Archive for philosophy

Kennedy on “What is Martial Art” : RTD 018

Posted in Discussion Question, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Roundtable Discussion with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by Combative Corner

TJ Kennedy 001

Bruce Lee said in his infamous television interview with Pierre Burton, that martial art is the expression of self. That, in my opinion, is what “art” is. When applied in a combative context, what component of the “self” is one expressing, exactly?

It is my opinion, that martial art can be defined as the following:

The articulation of one’s combative intent through the medium of human movement.

To have an objective in mind, and to achieve this objective using the only instrument one has – his or her body (and weapons, if present, as an extension of the body).

Each individual will articulate his or her movements differently, and will indeed choose different tools to perform different tasks. This is where individuality comes into play. Where the expression of self is seen. The differences in articulation are the result of differences in physiology, culture, personal ethics, etc.

The more one practices using their body to articulate combative intent, the more prolific and efficient they will become in their art. There will be a singularity – a cohesion of techniques and increased fluidity of movement.

That is the denotative meaning. However, there is a significant connotative interpretation of martial art that I’d like to discuss.

That is, the more one engages their mind to act in tandem with their body, the more centered and aware they can become. This union of mind and body can lead to expanded consciousness.

There is an ineffable quality to martial art. A difference in intent. A fighter will fight for status, for resources, etc. A true martial artist…..or warrior…..will fight to protect that which he or she values. Their motives may be love, justice, compassion, etc.

A “fighter” is a role, whereas “martial artist” is a way of life;

a state of being.

These are my thoughts on what “martial art” is. 

I welcome any comments.

T.J. Kennedy

Founder of the Hybrid Fighting Method


The Principle of Gradualness

Posted in Martial Arts, Philosophy, Taijiquan, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , on January 2, 2013 by Combative Corner

chen zhaopi

To fully understand Taijiquan it is necessary to understand its underlying philosophy. This is less of a problem for Chinese students as many of the ideas are omnipresent throughout  their everyday culture. Western students, on the other hand, need to explore aspects of Chinese thought that have permeated its culture for several thousand years. Failure to grasp its philosophy results in one training a superficial system that is lacking in real foundation. 18th generation exponent Chen Zhaopi believed that this does not just apply to Taijiquan, but that every action a person takes in everyday life should be in accord with a higher philosophy.

At Taijiquan’s core is the Taiji or Yin-Yang theory – the search for harmony and balance. In Daoist alchemy heaven, earth and humans are collectively known as the “Three Powers”. Humans thrive to the extent to which they conform to the forces that mould and nurture them. It was said that:

“Heaven is clear and calm; earth is stable and tranquil. Humans who reject these virtues perish, while those who adapt them thrive.”

Following its Daoist roots, Taijiquan asks practitioners to seek “ziran” or “the natural state”. To do this we must accept the principle of gradualness – the long journey towards mastery can only be achieved gradually. Looking at the normal development of a person from infancy to maturity – each day they may seem the same as the day before, but if all their basic needs are met a fully functioning adult eventually emerges.

Taijiquan places great importance on fulfilling basic requirements which must be trained daily over a long period of time. We all know the rules – suspend the head, store the chest, relax shoulders, sink elbows etc etc… This is the core of Taijiquan skill and no amount of new forms and novel applications can replace it. The following advice from Chen Xin’s “Illustrated Explanation of Chen Family Taijiquan”, reflects this inexhorable approach to developing real skill:

“The Taijiquan practitioner must apply ceaseless efforts to make his mind aware of each tiny transformation taking place in the postures…one must establish full mental control over every movement: from the way one’s hand commences a posture, to the area through which it passes, and up to its final resting place.”

This can only be achieved gradually!

