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  • Guoying Stacy Zhang

Body and Mind in Chinese Martial Arts: A Conversation with Xu Xiangdong


What is the best state one can reach when practicing Chinese martial arts?
Stillness—your body is not moving, but you are moving.
Where are you in that state?
You are not standing on the ground; you are in the space, like an eagle soaring in the sky.

The above is a small excerpt from my conversation earlier this year with Xu Xiangdong (徐向東), a world-renowned master of Chinese martial arts, at the Bamboo Grove Vihara in the suburbs of Beijing. The vihara was recently set up by Venerable Master Miaojiang, abbot of the Great Sage Monastery of the Bamboo Grove on Mount Wutai. Having known Ven. Miaojiang for many years, Xu wanted to pay his first visit to the vihara when he was not travelling for work. Throughout our talk, Xu emphasized the significance of traditional Chinese thought.

“What we see in martial arts are just branches. The root of Chinese martial arts is Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Can you hit hard a hanging rope? Can you stand still on a rolling ball? It is not about your physical strength, it is about your understanding of the object and the space,” Xu explained, with sparkles in his eyes. “Combat is not about what is in the form, but about what is in the mind.”

Xu Xiangdong. Image courtesy of Xu Xiangdong

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