by Bob Duggan Revised edition
IN THE EARLY CENTURIES OF THE EVOLUTION OF A WARRIOR'S PHILOSOPHY, the development of character in such qualities as courage and self-sacrifice became the cornerstone of the psychological make up of the warrior class. It was believed that no method, no matter what its apparent merit, had any value unless it developed the character of the warrior in a manner in which he or she could face death with reckless indifference as well as become the master of the weapons at one's disposal. Thus, there was a relentless search, for the ways of inculcating into a worthy pupil a particular mental attitude. These training methods had to elicit a heightened sense of perception on the part of this new breed of professional soldier. To face death with indifference required an inner calmness and resolution that came from certainty and balance. To face an opponent there had to be control of one's inner self. In the search for a philosophy that would fit the demands of a warrior class, many masters turned to ancient theories of self-enlightenment as a method of better understanding reality and themselves. They searched for the basic principles of the universe and for man's connection to the whole. These concepts revolved around the idea of a universal center and of a vital force, Ki or CHI, that permeates all forms of life from the moment of conception.
One of the concepts which has had an immeasurable influence as a moral force in Eastern cultures perhaps more than any other single doctrine, is as old as Asian civilization itself. It was called Tin Ming or the Mandate of Heaven. It was from this doctrine that the monks derived the rational justification to act as warrior priests. The Mandate of Heaven evolved into a doctrine of virtue and justice by which all things under its mandate were measured. Beginning in the first century B.C., Asian scholars relied upon a collection of literature known as the Four Classics. The Classics were a record of the heritage of the ancient civilizations that preceded the birth of Confucius by more than 2,000 years. These teachings were brought to Korea after the introduction of Buddhism, and were modified by Korean scholars to blend with the distinctive culture.
In the Classics frequent references are made to a deity called Shang-ti, a divine ruler who watched over human society. Also the T'ien or Heaven was used to denote a power that governed all creation. Shang-ti soon became identified with the person of the Emperor, while T'ien represented a cosmic moral order, and a being that possessed intelligence and willpower capable of guiding the destinies of mankind.
The destruction and replacement of corrupt rulers came to be sanctified by an unimpeachable source, the Confucian Classics, which held that the right to rule was condoned by Heaven only so long as the ruler abided by standards of virtue. If the worth of a ruling family declined, and if these rulers turned their backs on the virtuous ways that had originally marked them as worthy of the mandate to rule, then Heaven could discard them and choose a new family to rule the empire. Evil actions could disqualify any ruler from the mandate regardless of the power he possessed or the craft he employed to hold onto his office. If he was selfish and cruel and oppressed the people, Heaven would cease to aid and protect him; he would eventually fail. Unlike the concept of the Divine Right of Kings in Europe, a ruler in the East possessed divine sanction, but bore with it grave responsibilities to fulfil moral obligations to Heaven and his subjects.
The Mandate of Heaven, spoken of in the Four Classics and refined by the great sages over the centuries, became a standard of justice and morality. This notion stood side-by-side with the doctrine of filial piety and the submission of the inferior to superior.
Lao Tzu says:
The Tao was the final arbiter of virtue to which even the, Emperor, the Son of Heaven, no less, was judged like all others as an equal under the Tao. Taoist and Buddhist monks evolved a standard of morality which stood above rulers and was not subject to their whim. In times of great social upheaval Monks frequently found themselves on the side of rebellious peasants. Like the Catholic Church in Europe, the Buddhist Temple often served as a sanctuary for failed revolutionaries, but consequently, a great treasure of fighting skills. Taking the world for what it was, the monks understood that they had to equip themselves with the personal and spiritual armament of combat. Their fighting prowess became legendary as did their high sense of duty to morality and virtue. It was to this code of virtue that the Hwa Rang warriors swore allegiance.
The Four Classics were the genesis to another important concept in Eastern cosmology known as Yin-Yang in Chinese, Um-Yang in Korean. The first book of the classics is the I Ching. It being originally a book of divination in 1300 B.C., by 200 B.C. was expanded into an interpretive explanation of all processes of growth and change in the natural world. Interpretation of the I Ching was achieved by divining the meaning of 64 hexagrams which were simply variations of the Pal Kae or eight basic trigrams of different arrangements of Um broken lines and Yang unbroken lines. The two most important trigrams symbolized Heaven (Chun)=-and Earth(Ji)=-=-=-and were equated with maximum Yang and maximum Um, giving birth to the remaining 62 other possible combinations of broken and unbroken lines, and in turn to all creation.
