Internal Martial Arts
Those who governed the world in antiquity must have understand the true conditions of human nature and destiny;
their actions were not necessarily the same, but they were one in their accord with Tao.
Preface Kenichi Sawai’s Taikiken book the essence of Kung fu
Never in its history has budo, the martial way, prospered so much as it has in the three decades that have passed since the end of World War II. Today many different kinds of combat techniques are taught in many place throughout the world. But I am puzzled by at least one aspect of this phenomenon: among the styles of budo currently fashionable, there are things that can on no account be considered combat techniques. Because television and the motion pictures carelessly pass off any kind of fighting as oriental martial arts, I find myself at a loss to know what the word budo means today. But, leaving the question of quality aside, I can say that it is a good thing that many people are now learning the martial arts in one form or another and are putting into practice in their own lives and ways of thinking some of the good points of budo.
Nonetheless, it is wrong to sacrifice or distort the true nature or the content of the combat techniques solely for the sake of introducing them to larger numbers of people. It is true that each age must develop its own interpretation of budo, but such interpretations must not diverge from the basic nature of the martial way. And I believed that budo as taught today can often be said to have gone too far.
If each practitioner of the martial arts does not stop bowing to the times for the sake of spreading his own individual teaching and devote serious thought to the true nature of budo itself, there can be no development for the martial arts in the future.
Fundamentally the martial arts are matters of severity and gravity because, in the past, their very practice involved risk of life and limb. People who engaged in them often found themselves on the brink of death. Today, of course, there is little risk of life involved in the martial arts, but this does not mean that their essential nature has altered. Even though the martial arts today are treated as sports, the people who practice them must never forget the element of severity based on the risk of life. Furthermore, instructors must bear this nature in mind always. Men who use teaching of the martial arts as no more than a way to make a livelihood, who try to sell martial techniques piecemeal for their own advantage, or who use their knowledge for the sake of selfish gain contribute nothing to the growth of budo.
While I was on the front lines of the fighting in China during World War II, I learned the nature of human life. At the same time, I learned the true value of ch'üan-fa (kempo) as a result of being able to study with Wang Hsiang-ch'i, the greatest chüan-fa expert in China of his time. Although before meeting him I had developed self-confidence in the martial arts-especially kendo and judo Wang taught me the greatness of true budo.
Wang Hsiang-ch'i's teaching method required immense amounts of time and would be considered highly ineffectual in these days of unquestioning faith in rationalize ways of thought. For instance, the development of ki-the subject of much of this book 'was taught by means of a long and, to a young and impatient man like me, arduous method of repeating standing Zen for years until the individual developed the power of ki from within his own body. But now, after thirty
years have passed since I parted with him, I have come to realize the meaning of Wang Hsiang-ch'i's teaching because throughout that time I have believed in them and have put them into practice.
In other words, understanding the martial arts requires a long time in which the individual must perfect his techniques and become convinced of their value and effectiveness. No amount of rationalism or scientific thinking can produce the effect needed.
The person who would pursue the true nature of the martial arts cannot hope to understand what he is doing if he is concerned with which training methods are progressive and which are old-fashioned, for the only method is to throw oneself into the martial arts with total devotion and to cultivate both one's body and one's ki.
Last update: March 2023