I had the astonishing good fortune to talk to an idiot the other day. He wasn’t an idiot in terms of intellect; he was an idiot because he had made the monumentally stupid decision to dedicate his life to a completely pointless training method in the hopes of becoming a martial arts expert. And boy was he loyal to that method! He reminded me of my sister’s dog, who is fiercely loyal to the people who cut his balls off. It was astonishing good fortune for a few reasons, but mainly because it gave me an opportunity to tell someone my theory, see how it sounded – see how I sounded saying it – and see how it was responded to. Not well, I can tell you. How I came to be there, talking to him on his class is another story. Let’s just say that he invited me, one way or another. Three of his nervous students were there too, skulking in the kitchen area, listening. After a while they stopped even pretending to make tea. What I hadn’t factored in, even though I know it full well, is the strangeness of understanding. The problem is, to get it, you already have to have some. But I was pretty taken aback at just how monumentally – and deliberately – dumb this guy was. ‘We train the realistic Chinese arts!’ he told me. ‘We focus on application, where most schools don’t. They just practice their forms and don’t know anything about application training!’ ‘Man,’ I said, ‘you’re really focussed on violence.’ By which I didn’t mean that he was violent, only that he had a narrow view of the benefits of training. ‘That’s ridiculous!’ he insisted. ‘Of all schools, we are one of the most peaceful and spiritual. It’s a nonsense to say that we’re full of violent intent!’ ‘It’s not a nonsense,’ I replied, ‘that even though your school is superficially focussed primarily on violence, never the less you’re one of the least capable of fighting. It’s just an irony.’ Being focussed on violence is no big deal. I keep reading people telling the world that any martial arts training that doesn’t focus on violence is meaningless and deluded. After all, martial arts is about combat! Right? The art with the most realistic and devastating arsenal of real-life techniques is the best. Right? Well, I dunno – America had the most powerful army in the Vietnam War, but it didn’t win. In fact, its army was virtually infinitely more powerful, despite China helping Vietnam. America was more powerful than Vietnam AND China put together. But it still didn’t win. Tell me - can you tell me what my martial arts training must be about? Worse, can any one person arbitrarily decide what Quan must be – say, that it must be only about fighting, just because that is the flavour of the day? No. Quan stands as a profound mystery, for us to open our minds, and expand our potential, with via the attempt to understand it. To try to force it in to some superficial box is worse than folly – it’s preposterous stupidity. We are all most probably aware of the people who say ‘my art is about more than just fighting!’ but really mean ‘I couldn’t fight off a poodle licking my face even by licking it back!’ But that’s not the same; we shouldn’t assume because of those limpets that Quan itself is negated by the idea that its profound, beautiful wings spread over wider vistas than just fight efficiency. What those poodle lickers don’t get is that Quan must at least be about fighting; but what those fight centred people don’t get, is that it is also profoundly more. Just, maybe not for them. This idea that Quan must somehow conform, or limit itself solely to, modern ideas of self defence or competition training ethos is a modern creation. In fact, no one can force Quan to be superficial; its depth is unknown, maybe even unknowable. It has connections and relationships with multitudinous aspects of human existence, far beyond the miniscule remit of self defence. That being by the bye, here, as at the meeting with my neutered friend, there are many interesting issues I could talk about. All of them are relevant in their own way, but it’s the bent of my character that I mostly focus on negative things – on exposing what I feel to be errors – rather than presenting anything concrete as an example of what I think is a true aspect of Quan. One of the reasons I generally avoid doing that is that it makes the issue about me, which I normally strive to assiduously avoid. It’s not about me. This is my understanding, but it doesn’t mean that I claim to have achieved high level. I just think I understand some of the issues, that’s all. But now, I’m going to talk about something positive; something that one might say is, in my view, close to the true heart of the meaning of Quan; or at least, one of the levels of its meaning that we can come to comprehend and explore with words. When talking about Quan - as opposed to simple talk of self defence etc. - pretty soon we find ourselves needing to communicate feelings, experiential encounters, abstract concepts, and so on, and so to do that we have to use artifices – constructs, metaphors, words and diagrams that don’t really catch the essence of our meanings. For that reason, I think, past masters of Quan preferred to use poetry, or art, because those things capture something of the ineffable, in a way that normal words can’t. But I’m no poet, so I’m striving to use just normal words and still get