Elements represent the fundamental building blocks of all martial conditions. Any objective that any martial artist attempts to accomplish comes as a result of utilizing the elements - whether they are aware of it or not. There is not a single martial condition in any system that cannot be decomposed and understood through the use of the elements as imparted in the White Lotus System.
1 - UNDERSTANDING ELEMENTS
What are elements?
In the beginning all things start in the form of ideas. In the White Lotus System, these ideas are also referred to as martial concepts. These martial concepts are segregated into three distinct categories; Biomechanical Concepts, Combative Concepts and Processing Concepts.
Elements are thought to be things that come into existence as martial concepts (ideas) are actualized. Elements are also referred to as "martial elements."
The elements and their associated ideas have been identified based on the understanding that all martial artists have more in common than not. Martial elements are not unique to any given system, school or style. Much like all objects in the known universe are composed of elements from what science calls the periodic table, all martial conditions are composed of the martial elements as detailed by the White Lotus System. The discovery of the elements was a necessary and vital step towards establishing a foundation in repeatable, measurable skills that can be made accessible to everyone. As importantly, relating to all martial conditions through elements was a result of applied analysis and skepticism, purposely aimed at challenging and debunking the mysticism and nullifying the unnecessary comparisons that are prevalent in the martial arts industry.
As an example, "Increasing Distance" is a label, which is used to identify a martial concept (or idea) that is pertinent to engaging in unarmed combat. Categorically, increasing distance is imparted as a "Combative Concept." In the White Lotus System, increasing distance is defined as "the active process of adding spatial separation." However it is labelled, use of the concept is not limited to a select style, school, or individual. Any martial artist, at any time, may actively seek to add physical separation between themselves and an opponent, thus increasing the distance between them.
2 - THE VALUE OF ELEMENTS
Why are elements important? For those versed on the elements, there is no aspect of any combative condition they cannot relate to or understand. There are no "special techniques"- any martial art skill is accessible. Through the use of the elements, a White Lotus practitioner has the potential to understand and command any style or skill set - a limited number of elements arranged to contribute to a vast number of combative solutions, regardless of what the events are called, what their "lineage" is or who claims creative ownership over them.
As an example, martial elements are used to explain and demystify the notion of "style." Style is nothing more than a subjective utilization of particular martial elements in specific arrangements. The notion of style as a differentiator, or of one style being better or worse than another becomes effectively meaningless as all styles are made equal and available to a White Lotus Practitioner.
3 - ABSTRACTING AND ACTUALIZING
Ideas by themselves cannot help a practitioner in a fight. Ideas are intellectual in nature - merely thinking about something doesn't make it real. In the White Lotus System, it is the act of abstracting or actualizing an idea (or martial concept) that transitions the idea from being purely conceptual in nature to something that can influence the outcome of a martial engagement.
"Abstracting" and "actualizing" are referred to as processes in the White Lotus System. As processes, they involve a series of activities practitioners undertake. These activities will enable a practitioner to relate to reality through an understanding (abstraction) or to translate an understanding from an idea into reality (actualization.)
Using the example of "Increasing Distance," if it was to remain just an idea, it can have no influencing effect on the outcome of a fight, but when it is made real (or its "actualized") increasing distance contributes to larger effects that impact a fight. Increasing distance becomes more than just an idea, absent of form. As it is made real, or actualized, it becomes an element.
In this particular case, the practitioner may knowingly work to add separation between themselves and an opponent, thus actualizing the idea. The practitioner will also be able to clearly point out when an opponent is attempting to do the same, and subsequently will have abstracted increasing distance.
As a martial art element, it is equally applicable to all combatants. As a martial art element, increasing distance can play a role in influencing the course of the engagement. Depending on the circumstances, increasing distance may also play a very real role in achieving combative objectives such as helping keep a practitioners body or parts of it from harm.
4 - ELEMENTAL ARRANGEMENTS
When a concept is actualized and it becomes an element, a straight forward way to relate to it is to think of it like a Lego piece. Each piece has noteworthy properties such as size, color, and shape. When a child receives a Lego piece, they will eventually grasp what it is and all of its properties, but, they will not fully comprehend the Lego piece until it is combined in an organized way to create an object that someone will ultimately identify and use. Until they see it being used in a purposeful and integrated way, it will only really be partially appreciated.
Similarly, the elements of unarmed combat are the fundamental building blocks of combative events. Whether they are biomechanical, combative or processing elements, like the Lego bricks, they need to be assembled and arranged in a specific way. When this happens the result is a construct that is designed to aid the practitioner engage in combat and survive. Elements outside of an arrangement are inert, like a single Lego piece on a table.
Notably, not all arrangements yield a result that is palatable. Consider the alphabet, which works in a similar way as Lego bricks. Each letter is modular, and has its own properties. One could take letters (which a person can read, pronounce and write) and start to assemble them randomly. It is unlikely that any term that appears will spell anything useful or recognizable.
