Yin and Yang (an introduction)

Yin and Yang

To be fully aware in the martial arts, and life in general, one must seek a multiple or open focus. Strive to think three dimensionally, seeing all possibilities, all the time, in every situation. This brings to mind the Zen story regarding the student who had cut his motorbike across the path of a hurrying businessman, after flipping his middle finger at the businessman for entering the crosswalk prematurely. The student arrived at the temple, and in explaining his latest escapades to the Master, complained about the inconsiderate pedestrian at the intersection. The Master questioned, Was that all you saw? The student responded, What else was there? The master answered with an extended chronicle of the businessman, his likely activities that morning, superimposed on the declining stock market, compounded by the domestic demands of his wife, family, sick children, elderly mother, broken car, late mortgage, and so on. The Master speculated how the businessman, upset from the mindless disrespect shown by a foreigner failed to show at work that morning, lost his promised promotion, returned home after drinking for several hours, struck his wife, stomped out in anger, then fell down the stairs breaking both legs and a collar bone. The student, puzzled, stared at his teacher, then asked “What makes you think all that could happen?” The Master responded, What happenw goes far beyond what you thought you saw. That is my point. And you will bear the consequences, even if your only excuse is that you were not paying attention and thinking only of yourself on your motorbike.

Our Judeo-Christian culture allows for screw ups, mistakes, and failures, while promising forgiveness and redemption at the end of the day. Regrettably, some of us have exploited this path as justification for business and political philosophies that border on piracy, fascism or worse. The greed, arrogance, and selfishness is bad enough, but many, after wreaking decades of havoc and destruction often rebirth in their later life as pious and sanctimonious. These wannabe Santa’s do everything but don the red tights and boots. From power management brokers, to health corporation CEO’s, generals, and even leaders of countries, these persons would be in prisons or in front of world courts if the people weren’t so bamboozled. They will put you under their spell if you’re not awake. Look to see who they really are, and hold them accountable, but with compassion.

That’s preciously what the master was doing with the student.

The Zen Master emphasized to his student that actions, and consequences of actions coexist within karma and are integrally related to what occurred. Where that karma leads, only time will tell. There is no limit to the scope of this phenomena. There is the scene in Indian lore, where Indra, believing himself the most glorious deity, suddenly sees columns of ants, marching across the floor. He learns they were former Indras all . In Buddhist culture, there is yet another story of a disciple who accidentally killed a cat while racing about town in his cart. A passing monk came, saw the cat, then turned to the disciple, and commented, “Too bad, 10,000 more.”

Puzzled, the disciple questioned . “What? 10,000 more what?”

Lifetimes, that s how many rebirths it will take to undo the karma of one’s carelessness and the dead cat. Nothing offends Dharma so much as self serving carelessness.

You’ve heard the expression that you should live each moment to its fullest, as though it might be your last. That would be the Yang. Inherent in the same expression is that in living each moment as though it might be your last, you are obligated to be completely responsible for your actions. That is the Yin. Throughout the Orient, philosophies and standards of living emerged from truths in Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and the influences of ancient texts, mixed with the teachings of great philosophers such as Chuang Tzu, Meng Tzu, colored by the influences and insights of innumerable wandering mystics, reclusive hermits, and proponents of meditation, who have taken their skills and awareness to unimaginable heights.

The Yin and Yang is more than a symbol on the side of a railroad car, or the image on a patch, medallion, ring, or tattoo. As an icon, it represents the flow of reality. This flow exists in all things, in all ways, no exceptions. Once something manifests from the void into this existence, there is Yin, and there is Yang. The depth and breath of this flow is infinite. It is as small as a kernel of sand, and as large as the sun. It exists in the thoughts of men, and in the chase of a dog after a cat.

However, until you look for the manifestations, you see only what interests you and impacts you at the moment. In fact, if you re not thinking three dimensionally, you are seeing life as a postcard, not unlike an image inside the television, looking outward and seeing empty space, then calling it heaven .

Though it is possible to develop an individual awareness of Yin and Yang through careful observation and direct personal experience, often those approaches are not enough. Each of us is battling the demands and distractions that surround us in daily life. The starting point in becoming aware is inevitably an attempt to offset or undo a lifetime of programming. Programming in the sense that everything we do in life culminates in the shaping and creation of who and what we become. There is the observation of modern science that most adults are formed as personalities before they’ve left childhood, and little happens to them afterwards that will undo those original early influences. So the battle cannot be taken lightly. To become aware of Yin Yang and how they flow within your own life, there are clear paths available for learning. Most likely, even within your own art previous teachers have preserved their awarenesses to be discovered by those like yourself thru careful practice, close attention, and introspection. If that s not enough, there is the art of Tai Chi, the very heart of which is developing personal awareness and experience of Yin flowing to Yang, and vice versa. This may be news to you, but Tai Chi is the name in China for what we, in the West, refer to as Yin and Yang. Though Tai Chi can involve a lifetime of research and study, and there are many levels and degrees of experience within the art, you stand to benefit from any interface. If opportunity allows, it would be well worth the effort to also examine other internal arts, to include Hsing Yi, and Ba Kua, as well as to undertake a personal exploration of the Yi Ching.

