Updated: Apr 15
I'm a kung fu guy and have been studying (and trying to perfect) my art for many years. Tea and martial arts have been intertwined for centuries. In this article I'm going to address why - from my experience with both kung fu and tea?
Kung fu is the Chinese term for a developed skill. In the context of ving tsun, it's the developed skill of pugilism. In the context of tea, it's the developed skill of brewing and serving the perfect cup of tea.
I've found that tea improves the quality of my practice and improves how often I can practice. It gives me both alertness, focus and calmness. It helps me relax so my movements can be more fluid, fast and accurate - which further helps with power. Effectively, I'm practicing more often and getting better results because gong fu cha is a part of my routean.
Brewing tea is a process. 21 steps that balance a number of factors - tea type, water temperature, tea volume, tea leaf delicacy and processing method, and even the location where the leaf was grown and picked. To get the best flavor and present a cup of tea that's not too hot and not too cold takes mindfulness (concentration and focus on the actions of the present moment) which can lead to the awakening of the spirit - to inner peace. Mindfulness is a trait necessary to take your kung fu to the highest levels. So is inner peace. Brewing and serving tea helps foster these necessary attributes.
A wandering mind leads to errors in form in both tea and ving tsun kung fu. Want to improve your form? Gong fu cha can help.
Cha Ji 侘寂
Cha ji is the belief that natural, simple and minimalistic things are better. It celebrates earthiness, unpretentiousness and intimacy of scale. It's not about slickness or fabulousness. To focus on cha ji puts an emphasis on achieving inner simplicity, humility and quietude. These attributes are also necessary to take your kung fu to the highest levels and aligns well with the fundamental principles of ving tsun.
Through appreciating the simple, one will develop a quiet and sensitive mind, a requirement for high level martial arts. One will learn what does not fit and can remove what is unnecessary without removing too much. This also is a basic principle in ving tsun.
When my mind has serenity, my guests can feel it too. Although the focus is on making a tasty bowl of Tea, I am aware of what’s going on with my guests. I am not confined in my own world of tea-making.
The simple tea making environment will whisk you away from the daily troubles. You will no longer feel like you are in the middle of the city but instead have been transported to a serene place where you can enjoy the elements and tea. The natural elements of rock, water, wood, fire and air all meet in harmony to allow your body to relax and recover from the stresses of the day.
Brewing and serving tea, focusing on each step of the process can be compared to Tai Chi - a form of moving meditation. Each movement has purpose; performed fluidly with intent. Each tea has its own cadence which one must learn and follow. To rush the tea will result in a weak flavor and to wait too long will cause bitterness. This teaches lessons in timing and in how understanding another will get you the results you want. In the ving tsun context this is called knowing your enemy and by using that knowledge it's possible to get the best results with minimal effort.
Kung Fu Masters
The sifus I've met and the schools I've visited during my travels have all greeted me and my group with tea and an open heart. Their kindness and understanding of gong fu tea set the stage for developing good relationships and a tightly knit martial communitea.
Understanding tea culture, the gong fu tea method, and the attributes it develops helps forge better relationships. This ultimately will lead to an improvement in one's kung fu as well.
With all these great benefits and many I've not mentioned, I can wholeheartedly endorse including gong fu tea as something that can be enjoyed daily.