Philosophical Approach - The Tao Axiom

Truth is like a jewel you finds in the mud, you might not be looking for it, you might not have known what it would look like, but when you find it, it stands out for what it is.

Much of what we do at Norwich Kung Fu Academy is based around our philosophical approach, so it seams appropriate to share a thought or two about that.

It is our belief that Kung Fu should never be reduced to something as trivial as fighting skills.
Kung Fu really means achieving excellence through hard work.  It is about becoming a master of the art of living.

For some people, from many different martial arts, this area of the web site will appear to be out of place.  There are many martial arts in which the fighting skills are pre-eminent.  For many, training in Kung Fu is a way to get fitter, stronger and more supple, a way to develop confidence by having the ability to defend themselves in dangerous situations, or just a fun skill to learn.  Obviously it is all of those things, but if that is all you get from Kung Fu, it would be like thinking of a meal with friends as merely an opportunity to eat.  You would, I believe, be missing the heart of it.

For many people, martial arts training is so much more; it becomes an integral part of their way of life, an aspect of their identity.  For some, it becomes a spiritual discipline, a journey of self development and self realisation.

The philosophical articles on our website and ongoing teaching during lessons is for those people who want to discover The Way of The Warrior as a spiritual journey; a path to self fulfilment.

In the West we are the inheritors of Greek philosophy and Roman pragmatism.  We have a tendency to analyse everything into neat boxes and then assign value to the boxes according to their usefulness in our everyday material lives.  In the Middle East they have inherited a Semitic logic that accepts the natural mystery and wonder of the universe as, not just a price worth paying, but part of the very spice of life; they have less problem with paradoxes and can more readily accept that such logical problems merely reflect our own limitations of understanding.  In the Far East they have historically worked with more axiomatic approaches such that only emerges occasionally in the West with people like Spinoza.

An axiom is a truth that I may not be able to prove, but if I share it with you, you’ll be able to see that it must be the case; it is self evident.  We often use such a way of thinking when it comes to rights.  I can’t prove that we should have, or grant others with, any particular right; I can only state that it seems to me that people should have this or that right, and if you can’t see it, I have nothing to fall back on.  We are all stumped when someone asks ‘why?’ to what we consider obvious; ‘Why should we try to be fair?’  ‘Why can’t I hit him?’  We can gape like a fish and bluster ‘are you serious?’ but if someone holds out, pretending that they can’t ‘just see it’ we struggle to know where to start.  If they really can’t see it we will tend to conclude that they are psychopathic, that there is something wrong with their brain.  Indeed, such a person would be dangerous and probably be locked up eventually.

The Tao can best be understood as The Way.  This could be ‘the way things are’ or ‘the way things should be’ or even ‘the way one should live.’

In eastern philosophy the skill is not so much seeing the meaning of life, but in being able to show it to someone else in a way that enables them to say ‘oh yes, its obvious now you’ve put it like that.’

My hope is that as you read these articles you will often think, ‘well yes, I think I always knew that.’

Jo-Sifu Mark Ringer