Northern Black Dragon Martial Arts
We shape clay into a pot,
But it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
But it is the inner space that makes it livable.
We practice Dragon Palm's forms,
but it is the essence that counts for doing it.
We work with being,
But non-being is what we use.
A true martial artist should behave like a rice plant. As the rice grows bigger, the seeds form at the bloom, and so as the weight of it makes its bow, and it becomes humble.
I wrote this Dragon Palm Kung-fu is intended to guide you for a life of discipline, not instant gratification. The only true gratification that comes from undertaking Dragon Palm is to enjoy and feel the movements while practicing it, regardless what your stage. May you take every step as your sacred step in your life journey.
The great river surges east,
Its waves have scoured away
Since time began all traces of warriors.
The western side of the old fort
Was once, so people say,
Known as the Red Cliff of Chau of the Three Kingdoms.
With piled-up rocks tower in the sky
And swashing waves beat on them thunderously
Rolling up a thousand heaps of snow,
It's like a work of art in paint.
Those ages veil how many a warrior!
Think back to those old days;
That first year when Chau Yu had just married the lady Qiao.
Then, what a warrior he became!
With waving fan and silken cap
He talked and laughed at ease
While masts and oars were blotted out in smoke and flame!
My wits that wander off to realms of old
Deserve the laugh of all who feel;
Pouring on wine, who needs be craving the world affair.
Though a man's life is like a dream,
One toast continues still -- the River and the Moon!
Living in the turbulent world
Martial art within me, in wandering the five lakes and four oceans
Foot printed many thorny paths and lonely graves
In searching the true essences of Dragon
Lovely grape wine in the cups of noctilucent jade
Urge on, as we're about to drink,
By lutes on horseback played drunk, we lie upon the sands,
But let milord not laugh
The journey back from the Dragon's scenery
How many warriors have made?
History of Dragon Palm
Of so many styles of Chinese Martial-Arts, especially the southern styles, the practitioners claim that their own style is original and traditional, and it is directly derived from the Shaolin Temple. However, my own researches reveal that what is claimed to be the traditional style derived from the Shaolin Temple is completely groundless. It is only a speculative story that based on the fictitious novel by a gentleman named Fu-Yuen. A story handed down about the burning and destruction of the Shaolin Temple, and the survival of the four monks and a nun responsible for spreading the Shaolin kung-fu. As time went on, the story was gradually modified and exaggerated. To make the story more speculative, the movie companies seized the curiosity of the martial-arts enthusiasts, have made a hundred of Shaolin Kung-fu movies, both in China, Hong Kong, and even United States of America.
My distinction between 'critical' and speculative' is the different between history and historical story respectively. History has to pass through cross-examination. The speculative historical story, in this case, the martial arts enthusiasts are content to take over indecipherable material whatever anyone cares to confirm is at the mercy of fantasies. Nevertheless, I do believe some monks possessed some martial arts in terms of actual self-defence, and abundance of knowledge in the area of such as promoting good health, breathing law (chi-kung), peace, philosophy, and medicine.
Where is Dragon Style evolved? I think it depends on whom you talk to; there are many versions of the historical stories of Dragon Style. Some claim that their Dragon Styles were derived from Shaolin Monk Che-sen; some may claim that Dragon Style was from Nun Ing-Mui (Read the article I wrote about Wing-chun); And many others, claim that Dragon Styles were from their family's ancestors. Regardless who may be right or wrong, there is the fact that none of the founders had ever seen a dragon. Unlike other styles such as tiger, crane, snake, praying mantis, they could make up a historical story to rectify them. Now it is my turn to tell about where is our Dragon Style evolved. Now it is also the time for me to stop talking about it. You may ask why? All I can share with you is our Dragon Style fell into the first claim of the Shaolin Monk Che-sen, which I am very critical about it. If I believe it is only a historical story, talking about it is a sheer waste of time. If you insist to ask this question and expect something comes out of it, I’m not giving you any answer, and I’ll have nothing to do with the question at all. Please do understand that I cannot make up a story to justify your hunger for historical fact. Now you may feel disappointed that I cannot answer your question. That is life, too bad, so sad!
I’m sure you are still lingering the question. The question you want to know is like the questions, as “Does God exists?” “Is life mere chance?” “Does justice rule the world?” Is there an afterlife?” – There is impossible I can answer those questions, so the question burns itself out. Now, are you satisfied with my explanation? No! -- Let me try again (you do know that you are stubborn). The questioner and the question cannot be separated and they are the same. If you accept that fact, it is a very simple thing; when the question disappears, the questioner also disappears as well. But since the questioner does not want to disappear, the question remains. The questioner wants an answer for the question. Since there is no answer to that question, the questioner remains there forever. The questioner’s interest is to continue, not get the answer.
