No Time for Exercise – How to fix it!

Exercise. Everyone knows they should get more, yet many of us feel that we just don’t have enough time for it.

Kung Fu to the rescue.  How?  It’s because Kung Fu is an energy cultivation practice.  To be precise, it is a well-defined system of practices that keeps you healthy and fit, it clears your mind, and instills you with a kind of calm and powerful confidence that puts you in a place where you can take on the world and win.  You become more effective at everything you do without getting tired and stressed.  A full and busy day with loads of energy left over. Imagine that!  And yes, after all is said and done, leaving you with time left over in your day.  Problem solved.

Our system of Kung Fu (at Fists of Mystery and Truth) consists of a series of physical movements (forms) that enhance your bodies strength, range of motion, agility, reflexes, and quickness. It does the same for your mind too.  It has to – you can’t do anything physical without your mind creating the conditions within your body to do those things first.  Neither your mind nor your body can do any of the above without energy.  Energy comes from a combination of nourishment, health, and emotion.  Emotion is closely related to spirit.  Spirit is something that is in part inherent within us and in part something that we can cultivate consciously.  So there you have it.  A practice of Mind, Body, and Spirit.  Our Kung Fu is a system of very specific and detailed methods for building these up in balance. It took hundreds of years for this practice to develop.

Our Kung Fu is taught as a martial art and it is very effective.  But it’s important to understand that the fighting methods of the art are just a part of the whole picture.  Martial art requires self-honesty, earnest engagement, careful exploration, respect for yourself and the world around you in a way that very few things in life do.  It’s the perfect environment for exacting a balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit.

I have spent more than 40 years learning, practicing, and researching Kung Fu. I am on a mission to share this art and science with all who could benefit from it.  So, let’s get started! Let’s get energized, healthy, and become unbeatable! Are you in?

Baguazhang and the Physics of Yin and Yang

One day during a session with my Sifu, I commented that the sequence of movement we were training was like Yin and Yang. He replied, “Everything is like Yin and Yang”. To which I replied, “ I suppose, but I really see opposite forces at play here.”

I recall his subdued yet emphatic response which was, “No, no, no. Yin and Yang are not opposites and you will never understand if you see it that way!” Ok. So now I was really confused and asked him to clarify. He nodded and said, “Ok”.

So I followed him as he walked around the park. Weird. We just walked all over the place – and I’m starting to think this must be some kind of Zen lesson or something that I won’t understand maybe forever. Then he spotted a rock out in the open and motioned me over to observe it. He said, “This, with the Sun. This is Yin and Yang.”

I saw that the Sun-facing side of the rock was bright, and the opposite side was dark. So I said, “Right, bright and dark – opposites.” He shook his head somewhat disappointingly and replied, “No…  Sunlight – both sides under the same Sun. The rock – both sides, the same rock. Each side can absorb and reflect light just the same as the other.” This last part was the crux of the matter. ‘Each side can absorb and reflect the same as the other.’

Then he continued to explain that the side facing the sun was receiving all the light it could absorb (think infra-red spectrum) and was transforming the excess into reflected light(heat). And that the side that faced away from the sun was also absorbing all the light it could absorb but conditions were such that it could absorb more and reflect less of it. The very same processes on each side – but we observe differing states of Yin/Yang on each side. He explained that Yin and Yang cannot truly be separated. Yin is the observation of a state of “absorptive transformation ” and Yang is the observation of the state of “reflective transformation”. They are just aspects of a single process and not opposites – In fact, neither could exist without the other. This process of transformation is a part of everything that exists. Something is absorbed and then transformed.

For example you eat some food and your body absorbs it then transforms it into growth and energy. That’s a Yin and Yang process. Or as another example, somebody kicks a football and the football absorbs that energy and transforms it into an energy that pushes back against their foot and the ball flies away. That is also a Yin/Yang process. Ha, it turns out that Newton’s second law of physics is just another expression of a Yin/Yang process! Speaking of physics, there is an ancient book that actually defines all the possible absorption/transformation (Yin/Yang) processes in our universe of existence. It is appropriately called, “The book of Changes”, or “I-Ching”.

In “The Book of Changes”, there are eight families/containers of change (“Ba Gua”) that form the basis of this science. Our martial art  can be understood as one that uses these concepts of transformation to create powerful and agile movements that are useful to us, and at the same time defines a means to understand and control the power and agility of the world around us.

I have to say that to this day I am still amazed that at some time in the distant past some society was able to quantify this fundamental knowledge – and develop a deep and meaningful understanding of how to apply it too. Who could have been so advanced so long ago? Where did they go?

 

Baguazhang and the Sword Polisher’s Wisdom

This is a story that one of my Sifu’s shared with me a long time ago. It is a short story and it goes like this…

 

‘   A sword is just a blunt piece of steel to begin with. To make a sword you first have to develop the rough shape of the blade and then grind an edge onto it. To get to this stage of development traditionally takes a lot of hard work and is done using very course grinding materials. And although it begins to look like a sword, the edge is not yet sharp and the sword is not too useful. You have to be careful at this time, because if you continue to grind it with these course methods you will grind away the steel until it becomes too weak to be a sword at all. So you have to change the sword-making method. At this time you have to use very fine polishing materials to sharpen and then maintain the edge of the sword you’ve created. Here you have to use softness, very refined motions, and diligent care – The sharp edge is the prize you seek.

So what you have to know clearly, is that if you didn’t first sweat and toil to grind the sword’s shape and rough edge into the blunt steel to begin with you would never have an adequate blade to sharpen – you would really have no sword at all.

The opposite is true as well. The blade will never be sharp, or last very long, unless you learn the secrets of how to polish a refined edge on to it – without this, the sword would never cut.‘

 

The Sifu left it at that. When you examine the origins of Baguazhang, you can see how this model fits Dong Hai Quan and his development of Baguazhang. The shape of the sword and it’s rough edge came from his many years of Longfist training. The sharpness that he became famous for came from the refined turning methods he developed (or maybe learned somewhere) in order to polish and maintain it. It explains a bit as to why Dong always taught Longfist to his students as a pre-requisite to what he called Turning-Fist (what we now call Baguazhang). Yin Fu, one of Dong’s disciples did the same. Actually most of Dong’s direct disciples carried on this tradition from as far as we can tell. It seems essential to do the same if we want a degree of the same results.