Bai He Alba Edinburgh is orientated to teaching Kung Fu as a means of self defence, which historically is what traditional martial arts is concerned with. The system of White Crane we have today was conceived and developed solely in the interests of self preservation. As soon as a martial art becomes a sport it enters a world of safety measures and learning to fight within a prescribed boundary of rules to make it safe. When we think of self defence or street martial arts we normally imagine punching, kicking, locks, holds and throws, knife defence and perhaps the good-old-brick-in-the-handbag style, but all of these are only a small part of what is actual self defence.
Self defence is self preservation, which goes far beyond how we perceive physical violence. Our bodies are in a constant state of battle against all manner of attacks. Even whilst you are reading this bacteria are constantly being warded off by your inbuilt defensive measures, and by keeping ourselves healthy, the body does an astounding job without the need for constant sanitation. Kung Fu helps us to remain healthy by promoting good blood circulation, oxygen intake, strength and flexibility plus all of the other physical benefits which come from waving your limbs about in a prescribed manner. I am a firm believer that the health of the body and the mind are intrinsically linked, and by stimulating the mind also through Kung Fu this in itself helps to generate physical health throughout.
This is basic stuff that our bodies do anyway, but obviously if we do not take care of ourselves it makes it harder work for our natural defences to do their thing. One element which is crucial to traditional martial arts is self awareness though. By taking the time to regain control over our body movements and to understand ourselves we begin to feel when things are not right. Through the introspective elements within Kung Fu we begin to reach a level of understanding and connection that highlights malfunctions, illnesses and our general physical state, enabling us to take action in an intuitive way. Qi Gong exercises are fantastic at highlighting both our emotional and physical condition. After Qi Gong practice the experience can be one of total elation and energy or complete exhaustion and fatigue. It is simply the Qi Gong emphasising our natural state and telling us what we should be doing for our body.
The exercises undertaken in Kung Fu take the body through a full range of movement, simultaneously stretching and strengthening. Sometimes during training we realise that we have sustained an injury throughout the day; maybe it was tripping over a curb, carrying a bag awkwardly or even sleeping in a strange position. In normal conditions we may not even be aware of such an injury until we do something strenuous and injure ourselves further and in a more damaging way. By training in Kung Fu these small injuries become apparent before they have a chance to become a big injury. By becoming aware of such things at an early stage we have the opportunity to take good care of them and manage ourselves back to health in a shorter space of time. People can carry an injury throughout their entire lives, blissfully unaware until it worsens or causes a referred issue in another part of the body.
This bodily awareness goes one step further by heightening our awareness of other people also. This is one of the most fundamental principles of street self defence. By simply being aware of our surroundings we can remove ourselves from a situation before it has even happened, that way no one has been hurt. The forms that we learn in Kung Fu teach this total awareness and develop a heightened sense of the world around us. This is not in a paranoid or neurotic way but by simply observing situations and potential situations and acting on them before they escalate. There is nothing wrong with crossing the street, bypassing a dimly lit alleyway or leaving the pub prematurely. Often the reason people get in to trouble is because their ego is too big to allow them to walk away. They feel the need to prove their point, argue their case or teach someone a lesson, and all for nothing more than ego. If you are self assured and in touch with who you are then there is nothing you need to prove to anyone.
Hurting another person or being hurt yourself is one and the same. With Kung Fu the only battle is with yourself and by diminishing your ego you are are fighting the toughest battle of all. This could be a battle that will save you or someone else on the streets however. This is the dychotomy of the martial arts. Through putting all of your efforts into learning how to break people into pieces you are also discovering that you wish never to use it. By wishing never to use it you learn how to avoid trouble rather than seek it. The study of White Crane presents us with all of our attributes, good and bad, like an open book. It is then up to the individual to develop the mental fortitude to face themselves and turn the negatives into positives rather run away and bury their head in the sand of consumerism. The best part of the White Crane journey though is that if it all feels to much to behold, the solution is simple; just relax and practice your forms.