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by Christopher Caile

Taoism is a system of Chinese belief based on the teachings of Lao-Tsu (Tao Te Ching) and others, notably Chung Tzu, dating from the 6th Century B.C. It was originally a philosophical system that viewed the world in terms of actions (not things as in the West): Tao is the origin and working principle of the universe from which developed powerful and pervasive forces known as Yin and Yang (negative and positive), forces that in that governed everything in their interplay and functioning. Balance between them was natural and sought after, a way of perfection. But, almost contradictory to Western readers, the path to this balance is seen as one of non-resistance. Principles include non-opposition and non-involvement in current society and return to the simple state of primitive society. Perfection (Tao) is seen as a way of simplicity, harmony and cooperation which suggests accepting life as it is and fitting into its flow while maintaining a calm, serene demeanor. Eventually within China Taoism adopted the trappings of religion, although it did not become an official religion until 165 A.D. when it started adopting deities and later concepts of heaven and hell to compete with Buddhism that was sweeping the country. Taoism also influenced the development of Indian meditative Buddhism in China at the Shaolin Monastery into hsin tsung, which was later known as Zen in Japan.

Strategy: Lao Tsu wrote, "There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, yet for attacking things that are hard and strong there is nothing that surpasses it ... the soft overcomes the hard; the weak overcomes the strong." This Taoism concept of yielding has been adopted as the operational strategy by many Chinese and other fighting systems and is the basis of the Japanese concepts of "Ju" or softness and "Ai" (as in Aiki) or blending and harmony that serves as the conceptual strategic principle in judo, aikido, aiki-juitsu.

Esoteric Aspects: Later stages of Taoist development involved religious based practices involving special forms of internal alchemy, practices to build, centralize and control internal forms of energy (generally referred together as Qi gong also spelled Chi kung, (Kiko in Japanese) to prolong life, protect and build health and eventually lead to immortality. Many of these practices used for health and healing have recently become known in the West under the term Chi Kung, or Qi gong, Kiko in Japanese (that paralleled many similar Yoga practices and concepts, include that of energy or Prana) and have been incorporated as a branch (Medical Chi Kung) of Traditional Chinese Medicine (others including Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine). Many practices were also adopted by branches of Buddhism (including Japanese Shingon) as well the internal systems of Chinese martial disciplines (building internal Chi) as well as external systems (as building Iron Body). Through Shingon or otherwise energy (Chi or Ki) practices that developed in China were later practiced by many professional warriors in Japan (bushi or samurai) for a variety of purposes, including healing.

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Lao-Tsu, Chung Tzu, Tao, Do, yin, yang, yin and yang, martial arts strategy, esoteric Taoism, esoteric practices, chi kung, qigong, kikoo

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