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Chi Kung
the art of breathing: the fundamental basis of tai chi

The Foreign 'Traditions'


laot tzeTaoism, Buddhism, a bit of this, a bit of that; and all a bit foreign and strange -Maybe you have one or two questions - like "What the hell has all of that got to do with Martial Arts"?


caligraphyIf you have seen the [seasonally released] Disney film "Mulan" you should have some idea. It is all about family loyalty and respect for our elders and ancestors and all that isn't it? Yes. And it is also all about moral code, form and discipline. This is also probably the reason that we conceive such concepts as alien and strange! However if we are to become serious about our study we must develop a hunger for the unknown. Is this not what successful study is . transforming the alien and strange into the natural and normal? Possibly one of the reasons martial arts began.

If we applied as much scepticism to our own tradition as we do to those we call foreign and strange we should ultimately understand that ritual and tradition rarely does make sense in any culture and rarely follows a logical sequence. Take for instance [as above] one of our best-loved and universally accepted traditions - that of Xmas.

Logic might first tell us that even the word does make sense no, but we can ignore that because we know the code and the significance of 'X' - same as that for the missing 's'

Next we should deal with the concept of Santa Clause!

Here's a guy who lives in The North Pole, has Elves to help him make presents that he delivers to everybody - on a sleigh that flies through the air pulled by Reindeer . the most popular of these being Rudolf, because he has a red nose. The grand finale when Santa Clause (also known as Father Christmas) climbs down the chimney of every house in the land (even the ones that do not have a chimney) to deliver these presents. This is all timed to coincide with the agreed anniversary of the birth of The Son of God,

Well, that is what I told my children anyway.

It is what my parents told me.

The 'Magic' of any ritual or tradition comes most alive when we are prepared to let go of all logic and take pleasure in myth and fantasy. In the case of Christmas in the west that particular combination of mince pies, pine trees, crackers and all works for us.

Other things work for other cultures and other things do other things.

There is a more serious side to Christmas for those who wish to take it more seriously. There is Mass and Carols. Images of the Lord abound and there are more hymns than usual on the telly. However, we can see for ourselves that currently in the west the more hedonistic, commercial, 'just enjoy yourself' aspect holds sway over the more formal, mindful and respectful. Some of us wish that it could be Xmas every day and some of us wake up on Boxing Day glad it's all over. For as long as the enduring message is "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All Men" I personal celebrate this and avoid questions like 'what's in it for me?"

The hardest things to learn are the difficult things; the most difficult of those are the things of which we have no prior or innate or cognitive knowledge.

So, in our training and study into a 'foreign' concept we make it as easy as we can upon ourselves by beginning with the familiar and work, study or train ourselves towards the less so and hence harder to understand.

We should be aware of this as our studies progress. No-body made you do [or read] this. You yourself at some point, silently or out loud, must have decided that you wanted to know more about the martial arts. This is it. This is more. It may not be the 'more' that you had in mind but it is all you are going to get from me for now. Change direction, slow down, curtail, keep under review, do as little or as much of this study as you wish and call it what you want, but if or when the time comes that it stops please call it that. Stopped. Silently or out loud you have probably already have said, "I know enough". The point that you have reached right there is only the limit of your endeavour, your needs and your expectations. You set the start, you set the study and you set the end. Remember that your study began because you wanted it to and it only slowed down later because it was getting harder for you to understand. That was expected wasn't it?

And so it follows that the most difficult, the strangest and the most alien concepts in any study (any study that continue to be a study of any note) are the those that the student arrives at some sort of understanding of further on in their endeavour - if ever. "If ever" implies 'no limit'. Understand now that Chi Kung study has no limit. If you continue your study you will soon find this out. I can't tell you when - but you will.

Some aspects of study do require more time and more effort. Discipline and form are the tools that can transform the exotic into the familiar. "Discipline and form". These words imply 'concerted effort'. Understand now that this is the way of Chi Kung. Chi Kung is concerted, concentrated, repetitive, structured effort into apparently already perfectly well understood bodily functions: Standing. Sitting. Breathing.

All things require their own amount of understanding. The amount that this is never changes i.e. more than enough. The only thing that does alter is how much time any individual spends studying it. It is the nature of human beings to become bored with and loose interest in structured effort. Few other species complain. I am no zoologist so I do not speak with any authority but it does appear to me that all other species revel in repetitive indulgence - tails wagging, flippers flipping, beavers beavering and sloth's slothing. Us human beings; we get bored. We begin to ask questions. "What good will it do me", "does it really matter" and finally "why bother?" If you have already taken up the study of Chi Kung you have asked the question and been given an answer already. Why should the answer change? "Limitless".

treesIt may suit you more to look upon your study as never beginning, rather than never ending. Look upon it as looking for something to look for if you wish. Just keep looking. Begin with Standing, Sitting and the Breathing. Look at these in detail and please do not be so stupid as to think you have finished before you have even begun. If we are to believe the movies, the books, the stories and the TV programmes then we must already believe that tradition and ritual already exist; not only here but perhaps on any planet in the cosmos that boasts an "ordered society".

So who did 'invent' or 'create' these particular procedures and when? In the case of Chi Kung the place was China and the time was at least two thousand years ago. There are many other things that I am not. I am not sociologist, anthropologist or any other kind of 'expert'. I am just a human being that occasionally takes part in one of those ceremonies, forms disciplines that have become known as 'traditional'. That is the way with traditions. Just take an intelligent life form, give it time to do the same thing more than once and before you know it there it is already - a tradition! They simply follow on like a flower follows on from a bud.

Us humans [intelligent life] did not invent or create flowers. We choose either to care for the ones that give us most pleasure or reward or neglect the ones that don't. Those that we nourish flourish and the fortune of the rest depends. In this modern chemical world this seems to now apparently depend upon us . human beings. Which we spare and which we marginalize, which we slash and which we burn is dependent upon us. We ask questions and give ourselves an answer that we as sole arbitrator accept. "Does it really matter, what good did it do me" and finally "why bother?" And that, like a lot of beautiful ancient and original flower species, is how some traditions die.

New traditions are based upon / born out of older traditions. Old traditions are the product of older traditions and so on until the most ancient are shrouded also in myth and legend. Some work better when one is prepared to voluntarily surrender reality for fantasy and myth for fact. In the west the 'magic' of Christmas works best when we believe also in Santa Clause. So that mix of fact and fantasy works for us. Other things work for other cultures. Different things matter in different ways in other cultures.


If we applied as much scepticism to our own tradition as we do to those we call foreign and strange we should ultimately understand that ritual and tradition rarely does make sense in any culture and rarely follows a logical sequence.

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