The zen of CHU FEN DO
By: Tony Blauer
The CHU FEN DO system is noted for it's hard-core approach to street defense training. Drills like the PANIC ATTACK enhance confidence in our students, however it is our research into the mind, specifically the psychology of fear and it affliction on performance that truly differentiates our system from others.
Whether you train for self-defense or for aesthetic reasons, we are all connected, inter-related and share a common bond; we are all martial artists. But most martial practitioners fail to recognize that the mental side of combat is far more crucial to success than physical development, particularly the aspect of 'ego'. Of course, physical skill is necessary, but I firmly believe that people could probably defend themselves more effectively without martial training, if they simply chose to survive - to fight with their instincts, their indignation at being attack.
In fact, my contention is supported daily, by nameless civilians who say "no" to the sociopaths that prey on the "supposed" meek and helpless. There are far more people who defend themselves everyday - without training - than there ever will be martial artists who train and then are attacked.
Since I believe most styles do not truly prepare their proponents for street survival, it is necessary to train separately for the street confrontation. It is up to you, the reader, to recognize that the 'responsibility' (read: response/ability or 'ability to respond') is yours alone and therefore, you must train scientifically and specifically for the street.
To enhance this process, the CHU FEN DO system draws from a wealth of material. As the student progresses he/she is introduced to more cerebral and spiritual concepts; "performance" psychology and a unique Zen/Tao blend are the esoteric components that complete our martial training.
Our training has transcendent value. My primary objective is to share my discoveries on self-defense; to ensure that any student of mine is fully prepared to protect their life or the life of a loved one. My secondary objective is to spiritually enlighten the practitioner through the cultivation of this art, which is only achieved when the student realizes that his expression of the art is uniquely his, and that he always possessed the art.
Thousands of repetitions and out of one's true self perfection emerges. -Zen saying
What follows is a brief synopsis of the CHU FEN DO integration of Zen (being in the moment) Taoism (letting go of the moment) and performance psychology, as it applies to the higher levels of training, sparring and ultimately street survival.
It is those elusive, esoteric elements that I write about. This treatise may read like Latin or psycho-babble. Enjoy it for what its worth. Remember, words are irrelevant. On our day of judgement we will not be asked what we've read or written, but rather, what we've done.
CHU FEN DO's Philosophical Science of Combat
Understanding how the mind categorizes, creates programs, uses logic and ultimately deludes itself is so very important to our training. In our social system, which includes martial arts schools, there is too much emphasis on memorization, imitation, and automaton cooperativeness. Transcendence isn't inspired or sought.
If I can use a painting corollary...far too many of us spend far too much time trying to paint some one else's picture. We are not expressing our true self, nor are we truly creating. Self-actualization is paramount for inner peace.
Art is about self-expression. It is an inspired moment or movement. Consider the idea of "Art Class". How can an art teacher tell you that your painting isn't "good" or "is", for that matter – it’s your expression! Isn't that teacher really saying, "That's not the color I would use." or "That's not the stroke, I would use." ?
The ego is so corrupt and omnipotent that we have trouble recognizing self-manipulation and delusion. I often remind my students that the "the longer they practice "failure", the harder it will be to recognize "success". That is to say, so many of us spend so much time getting good at the wrong thing that the "right" thing is no longer recognizable. My late great friend Brandon Lee once wrote, "For what level of imperfection will you settle?" Brilliant.
Success today is often determined by acceptance from an authority; an authority that you have identified and relinquished some of your personal power to. People aren't happy doing their own thing. We all want feedback to know whether we are worthwhile or on the right track; if it fits the current trend and formula, then it must be right.
Do you see the picture I am trying to paint? If you are not doing your thing, then you are doing someone else's. This awareness represents the key to freedom and spontaneity with your skill and art. A novice painter may copy and imitate the master - but, no matter how good the copy is, it simply is a copy.
There is an expression: "Seek not to follow in a holy man's footsteps, seek what he sought." Painting by numbers is a start, it teaches techniques and process, but it has its limitations and if the teacher doesn't encourage exploration, the student becomes a master clone.
There is a wonderful expression in the martial arts: "Most people boast 20 years experience. Really, what they mean is that they have one year of experience repeated twenty times."
Until we respect and understand just how complicated our mind-ego and thinking process is we will always be chained to the imitation/conformity process; a slave to convention. Your theory determines your experience. How we look at something colors the evaluation.
The human mind is dualistic. This means, we are always analyzing, forming opinions, drawing conclusions, comparing, expecting...Basically, thinking too much. Comparison leads to judgement, which leads to the classification of good or bad. Since the mind navigates the body, our heart (intuition) often loses out to this process. This accounts for much of the controversy in the martial arts. Rather than sharing our skills with each other we criticize and challenge one another. We think too much in the wrong way.
What's wrong with thinking, you ask? And how can you think too much? The thinking I refer to is 'fixating', which is not to be confused with focusing. While you are "fixating" you are frozen, your mind has locked on to an idea. And so, this type of thinking during combat is fatal. Intuition and instinct must control your arsenal. The anatomical thought process is far too slow to react to the immediateness of a non-telegraphic attack.
The duality of our mind is epitomized by combat. Our mind - the ego-consciousness - is too concerned with making an impression or controlling the situation. We try to intellectualize something that is completely spontaneous and ever changing. The only way to rise above this futile process is simply to accept it. Unconditionally. That means, empty yourself from the thought of injury or death or the desire to impress or win, and so on.
Enlightenment is often times more attainable when one trains combatively than by any other means. This is why Zen doctrines are used to guide a student. Zen is about action. D.T. Suzuki summed it up best, "Strictly speaking, Zen has no philosophy of its own. Its teaching is concentrated on an intuitive experience...Zen upholds intuition against intellection, for intuition is the more direct way of reaching the Truth." The Truth being the perfect strike, counter, evasion, etc. or personal enlightenment.