In Tai Chi, you ll learn to see the Yin and Yang in every movement. What appears to be simple intuitive understanding at first becomes quite complex over time. Initially, Yin and Yang appear to be discreet influences. With more acquaintance, and close observation, what was Yang, a moment ago has become Yin. Once the flow of Yang reaches its peak, the seed of Yin emerges. Likewise, as the shadow of Yin has reached its full extent, the spark of Yang begins to glow. As you move in the martial arts, the strike suddenly empties after its full extension, and once fully emptied, begins to fill once again, with a fresh pulse. As your body moves, suddenly, you see Yin and Yang everywhere. You re left-hand is Yang, your right Yin, your left leg is Yin and, your right Yang, your shoulders, Yang, your waist Yin. As you become aware, every part of your body begins to emerges as a manifestation of Yin or Yang, each changing to the other in an eternal flow, appearing essentially incomprehensible but indubitably having been deciphered by multitudes of Masters over the centuries.

The Yi Ching has been long been accepted as the definitive work on coming to terms with the flow of Yin and Yang in our dimensional reality. Any close scrutiny of Yin Yang requires careful study and research into the Yi Ching, and what it purports to say about unending flow. Many excellent resources are available in multiple languages, shedding a bright and clarifying light on the mysteries of the Yi Ching. An exploration of that path is recommended for all martial artists.

We ve all had some exposure to the philosophy of Confucius, Mencius, and the emphasis on the middle way. In the Yi Ching this course is the striving for balance between Yin and Yang in all aspects of each person’s life. When the Yin and Yang are out of balance, uncertainty results, and change occurs. Nothing can exist for long that has the characteristics of one, but not the other. Examples abound throughout history. Napoleon’s over extended French army penetrated into the Russian heartland as Yang, only to freeze, defeated and demoralized as Yin. The lesson is repeated with Hitle’s own march into the Soviet heartland, with similar disasters results. The scale can be even more personal to a martial artist who, after throwing three attacks in a row, is suddenly scored against by a technique which appeared to come from nowhere, to which he could not respond. The Yang was expended, the Yin unrecognized, he was stuck.

Again, the thread of Yin Yang materializes from a deeply rooted mystical tradition, which has withstood the test of time. Innumerable Masters have demonstrated the enormous potential deriving from the complete integration of Yin and Yang into one’s personal movement (and life).

Tai Chi emerges as the adaptation of these concepts into an art, which crosses the bridge of time and is available to modern lifestyles. With careful practice over time, you can develop full awareness of Yin and Yang and their currents both within and without you, and learn to integrate your intent, with your Chi, manifesting it purposefully as energy. Imagine, if your entire body, every cell, every molecule, every pore, were able to move in concert at your command. The potential would be unlimited.

Most folks, to my thinking, appear to be moving without balance. They are predominantly Yang, seeking dominance or security, using the vehicle of overwhelming strength or speed. They are blind to the consequences, their skills shortlived. After several years, they become injured, wear out, or simply disappear, and are replaced by others like they once were, only enhanced (When I first wrote this, the Italian police had raided the Winter Olympic Village and turned up a very significant stash of performance drugs, hypodermics, etc., a clear sign post of where this path can lead.  Now of course, many years later, it has become the norm in virtually all facets of our lives.  Yesterday, I saw packets of energy boost pills on the checkstand racks at the local dollar store.)

Being fully awake, and aware, is not necessarily something someone can teach you. You must search, explore, and evolve. Within every style, there are undoubtedly masters who have taken the style, and its potential to the highest levels. The problem is, their experience, and awareness, is so broad, and so all inclusive of reality, that any attempt to communicate what they have achieved limits the experience, even to the extent of causing it to disappear by attempting to describe it. For example, if I hoped to teach you to ride a bicycle by writing out a full set of instructions, you would be lost. In learning to ride a bicycle, the experience is the learning. As your teacher, all I could do would be to work in the background, keeping you safe, hopefully minimizing the risks, while you gained experience, and learned the lesson.

That is why Kata, or forms are so integral, and important to martial arts. They are nothing less than a direct conduit, straight from the mind of a master, to your body, in the here and now.

With proper guidance, exercises such as push hands augment and nurture the essential awarenesses of energy flow between two persons. Over time, with careful practice, your ability to read your partner, and hence your opponent, becomes almost supernatural. When the thought occurs, you already understand the intent.

Sparring, combat and direct confrontation are not as conducive to clear awareness, if only because of the emotional intensity, and over investment into outxcome. At later stages, once there’s balance and restraint, sparring between two persons does allow for a path of awareness, particularly as regards the flow of energy, and the dance between Yin and Yang. This is even more graphically understood, where one person is sparring several partners. As one attacker moves in the (Yang), the defender retreats or counters (Yin or Yin becoming Yang). However, as the defender retreats (Yin), he will come to understand that in retreating from one attacker, he is inherently becoming Yang, relative to one of the remaining attackers, who must now adopt themselves to defense. In effect, the aware fighter, is fighting twice as efficiently as the unaware fighter, and ultimately acquires an insurmountable tactical vantage. Still, talking about it here will not get you to that point, you must research, train, experiment and experience.

These concepts are about deconstructing who you are as a two-dimensional martial artist, and recreating yourself into a three-dimensional martial artist, perhaps even an enlightened being. Even if you don’t reach the highest levels (There s always another lifetime.), you ll reap the benefits of stepping from within the pipeline, and moving outside, multi dimensionally, with the entire universe as your launching pad.

Of course, much more can be said on the topic, but I run the risk of obfuscating the material. The more legs I pin to the body of the snake, the less able it is to move about. So, we ll stop here. Real understanding is in the doing, and that’s up to you. My recommendation would be that you:

1. Do the research;

2. Explore the internal arts;

3. Work closely with a guiding and nurturing teacher;

4. Meditate, or think as though you are meditating,

5. Identify the flow of Yin and Yang in all you do;

6. Feel your link to all of creation;

7. Incorporate your new insights and understanding into all your movement.

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