From A Kung Fu Master: How to Balance Your Body, Mind and Soul
An interview with Kung Fu Master - Yang Longfei
Kung fu master Longfei Yang has been practicing and teaching martial arts for more than 40 years. He has been a judge at international martial arts competitions and has directed martial arts sequences in various films.
Yang is also the founder of the martial art association Xin Wu Men, which promotes traditional martial arts. In this Q&A with Magnifissance, Yang shares some of his secrets of balancing the body, mind and spirit.
You named your martial arts association “Xin Wu Men.” What’s the meaning of the name?
As I continue to practice, I increasingly feel that the roots of Chinese martial arts come from the wisdom of our divinely-inspired heritage. In 2004, one of my masters in China wrote the inscription of “Xin Wu Men” for me.
Xin means “heart,” which represents our thinking and soul. Wu refers to martial arts and techniques. Men means “gate” and represents the way through which we must pass to achieve the Tao.
Many people think of kung fu as a way to get fit and learn self defence, but why do you speak of the mental aspect of martial arts?
When I first started to learn martial arts in mainland China, my training was only focused on physical skills. Just like a sport, I needed to run, learn how to build muscle, and be explosive.
After training with that mentality, I had no patience and wanted to gain everything rapidly, which actually limited my progress.
Later on, I came to know Falun Gong, the meditation and internal cultivation practice, at a martial arts competition in New York. I came to understand that authentic martial arts are divinely-inspired. They go far beyond physical techniques.
I started to pay more attention to spiritual cultivation and to improving morality. This has broadened my thinking and improved my martial art skills—today I understand principles that I couldn’t figure out before.
Let me give you an example, in martial arts, the art of attack and defence is similar to two people having a conversation. One person asks questions and the other answers.
When you can let go of yourself, you can understand and tolerate your opponent. When he punches you, you’re not fighting back, you avoid and let his strength pass around you. You then find that what follows the punch is weakness. When you respond at this point, your opponent can’t defend himself.
When you let go of everything, you can focus on resolution rather than confrontation. You’re then turning the opponent’s strength into something empty.
This reminds us of the movie Kung Fu Panda, when the title character Po becomes the “Dragon Warrior.” Is the inner peace the film talks about similar to the mental method you mention?
In the film Kung Fu Panda, Tai Lung, the tiger, is very fierce and arrogant, while Po, the panda, has wisdom. Master Oogway teaches him to defeat movement with quietness and to overcome hardness with softness. According to traditional martial art practices, when your mind is quiet, wisdom will come and your practice will also become easier.
As a kung fu master, you have taught thousands of students overseas. What influence has martial arts had on them?
Practicing martial arts is not to defeat others, but to defeat your old self, your faults, and bad characteristics.
I once had a student named Haly. He had autism and a bad relationship with his parents. He also smoked a lot. After learning martial arts with me, he became quite active.
At first, he was unwilling to get up early. As he became more committed to martial arts, he became the first one to come to class at six o’clock in the morning.
His girlfriend said that he was reluctant to talk to people before. It was martial arts that changed his life.
In addition to correcting bad habits and improving temperament, how has martial arts strengthened your physique?
Our human body has 639 muscles and 206 bones. Martial arts can activate all of them. It can fully circulate the nutrients and energy of the body through the internal organs and meridians.
People who practice martial arts have to understand the structure of the body and the meridians. That understanding leads to good habits in life.
You can use the principles of martial arts even in the way you eat or move. For example, when we walk, we should keep our knee joints and crotch relaxed, the upper body free and supple, and use dantian [the abdomen] to breathe. In this way, we’re not tired when walking long distances.