Unlike some Japanese systems that required the perfection of a single movement before learning another, the Kenpo student practiced hundreds of movements, hundreds of times, every day, until his hand were no longer weapons; nor were they any longer his body. His purpose was no longer to defend or attack, but to neither defend nor attack; and his intention was to have no intention, because he had developed a instinctive knowledge of every circumstance. He had gone full circle, and his primitive teaching became his highest intelligence. He was without sword, and his arms became the long sword and the short sword. They existed in the Void; it was his spirit, and his spirit was now the Way.
Before one begins the study of kenpo, a kick is a kick, and a punch is a punch, a block is a block. As one progresses, a kick is no longer a kick, a punch is no longer a punch, a block is no longer a block. But when he masters the system, he realizes a kick is a kick, a punch is a punch and a block is a block. Yet the master never throws a kick, or punch, or a block. His moves flow from him without thought in perfect harmony with the Void. The beginning student concentrates on his movement with physical direction; and practice leads to Intention, which touches on the Void; and, when one is in harmony with the Way of Kenpo, Intention gives way to the Void, where the movement ends before it begins, because his intention was to have no Intention (without Intention).
To reach this state, Kenpo could not be grounded in the movements of animals as the Chinese had done in originating their systems. That was the Chinese Way. It was not the way of Kenpo. That Way was found in five elements; the Five Rings, or Spheres, symbolized by Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Void, or Nothingness. These Five Spheres (not actual physical elements) combined the body of knowledge with the spirit of Kenpo.
Earth is the grounding of the individual, just as Center is the grounding of the Tai Chi master. It is this grounding that gives strength and makes one "rooted". As with the Tao, so too with Kenpo, one has to know the smallest and the largest things, the shallowest and the deepest as though they are an undeviating path laid out on the ground.
The spirit, like water, takes both the shape and the inverse shape of that which contained it. It will sometimes be still; sometimes a trickle; and other times it is a raging river, or violent sea. Like Tai Chi's, Zu ling din jing, the insubstantial spirit rises to the top and permeates the spirit. So to in kenpo, as with the sword, when you truly defeat one man, you are capable of defeating a thousand; for the principle is to have one thing and to know ten thousand.
The spirit of fire is the spirit of fighting. It is intense, and the same whether it is a small flame or a raging inferno. It is the same with fighting, and fighting one person is the same as fighting a thousand, because the spirit can be either small or large. Musashi taught, "that which is big is easy to see, but that which is small is not. That which is big cannot easily change. An army takes time to maneuver, while the individual can change in an instant, making him more unpredictable. The element of fire requires one to train day and night in order to become intuitively decisive."
Wind is defined as "traditions"; the traditions of the system, but mostly the traditions of other styles and methods of fighting. It is not easy to know yourself if you do not know others, as Musashi explained. And as Sun Tuz so aptly put it, "If you know yourself, but not your enemy, for every victory you will suffer a defeat," because there are diversities to all Ways. Nor can you take solace in a single principle that has defeated another. You never use the same principle twice in battle, but rather you must utilize the myriad principles that led you to the Way.
If you practice a Way each day and stray from it, you may imagine that you are adhering to a proper Way, but it is neither the correct, nor right Way; and if you follow the correct Way and stray even slightly, this will eventually lead you in the wrong direction. If you practice 50 moves and say, "that is the essence of Kenpo, there is no need for more," you have hopelessly lost your way. The slightest divination becomes great in time, and in time you will not even know there is a Way of Kenpo.
The final sphere is the Void, or nothingness - Wu Chi. It can also be termed the eternal round, for it has no beginning and no end. Reaching this point means that you have not reached the point. Wu Chi is without extremities. It is the mother of Tai Chi, which gave birth to Yin and Yang, and Tai Chi is the Way of nature. When you comprehend the force of nature and know the harmony of all circumstances, you can then hit the opponent naturally and strike naturally.
Tai Chi is an element of a philosophy. It is not the same as Tai Chi Chuan.)How this is accomplished is realized in the Way. It is something learned, but which cannot be taught; yet it must be taught or it cannot be learned. The first move the student learns is the last move the student learns. Everything in between is relearned through the five Rings, or Spheres. As with kendo, which has its fencing schools that are quite different from schools that show the Way, as with Tai Chi Chuan, so to with Kenpo. There are the schools that teach techniques, theories and principles. They teach what can best be termed the kenpo dance. They cannot show the Way because they are far from it. They do not know the Way and would not recognize it even if they saw it. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, they lift the finest (autumn) hair and believe they have strength; they see the sun and moon and believe they have keen sight; they hear the roar of thunder and believe they have quick hearing; they strike the air and believe they do battle. Thus they see the movement of a Kenpo master and believe they are themselves masters. They do not know the Way because they are far from it.
The Way begins with the Nine Principles . And by these principles, one will find that kenpo is honest; it is grounded; it has Spirit; it has fire; it has tradition; it becomes your Soul.
Next: The 9 Principles
©1996, 1999, 2006, 2015 by W. Tracy. All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced without permission.
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