THE STAG AT THE POOL

One of the strange things about doing a martial art is that, while many people might join a club to learn how to fight or how to protect themselves from violence, the end result is that learning how to use force actually makes the majority of practitioners of fighting skills desirable of peace at all times.

This is very much in line with the teachings of taoism and could be summed up by "knowing the male but sticking to the female" or to put it in a more modern and western context "know how to fight if necessary but avoid trouble if possible".

This attitude is indeed ingrained in the syllabus of our own club. In our green belt syllabus we are taught to avoid trouble and to talk or walk or run our way out where possible. In our purple belt syllabus we are taught to be humble with our skills and not to show off or use them unwisely.

Again we can draw on Lao Tzu to demonstrate some of the tings mentioned above:

Standing on tiptoe, you are unsteady.

Straddle-legged, you cannot go.

If you show yourself, you will not be seen.

If you affirm yourself, you will not shine.

If you boast, you will have no merit.

If you promote yourself, you will have no success.

Those who abide in the Tao call these

Leftover food and wasted action

And all things dislike them.

Therefore the person of the Tao does not act like this. In this context standing on tip toe could be said to be getting a bit above yourself or perhaps trying to do too much too soon. Being straddle legged is akin to sitting on the fence and not knowing which way to act. How should we behave if we find ourselves in a difficult situation? That depends on the situation. However, in line with the Taoists love of fun and the ideals of avoiding trouble we'll end with an old fable from Aesop.

The Stag at the Pool

One summer's day a stag came to a pool to quench his thirst, and as he stood drinking, he saw his form reflected in the mirror. "How beautiful and strong my horns are!" he remarked. "But how weak and unseemly these feet of mine are!"

While he was examining and criticising the features that nature had given him, the hunters and hounds drew near. The feet, with which he had found so much fault, soon carried him out of reach of his pursuers, but the horns, which were his pride and joy, became entangled in a thicket and kept him from escaping so that the hunters caught up with him and took his life.

We tend to underestimate the small things about ourselves that are often our most valuable attributes.

Work hard and good luck.

Denis