Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Will to Live

There's this movie you should see if you want to understand the practical underpinnings of Chinese martial arts: its called To Live.
Plot summary is this: rich landowners lose everything and then some during the communist revolution in China, and in the end they're grateful. They're not grateful for all the terrible things that happen to them, but they are grateful that they're still alive. I like to think of Chinese martial arts like that. In Japanese martial arts, you can see from the way many of them practice their techniques that in their martial art, it's okay to get killed as long as you slay your opponent. Honor and victory are revered above personal safety. In Chinese life though, you have disease, raiders, invaders, natural disaster, manmade disaster, your own government, incompetence and bad luck trying to kill you on a daily basis. Therefore, the primary goal isn't to demonstrate one's skill or to uphold the honor of a lord who feels no loyalty to you, but to make it home to your family alive and in one piece.
Therefore, you should be strong and disciplined, but also open to all conceivable possibilities that may lead you to survival during a fight. Some might call certain options cheating. I tend to think of it a good sense. The connection to the 13 techniques of Tai Chi and the concept of Duifang is that you should throw out your dogma and rigid techniques, and move with the informed fluidity of wisdom, discipline, and intent to win. (A taoist might say skip the intent to win part. Up to you.)

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