my meaning across. And the first words, or construct that I want to use is The Endeavour of Quan. By that, I mean the journey to understand and achieve the Da Cheng – the ‘ultimate achievement’ – spoken of by past masters. I’ve mentioned before that every true principle of Quan has, as a kind of inevitable counterpart, an ‘evil twin’ – an opposite version, corrupted in to existence by ignorance, or greed, or ego. The Endeavour of Quan, however, has no evil twin. It is peerless. It has, of course, mockeries – those corrupt facsimiles presented by frauds as the real path – but they are no twin; just some garbage left by the roadside. But what the Endeavour of Quan does have is some close relations – some cousins. Only one thing is the real McCoy; but the cousins look damn similar. Not only that, they aren’t corrupt or stupid in any way; each one of them is worthwhile, decent and responsible, with a rightful seat at the family table. They are, in fact, elements of the real thing, so have the likeness of it. It’s not in any way surprising, therefore, that the good cousins are often mistaken for the real McCoy. And the first good cousin is the endeavour of transitioning away from form, in to function. This cousin is the most alike to the real McCoy of all. Form to function needs little explanation; it means simply the dis-emphasising, and transition away from, forms, patterns and katas, and the re-emphasising, and transition towards, practical fighting function. This good and decent cousin has given us realistic training, both for sport and self defence, which has saved countless people’s lives, trained our police and armed forces, and revolutionised all aspects of sport combat. In this category are all things like ‘practical tai chi chuan’ or ‘martial taichi’. And of course, Jeet Kune Do, although, it’s obvious from Bruce Lee’s writing that he perceived something in some ways different, perhaps more profound, to some of the Jeet Kune Do schools’ teaching we see today. Had he lived, Bruce would have had an opportunity to address issues that were left clouded – such as JKD not being a style in itself. Wang Xiang Zhai, the founder of Yiquan, also, initially, followed the form to function route, thinking it the real McCoy. Wang invented Jeet Kune Do thirty or so years before Bruce Lee – or rather, he followed a natural progression of thought and logic and came to the same conclusion. Other people probably developed the same ideas before them, but have been lost to time and memory. Wang moved people away from form, and recommended weight training, boxing – improved, practical, fighting function training. Later on, however, he realised that although what he was saying was mostly right, it still wasn’t the real McCoy, and perceived what they ancient masters of Quan had left us rumours of – the Da Cheng; the ‘ultimate achievement’. It’s the same thing Bruce Lee perceived, but he was sadly taken from us before he could explore it any further. The development of a philosophy of moving from form to function is natural. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, preparing for this one, humans are very binary thinkers. If one way fails, we naturally look to its opposite as a kind of ‘rebound’ response. If we’re wise, we rebound again, only with less force, back, somewhere nearer the middle of two opposite poles. How we came to the point of Wang and Bruce, over millennia, obviously can not be truly known, but I want to present a potted-model, which, my research suggests to me represents something of the history of Quan. At some point in the ancient past, a human, or a proto-human, smashed another human, or its prey, or indeed its cousin! to bits. Maybe it used its fists, or maybe it picked up a stick, or a stone. Either way, that moment was a moment of pure, aggressive intent. Later on, either through repetition of the motion in actual fights, or deliberately, as a conscious effort to improve technique, that basic thump or wielding of stone improved, allowing a better expression of violent intent. That was the very first existence of ‘Xing Yi’ – a pure collaboration between form, and intent, of which the martial art we know of by that name now is just a distant echo. Over time – perhaps tens of thousands of years - more and more training methods and techniques developed, until we had the first basic martial arts. Meanwhile, other human branches developed spiritual, shamanic and meditation techniques – the first examples of training the mind, or the intent, which themselves grew in to advanced philosophies such as Taoism and Buddhism. The art of Xing Yi of the earliest times was the amalgamation of intent with technique – of learning how to fight, and also the mind set, courage, will, heart and mental skill of a fighter. At this point, ‘animal’ styles in Chinese martial arts meant the spirit of an animal; perhaps literally – the spirit of a certain animal, or god, or natural feature such as the wind or sea, was thought to possess a warrior, and he, taking on its attributes, would fight with that spirit in him. For these warriors, to become like the animal may have been deeply connected to spiritual and shamanic practice. Maybe they dressed like the animal, or adopted some of its movements. Wang Xiang Zhai stated that originally, Xing Yi had no animal forms; the