What I’m Doing With My Kung Fu

I find myself in a very odd position.  My adult Kung Fu journey began with Jow Ga in Washington, DC, at the Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute. It was a short direction, but it did showed me some very valuable things and opened up a lot of relationships that I still value today.  When I left DC for Austin, Sifu Rahim suggested that I look into Ving Tsun, but to be careful to find “the ‘V-T’ guys, not the ‘W-C’ guys”.  And so I did, beginning my study of Ving Tsun Kung Fu at Moy Yat Kung Fu Academy in Austin, TX.  This beginning lasted roughly four and a half years, and took me to Houston, Detroit, RichmondBrooklyn and back to DC, even, as well as Georgetown, right up the road.

But as it says in the opening of The Romance of The Three Kingdoms,

It is a general truism of this world that anything long divided will surely unite, and anything long united will surely divide.

Change is unavoidable, and everything that was once together must part.  I find that my journey has taken an unexpected development and I am now walking a different path than I had planned.

I believe that truth is both systemic and absolute, so the study of Kung Fu is the systematic study of true things, from the perspective of any particular practitioner.  Any journey into the study of truth is going to be highly idiomatic and particular, while still. recognisable as a universal journey from origin to destination, point to point.

When I was studying Classics, when we were stuck in Greek, we found it helpful to see how previous experts had translated something into Latin or even German.  Seeing the operations performed on the original text to create a new text helped reveal what was always already there, but which we didn’t have the eyes to see.  To this end, I have decided to pursue the study of Yin Style Baguazhang.  Baguazhang, properly understood, is both a standalone martial art and a lens through which to reevaluate the martial arts that you already know. The founder, Dong Haichuan, famously only taught Baguazhang to people who had already mastered at least one other system of knowledge. My interpretation of this was that Bagauzhang was never meant to stand alone, although it could, and was intended to be a method of analysis and interpretation on top of previously existing knowledge.

What I am doing here is finding a way to look at the same Ving Tsun Kung Fu through different eyes, and the Baguazhang through experienced eyes, to see what I understand about each.  I do not believe that these two things are in competition at all, any more than the study of Latin and Greek concurrently creates competition, although, to be honest, I far prefer Latin.

I am grateful to have found a teacher of Baguazhang who is versed in the wisdom, a part of an internationally renowned family and who is uninterested in the politics of schools and academies. I will be studying with him once a week to understand the mysteries of the circle, and reading extensively on Daoism, Chinese history, Chinese mythology and Chinese philosophy. I’m looking forward to sharing those thoughts here.

Where I am with my Ving Tsun is slightly more difficult and therefore more exciting. I am beginning a journey into the forms, the corpus of Ving Tsun, and only the forms. For the next few years, aside from some Mai Sang Jong training with some senior brothers, I will not be playing hands with any Ving Tsun practitioners at all. I will only be training the forms and doing the conditioning, trying to make myself open to understanding the wisdom of the Kung Fu.

Every day, in addition to my Baguazhang workouts, I am playing an hour of Siu Nim Tau, in various combinations of sizes.  After six months of just Siu Nim Tau, I will continue to play one slow Siu Nim Tau, but fix the rest of my study time to Chum Kiu for the next six months, followed by Biu Je, then the Jong and then the Long Pole.

The purpose of this deep dive is to help me understand what Ving Tsun is and how to best learn it, practice it and understand it.  There are questions I have been thinking about for a long time that I will have to find answers to for myself.  Here are some of them.

Is Ving Tsun Kung Fu revealed knowledge, discovered knowledge or composed knowledge?  Is it knowledge that could not have come to a human mind unaided, id est, without a miracle? Is it knowledge like mathematics, id est, reflective of the fundamental principles of reality? Is it knowledge like the Talmudic commentary or Vergil’s Aeneid, id est, something created by a great genius for us to study and interpret?

Which parts of the Kung Fu are revealed, discovered or composed, and how does this nature affect the comparative necessity of the knowledge to the system?  It is said that Ving Tsun in its entirety can be derived from the simple principles of relaxation, horse and centerline.  If that is so, why are there so many variations in the expression? How much is the essential Ving Tsun itself vs. what has been added throughout the years?

Is Ving Tsun a body of knowledge, a series of practices or a method? If so, how necessarily tied to spatiotemporal coördinates is it? Does Ving Tsun reflect moments of Han Chinese culture, does it emerge from Han Chinese culture, does it transcend Han Chinese culture or does it sublate Han Chinese culture? How much understanding of Han Chinese culture is necessary to comprehend Ving Tsun? Which parts of Ving Tsun reflect the Buddhist elements, the Daoist elements and which are something else entirely?

These are just some of the directions I plan on exploring, and as I get deeper into Baguazhang, I am sure that I will be asking similar questions there, too.

Kung Fu is unlike most other things, in that with most other things, the work you do in the beginning allows you to do less work in the future. With Kung Fu, however, the work you do in the beginning allows you to do more work in the future. In this way, it is less like mathematics or Latin, and more akin to something like Freemasonry or yoga.

I’ll be posting updates and thoughts as I come across them. I thank you for your continued presence and interest in my life.


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