Gongfu Practice and Conscious Awareness

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Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles

Form practice is the essence of traditional Chinese gongfu training. The old masters had survived numerous battles (and other challenges), and cleverly formulated a method to transmit martial knowledge from one generation to the next. My view is that Longfist is the oldest construct of form-led Chinese gongfu, probably dating from the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE), which saw every village in a unified China transformed into a military barracks, and every Chinese man and woman into a soldier. This would have required a government official (i.e. learned scholar) to have developed a manual of gongfu techniques that could be replicated throughout every region of China, creating a peasant army utilising a standard martial method of training and fighting. When mobilised, the different regions form regiments commanded by the aristocracy, which were trained to deploy and move as single bodies on the battlefield. When required, these regiments would join together and manoeuvre in a appropriate manner. This meant that Longfist was a ‘modern’ way of re-interpreting the older martial styles in China that had developed thousands of years earlier from ritualised dances premised upon the movements of various animals. Although Qin Dynasty China worked upon the premise of an exact political and civil order replicated everywhere at once, this type of logical gongfu training, with its Greek-like attention to logical strength and fitness development, had the obvious further benefit of creating robust health and calm minds. Although the Qin State used Longfist gongfu to cement its military rule, the developing philosophical systems of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism chose to emphasis the physical health-giving effects of martial arts practice, together with the fact that the mind Could change by securing a deepened awareness, when subjected to prolonged military-style discipline within a natural setting (away from politics and everyday petty concerns). However, despite using gongfu for health and spiritual development, the old esoteric masters were often very well trained in the full destructive potential of Longfist, keeping this crucial knowledge well-hidden from those who would unnecessarily harms others if they knew it. Coupled with this physical and psychological training system was the use of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), used to help humanity through treating disease and healing injuries. As conscious awareness permeates the body (and environment), it is important to move the body using the Longfist forms through this conscious awareness on a regular basis. Regardless of what your genetic programming has in store for you, this type of gongfu training can ensure the most healthiest of manifestations but is obviously not a ‘cure all’. The point is to develop a non-attached and yet all-embracing conscious awareness that permeates every living cell of the body. Although the mind emerges from the brain, once fully established in the material world, it is a common human experience that gives the impression that the physical body spontaneously manifests within the sphere of expansive conscious awareness. This impression may not be scientifically correct, but it does signify a working reality for human awareness and is an important part of psychological and physical health. I feel my conscious awareness as it manifests, but in and of itself, (and outside of material science which tells me otherwise), I have no personal knowledge that consciousness emerges from the brain. It seems that humans are unaware and cannot directly perceive (without receiving extra knowledge from external sources), that the conscious mind ‘emerges’ from the brain. This is why theistic religions assume that consciousness is spirit (that is opposed to matter) and imported into the human body through a divine agency at the point of conception. What is interesting is that even when we understand and accept science as correct, we still, as human-beings, experience a transcendent reality through our conscious awareness. This is not an error but a reality of human experience regardless of its efficacy from a scientific point of view. Similarly when acknowledging the transcendent nature of human consciousness, this does not deny the reality of objective Scientific knowledge. Indeed, when we practice gongfu we are accumulating objective and subjective knowledge in equal measure, and learning to become consciously aware of the world we inhabit without losing sight of the higher qualities that make us human.

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