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Artes Marciais

Learn the art of fighting without fighting with 'no mind' kung fu!
The art of fighting without fighting is a phrase made famous by the great Bruce Lee, and was included as a line in at least one of his films, but it is not just an empty phrase used because it sounds good, it describes a very real and powerful aspect of kung fu called 'no mind'. Many people consider the attainment of the 'no mind' state to be the pinnacle of kung fu. Within the Chan Buddhist framework of the Shaolin temple and the philosophy that these warrior monks have imparted to the martial arts community the art of fighting without fighting is a spiritual acheivement, pursued in modern times purely for spiritual purposes, but this very special art also leads to a dramatic multiplication of your fighting skills. To put it as simply as possible, the art of fighting without fighting is the ability to wholly unite the mind and body so that there is no longer any distinction between thought and action. In this state a fighter does not have to think about what to do, consciously select the next move or decide how to react to attacks; the mind is completely clear present and alert, not distracted in any way by thought or emotion. When a fighter attains 'no mind' kung fu the instincts, reflexes and other natural intelligences of the body work in complete harmony with their technical style and training, rather than against it as is often the case, reaction times are greatly improved, the fighters awareness opponent and his intentions and actions increases and becomes more vivid, to the point that it seems that they have a supernatural sense of premonition guiding them, energy levels increase (especially in stressful situation where the tension and over-excitement of the mind negatively impact the body), and hesitation and mistakes are eradicated. 'No mind' kung fu is not a style of fighting itself - it has no outer forms and techniques, but rather a state of being which greatly multiplies the effectiveness of any particular style (kung fu or not) that you may otherwise practice. Although it is very difficult to wholly attain to the state of 'no mind' kung fu it is relatively easy to begin to make progress towards it and you attain significant benefits for any amount of progress that you make. Aside from continuous training and repetition so that your techniques and movements become second nature and can be used without even needing to think about it there are three main methods for attaining 'no mind' kung fu that we will look at here: Qi Gong, imaginary opponent training, and 'the hammer principle' for training with a partner that was devised by Bruce Lee and forms a part of Jeet Kune Do kung fu training. One of the main purposes of Chi Kung, or later developments from it such as Tai Chi, is to promote greater unity between mind and body, and that is precisely what is needed to attain no mind kung fu fighting.When you practice Chi Kung exercises you should be constantly trying to increase your awareness of your whole body, silence the mind of extraneous thoughts, and feel your way deeper and deeper into every movement. People often do not realise how weak their body awareness actually is because, obviously, we are always aware of our bodies to some limited extent. But this peripheral and generally partial awareness is not enough for the purposes of kung fu; what you need is a full, clear, even and vivid awareness of your whole body, both internally and externally. Concentrate your awareness on a specific part of your body and you will notice how this awareness (direct awareness, not just the visual awareness if you are looking at it) is more detailled and vivid than your ordinary bodily awareness; the goal of Chi Kung is to increase your awareness of the whole body to something like this extent. The Shaolin Steel Jacket training given in theHard Chi Kung section helps with this and includes

specific body awareness exercises; you may also want to look at the Basic Chi Kung Exercises in this site or learn about Taijiquan (Tai Chi). Imaginary opponent training is similar in nature to western shadow boxing. It basically involves practicing your techniques with an imaginary opponent in front of you. This need not just be an isolated training practice - ideally you should imagine an opponent in this manner whenever you practice any of your techniques. This sounds like a very simple and unremarkable practice, but it is actually very important and can be a powerful training tool if used correctly. The point of this training is to condition yourself to react automatically ina certain way in every possible situation. We all have instinctual responses, and for a martial artist these can work against you if the instinctual response is not in harmony with your techniques or style of fighting. This kind of training helps to unite your instincts with your technical training. You may have heard of a western psychological experiment called 'Pavlov's Dogs', in which a bell is rung every time the dogs are fed; after a while the sound of the bell causes the dogs to salivate and produce stomach acids in the same way as the sight of food does, even if there is no food present; in the same way you can programme your body to react automatically to your opponents actions in the appropriate way that your fighting style teaches. It is important that you put some effort into this and think about it; if you are practicing an attack do not simply imagine an opponent standing stone still in front of you allowing you to hit them, that would be pointless, instead think about the circumstances in which you would use that particular attack, imagine your opponent moving around in as realistic a manner as you can, imagine them moving into the kind of position in which your attack would be used, see the opening in their defenses in your minds eye, and then exploit it. When you are specifically doing imaginary opponent training give it as much realism as possible; dont just practice one or two techniques and then let go of the visualisation and go back to the starting position to continue - try to cultivate some continuity. Imagine yourself hitting them and hold the visulaisation to include their reaction - continue from there; make it as fluid and un-choreographed as possible, stringing together combinations. You should even imagine yourself missing or having your attack blocked sometimes, as this will inevitaby happen in a real fight. This can be quite difficult if you are not used to visualisation practices but it gets easier over time. Of course the same advantages can be gained from two person sets and from sparring, but imaginary opponent training does have some advantages. Compared to a two person practice set imagniary opponent training can be much more realistic and fluid, taking into account more different possibilities. And in sparring it is often difficult, especially in kung fu, to stick strictly to your style and not get sloppy and just scrap it out; you will also have a limited number of opponents with a limited range of attacks and techniques to deal with, whereas in imaginary opponent training there is no limit to the number of scenarios you can train. Training the hammer principle in Jeet Kune Do requires a training partner to practice with. It gives you two great advantages: not only does it help train you to act instantly without thought and cultivate the art of fighting without fighting, but it also trains you to take full advantage of the fact that your opponent cannot do this. The thing is that unless you are trainined to do otherwise your attack will not be instant, and the subtle movements of the body as it prepares to unleash the attack can be picked up by an observant and trained fighter. This training teaches you to recognise this preparation in others and anticipate their attacks, as well as to strike instantly yourself, without this initial period as the body prepares itself, and without your opponent seeing the attack coming.

