Spiritual Fruit

Chinese martial arts are a form of classical education, an inquiry into the nature of existence through number and principle.  A tradition of self cultivation, leading to harmony, balance, rhythm and peace. By learning to recognize these principles and aligning with them, they become embodied qualities and conditions of our experience.

By  developing and strengthening the body we invite life force and vitality into our being. It is through our conscious embodiment that we create a home for ourselves, a point of stillness from which to observe the movement of the world. Body, mind and spirit are distinctions within the same event. They are differing, but interconnected aspects of the same truth. It is said that “the body reveals the mind and the mind reveals the spirit."

The harmonies within are understood and developed in time as real transformation occurs. It is a process that moves from gross to subtle, physical to spiritual. Harmony is revealed as the body releases long held tension, fixation and accumulated disharmony. Like a sculpture, the form emerges by removing the inessential and excess that obscures the harmony of the form hidden within.

This wholing/healing process is a skill, a capacity developed in learning to observe the self. It is the patterning activity (ego) seeking familiarity  that leads us into disharmony.  It is an unnecessary and superfluous energy rooted in the separate sense of self. It is perpetuated and driven by  unconscious tension and unseen thought, the very hands that shape us. Our body is a repository of our experience and if we do not process and let go of the inevitable insults, injuries and misunderstandings incurred, they settle deep within shaping and holding us.

The path of internal arts is the hero's journey. A journey into the landscape of our own body and being. We must travel into the underworld of our subconscious to encounter our demons and delusions so as to slay and be free of our self imposed limitations. Limitations that exist within the intimacy of our own assumptions. Self transcendence is gong fu (merit, skill)  of the highest order, it is the gateway to freedom, peace and lasting fulfillment.  

It is an alchemical journey, transforming lead (tension) into gold (awareness). We soften  the tissues and subdue the mind clearing out the dross and stuckness and making space for our spiritual inheritance and wisdom to arise. . When the background activity of subconscious tension both  physical and mental is seen clearly it can be released. Although its truth can be seen in a moment and we may recognize and understand in an instant, the work of transformation occurs in time and the flowers along the path cannot be hastened to open before the conditions allow.

The grand purpose of martial arts, its spiritual fruit, is discernment, the ability to recognize the harmony that pervades all experience. This “peace that passeth all understanding” and the well being gained through the work are not sought, but earned.  They are a byproduct of practice, an indication of the harmony emerging within. An individual integrated and transformed by the work becomes able to abide in this knowing, rooted in the stillness of the body, the mind becomes quiet and wisdom arises. 

This activity of separate self and the very patterns of tension that structure and feed it are undone in the light of observation. In the absence of this habituated activity or way of being we  are open, spacious, peaceful and harmonious, true to our very nature. No longer affected by the malware of a separate self, we abide in the infinite truth of our being, "all is in the one and the one is in the all". 

Tension is an activity and self is a delusion.  They are both doings, patterns playing out in the darkness of habit.  We must become aware that we are doing something  before we are free to stop doing it. This is the idea of "Wu Wei" non doing, allowing life to move us from a neutral and balanced position, rather than a habitually biased inclination.  As long as we operate from a position of preference we cannot see what is actually before us, the attachment to our own perspective blinds and binds us to seek what we know and repeat what we have. 

Free from momentum and the structuring tension of ego,  we are free to roam and wander at home in the moment, whatever it may be, beyond fixation and the neediness of habit. This is the spaciousness of the "great way", the capacity to be present with what is, to receive, redirect and return. 

Returning home is the recognition that we are the one who leaves.  “ God is always here, I am the one who leaves.”

Why train tai chi and push hands

It is a big endeavor to pursue an art with such depth and standards of principle. We are immediately asked to suspend what it is we think we know.  This in itself is a difficult and uncomfortable position to be put in; and it is just the first of many such positions.

To train Tai Chi, we must look at ourselves though new eyes and be willing to entertain counter-intuitive processes for development.  The beauty is that we are set free of the limitations in our thinking and what it is we think we know. We open up space for fresh experiences and begin to allow for new possibilities. 

