Our dojang is founded on the Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang Motto: Wisdom; Benevolence; Sincerity; Bravery. The Motto was created by Lu Shu De, the son of Master Park’s teacher, Lu Shui Tian.
When Master Park was establishing his official dojang back in the 1970s in Inchon, Korea, Lu Shu De came to his father and presented the motto. Tai Shizu (the Great Grand-Shifu of Blue Dragon School students) looked at it, took a moment, and agreed it was needed, acceptable, and complete. He was very pleased with his son and that he gave it so much thought.
Any formality or orderly procedure is a ritual, and every class in the Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang Association follows this ritual of reciting the motto before commencing with training.
Does it matter how we begin our practice? Why do we need rituals? These are common questions that students may ask, at least to themselves, if not to others.
A ritual is set up to help the student to get into the right state of mind. In order to get the most from the practice, one must be fully engaged. Recognizing where our system came from and giving respect and gratitude helps the student to accomplish this. It also helps to make the practice more serious and therefore more productive.
When class begins, students are directed to face the flag and salute. Although the student should be going through mental shifts from the outside world to the dojang the moment he or she enters, it is in this moment of the opening rituals that the next shift takes place.
What’s on your mind?
Recognize the people who were involved to bring this knowledge to you. The great challenges that they had to overcome in their lives. The dedication they have had to the art. Have gratitude in your heart.
As the motto is recited, focus your mind on each of the virtues as you repeat it and what it means to you, during the silence that follows.
Wisdom is knowledge plus experience. It is the axiom of thinking before you act. With wisdom comes the acceptance of patience and perseverance. We learn that things take time.
With wisdom comes the ability to recognize what is true or what makes sense. Rather than just being led around by the countless contradictory advice you can find all around, you begin to ask yourself, “What do I think?” And with wisdom, you can answer.
Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang (Ba Gua Zhang) is a very deep system. It is truly an “old school” system and there is no finish line to cross. Those who want just the superficial forms or quick techniques for fighting will never be able to grasp its depth.
The wise student will just keep showing up and be so focused on the practice that the profoundness of the art will begin to show itself to him. Even if things don’t seem to make sense now, wisdom allows for having faith in the teacher and then only time can help provide the deeper answers that go beyond intellectual.
There’s a saying, “Shallow brooks babble the most.” There are many who mock the true artist. They do not understand why someone would want to spend their time punching and kicking. With wisdom, the student can ignore this kind of thing, recognize the ignorance of those who mock, allow it, let it go, and stay the course.
As wisdom is cultivated, benevolence begins to take root. Benevolence is all about thinking of, caring for, and respecting others. When you give your attention to benevolence, it helps to chip away at the ego.
Self-absorption is the anti-thesis of benevolence. When all that we do is for ourselves and we think that the world revolves around ‘me,” it becomes a very dark and lonely place. The more narcissistic one is the more difficult it will be for them to ever find true happiness and peace. Blaming others and the world for one’s own shortcomings or problems is the sure sign of the self-absorbed narcissist.
Respecting others is about allowing them to live their own lives, have their own beliefs, make their own choices and experience life in their own unique way. It is not your job to “fix” others or change them to the way you want them to be. To attempt to control anything outside of yourself is not only foolish, it is futile. Spend your time and energy doing the work on yourself.
The truly confident person is benevolent and will sincerely feel uplifted by the success of others. Only those with a high self esteem want to bring others up as well. Those who do not have good feelings about themselves or are negative about the world and life itself would rather put others down so as not to feel inferior in some way. When something good happens to someone else they tend to have to throw in the, “Yeah, but…”
We have a responsibility in this world. It is a great responsibility. It is to fully train ourselves to reach higher levels of health, happiness, and consciousness. Only by spending our leisure time working on ourselves and toward greater achievement (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) can we realistically ever bring others up all around us. Then life becomes much more enjoyable.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Being truthful in your every action is having sincerity. However, sincerity is not only being truthful with others, and doing what you say you’re going to do, but also with yourself, your actions and your efforts.
With sincerity, we can take a long hard look at ourselves and come to an honest conclusion as to why things aren’t quite what we want them to be.
If you say to yourself that you are going to start getting to class regularly and then don’t do it, you instill a sense of doubt and mistrust in yourself. You learn that your word is weak. So the next time you tell yourself you’re going to do this or that, get something done, or accomplish something, your subconscious mind already knows you’re full of it. Until you decide to prove it wrong.
Most everyone works very hard and has little time. Question is, are you working hard towards something that fits the kind of life you want, or are you just working hard like a mouse in a cage running on a wheel. The mouse works very hard to get somewhere but just ends up staying exactly in the same place.
Without vision and direction, how can you know where to focus your efforts? If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.
The practice of real martial arts develops in the student a greater sense of Self, or who YOU truly are. You are not your experiences. You are not what your parents have told you or taught you. You are not the various roles you play (husband, wife, parent, son, daughter, sibling, teacher, doctor, stockbroker, lawyer, etc.). You are much greater than that.
