Etymology of Wǔ (武)

From the wiki we get useful information:

The graphical origin of 武 as “to stop violence” — the ultimate state of just warfare — is traditionally attributed to King Zhuang of Chu [597 BCE]:


Said Lord "Chǔ" (楚): “Not exactly as what you might have believed. The term itself, means: stopping ("止") the blades ("戈") thus martiality ("武").”

Linguistically, this was likely a misinterpretation, as 止 always means “to walk” (趾) when used as a radical, compare 步 (bù), 歷/历 (lì) and 歧 (qí).

Via Theory of Computation and other maths we know that symbols are not grounded in natural language, and therefore meaning is fuzzy. This is the problem of semantics, which is not a factor in formal languages (logic/math/computercode).

Wordplay is an intrinsic part of Chinese lingsuitics, both auditory as homophones, and symbolic because the written language is lexigraphic.

Any student of the Chinese Classics know that sages transmit secret messages encoded in poetry, where the meaning is discernable only to other sages, who know or can derive the hidden meanings of the words/symbols and context.

Wǔ is clearly a polyseme. Polysemy is the linguistic term for a word/symbol or group of symbols (phrases, poems, etc.) can have multiple meanings.

The meaning of Wǔ is generally "martial", in the sense of "just warfare". But "Wudang never goes force against force."

"Wushu" is defined as a Chinese system of martial art, but in the sport, as in Judo, fighting is de-emphasized, and even frowned upon.

The entire art of Wudang Sword is rooted in "countering" an opponent's weapon, similar to the Occidental "parry". In real Wudang sparring, we don't need to lower ourselves to full contact like amateurs—after a successful counter we can merely "show the strike" and the opponent usually concedes, lest they learn by physical demonstration why concession is the only viable choice.

The purpose of Wushu, and of Wudang in particular, is not to fight. Not to have to fight because any likely opponent can guage one's strength and capability.

An ultimate goal of practice of Tai Chi is to assure non-engagement, regardless of what the opponent or opponent's are doing. You just tire them out, or disincentivize them with a push, a throw, or use of the Chuan. It's the gentlest method there is, and has the added advantage of not requiring lock with an opponent ("submitting").

It's not that old-school Wudang doesn't have dominance games, and unlike real Shaolin, there is no prohibition against killing or using tools with the sole purpose of taking human life ("weapons", swords, etc.) Even spears are not used in traditional Shaolin, in that Chan Buddhist monks are vegetarian. The Shaolin prohibition against killing extends to animals! And yet Shaolin is the name for the general category of "hard styles" in the Chinese national sport of Wushu.

Being #1 at straightsword, the undisputed king of cold weapons, was the only way Li Jinglin could have enforced order in the Wudang department of Central Guoshu Institute in the Old Republic, where every single instructor was a tiger. Just him being there stopped any infighting, which in context meant real weapons and no guarantee or survival. Unless you were Li Jinglin or Wang Zi-ping. Their prowess at jian was used to enforce harmony.

The only legitimate use of force is to stop the unjust application of force.

The deeper meaning of Wǔ, discernable only to those with a deep understanding of "martial arts" is "stopping violence".

One of the main functions of teaching martial arts to children is to prevent bullying. But martial art can be used both to protect and to harm. So we have to be careful to instill the right values in students, and this is why all true masters say "The most important thing is to have a good heart."