November 1, 2014

Chan Quan, Part 1

"Sifu, could you explain what Chan Quan is exactly? What are the elements that separate it from all other martial arts?"

Answering these questions will take a bit more explaining than I have previously given. At the outset it's important to understand that Chan Quan - "True Chan Quan" - cannot be adequately labeled or explained by placing limits on it. We encounter paradoxes: in movement there is no movement. Life is full of contradictory sayings and concepts which appear impenetrable to the untrained mind and eye.

There are two sides to everything. I will explain Chan Quan as I teach it - in two stages. The first stage includes the four basic parts, and the second lists the methods of cultivating the Chan mind.

The first part of the first stage involves physical training. This training consists of physical conditioning, which includes making muscles, tendons and ligaments healthy and strong. This is done through correct breathing during postures, and sets of movements that develop coordination, balance etc.

The second part is the mental training. This aspect deals with the correct use of movement, the how and why of everyday movement and especially movement in combat situations. This, it saddens me to say, is where most martial arts finish.

The third part is the physical and spiritual training. This is where the practitioner learns how to humble himself before his practice and how he should perform his movements in a meditative manner. He also learns a sitting meditation practice. Where there is a clear, relaxed, healthy and strong body there is a mind of similar state.

The fourth method is the mental and spiritual training. The practitioner learns how to properly focus his mind and to bring it under control. He learns to cultivate and visualize his spiritual energy called Chi. Chi is also known as the vital energy existing in all things. Chi binds together the living and the dead, the animate and inanimate.

In the stage of cultivating Chan mind, we unite the teachings given above, understanding that all are a product of the mind alone. Our mind needs to categorize and to make sense of everything it comes into contact with. Without this ability we tend to create false views, to become opinionated, and make incorrect judgments about people, places and things. The truth becomes unclear and our mind seems covered by mist. We become egotistical, greedy, and lustful, and fall easily into temptation. These things will do nothing but cause pain and suffering.

We are taught in the first stage that a movement is a movement, and then that a movement is no longer a movement, because no movement is movement and movement is no movement. Confusing? This is again simply a product of our mind. To reach spiritual enlightenment we need to go through the training that leads to the unification of the opposites. We have to enter the stage of the Chan mind.

I need to point out that Chan Quan is not a religious practice, although for some practitioners it can be. It's important to understand that Chan Quan is about the life with which we all share. There is something for everyone regardless of other religious affiliations. The ultimate goal of Chan Quan is spiritual enlightenment cultivated through physical, mental, and spiritual faculties.

Namo Amitofo!