Making a sincere effort in your practice, applying all that you learn to the best of your ability results in a wonderful boost in your confidence and self esteem. You begin to better understand yourself. You begin to believe in yourself-and further introspection starts to tell you what it is you really want and then what you need to do to get it. The methods are in place; ultimately it is up to you what you do with them.
“The instructor does not teach the student, the instructor merely presents knowledge and ideas–the students, in truth, teach and train themselves.” – Tai Shizu Lu Shui Tian
Realize that the only progress that matters is in your everyday life – are you happier, healthier, calmer, more focused, a better parent, employee or employer? Making a sincere effort in your practice, coming to class regularly, doing the best you can while you’re at the dojang, working with others instead of against them, etc. – all develops the kind of habits that can greatly and positively impact all the other areas of your life. It’s automatic, as long as there is mindfulness in your practice.
There is no bravery without fear. If you aren’t afraid then it doesn’t take bravery to get it done. Some people just do what is necessary, period. Some are just plain stupid, not realizing the dangers. Are they brave or just not all there? That’s not what is meant by bravery.
There once was a poll taken where the results showed that people would rather die than have to speak publicly. People were more afraid to get up in front of others than they were to face death. Amazing, but true.
It just goes to show how much our experiences in life have shaped our perceptions of what is real. If we all grew up with support from family and friends, including classmates in school, then there wouldn’t be any fear of public speaking. But the comments and mockery that we experienced when we made any kind of mistake or “wrong move” had left some very deep emotional scars. So much so that as adults, people continue to go through life avoiding anything that just might bring back those awful feelings. Bravery can break that chain.
I recently was speaking to another martial arts instructor that mentioned how I was lucky to have a place to practice since I have my own school. I told him a don’t do much practice at the school. I told him that I prefer practicing outside in a park or any open space.
He shuddered at the thought of practicing in a public place where anyone might see him. How unfortunate. He loses valuable practice time because he worries what others might say or think. It is a perspective that holds him back and is completely unfounded.
Although in the early days I may have given it some thought, I quickly came to realize that very few people ever so much as notice or pay attention, and in the rare instance where they did, I just ignored them and continued what I was doing until they got bored and went away. I also enjoyed the benefit of an extra challenge to my concentration.
When you find yourself afraid of something the only way to overcome that fear is to do it anyway. Can’t change jobs (or a relationship, or a promotion, or whatever) because you’re afraid things won’t work out? Safer to stay where you are even though you’re not happy or satisfied? That really is no way to live. Isn’t it better to do something NOW rather than wait 10, 20, or 30 more years to realize you spent your whole life not being happy or satisfied?
The least you can do is change your attitude and decide to be happy and satisfied with what you do have. The best you can do is decide what you really want and get moving working towards getting it. Stop wasting your off time thinking about how you wish things were different. Make them different.
Only with bravery and courage can one hope to overcome perceived shortcomings or self-imposed limitations. Belief in yourself comes from doing the things that you didn’t know, or think, you could do.
By facing your fears and doing more than you think you can, getting over the “what if this happens” mentality and accepting failures as a part of growth, you can develop an indomitable spirit ready to face any challenge.
Thing is, if you don’t feel butterflies in your stomach at least once a day you’re not challenging yourself enough.
Few people realize that one of the greatest baseball icons of all time, Babe Ruth, not only led the league in home runs, he was also one of the players who struck out the most. If he worried about striking out we would never have heard of him. All he did was keep swinging for the fences.
It’s in the practice
Keep in mind that the dojang is a microcosm of the world. How you respond to challenges on the floor is the same way you respond to challenges in your life. If you crumble at adversity on the floor, you crumble at adversity in your life.
By seeing the dojang this way, and applying the motto in all that you do, over time you will begin to see major changes in your life.
Pushing yourself when you’re doing a physical workout helps to build your stamina, strength, and flexibility. Most would agree when they’re in shape they feel better about themselves. A good workout regularly will also lead to better and more complete sleep – so you wake up more energized and ready for the new day.
In addition to your increased fitness level, as your balance, coordination, and focus improve over time you’ll overcome more challenges on the floor and suddenly challenges in your life that may have tripped you up in the past are not such a big deal anymore. You’ll be saying, “If I can do this, I can do…”
You find yourself more relaxed and centered when you practice with a partner. You understand yourself better and so you also understand others better. You are growing, but you may hardly notice. Others notice, and they’ll say, “Something is different about you.”
The motto clearly demonstrates that martial arts is far more than self defense or fitness.
With Wisdom you make better choices and work hard, but smart; Benevolence helps you to work better with others; Sincerity keeps you honest, and able to see why things are suddenly going well – or why they aren’t; Bravery allows you to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and into a whole new you.
Originally Published in April, 2005