Friday, February 19, 2010

True Mastery?

[Path to Mastery 2/19/10 – Wk23 D5 (Str 9.12.09)(Ph2 11.15.09)]

Sang’s World

So now that we have covered some of these concepts, you are probably thinking how deep do you need to understand these philosophies in order to master Tai-Chi?

When I asked my teacher Gabriel about this he threw in a curve ball to this whole question.  He said that it was all a bunch of phooey.  That’s right.  That is the official nomenclature for non-sense.   He explained that when he was learning there was no such thing, and that over time, people started just adding a whole bunch of superficial knowledge that distracted you from the real knowledge.  

Now, I have heard, read and talked to a lot of people who agree with this and disagree with this.  After years of practicing, however, I agree with my teacher.  Can real knowledge come from concept or do you need to experience it? Can you get benefits without letting your mind and body improve in a real and physical way?  

Real knowledge can only come from practice.  It resides hidden within your body and mind that can only be unlocked through this key called practice.  When you practice, you body and mind make connections that you didn’t even know existed.  You literally find parts of yourself that you weren’t familiar with.  These discoveries allow you tap into your hidden potential.  When you tap into your hidden potential, then you are starting to meet the real you.  Who is more real?  All of your potential or just what you are capable of up to now?        

I think a real life example of mastery and what it means to tap into full potential is worth seeing.  I received this link from my friend Frederique not too long ago.  I think you will thoroughly appreciate this movie clip of Evelyn Glennie, a deaf musician doing a lecture.  I wanted to choose this instead of Tai-Chi, because I didn’t want to show a Tai-Chi example that would color your mind of how Tai-Chi could be done.  Instead, I wanted you to see an example of mastery in a different setting who talks about and demonstrates these principles involved with attaining real knowledge.
I hope you enjoy it!

On a closing note, these philosophies are very powerful and affective approaches to life.  These concepts can help you understand things better.  I’d like to say stay open.  Don’t get caught up by these ideas, explore.  Some of these ideas may allow you to help when you are stuck.   

Continuing our Tai-Chi Journey:

We have covered the following:

8 Type Pushing Hands (Covered from 2/2 ~ 2/11)
San-Shou (Covered from 2/12 ~ 2/15)
Ba-Gua.(Covering from 2/16 ~ )
             Part1: Explanation of Ba-Gua (Covered on 2/16)
             Part2: Yin-Yang Theory (Covered on 2/17)
             Part3: 8 Trigram (Covered on 2/18)

And here is the last installment of the 4 part series:

Ba-Gua Part 4:  5 Element
And now we come to the last chapter of the overview of the different Taoist Philosophies that help develop internal martial arts such as Tai-Chi and Ba-Gua.  We have covered the Yin-Yang concept, the study of Changes (I-Ching).  Today, we will be covering the 5 Elements.  

The Five Elements really should be referred to as the 5 Movements, or the 5 phases or stages.  In Chinese it is called Wu-Xing (Wu meaning 5 and Xing meaning move).  The 5 Movements are Wood (Tree), Fire, Earth, Metal, Water.  

Even though these seem similar to the 4 elements that the Greeks used to describe the 4 elements that made up the universe, the 5 Elements (or movements) are different.  The Five Movements were used to understand the interaction and relationship between the phenomenons in nature.  It was believed that all things in nature could be described and categorized between these 5 elemental qualities and their interactions and relationships.  

To give an illustration, Wood creates Fire (feeds).  Fire produces Earth (Ash), and Earth produces Metal (bears), and Metal produces Water (Contains water so it can be carried), and Water produces Wood (nourishes).  This cycle is called the creation cycle, production, or generation cycle.  

Now Water conquers Fire (quenches), Fire conquers Metal (melting), Metal conquers Wood (splitting), Wood conquers Earth (parts such as roots), and Earth conquers Water (absorbs).  An alternate way of looking of this is that Wood absorbs Water, Water rusts Metal, Metal breaks up Earth, Earth extinguishes Fire, Fire burns Wood.  This is called the destruction or the conquest cycle.       

Each element has it’s own qualities as well.  Wood is growing.  Fire is at maximum growth about to decline.  Metal is declining.  Water is maximum decline about to grow.  Earth is Balanced or natural.  

By using these 5 movements, the Asians have studied geomancy or Feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, music, military strategy and martial arts.  How?  Well here is an example:  

Metal is any kind of move that is direct, rigid and splitting.  If someone approaches you with a move that has a Metal quality, then you would respond with a Fire move, which is explosive, intense and radiant.  Since fire is not rigid, its radiant movements would explode through the rigidity of the Metal.  Now it is conceivable to think of Water since Water rusts Metal.  Water is flowing, penetrating and go around to achieve its goal.


  1. Without practice a theory is just a theory. Practice with awareness is the place to truly learn. It is also the place where you can see the errors of your thinking and correct them. If you do pushing hands with someone better than you, the truth about your skill level will show up. Instead of evaluating yourself, take the opportunity to notice what you are being taught.

  2. I like Gabriel's sentiment! He must have read the book of James.

    As I approach my practicum one of my instructors said to me that what I am going to experience in the next 4 months will mean more than the last 2 years of school. The difference is going and actually doing.

    Also I believe I have trained my body to have a metal or wood based way of movement. My goal is to either a) train it for the other elements or b) be darn good as wood or metal.