The method gives us a new map for the body and ways of exploring.  We go beyond the common assumptions of our physicality and begin to remap a landscape that may have been prior to this mostly hearsay. 

Over time there is a transformation, a fruition of the work that leads progressively deeper into the body and how it filters our experience.  We learn to stand in our bones, move through our joints and direct with our minds an integrated and systemic intelligence that leads to ease, power and a comfortable physicality. 

The pursuit of harmony within is a fulcrum to move the world without.  It starts with recognizing the inherent polarity in all manifest form and learning to integrate the distinctions that exist between the poles.  Tai Chi is the physical embodiment of this truth and we pursue it in the  laboratory gifted to us - our physical being.  Harmony and integration within leads us to harmony and integration without, a constant game of pushing hands through the embrace of life. 

Pursued under proper guidance, Tai Chi leads us to a deep state of relaxed strength, internal calm and generous disposition it is a constant unfolding of self and world, gently guided by the hand of natural principle and universal mind.

In pursuit of Song

To be "song" is to be capacious,  deeply embodied and present. Unhindered, unfixed and absent the tension of excess effort. This quality of being and its pursuit form the heart of Tai Chi and internal martial arts.

It is a soft, supple agility,  that allows the liquidity that belies our form to express itself through the direction of mind. Deeply concentrated and relaxed, this state of being is mindful presence in balanced repose. Often described as the alert and elegant bearing we recognize in cats.

It is an endless journey that transforms us as we learn to align with the natural principles of harmony from which this condition springs.  The pursuit of song teaches us to listen, to go inward and recognize our habitual tensions that exhaust our energy and burden our minds.

In pursuing song we become collected and composed as we learn to releases deeper into this harmonious state of being. It becomes a constant practice and means of transformation, a journey into the self and all that lies within us through a constant pursuit of harmony. 

Numerical Principles for Health and Wholeness.

Numerical Principles for Health and Wholeness.

All form is a function of number and principle expressed through geometry. In learning to uncover and embody these principles in our own body, we align ourselves with the universe through harmonization.

  1. Unite, Prime mover – The first principle is to unify the body. To unite heaven and earth through man by standing in balance. We learn to bridge the lumbar thoracic junction, stretching the spine and releasing the back.

  2. Separate, Wisdom – The second principle is to recognize the paired opposites within the body, to separate yin from yang, the upper from the lower, the left from the right, open from close etc, learning to define the poles.

  3. Integrate, Relationship – Harmonizing polarity and recognizing the trinity principle throughout the the body, finding center and balancing the centers of the centers.

These three numbers and there principles represent the first three skills for Tai Chi, as well as the first three safety energy locks (SEL) in the healing art of Jin Shin Jyutsu. As well as being a directive to follow, they are a body intelligence, living within us at specific locations. Working directly with these safety energy locks gives us an opportunity to directly help lead and guide the energy within our own bodies so we may influence our state of harmony and balance.

SEL 1. Prime mover, this safety energy lock helps us to bring the energy down the front of the body. The descent of light into matter. It helps all qi to descend, promoting breath and overall body unity. It is located at the inside of the knee and can be held to help to harmonize the body.

SEL 2. Wisdom, growth, the energy of expansion that ascends the back of the body. Matter returning to spirit. It is located at the small of the back above the pelvis. It is energizing and strengthening, and can be held to help bring life force energy and vitality to the system.

SEL 3. Relationship, immunity integrating the pairs. The spiral of life. It is located at the upper corner of the shoulder scapula toward the spine. It promotes breath, immune system function and helps to balance and integrate left and right, male and female, inside and outside.

37 minutes ago (edited) - Edit - Delete

3 Essential rules for push hands

In my opinion the game of push hands in order to be more than a watered down version of grappling( this can be fun but in my mind is not the point of the game) must contain the following if it is to fulfill its purpose of skill development.