A monk asks Master Pai-Chang, "Who is the Buddha?"
Pai-Chang answers, "Who are you?"
The purpose of the Buddha is not to inform you but to transform you. They want to bring a radical change in your consciousness; they want to change your very roots. They want to bring new eyes to you, new clarity. Their purpose is not to inform. They are not there to transfer some knowledge but to transplant some being. They want to share their light with you - the purpose is not to inform but to enlighten. Hence they don't bother what your question is. Their answers may sometimes look very irrelevant, absurd. They are not - but they have a totally different kind of relevancy. They are relevant to you, not to your question.
Now, this monk asks Master Pai-Chang, “Who is the Buddha?” And Pai-Chang answers, “Who are you?”
See the point: he is turning the whole question into a totally new dimension. He is not answering, in fact he is giving a deeper question than the monk had asked - he is answering with another question. “Who is the Buddha?” - The answer is easy, he could have said, “Gautama Buddha.” But that is irrelevant; he is not interested in the history of thought, he is not interested in history at all. He is not concerned with a certain man called Gautama Buddha; he is more concerned with a certain awakening that can happen in everybody. That is real Buddhahood.
He turns the question towards the questioner himself. He makes a sword out of the question and pierces the very heart. He says: "Who are you?” Don't ask me about Buddha, just ask one question: “Who am I?” and you will know who the Buddha is - because everyone is carrying the potential of being a Buddha; there is no need to look outside yourself.
Lao Tzu says: to find truth, one needs not go out of his room. One needs not even open the door; one needs not even open his eyes - because truth is your being. To know it is Buddhahood.
Remember it: the statements of Zen masters are not statements in the ordinary use of the word. They are not to convey something that you don't know. They are to shock you, provoke you, into a new quality of consciousness.
I’m not propounding any philosophy to shock anybody. The only thing I know is that I come into this world alone, I depart alone . . .
The True essence of our Dragon Forms in terms of the Martial Arts
Dragon, who has seen the dragon, neither you nor I. In the imagination of the Chinese, dragon is a spiritual creature that flies across the sky, or plunges under and emerges above the surface of water. To the Chinese, the dragon is a symbol of spirit, power and strength.
Dragon Palm, The term brings to mind among martial artists of incredible skill and intrinsic power. The series of movements are put in Dragon Palm, Dragon & Snake, Black Dragon Palm (and almost all of our forms) which fundamentally integrates various body postures, hand postures, leg postures; body-moving techniques, hand-moving techniques, leg-moving techniques, grappling and ground fighting techniques. Movements such as jumping and springing, turning and rolling, advancing and retreating. All the movements are well organized and without organized, regulated without regulated. When practicing this form, I feel the vitality, a life force, energy; a quickening that is translated through me into action. It is a unique feeling. Don't attempt to fix a picture of the form in your mind, be free and feel for the movements with your body, mind and spirit; otherwise, you will lose it. For example, if you pinned a butterfly, the husk is captured, but the flying is lost. I never like seeing the captivated animals such as tiger, lion, and panda bear in the zoo. Although they are all well taking care, but losing the most precious right, their freedom is being deprived and they have lost their vitality and spirit. I always feel very sad, not only for them, but also for us. As we so call human being and understand the most precious thing of life is freedom. Does anyone ever really achieve freedom? I don’t mean one be free sometimes and not free sometimes? Either one is free, or one is not free at all.
The captivated animals, birds have no choice of their freedom, but we do have the choice. Why are we so afraid to make the choice? The reason is simple, we have become so attached to the prison, and we don't want to get out of it. Even if the door is left open, we don't want to escape and try in vain to find great reasons for justification. We go on deceiving ourselves; we don't even look at the door. We go on deceiving ourselves that the door is closed and the guard is there. And in fact, there is nobody there! The door is open and the guard is not there. But we want to remain in the prison because we have become too attached to it, and we have invested too much in the prison. In reality we have started looking at the prison as our home. The outside world looks strange and wild, and we feel afraid. We repudiate the idea that life is an adventure, nothing is certain and permanent.
We are afraid of freedom, and we are afraid of knowing life too deeply. We are afraid to love, we are afraid to risk, we are afraid to BE. We have lived long in the dark; now we are afraid of light -- afraid we will not be able to open our eyes, afraid we will be dazzled, our eyes may be destroyed, afraid because our life in the darkness has become a settled routine. It is secure. Why take any chance? Why go into the unknown and the uncharted?