animals were states of mind – states of intent that one adopted to achieve a particular aim. For example, an elephant crashing through its enemies, or a snake writhing around the opponent. Other elements of Chinese history record people taking on the intent of an animal in animal play, not just for fighting, but for health purposes. And of course, we also have those whispered tales of Evenk and Mongolian shamans, shape-shifting in to animal forms. Meanwhile, some people were deeply engaging in meditative practice. Hence, when Tamo came to Shaolin, he found that people had gone so deeply in to the pursuance of states of intent that they had allowed their bodies to wither away; so, according to legend, he began to teach them again the balance between training their intent – their ‘Yi’, and their physical form – their ‘Xing’. The legend itself is perhaps a memory of something that happened at this time, whether initiated by Tamo or someone else, or just a general event. At the next point in the story, wherever that point came, there were ancient masters of Quan who took upon themselves as a fighting aid, the mindset of animals – perhaps not any kind of perceived ‘spirit possession’, but the adopted ‘intent’, say, of an eagle, or a snake. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I saw recently an eagle claw instructor demonstrate an eagle form, and one of the comments made about it was that it lacked something, but that the person commenting could not put their finger on quite what it was. I think I can – it totally lacked the ‘intent’ of an eagle; there was nothing of the spirit of the eagle in the mind of the practitioner, so his movements looked weak and without spirit. He is a far cry from those ancient masters, who fully developed the ability to shift their attention in to the intent of the animal of their choice. Those masters taught that method as an element of their martial art which they hoped their students could also achieve and utilise. Later on, attempting to understand that skill, or perhaps copying those past masters who may have delved so deeply in to the attitude, or mood, of their chosen animals that they actually moved like them, other warriors began training more and more animal-esque movements, in the hopes of achieving the animal state of intent that would animate their forms. Perhaps they hoped to form a unique union between physical form and development of ‘intent’. Over time, the intent element diminished, and this training degraded in to simply learning forms, and the kind of instructor I saw perform an empty set of movements. By the time of Wang and Bruce, the intent element had all but gone, and with the arrival of Western boxers and wrestlers there could no longer be any denial of the folly of that course. So the decision to make the transition in training, from forms, over to training function, was a fairly logical one. And once made, the ideological idea of ensuring that all training led to fight function was yet another logical step after that. But this method had a problem. Wang had a chance to see his training ideas in action, and so saw the problem in practice. Bruce Lee, on the other hand, didn’t really get that chance – but amazingly, he intuited the problem very early, theoretically. The problem is based on the logical and intuitive prerogative that led them to move from form to function in the first place; namely that the pursuance of fixed form had failed as a method, hence the very reason for the creation of their new methods. The very thing they wanted to avoid at all costs was the recurrence of the same problem. What they both realised, which is a stroke of true genius, is that the transition from form to function isn’t really a journey. You don’t actually go from one to the other, because perceiving it like a journey is just a theoretical conceit. In physical practice, the training method of giving people form and basic method, and then expecting them to transition to function, doesn’t work exactly as intended. And the reason is, form and function don’t exist as two points on a journey, beginning and end; one left, one eventually arrived at – they exist, always, in a state of continual relationship. What Wang and Bruce both realised is that that relationship is a loop – the more you focus on practical function, the more you also loop back in to fixed form. The more a coach says ‘do it like this’ – no matter how good that technique is – the more the student is ‘fixed’ in to a fixed and externally inputted ‘form’. What they both wanted was the ultimate achievement of Quan, where any technique, or no technique, could be used at any point, to fluidly achieve the desired result, which only comes from a person developing intuitive, native skill. But in reality, every improvement in function takes you incrementally less further along that desired path, because it anchors you ever more in a purely physical technique. That method, although not wrong, actually needs to be counter balanced; it’s only one half of the equation: form. Although it sounds airy fairy as a theory, in practice, it was exactly what happened with early Yiquan, and we can see with our own eyes that it is exactly what has happened with Jeet Kune Do, exactly as Bruce Lee foresaw, in that it has become in most ways exactly the opposite of what