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Thread: A question for the formless theory experts

  1. #1
    Senior Member Battosai's Avatar
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    Arrow A question for the formless theory experts

    I'm not sure if this goes into ZWJ thread or deserves a separate one, but if this belongs in the ZWJ one, my bad.

    I think it's safe to say that JY has established formlessness as seen in taiji jian or DG9J as the theoretical ultimate of martial arts. However, it's one thing to establish a theoretical limit, than to achieve it.

    My question is: Are there conclusive evidences from the novels that establish a clear superiority of formlessness over an equally skilled fighter with superb techniques?

    My gut feeling is no, until someone proves me wrong of course.

    We have Dugu, who's all smoke and flash, with nothing substantial than boastful inscription and set of teachings.

    He had two disciples, so to speak.

    Yang Guo was undoubtedly good, yet he at his height never fought Guojing and his 9 yin techniques and 18 dragon palms. Thus no clue if YG's heavy iron sword and his Dugu teachings could've defeated a 1st rate technique.

    Linghu Chong was good too, but he hardly had any decent competition, and when he did find a suitable opponent, he had to have the help of many 1st rate fighters to win. Really, in SOD, other than KHBD and DG9J, there's nary a 1st rate martial arts, IMHO. Although you could say the taiji jian was 1st rate, but the practioner wasn't a 1st rate fighter, not like Dongfang. Nothing conclusive again

    ZWJ and ZSF were the other masters of formlessness, yet HSDS is a hardly a measure of taiji's effectiveness, given that the two were so obviously superior to everyone else. Nothing conclusive again.

    It's somewhat odd that formless martial arts were never truly tested in JY's novels, to my knowledge. It'd been different if the situation was like in LoCH, where greats of roughly similar powers battled each other, but such situations never happened. the golden monk was hardly a worthy opponent to push the iron sword or Dugu's teachings to its limit.

    My point, I guess, is that the formlessness is a wonderful theory and potentially the ultimate form of martial arts, but it's far from clear that it's in fact humanly possible to reach that potential.

    For all we know, a best technical martial artist will beat Dugu because Dugu himself never reached that plateau.

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    Senior Member Laviathan's Avatar
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    Thumbs up I can only think of two good examples...

    - Nameless Old Sweeper Monk

    - Shi Potian

    In DGSD, the Nameless Old Monk was able to "kill" both Xiao Yuanshan and Murong Bo. He did not perform any martial arts techniques, he just raised his hand and what he wants to be, is.

    In Ode To Gallantry, Shi Potian reached the highest level of the Art of Ode to Gallantry and he went into a state of exstacy. Unaware of the things surrounding him, Shi Potian fought both Lord Long and Lord Mu of Gallant Island and won. At first, Shi Potian still performed actual techniques but in the end all the movements of Ode to Gallantry and the martial arts he learned previously blended into one. In this state, nothing is impossible.

    In my opinion, this is the ultimate level of martial arts in Jin Yong universe. Formlessness as propagated by Dugu Qiubai is already very high and extraordinary, but what the Nameless Monk and Shi Potian achieved was the supreme stage of all: NOTHINGNESS.

    These two men have reached a level in which there's no self, no reality. The only difference between the two is that the Nameless Old Monk was aware of all unawareness, while Shi Potian was unaware of all awareness.

    Therefore, I would like to say that Dugu Qiubai's formlessness is like the famous Buddhist saying by Shen Hsiu:

    "The body is a Bodhi tree, the mind a mirror bright. Take care and clean it carefully and let no dust alight."

    Like Old Master Sun said in the Gu Long novel "Sentimental Swordsman, Ruthless Sword", this level is already very high. But the stage of nothingness is supreme and ultimate, like the saying of Zen Patriarch Hui Neng:

    "The Bodhi tree does not exist, nor does the mirror bright, since everything is empty where can dust alight?"

    My point is therefore that formlessness is one level below the stage of nothingness, which is the true ultimate form of martial arts. Not only can formlessness be achieved, in fact two people were known to have even reached the stage of nothingness: Nameless Old Sweeeper Monk and Shi Potian.

    That's why I personally feel that Shi Potian is the most powerful out of all male protagonists.
    Last edited by Laviathan; 08-09-03 at 05:01 PM.
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    Senior Member ChronoReverse's Avatar
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    Just out of interest, what makes you think the GWM isn't a strong opponent?