These two great metaphysical forces, Heaven and Earth, Yang and Um, were themselves created by the Great Ultimate, Tae Guk (Tai Chi in Chinese). According to the ancient philosophers, the universe came into being through the interaction of two opposing elements which when combined composed the basic elements of matter in the universe. The Great Ultimate generated Yang. When its activity reached its limits, it became tranquil. Tranquility became Um. Thus, creation in the universe was seen in terms of the dialectical unity of polar energies. This polar energy was the basic substance of all creation, filling the universe with a vital force that breathed life into all living creatures. It was called Ki (Chi).
Change and evolution were seen in terms of a tension between the dialectical contradiction of Um and Yang. The universe was not static, but in constant flux. Nothing was thought permanent, and yet nothing was destroyed, only its form changed. All aspects of reality possessed within it elements of its opposite. When night reaches its peak, daylight begins; mountains become valleys; winter is followed by spring, seedlings by growth; empires rise and fall; solar systems expand and expire all because of the inner dynamic tension between polar aspects of the sub-atomic structure of the universe: the dialectical unity of Um-Yang. At the heart of every process of change was the repelling-attracting flow between Um and Yang. Chi was thought to be an undifferentiated unity between existence and nonexistence; a vital force behind the transformation of life, behind form and absence of form. It was the essence of change.
The identical concept in Korean, Ki, was considered the essence of existence. In a sense Ki can be understood as an energy force of opposites in the same way that negative current and positive current are different, but the unity of these polar elements are required to produce electrical energy. Ki permeates all living things as a submicroscopic Life Force present in every living cell and tissue. The theory of acupuncture in oriental medicine is founded on the premise that the life process is activated and maintained by the flow of Ki. The health of the organism is determined by the balance of this flow between bi-polar energy terminals.
In the human this Life Force is found in a concentrated field slightly below the navel where a group of acupuncture points form in an area called DAN JUN or RED FIELD (Sea of Chi in Chinese, Hara in Japanese). This area is the body's center of gravity, and in the martial arts it is the Focus of Power. The DAN JUN is the Center that receives the first breath of life from the universal Ki, and acts as the body's reservoir of concentrated energy. Every individual possesses this DAN JUN as it is life's umbilical to the cosmos. It is man's link to other humans and to nature in that it is what we share in common with all forms of life. The degree to which this DAN' JUN is integrated or balanced determines the degree of harmony found in the individual.
In Hwa Rang Do physical strength is secondary to the power of concentrated force of life's vital energy. Ki can be mentally focused and activated to produce a power greater than our average physical strength is capable of producing on its own. Take for example, the act of a panicked mother who lifts an automobile off her child without thinking of her capability. In such instances, thinking is a limiting factor. The question arises from where does such strength come? In Eastern terms this hidden reservoir of power, Ki, and is identified with the Life Force of the universe. In the directed control of Ki, mind is primary, rationality an obstruction. It is the mind which directs the flow of its polar elements Um-Yang, but conscious rationality blocks its flow. It seems an anomaly until one thinks of the woman lifting the car.
As there is an inner dynamic process of ebb and flow of Um-Yang, there is also an outer sphere in which the energies of Um-Yang operate. The ancient masters utilized this dialectical conception in the formation of a martial art. Spawned from the principle that all living things, each in its own way, developed a defense mechanism for the survival of the species, the ancient masters constructed a martial art system that corresponded to the universal Ki.
All things in nature defend themselves. All living forms, from the lowly sea snail that changes color according to the color of surroundings, to the swallow that darts in flight, or the tiger that uses it's speed and power, is provided with a defense mechanism to ensure its survival. The human being is one with nature, and it too develops a method of self-defense. Hwa Rang Do presumes that all effective martial art systems ought to follow the laws of nature. Hwa Rang Do is founded on the principle of the interaction of the two opposite, but inseparable forces - Um-Yang - as lightness is inseparable from darkness. Nature is ruled by this law, and all living things in nature must obey it or perish. Mankind is the only species which has the power to choose whether his laws or behavior will obey or violate the rule of nature. Chaos is a consequence of that failure to recognize the natural process.
