What is that cool-looking red thing with the characters in the middle?
The circle in our symbol is drawn with a Chinese dragon, based on a carving from the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256 B.C.). Why a dragon? And why is it in a circle?
The dragon (龍 lóng) in Chinese culture is a powerful, at times mystical, creature of strength and wisdom that represents the yang (陽 yáng) aspects of the yin-yang (陰陽 yīnyáng) paradigm of complementary yet contrasting forces in nature. Proper movement in martial arts is also achieved through paying attention to the yin and yang in every posture and motion. It is fundamental to the way of understanding body method in our practice. The yin in our symbol lies inside the circle described by the yang of the dragon. It is the emptiness of yin that gives it function. This is classically illustrated in the Daodejing ( 道 dào “way”; 德 dé “virtue”; 經 jīng “classic”) with the observation that it is the emptiness inside a pot that holds what we want to keep.
So our circular dragon is our own take on a yin-yang symbol. It represents the powerful coiling dragon body of true kung fu masters, defining the peaceful void into which is poured movement and application, without which the body would have no function.
Inside the circle – that which we want to keep – are two characters: 身 (shēn “body”) and 法 (fǎ method). Shenfa is a term in Chinese martial arts that refers to the ways of organizing movement in various styles of practice. This is what we study. It’s not just aesthetic movement. It’s not just a collection of techniques to hurt others. It’s a study of the potentials for applied movement in the human body, as contained in traditional Chinese martial arts.
In the Shenfa Society, we believe that the amazing feats of kung fu masters are accessible to contemporary practitioners, and that the paths to mastery are contained in the systems that have been handed down (but that these paths require long periods of effort over time – gongfu). This is our premise, and the meaning behind our symbol. Plus it’s cool-looking.