Philosophy

This section is devoted to information about Kung Fu. The theories and ideas expressed here are available in many books and in many versions and translations. These are how I relate to them. The first section outlines the ideas behind Zhen Xun Kung Fu as it is taught. Next is a brief outline of the history of a few of the arts taught. Then some basic definitions for term often encountered in the study of Kung Fu. This is followed by a section about theory. This section is not meant to be comprehensive, and in my experience, this information is interesting but not necessarily related to the martial aspects of Kung Fu. It is merely a way of creating some common language for practice. Finally there is a section which briefly outlines some aspects of recorded Chinese thought. This is included to provide some background information and because it is tangentially related to the academic side of Kung Fu.

 

When we think of martial arts a few things come to mind, discipline, fighting, the movies, costumes and exotic weapons to name a few. These are the outward face, and for many of us they are what brought us through the door. But these things are accessories to the art. And while fun and interesting they can get in the way. We need to become and remain clear about what our goals are. Clarity is the first principle. We must seek to become more and more clear over time.

When we look at the image above, it creates an image of balance. This is the next principle. Physically we need balance to move and do our forms. Emotionally it is important to remain balanced, especially when training (especially with a partner). Without balance we are constantly struggling or falling.

The idea of mastery is important, not as a state of being but as a goal to achieve. Seeking to master the art is valuable. This is a lifelong process. Little by little we improve, and as we improve we can see new opportunities to improve, places to further refine. So long as we avoid complacency. This process is never fueled by what we already know, only by what we are open to learning.

These attributes are at the heart of Zhen Xun Kung Fu. They create a specific environment, one where we seek to improve ourselves. Where we adjust to what is presented rather than trying to force something which doesn’t work. Student centered instruction. This process is personal, so are the results, and so instruction must also be personal. We are met and shown a path. Our beginning is our own, as is our progress.

Now for some more practical information. We have no contracts. Agreements are month to month. We do not have special children’s classes, families are welcome. This is to simplify things for everyone as well as to maintain the integrity of what we do. You are welcome to come and try a class. Or contact us with questions.

Shaolin Kung Fu

527 AD Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk, arrived at the Shaolin monastery in Henan Province. The monastery was isolated in the mountains and subject to raiding bandits. He was spreading a new type of Buddhist practice, Chan Buddhism (Chan continued to be spread and became known as Zen in Japan). This new practice involved sitting for long periods in meditation. But the monks in the temple could not endure the long hours in the same position. They fell asleep, or were too weak to maintain the meditation posture. Legend says that he went into seclusion. For 7 years he sat and meditated in a cave, and when he returned he had devised a set of 18 exercises which strengthened the monks and allowed them to engage in the new practice. They also found that their new strength helped them to fight off the raiding bandits. The exercises became the foundation of the fighting systems of Shaolin Kung Fu. Over time this fighting system grew and became more diverse, developing into the now famous animal styles of kung fu.

Internal Schools

There are some styles which are termed internal arts. Unlike the Shaolin they have a Taoist background. The main 3 systems are Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Chuan. They all have different attributes and histories.

Xing Yi Chuan was developed by General Yue Fei, who also created the eagle claw system. The legend says that he created this system and taught it to the royal guards and his personal guard. But that the system was lost, until, centuries later a manuscript was found by Jiji Ki. It was hidden in a temple to Yue Fei. The manuscript allowed him to resurect this lost system. This system is characterized by straight line movements and footwork and explosive power.

Ba Gua Zhang was created by Dong Hai Chuan in the mid 1800’s. It became a very well known style shortly after it’s creation due to the elevation of a Ba Gua practitioner being made the head of the Imperial Guard. Ba Gua uses circular and coiling movements and footwork.

Tai Chi Chuan was developed by Chang San Feng, a Taoist monk. Legend holds that he developed the art after witnessing a fight between a snake and a crane. World Tai Chi Day was traditionally celebrated on his birthday, April 9, every year. He was born in 1287 AD. Tai Chi is renown for improving health and increasing longevity. It is characterized by flowing movement and whip-like power.

There are several terms which we come across in our training. This is a list of some of the more common ones (Please note that all transliteration of Chinese terms is based upon my experience. There are several systems but I am not familiar with them in any real sense. Nor am I a linguist. Some of them I have only ever heard spoken and have done my best to convert them.) Many of these terms will be discussed more in the section on theoretical framework.

Yin/Yang- A theory about opposites. Yin is the empty aspect, Yang is full.

The Bagua- The 8 primary trigrams used in the I Ching or Book of Changes. Each of the trigrams represent a primary natural energy

Wu Xing- The 5 elements or 5 phases. Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth. It also refers to the relationship between them.

Jing- Essence. Also refers to raw power or strength.

Chi- Energy. Some refer to it an electromagnetic field. It makes yin and yang possible. It can be sensed physically.

Shen- Spirit.

Fa Jing- Issue power. This is most commonly done when striking.

Tui Shou- Push Hands. This is training the ability to stick to and neutralize incoming force.

Da Lu- Big Pull. This is similar to Tui Shou but the force no longer comes in, rather it seeks to pull off balance.

Chi Sau- Sensing Hands. This trains sensitivity in the hands to be able to ‘read’ incoming attacks.

Northern Kung Fu- Systems from the northern regions of China. Generally taller in posture, they also have more kicking.

Southern Kung Fu- Systems from the southern regions of China. Generally have deep stance and emphasis on hand techniques.

Nei Dan- Internal Styles. Characteristically use chi in striking. Also movement originates in the core of the body.

Wai Dan- External Styles. Focus on the use of muscular force. Movements originate in the limb.

Zhang Zuan- Standing meditation or standing chi gung.

