Kungfu; red pill or blue pill?
In the beginning it is not uncommon for a person to look at martial arts with a bias, being there are so many misconceptions about what it is a person can accomplish and how it is that a person can go about getting there. There is the wide array of what is in the public domain, and then there are the trade secrets that accompany almost any kind of martial art or combat sport. With enough effort and perseverance it is possible to open any and every doorway to knowledge. Knowledge is power. That is what we are told.
It is common knowledge that during his life and the early teaching career Bruce Lee was criticized heavily by his Chinese “competition”. It seems according to the mythology of the man, this mattered to him to the point that he addressed the issue and ultimately had to turn his back on the approval or disapproval of his countrymen. Their objection it should be noted was that he was teaching too many secrets to the Americans. It should be noted and pondered about what that means. It means the community of Chinese “masters” did not want Bruce Lee exposing secrets or teaching the “real” and applicable secrets to the foreign devil. It is not the purpose of this article to make a big thing of that, merely to draw the reader’s attention.
Currently, Bruce Lee and his legendary exploits and fame make him the most famous and admired Chinese Wushu man in China. I can say from personal experience having been to Beijing many times and spending countless hours with my overly sensitive and surprisingly narrow minded Wushu brothers and sisters, and I can attest that Bruce Lee still is viewed with a kind of reverence and awe. They always referred to him as “shao-long” or little dragon. Bruce Lee was an innovator, clearly; and he felt he had to break away from the Chinese cultural myths even to the point of referring to his art as an “American” martial art, not Chinese.
Importance of respect in martial arts
This writer claims no personal knowledge of Bruce Lee but does know from extensive experience about the racial and cultural tyranny and self-doubt of certain Chinese Sifu when confronted with a non-Chinese who knows their art inside out, every dirty secret, thoroughly trained and studied to the point their standpoint is laid completely bare. How many times have I heard the accusatory statement flung my way, “where did you learn that?”.
To be more specific would be to embarrass certain Chinese masters who have reputations to protect. I have no interest in damaging someone’s reputation or even to engage such person’s of low value to me. I finish by saying that I had been raised in my training to respect everyone who has the strength of character to spend years and sometimes decades in a martial art; regardless of whether it is Chinese Wushu, Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, Jujitsu or whatever it might be. This includes professional fighters who show great fortitude and courage to step into a ring and risk their health and sometimes their life. I respect anyone who chooses this kind of life. My master taught me; there are black belts and there are black belts, and knowing how to do a Kata or routine in itself does not make a master; even if done well, it is a student’s business. What makes a master is being able to perform the skills in real time and also to be able to unlock the secrets therein along with the wisdom and insight that accompanies the necessary years.
Bruce Lee was attacked and vilified because he was ahead of his time, ahead of his peers. Later, when he just stopped caring about those things and indeed “lengthened his own line” he rose to heights very few ever achieve and that needs to be respected no matter what opinion someone might have about the man. So much of what now is the environment of martial arts was affected by his life and his philosophy.
Traditional or non-traditional
Wujido Institute is a school of martial arts knowledge and research. Our viewpoint is not one of dogma but of reasonableness and science. Over many years, 44 to be exact, the author has watched the “story” change again and again as to what is traditional and what is not. The truth is not easy to discover but it is out there for those sincere and dedicated. What may not be understood is a story too long and too complicated to be easily reduced to a buzz phrase or talking point. Years and years of study in the various arts yield insights and each insight builds upon the last and as time passes the light becomes brighter and brighter and many misconceptions and myths strongly held fall away as so much dross.
As we attempt to elucidate and explain our various viewpoints and theories, as well as reveal certain controversial truths and also correct strongly held misconceptions our purpose is to open the eyes and minds of individuals no matter what martial art or yoga they practice. In university in math there was a section of study called axiom set theory. The course was very useful and the one thing I took away from it was this truth. Any mistake at any stage makes all subsequent dependent stages incorrect. To put it even more simply, if I was of the belief that 2+2=5 then whatever math I do subsequent to that poorly held view would be flawed. Each stage of learning must rest upon the correctness of the previous stage.
Let us take for example the concept of “dantien”. Many who read this term who are in martial arts will consider this a mystery, or unfortunately, believe that it is a place on the body located 2 1/2 cun below the navel. It is variously translated as “elixir field” being the Chinese character for “pill” thus implying “yao” or medicine thus, “elixir” when applied to alchemy and field which is just the old Chinese character for a field as in field of crops. Many in Kungfu, Qigong, and Taijiquan spend a generous amount of time trying to figure out exactly where this dantien is located since they are supposed to accumulate their Qi in the dantien. It is most often explained as being found by taking your fingers and measuring two and a half fingers below your navel. The problem of course is that this does not in any way produce a result. So after maybe 15 years of allowing the foreigner to grope around in confusion, it is published that this is the “false” dantien, but only in “advanced” QiGong manuals. It is then identified as an area of viscera containing the large and small intestines. Are you confused yet?
Although there are countless books relating this as true knowledge it is just a regurgitation from one source to another without anything useful or new to add. All of these sources have something in common, a lack of real alchemical, Taoist yoga, Tantric Yoga knowledge of the energy system of the body. I have no intention to launch into what could be hundreds of paragraphs to explain everything about and the implications therein with regard to these matters. My purpose is to demonstrate the fragility of the “traditional” system as it exists today in all its misdirection and secrecy. This was in fact one of Bruce Lee’s most ardent criticism of the Chinese system.
