The 5 Elements of Taoist (and Buddhist) Metaphysics, Taiji and the Pakua all have established and well-grounded theoretical frameworks. The Yellow Emperors’ Classic of Internal Medicine’ (‘Huang Di Nei Jing) details their practical applications which permeated and sustained the Society and Culture he established. Their potent influence is still at work in the field of Chinese Martial Arts and there are a number of ways in which these internal energies can be accessed for martial purposes.
Taiji and Yin Yang operate at fundamental levels like Gender whilst the Pakua functions at overarching contextual ones (e.g. the 8 directions). The 5 Elements operate at levels relevant to the human individual, linking together the microcosm and macrocosm via associations, for example, with the 5 major solid organs, appropriate internal bodily processes, the 5 major states of matter and even the 5 Animals of Shaolin Kung Fu as the following matrix makes clear:
5 Element Links Between Universal and Human Energies and Forms
Earth: Solids; bones, flesh teeth etc., also the spleen which governs transport of solid waste (i.e. feces) for excretion and return to Earth and in 5 Animals terms the Snake.
Metal: Gases; respiration, digestion, flatulence etc; also the lungs–all light but powerful (high power-to-weight ratios characterise Metals) like the Leopard in 5 Animal terms.
Water: Liquids; (blood, semen, bile, saliva etc and the kidneys which control hormonal secretions into the bloodstream and urination and, in 5 Animals terms, the Crane.
Fire: Energies; temperature, nervous and synaptic responses, bio-electricity, Qi etc., and the Heart which powers bodily functions and makes us warm-blooded. In 5 Animals terms the Tiger is signified.
Wood: Spirit: (fuel, motive power source, live energy source) obtained via eating grasses, vegetables and fruit etc or animals which do. The Liver governs its extraction and delivery to the heart via the bloodstream which it conditions and is associated with the Dragon in 5 Animals terms.
Spirit and Qi!
Qi is energy whilst spirit is fuel, whilst the Gu Shen (Valley Spirit) from the Shen Gu (Spirit Valley, between our brain hemispheres) is the Intelligence. The body’s energy-source, in this superstition-free 5 Elements definition of spirit, is synthesised from our diet of the Wood Element (we either eat grains grasses vegetables etc or animals which do so). This fuels bodily activities invisibly via internal processes ‘moving mysteriously’ within us!
Further well-known levels of linkage include the Birth Year Element pertaining to all human beings and each Animal (Calendar) Year (that of 2011-12, for example, being Yin Metal) and the placement and location of objects via Feng Shui. The 5 Elements in each case represent a set of ‘keys’ enabling balanced progress and enhanced achievement in a range of fields if a number of vital physical exercises are performed.
5 Elements Physical Training Programmes
Five Elements Breathing
Detailed instructions as to how this may be performed are to be found elsewhere on this website listed below(1). However, its mastery is an essential pre-requisite for progress to be made in the following two routines.
The ‘Da Mo’ Set/ Shi Soei Jing
When Bodhidharma, or Da Mo, the First Patriarch of Chan Buddhism, arrived at the Shaolin Temple in Henan in 528 CE he introduced this training schedule which brought about considerable improvements in the Monks’ Martial Arts.
As well as improving physique and enabling the 5 major internal organs to function as ‘Qi -batteries’ empowering martial activities, this training programme cleans and refreshes brain and bone marrow and strengthens the immune system. The ‘Da Mo’ Set is also a potent anti-aging tool in the pursuit of enlightenment and longevity and the programme is practised in all classes (2).
The HYL (Health, Youth and Longevity) Energiser Programme
Grandmaster Yap Leong’s innovative training programme features hitherto unrevealed techniques and strategies for strengthening the torso and developing internal energies towards developing ‘iron shirt’. The HYL (Health, Youth and Longevity) Energiser Programme also utilises the power of the 5 Elements in a most, disciplined and structured fashion and is taught through regular seminars conducted by the Grandmaster’s Senior Students.
To draw upon the power of the 5 Elements is to draw upon the power of the Universe. The above programmes ensure that this takes place in structured and balanced fashions guaranteeing optimum health, strength and energies which can be applied to Martial Arts and other activities.
Notes and References
(1) See ‘Improve your Power-to- Weight Ratio Via 5 Elements Qigong Breathing’ (2010) by Peter Allsop, Sheffield Kung Fu.
(2) The above source has details of this also!