Advanced Level One Essay
November 27, 2010
Golden Harmony Kung-Fu, Toronto
Advanced Level One Essay (Red Sash) – Dan Couto
I came to Golden Harmony Kung-Fu and Sifu Rupert Harvey after having spent many years as a martial arts practitioner at different schools training in a variety of styles. It is often said that it is best to stick to one school and perfect one art. Having gone in the opposite direction, I would disagree with that statement unless that art was Kung-Fu. For as I have learned, it is the basis from which all other martial arts spring. And Tai Mantis Kung-Fu (the style taught at Golden Harmony Kung-Fu) is the final style of Kung-Fu of the Northern Shaolin line. As such, it incorporates the best elements of all the other animal styles that preceded it. This is the style that I have been fortunate enough to encounter and the path I am now on.
So much has been lost when other styles attempted to “cherry pick” Kung-Fu and retain only elements they found suitable to serve their own needs and ends. These gaps in what you once thought were complete systems only really become evident when you discover the source from which these systems spring. It is like tasting different varieties of bottled water and thinking, well, this Dasanai really is bottled tap water, feh!, bland but pure (I suppose) and this San Pellegrino is really good but the Fiji! Well, there you have it, expensive yes, but oh so pure! The peak of the pyramid for sure.
Then you discover the actual glacier, the source, and the quiet still pool at its base, cupping your hands to drink water that is thousands of years old. You splash it on your face. How bracing it is! How electrifying! You can feel it penetrate, and then permeate not only your skin, but seemingly every molecule of which you are made. All of you. Mind, Body, Spirit. Then you bathe in it. Immerse yourself in it . . .
Everything that came before simply pales.
But this takes time. The grooves carved by previous training in muscle (and mental) memory become ruts. And those ruts sometimes go deep. No matter. There is nothing of the task in going over an old road only to discover it is now grass that lies beneath your bare feet. And when travelling that road again, you realize when you get something in Kung-Fu that this is what those other arts were really trying to teach; this is what got lost in the translation when a student became “master” at a “belt mill” and “forgot the face of his father”.
So much is learned, not only in encountering new knowledge, but sometimes more especially in discarding old knowledge. Though the temptation often is just to throw it all out, this is not really the right approach. Discernment and flexibility are the keys. What of the old is effective in light of the new? This applies to attitude as well as to technique. It is good to retain the discipline that is the cornerstone of any martial art. But it is also good to discard poor technique and shortsighted combative destruction. The gift of Golden Harmony Kung-Fu and its Master Sifu Rupert Harvey is that the student is benefitting from pure knowledge passed down an unbroken and sacred line, a knowledge that is principal-based. And these principals derive from Nature. No one can teach a leaf how to fall. But by learning how to study that leaf and seeking to emulate it, its silent and graceful passage that for the most part goes unnoticed, one learns so much!
Other arts I have studied all seemed, at the end, to rely solely on specific technique as it was taught by them. They were far more concerned with the vessel than what it contains. A vessel that cracks and breaks when subjected to extremes, be they heat, cold, conflict, personality, adversity, ego. . . life. But at Golden Harmony, the student instead uses those extremes (training outdoors) to purify the elixir that the vessel contains. The elixir that flows, transfigures itself into whatever is required of it, to become hard like ice or disappear like smoke, that nourishes and embraces, that contracts to shield and expands to protect, teaches, listens, loves. That is in essence you.
In all the other arts I practiced I was always learning something. But now I am becoming something.