Kung Fu Principles to Masonic Esoteric Philosophy - Part 1

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

This begins a 5-part series applying Masonic principles and esoteric concepts to Eastern martial arts, specifically Wing Chun Kung Fu.  We will only touch on the fighting theory but then focus on applied philosophy.

Wing Chun Kung Fu simplifies as a fighting system derived from Snake and White Crane systems as its base.  It was originally based on Buddhist Shaolin systems and was refined in the Taoist Wu Tang temple.  This well documented lineage history makes my brief description an injustice to the beautiful history of the Shaolin temple, the Wu Tang temple, Snake, White Crane, and Wing Chun systems.  This series of papers narrows the focus to the core Wing Chun principles of Centerline, Facing, Immoveable Elbow, Economy of Motion, and Simultaneous Attack and Defense, and we will match this Eastern theory to Western Philosophy.

With this first installment, let’s look at the Centerline principle.  If we strike an opponent’s vertical centerline there’s no means for our opponent to spin or rotate the body in such a way as to minimize impact.  If we focus the strike from our own centerline and are always aware of our own centerline, then our movements are either solid or fluid at our choosing.

This same vertical center line concept applies to philosophy and many Western traditions and explained as the Middle Pillar of the Cabbalistic Tree of Life.  The core of your body relates to the core of your being and connects you to your true self.  We see the parallels go a step further by looking at the true actions or true beliefs of any person must be genuine if coming from the aligned gut, heart, and head.  Morality is a different subject, so even though the person may be speaking or acting from his core, the alignment may not mean those genuine actions or expressions translate to good intentions toward us.  Bad actors may still act from a bad place and be genuine in their intentions.  If that intention is to harm others or act in a complete disregard to morality, we label that person and action accordingly.

Holding true to a moral structure of thoughts and actions relates to the alignment of our core being.  A Masonic moral structure based upon the Virtues and Pillars should be continually contemplated and refocused so as to stay in alignment with our own core values.  Our own practice of these virtues, pillars, and other Masonic lessons become the reason we are the Elu, the elect, the ones set apart from the rest of the community.  We may never be recognized, or we may climb to the heights of fame.  The centerline, or middle pillar, or core values, separates us as Masons, and we tend to celebrate that mystic tie in every lodge when we might share a passage that begins with “Behold…”

The Tree of Life, when superimposed over a drawing of the human body is often referred to as “esoteric anatomy” which, in my opinion, does a grave injustice to the subject of esoteric anatomy by narrowing the scope to only that superimposition of images.  However, for the purposes here let us consider that the middle pillar Sephirot can correspond to some Eastern concepts of energy centers, or chakras, within the body.  Wing Chun only focuses on one energy center initially, and that is the lower Dan Tien which is about an inch below our navel.  The focus is not to say the others are ignored, but that lower energy center below the navel also corresponds to the crossover point from the (upper) left hand to the (lower) right foot, and conversely the right hand to left foot.  This makes a giant X with the arms and legs spread wide.  Anatomically, we are discussing the lower 5 lumbar vertebrae and their connection to the psoas major and iliopsoas muscularly corresponding to our center of gravity, center of the body, center of that cross connection, etc.

The crossover point becomes our focus here as it demonstrates the location on the center line, or middle pillar for our purposes.  When we bend our knees a few degrees, we lower that point to correspond with our body’s center of gravity, and the options of motion open widely to us.  Boxer’s footwork, exercise classes, Yoga, weight lifting, all stress the importance of proper stance and a very slightly bent knee in most cases.  Pilates formed an entire system of exercise around that same core. 

Western traditions may not lower the center of gravity by bending the legs, but the concept of sinking corresponds to the same common method of moving into a meditation state by relaxing and feeling gravity gently pull against your body.  The Western approach in this manner aids the practitioner in getting in touch with his own body, and the lessons parallel the more Buddhist approach to learning how to focus on the body by an outward-in approach.  This, as opposed to the Taoist approach of focusing inwardly first, then bringing that internal awareness outward.  Both have distinct parallels in Western traditions, and Western, Buddhist, and Taoist approaches achieve similar results over time.  

Notice parallels in guided imagery of imagining a sphere of light above your head then drawing that light down into the body, whereas a Taoist method may initially work with the same conceptual sphere of light at your center, on your centerline.  Both Western and Eastern teachings then use the Middle Pillar, or Centerline, as the directional focus of how that light is imagined.

Let us put this into practice:  The Centerline or Center Line principle is further explained as the central line, that is, the shortest distance between your vertical center line and your opponent’s vertical center line.  This concept is not only for fighting, but the mystic tie that binds as well.  Imagine we sit in lodge, and we begin to draw imaginary connected lines between our own lower gut center and each of the Brethren sitting around us.  This looks like a spider web of sorts when all the Brothers are connected to each other.  Now let’s imagine that same spider web connecting our hearts, and other spider web connecting our brains.  Now we can turn the individual pieces (gut, heart, head) into a column, or vertical center line, connecting to all the other vertical center lines of our lodge Brothers.  This exercise may not happen quickly, and only with practice can we build up to keeping multiple lines in our imagination consistently.

Our connectivity to each other isn’t imaginary, rather, we feel good when we sit in lodge together.  We raise our feeling of brotherhood, our mystic tie that binds, spreading the cement, whatever we call it.  This tangible feeling brings us together while keeping our individuality, and we celebrate that connectedness with fellowship events and festive boards.  The concept of our unique center, center line, and how it relates to others should drive us to continue our efforts toward The Great Work.


Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a bachelor's Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30-plus years of teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span. Randy is a 32nd-degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

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