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CheshireCrab

Elements In Martial Arts

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I was recently taking a gander at the "Elements of Martial Arts". I thought it was really interesting that there use to be a traditional system used to represent the different Movements/Agents/Phases/Elements in Martial Arts. However, as I was looking into it I found there isn't a widely agreed idea of what the all the elements were. Depending on the culture, the number of elements used and the element types differ. There seemed to be at least three widely agree elements for each philosophy:

 

Water - Flowing and redirection

Fire - Fast movements and rapid attacks

Earth - Slow and heavy, use of grabbing and sedation

 

Then the rest of the elements differ from here:

 

Metal - Rigid thrust attacks (Chinese Philosophy)

Wood - Large and expansive, uses push-type attacks (Chinese Philosophy)

Wind - Freedom and evasiveness (Japanese Philosophy)

Void(ether) - Spontaneity and inventiveness. Act without thinking (Japanese Philosophy) 

 

 

What do you guys think about the element theory in martial arts? Do you guys think there is a different philosophy that better represents the elemental structure?

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Well,  I will start with, when the blood is flowing, it doesn't matter much, in the training hall and discussions of strategy and tactics and philosophy, it can be a useful framework to describe the universe.  (everyone has a plan until the get punched in the nose :-) )

 

So on to what you asked, the 2 big systems have Taoist and/or Indian (Hindu/Buddhist) origins, and they are very different in many ways.  (there are also western alchemical systems that have their own.......)

The Taoist 5 elements are Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth (in the creative cycle, each generates the next,  In the controlling cycle, Earth subdues Water, Water subdues Fire, Fire subdues Metal, Metal subdues Wood, Wood Subdues Earth...)  You can look at them and maybe see how this might impact technique.  Some systems of Hsing I use these elements, as well as chi kung and chinese medicine, philosophy, feng shui, etc. 

 

Indian origin are based on the chakra system, often 7 chakras or 5 (Japanese Go Dai for example).  These are Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Void when associated with elements. (Stephen Hayes popularized these in his interpretation of ninjitsu)  as did its descendant, Hoshin system.

 

Each one has physical postures and movements, mental imagery, emotional (attitudes), etc attached to them.  If I had to really illustrate the big difference in the viewpoint, in the Buddhist systems, Void or Spirit is the culmination of the elements, in the Taoist systems, it is Earth. 

 

Please remember, for many, this is a discussion about religion, not martial arts, and some will respond that way to it.  My knowledge is my own from my own studies and may not be accurate anywhere else.  Let me know if you have questions.  I have many answers, some of which might even be correct ;-)

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