This continues 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 fourth installment, let’s look at the Economy of Motion principle. One of my Wing Chun teachers once told me “Kicking to the head is like punching to the feet. It’s a long way to go.” Another way to explain this is, if I can punch someone 10 times quickly with short-distance punches, why would I sacrifice speed for power and distance. This is where Wing Chun’s famous one-inch punch comes into play. Bruce Lee famously demonstrated this punch several times over his career, and he used it extensively in his own practice.
As with Freemasonry, Economy of Motion may relate to a few hidden meanings. Maybe these old designers of martial arts systems were thinking deeply about more than just “hit hard, go home” as a template? Although there’s a lot to be said for smacking someone up-side the head and watching them collapse to the ground. Quoting Illustrious Jim Tresner: “But I digress.”
Practical applications to economical motion become obvious when using the closest weapon to the closest target, controlling the area between yours and your opponent’s center lines (another Immoveable Elbow usage principle), and finding the openings to exploit. The opponent’s style of fighting may make this very easy or more difficult, and if more difficult we turn to the esoteric concepts behind economical movement which might loosely translate to “work smarter, not harder” in applying combat skills.
Economical motion also correlates to the application of mathematics, logic, and reason. Physically, we see the application but may not appreciate the intense training and repetition of contact-reflex drills and flow that develops in order to actually perform the actions. It takes years of study, analysis, and working through obstacles in order to develop the sensitivity, and that study to recognize facing angles, footwork, and the opponent’s intersecting bridge requires much thought and reason.
The application of Economical Motion relates directly to mathematics, logic, and reason just as Freemasonry gives us the working tools to build our own cognition, to cut through the emotion and find the facts, and to use those facts to find the best solution through reason. It’s no coincidence the Trivium and Quadrivium teach similar progressive lessons. We Masons would be wise to consider the first half of the Winding Stairs in relation to how the theory of Economical Motion, when adjusted to Math, Logic, and Reason, gives us a beginning foundation upon which we might work the stones of our own temples. We use mathematics toward the discovery of sacred geometry, and we use logic/reason to understand critical thinking while we learn to apply both to ourselves and our lives.
The theory of Economic Motion may not give us the same guideposts and solid anchors we saw in previous parts of this paper. Rather, this theory gives us the means by which we can test our working tools, test our use of them, and test the outcomes of our efforts. Western traditions, especially Freemasonry, use this concept of testing both inwardly and outwardly. Inwardly we Masons now see the theory of Economical Movement as we use the square: a means of thinking critically and test the action and outcome of our self-improvement. Outwardly we measure our growth in Freemasonry and how that affects our family, Brother Masons, and our extended community. We test our perceptions, our interactions, our thoughts and deeds, and we use logic and reason to find the best means toward efficiency in our pursuits. The theory of Economic Motion explores testing thoughts and actions with the sole intention of providing us our own best way to stay on the path as well as return to it if we occasionally stray from our path.
Testing our thoughts and actions, then analyzing the results of the test, and finally applying lessons learned becomes a means of comparing ourselves to the Virtues, Pillars, and Principles we Masons hold to be the bedrock of our fraternity. The testing and application of the lessons sets us apart from so many other organizations, and we should not take this lightly. It is indeed a responsibility within each of us.
In previous parts of this article, we examined the Cabbalistic framework, alchemical perspectives, and touched on other philosophies’ similarities to our work. With Economic Motion, and the way we’ve defined it to be a means of testing and examining ourselves along the path, we see that meditation, contemplation, reflection, and inward inspection become even more important. We begin to see the links between the first three theories might be tied together with cognition and reflection.
In closing, our mystic tie that binds us to each other isn’t imaginary. We strengthen ourselves by challenging our own thoughts and actions, testing them against principles, tenets, and virtues. We make others better when we do our own inner work, and we are strengthened by others in the same manner when they do their inner work. We make progress, our Brothers make progress, and we encourage them as they encourage us by example. We also see more interrelation to previously discussed Eastern theories, and we find we must consider how we use the principles, tenets, and virtues, or theories, in a more cohesive manner through cognition, logic, and reason. As we finish part 4 linking the theories into a structured means of testing ourselves, we now look toward part 5 where we learn how to apply these theories together to achieve synergy.