Fire, Water and Sorting Your Socks

Let’s start with the clearest case, Taiji. I won’t go into a dissertation on the Chinese characters but we should remember that Tai  means Great or Huge and Ji  means Extreme. The character Ji actually comes from a picture of a huge ridgepole as you might have in a big tent. The ridgepole represents something way up and out of reach. The things out of reach at either end of the ridgepole are, in this case, the complimentary ideas called Yin and Yang. This state, where Yin and Yang are separated clearly and cleanly is a rare occurrence in human life. Just as we never see the face of pure evil or pure good. We never see Yin or Yang at arms length from each other.

The little circle and double fish symbol we all known is called the Tai Ji Tu in Chinese. It is literally a tu or “”picture” of Yin and Yang clearly divided by a wavy line. This meant to be a reminder of their continual revolving like day into night into day. Two fish endless chasing each other.

The Chinese see the ability of someone to step out of the bubbling rapids, to be clear eyed enough to spot the coming storm or the coming dawn, these are the result of training and sensitivity.

People think they study deep arts like meditation and martial practice to harmonize the constantly pulling opposites. But harmony is too much to hope for here. When we walk into the office of the acupuncturist or onto the floor of the martial  arts studio we are living examples of Yin and Yang mixed up, confused, and disharmonious. The first thing we have to do, according to martial theory, is separate these twin influences.

That’s what the Great Extremes Boxing, Taijiquan, does. It compels us to sort out the confusion, to distinguish the twin powers clearly. Look here’s the weight shifting. Here are the soft movements. Here is the energy moving from the left to the right.

All of Kung Fu uses this strategy. The most basic position, the Horse stance, is an attempt to work with the special Yin and Yang of martial arts and human life, namely Water and Fire. Water and Fire are the Yin and Yang of changes. They are the tendency to rise and the inclination to descend. In the initial stance training we are attempting to separate the downward flowing water (dropping the weight into the legs) and the upward streaming fire (lifting the ribcage and spine). That’s why stance training is NEVER static, even if you can barely see any movement in the body. The INTENT of the training is to first separate and clarify.

It takes a while to grasp this because we all of us always want to ADD to our experience, not subtract from it. There’s a lot of discipline and waiting involved and not all of it is easy. But as in science when we must first control variable, or building where we first dig deep to erect a tall building, or meditation where we must first eliminate distractions: the art of Kung Fu in every action and thought, strives to make clear what was turbid.

Leave a Reply

What do you have to say?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.