From the earliest period of the stone age until modem times the human race developed a variety of methods to ensure its survival. These methods included a system of self-defense. Every clan, tribe or nation evolved some distinctive form or style of fighting in accordance with demands of their culture and necessity. Failure to evolve an effective system of self-defense usually ended with the destruction of the culture. In Asia the art of self-defense was elevated to the level of a scientific and philosophical art, based on the study of human anatomy, psychology, and the laws of nature.
Most modern fighting styles concentrate on a few basic techniques, perfect them to a high degree of efficiency, and rely on them to defeat an opponent. Most of these styles developed along one of two basic schools of thought: The first, the externally tense, hard linear movements common to Tae Kwon Do, Japanese karate, and Okinawa-Te; the second type was found in schools based on internally relaxed, open-handed circular movements such as in Hapkido, Judo or Aikido, and Tai Chi. Of course, in life, it is not easy to be solely one or the other. American boxing, for example, uses circular hooks and upper cuts as well as a straight jab, but closes the fist and thus combines linear, circular and tense elements in its basic style. The point is that one element usually dominates the other.
But according to the dialectics of Um-Yang, the ancient masters considered hardness and softness, linear and circular motions as indivisible in the same way that you cannot have lightness without darkness, form without formlessness, fullness without emptiness. Hardness is only a quality relative to something soft as is something straight only relative to something else that is circular or curved. Every element has within it, its opposite aspect, and thus receives its wholeness.
The famous Korean Buddhist Monk, Won Kwang Bopsa, introduced dialectics of Um-Yang to select band of young warriors, the Hwa Rang. Won Kwang Bopsa took the Um Trigram symbol for the Moon to represent darkness, softness and circular, while the Yang Trigram for the Sun meant light, hardness and linear. Um, in Hwa Rang Do, is the soft-circular aspect, Yang, the hard linear. Together they form a dialectical unity of an integrated system.
Um is composed of three elements: Yu, meaning a force of flowing water. The power of Yu is deceptive; relenting under force; it draws the attack into its own stream of power and redirects it. Won, is movement in circular directions. Its power may be seen in the rock at the end of a sling, or the power developed from a spinning motion. Hwa as the third element of Um, represents unity and combination. These three elements form the essence of all Hwa Rang Do soft techniques.
Yang, on the other hand, possesses three basic elements of hardness and linear motion. Kang is hard like steel or stone. Its power is illustrated in the form of a closed fist in a thrust punch or the heel in a thrust kick. Kak means straight angles. Its form is found in the correct angle of the joint when applying breaking and throwing techniques or straight angular blocks, and in the line of a punch or kick. Kan means maintaining the proper distance. It is the opposite aspect of Hwa or unity and its form is found in the different ranges between opponents.
By constructing a system that follows the laws of dialectics in nature, the ancient masters created a fighting art that provided a structure while simultaneously creating spontaneity and freedom from moving within predictable patterns. While fundamentals. are practiced in fixed routines by beginning students, the mastery of the art is achieved by freedom from predictable patterns. Patterns are learned in order to discover softness and hardness, circular linear elements of Um-Yang, while spontaneity and a dialectic oscillation between opposites is the ultimate approximation of the perfect form.
In Hwa Rang Do obedience to law and recognition of structure maximizes freedom of movement. All things in nature obey these laws. Humans can choose to obey or ignore the. The distinction for us is that mankind is gifted with intelligence and the capacity to make moral choices, to give or withhold compassion, justice and faith. More fundamentally, man is self-conscious which burdens him with the responsibility of acting with wisdom. The burden of consciousness will determine whether his choices are in accordance with the rule of nature and therefore decide whether he survives less gifted species. The learning of Hwa Rang Do is not simply a method for learning techniques, but a "WAY" to discover the moral order of the universe, and the links to the inner universe of man.
Copyright Â© 1996, Bob