Wudang Kung Fu – Wudang Gong Fu
How to resolve the contradiction between Fighting Arts and Compassion.
All of the Kung Fu (Gong Fu), including Wudang Kung Fu knowledge that Li Shifu from Heavenly Horse Peak has received, fall under the umbrella of ancient and traditional Kung Fu (Gong Fu) and can be summed up as the essences of internal and external martial arts. Basics and forms are taught and instructed according to traditional teaching methods. In the temple, practicing martial arts is combined with virtue, morals and one’s character cultivation.
Wudang Kung Fu (Gong Fu), Fire and Water Wudang Tai Chi , Wudang Tai Chi Push-Hands, Ji Ben Gong, Big Dipper Body-Protection Wudang Qigong, Seven Star Wudang Sword, Dragon Heart Wudang Sword, Wudag Taijiquan, Wudang Eight Trigram Big Dipper Palm and trademark skills including Yellow-Mud-Palm, Piercing- Mountain, Iron-Sand-Palm, Grappling-Skills, Iron-Arm-Skill, Protecting-the-Body-Skill, and QingGong, in addition to a set of secretly transmitted methods.
How to resolve the contradiction between Fighting Arts and Compassion.
Origin, Purpose and Main Principles
The word ‘Kung Fu’ as such did not exist in ancient China. According to the earliest records, 2500 years ago there were military skills, sword and hand fighting techniques. These skills developed for several thousand years before the existence of gunpowder and firearms, and were passed on within more than a few hundred sects. Methods that were transmitted within society were referred to as martial arts techniques. These were handed down and disseminated up to the present times and only then labelled “Chinese Martial Arts“, and “Kung Fu”.
Kung Fu can be separated into two main categories in regards to the physical exercises and the principles:
Internal Kung Fu- Nei Jia Gong Fu
External Kung Fu – Wai Jia Gong Fu
External Kung Fu uses external practices to steel one’s tendons, bones and skin. Its characteristics are hard and fierce and is represented by the Shaolin Temple, China. Internal Kung Fu uses internal practices to strengthen one’s energetic field and one’s internal “True Qi”. Its principle objective is emptiness, agility, roundness and softness. Wudang is its orthodox and traditional school. Therefore the Kung Fu World reveres Shaolin in the North and worships Wudang in the South. The history of Wudang Kung Fu reaches far back in time, broad and deep.
It contains profound traditions and philosophies of the Chinese culture. Its doctrine is centered on the blending of ancient Chinese concepts such as Yin-Yang, the Five Elemental Phases, the Book of Changes, the eight trigrams and naturalness with the fist principles and skills, the theories of gong-skill, actual combat and military tactics. The history furthermore places importance on the concept of the universe as a whole, as a holistic body. It moreover regards the concept of the unification of Heaven and Human through great kindness of the Dao and the sublimation of the ten thousand things as its principal purpose. The notion of “the Dao following the natural way” is considered its source. It applies methods to combine movement and stillness, to cultivate both the internal and the external, to unite opposites.
“Preventing any form of evil from penetrating one’s energetic field
and pursuing innumerable benevolent deeds is seen as a ladder to heaven.”
One hopes to be able to sublimate and transform through the cultivation of one’s self’ and one’s virtuous character, as well as through one’s devout faith in Taoist Immortals and the reverence of the Purple Heaven’s gods, the Heavenly Sages and the Perfected Ones. The direction and objectives of “Wudang Kung Fu” are to obtain the compassion and protection from higher life forms and high-dimensional wisdoms, to open the human body’s even greater potential, to attain “Spirit Gong”, a skill beyond the mundane astonishing world. These are also the differences between the “Daoist Wudang Kung Fu” and the Kung Fu in society, which manifest themselves in the distinct origin and the exceptional effects of this miraculous Wudang Kung Fu.
The Unification of Martial Arts and the Dao
Wudang Kung Fu’s theories and foundation originate from the ancient Yi Jing, the eight trigrams, and Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing, which are all related to the Dao. The ancients believed in the existence of the paramount, supreme, everlasting Great Dao of Heaven and Earth.
“It gives birth and evolves the ten thousand things;
But on the other hand it also controls and inhibits the ten thousand things.
It is without form and without appearance, without beginning and without end;
Heaven is its father and Earth is its mother multiplying the myriad beings.
