The five elements (phases/stages depending on translations) have always been an integral part of Chinese culture and as such, many martial arts styles contain some form of reference to them. This will be the first of five articles outlining how the five elements are incorporated into the Xing Lin Quan Martial Arts system.
When speaking of the five elements in Xing Lin Quan, it is a metaphoric expression or symbolism of how each movement, particularly in self-defence techniques, are taken to a higher degree when applying these principles. In short, one should learn the basic techniques and tools then step up to a higher level by ensuring each of the five elements is applied to every technique.
The Earth element has always been the centre of the five elements. It is symbolic of being grounded and as such when applying it to a technique – one must have the proper stance to stand firm. Whether you are in a horse, bow or cat stance – stability is key. Another point for the Earth element is that it deals with the overall strength of your foundational knowledge. If your basics are lacking then learning anything on top will only be superficial; a house built on poor foundations will topple.
Taking the two points above – there is no reason to perform a technique correctly if your foundation (base) is so unstable that an opponent can counteract your efforts simply by moving out-of-the-way or striking you in an area you have left open. Two examples for this scenario:
1) An opponent grabs your shirt and you manage to place them in a lock but your base has no stability and the opponent is able to break free with ease simply by pushing forward or moving backwards.
2) You step into a right bow stance (right foot in front) but block with your left hand. Your opponent will overpower you as you have utilised a defensive tool without proper foundation.
Martial Arts is about repetition and as such, poor habits practiced over and over will be repeated subconsciously in situations where you need to be at peak performance. Focus hard on your foundations and remember that you must have a stable base if you wish to do anything properly.