The darkness has become too familiar; otherwise we can become free anywhere. It is our treasure; we can claim it any moment. It is a surprise why we have not claimed it up to now.
And remember, nobody else can free us AGAINST ourselves. If we have decided to remain the way we are, then there is no possibility. All the Buddhas and all the Christs put together, they cannot do anything -- and we will remain the same as we are. And it is good in a way that it should be so. If we can be freed by somebody else, against us, then that freedom cannot be very valuable. It cannot be a freedom. If we can be forced to be free, then that too is going to be slavery, bondage -- a new bondage. No, it is absolutely our choice! Choose it or leave it, but remember always, it is our responsibility.
There are many people who come to an Enlightened Master and surrender just so that they stop feeling responsible. That is a wrong type of surrender. Surrender means “I am ready to cooperate,” that's all. It does not mean, "Now you are responsible, and if I don't become free then you will be responsible for it." Then even through surrender nothing is going to happen, because the surrender in the first place happened through wrong reasons.
To tread the sharp edge of a sword
To run on smooth-frozen ice,
One needs no footsteps to follow.
Walk over the cliffs with hands free.
Is Dragon Style Form, the Ultimate Form?
All my teachers told me the Dragon Style Forms are the Supreme. I know they would be angry to hear what I have to say. I don’t mean to be disrespectful; in fact, I respect them with all my heart and soul. Therefore, I broke free from them who don’t want me the luxury of telling the truth. I never like the comfort of the lie, the convenience of living in illusions. The truth is in no way the Dragon Style Forms are the supreme. It is a great style, but it is not the Ultimate. Dragon Kung-fu is a path, not a destination, and along the path are many signposts that we will pass. I know it is difficult for them to admit it because of their loyalty and honour that chained on them. They couldn’t break free even if they wanted to. It is their choice, and this is my choice.
I think it is a matter of fact that human nature does not want to rock the boat. If thing is fine, don’t make any change. If thing is false, still don’t make any change or admit it. For example, nobody wants to see that his love is false. People are ready to believe that their past loves were false - but this? No, this love is true. When it has disappeared they will say it was also false - but then another love is true. In whatsoever illusion they are living, they pretend that this one is true. "Others - they were false, but this one? (I’m not anti-love, in fact I believe in true love. But they are only a few in between.) This one is a totally different thing. This is not an ordinary love; I have found my soul mate.
The truth is always dangerous. Nobody has ever found one - how can we find our soul mate? Aloneness is absolute. These are just efforts to deceive ourselves - and we can go on deceiving. That's what we have been doing down the ages, for so many lives. . .
I know these talks are bound to be depressive. Why? Because these talks will touch some wounds in our and the sore will start oozing out. And remember always: sometimes it is good to keep the wound open, because that is the condition for its cure. But courage is needed, certainly; without courage nothing can be done. To keep the wound open needs great courage - but that is the condition for its cure! Again, we would like to hide it. We would like to hide it behind flowers; we would like to forget about the wound. We would like to move into some consolation: “Maybe love has not happened yet - now it can happen. This time I may be able to make it.”
But love cannot be possible. To make it possible is not a question that depends on us. Love itself is impossibility. It keeps us deluded; it keeps us in a kind of dream state. No wonder we all feel life is a dream.
If love is not true, how about hate?
Just wait and think: If sorrow is false, how can happiness be true?
If birth is false, how can death be true?
If rich is false, how can poor be true?
If “I” is false, how can “you” be true? - Or vice versa.
If darkness is false, how can light be true?
The truth is nobody can choose the polarities. We must accept that love or hate is illusory. Only when we accept that love and hate is true, birth and death is true, sorrow and happiness is true…
They are a couple, married forever, then we can become Self, and free from living in the shadow.
Again, I do believe in True Love. Read this romantic poem I wrote it in the Year of 1987.
We mix our souls into clay
Then we built two beautiful sculptures
One is you
And the other is I
Your sculpture has me
My sculpture has you
The Features of Dragon Palm
In practicing the form, the position of the head must be held upright, the chin slightly tucked in with the neck naturally relaxed. The neck must coordinate with the change of the body movements, and be sure not to allow the head to swing.
Body Posture of Dragon Palm
Chest, Abdomen and Back
When in the state of ready fighting posture, body, muscles and joints should be relaxed. Draw in the chest and abdomen; pull the back up so that one can get a sense of support. Be sure not to hump the back. The muscles on the chest and the back should also be relaxed as so to eliminate tension on the ribs, which would result in promoting natural breathing, and to provide the arms and legs to move freely without restrains. In Dragon Palm, abdominal muscles are often used, either in breathing or retaining and exerting power. If you question me which part of an aging fighter gives way first, I believe definitely it is stomach muscle. If they are strong, the legs and arms will keep going.
