What is Martial Art?
Martial art practice is more than the study of physical movement. It’s an exploration of the body through the mind and the mind through movement of the body. Martial art practice can expose humanity’s worst instincts, or reveal an inner nature that desires harmony.
The greatest martial artist of the twentieth century promoted the martial arts to a world searching for reason in the torrents of blood spilled around the globe. From the worst of those conflicts, masters arose that sought to restore balance and civility.
Man has distorted the world’s religions for personal or national gain, leveraged religion for nationalistic fervor, and used religion to legitimize the murder of millions. The martial arts’ story is the same. Martial practice can become an instrument of violence, or it can be a tool for enlightenment.
I do not practice, nor do I endorse violence. I have a firm grasp of humanity’s ability to exert barbarity on his fellow man. No empty hand form, no sword, or staff kata, will defend you from the weapons of this world.
If you are looking for a fight, you will not find one. My martial art practice has taken me past my anger, harnessed my desires, and given me visions of what is possible. Those empty hand forms, those staff and sword kata, can slice through your anger and toss off centuries of blood to find a Universal truth.
If you are interested in a fitness program that encourages self-evolution, then my practice is for you. The martial arts are a program of self-development that you can explore at your pace. Your journey with the martial arts can become a lifelong program of self-evolution. Space and time will not be a factor because you can practice anywhere, anytime, and define growth on your terms.
I know that you were sold martial training as a method for violence, or self-defense. It has been a popular myth for centuries. The fact is, that the time and training needed to apply the martial arts in a fight is greater than the typical person is ready to undertake. A casual scan of today's headlines reveals violent crime involving deadly weapons that the legendary figures of the past could not overcome. If you are looking for a good fight, you will find benefit from my material, but only if you are ready to explore beyond the physical aspects of the martial arts, and look at your reasons for desiring a fight.
There are three levels to martial art training, Foundations, Forms, and Understanding. Most instructional material focuses on the latter two, Forms and Understanding, then misses the mark with misguided martial applications. Understanding, will arise from Foundations, not Forms, and never from fighting.
The Foundation of martial art practice is the foundation for good health. A good diet, clean living, and exercise. In my practice, I emphasize isometric exercises as a foundation to the forms. I collected these exercises from a variety of sources and use them to understand key points from the traditional teaching. The masters of one or two generations ago did the same. Although their exercises may have had a more practical aspect, carrying water up a hill, or clearing rocks from a field, the fundamentals are the same.
I combined many of these isometric exercises into routines modeled after familiar qigong routines, but with a modern twist. The most popular of these is the Internal Power Set I formulated around the Taijiquan classics. My Internal Power Set is not a traditional qigong sequence, but an isometric set that will remind you how the muscles of the body work together. If you have not done this set before, I promise that one minute in the back-kick posture will remind you of long forgotten muscles in your torso.
Forms are the hook that draws you to the martial arts. The classic sets of Chinese martial arts have been drawn, photographed, and published in books for more than three centuries. Our ability to share video around the globe through the Internet knocked down the entry point to training while ignoring the harder work of Foundational training. In the old days, a master may not teach you a single posture from his style until you had cleared his field of rocks, or dug him a new well for water. Today, you can go to YouTube and learn a kata from any style for free. You can learn martial kata from a book or video, but without the Foundations behind that kata you will not gain Understanding.
By emphasizing Foundations with the Forms, by drawing a line between the Posture and the Foundational practice, I give you a reason for the foundational practice. It is like that moment in the original Karate Kid when Mr. Miagi explained “wax on, wax off.”
Understanding martial art practice requires study of the most enduring and artistic literary works in history. Buddhism and Daoism blended into Ch’an—or Zen—Buddhism between the first and sixth centuries CE. Both philosophical systems played a key role in the development of Chinese thought, and martial foundations.
You must study the history of the martial arts to understand how it evolved from combat to spiritual. Studying the martial arts without studying the dharma principles composing the moral character of the practice, is to miss the mark. Knowing the philosophical background, and doing the hard work of foundational exercises, you will attain enlightenment through practice of Forms, but it takes all three; Earth, Dragon, and Canon—Foundation, Forms, and Understanding.