Esoteric Martial Arts

An Introduction to the Way of Wuji

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This article was written to serve as an introduction to the philosophical and practical elements of the Way of Wuji

Wuji is an important concept in both kung fu and qi gong, as well as Taoism and Chinese esoteric philosophy in general. It can be literally translated as meaning ‘no extremities’, and describes a state of being in which all things are balanced. It is believed that Wuji is the original, natural state where Yin and Yang are not distinguished from each other.

                There are many benefits to attaining the state of Wuji. As any imbalance between then energies of Yin and Yang can lead to illness, the state of wuji is also the state of optimal health. Cultivating a state of Wuji, in which Yin and Yang are integrated back into the Way / Tao also brings spiritual benefits, and success in meditative practices. Also, In order to attain to advanced levels of qi gong practice it is necessary that the chi is balanced, using the way of Wuji. From the perspective of the martial artist Wuji is also the state in which training is made most productive, and in which this training can be put to use in real situations most effectively.

                In Chinese philosophy Yin and Yang are very broad categories, which include all things within them (although the attribution is usually relative, so something can be Yin in relation to one thing and Yang in relation to another). So the first thing to recognise is that Wuji refers to a balance across the whole of one’s life, and not just in certain practices, or within an allotted training time.

                To make things easier for the western mind it is worth stating that you do not always need to think of things in terms of Yin and Yang; a little common sense goes a long way. For example, if your job requires a very practical mindset and logical thinking, then you would do well to balance this out with a frivolous hobby which stimulates the imagination. An even simpler example is the balance between work and home life, or between working and relaxation.

                It may also be helpful in making this concept of Wuji more accessible to western thought if we make the comparison between Wuji and reason. The modern English word ‘reason’ is derived from the same ancient Greek root as the word ‘ratio’. The original concept of reason described the act of weighing one thing up against another to find the balance. By this method the ancient Greeks sought to find out how one thing related to another, and so set the stage for modern science and philosophy. But within its original context the concept of reason was also thought of as a way of living life in a balanced state, and in this sense it is almost identical to the Chinese concept of Wuji. The way of Wuji is therefore to live one’s life in a reasonable manner, without getting ‘carried away’ and losing one’s balnce.

                The ancient Greeks had a saying which I think is instructive: ‘Everything is a vice if taken to its extreme, even virtue’. A good example of this is alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking is an extreme which everyone knows is bad for you; but it is worth remembering that not drinking at all is also an extreme, at the other end of the scale. Health professionals agree that alcohol is actually good for the health if consumed in moderation. To live life according to the way of Wuji is to be reasonable and moderate in all things, but does not require you to deny yourself anything.

                Moving from the general principles to specific practices, one of the most important elements of balance in the quest for Wuji is between the Wisdom Mind and the Fire Mind. The Wisdom Mind is Yin, and is also known as the water mind; it is calm, steady, receptive and rational. The Fire Mind is Yang; it is also known as the emotional mind and it is passionate turbulent, expansive and imaginative. The processes by which these two are balanced are called Kan and Li. Kan is water, which cools and quenches the emotional mind. Li is fire, which disperses the wisdom mind as fire evaporates water.

                A simple practical exercise is to meditate on water, visualising placid lakes and waterfalls, and imagining yourself to be a gently flowing stream, to calm the emotions and promote wise thinking. Or alternatively, to meditate on fire in order to strengthen the will to achieve a particular goal, or to break out of a detached mind-set and stimulate love, compassion, or a renewed feeling of the joy of life.

                Similar meditative techniques can be used to balance the application of Fire Mind and Wisdom Mind in a particular endeavour, and thereby to maximise your chances of success.

                In martial arts practice specifically one should think about trying to balance aggression and awareness, discipline and creativity, resistance / contention and going with the flow, and perhaps most importantly of all, mercy and severity.

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