News From The 36th Chamber

Wu Wisdom: Five Elements of Kung Fu

Teddy Stratis

The following is a Kung Fu inspired excerpt from RZA's "Tao of Wu." If you like this blog post, check out the photo shoot and story behind our Kung Fu inspired bag.

That last bit of wisdom started to take hold of me later, when I began studying with Sifu Shi Yan Ming, a thirty-fourth generation Shaolin monk who defected from China in ’92 and came to open a Shaolin temple in New York. He was the abbot of his school, I was the abbot of mine—he felt like a peer. But I also wanted to learn from him. “Sifu” can translate as “master,” and that’s a tough word in the black community, but I realized that sometimes you have to submit to someone to learn. So I did.

With Sifu I learned many Shaolin techniques, but my favorite is probably the Five Elements, maybe because I saw The Five Deadly Venoms at a young age. This technique breaks nature down into five basic forces: earth, water, metal, wood, and fire—which are also represented by the kung-fu styles snake, crane, dragon, leopard, and tiger. Most martial arts teach you to be as fluid as water, but earth absorbs water—so you counter water techniques with earth techniques, which absorb blows. Then if someone comes at you with earth techniques, you counter with wood styles, which drive forward. Then you counter wood with metal styles, which chop like an axe, and metal with fire styles, which are more explosive, and, finally, you fight fire with water.

These principles are both external and internal. Internally, it applies to your five major organs. Earth is the spleen, metal is the lungs, water is the kidneys, wood is the liver, fire is the heart. Like, I have asthma, so the form I learned to combat it with was metal—to strengthen my lungs. At the same time, if you have a problem with your lungs, since fire melts metal you think of the energy from your heart pouring into your lungs . If your heart is aching emotionally, you think of the water from your kidney coming to quench your heart. You do all this mentally—it’s inner Taoism.

Additional Reading: "Wu Xing, The Five Elements Introduction"


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  • tam

    Sounds like Louise l hay she says u can heal your own life …..and create your own illnesses. ….x simple book but true

  • Gersim

    I been into martial arts for quite some time its all ways been n influence I have always added this thru DA different teachers n I have learned lots of knowledge from this wisdom being manifested cus I met The same Sifu in new York on Broadway when I when up to Shaolin temple I didn’t know it would be meeting him the Rzas teacher I been following Rza for some time ever since wu came out
    Cus enter the wu 36 chambers took me in that world n my format or rappin changed I think its no coincidence cus later on I met cappadonna n Master killer in Run video n that was a chamber its self from DA pillage hence I felt that the love they showed me made me wu then I ran into Rza at the 5%Rallys once again being mathematic n desteny n good karma now me going up a second time in ahalin temple in new York I knock on DA door n Bokeem Woodbine opens DA door n shows me the temople n I already new him so I’m like dam I have sparred w Lordd Harrison his cousin Black Jesus from Harlem 6
    N AGR so AOL this connects cus they r wu affiliates n now that I’m studying arts n signed to DA label its like man I’m incorporating everything I’ve learned n live it out peace by ALLMEGAH GODEEN Allah

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