In this training two people stand facing each other at just over the distance of an extended arm (this distance can be experimented with during the training to see what works best). One person, who is usually called the 'trainer' holds is hands up in front of his face, just under shoulder width apart, with the palms facing towards eachother. The other person is the attacker, and they stand in the on-guard position. For this training, however, the on guard position is slightly different to the usual position, and the reason for this is that it includes an extra little trick to land a punch without your opponent seeing it coming. In the ordinary on-guard position the hands would be held up in front of the face, at about the level of the nose; from this position straighten the lead arm, keeping the elbow and upper arm still, until the hand is roughly in line with the chin. You will notice that this lowering closes the gap between the lead arm and your opponent. Using this kind of movement in a fight would almost certainly be viewed by your opponent as a non-threatening gesture; they would notice the lowering rather than the fact that this was moving it closer to them, and would probably think it was because you were getting tired (lowering of guard is one of the most common signs of fatigue) or loosing concentration. Having closed the gap between your lead hand and its target without your opponent realising that this is what you are doing increases your chances of landing a punch without them seeing it coming. During a fight it is important to keep up your guard for defence, so this lowering would only be momentary, and followed quickly with a strike, but for the purpose of this exercise this lowered position is held stationary for the on-guard position. This is because you are practicing to strike without giving your intentions away with the subtle physical preparations discussed above to your training partner, and this lowering would certainly give the game away to an opponent who knows that you are practicing this technique. From these positions the attacker shoots out his lead hand in a finger jab whilst lowering the arm as if holding a hammer, and attempt to tap the trainer on the forehead with his fingers. The trainer must try to parry the attack, deflecting it away from his head. The attacker must concentrate on trying to strike without the trainer seeing it coming. The trainer must be focussed and present, and watch out for the attackers preparations so that he can anticipate the attack and parry it. At first these preparations will be quite clear to see, but as time goes on the attacker will be trained to gradually eliminate them. The first, and most explicit way that the attacker can do this is to move the hand before the body or feet, because this movement is smaller and harder to notice; also if you lead with the hand in this manner your strike will hit just before the lead foot lands, adding power tot he strike. Beyond this it is a matter of trying to erase the separation between the decision to strike and the actual strike. If you decide in advance, thinking it in your mind that you are going to strike, then it is almost impossible to stop this thought unconsciously transmitting itself to the body which then prepares itself for the strike. The idea is that the mind and body are united, that the decision to strike is simultaneously the action of striking. Although this distinction is not easy to explain or, perhaps, to picture precisely in your head as you read this, this training is specially designed to help you recongnise the distinction and eleiminate it - the subtle preperation of the body are inseperable from the time lapse between decision and action, and in trying to eliminate these so as to conceal your strike from your training partner you are also working towards the unification of mind and body. And by swapping around and having a go at being the trainer as well you learn to recognise them in yourself by first seeing them in your partner, and at the same time you also learn a useful combat skill - to anticipate what your opponent is going to do before they do it.