Spine and Waist
The spine is the chief support of our body. It must be held naturally erect. Any arch, jut out, or shifting to either side may cause muscular tension on the torso. Unless one has received adequate training and skill in compensating it. The waist, namely the lower back (lumbar), is the central link in regulating postures, maintaining balance, keeping natural turning of the torso, ensuring a smooth transition of movements. The waist is the dominator of strength accumulation. With swiftly twisting at the waist, one can deliver an explosive power such as in all disciplines of fighting skills.
Keep the buttocks slightly in and avoid protruding them out. Otherwise, they will hinder the swift and smoothly movements of the legs.
Shoulders and Arms
While practicing the form, shoulders must remain even, relaxed and slightly lowered. For elbows, they must be slightly bent, dropped and kept in the centerline (elbow should never cling to ribs to avoid in losing the mobility of the arms, body and footwork; nor does it place far away from ribs, thereby losing its function to protect the ribs, and affecting the balance of the body). Hip should be slightly pulled in, stretched out the bridges (Forearms) in medium and short ranges, and slightly squatted Ma-put. One must maintain alertness, calmness, confidence, vitality, high spirit, determination, and the readiness to generate from defense to offense, or vice versa.
Footwork & Kicking
Proper stances are the alignment, from the feet and upward to the holding of knees, hips, body and all the way to the head is essential to obtain proficiency, balance and intrinsic power. In proper stances would result in incorrect alignment that will deter the flow of chi and jin.
There are two basic power lines, which are responsible for generating the flow of chi and power, namely, centerline and outside line. They must work together from the ground up with proper stances. Regardless of the different martial arts' styles, they all share the basic stances in a similar way. The difference is that some only adopted rigid and immobile stances whose value I strongly disagree with. Our system utilizes more flow with the chi and power type of stances. For those who never rush through practicing forms, and give much attention and effort in perfecting them, they would eventually appreciate the flow with the chi and power types of stances.
Basically, stances are divided into three categories of motions; as follows:
(1) Stationary Stance
Feet are placed and maintained in a motionless and effortless position on the floor, and ready to provide either offense or defense mechanism.
(2) Mobile Stance
Feet are in constant movement searching and creating for the opportunity of attacking, and evading the opponent when available. At the same time, because of the constant movement, it will alleviate the threat of being a sitting target and make your opponent work much harder in zeroing in on you.
(3) Transitory Stance
It contributes a valuable tool for transiting in an economical way of switching movement from stationary to mobile stances, or vice versa.
The following stances must be mastered in the heart by endless training through
Forms and free sparring practices:
Varies riding horse, L & R forward, one-legged, cat (suspend One leg), hill climbing, shuffling forward & backward, varies Cross-legged, advanced and retreated, turning & returning, an abrupt change of the stance. Footwork is firm and light interchangeable. When it is firm, rooted like a pine tree; when light, flowed like cloud. Once again, being off as little as an inch in stance formation could result in a much loss of proficiency of balance and power. Therefore, I strongly believe footwork is the root of all martial art training.
There is an old kung fu saying, "Hands is the door, and all attacking is done by the feet." I do not completely agree with the above saying, as I believe hands or feet are the doors. All offensive and defensive movements are done by either hands or feet (some of our kicks are done for a defensive purpose in order to set up for hands' strikes, trapping, grappling and joint locks etc.) Nevertheless, the old saying does illustrate the efficiency of the legs and their relationship with the hand during combat.
Our martial system is especially renowned for its deceptive footwork and the effective kick of Northern Ch'aun-fa (kempo). However, unlike any other Northern Ch'aun-fa styles, underneath our obvious Northern kick lies the efficient and powerful hand techniques.
The secret to a strong and powerful kicking technique not only requires you to have strong legs, but also involves the coordination of how you pivot on your supporting leg, hip turning, and footwork. Moreover, the understanding of how to generate power from the centerline and side of your body are also major factor in delivering various of kicks. Since every kick has its own distinguishing feature, a clear understanding of how each of them must be executed without the slightest mistake is necessary; otherwise the kick will not only lose its authority, but also make you prone to injure your knee's tendon and ligament.
