Taoist martial arts
The Taoist martial arts are often called the internal boxing form for two reasons. One, they focus on developing an internal state of being, and the outside becomes secondary to that.
When you’ve got the right internal set up, in other words when you’re actually in a state of meditation, even while in the boxing ring, you’re then able to maintain full command of everything that happens in your body, and around your body with much more ease and eloquence.
The other reason they’re called the internal forms is a more pragmatic one in that when confronted by an opponent in a fighting scenario your aim is to get right inside their defences so that you find yourself with your face up against their face, with your chest up against their chest, because then with the slightest moving of body mechanics you’re able to exert incredible force without having to use very much strength, thereby not having to worry about whether the other guy’s bigger, or faster than you.
The art in many ways is learning how to get past all the long punches and kicks. One has to take a few on the way in so that you’re able to do what it is you have to do.
The Taoist martial arts rely on the development of what’s called chi, which is a psycho active form of energy. It’s like energy plus intention. So that when deflecting and counter attacking a strike from an opponent, the mind sees a shape and moves the shape with intention and the energy, this chi, follows.
And the chi is transmitted through your punch, through your block and therefore has the effect of moving the person without much force.
It’s quite magical when you experience it for yourself, either on the defending, or the attacking side.
It’s a bit like having your mind grabbed by the other person and having your mind hurled across the room and therefore your body has to follow it.
And it feels really nice. It’s like being hit by an iron bar wrapped in lots of cotton wool. So there’s nothing really jagged about it. It’s fun almost, but can be lethal of course.
The three most famous of the Taoist martial arts are tai chi, xing yi and pau kua.
Now you might be surprised to find that tai chi is a martial art because it’s generally known as this thing that’s done solo, in slow motion by old people, which it is, and as such is a very powerful form of moving meditation and extremely good for your physical and mental wellbeing.
However, what’s going on there is merely the slow motion shadow boxing of the art, which has many more layers of training and practice to it. It is in a sense, in essence, boxing, tai chi chuan, it’s tai chi combat.
Xing yi, xing yi quan, which is older than tai chi, is probably more recognisable as a martial art, it looks a bit more like karate, where you see people drilling the moves up and down in straight lines and it uses positive force, the whole body’s mechanics, the whole weight of the body brought to bear in that single moment in a simultaneous parry and punch. You don’t block and then strike, you strike and block with the same movement. And it means intention boxing because you pierce the opponent with your intention. You power right through your opponent with your intention. Then your body follows. It’s a pretty devastating art.
I think fourteen of the last fifteen years that I checked the statistics of the inter-disciplinary martial arts contest in China, Xing Yi was the outright winner.
The third one of the trilogy is Pa Kua, Pa Kua Chang, is the palm striking method of the I Ching, which is the ancient oracle of Taoism, which is sixty-four hexagrams arranged in a kind of circular pattern. And the idea of the oracle is that you can see into the past and into the future and beyond linear time in other words, and so get a fix on what’s actually got to be done in the moment to optimize your chances.
And this is the dance. It puts you in a kind of trance. It takes you out of linear time. You practice it whirling like a dervish a little bit, with various palm movements, but in combat it teaches you to constantly get behind your opponent, and develop circular power. It’s a very, very clever art. It’s usually done with two scythes, two swords, so it has the effect of being like human razor blades.
And the practice of these arts for me as I get older, rather than avoiding getting in a punch up, the effect on the body the training has on a daily basis, the way it kind of gets rid of all your aches and pains, it broadens you out, it makes you sprightly, it makes your muscle tone good, it makes you feel connected to your body. It makes you feel that you’re at one in a benign flow with all of existence, so it increases your confidence and that enables you to be more kindly to those who you’re around and you get better results from the world as a consequence.
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