Sun Tzu and the philosophy behind Wudang Weng Shun Kuen
by Rien Bul
‘Kindness of the type of the earl Xianggong of song’ from: ‘the Han Fei Zi’
It happened in ‘spring - and autumn period’, more than twentyfive-hundred years ago. By attacking the state of Zheng, earl Xianggong of the state of Song came to meet the army of the state Chu, because its troops had come to aid Zheng. This happened at the river HongShui. The army of song had already established themselves in battle formation at the riverbank, while Chu's troops were still wading through the river. “The army of Chu has much more troops than ours,” said Zi Yu, one of earl Xianggong's officers. “We will undoubtedly gain victory if we attack them while they are still wading through the river.” Hearing this the earl shook his head and replied “Why so much haste? I have been taught it is immoral to attack someone while he's exepriencing difficulties.”, the officer insisted.
Of course officer Zi Yu was right, and the earl should have put into practice the following principle as stated in General Sun Tzu's treatise on strategy, ‘The Art of War’; “When an opposing army is crossing a river, don't meet it before it is halfway through. It is to your advantage to let them cross the river halfway and strike then.”
As Miyamoto Musashi states in his ‘Book of Five Rings’, every principle that is useful in a fight between two armies is also just as useful in a fight between two men, and vice versa. In Wudang Weng Shun Kuen we encounter Sun Tzu's recommendation in the form of the widely-acclaimed ‘man sao’. The man sao does not attack the attacker before he can attack. No, the attack himself is attacked in the middle of the process and made short work of. In other words: When the attack is at full pace, it is attacked and destroyed immidiately. This is the same process that is recommended Sun Tzu above.It is a near certainty that at least one of Wudang Weng Shun Kuen's originators was aqquianted with the teachings of Master Sun. This becomes very clear when one reads his widely acclaimed ‘Art of War’.1)*
Correct application of the man sao and associated foot work makes the situation more complex for the antagonist, as a result of which the time seems to go too fast for him to still be able to oversee the situation. At the same time it has the effect that it makes the fight more comprehensive for the Wudang Weng Shun Kuen practitioner, who seems to gain more time to use to his advantage. This is what we call ‘controlling time’.
Niccolo Machiavelli would have pointed out that it was misguided ‘morality’ that defeated the Song army. According to him, and to Clausewitz and Nietzsche after that, the ‘the end justifies the means’.2)* Perhaps this sounds fascist (and it is), but it is, at the same time, also just realistic thinking. Daoism teaches that one should see everything as it is, and not have conceptions of reality that are more often wrong than right. One should live according to what really is, experience ‘truth’ directly.
2)* It's no coincidence that the German word ‘Realismus’ (realism) was invented by none other than Friedrich Nietzsche. He considered his jewish friend Paul Re an extremely intelligent and pragmatic man and named the word after him as praise of the man's ability to see things as they were.