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    Senior Member Battosai's Avatar
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    Default Re: I can only think of two good examples...

    Originally posted by Laviathan
    -In DGSD, the Nameless Old Monk was able to "kill" both Xiao Yuanshan and Murong Bo. He did not perform any martial arts techniques, he just raised his hand and what he wants to be, is.
    Having not read the original Chinese, I was under the impression the monk's terrifying powers had more to do with his Xian-like level of neigong cultivation, than martial arts per se. More on this below.



    In Ode To Gallantry, Shi Potian ...
    As a novel relatively ignored, I feign ignorance on this subject and defer to you.

    In my opinion, this is the ultimate level of martial arts in Jin Yong universe. Formlessness as propagated by Dugu Qiubai is already very high and extraordinary, but what the Nameless Monk and Shi Potian achieved was the supreme stage of all: NOTHINGNESS.

    These two men have reached a level in which there's no self, no reality. The only difference between the two is that the Nameless Old Monk was aware of all unawareness, while Shi Potian was unaware of all awareness.
    I'm not sure if high level of Qi refinement should count as the ultimate level of martial arts. It's true the monk has reached the stage of nothingness, but it's from inner cultivation than from martial training. IMO, of course, since JY isn't clear in one way or another.

    Potian may simply be an exception, product of a stand-alone book.

    Thus, I'm not sure if martial arts can let one achieve the nothingness and enable the impossible, at least from what little I know of JY--save Ode to Gallantry. My impression of the monk has always been a man who's reached spiritual enlightenment, an arhat so to speak, than a martial artist who eventually transcended all limitations of body.

    Therefore, I would like to say that Dugu Qiubai's formlessness is like the famous Buddhist saying by Shen Hsiu:
    Nice quote! When and which sect was he in?

    My point is therefore that formlessness is one level below the stage of nothingness, which is the true ultimate form of martial arts. Not only can formlessness be achieved, in fact two people were known to have even reached the stage of nothingness: Nameless Old Sweeeper Monk and Shi Potian.

    That's why I personally feel that Shi Potian is the most powerful out of all male protagonists.
    But is nothingness a feature of martial advancement or spiritual enlightenment, of supreme cultivation of heavenly Qi? We know shen gong techniques help Qi cultivation, but we also know JY carefully delineates Qi and skill, in that while Qi can help or modify techniques or external actions (in case of formlessness), simple Qi cultivation isn't true wugong. LHC's teacher (can't remember his name now)'s Violet shen gong was, in the final analysis, a method of inner cultivation that was distinct from jian fa; even the Huashan Qi faction had to learn sword skills to fight. The same was true with ZWJ, whose 9Yang gave him no fighting skills but the ability to learn.

    Therefore, it's entirely possible that the monk has no connection to wugong, or external actions, but that his inner cultivation was so high, he could influence the external. Much like the mythical Daoist or Buddhist priests.

    Potian may be an exception, but I know nothing of him. I do find it fascinating that you think he's the most powerful. Perhaps you should translate his ultimate fight for us?

    EDIT: dang, I can't make the bold go away.
    Last edited by Battosai; 08-09-03 at 05:46 PM.

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    Senior Member Laviathan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Re: I can only think of two good examples...

    Originally posted by Battosai
    I'm not sure if high level of Qi refinement should count as the ultimate level of martial arts. It's true the monk has reached the stage of nothingness, but it's from inner cultivation than from martial training. IMO, of course, since JY isn't clear in one way or another.

    But is nothingness a feature of martial advancement or spiritual enlightenment, of supreme cultivation of heavenly Qi? We know shen gong techniques help Qi cultivation, but we also know JY carefully delineates Qi and skill, in that while Qi can help or modify techniques or external actions (in case of formlessness), simple Qi cultivation isn't true wugong. LHC's teacher (can't remember his name now)'s Violet shen gong was, in the final analysis, a method of inner cultivation that was distinct from jian fa; even the Huashan Qi faction had to learn sword skills to fight. The same was true with ZWJ, whose 9Yang gave him no fighting skills but the ability to learn.

