Monday, November 29, 2010

Martial art workout

Can chi-kung and Taoist meditation help one’s martial arts practice? As legend goes, quite a few famous Taoists are martial artists too. Famous Tang poet and Taoist Libai(李白) was said to carry his sword around. And Tai-chi Quan was invented by Taoist Master Zhang Sanfung (張三丰). Look at it from another angle: do contemporary martial artists find it essential or at least important to practice meditation or other chi-related practice?

If you ask a practitioner of internal martial artists, the answer is definitely a yes. For example, Yi-Quan (意拳)/Da-Cheng-Quan (大成拳) grandmaster Wang Xianzai (王薌斋) was the first modern martial artist who systematized Zhan Zhuang into a fundamental practice of his system. In his system, chi in meditative-standing forms with mind-focus and imagination is used to create a body-fit-for-fighting. That fitness state essential means muscles-feel-as-one (肌肉如一), flexi-powerful shoulder and hip joints, good muscles toning (Since his middle age, he and some of his students had promoted his standing-meditation system as healing system for physical infirmity and general illness).

If you look at chi-tai practitioners’ graceful movements in morning parks or yogis changing from one difficult asana to another in a gym, you would suspect whether these practices are meant for fighting. If one wants to see martial art in action, one would find pleasure in certain spectator sports like boxing, Muay Thai, UFC, K-1, Sumo or Santa. You might be interested to know that many of these martial artists who have been trained to the highest degree of muscular control (for example, a controlled high-kick with precision and flexibility, or a lighter weigh Sumo wrestler, through good rooting and redirect incoming force to the ground, can neutralize a push from a stronger opponent while waiting for his chance to execute a smart flow using the force of his opponent) which can only be achieved from some kind chi-related practice (not necessarily chi-kung). The training routine of a world famous full-contact fighter is very revealing. I am talking about the famous Rickson Gracie. In his documentary "The Choke" (he is famous in choking his opponents out), we can see that he is a practitioner of yoga (asana, pranayama and meditation). He said the practice can enable him to gain control of every piece of his body’s muscle, and an important key to practice is highly focused meditation. See video above.

We can see that meditation is not just a spiritual practice but a practice that can enhance and change our physical well-being tremendously. So, if a person tells that his practice of microcosmic circulation can only enhance his control of his restless mind, and it can't train him to have a stronger body, we can conclude that he has not benefited from the totality of the art yet. I read about a story that there was one guy who practices meditation and finds himself at one with the Universe during meditation, but turned restless and irritable in daily life (i.e. when out of meditation) because he has this recurring back pain!

In Hui Ming Jing, the concept of dual-practice (性命雙修) was clearly spelt out. A practitioner should first practice his physical body , and only after that he should practice his mental body . And in Taoist practice objectives the first objective is Immortality of the physical body and the final objective is Immortality of the soul body. If you are puzzled by the concept of Immortality, you should not. The reasons, I believe are two: firstly it is metaphorically speaking only (like “giving birth to an internal embryo by internal copulation” is a metaphor) and secondly Chinese mentality is pragmatic, and historically Chinese will try anything and everything to prolong life, I mean the Taoist masters are just customer-focused, to use a modern-day marketing terminology!

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