Shaolin is one of the oldest martial arts on the planet. It was brought from India by a fellow named Bodhidharma, and has been credited with being inspirational to martial artists the world over. Interestingly, Shaolin eventually became an internal style of martial art atop Wudan Mountain. I know there will be those who disagree with my theory here, but I hold to it, as I have watched students evolve, and the evolution of art from Shaolin to Wudan mirrors what I have seen students go through. Indeed, as students peel layers off the art, so do they peel off the levels of blinders within themselves, and attain the truly miraculous. The beginning students learn to expend energy from the tan tan, to spread that energy throughout the body and make the body hard. Arms become like iron, stances become as if permanent fixtures to the planet. This, however, is all based on explosion, and outward expulsion of energy. As a student progresses through varieties of art he may encounter the concept of absorbing energy. The physical act of guiding a punch, instead of blocking it, mirrors the concept of drawing energy in, instead of just expelling it. This progression of art is often from Shaolin Kung Fu, through the sticky hands of Wing Chun Kung Fu, and, eventually, into the push hands of Wudan Tai Chi Chuan. And, even if the student stays within one art, he will evolve into the soft. The unfortunate fact of aging, of the body no longer being able to expel the tremendous force of some of the hard arts, will draw the student into the softer arts. He will punch so that he doesn’t get whiplash, he will use his legs so he doesn’t suffer hip injury, and he will become softer in his approach to the art. As these progressions of age and art occur, students learn to be softer, using their minds and their bodies to use less effort, and yet retain the abilities they have gained from the hard arts. Instead of violently thrusting energy through their bodies, they use the energy slowly, and focus it. Thus, the blinders slowly come off, and awareness seeps in. Instead of exploding energy brutally through their bodies, the students learn to channel and guide energy through their bodies. They learn to manipulate energy easier as their awareness builds. They learn that the body energy they were so proud of when they were young and robust was a mere shadow of what they were capable. Finally, they make the change from muscle to awareness, and the Shaolin adept becomes the Wudan sage. Instead of reacting with violence, the Wudan master observes, and moves with an opponent, drawing in the energy of the attack and transforming it to his needs. Yet, though there is wisdom in the Gung Fu of the Wudan variety, there is no disdain, for the true sage knows the need for his early Shaolin training, he knows the benefit of understanding energy on base levels if he is to transform it to the highest levels.

Al Case has taught the martial arts for 4O years, he began his Wudan training in 1974. You can see how soft he is by picking up a free ebook at Monster Martial Arts.

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