The Poetry Behind Martial Arts

TCM is a by-product of a spiritual practice. Ancient Chinese doctors had to be high-level Qigong masters. Their spiritual understanding of Qi, talents and skill contributed to many art forms. Culturally, all of China’s fine arts⏤painting, sculpture, calligraphy, literature, poetry, dance, theatre and more⏤are rooted in the expression of Qi or spirit. Many TCM practitioners of long ago had the talent to create beautiful poetry to further their medicine. More than books or other literary forms that require many words to convey knowledge, poems concentrate meaning, evoke emotions and convey spirit. Behind each sentence is a picture. Great poetry can move us in profound ways.

The martial arts are related to poetry in a unique way. There are many beautiful forms associated with poetry.  A poet might write, “The alert tiger prowls down the mountain.” Behind this language is a picture of enormous power.  The true martial artist connects to the words and, most importantly, to the picture behind the words. He or she connects with the energy of the tiger’s stealth movements as it carefully chooses its path through the environment. Just as the poem builds, line by line, the form too builds, movement by movement, until each becomes a seamless whole. If the marital artist connects to the poem’s spirit, he or she will understand the deepest aspect of the form. Truly mastering the material requires something far more complex, even multidimensional. Spirit is the essence behind all of China’s martial arts, fine arts, as well as the medical art of TCM.

Excerpted from Digesting the Universe: A Revolutionary Framework for Healthy Metabolism Function by Nan Lu, OMD