Laoshih started the gung fu class one summer when I was visiting my family in the US, so I
didn't take it when it started. The popularity of the class really surprised me. Gung fu movies had always bored me because the actions never look natural and I never really had much interest in gung fu fighting at all. I never saw myself attending
Laoshih's new gung fu class because I was physically out of shape and I couldn't see how hitting people and fighting (and getting injured) could help enlighten me. No way! Are you crazy?
Unification of Body & Mind
Seven years ago, when the gung fu classes started, I thought that I was doing a really good job practicing chikung twice a day and attending the three levels of chikung practice each week. The best part, of course, was the weekly Life Philosophy class, studying the works of the ancient saints and sages Laotse or Mencius or the Sixth Patriarch or the I Ching. Even better was trying to apply their ideas to my daily life and chikung practice! :) Benevolence! Righteousness! Etiquette! Humility! Love! Combine Heaven, Earth and Man! None of these virtues could possibly be developed by my attending a gung fu class in which I had to fight others and probably get hurt. :( In other words, I had a very negative, pessimistic attitude toward the idea of attending the gung fu class.
Beginning with Nothingness
When I first started practicing chikung, I would ask Laoshih questions about how to do the movements correctly. Usually, he would only say cryptic things like “Practice more!” In my disgruntled mindset at that time, all I could think was his answers were as clear as mud. Laoshih obviously knew how to do these movements correctly, but (infuriatingly!) he wouldn't tell me how to do them! But, through listening to Laoshih apply the philosophy of the ancient saints and sages to the problems of our modern life, I came to realize how maybe gung fu practice could perhaps fit into my chikung practice.:) If Laoshih had directly answered my earlier questions about our practice in detail, I would never have realized what I needed to realize about our practice. Nevertheless, it has taken a bit of foot dragging on my part before I could bring myself to attend the gung fu class (which I've only attended twice so far).
Another puzzling thing Laoshih would say in answer to my practice questions is “時間還沒到” (“the time has not yet arrived”). So, to pass/kill the time until it was the right time, I continued practicing at home and at the chikung center as well as attending the life philosophy class. The physical practice (Fundamental, Intermediate and Tai Chi) has eventually started to help me understand the philosophy that Laoshih talks about, and the insights from the philosophy class has helped my practice. This yin yang relationship between practice and philosophy has prepared me to start practicing gung fu by helping me realize four important things about my practice of gung fu (and chikung).
First, I need to have optimism in my practice. There is a learning curve (學習曲線)
involved in learning anything new. Having a positive attitude (I hope) will lift me and those I practice or spar with to a new perspective of what we are doing. It will also relax me, so maybe I can understand just a little bit more. In any event, if I am optimistic, it will make it more pleasant for others to be around me and if I get hurt, maybe it won't hurt so much!
Finds your Sword
Second, I need to find my original mind through the practice of chikung and gung fu.
Laoshih sometimes talks about “finding your own sword” like Li Mwo-bai did with his sword the Green Destiny in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. To me this means letting my body use its own mind to move. In other words, not allowing my rational mind to commandeer my movements. It was such a surprise to realize how much my mind limits what I can do with my body: If my mind thinks I can't move more quickly, then it will make sure I can't. Certainly, my reactions to new punches are distracted by my stubborn mind analyzing what went wrong with my last punch. So, I need to stop thinking so much.
Third, I need to remember that what I think I need to learn is probably not the whole story. Again, it's a question of the time has not yet arrived. Optimistic patience is needed to find my sword and whatever else is needed in gung fu practice.
Fourth, I need to practice more. It's just as the venerable Laotse wrote: “The way which can be described is not the way.” If I try to tell you what or how to practice, I will limit your practice, so I won't tell you. :)
Another wise person, Jesus, once said that a child would lead everyone. From my limited understanding, it seems that the gung fu students who seem to be ‘good' are those that have a child's mind and heart and who don't take what they do so seriously. Winning and losing are the same; getting injured or not is the same (but I'd prefer to avoid any injuries, thank you very much!)(2008.01.03)