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Friday, February 18, 2011

Kung Fu Forms and Mindfulness

What is mindfulness, and how does it apply to Chinese martial arts?

Mindfulness means different things to different people. To most English-speaking Americans, to be mindful means to be cautious, aware, and attentive. For example, when I tell a young student "mind your stance" I am asking them to pay extra attention to their posture and stance movement.

To Buddhists, the term "mindfulness" has extra meaning. It is considered essential to enlightenment (the ultimate goal of Buddhism, similar in importance to the Christian heaven). Right mindfulness requires the Buddhist focus continuously and deliberately on one's body, actions, and mind. It enables and empowers Buddhists to do the right thing and make the right choices.

Mindlessness is everywhere in modern society. Sure, sometimes the mind needs a break, such as over that first cup of coffee in the morning or thirty minutes before bed. However, there are times when mindfulness is probably preferable. For example, who couldn't afford to be a little more mindful about what and how much they eat? Or when driving in rush-hour traffic?

Mindfulness is everything in kung fu, especially when doing our forms. We martial artists must mind our stance movements, our hand techniques, our posture, our breathing, and, during performances, even our facial expressions!

Just as regular exercise offers benefits beyond physical fitness (release of endorphins, self-esteem boost, long-term protection against various ailments, etc.), practicing kung fu forms offers benefits beyond simple memorization of a set of movements.

MINDFULNESS is just one of them...

-Kung Fu Los Angeles staff