    Therefore, it's entirely possible that the monk has no connection to wugong, or external actions, but that his inner cultivation was so high, he could influence the external. Much like the mythical Daoist or Buddhist priests.
    No, 'cause like you said in Jin Yong's world you can't do certain things with only internal power and no martial arts skills. The way the Nameless Old Monk "killed" Xiao Yuanshan and Murong Bo should be considered martial arts skills of an extremely high level (let us exclude the possibility that the Old Monk was a Demi-God, for there are no supernatural things in Jin Yong universe). Shi Potian too used to have only internal power without fighting skills. I do not believe that with internal cultivation alone one is able to do what Nameless Old Monk did.

    Potian may simply be an exception, product of a stand-alone book.
    Of course Shi Potian is an exception, I mean, the guy's power is insane! But Nameless Old Monk, Dugu Qiubai... aren't they all exceptions?

    I will ponder about this and look at Ode To Gallantry as well, get back to you soon!
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    (Eek, I'm not sure I understand the topic, but I'll put my two cents in anyway)

    I'll just look at GL for this topic. While his later works became more and more concentrated on human emotion and simplicity of structure, his earlier-mid period novels did attempt to explore the theories of wugong.

    Are there conclusive evidences from the novels that establish a clear superiority of formlessness over an equally skilled fighter with superb techniques?
    Let's look at Huan Hua Xi Jian Lu first, in which GL makes very strong suggestions of the superiority of "formlessness". The strongest fighter at the beginning of the book is known as the Purple Marquis, who has in his lifetime, accumulated the knowledge of all martial art sects (sword-based). His elder brother (shi xiong) however, went one step further and went into a stage of "formlessness", where response to an attack was made by reading patterns in nature and flow rather than following a specific form. In their only fight, I believe the elder brother proved his superiority, but unfortunately did not go full force and so was wounded then lost all his wugong. Had he kept his wugong however, he would be stronger than the Purple Marquis.

    Clear establishment of superiority may be the fight between Fang BaoYu and the heads of the seven sects. He was surrounded by all seven and were asked to break out of the enclosure within a certain time. While none of the seven by themselves were a match for Fang BaoYu skill-wise, you can understand the superiority in the seven combined. The method Fang BaoYu used to break out of the circle was neither orthodox nor formulated...so much as by sect or technique. He had judged the the angle of the sunlight, then used that to his advantage in order to blind his opponents momentarily. Er, I'm not sure if that was a good example or not. It's a bit difficult to judge a lot of the other fights involving Fang BaoYu because you never know where his skill ends and the "formlessness" of his wugong foundations came in. Even in his last fight with the white-clothed man, there was a form in which he had pursued this fight, first putting himself in a dead spot, yet by which he could defend himself, and then attacking from there. The way he came upon this involved combining three pre-existing techniques, which were, again, combinations of other pre-existing techniques, so it was all based on form. *loud confused sigh*

    It's dodgier to look at other GL fighters because some of them are so shrouded in mystery there is no telling whether they had surpassed the origins of their teachings, or they had been of a class of "formlessness".

    For example, we can look at Shen Lang, who is not described as coming from any recognisable sect (but which does not mean that he can't be), but assuming that he does follow a formless routine then there is an obvious margin of superiority - but again, is that based on Shen Lang's skill, wit, confidence or his actual beliefs?

    Looking at a weaker character, such as Chu LiuXiang, who also is not described as coming from a recognisable sect and yet who manages to defeat stronger enemies....with very very very unorthodox methods.....*hopes experts take over from here*

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    Senior Member Laviathan's Avatar
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    To luna_rainbow:

    Yes, you brought in a very interesting subject, that is fighting strategy and psychological warfare (things which is pretty much ignored in Jin Yong novels save a few exceptions).

    But the formlessness which Battosai is talking about is actually a concept of Dugu Nine Swords and Taiji Sword...

    You can read about it in this thread:
    Abilities of ZWJ
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    Senior Member Athena's Avatar
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    So from what I gather is the following:
    I will use the sword as example:
    I hope Leviathan can enlighten me on this subject.

    Stage 1: The martial artist "glues" his stances together, doesn't really place emphasis on what the "right" order of the stances.
    For instance what Feng Qingyang told Linghu Chong for the first time.

