Chan, Health, and Combat make up the Three Treasures of Shaolin. In modern times we understand the importance placed on health, and combat skills are widely regarded as a crucial component of self-defense. Chan, however, is not a familiar term to most.
The concept of Chan can be referred to by the English words “wisdom” or “self-improvement”. It is the philosophy employed by the Chan Buddhist monks of the Shaolin Temple to understand reality and discover the meaning of life. The warrior monks of Shaolin understood that death is just another phase of reality. The majority of people I have come in contact with are not familiar with the term Chan, but they are familiar with the synonymous Japanese term “Zen”, which has taken on a mystical meaning for many Westerners.
Chan or Zen simply means “meditation”, and meditation can be defined as mindfulness.
The goal of meditation is to increase the clarity of conscious thinking to have more control of the subconscious. Your Habits + Your Beliefs = Your Subconscious Mind. There is unlimited potential in the subconscious mind.
A defining characteristic of Shaolin is the concept of the Internal and External Triads.
The Internal Triad is comprised of what we think, feel, and do, things that we 100% can control. The External Triad is the time, space and energy of the world we live in. We cannot control the External Triad, instead our goal is to harmonize with our environment. In Shaolin Wing Chun we refer to the Internal Triad as “attitude”, meaning: What we think, we create. What we feel, we attract. What we do, we become. The Chinese have the concept of heart-mind; meaning thoughts and feelings are intertwined. Our beliefs are generated by our thoughts and feelings, and our habits are a result of our actions. Therefore our subconscious mind is completely under our control.
After receiving information from the world through the 5 senses, the conscious mind feeds the subconscious mind which results in habits and beliefs. The subconscious mind manifests energy through the heart and body. The result of energy (actions, intent) that you produce feeds back through the 5 senses, and the cycle repeats.
The most important skill that we strive to develop in Shaolin Wing chun is flow; our ability to adapt to change; to live in the “here and now”. The “here and now”, is defined by your present time and space. In Shaolin training we learn that 25% of our reality is comprised of what we think, 25% is what we feel, and 25% is what we do. The final 25% is our environment; our present time and space.
Therefore, we are in control of 75% of our reality. Because reality is change, the Shaolin Monks started practicing kung fu as a pathway to self-improvement.
Fixed patterns are necessary in the developmental phase of learning.
In live combat fixed patterns equal restrictions. Restrictions are attachments. Attachment is the inability to change and adapt to the reality of the moment; the here and now. The biggest attachment is ego. We must keep some ego in order to function as physical beings day to day; for self-identity, but an overabundance of ego can manifest in behaviors such as blaming others and self-pity, when we have attachments that are not compatible with the current reality. Attachments lead to illusions, and illusions lead to suffering; hence matters of life and death are dependent on the ability to adapt to change. Detachment doesn't mean you don't care. It means that you can adapt and adjust, or live in the moment. Fighter or not, true wisdom is using the correct application in your reality.
Scientific research has revealed that the states of matter such as solid, liquid, gas, are basically just differentiated by the amount of kinetic energy that their respective particles possess.
Energy connects everything. Time and space create separation. Our consciousness creates separation. Separation leads to disconnection. Disconnection can lead to extremism. This is evident in cultures where there exists a high level of conflict. Collectively the citizens are disconnected, not unified. It is easier to stay connected externally by making friends or creating strong family bonds. Most of us who live in a stable society are disconnected internally. The nature of energy is unlimited. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only change from one form to another. Thus, energy is change, therefore we must embrace it. We have awareness of change, therefore, we have the ability to adapt. So how do we train to adapt ? I’ll cover that in Part 2, coming soon.