In this state of calmness, soft and yielding, safeguarding the female;
Non-action and no contention; its volition unfolds before one’s eyes;
From its greatness to its tininess, within and without, it comprises everything;
From its macrocosm to its microcosm.
Observe its laws of movement from the milky way to the protons and quarks;
The pattern of ‘circular’ interlinked movements.
‘Circles’ are the universe’s driving force, the life force behind all living beings,
The impetus of the never ending chain of life.
It is the everlasting leitmotif of all life forms.”
Wudang Kung Fu regards the ’Dao’ as its root leading to the specific practicing methods for fist skills. All theories of course must accord with the Dao’s orbit, its circular movements, its transformations and circulations.
These circles are embodied in all respects:
Revolving, rotating, moving, and changing. They are arranged in Wudang’s Heavenly Stars (big dipper), the Eight Trigram Palm (Ba Gua Zhang), Wudang’s Big Dipper Dragon-Heart Swordsmanship, Wudang’s Water-Fire Tai Ji and other physical exercises and stepping techniques equally pacing in circles and drawing circles. Everywhere these circular patterns are practiced: small circles, great arcs comprising small arcs, horizontal circles, vertical circles, oblique circle, silk reeling circles, eight shaped circles, and so on. These kinds of circle, rotation, circulation and movement patterns truly belong to Internal Wudang Kung Fu and are the greatest point of difference to other styles of Kung Fu.
Wudang Martial Arts, Medicine and Longevity
Wudang Kung Fu embodies the reverence, following and preaching of the Dao. It highly values the cultivation of human body’s essence, qi and spirit (the three treasures).
All methods regardless whether it is sitting or standing meditation, moving exercises like Dao Yin, Longevity, Qi Gong or secret practices lay stress on:
“Refine saliva into essence;
Refine essence into qi;
Refine qi into spirit,
Refine spirit and return to the void;
Refine the void and unite with the Dao.”
Thus one is able to progressively elevate and sublimate. All methods apply the regulation of the heart-mind, the regulation of the breathing, the regulation of the body, implemented from beginning to end. Regardless of the Kung Fu technique, the external physical exercises of hand, eye, body, method and stepping practices emphasize the transformation of yin and yang, the circular arc, the silk reeling, the combination of movement and stillness. Moreover, they underline that within softness there is hardness and within hardness there is softness.
The chief focus lies on the circulation of the body’s internal ‘True qi’ and on the conservation and gathering of essence, qi and spirit (Jing, Qi, Shen) in order to increase one’s own intrinsic strength, power and Gong (skill).
Both aspects, the internal and the external, must adhere to the centeredness and uprightness [i.e. one’s physical body needs to be straight and one’s character righteous], relaxed and tranquil, peaceful and comfortable, soft and dynamic. One must establish one’s ‘Cinnabar Field’ (Dan Tian) and the ‘Gate of Life’ (Ming Men) as the core and nucleus of movement, transformation, practice and refinement. One must regard the free-coursing of one’s qi, blood and fluids in the meridians and a strong and robust body free from disease as the first prerequisites. If one wants to understand the causes for people’s disease, one must grasp the principles of the five Zang-Organs and mechanism of the meridians. One must comprehend the methods for regulating essence, qi, spirit, blood and fluids and the principles of longevity and the art of Chinese Medicine transmitted by the chief physician Qi Bo and the Yellow Emperor.
“With low skills one is capable of healing one’s own injuries,
capable of re-adjusting one’s own illnesses.
With great skills one is capable of curing and benefitting people,
capable of doing good deeds in society and rescue people’s lives.”
If one practices Kung Fu externally and cultivates benevolence and love internally, if one accumulates essence and builds up qi, the physical constitution and the power of one’s initially weak gong will gradually get stronger and stronger. If one keeps practicing like this long-term, one will certainly undergo biological changes and go through the sublimation of the consciousness and the mind.
The Trivial Skill of Subduing an Enemy
Wudang Martial Arts are regarded as a form of Kung Fu, since the attack and defense fighting methods certainly incorporate practical and pragmatic fighting applications. Thus Wu Dang Kung Fu receives praise from the martial arts circles. Concerning its sword fighting, its fist methods and its Gong (skill) methods, there is the knowledge of the society about the physical exercises, the forms (Tao Lu) and the unique skills. But there is also what common people outside the religious sects are not aware of such as an even deeper level, comprising hand symbols (aka mudras), rituals, incantations (aka mantras), talisman, taboos/ contraindications, qi and the arts. Moreover these special items contain pacing along the celestial seven stars and treading on the big dipper (stepping methods), the ‘Qi Men Dun Jia’ divination method, Daoist rituals and Daoist arts enabling one to defeat ten people easily.
