November 27, 2014

Fist of Chan

"Sifu, what is there about the Chan Quan style that makes it unique?"

"When the sun comes up, I get up. When night falls and I get sleepy, I get ready for bed. "


Chan Quan is a combination of Chan Buddhism and Quan, the 'fist' of the martial arts. Most other martial arts' styles have a dual nature and separate the spiritual from the worldly. Chan Quan is nondual. It unifies the spiritual and the worldly, treating them as a whole and not as two separate realities. Chan Quan is far easier to experience than it is to explain.

The mind creates the world of opposites. We separate ourselves from others, holding our opinions sacred, as though they were more true and important then anyone else's. We place a wall between ourselves and others; but the Chan experience breaks down this barrier and allows us to see the opposites of this world and gain a complete picture. We don't let our mind limit our view.

Everything changes. Everything comes and goes, appears and disappears. That is the nature of the universe.

When we first start our practice, Chan Quan is the same as other martial arts. We learn and form our movements in a dualistic and robotic manner. We see things as separate, independent movements. But as we become skillful, our movements begin to flow, becoming one motion. But this is where things generally differ with most martial arts. We discontinue the practice of disrimination of movement. In the beginning a strike is a strike, a block is a block; but as we progress a strike is a block, a block's a strike. The motion becomes one with the situation. You may think that when we master all this that once again a strike becomes a strike and a block becomes a block . If you think that then I have to ask , "Where does your thinking come from? Who is it that does the thinking? Is your thought permanent or does it pass away?" The best advice? Don't think, and don't answer, just let it be. It is because of our thinking that our thoughts change. That things we desire and lust after come and go, in and out of existence, bringing us not what we desire, but only that which makes us suffer.

"Is that because those things are empty?"

Empty? Empty of what? How can something be empty if it is already complete? If we don't hold on to our opinions and if we don't discriminate, then how can there be emptiness? The Heart Sutra says that the five grasping aggregates of form, sensation, perception, discrimination, and consciousness are empty becuase they are not permanent, not eternal and have no ego-identity.

This is why in Chan Quan style we do not block an incoming attack. But instead use the principle of the "Di Li Quan" (Neutralizing Fist) and neutralize it. And why we don't fight fire with fire. But Di Li Quan also instructs us not to necessarily plan to use water. Not all kinds of fires can be put out with water. For example; if you splash water on a grease fire, the fire will spread. Fire needs oxygen to burn. If we are going to neutralize the fire of our opponent (be it a person or simply a situation in time) we have to take away the oxygen that feeds the fire. This means that we first have to become one with the motion of the situation. To succeed in this is to create an equilibrium between the two forces, movement and stillness, rage and tranquility, action and reaction.

Someone who intends to do you harm will continue to do so if you feed the fire, i.e., his anger. In trying to use fire against fire both parties are likely to get hurt because the fire consumes them both.

Unity and balance cannot be achieved through a one-sided point of view. It has to be done through the practices that help us with an intellectual understanding of both points of view. Such insight leads us to the realization that it is our mind that create this dualistic flow of thoughts. Through this realization we see the complete picture as it was meant to be seen.

The goal of Chan Quan is spiritual enlightenment, the "Complete Picture". We want to put out the fires that give life to our anger, greed, and ignorance. We want to help others to exit their fires. For this to happen we must inquire of ourselves what is the cause of the fire. We must determine the best course for extinguishing the fire. In our everyday practice, be it in the martial training hall or at home or work, we must always be Mindful of ourselves. In the training hall we work to keep healthy both physically and spiritually. We train to complete our being.

Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi, svaha!