night, filling my system with medicines of all kinds, I managed to keep a good mood. I may not have learned the  kung fu that prevents you from getting sick (like many masters), but I have learned that a bad attitude weakens your spirit. The last thing you want when your body is all ready breaking down, is a side order of emotional issues. So when you feel the sickest, it's most important to smile!

After all, the flesh battle pales in comparison to what is really going on. I know that all forms of sickness have demonic roots. And when the mind ponders on self pity the roots strengthen the trees of  aggravation. Dark thoughts only bear poisonous fruit.

So while I lie in my bed filled with Qi and Nyquil, I keep my thoughts on the blessings of all the new training I will begin when the virus leaves. If this sickness was permitted by God, then I know there is something good within the extra mucus. Besides it was so close to Thanksgiving and I had much to be thankful for.

When the headache receded I began to practice my Chinese characters. I've learned that calligraphy is directly connected to the sword, and I was getting sick of not knowing the secrets within my sheath.  The point of either the pen or sword, is it must be guided with the hand, but the energy is from elsewhere.

"Elsewhere" is the place of many martial arts secrets. A land with a language so secretive that it can't be uttered. It may only be hinted in a hidden, unspoken conversation that appeared to be about tea, wine or whatever.

As I wrote characters I recollected on how I saw one master who appeared to be old and frail, grasp a heavy jug of water and pour the massive weight as if it was filled with helium.  I smiled as I took my cup of tea and pretended not to notice just as the other masters. I felt at many times I was a martial arts detective searching for clues of each master's power. The only thing I was able to find was that each master had a connection to another skill that appeared to be unrelated to his martial art, but they somehow strengthened each other.

The sword master's handwriting was startling. I peeped over as he wrote a personal note to his kid, it looked like it should be posted in a museum somewhere. The master historian spoke of details and developments of each style that had only been written in books that had been burned. The heavy master's eyes scanned the room with a flush red face and genuine smile. He looked over weight, but he was the only one they classified as a kung fu genius. He had the ability to master any technique after just seeing it one time. I raised my glass showing my appreciation to my own master who had become a second father over the years.


"Tailong your master's fortune is in your hands. How will you pass it to the next generation?" The Taichi master asked.

This was the question that I didn't answer because I knew no words would be appropriate. It was this question that lead to me over training and getting sick in the first place.

When Thanksgiving arrived I was almost fully recovered aside from the occasional sniffle and cough. My wife read movements at random choosing from thousands within the text that my master has given.

"Pressing Palm Counter, Intercepting Kick, Reverse Palm Break" She reads as I move from technique to technique. Though I am fluent with every technique, I am searching for something that lies between the movements. Another epiphany that can help me further highlight my style. My wife had been around all the masters and had been a key factor in my journey. She seems to always know what I'm looking for without having to explain it. I'm blessed to be able to talk with her for hours about martial arts without her ever tiring.

"Come on man we gotta eat sometime Mr. Kung Fu." My brother Eddie said as he finished his own training in the other room. I admire both of my brothers who were on the same path as myself. Yet the power I feel when we exchange is from a completely different source.

Aaron has become like an immovable stone connected to the Earth. Only my most practiced techniques were able to move his solid energy. Eddie had become burning fire, the slightest touch would burn the tendons within my wrists and forearms. They referred to me as the wind, as I used the art of changes to manipulate and control the outcome. My brothers have always been the key to discovery within my training. I enjoy the miracle that we have all trained nonstop since we were four. We have our own hidden conversations amongst the table, but we have seen enough to know that we are still very young masters with much to learn.

When the holiday passes I begin my sword training anew. I leave my sword at home because I feel it is distracting me from my understanding. I find time before, after and between work to squeeze as many hours as possible out of the QIng Ping Sword. After a week of diligence I feel that something has changed. An energy suddenly flowed through me that disorients me. I bring my training to an end for the day thinking I'm light headed because I'm still not completely recovered.

A week later it is my wife's birthday and my sickness still tries to hide behind my lungs. I buy a dozen roses and place them on my dresser to surprise my wife. She sleeps soundly as I begin to practice techniques in the mirror. As I move I can feel a connection between me and the roses. They whisper to me a secret that energizes my technique. The beauty and power in their design blends within my style. My practice with the sword had opened a new gate way that was as delicate as the pedals reflected in my mirror. As I our energies combine my soul heats the entire room allowing me to unleash a new found power.

"You found it." My wife said while rubbing her eyes, excited for me.

"I guess it's a birthday for both of us." I said to her while giving her a hug.

I felt the phlegm in my system emerge as I spit the virus out of my body entirely. I knew I was fully recovered and now ready to begin a new level of training. I think I will call it, "The sword of roses."