Core Concepts of Yushin Ryu Karate Do
This guest blog was written by Paul Mann. I consider it a real gem of martial arts writing, and I think you will, also. enjoy.
Karate must be considered, in its final form and spirit, as an expression of your indomitable will to survive in the most direct, self-reliant manner possible, using only that which God gave you; a body, mind and spirit rigorously disciplined as an inseparable entity.2
Kyuhn literally means fist and is usually translated as fist, boxing or boxer. Kyuhn also has a much deeper, philosophical meaning: a person who is unified in body, mind and spirit. This is an implied meaning, which is derived from the fact that the component parts of your hand must be unified in order to form a fist. But, what is meant by unification of body, mind and spirit and how is it achieved?
Unification occurs when body, mind and spirit have been trained and are in harmony with each other. Unification of body, mind and spirit is accomplished by harmonizing the body, which will promote health and fitness; harmonizing the breath, which will result in an increased and harmonious flow of vital energy; and harmonizing the mind, which means controlling your mind and developing the power of concentration.
Harmonizing the Body (Tiuh San)
Before you can learn to defeat others, you must first learn to stand. Stance training is the foundation of all authentic Chinese martial arts. Physically, it strengthens the legs for stability, powerful footwork and kicking. Correct posture is developed to provide maximum results from properly executed techniques. Also developed are a focused, concentrated gaze for projection of fighting spirit as well as breath control and correct placement of the tongue. Mentally, it requires patience, refines the temperament and produces a tranquil mind. Therefore, be serious and devoted in your stance training, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.3
Harmonizing the Breath (Tiuh Sik)
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.4 There are several words5 in the Bible, which have been translated as spirit or soul. The actual meanings of these words are: any breathing creature; breath and, by implication, spirit; wind and, by resemblance, breath; a current of air, i.e. breath. As you can see, the Biblical use of the words breath and spirit are interrelated and virtually interchangeable.
In Chinese martial arts we use the word hei. The character for hei has several meanings. It can mean air, breath or spirit, but it is most commonly used to represent the concept of vital energy. It is a creative energy, the divine ‘breath’ in every being, which appears as active attention, concentration, and mental force.6
According to a research project undertaken by M.I.T. in 1978, there actually is an electrical energy field around the human body, which can be regulated and even intensified by controlled breathing exercises. In 1997, Liu Chang I was invited to produce a video tape on Fukien White Crane Karate. During the taping, studio technicians picked up a sort of rumbling, drumming sound. The sound engineer couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the radio microphone he had attached to Mr. Liu. “Oh! That’s my gung lihk (manifested vital energy),” explained Mr. Liu. The microphone was removed and taping continued without further incident.7
In one of the most amazing demonstrations of vital energy, Kirlian photography was used to film Teruyuki Yamada breaking a one-inch board. Now, there is nothing amazing about a punch breaking a board, but it is amazing that the punch never hit the board! Playing the film in very slow motion revealed that the board actually snapped when Mr. Yamada’s fist was still one inch away from it! What had shattered the wood was the pressurized force of the energy field between the board and the fist!8
The study of breath seems shrouded with mystery. Unlike the visible techniques of karate, breath and vital energy are unseen forces. They are, nevertheless, as much a part of cultivating the mind as developing the body.9 Though we could suggest any number of preliminary methods for unifying the spirit, directly speaking, uniform breathing and breath control are very important, and breath control is of utmost importance for progressing on the martial path. Success in spiritual unity and strength concentration depends on proper breathing methods.10
The art of breathing (hei gung) is characterized by deep abdominal breathing with your mind concentrated on the daan tihn, a point about three inches below your navel. Daily performance of daan tihn breathing will increase your energy level, produce explosive power and promote a positive, optimistic frame of mind. This is the source of the saying, if you know the art of breathing; you will have the strength, wisdom and courage of ten tigers.
Harmonizing the Mind (Tiuh Sam)
Part I Controlling Your Mind
Karate training will give you the ability to respond to an assault in such a way that the skills acquired through training flow naturally and freely, from knowledge to action without delay. No fear, no hesitation, only immediate, effective and appropriate action. How is this possible?
