Taoist martial arts before Chen village

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J HepworthYoung
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Taoist martial arts before Chen village

Post by J HepworthYoung » Sat Jul 16, 2011 11:22 am

I've been reading some interesting material regarding the martial art known as Liuhebafa, this is credited to Chen Tua, also known as Chen Hsi I.

In some taoist circles it is taught that Lao Tzu (name unknown this is just a title) practiced martial arts that he was taught, and these martial arts are/is proto-taiji.

Now Chen Hsi I is said to have been initiated in the line from Lao Tzu and to have initiated Huo Lung, who initiated Chang San Feng, credited with the origination of taiji.

The role that the TaoDeJing and the I Ching play in this Taoism is undeniable. interestingly so is the association of martial arts with this sect, well known for its wandering monk type lifestyles. Interestingly wandering alone in the wild is dangerous and martial art skill seems integral to being able to do so without being killed by bandits and animals. Interestingly the wandering monks of Japan also have Taoist origination, as does Ninpo as well. Oddly though the sacred texts of the japanese systems is often in sanskrit, India is well known to have wandering martial artist monks of its own and they play key roles in hindu mythology and sacred texts.

What is interesting is the claim that Chen style martial arts incorporated Taoist aspects into their system, some claim that the taoist material was not martial, however to me there is an indication to the contrary, that the taoist system was indeed martial well before Chen Bu was born. Chen Bu is the originator of Chen style martial art.

there is a lot to this topic in some ways, too much for a post here, such as a comparison of the numerology and art of Buddhism and other Hindu religions with Taoism. Some maintain that Buddha was initiated into Tao and many tales exist of immortals that are very interesting including the role of Kalki, who is to be taught martial arts by way of an immortal in the Kali Yuga.

However my main consideration is that there is a role of spiritual and religious aspects of Taoism in these martial arts that was obfuscated by scholars working at the behest of the communist party who while promoting nationalism sought to eliminate the religious/spiritual content of martial arts. these scholars did this by stating that taiji originates in Chen village and that it does not have Taoist origins, but that daoist yoga was incorporated into Shaolin type methods by Chen Bu, and indeed this is the story that the Chens tell, even saying it is true because scholars told them it was, i can reference an interview where living Chen family members say just this, that government scholars determined that taiji originates at Chen village.

It is interesting though that Buddha was taught martial arts as well and there was a strong association of buddhism with martial arts in every country it spread to like Java, Burma, Thailand, China etc. So when Bodhidharma visits the Shaolin temple the revised communist scholar version has it that he taught yoga/qi-gong but no martial arts, despite him being recorded as being a martial artist in ancient palm leaf scrolls in india. I have to consider that the martial art that Bodhidharma practiced was part of his spiritual system and that it protected him in his travels the same way that it protected Lao-Tzu in his travels.

So I guess i have to end this consideration with a question for you the reader, Do you believe in immortals?

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Re: Taoist martial arts before Chen village

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:00 am

Well tis is a topic that has spawned many a lengthy paper...

It is important to keep in mind, that while many arts, martial to others, were strongly influenced by daoism & buddhism, these arts are not daoist or buddhist arts. It is a standard practice in China to associate any newly created art with an ancient founder. Clearly, there is little chance that any art that might have been practiced many centuries ago by Laozi, is known or practiced today.

Creation myths are doing two important things for the art they are attached to. The first is legitimizing them. After all, in a country dominated by a Confucian ideology that essentially holds that the way to enlightenment/profound understanding, it to study the ancients, new ideas are scoffed at & given little attention. So to be heard & taken serious, your art has to be old, & you just happen to rediscover it. The second thing these creation myths do for an art is provide it with an entire ready made moral, ethical & even sometimes, political framework (if for example the hero who "founded" the art was a nationalist like Yue Fei).