1. Sticking - do not break from the point of contact, it is the ball and must be honored and manipulated by changing the body behind the point of contact as opposed to the point of contact itself.

2. Asking - you must be offering something to your opponent or else there is no game, in other words you must be actively seeking their center and outreaching to have an effect.

3. Maintain structure - this is an extension of the first point. If you collapse and change structure in an effort to alleviate the pressure being felt you are changing conditions as opposed to transforming them.

These three points allow for a circuit to be established between the two players and it is the manipulation of the pressure that builds up within this circuit that strengthens and transforms the body, breaking any of these three conditions is a pressure release and negates the ability to internally absorb, transform and release the energy back to your partner, which to my mind is the point of the game. If the external conditions(3 points listed) change, the ability to develop internal change is compromised because there is no structure or container in which to move. The internal stretch requires external constraints in the same way that one needs to anchor a sling shot or elastic if it is to be stretched and released.

I write this not out of dogma but in an attempt to clear up the conditions surrounding a practice that seems to have so many definitions that it can be difficult to develop the skills intended because of the lack of coherent method and an agreement upon the game. It is difficult to get good at tennis if your parter is applying the rules of basketball. It is not that one is better than the other, but a thing is a thing in accord to the rules that bind it and there is no need to put legs on a snake.

 

Internal arts - moving beyond the habit body

Internal skill is the ability to move within the space of the body itself as opposed to simply moving the body through space. This is a key distinction to make in order to cultivate certain types of development and the skills such development leads to, i.e. internal skill.

In the martial art tradition this process is often referred to as separating the bones and pulling the tendons. This is not a set of practices, but rather a depth of attainment through practice. It is present in all three of the Classical Nei JIa arts ( Tai Chi, Xin Yi & Ba Gua). 

If we want to develop the tendons and bones of the body we must find a way to load them and create conscious pressure to transform them.  This is achieved through precise intention and alignment, which emerges in time with the clarification and quieting of the neuro -muscular system or "habit body" . 

When our practice moves us past this habit body we find neutrality and the freedom of choice that arises with it. It is in this new awareness and possibility that real learning and change begins as the arts reveal themselves more fully and we are more able to comprehend what lies within the depth of our practice. Tension is a function of habit and only by emptying out the residue of habit can we truly soften the body and move deeper into our capacity for governance. 

Through practice and time our somatic intelligence clarifies and we become able to make such distinctions which guide our practice with intelligence toward their intended goal of self knowing. 

tai chi push hands

Pushing hands is a two person practice for deepening the shen fa (body method) of Tai Chi Chuan. It is a means of helping players develop the skills contained within the art.  Through this practice, one learns to organize around and embody various vectors of force.  It is a cooperative and contrived practice. I say contrived because pushing hands is an agreement.    

Push hands is closer to a game of tennis than wrestling.

The point of contact is established and maintained as a means of having an exchange.  The point of contact is the “ball.” The ball may move over the course of the field (the body), but both players must seek to control and direct it toward their goal.  If you disregards the ball, there is no game.  The skill is in the control and manipulation of the ball, receive and return it. Much like in tennis, a momentum will build up in the “point” or exchange.  A series of shots causes one to get progressively behind until a critical mass is hit and the shot cannot be returned.  Also like in tennis, if there is a skill discrepancy the game falls easily in favor of the better player.  However, regardless of each player’s ability, they can have enjoyable volleys and exchanges in which both parties get to practice and deepen their relative skills.

Why is this useful for martial arts?  In addition to strengthening the body method that one should be cultivating in their solo practice, push hands gives us a chance to extrapolate off of the first contact, which is the make or break moment of a fight.

The solidity at the point of contact is essential. If one simply yields and has no shape you will be overwhelmed and hit by anyone with power.

 You are forced to show up or eat the hand. The question is, can you show up fully, receive, listen and change?

 

 

Sunyata

I have been deeply engaged in this principle and understanding for a while now. Of course at varying levels, things of depth require percolation before they come clear. This has been percolating for some time with me. Sunyata is the buddhist concept of emptiness or the void.