Martiality (武)

Just bought a really cheap kicking/punching pad yesterday. I thought it’ll be a good way to practice and improve on my kungfu. It’s just nice that my mum has a clothes stand which she didn’t use anymore. So I took it, did some modifications and turned it into a punching/kicking stand.

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The word on the punching/kicking pad is “武” (wu) which means: martiality. Unfortunately, this has often been mistranslated and misunderstood as “military”, or “military aggression”, “aggression”, or “combat”.

The etymology of the word already speaks volumes about what martiality is all about. 武 consists of two words: 止 (A person putting his foot down, i.e. stop) and 戈 (spear).

武/martiality means: fighting only so far as it is needed, and knowing when to put one’s foot down to stop.

The Chinese martial arts manner of greeting/saluting looks like this:

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This hand gesture embodies the fundamental principles of martial arts. The closed fist, which looks like a punching fist refers to 武/martiality, while the open palm, which symbolises a book, refers to 文 (civility, culturedness).

This reinforces the idea embedded in the etymology of 武 – one must know when to stop fighting, but this can only be achieved by tampering one’s combat abilities with civility: that the fighter must also learn to be a gentleman, an examplary person of virtue.

If you have difficulties trying to picture this, think of Ip Man (葉問). Go watch the movie or the trailer if you haven’t done so!

Anyway, if you noticed, above the stand, I’ve pasted a piece of paper with some Chinese words. It’s a phrase taken from “Sun Tzu’s Art of War (孫子兵法)”. It says:

知彼知己,勝乃不殆;知天知地,勝乃可全。

Know the enemy, know yourself; your victory will never be endangered.
Know the ground, know the weather (the heavens); your victory will then be total.

(trans. Samuel B. Griffith)

I originally thought about pasting up another line from Sun Tzu’s Art of War, but I decided this is the best. This line is the most foundational principle in any kind of battle (and especially so for the non-military types). We all have our own personal battles be it in work, in our relationships, and even with ourselves. If we don’t even know ourselves well enough to handle the situation, then we are not even well-prepared to take on the battle at all.