For those who have not grown up in a Chinese community, with stories of these heros, immortals, etc, this may not be fully appreciated at first. Let me give an example. Let's say the year is 3000. The public has the choice of studying one of two sword arts being offered locally. One is a school of fence founded by George Washington (G.W. actually was a serious swordsman who founded the first school of fencing in Virginia). This school, we are told, was created by Washington himself, secretly of course, after he retired from the presidency. He created it from his battlefield experience so that good honest men would be ale to defend the republic from its enemies & only taught to a select few. Fortunately, my great, great grandfather learned this art & passed it down to me.... The other art being offered was recently created by a local ruffian, who no one doubts is a good fighter, because he's had plenty. He just says he teaches what works. He's fought, he knows... Which school do you think has a better chance of financial success? Which one do you think has a chance at getting a story in the local paper? Of course the best way would be if these were the same school... Something like this is probably what Yang Luchan was thinking when that country boy arrived in Beijing & had a chance at aristocratic clients.

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Re: Taoist martial arts before Chen village

Post by KungFuPanda1979 » Thu Aug 04, 2011 5:35 am

Scott has brought up an important issue, that most people whom are interested in traditional martial arts use ancestry as validation. His parable of Washington's fencing is a great one. There is an implication that the longer an art has existed, then the better it must be, as proven by the test of time. And of course, if it was founded by a legend of history, then it will have even more appeal to those who relate to that charactor. But one thing that I would highlight, is that things are changing, and the new generations do not have the same reverence for the ancients, and have a much more utilitarian approach to choosing a fighting craft. You can see from the growing popularity of the new 'Mixed Martial Arts' and 'Krav Maga' trends.

For the record, Sakyamuni Gautama the Buddha was born of the Kshatria (warrior) cast, similar to the samurai of Japan, so his learning of martial arts has little relation to his spirituality. The very few Buddhist temples had a martial arts heritage outside the 2 shaolin temples. Wudang and ErMei were famous for their martial arts heritage, but the vast majority of Taoist temples did not practise martial arts. I think these are made so famous because of the fact that they are the exceptions and not the norm. One possibility for their status as the originators of all martial arts, is that perhaps only within this environment of both scholarly and martial persuit, were fighting techniques systemitised and could then be taught in a coherent way.

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Re: Taoist martial arts before Chen village

Post by J HepworthYoung » Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:25 pm

KungFuPanda1979 wrote: For the record, Sakyamuni Gautama the Buddha was born of the Kshatria (warrior) cast, similar to the samurai of Japan, so his learning of martial arts has little relation to his spirituality.
This caste was actually deeply spiritual in duty and rite.There is no issue at all with the concept that he practiced martial arts. However when you look at the symbols of buddhism it is interesting that many are hindu weapons, the sword, the chakram, the vajra, etc, there is a clear and compelling connection with buddhist iconography and martial arts weapons. Then if you consider even the context of the story of Garuda and the Nagas, and the mythological relationship between snake and crane then there is some very compelling information out there.
The very few Buddhist temples had a martial arts heritage outside the 2 shaolin temples.
This is not entirely true, in Java, Burma, Laos, Thailand and many other areas there is a connection between martial arts and Buddhist temples. When you look at the role of temple dance as a martial art practice, something well preserved in many areas and also well recorded in hindu history then the association of martial content bearing temple dances and both buddhist temples and their iconography allows a compelling relationship to be demonstrated to exist regarding the spread of martial arts and buddhism by way of ritual dance, this spread is easily demonstrated using religious iconography in concert with martial art and dance traditions.
Wudang and ErMei were famous for their martial arts heritage, but the vast majority of Taoist temples did not practise martial arts.
The subject of the diversification of taoism over thousands of years in China renders obsolete the concept that extant practice can indicate the practice of antiquity. More relevant is the telling of many Taoist sects of their own traditions involving martial arts, Lao Tzu for example is claimed to be a martial artist himself and this martial art is said to have been passed along with the taoist tradition. However present day Taoism bears a great deal of conflicting diversity, as does present day buddhism as well as christianity etc. The examination of presently maintained traditions is sadly incapable of providing meaningful insight into the past, however archaeology, linguistics, genetics, art history and ancient architecture all come together to tell a story more compelling and more easily supported by factual evidences than the generally accepted consensus regarding religious tradition in any specific culture.
Examining and relating aspects such as this has been an interest of mine for the past few years and I do have plans to publish the information I have regarding this.
. One possibility for their status as the originators of all martial arts, is that perhaps only within this environment of both scholarly and martial persuit, were fighting techniques systemitised and could then be taught in a coherent way.
there is a great deal of information that suggests to me that they are not actually originators of martial arts, merely developers of previously maintained systems that are demonstrably well over 3000 years old, and possibly more than 8000 years old.

