And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anais Nin
It is only that which has never known the actions of energy that is still and unchanging (e.g. mathematical axioms). Things that have had life and are now dead, change only contingently through the forces of other agents. But the living have the privilege of directing their own change. Change they must, it is the very essence of living. They can be like the dead and abdicate this privilege, being subject to every tide that touches them, or they can become masters of their journey. It takes courage to pick up the reins; “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
Kung Fu should never be reduced to merely fighting skills; it is about developing mastery of life through disciplined work. First one becomes aware of one’s own life; perceiving everything about one’s environment, including one’s own state of mind. Then through self discipline comes self control; where one discerns and navigates a chosen path. Eventually one takes increasing control of the environment, including the power to influence the state of mind of those whose paths we cross.
If that sounds like a dangerous power; it is and you should be credited for having a concern. This is where the fighting skills become an ideal analogy for the greater Kung Fu. Of course learning these skills is dangerous. You are learning how to hurt, injure and kill. Tao Te Kung Fu is not like many fighting styles where you learn how to fight; it starts with the assumption that you end violence as fast as possible; you don’t fight your opponent, you drop them, immediately, no fuss. If such skill concerns you; good, it should. That shows you are the sort of person that is suited to learning such skills.
If you learned only the fighting skills but didn’t also develop your spiritual insight, we would be behaving like irresponsible arms dealers. Having any power over those around you is a responsibility; whether you are a nursery nurse or a tax collector. But “power corrupts” so with every increase in power must come an increase in your integrity.
Every martial tradition has developed a moral code, an ethical philosophy to guide warriors; the chivalry of medieval Europe, the bushido of the Japanese, etc. The more power over others one has, the more control over one’s self one needs and when the power to kill is at your fingertips, your self control must be of steel.
When you understand the nature of this world and the nature of yourself, you can find the ideal path for you; the way of integrity, the Tao Te.
Old maps often had large blank areas and to fill the spaces with something the cartographers would add details like “There be dragons here” thus ensuring that only the most courageous would venture into such areas.
When you no longer fear people you are free to love them. You can not love that which you fear. The man free from fear is able to take the time to consider those around him. When you notice that this person is unhappy, you can consider what you can say to cheer them up. When you notice that that person has low self esteem, you can consider what will increase it. But fear is self centred, so when you are fearful, you are too distracted with your own emotion to consider the viewpoint of others; you become less aware, more isolated, less integrated in the web of life, less able to navigate the best path through life because there are too many areas to be avoided because of dragons.
An essential part of Tao Te Kung Fu is therefore personal development; becoming a more spiritually mature person, more ethically aware, increasingly mastering your potential and taking control of your life, choosing your path based on knowledge of yourself and the world in which you live. Don’t be like a leaf on the river, become the master of your own journey.
Jo-Sifu. Mark Ringer