zen philosophy

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom


Have you ever given advice or instruction to anyone in your life that came to you for help, yet it seemed like your words fell on deaf ears, or the person deliberately did the opposite of what you advised, perhaps even compounding their problem. even more?

Many times this is due to the concept of Secondary Gain. The problem becomes so much a part of the person’s identity that the perceived benefit of having the problem is much greater than the benefit of solving the problem.

For more enlightening information on why people hang on to their problems and how to rid yourself from Secondary Gain, check out this article by author, speaker, counselor and Kung Fu Master Jeremy Roadruck : https://medium.com/@KungFuGuyJeremy/secondary-gain-or-why-people-keep-their-problems-e8b4c4a3770e

Can You Change? Can Anyone? (part 1)

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.

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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.

Enter the 36 Chambers...


One reason that my art, Shaolin Wing Chun is referred to as “Shaolin” because all Wing Chun originated in the Shaolin Temple. More importantly our main focus is on three areas of development, 1) Self-improvement/Chan (Zen) 2) Health and fitness 3) Combat/Self-defense skill. Collectively these are known as The 3 Treasures of Shaolin. A major concept of Chan or as the Japanese call it, Zen, is the concept of the Triads; Internal and External. The Internal Triad consists of what we think, feel, and do (things that are 100% under our control). The External Triad refers to time., space, energy; the environment that we cannot control. The art teaches us to control the internal and harmonize with the external.

Additionally, we consider our art to be Shaolin in nature because we employ the Shaolin Halls method of development. Any fan of vintage Kung Fu movies, or 90s hip-hop, for that fact, can tell you about the 36 Chambers of Shaolin, maybe even 108 techniques. How about the 72 secret arts? Well, it all sounds pretty esoteric, if not downright intriguing. Coincidentally, all these numbers are divisible by 6, which is what I really want to talk about: the 6 Halls of Shaolin.

The 1st Hall is referred to as Gei Bun Gong- Basic Exercises is the translation. However, 1st hall is not only limited to basic physical conditioning to build strength, flexibility, and stamina; it also refers to basic life skills, such as attitude, hygiene, communication, knowing right from wrong, and very commonly understanding how to act of adapt in YOUR own time and space.

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2nd Hall is called Gei Bun Dong Juk- Basic Movements. This is where your technical skill evolves. We practice drills and forms in fixed patterns in order to develop reflexes and muscle memory. We practice basic movements in all ranges of combat.

3rd Hall can be referred to as San Shou or San Da. Basically this is live application;  skill challenge or sparring. You are putting to use your mental and physical conditioning of the 1st hall combined with the skills acquired in the 2nd hall in order to effectively “harmonize” with an opponent. Effectiveness is the goal. Can you prevent an opponent from imposing their will/reality on to you? Can you create time advantages and own your space? Can you effectively resolve this conflict on your terms?


Every solid, legitimate  martial art has Halls 1-3, even if they do not refer to them as such. From Karate to Krav Maga, if you can identify first, second, and third hall in your training, you are most likely in a good place. To be honest this concept of the Shaolin Halls methodology can be applied to a number of skilled endeavors whether they be athletic, artistic, mechanical, scientific, etc. Think about it.

What makes Shaolin Wing Chun special to me is this next bit, Halls 4-6. I have not spent as much time in or around other martial arts as I have Shaolin Wing Chun to say from experience, but Shaolin Wing Chun is the only martial art that I know of that employs the concepts of these additional halls in their teaching methodology .

Wing Chun Happens in Halls 4-6.  So once you have become effective through training Halls 1-3, how do you improve? You get more efficient. Hall 4 represents efficiency, Economy of Motion; you get good results with less effort Your expression becomes more fluid and efficient because of detachment from the limbs, and the lessons that the body has learned from experiencing reality.  Hall 5 is one of the definitions of Wing Chun- Maximum Efficiency. We not only want to obtain good results with less effort; we want our efforts to be so efficient that nothing can be added or subtracted from our technique to improve the result The absolute best result with the absolute least amount of effort is the purpose of Wing Chun. At this level you are able to also detach from your environment, in addition to your body. The ultimate goal is Hall 6- Emptiness; simply the ability to “live in the moment” or “live in reality”, reality = change. To be empty is to lack expectations, biases, preconceived notions, regret, or anything else that binds us to the past or future, so that we may live our lives in the only time frame that truly exists, the present. “Live in the present” is another way to say adapt to change, because the present is ever-changing. In a combat situation, the ability to adapt to change is crucial for survival. In day-today modern life, the ability to adapt to change ensures we have fulfilling, purpose-driven lives. Grand Master Moy Yat said, “When you have one foot in the past and one in the future, you are pissing on the present.”  Be present, be engaged in the precious moments of your life, don’t piss on them, my friends.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Every day is a new day with untold potential. We experience change inconspicuously, minute to minute, second to second and so on. However, no other time of year in our modern culture seems to spur thoughts of change and self-improvement as the first day of our calendar year.

A lot of folks consider new year resolutions to be cliche or trite because one should be able to affect change at any time. Many forgo the tradition of new year resolutions citing the fact that they have been previous unsuccessful, so what's point?

To this I would say sure you can set foot on a new path at any time, but if there is something dear to you that you want to accomplish, the best time to start is always now. And, if that "now" coincides with the powerful symbolism of new year's day, and the tradition of resolutions (tradition=energy from the past) , why not make good use of this time, space and energy?

If you have been previously unsuccessful, do not attach to that illusion of past events. Every day you wake up you are a biologically, psychologically, spiritually a different person than you were the day before. Cells die and generate, experience gives birth to wisdom, and how we cope with our environment and relate to the people around us will feedback into our spirit. You will never have any more potential to reach your goals than you do TODAY, for in reality, there is no “tomorrow”. My point is do not dwell on what you should've, could've done in the past, or what can't possibly happen until a future date. Focus on what you CAN do NOW.

On the other hand, you cannot just "will" improvement. You need a plan. If you have a long term  goal, figure out what short term objectives need to be met in order for you to reach the proper time and space in which you can realize that goal. Make as many objectives as you want or need on this journey. Divide and conquer. The more you conquer, the more successful you feel and the more successful you will become.

Need help? Find someone who has done what you are trying to do or something similar and have a conversation. You could also learn from someone who has been unsuccessful in your endeavor as well. Learn from ANYONE. At the least use the Google. And as always I, and I am sure the rest of our kung fu family, would be willing to provide counsel as well.

-Sifu Paul