About Salt-strewers, elbow-users and those who try to get their way by any means.
Today I would like to describe and point the finger at an attitude and form of behaviour which goes against my personal grain. Whether I am myself guilty of inflicting it on others is not for me to say – after all, we all have a mental veil that mercifully prevents us from seeing our own faults. We see a beam in the other person's eye, but as clear as they might be to others, we do not see our own little shortcomings. I have already shown elsewhere that it is this hindrance in particular that makes it so hard for us to change. Often we become vaguely aware of our own faults by noticing that we respond particularly badly to certain forms of behaviour on the part of others. At these moments we have an opportunity to see ourselves as if in a mirror. What we often accuse others of is our own weakness, though we do not see it in ourselves but in them! I particularly dislike people who try to talk me into something. And it annoys me when an obviously very self-interested person wants to "sell" me something with a spurious argument that it is to my advantage, for in so doing he also demonstrates that he does not consider me very intelligent.
Such a person is confident about his views or about himself, has only one way of seeing things and considers it to be the only right way, particularly because it his "his". He ignores the opinions of others, thinks others are stupid and considers that their interests are less important than his own. In extreme cases he will pay no attention to them at all. His fundamental attitude is that only he knows how things are done, he always mistrusts anybody else and refuses to credit others with any competence. Whenever a Philistine like this is invited to a restaurant, even a very good one, he will add salt to his soup without first tasting it when it is served. One should beware of such a bully and give him the widest possible berth, for he has no sense of tact and lacks any sign of empathy. Not only does he mistrust the restaurant, he also considers his host to be incapable of choosing a good one. In doing so he insults them both and devalues himself. I would never employ such a person if I had the choice. When a fellow like this does WingTsun he may be the greatest Chi-Sao expert, but his lack of empathy and emotional contact shows that he is unable to apply his physical WingTsun (1st level) to daily life (3rd level). However, "Chum-Kiu" means establishing contact with the other person and Chi-Sao is a process of identifying with and feeling one's way into one's partner.
In Confucian terms this means recognising one's sameness and relationship to others (Shu) and not doing to them what you dislike yourself, i.e. unusually for China, this could be a form of the love-thy-neighbour taught by Christianity.
What are we to make of someone who sees a punch coming towards him and mechanically (as an anticipatory reaction) does a Bong-Sao? Can we describe him as skilful, or indeed as a master? More than fifteen years ago, did I not write in "On Single Combat" that anticipation is dangerous, as it is vulnerable to feints? Is it not true that in the EWTO, even the beginner learns that he must advance his Man-Sao, establish contact, question and examine before harmoniously adapting to the energy of the opponent's arm and responding as required, e.g. with Bong-Sao?
So at what level is somebody who habitually puts salt on his food without checking first, who endangers his health as a result and (to his own eventual disadvantage) insults both the restaurant and his host?
Nor will an elbow-user such as this have any compunction about treating not just innocent soups, but also his fellow humans with the same primitive violence, for example by following his own character – which he sees as a strategy for success – and constantly trying to persuade others. Feeling the need to talk others into things is a weakness just like meanness, envy or laziness. Nonetheless, somebody who is a slave to it considers this weakness to be a particular sign of strength of character, just like some of his long-suffering, authority-seeking victims.
This compulsive tendency to talk others into things (I am not talking about persuasiveness) can take two forms:
1. Firstly its most brutal manifestation, which is used by particularly primitive and ill-mannered people who often resisted parental and school discipline themselves, but feel the need to order others around. This uncultured persuader bullies and coerces others to listen to him, to agree with him and act according to his wishes. If resisted he becomes very unpleasant, irritable, loud, complains to others, starts arguments, and spreads rumours and threats in the assumption that they will eventually reach his victim and take effect. Usually this ill-mannered oaf holds a senior position or has greater persistence in getting what he wants (which both he and others confuse with genuine "willpower").
Unfortunately bullies like this are often encouraged by the fact that more sensitive and civilised people acquiesce and give way because their character and gentler nature forbids a response in kind, therefore they persist in this method or strategy.