he intended it to be; it has become a fixed, stylised system. And it is fixed exactly by the thing Bruce identified – the loop created by focussing purely on function. But surely one must focus on function? What else could there be? See, here’s the rub – here’s where Bruce, and Wang, had to make a bit of an abstract leap. Function as a focus is not the same as function as a goal. The goal – the achievement – might in part be a highly improved state of function, but that does not necessarily mean that the best training way is to focus solely on function. I should say at this point that by ‘focus on function’ is meant simply learning physical techniques and training methods and practicing them. We all know that people can become powerful and efficient by diligently practicing good techniques. But that is not the same as Bruce’s vision, where people explored their own strengths and weaknesses, to find their own expression of Quan. And both he and Wang realised that one can practice a punch a thousand times until it is technically perfect, and yet still be missing something – the essential intent and instinct of a fighter that makes that punch a practical tool, actually useable in combat. They both understood that in that purely form based method, there comes a point where practicing the punch one more time is actually making you less useful, not more, even though that seems counter-intuitive. There comes a point where a technique is dead; where it needs, more than anything, the other aspect – the mental aspect – to make it a useable tool. And one more dead practice punch leads you one step further away from that. So there is a difference there between focussing on function – which, Bruce and Wang both realised is actually equivalent to focussing on form – and having function as a goal, but focussing on the best training methods to achieve that – which might not be simply copying an instructor’s movements move for move; the exact issue that created the ‘classical mess’ in the first place. Boy does that ever seem complicated! And yet, it’s a simple thing that Bruce Lee seems to have understood in one ‘A ha!’ moment. As for Wang, he realised that ‘Yi’, Intent, is the real power behind movements; that without it, it really is just empty movements and a classical mess. And he set about re-introducing it as a fundamental aspect of training. But, I think even he, at that point, didn’t fully realise just how powerful intent is. Only later, after assiduous training and research did he realise that the form to function way was not quite right; that there was another way – the real McCoy. Those who follow the form to function way might say that we need bigger muscles, more powerful techniques, much in the same way that we could say that the Vietnamese needed bigger, more powerful weapons. Well, sure, bigger more powerful weapons are always useful. But remember - the Americans had bigger, more powerful weapons. And they still lost. And the reason was that the intent of their opponents was stronger. The Vietnamese will was greater, and it overcame seemingly insurmountable differences in functional ability. On the other hand, some people say that all that really matters is to train the intent, perhaps through meditation – but that, again, is the specific folly that Tamo found – that in reality it allows the body to wither away – or perhaps fatten up – and become of no practical use as a vehicle for one’s intent. Part of the problem of understanding why the form to function idea is not the real McCoy is in understanding what is really meant by ‘form’. In all these articles, I’ve presented the foundation idea that many of the traditionally accepted meanings of certain concepts in the martial arts are actually fairly superficial, due to those ideas being ‘filtered’ through a non-expert mass of general public understanding, down to the lowest common denominator. ‘Form’ is no exception. And I have also presented the idea that in Asian philosophy, each idea can be seen on multiple levels, with multiple depths of meaning, and sometimes even multiple explanations for the same idea. The reason being, those ideas are intended as tools, to further one’s depth of understanding, not as strict items of ideological belief. ‘Form’ can mean kata, but it can also mean – and did mean, in the ancient practice of Quan – many more things. Hence, the whole movement from form to function idea is shown to be only a tiny fraction of the whole picture. And in fact, ‘abandoning’ form is a folly. That’s the ‘loop’ intuited by Bruce Lee. JKD, and yiquan, have a common problem. Almost no one, even the people training in them, can provide a realistic meaning for the idea of ‘formlessness’. JKD is stylised, yiquan has fixed methods… Wang and Bruce trained in traditional arts… and so on, and so on. Actually, all those criticisms are ‘mu’ – based on false premises. Neither, really, abandons form, or seeks to. Binary selection of one extreme or the other is anathema to true Taoist method. The Endeavour of Quan can be seen like a diagram – like a line, representing a journey; hence the initial mistake. On one end of the line – what we can call, at first, the beginning of the journey, is ‘Xing.’ We can say that in its most basic sense, Xing means body, or form. But in another sense, in the Endeavour of Quan, it can mean much, much more. It means the entire edifice of training. It means first of all initial training methods – postures, stretching, stances, basic movements. And then as one journeys along the line, it means more and more advanced postures, techniques, movements, training methods. This side of the journey is what I’ve called, following Wang, ‘Superficial’. I can understand that that seems offensive. In fact, it’s not – it doesn’t in any way mean that one should not train these things. In fact, to begin at the beginning is essential. To have a constructed and well thought out progression of ‘Xing’ is an essential element of the Endeavour of Quan. Form and formlessness are not opposite points on a destination; they are in a profound relationship with one another. In fact, they are a single unit. One’s Xing should be utterly impeccably polished; so all superb physical technique and training methods can be incorporated as elements of Quan. Xing, also means the wider structure of training – the traditions, the salute, the history, the respect for teachers and right way of behaving. It includes doing things in eights, never fours, or any manner of training rule which may have no real significance – the real significance being the very act of choosing to treat them as significant. Why? Because at that point one is building the ‘edifice’ of a warrior; one is training an individual to develop a way of being that is different to ordinary people, and conducive to serious training. Each endeavour has its own Xing; soccer, for example, has its own forms, structures, history, traditions. They aren’t meaningful in any intrinsic sense – they are only meaningful because the individual player chooses to see them as meaningful, as part of a process of becoming a soccer player. What the beginner doesn’t realise at that point, is that Quan is like a fractal pattern; each part of it, no matter how simple, contains the blueprint for the whole thing. So even at that early point of learning how to stand, how to kick, he’s learning the art of using his intent to ‘assemble’ a ‘form’ or structure – in exactly the same way that, when he becomes an ultimate practitioner of Quan, his pure intent will ‘assemble’ the technique he uses to win a fight as a pure expression of a thought, expressed through physical form. I want to talk about the mystery of zhan zhuang in another article, but here, I want to mention the genius of Wang, in recognising that standing pole is the ultimate reduction of the process of training the relationship between Xing and Yi – the holding of one posture in a state of pure intention in a way that both avoids anchoring one in Xing, and yet also avoids the sole focus on intent that Tamo explained leaves some people withered physically. ‘Xing’ also includes very advanced forms, such as those performed by wushu athletes. Now, my castrated friend is very much to the left of Xing. The Xing he has adopted is completely superficial – focussed entirely on meaningless form; that is, form and training that has no power to move him along the journey; so for him, there is absolutely no hope of understanding the relationship between the two elements – Xing and Yi – and how a true practitioner of Quan seeks to extend his awareness over both poles. Forty years from now, he, and his companion slaves in that method, can only hope to be maybe a little right of Xing, if they’re lucky; maybe able to beat one another if they don’t really try too hard. For them, training is no beautiful, profound journey. Rather, it’s like a day spent doing little; not altogether a miserable time, but never the less, dulled by a vague sense of having wasted something ineffable. ‘But wushu is merely dance!’ he told me, self assured. ‘So is what you do,’ I replied. ‘Only, in your school you make your dances for two.’ ‘But, if there’s no martial application, what’s the point?’ ‘Boy that’s dumb,’ I replied. ‘You’d ask an eagle if there was any martial application to being an eagle! And dismiss its eagle-ness if it didn’t think your question made sense.’ But he was too busy thinking up another inane remark. ‘Our art is all about application! What’s the point of doing forms if they have no application?’ ‘Well, first of all,’ I replied, ‘the right way of talking about forms is to say that they are played. And there is a reason for that. Quan is not just about martial application. To move one’s Yi, one’s intent, in to a state of being, say, an eagle, is an achievement in and of itself. To play an eagle form, for the sheer joy of moving like an eagle, is a perfectly legitimate aspect of Quan, and in fact, to act such, simply for joy, without any thought of practical reward, is far more spiritual than any false practicality. Lies are never spiritual.’ ‘But…’ ‘Hold on. Secondly, Quan can be seen like a pie. And like a pie, many people covet it greedily. This pie has many slices. You sit in judgment on wushu…’ ‘No I don’t!’ ‘Sure you do. You sit in judgment on wushu because you think you have one of the pieces of the pie – practical application of traditional moves. That’s folly on many levels. One, because your practical application of skill isn’t worth a damn. Two, because that’s only a slice of the pie, not the whole thing as you perceive it to be. And three, because a real wushu athlete has one of the pieces of the pie – the physical conditioning and body control – which, while not being any where near the full achievement of the whole pie, is at least a far better achievement than you, who can only sit looking greedily at one piece, yet unable to take even a nibble! More than that, wushu athletes also tend to have some of the piece of the pie that deals with intent – the intent of animals or styles, which animate their forms. True, it’s mostly superficial, but that should tell you something – that superficial achievement is still far better than your achievement of not even knowing that that part of the pie exists!’ So he’s to the left of Xing – not even at the point of realistic form. But, there are many dances made for two, not just those of his school. Effete push hands is a dance for two. So is dead chi sau. So his hubud and trapping, where it has become more focussed on unrealistic demonstrations of speed or predictability, made only in response to predictable and unrealistic attacks. So is much of the so called traditional application – simply dances made for two. And no, to dance is not play. It could be, for a real dancer – but these nibbles aren’t even out of the dancer’s piece of pie! Xing has to be fundamentally excellent, whether it be forms, or application training, or sparring, or rolling. Over focus on Xing really means to be stuck there, slaves to fixed method – even if the method is good, at least in terms of making people better at fighting. Correct use of Xing means to build a deliberate training structure that propels one forwards in to higher and higher levels of achievement. So one can say that elements such as MMA or BJJ are in no way contradictory to the true method of Quan; they represent, in a physical sense, very high levels of achievement in Xing; and in the cases of many such practitioners, also a high level of the other element – the intent. In fact, those arts also have their own ways of explaining the same thing – that some people have a more developed ability to use the techniques – a more developed mental ability – than the next man who may have the same physical skill, but somehow not be able to use it as well. The difference between the two men is that ineffable quality perceived by Wang and Bruce, and all realistic martial arts have their own way of explaining it. The point of the philosophy of Xing and Yi is practical. It is intended to address that point at which an athlete can go no further; the point at which his progress slows down, and even learning a new technique, or practicing an old one, only seems to drag him less and less further along the path. What’s missing, at that point, is his own intuitive potential – his own potential as a human being, and a martial artist, which requires its own training method, just as the body does. It’s at that point that, say, the Jeet Kune Do practitioner finds himself more and more copying his teachers, while they in turn copy theirs, and they in turn copy Bruce Lee. The loop has kicked in. The systemic flaw has revealed itself. Form and function are revealed to not to be opposite ends of the scale, but actually both elements of Xing, both on the left hand side of the scale. This is where genius slips in, to perceive the unperceivable – the other end of the scale. On the other end of the scale is, of course, ‘Yi’. Yi can mean mind, or on a wider level, it can mean ‘intent’. On a profound level, it means a state of mind, especially when in association with an action, such as martial arts, where the body becomes an extension of the body – not just that the body becomes a tool for the expression of Yi, but that the body itself is an extension of one’s full state of awareness. Zhan zhuang, for example, is intended to fire and activate one’s nervous system, to allow a higher sense of physical awareness, and to tie that in with one’s intent – much like improving the intuitive relationship between craft and pilot. And yet, so much more; it brings about, in time, the awareness of intuitive skill – the peculiar, native ability of each of us, which Wang, and Bruce, saw as the ultimate animator of physical skill; which propels us out of form, and yet, is the only thing that makes form truly meaningful. Other martial arts approach this training in other ways. The edifice of Xing is there to help a person make that journey to the point where Quan is a state of mind. No words, I think, can really sum up this idea. Anything that we try to put in to words is mostly closer to Xing. Is it seriously good fight skill? No, yet it is a part of Xing. Is it bravery? No. Is it skill? No. Is it Qi? No. At this point – say, maybe, in the middle of the diagram that leads from Xing to Yi, or in practical terms, at the point in one’s training where the structure one has learned now begins to flower, allowing one to explore one’s own ideas, one’s own potential and way of doing things, the initial vision of Xing and Yi as opposite points on a destination or diagram is seen as wrong, and abandoned. There is no real differentiation between Xing and Yi – both are intrinsic elements of one achievement. To perceive that as form is wrong. To perceive it as formlessness is wrong. Quan is, ultimately a state of mind, but it is also expressed via form. These are not contradictions, but aspects of the same