These deeper-level aspects require the communication and cooperation with higher-dimensional mysterious powers through ceremonial practices according to certain requirements. Therefore one can obtain equal rank with the immortals and heavenly messengers. Reaching this point is already considered the sublimation to a higher level of Kung Fu. Spirit and form (body and mind) have joined to become One. This is the study of the meta-physical and the immaterial transcends the physical form and appearance. To get to this level the requirements for the practitioner’s Way, Virtue and character qualities already go far beyond a common person, and are much stricter.
The “Dao De Jing” says:
“Weapons are inauspicious tools;
They should be used only as last resort.”
Daoism advocates the respect for life, the preciousness of life, harmony, humility and tolerance; this is the Dao of Benevolence and Compassion. Daoism discourages wars, injury and harm, contention, vieing and seizing forcefully; this is the Dao of Ruthlessness and Cruelty. In the past Patriarch Lü Dong Bin benefitted the world and rescued people’s lives; Patriarch Qiu Chu Ji ended the killings of Genghis Khan with one word amongst other benevolent deeds. Therefore, the Daoist sects possess skills of fighting however do not compete for supremacy as they regard fighting skills as superficial and trifling knowledge. This viewpoint is due to their faith and their monastic disciplinary precepts as well as their belief in the notion of the Way and the Virtue. Kung Fu is just a stepping stone to reach to a much higher level.
Martial Arts Virtue and Entering the Dao
Wudang Kung Fu originated from Taoist sects. The high level Kung Fu expert of the internal traditional school of Wudang must unify the Dao, the martial arts and the healing arts. The high priest and ceremonial master must accept the three refuges (Dao, Scripture and Teachers) and comply with the precepts, revere and follow the Dao. Precepts are to prevent one from using past knowledge, ignorant practices and wicked conduct, to break away the common person’s greed, desires, anger, stupor and other myriad types of empty delusions. They also stop one from going as far as becoming entangled and disturbed in the bustling shallowness of society, to the point of the heart-mind being tired, the spirit consumed, the essence exhausted, qi withered.
“If the heart-mind and the conduct are not upright,
Desires and greed become infinite.
Qi and blood inevitably will become disorderly.
The meridians, the endocrine system and the energetic field certainly will be affected.
Cause and effect correspond to each other.
Effect follows one’s conduct like a shadow follows a person.
If one violates the Dao’s principles,
How can one obtain long and everlasting life?”
If the heart-mind is righteous and the conduct is upright, Qi and blood are free flowing, smooth and unobstructed. The body will be comfortable and there will be no confusion, “True Qi’” will be accumulated and assembled. With small Gong (skill) one can remove one’s illnesses and prolong one’s life. Once one’s Gong (skill) has grown bigger into great Gong (skill), one is able to shed the form and metamorphose one’s body, the meridians, the Qi and the blood into the internal alchemy’s basic foundation. Reaching this point is already above the study of Kung Fu, a sublimation reaching the high level of the study of the universe and life.
Seeking a Teacher and Begging for Teachings
The Daoist sects’ selection of disciples throughout the ages has been always extremely strict. The main requirement for this style of transmitting knowledge lies in the teacher selecting the student. The teacher’s oral transmission, and heart-mind instructions (instilling of knowledge through formless methods) are the priority.
Most importantly the high standard of Wudang Kung Fu transmissions of knowledge often depends on the teacher’s heart-mind instructions as well as the disciple’s wisdom and realization. The heart-mind’s nature and the character qualities have to have undergone many examinations all year round, even to the point of the teacher setting up unexpected traps in the darkness to assess the student’s thoughts, infinitely testing the student. Besides an oath has to be sworn, a vow has to be made. One has to conduct a ceremony in a Daoist ritualistic space, submit a petition, with a sincere prayer, beg the sages and appeal for their compassion and protection. The requirements include the study of Daoism’s scriptures such as the Dao De Jing, the Scripture of the Hidden Talisman (Yin Fu Jing), the Yellow Court Scripture (Huang Ting Jing), the Yi Jing, the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic (Huang Di Nei Jing), the Founding Father’s Treasured Instructions (Zu Shi Bao Xun), Action and Response According to the Great High (Tai Shang Gan Ying Pian) and many more scriptures. One must accept and uphold the Daoist temple precepts, such as the three refuges, the five most basic precepts, the ten initial realization precepts (the first stage of precepts requirements) and the heavenly immortal precepts (last stage of precepts). In lesser cases of violating the precepts the disciple is reprimanded and punished by kneeling for the time it takes an incense stick to burn down completely. In more serious cases the student will be disciplined by the bamboo cane and the leather whip, the Gong (skill) will be taken away and the student will be expelled outside the temple gates. If one grasps this, one will know that the high level Kung Fu cultivation is difficult and by no means easy.
