The Tao Of Kung Fu | Well.org


Grandmaster: All right, Pedram. Good to see
you again, and you look like you’re getting a little flabby there [inaudible 00:00:26].
Pedram: Yes, I am. Grandmaster: It’s important to stay on the
path and keep training, so we’ll start at the beginning, and the beginning is always
keeping your hands up in front of you. If you notice, it actually forms the shape of
a square, and if you circle your hands, that forms a circle. You put them together, and
there’s a triangle. Those motions, the square, the circle, and the triangle is essentially
our geometry of combat and also allows us to pay our respects to each other.
Now, you can use those same motions, if you put your hands up here, if I were punching
at you, there’s your square, you see your circle, and then, there’s your triangle, and
I’m suddenly hit. How about that? If you were punching at me, same thing. There’s
my square, there’s my circle, and then, there’s my triangle. Then, from here of course, I
could do other things and actually take you to the ground if I needed to.
Now, we practice these slow in order to get the feeling and to get the angles of many
of our curves, but if we speed this up just a little bit [inaudible 00:01:30], you see
this can actually be really dangerous and actually painful.
Pedram: Yeah, that didn’t feel great. Grandmaster: As motion comes in, what we really
want to do is to deflect it, sometimes break it, and then, that allows us to have an entry
right into the target, and we can go into throws. We can go into locks, take-downs,
and many other motions. Motions that actually look harmless, like
this, actually can be quite devastating in terms of applying a choke and putting in a
face claw, and what our art really specializes in, of course, is what we know as the animal
styles. The tiger, the dragon, the leopard, the snake, and finally, the crane. These 5
animals, for hundreds and hundreds of years in China, have really defined the way the
martial arts have developed. Let’s practice. Put your hand out like so,
like you’re reaching, like you’re just trying to stretch in the morning. You get up in the
morning and you stretch. Someone tries to attack you, now stretch. At me, stretch towards
… Aw, bang! See how easy that is? We take natural motions, like stretching, and turn
it into part of our self defense art. See? And see, it requires no effort at all. You
just stretch, just like you’re waking up early in the morning, and you intercept my motion
and counteract me at the exact same time. Now, another thing that we could do even more
fundamental, say you were going to punch me. I bend down to tie my shoes. How about that?
I get out of the way. You punch me again. I go, “Hey, hi there.” Wow, and look at that,
the blow misses. Now, sometimes though, let’s say you were trying to push me here. You push
me there, naturally I get drawn backwards, because that’s just a natural reaction, but
suppose I take this natural reaction, you’re pushing me here, boom, and I allow that to
trigger my response. You see how your motion, bam, actually triggered your destruction.
You created the impact that allowed me to defend myself.
Now, this art, the nice thing I really like about it, is that I can modulate my response.
For example, when you pushed me, I could have just circled you like so, and I didn’t hurt
you at all. I might put you in a position, like so, where you’re really locked, and now,
you really can’t move. Can you? No. Say no. Pedram: No.
Grandmaster: You can’t move. You know, it’s been said in the Shaolin tradition that we
should, again, so you’re striking, that we should avoid rather than check, that we should
check rather than maim, that we should maim rather than kill. Okay? Because it’s been
said that all life is precious and no life can be replaced, not even that of the meanest
creature, okay? In this art we want to, again, punch that
left hand, we want to be able to modulate our responses to where we can go from anywhere
from something like this, okay, just causing you to yield without me really hurting you,
to taking your arm and breaking it, or just gently guiding you to the ground where you
don’t get hurt but yet you can’t hurt me either. The highest level of combat is trying to get
to the point where you don’t want to fight me. I change your intention, and sometimes
by redirecting the way that your energy is coming in, I can get you to start to think
about, you know, maybe I really shouldn’t be doing this. It isn’t working out the way
I intended, so maybe I should change my aims and life may be better for me. Okay?
Now, face this way, put your feet together, and cross over. Let’s try the salute out to
the front. Roll back and back. Notice that we put our right fist together with our left
palm. It really represents the linking of the physical and the mental. It represents
the strength coming together with the intellectual and that by working together, the right brain
and the left brain, the spirit and the physical can unite and then you have a whole, but that
same motion, again, punch me with that hand, the same motion, there’s my block. There’s
this, see. I can actually bring these together and actually crush your hand if I wanted to.
That might dissuade you from attacking further too. Okay.
I can also use, remember we talked about that square? Step in, and again, here’s my salute.
There it is again. I just let your head get in the way, okay, and impede this from reaching
all the way to that back hand. Okay? All of our motions, even the ones that have to do
with the greeting or respect, can actually be used. They can be used again, punch. They
can be used as pares. They can be used as harder blocks, and they can be used as strikes,
okay, so I can strike on the way in, here gouging and then striking here. Then, of course,
going right into my take-down or locks or throws.
