Elemental Kung Fu

One of China’s oldest philosophical/scientific models was that of the Five Elements. In Chinese this is known as the Wu Xing 五行. The word wu means “five” in this case. The word Xing is a character representing two feet walking. It has a huge number of meanings in Chinese including O.K., to travel, movement, perform, carry, makeshift, etc. All these have the taste of meaning “to go”; even the idea of “that’s O.K.” as in “that goes fine with me”. When the two words are together Xing becomes equivalent to the English word, Element. We’ll understand why in a second.

The Wu Xing is not a theory about things, it is a theory about transitions. Remember, the basis of all Chinese thought is change. The Five Elements theory (which was developed separately from Bagua Eight Trigrams Theory) is mostly about the natural world. It sees the world as a series of transformative states in the eternal evolution of matter. Each of these states has a characteristic face. We have, for instance:
METAL which Cuts,
WATER which runs downward
WOOD which splits
FIRE which rises
EARTH which contains.

The elements follow a natural progression which is repeated over and over again throughout eternity. This engendering process sees the elements as naturally transforming from one to the other…
Metal collects Water,
Water feeds Wood
Wood feeds Fire,
Fire feeds Earth,
Earth births Metal.

Many aspects of Kung Fu, besides the obvious applications from Xing Yi Quan, grow out of Five Element Theory. For instance there is a Five Elements Staff in Choy Lai Fut, a Five Elements Form in Hung Gar, a Five Elements Qigong, and many more examples.

Now here’s the thing. Kung Fu practice has the classic Four Weapons known as the Grandparent weapons. They are Sword, Saber, Staff and Spear. And, of course, there is also the central practice of empty hands. But which of these five studies correlate to which element? What  is your opinion based on your knowledge and interpretation of the elemental features? Throughout the centuries there have been different approaches to this. Is the  Spear wood, or metal? What weapon symbolizes earth?  Let’s see your list.

Note: We’ll probably try to give a prize to the best responses but we have no idea WHAT yet. Maybe we’ll just let the transformations keep going until we pick the best.

4 Responses to “Elemental Kung Fu”

  1. Stan says:

    METAL which Cuts, – Saber
    WATER which runs downward – Straight Sword
    WOOD which splits – Staff
    FIRE which rises – Spear
    EARTH which contains – Empty hands.

  2. Alex says:

    Water- Cane which flows, birthing all weapons(If you can pick up a stick off the ground then anything goes)
    Wood – Staff which splits weapons into fashioned and unfashioned improvised weapons
    Fire- Spear which rises like a king among fashioned weapons
    Earth – Empty which contains the spear ruler of unfashioned weapons
    Metal – Saber that cuts the grabbing hand

  3. Steve says:

    Metal – Staff (chops down from above)
    Water – Empty hands (flow into the opponent’s openings)
    Wood – Spear (penetrates like an arrow)
    Fire – Saber (explosive upward cuts)
    Earth – Sword (coils around the opponent like a dragon)

  4. Andrew Shinn says:

    I like Stan’s listing. It works for my understanding.

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