This article was written to serve as an introduction to the philosophical and practical elements of the Way of Wuji
Wuji is an important concept in both kung fu and qi gong, as well as Taoism and Chinese esoteric philosophy in general. It can be literally translated as meaning no extremities , and describes a state of being in which all things are balanced. It is believed that Wuji is the original, natural state where Yin and Yang are not distinguished from each other. There are many benefits to attaining the state of Wuji. As any imbalance between then energies of Yin and Yang can lead to illness, the state of wuji is also the state of optimal health. Cultivating a state of Wuji, in which Yin and Yang are integrated back into the Way / Tao also brings spiritual benefits, and success in meditative practices. Also, In order to attain to advanced levels of qi gong practice it is necessary that the chi is balanced, using the way of Wuji. From the perspective of the martial artist Wuji is also the state in which training is made most productive, and in which this training can be put to use in real situations most effectively. In Chinese philosophy Yin and Yang are very broad categories, which include all things within them (although the attribution is usually relative, so something can be Yin in relation to one thing and Yang in relation to another). So the first thing to recognise is that Wuji refers to a balance across the whole of one s life, and not just in certain practices, or within an allotted training time. To make things easier for the western mind it is worth stating that you do not always need to think of things in termsof Yin and Yang; a little common sense goes a long way. For example, if your job requires a very practical mindset and logical thinking, then you would do well to balance this out with a frivolous hobby which stimulates the imagination. An even simpler example is the balance between work and home life, or between working and relaxation. It may also be helpful in making this concept of Wuji more accessible to western thought if we make the comparison between Wuji and reason. The modernEnglish word reason is derived from the same ancient Greek root as the word ratio . The original concept of reason described the act of weighing one thing up against another to find the balance. By this method the ancient Greeks sought to find out how one thing related to another, and so set the stage for modern science and philosophy. But within its original context the concept of reason was also thought of as a way of living life in a balanced state, and in this sense it is almost identical to the Chinese concept of Wuji. The way of Wuji is therefore to live one s life in a reasonable manner, without getting carried away and losing one s balnce. The ancient Greeks had a saying which I think is instructive: Everything is a vice if taken to its extreme, even virtue . A good example of this is alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking is an extreme which everyone knows is bad for you; but it is worth remembering that not drinking at all is also an extreme, at the other end of the scale. Health professionals agree that alcohol is actually good for the health if consumed in moderation. To live life according to the way of Wuji is to be reasonable and moderate in all things, but does not require you to deny yourself anything.

Moving from the general principles to specific practices, one of the most important elements of balance in the quest for Wuji is between the Wisdom Mind and the Fire Mind. The Wisdom Mind is Yin, and is also known as the water mind; it is calm, steady, receptive and rational. The Fire Mind is Yang; it is also known as the emotional mind and it is passionate turbulent, expansive and imaginative. The processes by which these two are balanced are called Kan and Li. Kan is water, which cools and quenches the emotional mind. Li is fire, which disperses the wisdom mind as fire evaporates water. A simple practical exercise is to meditate on water, visualising placid lakes and waterfalls, and imagining yourself to be a gently flowing stream, to calm the emotions and promote wise thinking. Or alternatively, to meditate on fire in order to strengthen the will to achieve a particular goal, or to break out of a detached mind-set and stimulate love, compassion, or a renewed feeling of the joy of life. Similar meditative techniques can be used to balance the application of Fire Mind and Wisdom Mind in a particular endeavour, and thereby to maximise your chances of success. In martial arts practice specifically one should think about trying to balance aggression and awareness, discipline and creativity, resistance / contention and going with the flow, and perhaps most importantly of all, mercy and severity.

Kung Fu can be a form of meditation in itself!

Shifu Shi Yan Ming, founder of the Shaolin temple USA, describes his kung fu as being 'action meditation'. For him, and potentially for all of us, martial arts are more than just a set of techniques for winning fights, or some good exercise, it is a form of meditation. On this page is a breif article about how martial arts practice can become a form of meditation for anyone, and the benefits that this can bring. Meditation, in its simplest form, is the art of exercising control of the functions of your own mind. Initially this entails clearing and emptying the mind, ceasing the mechanical and habitual flow of thought which arise of their own accord, and follow on from one another mechanically by the laws of logic and association. This sounds like the simplest thing in the world, but is actually the hardest. In seeking to silence to logical part of our mind and cease the mechanical flow of thoughts physical exercise can be very useful. This is because it can provide a distraction which does not dull the mind and put it into an entirely passive mode (such as tv and so on), but which still gives one something to concentrate on in order to 'block out' our thoughts. As is so well understood by Yogis, flexibility is also very important. In meditation flexibility of mind is paramount, and we must not forget that mind and body are linked. An inflexible body encourages inflexibility of mind, and vice versa. When you stretch try to feel as if you are stretching your whole being, not just your body, openning yourself up to new ways of thinking and being. And perhaps most importantly of all is the issue of control. Many people forget that meditation is not just about peace and love - it is primarily about control - learning to control the mind and not to be controlled by it. And control is also at the heart of martial arts practice - complete control of the body and all its functions, another thing which sounds very easy but is actually very hard. And when you really push yourself you find that the distinction between physical limitations and psychological limitations becomes very blurred indeed. Reaching the pinnacle of physical performance is about 'diggin deep' and finding the psychological strength to will yourself onwards, driving past your own barriers and beleiving you can do more - it requires not only mastery of the body, but also of the mind. True kung fu is not about controlling or overcoming

an opponent, but about overcoming oneself, gaining complete mastery over ones own body and mind, and through tem, ones own fate. In addition to this one must remember that at the pinnacle of kung fu the mind and body become one and everything becomes the eternal moment - and this too is a state of being held in the highest regard in most schools of meditation; for more on this aspect of kung fu take a look at our The Art of Fighting Without Fighting page. Treat your kung fu like a spiritual discipline, practicing religiously and opening your mind to its spiritual benfits, and you will not be dissapointed.