Happy Wanderer AKA Drunken Boxer

© 2011 Shifu Neil Ripski

Xiao Yao is the term meaning happy wanderer. It refers to a wandering Taoist sage, perhaps an immortal who has freed himself/herself from the clutches of the world and as such has become one with the Tao, going with the ebb and flow of the world. The Taoist philosophy has always spoken about the method of free and happy wandering without attachments. The more modern methods of Taoism have borrowed from animistic practices and the Buddhist religious practices to create Taoist temples, organizations and hierarchies of deities the require worship. But the wandering Taoist culture has survived even into the modern day and most live a Hermetic life deep in the mountains where they can experience Tao directly in its raw form.

Xiao Yao is a concept of going with the flow around you. My Shifu likened it to being aboard a row boat at sea. You must become one with the water and its flow because to fight it would be to succumb to the unstoppable force. Going with the flow is one of the most important concepts of ancient Taoism and it has a representative physical form in Drunken Kung Fu. The Chinese martial arts tend to favor an approach to combat that follows this theory in some form or another. Turning the Taiji pole when comparatively receiving force from an opponent is a taiji staple. Understanding that the nature of the universe is change and training to flow with the rapid changes of combat is the high art of Bagua. Drunken boxing looks at this idea directly to form an underlying current throughout the style that the practitioner can use to receive, adapt and overcome an opponents attacks with little effort.

The use of this theory in physical application requires training in correct stepping (the lotus stepping system- a reference again to ancient Chinese culture and Buddhist ideals); body manipulation in spherical movement by bending the torso forward and backward, left and right, circling, turning, swaying, rocking the hips and so on. As well as a deep understanding of the two spiral forces created in the Chinese martial arts of Ni and Shun (positive and negative spirals). It is with this understanding that the drunken player works to adapt to and take advantage of movement created by the interaction of the two combatants. The drunken boxer rarely moves to control everything that is going on or force anything to happen. In the storm that is combat he is a happy wanderer going with the flow and taking advantage of what the Tao presents through non interference.

This is not to say that the Drunkard will simply not block attacks or respond in kind but that he/she will be willing to go with the flow of the combat in basically any direction and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Take the example of being thrown by a Judoka (Judo player), rather than fighting against the flow (this is assuming that the throw is already in place and starting to be executed) the drunkard using this theory (there are other methods not mentioned in this article) will begin to go where the judoka is wanting him to, perhaps even accelerating the throw himself to get there. It is during this acceleration or choosing to go with that the happy wanderer has taken control of his life and is choosing to flow with the Tao. In a case like this the opportunity may arise that allows him to grab the opponents head as he is thrown, or perhaps groin, throat, a joint in the opponents arm and so on. As the throw is completed the judoka (in this case) could be badly hurt by the accelerated momentum and force created by the throw being redirected into a strike, lock, break or tearing technique. The drunkard will indeed be thrown and hit the floor, not interfering with the opponents plan, but taking advantage of anything that might come along in the meantime.

This is no different than the travelling Taoist who has studied herbology and edible plants finding food and medicine during his travels. By wandering happily and accepting what the Tao brings to him he is fed, healthful and mindful of the experience. Chinese culture is of great concern to those of us who are studying the traditional martial arts as it teaches us how those who created these methods thought about culture, movement, philosophy and life. Their Martial Arts mirror these things in many ways and those of us who choose to look into this tend to get more out of their study. As a Drunken boxer you should try to learn to go with the flow of things and take opportunity when it arises. Win by accident, or so it seems.

Shifu Neil Ripski

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