David Gaffney

from his blog: Talking Chen Taijiquan qith David Gaffney

*pictured: Chen Zhaopi.  “Lean With Back”

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Sifu Lee on East vs West

Posted in Day's Lesson, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2012 by Sifu Freddie Lee

In the West, people love striving towards goals. The West is very extroverted. An entrepreneur can become rich simply by setting up goals for others to achieve. In the West people love to feel that inner pride for what they do. The organizer for the Chicago Marathon may not even be able to run the marathon himself, but he set up the event with the goal, he provides the medals & the money rewards. Now thousands want to join to try to reach the goal he has established. The organizer of a certain ring fight may not know how to fight himself, but he has arranged an event & established goals to achieve. Now thousands want to achieve this goal & even more are paying to watch. People will pay another person money so that, that other person will create a goal for him to achieve. That is what tournaments are all about.

Now in the East, we set our own goals to achieve, we do not look towards another to set a goal for us. When you come from the East to the West, you can then become the leader that sets the goals for those in the West to achieve. There is a lot of yang energy in the west, all they really need is to be guided in the proper direction. People simply have a strong wish to be recognized for doing things that they are good at. The West is not the way of the Tao, but the emphasis on Tao reminds the man with the Western mind to not forget, when you do not forget, it is much easier to come closer to a balance. It is interesting when you come from the east & you start to understand the Western mind. It is a mind with constant activity, constant movement. It does not want to sit still. Rather than forcing it to stay still, many times it is best to simply guide it towards a healthier direction & set it free.

Sifu Freddie Lee

[via FMK’s Facebook]

O’Sensei and The Principle of The Circle

Posted in Aikido, Teaching Topic with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by Combative Corner

Aikido technique is structured on circular movement, for harmony is brought about and all conflict resolved through the spirit of the circle. The response of the body, mind and spirit to the principle of the circle is vital to the creation of technique.



A circle…

encloses space, and it is from the perfect freedom of this emptiness that ki is born. From the center of this birthplace, the creative processes of life are joined with the infinite, immeasurable universe by the spirit. The spirit is the Creator, the eternal parent giving birth to all things.


The Budo of Aikido springs from the mastery of the spirit of the circle. The essence if this Budo is to embrace the complementary action of cause and effect and to draw into yourself all things as if they were held within the palm of your hand. You have a spirit, therefore you must realize that each person has a spirit. When the life processes are connected with the spirit and the fundamental principle of the circle is given birth in Aiki, all things are led to completion through the circle. All things are freely created by the circle. The secret of the circle is to create technique by piercing the very center of Space.

Morihei Ueshiba – Founder of Aikido

Robert Lara Sensei

Four Winds Aikido

Martial Artists and ‘The Ego’ : Sifu Lee

Posted in Day's Lesson, Internal Development, Philosophy, Teaching Topic with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2012 by Sifu Freddie Lee

A Martial Artist does not forever enhance this ego, he enhances it, & then he destroys it. He raises himself up, & then he lowers himself back down. He understands both.

He understands the ego way & he understands the way with no ego.

He knows how to be hard but he also knows how to be soft. He is gentle & sweet but he can be fierce when it is called upon for him to be fierce.  He does not enjoy seeing others suffer but he understands that at certain times others will need to suffer in order to grow.

Freddie Lee

[via FMK’s Facebook Profile]


One-On-One with Sifu Lee: Belt Rankings

Posted in Martial Arts, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2011 by Sifu Freddie Lee

The aim of all arts, including the Martial Arts is meant for creative self-expression. In art there is no better or worse, there simply is the unique expression of ones soul. All judgments of better or worse are subjective in nature. Movies and books are works of art. One can never say that there is an all time greatest movie for all people. All people have their own subjective judgments on what they think is good or bad, same as in books. Same as in painting, same as in drawing, same as in Martial Arts.

These judging individuals argue on what is the greatest Martial Art style; the truth is that there is no greatest Martial Art style. There is only the unique expression of an individual’s way of fighting.

If we are to speak of what are the most effective hand to hand unarmed combat techniques, then we must approach it scientifically and discover which techniques would be most effective for each individual. One technique may work well for one person but not for another. It is up to the individual to discover what is effective for himself.