phenomena, viewed from different angles, like looking in to one diamond from different facets. Xing without Yi is just copying. Yi without Xing is just an idea, or an intention, with no way of expressing itself physically. To talk of formlessness, therefore, is to really misunderstand the depth of the true Endeavour of Quan. Form and formlessness are not opposite choices, but intimately connected aspects, yin and yang. Where this method of training differs from form to function is that the form to function way always relies on external input of information – what we might call ‘external method training’. However, integration of Xing and Yi requires intuitive training to become an inherent part of a person’s training programme – and the Xing – the physical aspect, must be geared towards that, if one is to avoid the loop of form that takes one always back to simply copying one’s teachers’ movements, with ever declining results – what geneticists call ‘genetic drift’ and what Bruce Lee called the classical mess. Many practical martial arts, for example, try to approach this by putting the person in to fights, to force their intuitive ability to emerge. Part of the problem with that is that it leaves some people behind, when, other ways might have helped them; so, for example, a fight stable might only be interested in those that ‘have it’, but a self defence method needs to consider how to help those that don’t. Our minds have control over a vehicle capable of astounding finesse. The finer the control, the more honed and trained the vehicle, the more astounding the feats that can be accomplished, whether in martial arts, tricking, tennis – or in the mind, achieving mental states, such as, for example, the instant use of a highly aggressive mental state to fend off an attack, or to help soldiers, or the adoption of a clam state, or the profound achievement of shifting one’s intent in to that of an animal – say, a dragon – and being able to express that intent through astounding physical movement skills. Seen like that, fighting, or focus on violence, is only a tiny fragment of the total potential of this method. For the ancient masters of Quan, to achieve the shape-shift to an animal – to one animal – was an astounding accomplishment which few traditional masters can demonstrate today. Of course, goes without saying, I don’t mean a real shape shift – just an exploration of creative powers in our psyche. And yet, the Endeavour of Quan is itself, by virtue of being a true idea, capable of expanding in to ever deeper areas. Xing is the world – reality, while Yi is our existence as perceiving beings. Or maybe we reduce it to the simplest state of zhan zhuang; a pure moment of relationship between simple Xing and simple Yi. In this article, I haven’t really approached what exactly is the intuitive method, at least as I see it. I leave that for another article, much as I left my emasculated friend. ‘But we have to follow a master,’ he insisted. ‘Otherwise we get no where.’ ‘You are no where,’ I remarked, admittedly pretty cuttingly. And then I realised, he thought I was trying to recruit him. He didn’t know, of course, that I don’t take students, so would never be recruiting anyone. He just thought that by virtue of the fact that he’d put himself forwards as a representative of true Quan, that if it were that he was wrong, he had some kind of right to be shown the right way. In his folly, it never occurred to him that someone might simply leave him high and dry by explaining that he wasn’t really a true understander of Quan, for no other reason than just for the sake of telling him. He is a slave, along with his companion slaves, spending his time in that long and pointless afternoon he calls training. Slaves only have two pleasures. One is the company of their companion slaves, and the other is to make some slaves underlings even to them. And that was his students, who he had enticed in to the harem of his ego, to make his path seem less terrible – and they were witnesses to the fact that I told him the truth. And then I left him high and dry. By astounding coincidence, on the way back home, I saw a black man – I mean, a remarkably black man, like one of those Nubian Egyptians we sometimes see on temple walls – who was running down the road performing the most extraordinary contortions. Not only was he deeply, ebony black, but he was wearing a black t-shirt, black shorts, black trainers, and a black hat! So, from a distance, he at first appeared like a stick man, or a strange shadow, with his cavortions only adding to the bizarreness of the picture. As I drew level with him, however, I realised he was a boxer, as he began throwing very tasty looking jabs, crosses and uppercuts. The cavortions I’d witnesses were actually just him warming up as he ran, swinging his arms about. Now that guy didn’t care one jot who thought what about him on that main road. He didn’t care how strange he looked, warming up like that. And his strange movements, although not specifically for fighting, never the less were totally imbued with his warrior spirit and intent. Maybe he wasn’t the perfect embodiment of a warrior finding balance between Xing and Yi – but I choose to believe he was, astoundingly sent by fate to illustrate the point. And then I passed by, and he left me, high and dry.