Every single motion in the Chinese martial arts has multiple functions. Everything can
be an avoidance. Everything can be a block. Everything can be a joint lock. Everything
can be a strike, and finally, everything can actually be a take-down or a throw all in
the exact same motion of this. It’s hard wired and built into the structure of the art, from
beginning to end. Again, punch. How often in your life do you
actually have to do this? How often, okay? Hopefully, not that often. After a while,
you know, we’re doing a lot of this essentially for fun, just because we can and this is just
an interesting game that we can play to learn about angles and to really learn about relationship,
about how can I encounter force coming towards me and yet harmonize with it so it doesn’t
bother me. Okay. Ultimately, the martial arts is not just about
defending yourself against some hypothetical outsider, some hypothetical attacker. What
we’re really trying to do is to learn how to harmonize our body and our mind, our inside
and our outside, our spirit with our physical being, so that we can become a more whole
human being. You don’t have to fight other people every day, but every day, there’s several
things about ourself that we frequently have to encounter, our own ego, our own arrogance,
our own weakness, our own tendencies to give up when something is too difficult, our own
tendency to struggle against our own inner demons and not have the resources to deal
with it. That really is the ultimate purpose of the
martial arts, is health, physical health, mental health, emotional health, social health,
and ultimately spiritual health, because all of these movements, the linking of the body
and the mind with the breath and to generate the energy, the chi, this is something that
we can use 24/7. Hopefully, 24/7 you don’t have to defend yourself against some guy trying
to sneak up on you in the alley and take your wallet.
Now, if that does happen, see it’s very unhealthy for me to sit here and not now what to do
and to let you punch my lights out because you need my wallet to support your drug habit.
Okay. I don’t want to let that happen, okay, and so to preserve my health, I yield and
pare that and perhaps put you again into a compromising position, where now you really
can’t do anything but yet I haven’t hurt you and yet, you haven’t hurt me. See, it’s a
win-win situation. Okay? Try to stand up.
Pedram: I don’t think that’s [crosstalk 00:10:20]. Grandmaster: You can’t even move, okay, but
basically what I’m doing is I’m just holding my heart. I’m sitting here holding my heart,
and you can’t hurt me. Isn’t that beautiful? I love it. I love it.
Pedram: That’s awesome. Grandmaster: Now, but in order to do that,
again, get down, you need to sink. Find your own center. Curl the tip of your tongue to
the roof of your mouth. You want to use deep diaphragmatic breathing. Bring up your hands
here, and out of the center of your palms, there’s energy points, you want to focus your
chi out of both of your palms, so that you can feel my field of energy.
You know, the human energy field extends out a couple of 2 or 3 feet, and so right here,
you should be able to sense my energy before I even approach you, so that as you approach
me, say with a strike, I sense your energy before it comes and I try to lead your mind
and then your body just follows. Then, I intercept you, and you start to rethink this encounter.
You, obtain what I call, a moment of clarity. A moment of clarity.
You punch, and then right here, you have a moment of clarity, where you say, maybe, I
shouldn’t be doing this. Notice that I don’t have to punch you. I just have to hold.
Stand up. You can’t do it. You can’t do it. I’m applying approximately 1 ounce of pressure,
and what does it feel like? Pedram: It’s sucks.
Grandmaster: It hurts terribly, terribly, and so, by knowing the soft tissue points
on the body, also by knowing certain nerve points on the body, whether up there or over
here, it allows me to control you literally without effort. By holding some of these points
like, again stand up, see, it’s very, very difficult for you to move, and yet, I’m not
really exerting myself. This how in ancient China, people who were smaller, weaker, more
fragile and vulnerable, could actually defeat attackers much larger than themselves or who
outnumbered them or who perhaps even had weapons. Learning how to modulate emotional and other
types of encounters is a large part of what we’re really trying to learn in the martial
arts. You might say that this art, all of these moves that we wind up doing, are essentially
metaphors for the human condition and for human interaction. It isn’t just about, again,
fighting the bogey man who’s going to attack you coming out of the alley with that knife
so that he can take your wallet to feed his drug habit. Now, it does happen. It does happen
but not to us, but we don’t allow that to happen because that’s improper. It’s an improper
human interaction. Part of that balancing that the martial arts
is really set up to do is to try to equalize encounters so that there’s a win-win situation,
but if I need those things, they’re still there. [Crosstalk 00:13:29].
Pedram: You better have them in your arsenal. Grandmaster: Exactly. Ultimately, the martial
arts is a way to teach us how to interact with ourselves, the different aspects of ourselves,
body, mind, spirit, and then, in the larger social context, how to interact with others
in a balanced, strong and healthy way with integrity. That’s the purpose of the martial
arts. Okay, now, let’s take a look at how one pattern
can be used against many, many different types of possible situations, possible even attacking
type of situations. Again, we’ve been talking about this square and the circle and the triangle.
