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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Art and Kung fu

Art and Kung Fu
By James Post

This essay will be an attempt to explain a portion of my personal understanding of how one’s art-making process and martial arts practice overlap, and are indeed derived from the same source. I have other long-winded thoughts on the matter, to be fleshed out at a later time, but I try to make a general point here about creative energy.

This is my 7th year of a dedicated martial arts practice with SYSTEMS WITHIN SYSTEMS. I have also been dedicated to making art nearly my entire life, over 23 years. Since I began my kung fu practice and digested my sifu’s martial arts philosophy, my artwork has changed drastically, becoming heavily influenced by imagery, themes, and ideas within the martial arts.
Making art takes “kung fu” or “time” and “energy.” Creative energy as I see it is the driving force of all human endeavors. I see it as an inherent creative force built into us as the main means for survival: creative energy. Our ancestors fashioned tools, created the wheel, gained control of fire and animals, and developed increasingly complex systems of technology and society- all as a means of survival, and all as a form of art-making. Define art however you like, but to make it takes creative energy, that initial driving impulse of motivation. And what is left after your activity is the effort of your labor: the artwork. That is, the “residue” of creative energy and the art-making “process.”
I propose that both the art-making process and one’s martial arts practice are both a means of survival, inherent in us in the most general sense. Meaning, the martial arts in its purest form is an expression of creative energy, as is art-making. The purest form of both would be the truest expression of one’s self. To be fair, one does not have to practice either disciplines to have pure or true expression. But to focus on these two disciplines (in what I believe to be their purpose or usefulness for us) becomes more effective to our survival as we get better at doing them.
The body is the first original art material. Kung fu is a means of sculpting and honing the body towards a perfection, just like sharpening a dull blade. The forms and postures of kung fu will actually mold the body, flex it and develop it into a more effective vessel. Creative energy, or as Maslow would say will towards self-actualization, is what develops our true expression of movement. The greater one can express him or herself, the greater the kung fu abilities and artistic abilities. Ultimately creative energy is what solves problems, be it how to hunt and forage for food, build clothing and shelter, or thrive in a socio-economic labyrinth of regalia, cues, and posturing of the 21st century.
As I stated earlier, where art is the residue of a creative energy process of problem solving, kung fu is also a process of problem solving, where the residue is in one’s expression of movement. Both are modes of survival, both are forms of self-expression. Beyond problem-solving, both are a mediation of being, a form of true expression.

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