Chinese Martial Arts
with thousands of years of history, has developed three main schools
of thought: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. The martial arts, as
manifestations of Chinese culture, contain elements from each of those
philosophies. In theory, the three philosophies seek to provide guidance
for living, but, in practice, individuals must ultimately find their
own path. Depending on their temperament and experience, individuals
who keep an open mind will gain important insights into the complex
realities of life from each of these great philosophies. Each person
must find their own answers based on the wisdom and teachings of the
section focuses on:
Between the Three Philosophies
tradition can be traced back to 550 B. C., when the Analects of Confucius
was first published. In this book, Confucius wanted to provide a guide
for social harmony through the understanding of appropriate social
and ethical behaviour. This philosophy focuses on the concepts of
the external action of li (ritual / convention / tradition) and the
internal attitude of jen (humanity / benevolence / goodness). He advocated
a a simple moral and political teaching: to love others; to honour
one's parents; to do what is right instead of what is advantageous;
to practice "reciprocity," i.e. "to not do to others what you would
not want done to you"; to rule by moral example instead of by force
and violence. Self-control became a key virtue promoted by his followers.
of the greatest philosophers followed the Confucian tradition. Mencius
(371-289 BC) stressed the inherent goodness of man. Ch'eng I (1033-1107)
and his brother Ch'eng Hao (1032-1085) explored the metaphysics of
this system. Chu Shi (1130-1200) and Wang YUang-Ming (1472-1529) are
some of the other great teachers of this school. Their influence can
be found throughout Chinese society.
philosophy as exemplified by The Tao Te Ching can also be traced back
to 518 BC. The author, Lao Tse, was searching for an end to the constant
feudal warfare and other conflicts that disrupted society during his
lifetime. The result of his struggles was an alternative system of
moral truths and social conduct that contradicts the prevailing thinking
of the times. The major guiding principle for Taoism is to "take no
action that is contrary to nature". The other important Taoist philosophers
include Chuang-tzu who advocated the pursuit of emptiness or hsü -
a timeless state free of worries or selfish desires. The practitioner
should be open to new ideas, but transcend all individual material
important influences of Taoism include the works of Chuang Tzu (399
and 295 BC). He advocated the goal of absolute emancipation and peace.
This is accomplished by knowing the capacity and limitations of one's
own nature, nourishing it, and adapting it through a "universal" Tao.
In this process, selfishness of all description is abandoned. The
student is free from the cravings for fame and wealth, as well as
from biases and even subjectivity. These ideas have had a profound
influence on Buddhist thoughts.
are also many different facets to Taoist thought. For example, Yang
Chu (440-360 BC) promoted the idea of inaction rather than detachment
as the goal in the practice of the Tao. He suggested that
of great antiquity knew that life meant to be temporary present
and death meant to be temporarily away. There they acted as they
pleased and did not turn away from what they naturally desired."
views are more moderate. For example, the neo-Taoists represented
by Kuo Hsiang (312) and Wang Pi (226-249) advocated that the sage
must rise above all distinctions and contradictions. The practitioner
remains in the midst of human affairs although he accomplishes things
by taking no unnatural action.
was first introduced into China in 2 BC and reached its zenith by
460 with the founding of the Zen (Chan) school of sudden enlightenment
by Bodhidharma (460-534). Buddhists are concerned with personal salvation
rather than the affairs of society. Through constant practice, Buddhists
seek to break the cycle of suffering by eliminating desire.
arrived in China from India around 2 BC. It went through some changes
as it was mixed with popular religious beliefs and practices, but
still followed the Indian tradition. By 200, schools of Buddhism were
essentially Chinese and no longer related to the Indian perspective.
The Chinese posed relevant questions and sought answers only through
an interpretation of the Indian scriptures.
Between the Three Philosophies
three philosophies can be compared and contrasted in their approach
to solving various problems of life. For example:
piety and brotherly respect are the root of humanity (Jen)?"
Lao Tzu :
the great Tao declined,The doctrines of humanity (jen) and righteousness
regard to dharmas no thought is attached to anything, that is
in counseling others I have not been loyal: whether in intercourse
with my friends I have not been faithful; and whether I have not
repeated again and again and practiced the instructions of my
Lao Tzu :
you understand all and penetrate all within taking any action?
To produce things and to rear them, To produce but not to take
possession of them,To act but not to rely on one's own ability,
To lead them but not to master them."
nature is originally pure. All dharmas lie in this self-nature.
If we think of all kinds of evil deeds, we will practice evil.
If we think of all kinds of good deeds, we will do good. Thus
we know that all dharmas lie in one's self-nature. Self-nature
is always pure."
is the Tao?"
man in dealing with the world is not for anything or against anything.
He follows righteousness as the standard."
Lao Tzu :
best (man) is like water,Water is good; it benefits all things
and does not compete with them
it is because he does not compete
that he is without reproach."
"All one has to do
is to do nothing
The stupid will laugh at him, but the wise
one will understand
One who makes effort externally is a fool."
to the Martial Arts
contributions of each philosophy to the martial arts can be compared.
There are also distinctive styles that are attributed directly to
a particular philosophy.
and protect the country (Jen Chung Boa Kuo)
- Strong influence on Taichi, Bagua
and other Wudang styles
- Strong influence on Shaolin,
Fut Gar, Hung Gar and most other Buddhist styles
philosophy represents a source of strength and inspiration for the martial
arts. It provides a firm foundation for building a philosophical and
spiritual component in the study of kung fu.