Firstly, I will point out some of our Dragon style's kicking techniques, and compare them with other martial arts; as follows:
Most karate styles pivot their supporting foot at 90 degrees. The modern taekwondo and our own Martial-arts system prefer to pivot at 45 degrees. I strongly dislike pivoting the supporting foot at 90 degrees, because that much of a pivot is too awkward, putting too much weight on the supporting leg not only loses quick mobility after delivering the kick, but also cost a great deal of power. The worse is to put too much stress on the supporting knee that can easily cause knee damage. I strongly instruct my students to pivot their supporting leg at 45 degrees in order to generate much power by coordinating the hip torque, and also provide a proper posture while maintaining a straight, upright back position. Furthermore, a great deal of mobility can be gained after delivering the kick.
Always line up your supporting knee with the toes of your supporting foot. Remember as in taichichuan lessons, I always stress how important it is that any movement, which creates power, must always begin with the turn of your hip. In this case, when you turn the hip into the kick, the knee follows, and the foot must pivot to stay in line with the knee.
Some martial art styles prefer a 90-degree pivot. They claim it is important to have a quick knee cock, and then immediately followed with the sidekick. I believe this practice is ineffective in terms of losing too much power by only turning the supporting foot at 90 degrees.
Some taekwondo styles adopt the 180-degree pivot. They claim that with a large degree of turning they can generate much power. In a sense, this claim is suspect. However, by practicing 180-degree pivots, the sidekick appears a bit like a back kick as the body is leaning too far back. It will cause you to lose the view of your target, and also take too much time to recover because your body is too far extended and way back. I believe that a long time of practicing in this fashion could easily lead to serious damage of the supporting knee. In our system, we adopt it in between 145 to160 degree pivots. Not only can we deliver a side kick more effectively, but also we can maintain our body in more upright position in order to gain mobility for following up with another striking attack by hand, kick, grab, or step aside or back away to evade an opponent's counter attack.
The kicking techniques of Dragon Palm include front-kick, double front-kick, faking-kick, deceptive-kick, sidekick, stamping-kick, and sweeping-kick. All these kicks are performed in the coordination with every part of the body, and worked closely with the body and hands either in defense and offense.
When jumping or standing on one leg with the other foot raised, on landing, the stamp should be short and firm, accompanying by abdomen pulled in, lower the hip and direct the energy flow down. After practicing a long period of time, practitioners should be able to gain the skill of stamping for Jin even in any stances with both feet on the ground.
Blocking Techniques (Bridges) of Dragon Palm
Blocks provide mainly a defensive mechanism; however, it depends on different situations, at times blocks could also provide offensive mechanisms. Nevertheless, in most cases' blocks is the transition from defensive to offensive moves. Blocks are not only initiated by hand and forearm. They are also executed by your shoulders or legs. Regardless of the various of blocks, they must be performed in harmony with the stances, and aligned with the concept of body centerline and sideline position. Basically, when confronting a strike, a block should begin with relaxation, flow with the chi and energy, and at the moment of contact, your blocking arms or legs should react with Jin (ging). For beginners, students are taught to practice simple blocking with the uses of forearms. Intermediate students would practice blocking with open hands. Advanced students would train in the use of forearms and hands, coupled with the feel of the opponent's force by any means, and then counter by various strikes, throws, locks or grappling.
In the course of training of Dragon Palm, bridges (the sides of the ulnae and radii of the forearms) are used for attack and defense. Therefore, the bridges must be strong and harden, yet with great sensitivity. Bridge techniques include such as scooping-bridge, sinking-bridge, intercepting-bridge cross downward-bridge, rising bridge, shearing-bridge, pinning-bridge, sweeping-bridge, triangular- bridge, smashing-bridge, cutting-bridge, threading-bridge, rolling-bridge, laying-bridge. Every bridge movement must be coordinated with various body moving, footwork, breathing (chi), and needless to say, a pair of hands.
Hands techniques of Dragon Palm
In actual combat, the initial goals of hand techniques are applied in physical altercation could be compared to a pair of "Iron Gates" that provide a defensive mechanism in shutting down its opponent's offensive attack, and abruptly executes counter attack by striking, locking, takes down etc.; therefore, hand-techniques must take a much longer training than kicks. With much frequent use of hand techniques, one may eventually achieve the level of great sensitivity of what we call the Yin and Yang hands (palms) of Dragon Style.
Hand techniques include various palms strikes (side-palm, palm-heel, upward & downward), shooting-fingers, fist, elbow, grappling, and nerve point’s strike. In wrist area, such as circling, redirect, deflect, sink can provide tremendous Jin to break opponents' balance, and then follow up with a counterattack. Throughout the Dragon Palm, except one smashing fist, all other hand strikes are executed by various palm(s) or thrusting fingers. If the target is the bony area, apply speedily retracting palm; stomach, penetrate it without retracting.