Here is my point; first it was the mysterious dantien located 2,1/2 cun below the navel, and later identified as the “false” dantien after students of many years began to question this teaching as they achieved no result. Perhaps both are wrong. You think? I would tell you from my more than 40 years of experience and practice of Yoga and meditation that I know where it is and in fact where all of the “openings” are, or I could perhaps consult the Taoist Cannon since I happen to have it here in my library and it actually is pretty specific about the dantien. Let us take a look at it.
“When we say 1.3 inches below the navel, this measure is taken with the body lying horizontally. [the Cinnabar Field] then is the point found 1.3 inches under the navel, that is, between the kidneys.”
This explanation comes from Zhao Taiding (Ming Dynasty).
Why should I believe him? Well, it is not necessary for you to believe him, you have to test what he says. Now I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the systems of alchemy found in China actually have their root in Hindu religion and culture as the first “immortality” sects were from southern India. The entire system of “qiao” or openings in the Taoist systems are in fact entirely consistent with the Hindu Tattva or Chakra system, a system very many people in the West are already familiar. The system people are most familiar with are the 7 Chakra. Now in fact there are a lot more than that, 11 between the Ajna and the Shahasrara, and 21 above that as an example of what I am referring, but the basic is the 7. Taoist alchemy uses fewer. But I want to draw the readers attention to the navel Chakra which is call the Manipura, it is associated with fire (the fire of digestion) and is in the exact location of the dantien as explained by Zhao. If you practice the yoga of this dantien you will get results.
Red Pill or Blue Pill?
By illustration my purpose has been to open your mind to a wider reality when it comes to Wushu. In the beginning I believed everything I was taught about the Chinese arts be it wushu, Taoist, or Buddhist yoga. As time wore on I came to the conclusion that “there is no truth apart from technique“. I discovered there were layers upon layers of reality relative to what can be called the tradition, whether we are speaking Japanese, Chinese, Hindu, or whatever. Everyone steals from everyone. I discovered that methods and techniques are borrowed and integrated long before Bruce Lee taught people to “absorb what is useful.”
If I want to become a Buddha, can I become a Buddha by practicing Buddhism or will I have a better result if I do exactly what Buddha did? It is a fact of history that Buddha did not achieve Nirvana by practicing Buddhism because it did not exist. He practice severe asceticism, prolonged meditation (Dhyana), fasting, self mutilation and deprivation. He hit a wall so to speak and then, with all that energy and focus; he let go. He let go of ambition, of desire, of fear, of hope, of effort, of thought, of self, of life, of death. You get the picture. Then as time passed, all manner of religious and devotional activities and groups arose into what we now see as various forms and sects of Buddhism.
Every form of Wushu (Kungfu) had someone who invented it, who was rejected and opposed, but who continued on and established a lineage. Sometimes the individual built upon the work of someone else, and this would take many forms and all of it would be a matter for research and speculation.
Every system of Chinese Kungfu is a result of an evolutionary process; it starts most often with the original genius who designs the basic pattern, if it is Preying Mantis it is the basic preying mantis hand formations, and the footwork (monkey). Maybe he invents a routine, often he does not. But at some point a routine (Bung Bu) is developed and all other variations of the system grow from the work of others. Very few forms (routines) (choreographed shadow boxing sequences) existed before the modern era, just a few. In those days the core style would be several shapes. Shaolin (the 18 forms of monk boxing), Xing Yi (the five quan), Bajiquan (the hook posture and spear method) and so forth.
Many of the feats done by Wushu people are just tricks, easily debunked. A prime example is the use of mortar and high sand content bricks and blocks. These make impressive displays of breaking but conceal a deceptive trick. High sand content mortar bricks and blocks are unusually easy to break. Compared to a modern industrial cap block they are about 1/3 as difficult and increasing the sand content can make them even easier, also failing to fire them for long. They are easy to identify by being very smooth and having chips on the edges and sides from handling and the absence of fill, rocks, stone, or metal fiber. Adding paper and lighter fluid does absolutely nothing but make it more visually impressive without adding difficulty.
The wushu that is of the highest esteem are the internal arts and Wuyi. Wujiquan is Wuyi as I have said over and over. It is not Chaos boxing as the characters for Wujiquan I changed in 1983 for reasons I will not explain now. All mention or existence of Wuji is after my own publishing of these characters and I am not responsible for other people who have plagiarized my work or who misuse or misunderstand their true meaning. I am aware their are masters in Tianjin and Beijing currently trying to back engineer Wujiquan from what they got from me when I was there. This is not the first time Chinese Sifu have ripped off from me and tried to claim a traditional Chinese root.
Wuyi is before modern era Chinese boxing. That is my definition and it seems the most appropriate. It is the original Chinese Wushu after a fashion. Wuyi extends from Ming Dynasty back through the Han. It is the military art, not a civil martial art like Taijiquan.
Beijing holds the arts of Baguazhang, Xingyiquan, Taijiquan, Bajiquan in the highest esteem, and Wuyi is also held highly as well. But for Wuyi, it is very rare and not well known among the modern wushu class and this being the only issue of difference. Wujido Institute teaches all of these Wushu systems in their orthodox and authentic and historically accurate form and also we teach a form of Shaolin Boxing; wuqingbafalohanshaolinquanfa. It is a collection of numerous advanced Shaolin Master forms and the master routines from the Green Dragon Clan taught to me by my first master. It includes all Classifications of Kungfu method (Shuai, Na, Ti, Da). Since the name is so difficult for people to manage we call it Wujido. The name utilizes the Japanese expression and it has the meaning of “the path without limits”. This is a good meaning