Five Character Poem

Five Character Poem

(Respect, Prudence, Determination, Fervour and Harmony)

Wang Xiangzhai

“When you learn boxing and are about to become an insider
The most important thing is to respect your master like your own parents
Value friendship and be always righteous
Martial ethics are to be followed even more seriously.

In movement like a dragon or like a tiger
In stillness, like ancient Buddha’s heart
Act properly, respectfully and prudently
As if you were meeting an important guest.

Respect will keep attention undivided
Prudent as if facing a deep abyss
Make use of inexhaustible intention
To fill the original body with energy.

Use nothingness to seek what is real
Without losing centre, harmony or balance
Power feels like electricity passing through the body
All learning deepens day by day.

Turn sound back inwards
Harmonious sound like dragons’ humming
Respect, Prudence, Determination , Fervour , Harmony
The five words reveal the secret.

After seeing your nature and understanding the inner principles
Turn around to seek outside your body
Do not be restrained by methods or principles
Even more do not ever stop learning. “

Master Wang Xiangzhai has been a martial enigma and hero to me since I first discovered him. A dusty magazine from a second hand shop while I was vacation with my parents. It had a wuxia style (likely exaggerated) account of master wang fighting a challenge match.

Since then I would refer to his writings every few years since they made little to no sense to me. After about 20 years I felt I had an understanding of what he was teaching. Now at 35 years of training I realize how wrong I was.

Master Wangs writings are nearly indecipherable at first (especially if you were reading them as a teenager like I was), but that’s how you know there is something to figure out.

The trouble is that Wang was writing from his own experience and his own point of view. Trying to describe a completely abstract series of understandings of a lifetime of martial arts genius in words. Not to mention that we the readers approach only from our own experiences.

I would would read his writings and know he was a martial titan but understand nothing of them. My own ego put me through depression of being too thick to understand it as well as thinking it must be non scientific nonsense and so my superior Western modern mind can find a better way.


Luckily I have a rotation of martial books I read every year because they are important and I didn’t understand them. So no matter what my ego was saying I read them anyway, as I promised myself I would.

As my own self matures I let go of assumptions I have had about my inability to understand. Equally letting go of the idea that Master Wangs writings are esoteric nonsense. Mainly in Martial arts like life the balance point is the key.

Remaining a hopeful skeptic I still read and steep in the tea of important writings. Each year the tea soaks in more and I get a little more understanding it seems.

Don’t give up on classics that make no sense. That’s my advice.

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