    Stage 2: The martial artist "forgets" the stances in his sword, but in his heart he still has techniques. Dugu Jiujian in the hands of Linghu Chong and Feng Qingyang. The sword is still present. Searching for flaws in opponent, right?

    Stage 3 : The Taiji Sword of Zhang Sanfeng, both techniques in heart and sword are gone. The sword has become infinite and boundless.

    Stage 4: The martial artist becomes the sword, they form an unity. Sword is me, I am a sword. Sort final years of Dugu Jiubai and perhaps even Tianshan Tonglao, right?

    Stage 5: Is the stage of being "void." The awareness of being unaware. Nameless Old Monk.


    My questions are:
    -Where does Liumai Shenjian belong to?
    That is: Martial artist doesn't have a sword, but there stances within the invisible sword and heart.

    -What stage does the Heavy Iron Sword belong to?
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    I consider 6 Meridian Energy Swords to be at "Stage 4". A stage where your sword chi has become so advanced and sophisticated you can eject invisible sword energy from your fingertips which is said to be able to cut through everything.

    As for the heavy iron sword, I would place it at "Stage 2.5". The concept is basically the same as Taiji Sword, but you would still require the heavy iron sword to be effective.
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    Senior Member Athena's Avatar
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    The Six Meridian Sword has although no sword but has techniques.
    In "stage 4" one has already forgotten the stances in stages 2 and 3. So although the effect of the Six Meridian Sword is powerful but the underlying theory isn't that advanced as in stage 4.
    But that is my humble opinion.
    So huge, so hopeless, to conceive
    As these that twice befell
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    And all we need of hell.

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    Senior Member TigerWong's Avatar
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    Originally posted by luna_rainbow
    (Eek, I'm not sure I understand the topic, but I'll put my two cents in anyway)

    I'll just look at GL for this topic. While his later works became more and more concentrated on human emotion and simplicity of structure, his earlier-mid period novels did attempt to explore the theories of wugong.

    .....

    Looking at a weaker character, such as Chu LiuXiang, who also is not described as coming from a recognisable sect and yet who manages to defeat stronger enemies....with very very very unorthodox methods.....*hopes experts take over from here*
    There are many examples of Formlessness in GL novels. One doesn't need to look further than Yu PeiYu in Sword/Exquisiteness to find one. He started to acquire such an understanding of the Intention behind his techniques that he can perform the same moves but in infinitely different forms so as to disguise his style from his enemies. While I believe Formlessness is certainly a higher boundary because you are not restricted to form, that does not necessarily mean you are invincible. Yu PeiYu struggled against higher caliber opponents with much greater speed and inner power.

    I believe Fang BaoYu also achieved this level. While it is sometimes hard to tell what is truly Formlessness and what is just good strategy with him, there is enough evidence to suggest that his understanding of martial arts has reached such a level that he is no longer restricted by Form. However, having no Form does not mean that he does not make use of forms. (Don't know if that makes sense to ppl and not sure which one deserves the capital letter, Laviathan can explain it much better I think ) But still, it's so hard to judge with Bowie...will need to think on it more..

    I think Ding Hay in Tyrant Spear has also grasped the concept that all martial arts are essentially the same. He can pretty much look at anyone's technique and perform it even better.

    Haven't read DGSD, but if 6MSJ follows a set series of stances, then it has form whether there is a physical sword or not. The practicioner is still following the expressions of whoever invented the stances. Of course, if 6MSJ isn't like this then nevermind.
    Last edited by TigerWong; 08-10-03 at 05:46 AM.

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    If we take Athena's example then we can probably also look at what GL said about Xie XiaoFeng. It follows a roughly similar pattern:

    1. There is a sword, you learn to use it.
    2. You can use anything as a sword (eg. people like Ah Fei in DQJKWQJ, Xie XiaoFeng in Third Master's Sword when he used the ribbon)
    3. You don't need a sword. The sword is in your heart. (The emperor in LXF, Xie XiaoFeng by Yuan Yue Wan Dao, I think Ah Fei also eventually got to this stage? Can't remember)
    4. There is no sword within or without. Apparently that is the level Xie XiaoFeng is trying to achieve?

