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The Fighting Arts in the Way

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Often enough in Gong Fu or Tai Ji Quan classes we talk about fighting, personal defense, we learn to respond to possible attacks … But is it really that necessary?

Today the probabilities are not so high, unless we ask for it, that we have to apply all these techniques in such conditions.

There is no need to fight, to collect self-defense techniques to achieve an evolution and to feel better in one’s life. 

Depending on individual needs, be more present in one’s actions and succeeding in fighting against stress are sufficient.

There are many techniques, teachings and a multitude of spiritual ways that can meet these expectations.

One way or another, all paths lead to the same thing: feeling better, closer to one’s real self, being a better person and sharing this relaxed state with other people.

But in this case, there is no need to seek fighting arts: to practice them, violence must be understood in a practical and real manner. If we study any form of combat without being clear about what we do, without really knowing the thrust of the teaching we follow, staying in a nebulous position for years, we just lose time.

With urban life we meet hundreds of people every day, and although some are just silhouettes for us, it is necessary to have a better understanding of the relationship with the others. One facet of it, and we can see that every day, is the possibility of confrontation. This relationship can go from a simple exchange of looks to a real violent conflict: of course it is exaggerated!

Even in this exaggeration, we can realize just how often it is difficult to say what we think, we don’t want to disturb, we are afraid … The fear of the other is as unfounded than the need to practice martial arts.

The two-person training, in martial disciplines, allows for once to go after a contact with the other, directly through the body, as less intellectually as possible. Through a better physical understanding of the other person, through a better feeling of the center and the axis of the body, we understand ourself a little better. This relationship to the other in the exercise allows to feel more than to think, it is par excellence an honest relationship.

I often have people telling me about their practice in clubs, which are often “sport” clubs, where the whole teaching implied to come once to five times a week to dress up, to bow in fornt of portraits of old masters that they don’t know, to lock themselves in a ritual which is  far from everyday life, and then return to their life. A majority of these people got no benefit from these sometimes long years of practice.

First, we have to learn what practice really is:

It is a work that is done alone, only for ourself, and where the teacher has little significance.

Besides, a bad teacher who passes a corrupt practice, can bring us the desired results if we practice honestly.

The moment our practice is the most important is never a peaceful moment: if we need Qi Gong it is because we need energy, and because we are rarely in a quiet state of mind. The moments when meditation, when the meditative state, are most needed, are moments of breakdown. Once again, the fighting arts give us the best example: the only times we have to use what we know to defend ourself, we are rarely ready, and almost never in the right mindset.

If the practice is a ritual, separated from everyday life, it is unlikely that it can be useful.

The first thing that keeps from using the knowledge of our practice is fear. The best way to go against fear is to confront it in a gradual yet regular manner: the fighting arts are one of the healthiest ways to do so.

How many people feel this need to drive fast, to throw themselves in the sheer drop only attach to a spring, to drink or eat too much, to have all these behaviors which are kind of a way to defy death? In this challenge is the need to cross swords with fear, a bit like when watching horror movies or reading scaring stories.

The primordial energy of the body, which in chinese medicine comes from the kidneys, is related to fear. If the general energy of the body is weak, we feel afraid of all things, we sleep poorly, we have trouble digesting food…

In the animal kingdom, deep into the heart of one given species, there are the peaceful ones and the fearful ones. When you look closer, the fearful ones are often those who are sick, injured, easy preys for potential predators. They are not better nor worse than the others, they are just in a moment of weakness and they know it’s dangerous. Few animals remain in this state, either because they heal and become strong again, or because they get killed by a predator.

In humans, it is not uncommon for this condition to persist, to become a way of life. We have no predators, or at least this is what we often believe. Someone who is always afraid will be a victim at work, in relationships with abusive people, perhaps even in the couple relationship. We are not talking about panic here, but this little anxiety which is pointless and prevents us from expressing ourself honestly about our feelings and wishes.

This is obviously not by beating people up that we will feel better, but through fighting arts we can more easily assert our personality, develop our place in the world.

This can be achieved in many ways, and all of them are good. But if instead of choosing the steep path, full of traps, that we will take by crawling, we could choose a sunny glade that we will walk across with the head up, why would we do without it?

