INB #18: The Creek

art_TMcreekThe task of the Kung Fu teacher:

A large rock squats in the middle of the creek. The water circles the rock without hesitation, uninterrupted in its career. As it crashes forward it whittles into the river bank carving shapes where the current runs fastest. Sometimes the rush of the flow cuts so deeply the shadowed bank slows down the rush, creating even more cut in the shattered earth.

The creek moves with one spirit by spreading in all directions. Waters bounce, ride, and cross back into the collective splashing course. They appear to twirl around themselves in chaos as though disembodied voices reading lines from different plays or angry children playing two different games with the same ball. But every stream of wild water contributes to the same rush, in the creek.

The water can be treacherous: as a woman’s tresses; a rickety bridge, a slippery slope; a random row of stepping stones. If you submerge your bare foot you feel the coolness flashing by in tangled drags and pulls. The shadow of the trees speckling its surface sinks then quavers through the deeper waters. The creek captures and plays with shine and shade.

It breathes, too. And the breezes floating above it also breathe. Air rustles, but slightly, no more than the rise of a napping cat’s chest. The creek moves yet keeps contact with its breath.

The longer you stand by the side of the creek the less chance you have to find its “pattern”. Of course you see pattern in the waters: the splashing, spritz, sprout, sprottle: shapes appear and disappear like all the random numbers rolling through the universe but each one based on only ten number no more. The pattern evident and concealed simultaneously.

Springhead unknown, the rain gorging the creek originates in Heaven then dashes along the Earth. Absorbed by a hungry soil it bubbles upward, the essence of Heaven channeled by earth. Still heavenly, nothing can stop it. Soft as it can be it floods over and around anything. People may drink wine, coffee, tea but everything is made with water and when we are desperate and thirsty enough only pure water will do.

The creek is difficult to ford because it is moving, alive, ever changing. Oh, and one last thing; you can ride with the current or wade against it. The choice is yours. But the art of the creek is the art of the artless. Wade away: the definition of an instructor is one who has made all the mistakes before the student; who has slipped and fallen and now can lead.


Nowadays, there is a lot written about martial arts; probably more than at any time in human history. But very little of this is at the instructor level dealing with the problems, goals and strategies of imparting the arts. This series, written by martial instructors, will be a frank and directed discussion of such topics. If you are a beginner and new to the martial arts, you may find some of these subjects a little distressing. Indeed, this may be premature for you. The only thing we guarantee is a sincere handling of informed viewpoints.

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