There cannot be an adequate belt system to represent the level of expertise of a Martial Artist. Every belt system will always be flawed. The true essence of Martial Art is the integration of the physical, mental, and spiritual. In order to reach elite status as a Martial Artist, one must come close to perfection on all three aspects. One who becomes extremely proficient on the physical, such as fitness development and self-defense techniques may be extremely lacking in the mental and spiritual aspects of development. This individual would not be considered an elite Martial Artist no matter how great his physical technique may be because he would be lacking in the moral and character development in which to properly use the techniques for the betterment of society.

There are only 3 categories of development of a Martial Artist. That is the beginner, the intermediate, and the advanced. Colored belt rankings serve absolutely no purpose other than the enhancement of one’s ego. If a Martial Artist is advanced on the physical, he simply needs to display his Martial Art technique and physical fitness physique and an onlooker would be able to decipher whether or not this Martial Artist is advanced in his Martial Art ability. An advanced Martial Artist displaying his black belt around his waist shows nothing to the onlooker about what this Martial Artist is proficient in.

The legendary Bruce Lee used to say that if you wished to see how good a boxer is, you watch him box. Likewise if you wish to see how good a basketball player is, you watch him play basketball. If you wish to see how good a swimmer is, you watch him swim. If you wish to see how fast a man can run, you watch him run. As you see in most sports, it is based on performance, not based on the color of a uniform; the color of a person’s uniform has no bearing on the ability of the person underneath the uniform. In Martial Art this is the truth, a black belt can never adequately represent the level of expertise of a practitioner.

Imagine a Karate practitioner who has reached black belt status by physical fitness development and technique efficiency by the year 2000. His instructor gladly certifies this practitioner with a black belt for his hard efforts in development. Now imagine if this student completely stopped all physical activity and gave up Karate for 9 years. In 2009 he can still wear the old uniform with the old black belt, but that does not mean that he is currently an advanced practitioner. He may have been an advanced practitioner in the past but the past is over and it is no longer in existence, there is only the current moment and in the current moment he is far from advanced but has become a beginner all over again.

And that is the inadequacy of all belt rankings. You may be advanced today but what about one month from now, what about 1 year from now, what about 5 years from now? Belt systems of rank can never adequately track ones level of performance. Mike Tyson used to be a great boxer, but he is no longer the greatest. Michael Jordan used to be a great basketball player, but also he is no longer the greatest. If there was to be any system of rank in any Martial Art, there should be a yearly re-certification, that way it would be much more adequate in the representation of a practitioner’s level of skill but in most Martial Art systems this is not the case. You have many practitioners who use to be great. Who use to be able to jump high, who use to be able to do 120 pushups in 1 minute, who use to be able to run a mile in under 5 minutes, who use to be able to defend themselves from any opponent no matter the size. But the past is not what is important, what is important is the Now, the current moment.

If a Martial Artist cannot show you his advanced ability in the current moment, then he has simply ceased to be an advanced practitioner of the Martial Arts, no matter how many years he has claimed he has practiced or how many black belts he has to display.

If someone is strong in the chest and can bench-press a lot of weight, in order for him to prove this fact to you, he simply has to do it and have you observe. Then you will see that he is strong, him having a certificate stating that he is strong means nothing. If a teacher is a good teacher, watch him teach and you will then be able to decide if he is a good teacher based on your expectations. If a person claims to be a good and peaceful individual, observe his actions and way of living, then you can determine if his claims are correct, him simply stating that he is a part of a certain religion means nothing.

Beethoven and Mozart did not have certificates stating that they were great musical artists. People simply listened to their music and were astonished and knew that they were something great. Einstein did not have a certificate stating that he was one of the greatest scientists to ever live, he simply displayed his unique creative insights and proved his theories to be truth, once the truth was discovered, people knew he was someone great. Pablo Picasso did not need a certificate stating that he was a great painter, he simply expressed his creative abilities and onlookers knew that he was someone great.