The EGO, in its pejorative sense, is responsible for all diseases we are afflicted with during combat. (DISEASE should be read DIS/EASE, meaning, ILL AT EASE.) These diseases are based on the duality of this fixative thought. For example, good/bad, right/wrong, fear/courage, winning/losing, etc.
Our problem is simple. We engage in too much discursive and delusive thought. We fixate on everything and therefore interrupt the natural flow of order. In combat, intellectual deliberations are obvious emotional rhythm breaks. The superior opponent, who fights with directness, economy of motion, and employs the intuitive and instinctive elements of his mind and body will exploit this cessation of flow. To correct this common flaw, it is necessary to purge the mind of all thought during combat. In Zen terms, 'mushin', i.e., empty-mind.
Yagyu, a famous sword master, states in his triple treatise on the sword:
The mind unmoved is emptiness; when moved it works the mysterious. Emptiness is one-mind-ness, one-mind-ness is no-mind-ness, and it is no-mind-ness that achieves wonders. Give up thinking as though not giving it up. Observe the technique as though not observing. Have nothing left in your mind; keep it thoroughly cleansed of its contents, and then the mirror will reflect the images in their 'isness'. Let yourself go with the disease, be with it, keep company with it: this is the way to get rid of it.
Mastering technique is important, but it is secondary. Transcending technique is the height of evolution. When the act and the actor become one, there is enlightenment. There is no thought process, no deliberation. True combat is comprised of random sequential relationships, a succession of interdependent attacks, defenses and counter strikes. If harmony is to exist in combat it is the understanding of sequential relationship that will engender it. You and your opponent must be one.
The truth of combat is simple: circumstantial spontaneity, not some 'preconceived reaction', must control the flow of action. Having no preference for range, tool or tactic is the "way". Only then can you be 'one' will your opponent. How you respond should be creative and therefore can not be determined until you've done it. Trying to decide 'should I do this or that' reveals a lack of insight into omnipotent strategy of 'choiceless choice'. Your opponent controls the fight. It is always his intentions, movements, attacks, etc. that stimulate your response.
Philosophically, in combat, there are no answers, because there can be no questions. It's always yin & yang. Blending. Equal forces that meet each other usually negate each other. Let the action dictate your reaction. No movement is wrong until you solidify the moment by fixating on it. Do not establish parameters around your arsenal and do not classify your techniques. This will only hinder your improvisational skills, which are so necessary in real combat. Classification leads to solidification, which is the result of fixation, which in turn arrests instinctive flow. To think during combat is mechanical and combat, as we know, is always alive and fluid.
I have alluded several times that thinking is during combat is 'wrong'. To further clarify this elusive concept, just remember that subjective thought is always myopic. Objective thought is liberating. Learn to think without the interference of thought. That is productive thinking. Non-interference allows everything to be seen in its true light, uncolored by the ego. The actor and the action are one; you have transcended technique.
D.T Suzuki writes in his essay on 'Zen and Swordsmanship':
"The man emptied of all thoughts, all emotions originating from fear, all sense of insecurity, all desires to win, is not conscious of using the sword; both man and sword turn into instruments in the hands, as it were, of the unconscious, and it is this unconscious that achieves wonders of creativity. It is here that swordplay becomes an art.
As the sword is not separated from the man, it is an extension of his arms and accordingly a part of his body. Furthermore, the body and mind are not separated, as they are in the case of intellectualization. The mind and body move in perfect unison, with no interference from intellect or emotion. Even the distinction of subject and object is annihilated. The opponent's movements are not perceived as such and therefore the subject, so called, acts instinctively in response to what is presented to him [circumstantial spontaneity]. There is no deliberation on his part as to how to react. His unconscious automatically takes care of the whole situation."
It is important to come to terms with the nature of thoughts and how they interfere with reality. Once this is grasped you are left with satori, i.e., enlightenment.
Zen master Philip Kapleau states:
"All thoughts, whether ennobling or debasing, are mutable and impermanent; they have a beginning and an end even as they are fleeting with us...It is important in this connection to distinguish the role of transitory thoughts from the that of fixed concepts. Random ideas are relatively innocuous, but ideologies, beliefs, opinions, and points of view, not to mention factual knowledge accumulated since birth, are the shadows which obscure the light of truth."
You may ask, what then are we to do if we can't think? In a philosophical sense, thinking refers to duality. When you liberate yourself from duality your thoughts are pure.
D.T. Suzuki asserts:
"Thinking is useful in many ways, but there are some occasions when thinking interferes with the work, and you have to leave it behind and let the unconscious come forward. In such cases, you cease to be your conscious master but become an instrument in the hands of the unknown. The unknown has no ego-consciousness and consequently no thought of winning the contest, because it moves at the level of non-duality, where the is neither subject nor object."
Many of the Zen ideas may seem paradoxical to the logical mind. But, perhaps there is more to life than logic. It is linear logic and intellectualizing that clouds true seeing. Buddhist thought tells us that logic should harmonize with life in order to be logical and not vice versa.
With simplicity comes adversity. The simplicity I refer to is the true nature of instinct and intuition. The fighter strives to respond instinctively, intuitively. On this level, his thoughts and actions are organic. They are unpolluted or colored by the many 'diseases' brought on through confrontation. Philosophically everything is perfect. There is perfect perfection and perfect imperfection. Nothing is right or wrong. Everything just is.
This truth gives many students trouble. We fixate on what we believe reality to be. When we stop emotionally coloring our daily experiences, we will experience reality.
Go hit a bag.