Forehand (lead hand)
Forehand application could be complicated; however, when one has mastered the forehand techniques, it could be as simple as a, b, c.
- Provide defensive and offensive mechanisms
- Create opportunities in setting up offensive attack
- Assist to balance the Yin & Yang flow for the entire body
- Generate explosive speed to deliver fatal attack
- Provide guiding force for foot movement
- Create deceptive movement and distract opponents' concentration
- Shut down opponent's kick attack
Rear hand application is much simpler than Forehand and requires much less time to achieve its functions.
- Provide second defensive mechanisms
- Deliver much powerful offense to end a fight
- Create deceptive movement for the forehand and kick attack
- Provide elusive attack
The Exertions of Dragon Palm
The uniqueness and out of ordinary of Dragon Palm is an abrupt change of movements and maintains proper breathing that generates intrinsic power (Jin). Before exerting power, hold your breath, retain strength and relax muscle; when exerting power, in the case of delivering a block, strike, grapple, sink the body and squat down in a position that you can make advancing, retreating, turning and throwing at ease.
In martial-arts terms, the differences between power and Jin are; as follows:
Power is heavy; Jin is craftsmanship.
Power is square; Jin, circular.
Power is visible; Jin, subtle and invisible.
Power is slow; Jin, fast.
Power is blunt; Jin, sharp.
Power is dispersed; Jin, concentrated.
Power is generated by extremities; Jin, the whole body.
Power comes from bone and muscle; Jin, tendon.
In brief, let me take an example that simply illustrates the distinction between power and jin. For instance, when one is doing bench press, this kind of energy is solely depending on the two bodily limbs, this is identified as power. In comparing of pitching a baseball, one can coordinate the whole body with footwork, and every bodily joint in circular motion, this is recognized as Jin. In addition, with perfect timing, balance and energy sensitivity, using opponent’s force to ones favour can develop Jin. One word in mind, without adequate of power, Jin is like the moon surfacing on the lake, only an illusion. I strongly recommend martial arts practitioners train with power, and with adding in skill, it will turn into Jin.
Furthermore, Jin comes with different types. The most common jin used in martial-arts is: "Flowing-jin, neutralizing-jin, borrowing-jin, sticking-jin, lifting-jin, sinking-ji, folding-jin, warding-jin, pushing-jin, pulling-jin, pressing-jin, deflecting-jin, grabbing-jin, intercepting-jin, chopping-jin, inch-jin, parting-jin, drilling-jin (for nerve points strike) etc.
** Storing Jin (power) like one drawing a bow; issue Jin like shooting an arrow. **
Shaking Power of Dragon Palm
The shaking power is a combination of the waist and crotch. In the series of "Binding over shoulder-throw," "Hip-throw," "Released hold from Full-nelson." While in punching, palming, kicking, the Intrinsic power comes from the waist and crotch, flow through the arm, leg by means of twisting and twining, and reach the fist, palm, foot as it promptly strikes at the target.
Eyes are the windows of the soul, expressing the inner self and embody the flesh, ingeniousness of the movements. Without the spirit of the eyes, one is unable to display one's prowess and elegance. As the ancient Chinese saying goes: "Bring the painted dragon to life by putting in the pupils of its eyes," so do the animated eyes of the martial artist make the image of the dragon alive and real.” As the ancient Native American goes “The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.”
Eyes should always remain naturally to look horizontally in the main direction of attack, and with side sight showing awareness for surroundings. Eyes also play an important role in coordinating the movements of hands, legs, body (specially, the hip). It is quite reasonable for eyes to lead the movements. However, when reaching to a higher level, one needs not to see and able to deliver an effective technique by feel. In other word, one possesses the mind of vision. The old jargon “seeing is believing,” but sometimes, seeing can be deceiving as experienced fighter can trap you by faking movements, then seeing will become a burden.
Furthermore, when practicing the Dragon Style's form, I often use the following eight eyes' expressions and body movements in order to capture dragon's moods and feelings:
(1) The "Divine dragon" flies in the sky. This is an expression of "freedom."
(2) The dragon stares with eyes wide open and snorts from his nose. He is "angry."
(3) The Dragon closes his brow. He is "sad".
(4) The Dragon squints his eyes and observes the opponent's posture. He is "alert."
(5) The Dragon twinkles but without moving his eyeball. He is "patient."
(6) The Dragon scans in all directions. He is "assessing."
(7) When situation changes suddenly, and he reacts quickly. He is "confident"
(8) The Dragon finds stillness in motion, motion in stillness. He is "calm."