An untrained mind, like a drunken monkey, jumps around from one thought or emotion to another. One moment you’re thinking about the job at hand, and then about how hungry you are, the score of a ball game, an upcoming date, or any of the five poisonous emotions.11 These thoughts and emotions will rob you of the strength you need to face and solve your problems. Once you are able to divert energy from unnecessary thoughts and emotions and pour it into achieving goals, your power will be boundless and you will be able to achieve more of what you want to accomplish.
No thought of thought is a martial term, which refers to a mind which is empty of all thought and/or emotion; a mind which is receptive, pliant and which allows you to react spontaneously to any situation, which may occur. So then, flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Achievement of this concept in conjunction with deep breathing techniques will enable you to control your mind. The end result is a self-controlled person who is relaxed and effortless in mind and body; a person who sees things as they really are; a person who is fully capable of facing and decisively responding to any conflict, which may arise.
Harmonizing the Mind (Tiuh Sam)
Part II Developing the Power of Concentration
Once, long ago in China, there was an archer who trained daily to perfect his techniques. One autumn evening, the archer was walking home when, suddenly, he saw a flicker of movement in the shadows. It was a tiger, crouching and ready to pounce. Concentrating his mind, the archer fired off an arrow and scored a direct hit, right in the head. The archer hurried home without stopping to examine the dead animal. On the following day, he was curious and returned to the spot where he had slain the tiger. He searched everywhere, but failed to find the body of the tiger. He was about to abandon his search when he saw the arrow, stuck in a huge boulder. It hadn’t been a tiger after all, but his concentration had been so intense that the arrow had been driven into solid rock!
The concentrated mind can pierce through stone. It is characterized by “at yan” (indomitable spirit), a term which expresses a willingness to strive against all odds, to persevere under pressure, and to endure. It has an implied meaning of total commitment; of carrying on even when one is mortally wounded. The term is comprised of two pictographs, At and Yan. At is a pictograph of a hand restraining a germinating seed. Yan, the Chinese word for perseverance, depicts a heart pierced by a knife.
At yan, therefore, means concentrating your mind on one task, goal, problem or object and devoting yourself completely to discovering the solution or to finding the way out of your difficulty or to gaining your objective. It means to struggle, to grapple, to wrestle, to give your all and hold nothing back. It means closing with your problem or opponent and never retreating. It means no hesitation, advance bravely 12 with all you’ve got, again and again, until you achieve your objective.
Harmonizing the Mind (Tiuh Sam)
Part III Complete Awareness
The Chinese word for awareness, lauh sam, literally means keep your heart. Complete awareness (general, direct and specific) is the most important method of assault prevention. Your first line of defense is general awareness concerning yourself, other people and the surrounding environment. Pay attention, be alert and watch for conditions that might lead to a physical confrontation. Then, do whatever is necessary to prevent the confrontation from occurring.
Direct awareness13 (intuition14), finds expression in the saying no sound you can hear, no shape you can see. This ability to see the unseeable and hear the unhearable can make you more sensitive and receptive of the presence of other people’s energy fields. Any miscreant who intends to harm you will project a flow of energy which Chinese karateka call saat hei (killing spirit). Direct awareness is the ability to sense the presence of saat hei. When this happens, heed your intuitive alarm signals and take preventive measures before the danger manifests itself. In any situation which does become physical, direct awareness will enable you to act or strike decisively without conscious thought.
Your awareness must be more specific in the event that a confrontation does occur. Gaan is a Chinese karate concept which refers to “the space in between” combatants as well as an awareness of the potential ability of an individual to make offensive use of space, distance, timing and opportunity. Specific awareness (gaan) can help determine your success or failure by providing you with the information necessary for mentally establishing an imminent danger zone (ngaih gap yuhn).
The Chinese word for monarch is comprised of three horizontal lines centrally joined and intersected by one vertical line. Philosophically, the three horizontal lines represent the three essential elements. The vertical line symbolizes unification and control. The word for monarch, then, describes a person who is unified in body, mind and spirit, a person who is in control of his or her life. This concept is the heart and soul of Yushin Ryu Karate Do – the Way of the Courageous Heart. Let this be the emphasis of your training as well.
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