Why do we salute anyway? What meaning is there in all these movements? What's the purpose? Are they practical?
Why do we do a salute in the beginning of class anyway?
In this gif you can see Bruce Lee deliberately making fun of the flashy salutes seen in most Kung Fu Schools.
Bruce's flamboyant show is very comical and, as you can tell, it really undermines the sole purpose of the salute altogether. One of the many reasons he left a sour taste to many traditional martial artists of the time is he brought out the ridiculousness of how serious traditions can be taken too far.
On the flip side I feel if we temper our tradition with reason we can gain the most of both worlds. Cultural preservation, healing and martial application. Keeping this in mind I continue...
In Kwan Ying Do the main reason we salute before class is to prepare ourselves for the work out, and to set the tone for the training about to begin. It is important that we set our mindset to be one of strong focus, self confidence, determination and discipline! The salute helps with this as a physical reminder as I explain below.
What meaning is there in the movements?
In each part of the salute there is an important symbol a meaning that is meant to build a strong set of character values that are central to the practice of Kwan Ying Do, literally translated as The way of Honorable Masters.
1. Start with hands over our hearts, open hands simultaneously stepping to twist striking out to the height of the groin.
- In holding our hands over our hearts we are symbolizing the need to look within, pay attention to ourselves and our emotions. Opening our hands by expanding the chest and turning to twist we are opening ourselves up to the art. We mean this as opening to learn new things physically and emotionally. An awareness which should exist from the very beginning of training to the very end.
2. Step forward to cat presenting R fist and L spear hand, back fist strike w/ R to L palm turn and present the salute
- In this action we are symbolizing the art and our discipline, the martial (fist) and the art (open palm). There are many other things I've been taught that this symbolizes, here's a few. The fist being: yang, combat, the martial aspect, etc. The open palm being: yin, the five masters, discipline and self control. In short we are placing our self control and discipline over the use of combat to solve our problems. This is to demonstrate respect for our partner and that we will honor him by not taking it too far.
3. Step back bringing the hands to the hips tracing up the centerline and drawing the arms back simultaneously with the feet coming back together.
- Another symbol of self control and timing. A way of looking at confrontation in that regardless of what happens we are able to take away knowledge and stand tall knowing the truth that has been revealed to us.
What's the purpose, or martial application?
1. groin strike, and good footwork
2. uppercut, striking with the fingers, also aids with the mechanics of a clinch and throw.
3. back fist smashes, elbows, and pulling motions.
Are they practical?
Simply you have to train them and make them practical for you. In short TRY IT OUT! Beyond trying it out there must first be understanding of how to translate the movements as they are done in the salute into actual application. As with most things in Kung fu the application rarely looks like the exercise. The exercise and practice should help you accomplish a certain feeling or sort of timing in the body, this timing, feeling and power is what the goal is, not blindly mimicking movements. After the feeling and timing is put in the body then the specifics can be applied easily with your teacher or flowing with a partner then pressure tested soon after.
Daniel R. Hyde