Breathing Techniques (abdominal breathing)
The usual way is simply to inhale with the abdomen by gradually expanding with air, and exhale through the mouth. In the form of Dragon Palm, the breathing rule is reverse. To inhale with the lower part of the abdomen by gradually pulling in, and exhale with the lower part of the abdomen slowly. Therefore, diaphragm and abdominal muscles can be strengthening, and improve the blood circulation with a boarder range of fluctuation of abdominal pressure. Proper training for breathing can increase the strength, and finally build up a great capacity of Jin. Chi and energy go together and cannot miss either one. There is another method named Mind breathing, perhaps in the near future, I will attempt to write something about it.
Yin and Yang Supplementing Each Other
Energy moves in a dual polarity. For any energy to become dynamic, the anti-pole is needed. It is just like electricity moving with negative and positive polarities. If there is only negative or positive polarity, electricity will not happen. And this so for all types of phenomena. Life goes on: between man and woman, the polarity. The woman is the negative life-energy; man, the positive. They are electrical - hence so much attraction. With man alone, life would disappear: with woman alone, there would be no life, only death. Therefore, between man and woman - these two poles, these two banks - flows the river of life. (I don’t think angry women agree with me when they are really mad of men. They probably would say: “If we put a man on the moon, we should be able to put them all there. -- Don’t imagine you can change a man, unless he is in diapers. -- If you want a committed man, look in a mental hospital. -- Sadly, all men are created equal. They are all the same. They just have different faces so you can tell them apart.” Life is a sense of humour, I like humour.)
When practicing Dragon Palm, the changes from softness to hardness, quickness to slowness is obvious. In a transitional phase, most of the time movement stresses softness. While in attacking, abruptly fast. Particularly when it is approx. 6 inches to the target, the striking will start generating the intrinsic power. There shouldn't be any set of rules how to use the theory of Yin & Yang; I only adopt it as a guideline because of circumstances such as different disciplines of fighting. For example, in ground fighting, I often used slowness overcome quickness when I am in an advantageous or even in a disadvantageous position. In order to reach to this stage, one must have great skill and plenty of experience. I don't suggest the beginner should train in this way until enough skill and experience are gained.
Cleansing and Solemnization of Dragon’s Spirit
Now we understand energy moves in polarities, balancing itself. This polarity is very meaningful for cleansing and solemnization because mind is logical, and life is dialectical. When I say mind is logical, it means mind moves in a line. When I say life is dialectical, it means life moves with the opposite, not in a line. It zigzags from negative to positive - positive to negative. It zigzags; it uses the opposites. Mind moves in a straight line, it never moves to the opposite - it denies the opposite. It believes in one, and life believes in two. So whatsoever mind creates, it always chooses the one. If mind chooses silence - if mind has become fed up with all the noise that is created in life and it decides to be silent - then the mind will go to the no man’s land. It wants to be silent; it doesn’t want anything to do with any type of noise. Now it has chosen the line and denied the opposite completely. But this man living in the no man’s land - seeking silence, avoiding the other, the opposite - will become dead; he will certainly become dull. And the more he chooses to be silent, the duller he will become - because life needs the opposite, the challenge of the opposite.
There is a different type of silence, which exists between two opposites. The first is a dead silence, the silence of the cemetery. A dead man is silent, but you do not like to be a dead man. A dead man is absolutely silent. No body can disturb him, and his concentration is perfect. You cannot do anything to distract his mind; his mind is absolutely fixed. Even if the whole world goes mad all around, he will remain in his concentration. But still, you would not like to be a dead man. Silence, concentration, or whatever it is called...you would not like to be dead - because if you are silent and dead the silence is meaningless.
Silence must happen while you are absolutely alive, vital, bubbling with life and energy. Then silence is meaningful. But then silence will have a different, altogether different quality to it. It will not be dull. It will be alive. It will be a subtle balance between two polarities. A man who is seeking a live balance, a live silence, would like to move to both the mall and the no man’s land. He would like to go to the market to enjoy noise, and he would also like to go to the no man’s land to enjoy silence. And he will create a balance between these two polar opposites, and he will remain in that balance. And that balance cannot be achieved through linear efforts.
That is what is meant by the Chan (Zen) technique of effortless effort. It uses contradictory terms - effortless effort, or gateless gate, or pathless path. Chan (Zen) always uses the contradictory term immediately, just to give you the hint that the process is going to be dialectical, not linear. The opposite is not to be denied but absorbed. The opposite is not to be left aside - it has to be used. Left aside, it will always be a burden on you. Left aside, it will hang with you. Unused, you will miss much. The energy can be converted and used. And then, using it, you will be more vital, more alive. The opposite has to be absorbed, and then the process becomes dialectical.