Now, these look rather innocuous just done in the air. However, let’s say you were punching
with this hand and I bounced right into your face, bam, and then used the other hand to
follow through. That was against your right punch. Okay, so attacking high and then low
if I need to. Now, but suppose you attack with your left
hand high, and you punch me in the head, okay. Pedram: No cup, by the way.
Grandmaster: Okay, and so, you punch, and again, I pare here, and again, I’m going to
do the exact same encounter that I did the last time. Now, once again with the left punch.
Suppose you punch right and left, right and left, and then, again, I do the same encounter.
Suppose you punch left then right. Left, right, again, I do the same encounter. Suppose you
punch right, left, and right upper cut. Right, left, and upper cut [inaudible 00:14:59] bam,
then again, I’m doing the exact same thing. Once I learn one pattern of motion, I can
really apply it to anything. Suppose you grab my wrist. Same thing. I just
ignore the fact that you grabbed me and there I am doing the exact same response, and so
once we learn a pattern, a pattern of interaction, it really doesn’t matter what the attacker
does. What matters is what we do. You try that. Pare, bounce. What happens when
you drop a ball on the ground? Pedram: It bounces.
Grandmaster: Yeah, so the attacker is coming here, and you’re going to bounce right into
his face. Pare, bounce. Now, pick the other hand and bounce, bam, and then low, wham.
Again, bounce high, high, wham, low. Again, block high, high, low, wham. Again, block
high, high, low. Focus. Sink your weight. Gather the chi from the Earth and then express
in your face, in your voice, and in your chi. Better. One more time. Perfect, perfect. How
did that feel? Pedram: Good.
Grandmaster: Again, at the same time, I’m learning how to pare and how to respond.
What motion is that? Pedram: Circle.
Grandmaster: It’s a circle, and so, in using a circle, notice I blocked and struck at the
same time, moved your hand out of the way, and then, returned for another strike. Okay?
Isn’t that easy? You know, 3-year-old children, they walk around
doing this all the time. They just don’t know what they’re doing, but once we learn how
to use a pattern, notice I added the other hand this time, once I learn how to use a
pattern, I can actually use that to deflect almost anything.
Now, this same principle can be extended, and the Chinese did this in China, to taking
these motions and then converting it into what they were observing in nature, which
was of course forces like yin and yang, soft and hard, inner and outer, but also, they
observed the creatures within nature and turned that into their art.
Again, if the attack was coming here, I could respond with what’s known as the tiger, the
leopard, the leopard punch, the snake, the dragon, and finally, the crane, the white
crane. All of these arts were built into the structure of what happened in the Shaolin
and other monasteries that became world famous in China. By observing nature and then applying
those lessons to our own lives, we’re able to take that and utilize it in ways that are
effective, both for our own health and also for self-defense and ultimately to learn how
to relate in a balanced way with nature to increase our own understanding and development.
Okay, so those same principles that we do empty handed or with swords, can also be done
one weapon against another. If you had that sword and I had this spear, [inaudible 00:18:24],
again, I cut high, you pare high. I cut low, you pare low. I sweep around and try to go
low, and you block low. I turn around and I go high, you go high. You try to cut me
low, and I pare it by. I try to stab at you, and you make me miss. I come underneath, and
you block the end. I come back and come over the top. I spin, and you pare. I try to shoot
[inaudible 00:18:54], and you block. You try to stab me, and I pare and try to stab back,
and you pare it away. I try to move this out of your hand entirely and try to sweep. Now,
you jump, and I attack from the ground, and you duck, and then, you try to attack me [inaudible
00:19:10], and I block and stab and then come up and we come back to our opening position,
and we’re finished. It’s like a dance. It’s like a 2-person dance
where we engage and encounter each other and learn how to turn, deflect, and modify so
that we can play and dance with each other and nobody gets hurt, because in order to
learn how to do these moves, whether again it’s with a weapon or barehanded, we have
to know what we’re about. We have to know how we work as human beings, physically, in
terms of our kinesiology, in terms of our movement, and also psychologically, because
a lot of combat is actually in here. It’s in the mind, and it’s said that winning or
loss happens here in the mind, and the person with the most intention, the most focused
intent, is usually the victor in the encounter. One of my teachers said that unfortunately
in this world, it’s not who’s right that counts but who’s left that counts, and a big purpose
of the martial arts really is to change that by first changing our relationship with ourself,
and once we have confidence, then we feel the confidence to change the encounter with
others, so that ultimately, we have a win-win situation. You win, I win, and peace is maintained,
and we can each develop more fully as human beings.
Again, the true purpose of the martial arts, self development and development in the greater
world as well. That’s our ultimate goal.

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