Chi Gung- Refers to any system of exercise which seeks develop chi for any purpose. There are 5 main types of chi gung: Medical, Buddhist, Taoist, Transferring/Healing and Martial.

Dan Tien- Sea of Chi, Elixir Field. There are 3 in the body lower, middle and upper. The dan tien are areas where chi can be stored and used. When not specified it usually refers to the lower dan tien.

Microcosmic Orbit- an energetic connection of the body used to move chi in the torso during chi gung practice.

Macrocosmic Orbit- an energetic pathway which involves the Microcosmic Orbit and the limbs used in chi gung practice.

Chuan- literally fist, also style, boxing or punch. Refers to or designates a martial system.

Shaolin- A Buddhist temple in which has distinct systems of Kung Fu. Also refers to the marital systems developed in those temples.

Wu Dang- A Taoist temple where distinct systems of Kung Fu were created.

Rooting- The ability to attach to the ground.

Centerline- The imaginary line in the body which extends from the top of the head to the base of the torso. In the front it comes between the eye, down the sternum, through the navel and the genitals. In the back it is the spine. This line contains the bulk of the vital structures and organs in the body. It is also used as a reference point.

Dim Mak- Death Touch. The legendary technique which allows a practitioner kill or disable an opponent with just a touch. It is based on the manipulation of chi.

Chin Na- Literally seize and control. Techniques for joint locks, manipulations and holds.

Iron Body- A system of chi gung which develops the ability to withstand strikes and impact from opponents or weapons (mainly blunt weapons) without injury.

To begin this section, it must be remembered that kung fu is a physical art. We need more than a cognitive understanding of the materials and theories. This information is included for those who have an interest and desire for intellectual stimulation. Remember the practice is not in your head. And if you know it, but can do it, you don’t know it. But you have the idea. And that’s a good start, just don’t let it be the end.

The first aspect of theory we need to understand is the idea of yin and yang. It seems superficially simple, empty and full, left and right, up and down, male and female… the list goes on and on and on. But the list is not so important. The list points the way to the truly important information. Yin and Yang are all about relationship. This symbol tells the complete story. We see two ‘fish’ endlessly circling, but this is incorrect. There is only one thing which has two ‘sides’ or aspects. They cannot be separated. They have no meaning alone. They are mutually defined. When the essence of this relationship can be understood, then many aspects of practice become clear and intuitive. We will begin to express this understanding in our form.

The above deals with Yin and Yang in a global sense or as absolutes.Yin and Yang in the purest state. But they can be combined into more complex relationships. If we represent Yin as a broken line and Yang as a solid line, we can begin to layer them to illustrate changes. This creates the Liang I. This can be used to describe the seasons, the phases of the moon or the breath. It is represented by the top 4 symbols below. The bottom 8 represent the Ba Gua, which are created when we add another level to the structure. They are also called the Trigrams and form the 8 basic energies used in Tai Chi and in the I Ching.

These basic energies each represent a natural phenomenon, for example, Heaven energy is the most yang energy. It is the energy of Heaven or the Sky. So it is big, and expansive. It fills what ever space is available. Earth is the opposite. It is fullest yin. It is settling and receptive. From these base energies we can combine pairs of trigrams to create Hexagrams. There are 64 hexagrams. The study and analysis of them can take a lifetime. They are contained in the I Ching or Book of Changes. This book seeks to understand interaction between the primal energies within each hexagram. It can also be used for divinatory practice. There is some relation to Ba Gua Zhang as well as Tai Chi Chuan. But this area of study is beyond the scope of theoretic framework. This is mentioned to illustrate that exploring the relationship between Yin and Yang can become infinitely complex, even though it seems a very simple thing at first glance.

The next theory is the Wu Xing, the 5 Elements or the 5 Phases. The  Chinese 5 Element Theory is the foundation of XingYi Chuan, schools of acupuncture, dietary theory, religious practice, astrology, feng shui and several other aspects of Chinese thought and culture. Simply stated, there are 5 Elements: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. They have certain relationships which create cycles of change. They are generally referred to as the Cycles of Creation and Destruction. These cycles are illustrated with the simple drawing on the right. The cycle of creation is represented by the black arrows and destruction by the red arrows. These cycles are also referred to as support and hinder, for those who don’t like extreme descriptions.

Creation: Metal creates Water creates Wood creates Fire creates Earth

Destruction: Metal destroys Wood destroys Earth destroys Water destroys Fire

There is tons of information available about these topics. And this section could go on to fill the entire internet. It is here as a reference and for students to explore some of what they have learned on the training floor in a different way. Feel free to email questions or requests for further explorations of these ideas.

Maybe more than one.

Our experience in training the martial arts is personal. It’s important to keep in mind your personal reasons for training. These may change over time, but it’s important to know what it is you’re looking to get out of training. Often when we’re looking for a teacher, we don’t even know what to ask. This is natural. It’s important to trust your instincts. Ask questions, get answers. Would you trust this person with your children? Or your life?

If you are interested in using kung fu as a way to develop or improve your self this would be good place for you to train. If you are looking for a practice to support your health, are interested in quality over quantity, have read all the other tabs and are still interested or if you think the idea of exploring these practices is exciting then this is a system you’ll probably like. If you have a sense of humor and want a relaxed environment to do that exploration in please try a class. This is your invitation. Perhaps together we can find the essence of this art, at the very least we will grow together.

If you are looking to become a black belt, and you want to do it fast, we’re not for you. If you want to be made to feel like a martial artist, want a fancy uniform, learn a great new move to beat the competition, prove how tough you are, find someone to do a birthday party for your kid or how they fight in the movies you should find another school. (We like movies too, but they’re movies.) That’s not what our practice is about.

If you’re not sure or have questions please contact us. Perhaps we can provide a referral or help clarify what you’re looking for.