The Five Elements
The concept of five primal elements is part of the foundation of Indian, Chinese and Japanese cosmology. The elements represent a way to group or classify both material objects and stages or phases of existence. There are also dynamic cycles of interaction between elements, where one element can give rise to another – the Creative Cycle – or where one element can control or destroy another – the Conquering or Destructive Cycle. The five elements were not seen as static absolutes, but rather as reference points for understanding the cyclical nature of our changing universe.
The five elements take on different symbolic names in different cultures, but perhaps the earliest references are in the Upanishads of ancient India. Called the mahabhuta, they included the elements of Water, Wind, Fire, Space and Earth. In Fearless•Yoga we are going to adopt these elements as the primary reference point for each of the five training themes.
Each of the five elemental themes contains seven training modules (plus a bonus module in the Earth theme). Each module is based on resolving a specific threat within a violent assault. Most modules contain several variations that illustrate how the core technique can be modified to meet different challenges.
The WATER tactics are based on changing state, the way water can change from a liquid into solid ice or a formless steam. This lesson applies to disrupting an attacker's intention by becoming immovable when he wants to move you, or being mobile when he wants to restrain you. The tactics in this phase include the solid combat base, breaking free when an attacker tries to grab your wrists, and using the famous hand techniques of Wing Chun Kung Fu to prevent the bad guy from grabbing or striking you.
The WIND tactics are based on air's ability to surround and penetrate us, or to unleash destructive fury when focused into a storm. This lesson applies to interrupting an attack through the use of circular force, or by forcing an attacker to exhaust his energy. The tactics in this phase respond to a more aggressive attacker who may be trying to choke you, restrain you from behind, or even knock you out with a powerful strike. In addition you'll learn techniques which will allow you to stay safe while forcing your attacker to exhaust his energy, and discover how to exploit the bad guy's anatomical weak spots.
The FIRE tactics are based on transformation, with lessons on how to fight back and incapacitate an attacker using your selected volume of trauma. The techniques in this section include strikes and kicks as well as joint locks. Depending on the level of threat, you get to choose the appropriate level of injury with which to respond.
The SPACE tactics shut down your attacker by breaking his connection to the Earth. If he is relying on his size, speed and strength to hurt you, these modules show you how to throw him to the ground where is advantage is reduced or eliminated. The tactics in this section also teach you how to use takedowns against an attacker who is trying to strike you, grab you, or even pin you in a brutal headlock.
Finally, the EARTH tactics prepare you for surviving on the ground where an attacker may be attempting to dominate and control you. These lessons teach you to respond in the worst-case scenario where an attacker may be on top of you, pinning you down, brutalizing you or worse. While resisting the urge to panic, these techniques show the power of position and leverage to enable you to escape from or even disable an attacker.
The Creative and Destructive Cycles
Just as the ancient wisdom traditions understood that the primal elements could be combined in Creative and Destructive cycles, you will also learn to combine these thirty-six techniques in creative – and destructive – ways. For example, you may escape from a wrist grab, counter-attack with a strike, then disable your attacker with a take-down or armlock. Once you are comfortable with the individual techniques, you should be able to flow through all of them with ease if the need arises.
Now that you understand where we're going, it may be helpful to understand where we're coming from. In this next section, we'll take a brief look at the seed ideas behind the training and the techniques, and the many branches that have grown from the traditions of yoga, taijiquan, Wing Chun and jiu-jitsu.