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The Way Of The Elements

I wrote this some time ago and it was posted on the dojo’s other board. I decided to repeat it here so those who are new to us may read it as well

The Way Of The Elements

The Chinese had several elements in their philosophy. Western thinking reduced these elements to four. To adhere to the characteristics of one element limits one in their thinking and abilities. There is a time and a place for each element in your life and in your art.


It is said that the martial artist should be like water. Water takes the path of least resistance. It flows around an object. It is gentle. Yet over time, it can destroy even the most solid of objects. It is flexible. It assumes the shape of whatever container it is placed in.

The very essence of the element of water contradicts the idea the the martial artists should simply mimic only it’s qualities.


Like water, air in the form of wind, flows. Like water it can be gentle or very powerful. Unlike water it cannot be captured or held in a container because it is everywhere at all times. Even the most solid piece of steel has air in it at a molecular level and, in truth, is not solid.

In combat to become Wind you must flow around your opponent. You must be everywhere at once and be nowhere at the same instant. The wind cannot be captured. Your opponent cannot grab, capture, or land his attacks on you.

In life there are times when difficult times and situations will arise. Sometimes it is wise to dislocate yourself from these situations. Remain out of the way. Do not present yourself as a target for blame or scorn. Become invisible like the wind.


Fire consumes. Fire warms. It has duality like all of the other elements. It cooks our food. It provides heat when we are cold. The harnessing of it was probably the greatest accomplishment of the human race. For that accomplishment led to all of the others. Ask any firefighter and they will tell you that there is nothing more destructive and dangerous than a forest fire raging out of control. It will consume everything in it’s path with no remorse.
In a metaphysical sense fire represents anger and aggression. It also represents courage.
Although as martial artist we attempt to control such base emotions as anger and rage, if we tame these emotions we have the ability to channel them into positive aspects.

If you are faced with a situation in life that seems too much to handle you will experience fear in most cases in some form or another. Likewise if you are emotionally hurt or disappointed you will quite likely experience anger or frustration. In combat if you are faced with an opponent who is larger or more powerful than yourself you will, in all probability, experience fear. Turn these negative emotions into courage. Feel the anger and let it flow through you.. It will, just as fear will, give you strength. You must turn that fear or anger’s strength into courage. The key is focus and intent. Do not be angry at the opponent. Become angry at the fear. Likewise if a person has hurt you do not focus your anger on that person. Focus your anger on the pain that has been caused. Let the fire of your anger give you courage over the fear and the pain.

When using the element of fire in combat you must, as a raging fire, move swiftly. You must consume and overpower anything and everything in your path. Whereas with water or wind the opponent cannot strike you because you flow around them, with fire the opponent does not have time to strike or attack because you relentlessly attack him.


Earth is solid. It is un-giving. It is the essence of strength. A mountain stands for eons defying the other elements. It can be worn down yet it takes monumental forces to accomplish it. In it’s gentle steady strength lies dormant awesome power. In such cases as an earthquake massive amounts of energy are released. This energy can topple skyscrapers or change the course of the mightiest river.

When utilizing the element of earth you must your strength to simply stand against adversity. There are times in life when you will be faced with doubt and fear. There are times when you will question perhaps life itself. It is at these time that you must depend on your values, your knowledge of right and wrong, and quite simply remain unmovable.

In battle to use the element of earth is to use your strength and knowledge to allow your opponent to exhaust themselves. This is not to say that you allow your opponent to simply pummel you until he gives up. When each attack against you is launched it should be met with blocking techniques with enough force to cause pain or injury to the opponent. Should a kick or punch penetrate your defenses the power of the attack should be absorbed by your body. This can only be accomplished by serious and vigorous training. There are many exercises and kata that were created just for the purpose of making the human body strong enough to absorb just such power. Sanchin kata and many of the other forms created by Hiagonna Sensei are just such exercises.

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