I realize the need of some individuals to validate their ancestry as a means to get an objective evaluation of their martial arts, and thus the use of historical and mythological figures in specific groups makes practical sense, however there is some compelling indication that mythological figures did play major roles in martial arts developments, Bodhidharma is an excellent example, as is Kapila and even Shiva. there is strong evidence of martial arts in religious roles being involved in the spread of hindu religions across asia and even to the Polynesian Islands where they affected dance and war. the Gods of war are worth comparing in detail, language has obfuscated some amazing aspects and cultural-centric scholars have virtually ignored numerous evidences regarding this matter.

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Re: Taoist martial arts before Chen village

Post by KungFuPanda1979 » Fri Aug 05, 2011 3:44 am

Thanks J for all your information. I should've said that my view is restricted to within China. What else can you tell us on the topic?
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Re: Taoist martial arts before Chen village

Post by J HepworthYoung » Sat Aug 06, 2011 11:54 am

The 8 fold path associated with the Chakram wheel and the bagua 8 trigrams appear to have a relationship.

Italy seems heavily influenced by both Chinese and Indian culture during the spice trade era, and Alexander introduced Buddhism to Greece and this influenced the development of western culture. One of the interesting signs of the spread of information is linked not only to religious symbolism but the emergence of the laminated bow in different cultures. Of course this is a complex topic that has many aspects important to it and i cannot do it justice without presenting a great deal of information.

However to address one of the most interesting aspects, Martial arts play a role in hindu/buddhist mythology of the Kali Yuga. In relation to the last avatar of Vishnu. This avatar is fascinating in that he rides a pale horse and employs weapons. In some versions of the tale he is to be taught martial arts by an immortal who has lasted throughout the ages of man, this immortal is like many figures unknown in name but has many titles. He is called Rama who bears the axe, or Parashurama. This figuren (the 6th avatar of Vishnu) is interestedly said to have founded several temples, commissioned several statues whose content is incidentally associated with the Karanas, and is said to have played a major role in the development of martial arts. There are statues of him that look very strange as if he is of an ethnicity that is not presently represented on earth (very odd for a culture to sculpt a person who looks nothing like them). Of these statues he is alleged to have created there are 108, they are of postures employed in martial arts, but also employed for dance. Ancient temples frequently held significant wealth in terms of material goods and were a target of raiders, thus a need arises for the defense of the temple, however it is not considered proper to practice martial arts for the sake of killing alone. Instead a system was established that taught postures that had application in martial contexts, but also had the values of entertainment and of the promotion of health. This is not new to the Hindu system and the Mahabharata mentions each caste having a yoga that included martial art content. For example mudras exist that not only have a relationship to health and spirituality but they also have martial application. The hand weapons of Taiji, so to speak, are mudras, such as sword talisman. The dance content of many of the martial arts that emerged in Asia as developments of the temple dance martial arts of the Indian continent is obscure but can be seen in Silat and Muay Thai, the wai-kru of Muay Thai is a good example.

There is the subject of marman, this is the same as the meridian system of qi pathways and points, used for healing and harming alike.

My most interesting point here is the role of an immortal in the propagation of martial arts is not at all unique to what we call China now, which is actually composed of several kingdoms that have been conquered and united. Our very concept of what China is happens to relate to present day borders, China is so diverse it is hard for me to think of it as a single culture. Parashurama is said to have become an acetic, living in the mountains like a spiritual hermit. A martial art teaching immortal living in the mountains is interesting in relation to the taoist teachings. Likewise the lack of differentiation and lack of characteristic of the trimurti in the ultimate sense is incredibly similar to the teaching of Tao. Then there are the postures themselves, preserved in statues, many of which are 3000+ years old and they bear a very strong resemblance to taiji, which is used for health, spirit and defense.