If you have innate talent, then you have innate talent. If a woman can sing well, then she simply needs to sing in order for others to be aware of her talent. A certificate stating that she is a great singer will not make her singing any better. If a person is a great dancer, he simply needs to dance and you will see his talent. A person can be knowledgeable and wise without a college degree. A person can be ignorant and stupid with a college degree. Certifications serve no practical purpose in the world of art. The world of art transcends the purpose of certifications. In the business world, certifications may serve their purposes in properly organizing a civilized society but one must not confuse the world of business with the world of art.

Therefore you can encounter an elite practitioner of Martial Art with no belt rankings to display and you can also encounter a novice practitioner of Martial Art who possesses the highest-ranking belt. In the world of business and commerce, money speaks, and certain Instructors of Martial Arts may give into the temptations of receiving higher pay by giving a high ranking belt to a novice practitioner who has an open wallet. Some practitioners are so concentrated on obtaining the highest-ranking belt that they forget the true purpose of the Martial Art. Some advanced practitioners even obtain the highest ranking belts and then come to the mistaken assumption that there is no longer any room for improvement, and from that point they start to regress.

A person can obtain knowledge and wisdom through self-motivated concentrated research without the need of attending a public University. A person can run a marathon on his own individual will without the need of joining a community operated marathon that charges an unnecessary fee. A person can be a world class sprinter without entering into competitions to display his ability.

A true Martial Artist is an Artist who does not need any certificates or belts to display his level of expertise, his simple expression and practice of art will automatically display something great, that is if he is great.

Sifu Freddie Lee

One-On-One with Freddie Lee: Competition

Posted in Martial Arts, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2010 by Sifu Freddie Lee

Competition fighting is all about egos.  Without an ego you would not be in competition. That is the fostering of the opposite of what the spiritual side of martial arts should really be about, which is to destroy the ego, not foster it in which to make it stronger.  Competition fighters are extremely dedicated athletes; they are great athletes likened to football players, basketball players, gymnasts, etc.  They have come close to perfection of the physical aspect of the martial arts, but have denied the mental and spiritual aspects which are just as important if not more important.  There are great people in all fields of study, great psychologists, doctors, teachers, etc.  Educators are contributing something that is much more valuable to the society than a brute that can be put in the ring like an animal for a crowd to watch in a fight.  How in any way is that to benefit the society other then to motivate more humans to do the same?

As for basketball, baseball, and various other sports, it’s a game and people are not playing it to hurt one another.  But in competition fighting, people are doing whatever they can to hurt one another.  The more they hurt one another the better.  What is the sense in that?  If people really want to hurt one another then why not just go to war?  But yet war and gun violence is discouraged but yet televised public displays of individuals bashing one another with fists and feet is somehow accepted.

Competition tournament fighting just serves to reinforce and develop the ego in man that should be eliminated.  Being drawn into competition fighting is basically going backwards rather than forwards in the progression to spirituality.  If some great fighter can beat up another man, what does that really prove?  One man is just proving his physical excellence over someone else, but why is that important?  Does an adult male need to prove his excellence over a toddler by putting the toddler in the hospital?  Does an adult male need to prove his excellence over a woman and rape her against her will?

If person A is a better fighter than person B and overpowers person B in a ring fight, what has person A really proved?   Person A was able to beat person B on the Monday night fight, but what about Tuesday, Wednesday, and every other following day?  If person B was smart and knew that person A had an advantage over him physically, person B would not have even gotten in that ring fight and would have devised a more tactical way to destroy person A.  Person B could gather a couple of his friends sneak up behind person A and beat him to submission.  Person B could get a gun, knife, or any weapon and batter person A when person A is not paying attention.  But if person B did any of these acts it would be discouraged by the society and it would land him in jail.  But what is so different than that and competition fighting?