That is why the masters of the past said:
“One should rather lose the transmissions forever than passing them on disorderly.
Disorderly transmissions have implications for the teacher.”
Thus the Daoist sects’ dissemination and influential sphere is very small, it is the number one reason why only a few know about Daoism overseas and abroad. Nowadays in society the desire for material wealth has taken a perverse turn. Many of the high Gong (skill) masters have already left the world or renounced it, escaped this world leading lives of recluses, not being polluted by the worldly desires. The desire for gain has dominated the unworthy people’s thoughts and poisoned their hearts, cheating and bullying their teachers, extinguishing and exterminating their masters, betraying the pledge to their teachers and forsaking the Dao. They furthermore collaborate with powerful and influential people, deceive the world, and steal undeserved fame. However bright people penetrate their intention in one glance, but new students and novices must scrutinize and must be cautious. When one listens to the words of the unworthy people and observes their behavior, it is not hard to recognize and identify them. One should apply this principle to avoid spending a lot of money, waste time and one’s life.
“The door to enlightenment is wide open to everyone,
But only the ones who have a destiny with it, will enter.”
In the past Mount Wudang had to go through chaotic times on several occasions. In order to avoid the wartime’s some high priests and ceremonial masters carrying with them skills and techniques wandered and roamed around in the countryside, returning to secular life. In order to ensure the survival and distribution of Daoism’s knowledge, they transmitted a few physical exercises (form and structure) of Kung Fu amongst the common people. These transmissions took shape in the form of Taijiquan, Xing Yi, Ba Gua Zhang, Nine Palaces and many other sects. These teachings passed through years of severe tests, this is the reason why nowadays in society there is even less knowledge of these deep, abundant, profound and mysterious contents. Additionally the more time passes by the less influence Daoism has. The transmissions of the physical exercises of Kung Fu in society also has very high requirements. On the basis of the Daoist sects’ ten precepts a set of instructions evolved prohibiting the transmission of knowledge. There are ten instructions in total as follows:
01. Disloyalty and lack of filial piety; no transmission
02. Lack of benevolence and lack of righteousness; no transmission
03. Dangerous heart-mind and fondness of fighting; no transmission
04. Low character and virtue; no transmission
05. Greed, alcohol and lust; no transmission
06. Lack of sincerity; no transmission
07. Lack of respect, cheating of the true teachers; no transmission
08. Lack of physical qualities and dull-wittedness; no transmission
09. Boasting one’s talent and showing off; no transmission
10. Foul and abusive tongue and lieing; no transmission
…and many more prohibitions and taboos.
Any chosen students who are able to reach this standard already possess the path to becoming an immortal, regardless whether they entered the Daoist sect or not.
If one embarks on enduring, long-lasting and deep investigation, research and bitter practice, one will in days to come inevitably turn into a person of outstanding talent.
In short, for the cultivation of Wudang internal Kung Fu’s purpose and direction there are 19 words whose meanings everyone must grasp:
Precept, conduct, fist, sword, Gong [skill], longevity, medicine, rituals, talent, companion, earth, virtue, wisdom, realization, destiny, alchemy, Dao, void and brightness.
Any teachings lacking many of the above mentioned aspects and elements could not possibly be the true transmissions of the orthodox and traditional school of Internal Wudang Kung Fu. The contents are abundant and vast, difficult to explain in depth.
In this summary and brief account I mentioned a few points, already I have spoken out of turn. The high priests and high scholars would just laugh at it.
White Horse Mountain, Five Immortals Temple, Hubei, China
Narrated by Xing De
Translated by Disciple Cheng Cai
23rd, April, 2015