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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Shaolin Means to Me

A lot of people ask me about the meaning behind shaolin. It has a great history but personally it is more about what it means to me and what discoveries I have made as an individual. 

 I believe shaolin combines the mind and body and uses the self as a vessel in search of understanding as it travels the seas of time. Let me give a little more background before I go into that.
To me kung fu represents a foundation upon which the mind, body and soul build on. This is an initial step that can last for years depending on one's energies, discipline and determination. Kung fu means time and energy and it can be anything you put yourself and your time into but to me the martial art is the ultimate achievement because it uses nothing but you to sharpen the body's movements and clarity of thoughts, depending on which path you are travelling, and move on the path of understanding and accepting the self. Kung fu represents the time and energy one puts into him or herself; the discipline to put effort into developing the mind, body and energies that are part of one's vessel and the connection to all life. To me that is shaolin.
I use kung fu to represent time and energy put into the self: cultivating the mind, body and spirit through the arts. The art itself is a path and a tool to help one move forward on a personal journey until the kung fu becomes transparent. At this point it is beyond the labels of style or art and simply means that a great deal of time and energy have been put forth into melting the mind through the body and both have become strong on the journey to shaolin.
Discipline, to me, means never convenient. Regardless of what life throws at you there has to be a conscious choice to continue to keep moving, training and discovering. My personal philosophy called “the unsheathed sword” deals with this but I'll go into that another time. When the mind melts into the body and all the mini brains throughout and the many voices and personalities encapsulated in each individual are heard this is the beginning of shaolin. An overall body consciousness and mindfulness coming out but never completing. It is a path that will never be completed and must be forged by each individual traversing it in order to have a better understanding of the many steps that one must take. Never truly completing, never isolating or making the way a fact but simply taking many steps along a path that leads you on the way to the endless possibilities of existence.
Through the practice of kung fu one comes into a fuller understanding of the combination of body and mind movement along with the energies or life essence of the body. To me, this is when one becomes shaolin. It is through the warrior of the self that one can cut through adversity and understand the internal and external combat and look deeper into the energies of life. Shaolin is a school yard of the self where one combines body and mind movements to better understand themselves and the world in which they live. To me this has become a lost art. Things now are more based on aesthetics and ego rather than an understanding of the self which is meant to give you the tools that you need to better understand the way and the path you are on whether you like it or not.
Everything begins with a step but one must take that step to prepare themselves for the next you must first see the step that lies in front by taking it. There is an old saying it is hard to see the face of the mountain when one is standing on it.

Sifu Lawrence Hill

1 comment:

  1. Sifu, thanks as always for the wise words. I'd like to comment on this from the perspective of finding shaolin and kung fu outside of the martial arts. I feel like we're always on a journey to find balance in everything we do. The ultimate goal as I see it is to find balance in all of our activities together, but I feel that the first step is to find balance in each individual activity, much like attempting to perfect each individual motion in a form as we strive to perfect the form itself as a whole.

    Finding balance at work and study has been an elusive and particularly poignant 'dragon' for me to face. If work and study are out of balance it slithers its way into the rest of my life, relationships, physical activity, diet, and in general mindfulness of my surroundings. I feel that every person has a dragon like this in some aspect of their lives, and can hopefully find solace in your post above. I take your post as a reminder that all things are co-dependent and that shaolin and kung fu principles apply whether we're doing a form, taking a jog, sitting and reflecting, writing a paper, filling out a form at work, bagging groceries, sitting in a meeting or swinging a hammer. No matter where I am and what I'm doing I can always be practicing.