Many people are apt to think of Kung-fu in terms of dramatic exhibitions of board splitting and brick smashing. In truth, there is so much more involved; the aspects of healthful physical exercise, an exciting sport and a most effective method of self-defense.
The psychological principles embodied in Kung-Fu training have a calming effect on the spirits. While facing an actual opponent, the need to make the mind calm is symbolized by the surface of undisturbed water. To carry the symbolism further, smooth water reflects accurately, the images of objects within its range. If the mind is kept in the state, apprehension of opponent's movements, both psychological and physical, will be immediate and accurate. On the other hand, if the surface of the water is disturbed, the images it reflects will be distorted, or by analogy, if the mind is preoccupied with thoughts of attack or defense, it will not apprehend the opponent's intentions, cresting an opportunity for the opponent to attack.
Another concept embodied in Kung-Fu training is "a mind like the moon". This concept refers to the need to be constantly aware of the totality of the opponent and his movements, just as moonlight shines equally on everything within range. With the development of this attitude, the consciousness will be aware immediately, of any opening in the opponent’s defenses. Clouds blocking the light of the moon are likened to nervousness of distractions, which interfere with correct apprehension of the opponent's movements.
As part of this training, students join in meditation, in which they concentrate either on specific techniques, or as requested by their Sensei, on nothing at all to relax their minds and bodies for a few minutes.
You will witness such a meditation while you read the following text of the ancient legend about the origins of Kung Fu re-told.
"A cave in the Wilderness"---
In ancient China thousands of years ago, lived a poor peasant name Fu-Ling, in the village of Pshin. Fu-Ling lived a very lonely life and had few friends. His violent temper, clumsiness, and irritating manner caused him great humiliation and many enemies among the villagers. He became unbearably lonely and decided to isolate himself and live his life as a hermit. He gathered his useful possessions and started into the wilderness.
Twenty days he traveled deeper into nature's wilds until he came upon a cave many miles from civilization. Here he decided to make his home.
One day while hunting for food, he came upon an old man hiding behind a rock observing a female crane protecting her nest against a marauder. Fu-Ling watched intently and was astonished at the poise and deceiving manner in which the clumsy looking bird beat off her opponent decisively. The old man motioned his presence. Fu-Ling, overjoyed at seeing another person, promptly introduced himself and invited his new friend to his cave, as it would soon be dark. As they talked over a meal, the old man asked him the reason for his unusual exile, and Fu-Ling painfully revealed himself. After hearing the story, the old man placed his hand upon his young friend and deftly asked Fu-Ling to allow him to aim him in finding a true path among his fellow man. Fu-Ling agreed and they retired to sleep.
The sun rose early, and fu-Ling was up gathering wood for the fire, unaware of the old man creeping up behind him. The old man struck him with his long wooden staff. Screeching with pain, Fu-Ling turned, thrusting a blow towards the old man's face. The old man gracefully fended the blow and abruptly upset him. The old man told him to calm himself and finish his work while he prepared food.
For many months at some time each day, the old man would creep up on him and strike him, and each time Fu-Ling's attempts to retaliate provided futile. One day as he was fetching water, he felt the old man's presence behind him and quickly stepped aside, just a well-meant blow zipped by. Fu-Ling laughed, and the old man looked at him, smiling and summoned him to follow. As the tread upon the path, they saw a snake. Upon seeing them, the snake maneuvered itself into a spring-like coil, ready for the slightest movement. The old man slowly moved his staff towards the reptile, and with a lightening fast thrust, and a terrifying hiss, the snake struck the stick and quickly recoiled, ready once more. Fu-Ling observed intensely. Walking around the snake, the two continued though the wilderness. As they entered a glade, they heard a terrifying roar and saw a dragon in deadly combat with a large adversary. They quickly hid in the underbrush and watched the dragon decisively end the contest. Stealthily, Fu-Ling and the old man moved on their journey. On entering a valley, they proceeded towards a stream to drink of its nectar.
Suddenly, before them, they saw a tiger stalking a larger prey for the kill.
With a bellowing roar, the battle commenced, but there was no doubt as to its ending. The grace, poise, speed and confidence of the tiger were no match for his opponent. The old man signaled to Fu-Ling and they proceeded back to the cave.
After they had eaten, the old man began to talk about their experiences together. Fu-Ling listened as the old man recalled the incidents of the CRANE, THE SNAKE, DRAGON AND THE TIGER. He told him he was now ready to lean the skills which nature had shown him. Fu-Ling suddenly realized why the old man had so often crept upon him to strike him, and how he had easily thwarted any counter-attack. The old man had taught him observations and alertness.
In the many months that followed, the old man proceeded to teach Fu-Ling, with uncanny accuracy, the movement of the CRANE, SNAKE, DRAGON AND TIGER, transformed into gracefully forms of the body. Fu-Ling practiced these forms faithfully each day under close observation from the old man. He thought about them at night as he relaxed. One morning he awoke to find that the old man had stolen quietly away during the night. A sudden loneliness overcame him as he thought about the old man and his teachings. He compared himself now as to before and found his fiery temper how calm control, his clumsiness speed, and his humility confidence, his shame pride. Fu-Ling left his cave in the wilderness with strength of mind and body, ready for civilization and all of its abuses.