Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hidden Transmission in Martial Arts

Today we have another guest post by Jonathan Bluestein. Jonathan's guest posts have a habit of ending up on the all time favorite list.

This one is about the topic of transmission in the martial arts.

Hidden Transmission in the Martial Arts

There is a coach, and there is a teacher. A coach provides you with tools to success. A teacher passes unto you a system of thinking and doing for personal growth.

A teacher teaches, but his shadow also speaks. Have you ever heard the whisper of a teacher’s shadow? It is thick, and resonates through your core with the might of an earthquake, though so elusive you may not notice.

A future You carries on a movement long ago taught, and then it strikes the unsuspecting onlooker, that your shadow is not truly yours. It fluctuates to the rhythm of another, and others that came before.

The Japanese call this Isshin Denshin (以心伝心) – a heart-to-heart transmission. A way shown without being described, a path drawn without being illustrated; a book of knowledge that contains not a single word.

Thus, the technique of martial teaching is Shamanic, unwieldy. Growing another’s skin on top of yours. Such is the traditional method of apprenticeship.

It is often pondered why a lot may bend a knee to a master, yet few if any reach his status. Many a time, the answer is that skill is only absorbed by him who had been observant.

For how many a things can be verbally elucidated? There is a limit to what can be willfully given; and the rest, stolen property it ought to become, as have noted the clever T.T. Liang.

Then it remains, that by being the thief of another’s spirit, we can borrow a pair of eyes with a vision of a thousand things which are beyond the colour spectrum of most men.

Unbeknownst to us, our progress is also an evolution in the assimilation of the mindset, mannerisms and character of he who shares the wisdom. For an intangible presence is manifested in every moment, and our ability to contain it largely affects long-term understandings.

A tone of voice, an expression of one’s face, a trait of gait or the calmness of bearing. These and others are more than mere aspects of the personality. They are seamless stitches in the fabric of martial expression. To give heed by these attributes is the making of an astute investment. To embody them, truthfully and sincerely, is to be able to accept a full transmission.   


Jonathan Bluestein is best-selling author, martial arts teacher, and head of Blue Jade Martial Arts International. For more articles by shifu Bluestein, his books and classes offered by his organization, visit his website at:

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1 comment:

Compass Architect said...

With some Chinese schools, the hidden written transmission is given to the favorite senior students by the teacher behind closed doors.

The difference between the public version and the secret version is a missing chapter (or two) that links everything together.

Do you ever wonder why Jiang Tai Gong's essay is called Six Secret Teachings?