Penetrating the Truth

When you begin training you get advice. You try to understand. Sometimes the advice is easy to use, like “Close your fist.” Often, even though the words are familiar and the grammar makes sense, what to do with the advice remains obscure. As a result of practice, the meaning becomes clear. By returning to the words of advice, our understanding and ability deepen, even though the words which describe them remain the same. 

Here is an example:


Yang Jwing-ming’s translation:

The waist firm like an axle, the hands move like wheels

(From his book Emei Baguazhang, section from The Real Theory of BaGuaZhang.)

A translation by Andrea Falk, appearing along with the original Chinese at DiGuoWong:

The waist is like an axle, the hands turn like wheels

This advice is perfectly accurate. That is what we do and how it works. We probably wouldn’t think of it on our own. We probably wouldn’t move this way if it wasn’t pointed out. But after it is, we can make the most of the power, range and speed of our whole body.

The character, used in the above Chinese quotation, is pronounced “koshi” in Japanese. In some karate training “the koshi” is treated as something mysterious, elusive, hard to describe, harder to comprehend. But “koshi” is just a normal word, “waist” in English. The mystification disappears as you use the advice: awareness of your waist in motion, connecting it to your technique, creating a habit of moving with the whole body, generating motion by means of rotation at the waist. If you have not practiced much, this may be mysterious. If you have practiced for a while, it is obvious. Same body. Same principle. Same words. Different understanding as a result of practice. 

There are hundreds of pieces of advice like this which are shared in the course of teaching and learning in our martial art, and others. The words become useful as we move. As we explore the meaning of the advice we use it to explore the purpose of our technique.  

We may also discover that much of the advice we are learning is universal, not limited in application to one martial art, or even to martial arts in general. The approach to movement in Chinese internal and external martial arts are different, and this shows. Differences in approach to tactics and techniques show in the Okinawan martial arts as well: Shorin, Goju and Uechi are not the same. But many of the training principles are. Marketing and mythology notwithstanding, individual martial arts are not completely separate, different or opposed.

I cited the above example about the waist because this advice also applies to baseball, tennis, swimming and golf, among others, and is widely used in coaching these sports at the competitive level. The language is different but the principle is the same. 

In many ways all human bodies work alike. Despite our differences, our minds are susceptible to the same healthy and unhealthy influences. Accepting the limits of our bodies at the beginning of practice as “the way I am” is an error. We can change the way we are by healthy practice. This is heartening as well as cautionary: if we place ourselves under unhealthy conditions and accept defective advice, we will deteriorate in mind and body.

Good guidance is available. It may not be advertised. You may need to seek it out. There is plenty of bad advice available too. It is up to each of us to recognize the difference. If we can find guidance which proves sound and wholesome, we can devote ourselves wholeheartedly to practice, confident that we will get the results we want. 


Post Copyright © 2022 by Jeffrey Brooks, Mountain Karate Dojo, Yamabayashi Ryu, located in Saluda, NC

Photo by Julia Volk, via Pexels

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