2. The tendency to cajole and persuade is also found in a more refined and sophisticated form, however. These people exploit the desire for harmony and the politeness, friendliness and goodwill of others, appeal to their generosity, try to awaken feelings of guilt and bribe others with gifts to get their own way.
In this way the persuader induces the other person to do what he wants – often most reluctantly and in the interests of a supposed friendship. At least this once, and perhaps a few more times as well.
"Arcus nimis tentus rumpitur" – as the Latin proverb says, at some time a bow bent too far will break, i.e. even the most indulgent person will give vent to pent-up frustration. But until then a strategy of cajoling others pays off, at least at the 2nd level. At the 3rd level, however (which is concerned with the inner battle against yourself), a tendency to cajole is an insurmountable obstacle to further inner development into a new person. Observing yourself, recognising your weaknesses and putting yourself in another's shoes in order to respect him and his dignity, showing consideration for his feelings and asking yourself whether your behaviour is not offending others – these are the first steps. We must work at sensitively foregoing our own wishes if these would mean doing violence to another.
An overriding urge to force him to listen to us for longer than is appropriate, or to impose a topic upon him which does not interest him and thereby steal living time from him, is also an act of violence in this sense. As paradoxical as it may sound, WingTsun is basically non-violent. We do not try to change the opponent or his views, but rather ourselves and our own views, attitudes and way of thinking (meta-noia). We do not push his arm away, but rather ourselves. I often point out that the so-called "inner" self-defence arts influenced by Taoism, such as Tai-Chi, Ying-I, Pakua and in reality also Aikido and Judo should be oriented towards non-violence if their concept is followed. In practice this means that if the opponent leans forward or pushes me, I pull him. If he leans back or pulls, I follow. If he leaves a gap, I flow into it like water. Impatient people without sensitivity or a tactile sense who always feel the need to proact, i.e. those who can never listen to others and let them have their say, who love yes-men and therefore never find out their own situation, prefer to use violence in these cases. They may superficially use WingTsun techniques, but in their heart of hearts they despise the eternal principles of WingTsun because they go against their nature as elbow-users or bullies. This is why they do not flow into opening gaps like water, but instead use violence to create an opening in the first place. This is why they do not follow when the other party leans back and pulls, they actively push him back. And this is why they pull their partner forward when they execute the pulling attack with a palm-strike from the 1st section of Chi-Sao, rather than using this "technique" when the opportunity to do so arises.
Blind, without feeling and devoid of interest in the situation and wishes of the other person, they do not wait until he reveals a tendency and gives impulses which they can then continue and complete, but instead stereotypically carry out their pre-planned action, come what may. Their technical skill may well look slick, and the technical brilliance and precision of their movements may well impress onlookers, but in fact these essentially violent people are not really acting according to the philosophical principles of WingTsun.
People who act like this justify themselves by proudly claiming that they do not react to events, but rather create their own opportunities for employing "their" pre-planned, favourite techniques. And continuing down this wrong road, some will even spend a considerable time increasing their muscle-power so that they can make not really suitable or consistent techniques "come right" anyway.
Taken to an extreme, this is what I call "martial sport". Let's make sure that our WingTsun is spared the fate of those poor, degenerated arts of self-defence whose concepts have atrophied into rigid formulae since they sacrificed their philosophy on the altar of the Olympic Games.
Keith R. Kernspecht
P.S.: A beginner might well object that he is made to learn e.g. the pulling attack in the 1st section in exactly the way that I have just criticised. Well spotted! However, a first learning stage cannot be anything but mechanical, especially in a group session where two beginners practice with (or as often happens, against) each other. It is often in the nature of a learning process that one has to do the wrong (mechanical, lifeless) thing at first in order to end up doing it right (with truth and life). This is precisely what makes many students frustrated with their teacher or system. The Chi-Sao beginner cannot avoid starting off in a mechanical fashion, as the initial aim is to execute techniques correctly. But once diligence gives rise to greater understanding combined with technical skill, creating a third aspect that is new, our actions should become spontaneous. This is when onlookers may well see us "doing" practically the same movements, but for completely different reasons!