    But again, there's the Huan Hua Xi Jian Lu way, which is:
    1. There are techniques, you go by the techniques.
    2. You are able to combine the techniques.
    3. You don't need the techniques, only the flow.

    Too bad it doesn't go far beyond this.

    <off topic rant>
    Tigerwong: I'm finally reading TSATE ^^ It's really good! Yu PeiYu is quite an interesting character, flawed enough not to be as irritatingly highbrow as Shen Lang can be, but not quite so bumbling(?) as Fang BaoYu....can I say similar temperament between the three though? I like Hong LianHua...hope he comes to a good end. The names remind me a lot of Dream of the Red Mansion.
    </rant>

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    Senior Member TigerWong's Avatar
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    Originally posted by luna_rainbow
    If we take Athena's example then we can probably also look at what GL said about Xie XiaoFeng. It follows a roughly similar pattern:

    1. There is a sword, you learn to use it.
    2. You can use anything as a sword (eg. people like Ah Fei in DQJKWQJ, Xie XiaoFeng in Third Master's Sword when he used the ribbon)
    3. You don't need a sword. The sword is in your heart. (The emperor in LXF, Xie XiaoFeng by Yuan Yue Wan Dao, I think Ah Fei also eventually got to this stage? Can't remember)
    4. There is no sword within or without. Apparently that is the level Xie XiaoFeng is trying to achieve?

    <off topic rant>
    Tigerwong: I'm finally reading TSATE ^^ It's really good! Yu PeiYu is quite an interesting character, flawed enough not to be as irritatingly highbrow as Shen Lang can be, but not quite so bumbling(?) as Fang BaoYu....can I say similar temperament between the three though? I like Hong LianHua...hope he comes to a good end. The names remind me a lot of Dream of the Red Mansion.
    </rant>
    While XieXiaoFeng is certainly the master of the sword, I didn't get the impression that he has achieved Formlessness in his art yet. (Definitely not within his story, in YYWD...maybe, but I'll have to re-read before I can be certain) To me, using anything as a sword or having invisible swords doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as having no form.

    I'm glad you like TSATE. It's one of the best GL stories, IMO. *shhhhhh*, I would love to talk more about it but I don't want to ruin Athena's translation. PM me if you wanna chat about it. I think Yu PeiYu gets more emotional than Shen Lang who tends to keep his burdens bottled up. Yu is also less passive than the adult Bowie.
    Last edited by TigerWong; 08-10-03 at 06:23 AM.

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    Senior Member Laviathan's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Athena
    Stage 1: The martial artist "glues" his stances together, doesn't really place emphasis on what the "right" order of the stances.
    For instance what Feng Qingyang told Linghu Chong for the first time.
    Fluidity/Flexibility: the techniques are still there, but emphasis is placed on INTENTION. This is the way of individual expression and is the "form" from which one can develop "no form".

    "The Sword is still a Sword, the Technique is still a Technique"

    Stage 2: The martial artist "forgets" the stances in his sword, but in his heart he still has techniques. Dugu Jiujian in the hands of Linghu Chong and Feng Qingyang. The sword is still present. Searching for flaws in opponent, right?
    After mastering these techniques, they must be forgotten and abolished.

    "The Sword is still a Sword, but the Technique is not a Technique"

    Stage 3 : The Taiji Sword of Zhang Sanfeng, both techniques in heart and sword are gone. The sword has become infinite and boundless.
    When insubstantiality and substantiality are not set and defined, when there is no track to change what it is, one has mastered the formless form and perfected the way of Intention.

    "The Sword is not really a Sword, there is no Technique"

    Stage 4: The martial artist becomes the sword, they form an unity. Sword is me, I am a sword. Sort final years of Dugu Jiubai and perhaps even Tianshan Tonglao, right?
    The Stage of Formlessness...

    "Swordless and Techniqueless, I am the Sword and the Sword is me"

    Stage 5: Is the stage of being "void." The awareness of being unaware. Nameless Old Monk.
    The Stage of Nothingness...

    "There is no Sword, and there is no Self... Emptyness and Void"

    My questions are:
    -Where does Liumai Shenjian belong to?
    That is: Martial artist doesn't have a sword, but there stances within the invisible sword and heart.
    Liumai Shenjian as performed by Duan Yu cannot really be categorized. Duan Yu doesn't know martial arts and therefore he can only stubbornly do the movements without any variation whatsoever. The techniques of Liumai Shenjian can therefore be seen as the Nine Techniques of Dugu Jiujian, yet there was no Feng Qingyang around to teach Duan Yu. In my opinion, Liumai Shenjian should eventually be performed "techniqueless".

