Today we reach the final of the five elements: Fire. This element is likely the most simple to visualise and tends to be found in almost all styles of martial arts however as always, we will discuss the characteristics of the element according to Xing Lin Quan.
The thought of fire conjures the idea of explosive power and as such, that is exactly how it is portrayed physically in our martial arts system. While power is a key factor in the success of any martial arts technique, I have left this element as the last one discussed since explosive power does not necessarily come from genetics. Some individuals may be gifted with the genetic markers for greater strength however a majority of the population need to train to build up power.
Fire as an element in nature is very useful, some believe fire to be the element that shifted humans forward as we learned to cook our hunted meat however fire left unchecked in the wild can be destructive. This is exactly the same when training and applying martial arts. If you train raw power, there is every chance you may cause serious injuries to muscles or bones. Yes the mechanism of muscle growth relies upon micro trauma to muscles in order for the repair and strengthening to occur however extended periods of trauma lead to sprains, strains and tears. From an application perspective, trying to use only raw power to overcome an opponent does not work in Xing Lin Quan as one must take into consideration speed, skill and environment (as mentioned in the wood element article). Fire needs the stability of earth (foundation knowledge and strong base), precision and sharpness of metal, fluidity of water and the observation and expansive reaction of wood to truly be effective.
When considering the philosophical nature of fire it conjures the idea of passion. Passion as a word has a very interesting etymology (origin), it means to suffer. Yes to have passion for something means to suffer for it and that is an apt description for the martial arts as a proper martial art is a tooth from the tiger’s mouth – something worthwhile that is dangerous to obtain. If you do not have a passion to learn a martial art then it is best to find another that suits your needs and ideals. The reason for this is simply that if you undertake education in any form without a strong desire to actually learn – you will not get anything from it. This is especially true in the martial arts as learning something in the dojo half heartedly could lead to serious injuries should you ever need to apply it. It is fine to try something for a few months to get a feel for it however you should understand whether or not an art form is right for you soon after as interest will deepen into passion or it will wane.
In summary, though power is important in any martial art style, it should be the last thing you focus on achieving. Gain a solid foundation, work on precision, move with fluidity and learn to read your opponent and overcome them and the power of the fire element will come naturally.