Like anything that is modular, including Lego pieces or letters in the alphabet, it is important to comprehend that only a select and limited number of elemental arrangements yield something that will be useful. Simply put, a person can't just start randomly bringing elements together in combat and expect an outcome that will be recognizable or useful. Like letters or Lego pieces, the elements of unarmed combat simply cannot be integrated in an arbitrary way where one should expect a consistent and useful result.
This is bothersome to some. One of the more common causes is that these people want to relate to the elements like artists relate to paints on a canvas. Some people want to be able to arrange the elements of Unarmed Combat as tools of their imagination, as a means to enable their artistic creativity, rather than tools used to survive. Placing limits on the use of elements is seen as an affront to their personal "creative freedom."
This is an exceptionally dangerous way to think, even for knowledgeable people. In art, there are no consequences. The belief that a person can simply bring the elements together in any way they want and expect an outcome that is their favor will almost certainly lead to disaster. Engaging in combat should not be treated as a matter of unrestricted creative freedom. Arrangements need to be carefully constructed with set goals in mind.
5 - COMBATIVE CONDITIONS
When elements are arranged together in a cohesive way they form an arrangement, as previously discussed. As two or more people enter into combat, each respectively in possession of their own arrangement of elements, a condition is formed.
A combative condition is composed of all the elements actualized by two or more practitioners as well as the elements that all combatants share related to time and space. Initially, the term ”condition” itself is difficult for prospective students to understand because it is thought of as being singular. While this is true conceptually as a principle, the reality is that combative conditions are constantly in a state of change. More concisely, it is more appropriate to relate to the term in its plural form. There is not just one condition, there are a vast number of conditions that can appear in the course of combat.
What is vital to understand is that not all conditions provide an opportunity to achieve specific objectives. Using a simple example, presume for a moment that you possessed the fastest strikes on the planet. Whether initiated from the arms or legs, the strikes occurs at such blinding speed, it is impossible to perceive them through even the most intense observation. While this seems significant in terms of possessing an advantage, take a moment to now picture that you could never get close enough in space to leverage this speed - that you could never get close enough to make contact with these strikes. The point is simple; for all the abilities that may be granted by moving at that rate of speed, if a person is not close enough in space, they may as well have no ability at all. If the conditions are not in place, it is impossible to achieve objectives. If one aspect of the condition is missing, if one piece is missing, any notion of success remains locked away and inaccessible.
The inherent infallibility of this rule makes understanding conditions vital. The rule is universal in its applicability - no one can achieve combative objectives unless the conditions are in place, and it is critical to ensure that exacting conditions are correlated with the achievement of specific combative objectives.
6 - CAUSE AND EFFECT
As elements and arrangements interact with each under combative conditions, there are resulting effects that should be understood as being both predictable and repeatable. One of the goals of every sensible practitioner to be able to replicate various effects and outcomes at will, specifically ones that are in the practitioners favor. In this way, the practitioner demonstrates command over the engagement as a whole, thus dramatically increasing their odds of survival.
A combative scenario is very much like a chemical compound. When various elements are brought into context with each other in fixed arrangements, other substances, and the environment as a whole, the output is an effect that can be both measured and repeated. When a chemist wishes to have a particular outcome re-occur and realize an exacting effect, they need only recreate the mixture that allowed for the desired result. This is how chemical companies make the exact same product that does the exact same thing - day in and day out.
The disciplines of applied chemistry don’t always allow for anything less than absolute certainty and accuracy. This is why chemists are often so precise about their formulations and everything that could potentially influence the resulting product. This, in principle, is no different than how cause and effect operates in a combative context. Regardless of how chemicals interact, cause and effect already has predetermined the outcome of what happens in a dispassionate but predictable and repeatable way. Cause and effect is not bound to subjectivity or individual wants - it does not care that we have preferences or don't. Any true science is driven by the desire to objectively examine and understand causes and effects in an unbiased way. With this in mind, practitioners are advised to study cause and effect diligently, understanding that they must be as certain as possible of the outcome of bringing elements into relationship with each other. Practitioners need to understand if what is unfolding or will unfold is in their favor, or is not.
Cause and effect is not something we as humans control as much as it we understand and choose to conform to. An intelligent approach to studying any subject matter (specifically this subject matter) examines causes and effects and works diligently to understand and conform to them, rather than stubbornly try and change the essential nature of that which cannot be changed. It’s not until a practitioner comprehends that cause and effect is consistent in its results, present, dispassionate and perfect can it be said that a person is ready to take responsibility for a combative timeline. Responsible decisions are grounded in this clarity and an healthy respect for what is universal, measurable, and real.
This is equally true in combat. Conformity to cause and effect is an idea that has profound implications for those who understand the necessity of continuity and the role it plays in managing an engagement and surviving.