Perth Workshop 2019: Reflection on the TAO.



When Grandmaster Sam S.F. Chin presented his weekend workshop in Perth in 2019, he did some memorable things.

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First, he anointed three disciples: David May, Des Morgan and Bevan Castle. All three have been as loyal to the art as any master could hope for, having kept the I Liq Chuan flame burning in Perth for so many years, ever since Grandmaster Sam held his first classes in the art in Western Australia. Perhaps it was in Perth that the art first ventured outside its home in Malaysia.

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Second, he gave mental training. The formal title of the workshop was “Wrist Locks and Free Sparring”. But in classic Taoist style, the workshop was as big on what was physically taught as well as what was not, on the mental, as much as on the physical.

What Grandmaster Sam spoke about (to those who knew how to listen) got those present to reflect on the nature of physical technique and how it related to the nature of all things. In this, he spoke the language of the philosopher, rather than that of the fighter (though he was clearly a great fighter in his day).

Take a central theme that emerged for the author that sunny summer’s day. It was that the point of contact with the adversary is where one merges with the adversary, to become one, or unified with him or her. In seeking that oneness with the adversary, one is in effect seeking to experience, on this humble, human level, the oneness that was first written about over 2,000 years ago in ancient China about the Cosmic Tao, the way that nature is – an undifferentiated whole, a matrix to which all things belong.

Grandmaster Sam spoke about the philosophical and metaphysical basis of Zhong Xin Dao I Liq Chuan in the same way that the Tao Te Ching described it – that from the One comes the Two and from the Two comes the Three and from that, the Ten Thousand Things (the Chinese metaphor for all things).

Is it not fascinating that these sorts of ideas have such strong parallels with the discoveries of famous scientists such as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawkjng?  It is from them that we know that there are three things that make up the universe of all things: matter, energy and space. And because of the famous equation from Albert Einstein, E =  mc2, matter and energy are ultimately the same thing, therefore leaving only two elements required to create a universe ! Duality therefore exists in science and Taoist/Zhong Xin Dao/I Liq Chuan metaphysics……!

Tai Chi:

The Grandmaster taught that we can detect duality at the point of contact with an adversary. Of course, there is the most obvious physical duality of you and the adversary. But then, there is also the duality of the yin and yang elements of both in action in the traditional Chinese biomechanics: of projecting along the yang side of the body, through to the arm (or leg) to the point of contact, but also absorbing back along the yin side of the same body.  Then there is the yin and yang to be found at the point itself.

In linking these physical techniques to the metaphysical concept of the Three, the Grandmaster’s words became a revelation, a major learning. The learning was that it was not just the dividing line between one and the adversary that is the third element. It was also to be found in another aspect: namely, in one’s awareness of and at the point of contact. It was as simple and as complicated as that.  For if you only experience the differentiation (or duality) between yourself and the adversary, then you are limited to only responding using that experience. If you apply the third element – that of awareness (or as the author might put it another way – mindfulness), when experiencing it, then you are truly practising Zhong Xin Dao I Liq Chuan as it is. 

Beyond applications in the techniques in the Grandmaster’s family art, there is a larger lesson here. This third element – awareness – is something that can be applied whatever the adversary is in one’s life at large. It could be a problem with tackling a home project, it could be one’s interactions with a friend or relative, or it could be some government bureaucracy that is giving you a hard time. The “adversary” could just be that other thing, place or person in one’s life.

Whether it is at the point of contact within I Liq Chuan or the wider world which we live in, the teaching that the element of awareness should be brought to bear, is a strategy not just for application in the martial arts arena, but also for Life in general.

So the greatest value of the workshop and its underlying ideas is in how we can go forward to unify with the numerous dualities that we make contact with in everyday life, and then bringing this awareness, or consciousness or mindfulness to the task in order to meet the challenges in those dualities.

Many thanks to Grandmaster Sam Chin !

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KE Qinghai


11 July 2020