Meditation is a difficult practice, and still so simple. It takes two things to meditate correctly:  a practical and sufficient concentration ability to do this practice. Concentration is not necessarily filled with a stiff intent, but it’s simply the ability to stay focused on something. It is possible to do this only with a peaceful and relaxed mind. This relaxation state is difficult to achieve when one is afraid of everyone, of everything and all the rest.

Qi Gong is an even simpler practice than meditation, but still so complicated. The body has to be relaxed, breathing has to be refined, emotions have to be calmed and energy has to flow freely. The first manifestation of fear is a tension in the body, a speeded up breathing rythm, an unceasing production of ideas and it is quite clear that energy cannot flow in a tensed body. Once again, we can not practice properly if we are scared.

The martial arts simply ask to be here and now, to accept the training, and to be honest in their daily practice. The ancient practice of chinese fighting arts include many exercises for mind and body, two-person exercises, methods for the training and the usage of the breath. Few exercises are physically tough, yet we clearly feel the work.

In my view, to have a real access to Qi Gong or meditation, one needs a physical practice that will help to strengthen the body and calm the mind. It is not necessary, but it is a priceless shortcut. Many physical practices meet this expectation, but to my knowledge, none does it as well as fighting arts.

It is really important to forget the idea that fighting arts are a workout session with a warm up, a codified routine practice, a little sparring at the end, and perhaps pus-ups or abs-gluts workout to finish. It is not a Gym Club!

The practice is to be learnt with the teacher and is achieved by yourself.

Every week, every month, we face a little problem: a detail on coordination, on a physical exercise, on our connection with our body…

Everyday this relationship can go further in our intimacy to ourself, to realize how much we underestimate what we really are. Within months, if we practice daily, our body changes. In a few years, we come closer to the person we really are.

The Taoist Way of Chinese internal arts is not the best way nor the worst, it is the way I know. This road leads to a transformation on people who practice, and that, quickly and every time. So I think it’s a good way, a teaching of value, anchored with deep roots.

In a world where everyone knows a little of everything about everything, where the teachings are like fast-food, where horizontal knowledge has no depth, we have to look deeper into one thing. We have to renounce patchwork practices , chakra taichi, and bring a fusion between our way and our life.

Practice, action is the Way, whereas intellectual knowledge is just one more obstacle to the liberation of the mind. We should not learn more things, read more books, attend more conferences, we just have to put some effort, some discipline and to start working.

A majority of the beginner’s practices are things he already knows, and most of the time he will let you know. But if the beginner knows intellectually these practices, he has not worked on them so far, so they are of no use to him.

Think for one second about all the wonderful practices that you have met in your researches, how much do you practice every day?

Do you see what I mean?

Before sitting still to merge our soul with the stars, to make our mind travel in the subtle spheres, before connecting the power of our body with universal energies, to exchange our breath with the earth elements, to emit energy to treat diseases, we must first be able to stand still without thinking too much.

Before thinking about meditation, to the wonders of Qi Gong, we have to work. This is rarely the funniest thing, except for those who have sought for a long time and who understand that.

Again, and according to the teachings of my school, the easiest way is first to go through the fighting arts which will work on presence and fear, in order to move on to the rest after. Before touching all the subtle things, it is good to have a healthy body and a calm mind.

This is why the fighting arts are so important in our teaching, it is our tool to go and look for further things, the door opening to new horizons. That’s all, but this requires honesty in practice. If we speak about fighting arts, we must understand violence. It is not possible in a practice based on rituals, a social relationship and the concern of other people’s opinion. It is impossible to have belts, to compete or to dress up. We just have to relax and share with the others a simple yet hard training, and to do a daily training for ourself.

Martial arts are not really for fighting, the fighting methods based on rituals, and all these fake warrior practices allow to unwind, to have fun, or even to get stuck in a stupid violence, and they surely have their place too. 

But they will rarely be of a substantial help in the discovery of ourself and in the evolution of breathing, meditative and spiritual practices. It is just a choice.

In our Tradition, we say that we need to cultivate 2 topics for actual self defense :

– Mind Intent : to Go or not Go

– Impact Power : Really Hitting Hard

And if you have time, all the rest : Speed, Stamina, Stepping….

But the Martial Arts mostly teach the rest 🙂