Effortlessness means not doing anything, inactivity.
Effort means doing much, activity. Both have to be there.
Do much, but don't be a doer then you achieve both. Practice the Dragon Forms, but don’t let the sequence of motions restrain you. Move in the world, but don't be a part of it. Live in the world, but don't let the world live in you.
Then the contradiction has been absorbed....
And that's what I'm doing. By practicing the Dynamic and Serene Dragon Palm is a contradiction. Dynamic means effort, much effort, absolute effort. And Serene means silence, no effort, and no activity. You can call it a dialectical Cleansing and Solemnization of Dragon’s Spirit.
In conclusion, the highest achievement in Dragon Forms, as with any kind of art or culture, it is creativity, it is ignorance. Learned knowledge is not needed, but that doesn't mean you should remain ignorant. Your ignorance will not be real. When you have learned and gathered enough knowledge and you throw it away, and then ignorance is attained. Then you really become ignorant – like Lao Tzu, Jesus Christ, Buddha -- they all teach that knowledge is useless. Just getting more and more knowledgeable is not much help. Not only is it not much help, it can become a barrier. And like Socrates who once said: “I know only one thing, that I don't know anything.”
This knowledge, or this ignorance -- you can call it whatever you like -- is totally different, the quality is different, and the dimension has changed. If you are simply ignorant because you never attained to any knowledge, your ignorance cannot be wise, and it cannot be wisdom -- it is simply absence of knowledge. And the hankering will be inside: How to gain more knowledge? How to gain more information?
When you know too much -- you have known the scriptures, you have known the past, the tradition, you have known all that can be known -- and then suddenly you become aware of the futility of it all, suddenly you become aware that this is not knowledge. This is borrowed! This is not your own existential experience; this is not what you have come to know. Others may have known it, you have simply gathered it. Your gathering is mechanical. It has not arisen out of you, it is not a growth, and it is not Self. It is just rubbish gathered from other doors, borrowed, dead.
Remember, knowing is alive only when you know, when it is your immediate, direct experience. But when you know from others it is just memory, not knowledge. Memory is dead. When you gather much -- the riches of knowledge, scriptures, all around you, libraries condensed in your mind, and suddenly you become aware that you are just carrying the burden of others, nothing belongs to you, you have not known -- then you can drop it, you can drop all this knowledge. In that dropping a new type of ignorance arises within you. This ignorance is not the ignorance of the ignorant, this is how a wise person is, how wisdom is.
Only a wise person can say: I don't know. But in saying: I don't know he is not hankering after knowledge; he is simply stating a fact. And when you can say with your total heart: I don't know, in that very moment your eyes become open, the doors of knowing are open. In that very moment when you can say with your totality; I don't know, you have become capable of knowledge. This ignorance is beautiful, but it is attained through knowledge. It is poverty attained through richness. And the same happens with ego -- you can lose it if you have it.
When mastering the Traditional Dragon Forms, it is encouraged that you will try to create and develop your own spirit based on your ability and experience, and this will only further develop and inject new life into a traditional art. Please slowly read the following:
We shape clay into a pot,
But it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
But it is the inner space that makes it livable.
We practice Dragon Palm's forms,
but it is the essence that counts for doing it.
We work with being,
But non-being is what we use.
After practicing many disciplines of martial arts for fifty autumns, I have developed and emerged the Dragon Forms with distinct technical characteristics. The following 30 Chinese character meaning having been my summation of what is the true essence of the Dragon Style.
(1) Firmness (2) Suppleness (3) Lightness (4) Nimbleness (5) Speed (6) Deceptiveness (7) Elusiveness (8) Evasiveness (9) Vigorousness (10) Confidence (11) Adaptability (12) Anticipation (13) Creativity (14) Perseverance (15) Seizing & Controlling (16) Releasing (17) Plucking (with claw) (18) Chopping (19) Parrying (with bridge, wrist motion) (20) Shooting (with fingers) (21) Palming & Punching (22) Butting (with head, elbow, knee) (23) Pushing & Pulling (24) Canting (25) Tilting (26) Lifting (27) Twining (28) Snapping (29) Thrusting (30) Springing
Of these, the first fourteen (1-14) are the requirements for the body as a whole, each of which works in coordination with the mind. The next Twelve (15-26) are for the upper limbs, and the last four (27-30) for the lower limbs.
By Master Chau
Year of the Tiger 1998