November 26, 2014


"Sifu, why do all martial arts teachers tell their students that they shouldn't fight? Isn't fighting what the martial arts is all about?"

I Ching : #60 Chieh: Limitation ( K'an - The abysmal, over Tui - The Joyous. Water over Lake. A lake is a body of water that has fixed boundaries. Limits. If the lake's capacity is exceeded, it overflows. Limitation also means "measured response". 

Limitations can be troublesome, but they can also be effective. If we know, for example, that we can afford to purchase only an inexpensive item but cannot resist going beyond our means to purchase an expensive one, we'll exceed our limits and we'll suffer for it. The superior man knows his limitations in all things. He measures his responses carefully, especially when it comes to correct conduct.

Of course, the martial arts is about fighting. But it is also about self-defence, self-respect and understanding.  As a spiritual martial art as is Chan Quan, our ego's our hate, greed, lust and ignorance are our true foe.

A standing army trains constantly for war; but just because the soldiers practice combat skills doesn't mean they are getting ready to go to war. The training exists to keep them ready and prepared in the event that they may have to go to war. A well-trained fighting force exudes the kind of self-confidence that acts as a deterrent to war. Opponents are always less likely to attack if they know their intended victim can efficiently defend himself. 

Just as it is for the military, it is also for the martial artist. He trains his body and mind to prepare for war and to maintain a defensive readiness; but more than this, he also trains as a spiritual warrior, for spiritual growth.

Hsu Yun said that we should try to cultivate the poise of a clock that keeps ticking in a thunderstorm. This, too, is a measured response.

There are two parts that comprise the martial arts; "martial" which is the physical attribute and "art" which makes it an art form. In order for the martial arts to truly be an art form it must possess beauty, grace and creativity. Without one or all of these things it would not be much of an art. 

 To be martial artists, we must also posses a love and admiration for what we do. Because we are artists, not simply fighters, we cannot ignore this essential aspect of our training. Anybody can fight, but not everyone can fight with art and discipline and respect for limits.

Here's another example: because a pianist or guitarist can play well, doesn't mean he is going to do a world tour or become a major recording artist. He may play as proficiently as he does because he enjoys playing and loves music.

In a very real sense, the smart martial artist learns the ways of combat so he doesn't have to fight. He learns to see a possible hostile situation and, before it can erupt into violence, he seeks to defuse it. He tries always to take appropriate action. This skill helps him avoid any possible conflicts. With the correct attitude, the skilled martial artist will respect his own abilities. He will fear what harm he can do and this will help to keep his anger and aggression contained and not have them inflame a situation.

If someone learns the martial arts only because he wants to fight he is destroying the very essence of the martial arts. He can expect disaster.

These are the reasons for why martial arts teachers warn their students not to use what they learn without due cause. Control means a measured response and a respect for limits.