Written by Chris
I have been training at the Nam Yang kung fu retreat for 3 weeks now and I have so far learned that I have a lot to learn. One of the big themes here, for me at least, is the difference between Western and Eastern philosophies.
If I had to describe kung fu in one would, that would be “tradition“. You do as your master says because that is how his master taught him. Back home, we tend to value what is new and improved. Here, they tend to value lineage. In the West, we use the scientific method to show us what works. In the East, they know what works because it has been in constant use for thousands of years. What works is what survives.
It has been a real struggle for me in many ways. After all, I am a man of science, am I not? I try to trust in the training and the tradition and take the master’s instructions while I wait for the results. It does not always make sense, and often the instructor cannot explain why we do what we do. But we do know, from the hundreds of generations that studied before us, that we need to do it if we want to reach our goals.
I have tried my best to come into this with an open mind, but I have my limits. It is all interesting to learn about, but I am getting sucked down a rabbit hole of Chinese herbs, Reiki healing, Ayurvedic medicine, Chi and auras, crystals, and, yes, even astrology.
It is hard for me to believe much of it but there is often a grain of truth in these things. I don’t think that science is the be-all and end-all either; there are many things that science cannot explain (at least not yet), but I also don’t believe in absolute blind faith either. What is really interesting is when these two sides meet up in the middle. For example, meditation is an ancient practice and is especially prominent in eastern philosophies. With recent brain monitoring techniques, science has been verifying some of the claims that meditators have been making for centuries such as elevated mood, enhanced perception, and reduced need for sleep.
I am not yet sure what I will take away from what I am learning here, but for the time being, I will continue to try to cultivate my chi in the mornings and eat the healing herbs with my meals. I think, as with many things, there is a core truth that we are after and we lack the language to fully describe. You can call it chi or lifeforce or potential energy or a soul, but we don’t really know it completely. As long as we keep studying, though, the picture continues to get clearer.
I’m pretty good with a bo staff