24 November, 2013

Kempo Hakku and Chinese Influences

I have been thinking again about the Kempo Hakku found in the Bubishi.  For those who do not know about this document, it is the so-called Bible of Karate.  It contains references to pressure points, philosphy, ethics, forms and useful self defense techniques that can be found in (some of the) kata of differing karate traditions.

I have decided to write a brief post about these 8 Lwas of the Fist Way, and compare some thoughts I have found about Chinese Quan Fa.  Regardless of the actual connection between Karate and Quan Fa, I think this comparison might be interesting and at least useful as a recording of my own thoughts.

First, let's give the 8 Laws of the Fist Way, then some principles that some may be familiar with.

1. Jinshin wa tenchi ni onaji. -The mind is one with heaven and earth.

2. Ketsumyaku wa nichigetsu ni nitari. -The circulatory rhythm of the body is similar to the cycle of the sun and the moon.

3. Ho wa goju wo tondo su. -The way of inhaling and exhaling is both hard and soft.

4. Mi wa toki ni shitagai hen ni ozu. -Act in accordance with time and change.

5. Te wa ku ni ai sunawachi hairu. -Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought.

6. Shintai wa hakarite riho su. -The feet must advance and retreat, separate and meet.

7. Me wa shiho wo miru wa yosu. -The eyes do not miss even the slightest change.

8. Mimi wa yoku happo wo kiku. -The ears listen well in all directions

You can find similar translations all over the place.  Perhaps a better translation is found here:

And now, here is an excerpt on the methods and 'secrets' of quan fa from another excellent blog, Be Not Defeated By the Rain:

From another perspective, 「直橫」is a boxing mnemonic, and is one of the most important principles in Southern kung fu, like  swallowing and expelling「吞吐」floating and sinking「浮沉」twisting and turning「擰轉」it describes how to use the body. The martial artist form Lingnam Lee Sai Wing states in his work 《工字伏虎拳拳譜》 states:

"The Art of Boxing is easy to learn and hard to attain its essense, one has to first understand its rules and practice its standards, afterwards one has to train the qi and power and be proficient in receiving the enemy's attacks. Understanding this, one's kung fu increases, from this [basis] one seeks the straight and sideways, swallowing and expelling, forward and retreat, entering and exiting, the secret of the four places, the method of the five gates, the shape of the eight faces, the road of life and death"

One can see from this that straight and sideways is an important wushu concept, and to treat it as standing up or lying on the floor is to distort its original meaning. The literati have always liked to play with words but to deliberately distort an important martial concept is to me unnecessary and seem to be intentionally misleading.

Here is a brief summary of the methods or movements key to Quan Fa:

  • Straight and Sideways
  • Swallowing and Expelling
  • Forward and Retreat
  • Entering and Exiting
  • Four Places
  • Five Gates
  • Eight Faces
  • Floating and Sinking
  • Twisting and Turning

So, I would like to draw attention to the most basic of these, floating/sinking (Heaven and Earth) and spitting/swallowing (I see a clear reference to inhalation and exhalation, aka Goju).  It seems clear to me that these four basic methods of dealing with an attack are found in most, if not all, of karate's kata.  But we also see examples of certain other aspects in some of the forms as well.  Sideways is obvious in Naihanchi, and things such as forward/retreat and enter/exit (either of these two could be linked to Sun and Moon, but more obviously a reference to the feet meeting and retreating from another) as seen all over the place.  Twisting and turning are found in kata from all styles of karate (Taikyuko, Heian, Saifa, Kururunfa come to mind off hand).  What I can't place is the 4 places and 5 gates.  8 faces seems to hint towards the eight basic directions of attack (N, S, E, W, NE, NW, SE, SW) and also the directions in which the ears should listen.  Interesting...

At any rate, it is late, and I have to think more on what all of this means.  I hope to cover my thoughts in more detail in later articles.

As always, the way is in training...

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