Indra, wielder of the thunderbolt Vajra, who became known as Zeus in Greece, is said to have taught Arjuna martial arts at the same time that Arjuna studied Dance. Indra is itself a title and not a personage. this is also related to the topic, Arjunas story was very widespread in antiquity.

There is so much to this topic i cannot possibly outline it or do it justice in a post online. Needless to say there is a lot that suggests that martial arts were an essential technology in relation to the establishments of temples and the hermetic lifestyles of monk like individuals. China was an area of major development of martial arts, but the martial arts do not appear to have been invented there but appear to have arrived there. While it is thought by many that they were created in India, there is some evidence to suggest that they arrived there as well and that temple related martial arts may have arrived in India from Northern Africa. Looking at the genetics provides some very interesting data about the spread of culture. Less than 2000 generations ago humanity was but a single culture, there exist remnants of that culture in most cultures on the planet and the divergence of culture is analogous to the divergence of human genetics in terms of alleles specific to populations. The differences between cultures are all developed, not original. This means that in many cases what was responsible for a spread of cultural information was not exchange of culture, but related to the spread of people as they colonized and developed other areas and became increasingly isolated. Key figures played educational roles in the education of humanity in the mythological sense and these figures taught several interesting concepts and aspects including martial arts, religion, language etc. These figures are often thought of as immortals, or even gods in some contexts. I find it interesting that the Taoist teachings regarding this are parallel to the vedic teachings.

So being who and what i am, I cannot dismiss the idea of the immortal teacher. Rather I am inclined to believe that the profound content found in taiji as a potent spiritual and physical tool is very ancient, though aspects of taiji as we know it are fairly modern. However I am autistic and my way of looking, learning and thinking is at best described as strange. There is no way a normal person can think the way I do, and there is no way I can think the way a normal person does, so if you find me strange, even insane seeming, please note that I am not ordinary and it is perfectly fine for someone to disagree with me or even to dislike me. It is common for people to dislike things that are different or are hard for them to understand, so by all means feel free to think what you will. I'll mention when I have some completed presentations regarding this material, as i said i cannot do it justice in a post online.

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Re: Taoist martial arts before Chen village

Post by KungFuPanda1979 » Sun Aug 07, 2011 6:49 pm

Thanks J, that is all very interesting. Are there any reference material for this information?
And you said that you don't think like other people, in what way do you think people in general think and how do you think you differ?

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Re: Taoist martial arts before Chen village

Post by J HepworthYoung » Tue Sep 06, 2011 11:17 pm

KungFuPanda1979 wrote:Thanks J, that is all very interesting. Are there any reference material for this information?
Scholarly work on the subject? nope, not any that i have seen, my observations from study are not something i read in a book, but there are many primary sources of data that can be examined and correlated.
And you said that you don't think like other people, in what way do you think people in general think and how do you think you differ?
I cannot possibly explain in words, they are too narrow and limited in expressive ability to represent how i think. I can say that i think in a manner of a systematic process, it is perhaps machine like. Speaking and writing are rather difficult for me.

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Re: Taoist martial arts before Chen village

Post by KungFuPanda1979 » Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:01 pm

J HepworthYoung wrote:Speaking and writing are rather difficult for me.
But you write some of the most elaborate posts in the forum, so you're writing ability looks unhindered. :D

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Re: Taoist martial arts before Chen village

Post by J HepworthYoung » Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:38 pm

I have a compulsiveness to my character that is largely due to my being autistic.
This comes across with writing and sentence formation, but i do it rather automatically.

I have had a lot of practice writing and reading, my elaboration may reflect this
in some ways i think that i think like a machine, it can take many minutes to write up a single thought because language is so linear and specific
it isn't like i have many thoughts at once, it is more like one thought contains many related or connected things that is like a web of silk that i must slowly unwind with language to make threads of sentences woven into patterns of meaning

i am of course only human and am prone to all the faults and limitations that come along with that
my writing and opinion is nothing special, just a pattern under heaven amidst endless patterns

I feel silly to have even made the original post of this thread, regardless of my interest
i regret that reading it can do nothing to help anyone in any way, it is kind of pointless
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