Violence is violence, organized or not, no matter if both parties agree to participate in the violence it still is violence that the society would be better off without.  If competition fighters are admired by the society then street gangs and thugs should be admired as well.  Gangs and thugs on the streets have basically an agreed organized form of violence of which many times involve gun violence, but yet this is discouraged by the society.  But say they did not use guns and they all just got together in the streets and started fist fighting one another, what difference is that compared to competition fighting?  On the streets they would all be put in jail for disorderly conduct but yet when televised to the nation, not only are they free from being arrested put they are given money and social approval.  There are laws against organized animal fighting but yet there are no laws against organized human fighting.

It does not matter how much of a great fighter one single person is.  One person with a gun no matter how weak or small can take the life of a competition fighter.  One person with a hidden knife can take the competition fighters life when his head is turned.  One competition fighter cannot overcome a gang of 50 people who are going to take advantage of him and do whatever they want to him.  In the prisons, in the streets, and in modern times, it’s about affiliation, numbers, acceptance, groups, weapons, etc.  One person’s physical ability can never compete against a crowd of adults that are willing to take this person’s life.

Admiring competition fighters is really not too different than admiring a street thug who has no care or worry for his life.  He is willing to do whatever it takes to protect his pride and respect because that is all he lives for.  If someone disrespects him in anyway, this thug will not hesitate to take another person’s life.  Competition fighters are not people that are tough and fearful compared to the people affiliated to the mafia like in the movie “Godfather”.  That is the modern representation of coercive power, not some individual that can just punch and kick effectively.

Some people practice competition fighting to intimidate others.  But a person who has a firearm and is not afraid to use it is more intimidating than a competition fighter.  One who is affiliated with a mafia or a powerful gang is more intimidating than a competition fighter.  An enemy disguised as a friend that is waiting for the right time to batter you is more intimidating than a competition fighter.

Competition based fighting is closer to Martial Sport than Martial Art.  Competition sport fighters have definitely already lost the understanding of being an artist because if they had attained proper mental and spiritual awareness they would not be entering in such competitions in the first place.

One can travel around the nation and win as many tournaments as possible, but what does that prove?  That one is the greatest fighter?  Surely this cannot be true as it is literally impossible to fight a world of billions of civilians.  So really what is the purpose of this brutal journey?

Competition sport fighters have great skill in the ring but what they do is far from reality. In real life, there is a high likelihood there will be multiple offenders. In real life, all sorts of weapons can be used, such as a knife, gun, beer bottle, bat, etc. In real life, there is no judge to stop the fight, in real life, people go to the hospital, people get arrested and charged, and people even die. In real life, you may be fighting for your life spontaneously with no preparation or knowledge of who you will be fighting or when. There are many factors that completely change the priorities of proper training for survival opposed to competition fighting.

A true martial artist is an artist who has destroyed the inner ego from within in which to foster peace and love.  The goal of Martial Art is to develop oneself into a more peaceful individual.  Not a competitive and violent individual that wishes to boast of the effectiveness of his technique by violently destroying a weaker individual.  Becoming extremely proficient in the Martial Arts is likened to being in possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon.  A lethal weapon in the wrong hands is devastating to society.  A lethal weapon in the right hands can be used to protect those that need protection.

Therefore the most practical aspect of Martial Art in modern society is not the perfection of fighting techniques but rather the perfection of the inner spirit that fosters love, compassion, and peace.  Examples of individuals that have achieved the elite development of the spirit are Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Dali-Lama, Confucius, Osho, Buddha, and Lao-tzu.  Martial Art should simply be used as a means into achieving true peace of mind.  If one was to ever achieve true peace of mind, a true Martial Artist would never compete with another in order to assert himself.  If one ceases to be competitive and if one ceases to be violent; he will attract peace within his life.  And he would rarely if ever have to result in utilizing his physical ability to defend himself from violent encounters.

Sifu Freddie Lee


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