    -What stage does the Heavy Iron Sword belong to?
    Somewhere between stage 2 and 3, I think.

    Question: Where does Chen Jialuo fit in?
    Last edited by Laviathan; 08-10-03 at 06:35 AM.
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    Senior Member Athena's Avatar
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    So in other words my assessment was rather correct?

    So if Duan Yu could unify the Six Meridian swords he will arrive in stage 4, won't he?
    So huge, so hopeless, to conceive
    As these that twice befell
    Parting is all we know of heaven
    And all we need of hell.

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    Senior Member Laviathan's Avatar
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    So in other words my assessment was rather correct?
    Yes

    So if Duan Yu could unify the Six Meridian swords he will arrive in stage 4, won't he?
    Well, Mencius likes to call it "Six Meridian Becoming One" or something, but I don't think it is necessary. Just as long as Duan Yu can understand the same thing Yang Guo did in ROCH Chapter 16: ... But after pondering for days, he saw the light and understood how every martial art can be used, if it can't be combined, why forcing it? When engaged in battle, use whatever is useful. Do not think about the origins of the style, this way it is not much different from a style created by yourself.

    For Duan Yu's power and martial arts style are already superior, so he just have to understand the more profound principles of advanced martial arts and he will get into Stage 4 immediately.

    Tianshan Liuyang Palm as taught by Tianshan Tonglao works almost the same way BTW.

    But I still have to think about Chen Jialuo's place in this picture...
    Last edited by Laviathan; 08-10-03 at 07:53 AM.
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    Senior Member TigerWong's Avatar
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    Chen JiaLuo's place seems like an interesting one to ponder. Don't recall much of it, but I remember something about him flowing to some rhythm or music, as if his mind is in another place and his movements are instinctual? Or maybe that was from an adaptation...

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    Senior Member Laviathan's Avatar
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    Originally posted by TigerWong
    Chen JiaLuo's place seems like an interesting one to ponder. Don't recall much of it, but I remember something about him flowing to some rhythm or music, as if his mind is in another place and his movements are instinctual? Or maybe that was from an adaptation...
    Yes, this happened in the novel and is indeed very interesting. Although in the new 3th version it has been changed somewhat... Have to check the book.

    More ideas and views people, it's getting more and more interesting...
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    I don't think 6MSJ should be there at all, as 6MSJ is neither sword chii nor sword intent; it's just a modified and improved form of Yi Yang Zhi which can be USED as a sword...and not even necessarily improved. For example, I personally just see 6MSJ as an offensive modification to YYZ; what it gains in combat abilities, it loses in other ways; personally, I really can't see DY using 6MSJ to do the things Yideng does in LOCH or ROCH with his YYZ.

    Just because it is chii that is used as a sword, does not make it sword chii, or even sword intent; 6MSJ, in my opinion, is just a combat modification to YYZ.

    EDIT

    In addition, I'm not so sure about that 5th level of yours. I'm sure that it would be a very high level of -spiritual- enlightenment, but I see nothing in the books that indicate anything of the sort. The Nameless Sweeper Monk is always brought up as that 5th level, but really, he relies mostly on incredible speed and incredible amounts of chii to do what he does. I mean, give some random joe shmoe on the street the Monk's amount of internal energy and speed, and I would bet that he could do what the monk did as well. I believe that his abilities come from his many years of reading Shaolin manuals and practicing chii; the fact that he is at a high level of spiritual enlightenment as well is just something else he also has, not the driving force behind his abilities.
    Last edited by Ren Wo Xing; 08-10-03 at 04:03 PM.

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    Senior Member Han Solo's Avatar
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    "There is no Sword, and there is no Self... Emptiness and Void"
    I'm still a bit unsure of what this stage five mean.


    I pretty much understand about formless, and techniqueless, and losing one's self to the situation... but all these must have substance, without substance, what then is martial arts but forms and mirrors. What then is nothingness? Ability to fight subconciously??


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