What is the Five Element Theory?
The Five Element theory (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) is one of the major systems of thought within traditional Chinese (Taoist) health and medicine having been used for over 2,000 years. It is used to help explain the cause/effect relations that are occurring in the body throughout various stages of illness and healing.
Park’s Martial Arts (PMA) & the Five Elements?
PMA founderGrand Master Sung Hong Park (GMP) earned a medical degree in Oriental medicine and saw the important relationship between Oriental medicine and the martial arts. The roots of which stem from the concept of balance (Korean = um/yang or Chinese = yin/yang). Thus any martial art that does not focus on healing is an incomplete and imbalanced art. In practical terms this means, if you harm someone you must also have the knowledge to heal them.As the PMA student evolves in their training they come to realize how the Five Elements correspond to numerous stages within their training. One can see the Elements in the belt colors, which designate rank, as well as in the meaning of our school patch and especially in the various martial and complimentary disciplines we teach. Responsible and advancing black belts learn to see the extraordinary potency of the Five Elements in their relation to the vital points (acupuncture/acupressure) within the body, which are used in defense or healing.Ultimately martial arts is a “do/way” (complete life journey) that aspires to the highest ideas reflected in each practitioner’s unique spiritual journey.
Wood reflects Spring time. This is a time of prosperous living and rapid growth. Traditionally it is associated with the color blue (which is one of the three primary colors from which all colors derive and is also the color of “Ki/Chi” or the life force of the universe). Our blue belts represent this stage of strength and flexibility with fast and powerful growth. There should be a decisive difference in the quality of a student’s techniques and energy level at this stage of training from previous levels. GMP use to say that this stage represents the growth of a tree reaching upwards towards the blue sky. Many students make the renewed decision to continue their training up to black belt at blue belt.
Wood techniques are fast and powerful like the spin back side kicks found in Taekwondo and Hapkido, or like the fa-jing movements in Tai Chi, or the quick powerful turning sword cuts in Gumdo.
Fire reflects Summer. This is a time which is both hot and dry. Traditionally it is associated with the color red, which is the last rank/stage before one gains black belt. “Hot” represents the intense training, drive and discipline a student has attained at this level. While “dry” depicts that caution should be used in that too much focus on mere physical training and shallow achievements can leave one out of balance and diminish the develop of other essential attributes. GMP use to say that this level represents the ripe fruit which is ready for picking from the tree (which can be red in color like an apple).
Fire techniques are representative of the intense combinations of movements found in each of the disciplines.
Earth depicts Late-Summer and is both dry and cooling. Traditionally it is associated with the color yellow and is the stage of transformation. GM Park use to say that this stage represents the initial sprouting of the plant from the ground (which is often the color yellow) as it reaches up towards the sky.
Earth techniques are seen in students who have gained a degree of proficiency in the fundamental stances and basic techniques inherent in each of our disciplines.
Metal depicts Autumn and is associated with organization and stability. Just like it is important to harvest and prepare for the harsh winter our white belts have made the important step to better their lives through the “way” of traditional based martial arts. Cultivating and refining the innate ability to defend oneself is a fundamental attribute that represents a well-balanced life skill. GMP made the comparison that this stage is receptive like a clear white page is ready to accept all the colors.
Metal techniques are indicative of the strong fundamentals introduced to the new students in each of our disciplines.
Water depicts Winter and is representative of intelligence and wisdom. This element is the color black and corresponds to our Black Belts. GMP explained that this stage represents the merging of all the colors. But if you were to take all the colors and shine them back through a prism you would get a white light. Thus, this color symbolizes that the Black Belt is not the end of the journey but merely another beginning.
Water techniques are seen in the continuous capable flow of the experienced student’s techniques. Students at this level should effectively be able to demonstrate the various combinations and applications of their chosen discipline with reasonable proficiency, each according to their capabilities.
Master Brian Alexander