Ping Shen Tao: The Name
What is “Ping” ? Lao Tzu noted that violence and conflict, no matter how tightly controlled, could not help but cause negative side effects. The ideal is to solve problems through peaceful means. Ping can be Justice, Calmness, Serenity and Tranquility, or just “Peaceful”.
What is “Shen”? There are more than just prerequisites to gain a physical understanding of our art, and to develop the ability to direct the mind without “doing” at all. This includes the conscious and unconscious mind. It goes beyond technique, in which the practitioner responds with sensitivity to a set of conditions, drawing on one’s full awareness. This may be the highest stage of development for a Martial Artist. Simply put, Shen could be said to be your inner “Spirit”.
What is “Tao”? Tao is a universal principle that underlies everything from the creation of galaxies to the interaction of human beings. The workings of Tao are vast and often beyond human logic. In order to understand Tao, reasoning alone will not suffice. One must also apply intuition. Pronounced “dao”, it means literally “the path” or “the Way.”
“Ping Shen Tao” as a maxim is profound to me. When one is provoked and irate, one can calm his or her heart and quiet the mind to acquire serenity and tranquility. Life is growth. When we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead. The true Art of “Ping Shen Tao” is not just to learn how to defend ones self but to realize that life should be a celebration of the bonding of humankind, not a fight for life. The PST way is all that is true, good, and beautiful.
“PING SHEN TAO” = “PEACEFUL SPIRIT WAY”
— Sensei Kevin Pence, Sr.
My Family’s Martial Crest Explained
This Crest was first made in 2001 and read “Pence Defense Kempo”, but in 2005 changed to “Pence Self Defense” to more accurately describe the Family Art, as there are many Arts used to develop our students.
- We sometimes call the two hands “peace over power”: the closed fist for the power, and the open to symbolize peace.
- The open top hand over the fist is for the peaceful side of the art. We show the hand wrapped down to show respect for those who have trained before us and for the restraint we take in using the art.
- The closed fist is to symbolize the power of the arts, and the hidden secrets within all styles of combat.
- The three triangles are for the unity of mind, body, and spirit.
- The tigers open mouth is to symbolize the passing on of the arts and the true history of ours.
- The Ying and Yang is symbolic of the cycle of life, as well as the soft and hard in the arts.
- The positive (light-colored) side of the ying and yang symbol is thought of as the rising sun and is a reminder that every day is a gift; use it to live well and to help others.
- The negative (dark-colored) side of the yin and yang symbol is thought of as the past. It is where our arts have come from and is a reminder not to forget our history and lineage.
Ping Shen Tao: The Philosophy
For a person to be complete and happy with oneself, they must find a balance. If the body is in good health, then the mind may function skillfully. For all to work together mind and body, we must employ our spirit. We don’t criticize; we must try to be patient, kind and understanding to others. Never too much, never too little, only what is necessary.
At their most basic level, the martial arts are nothing more than ways to prevent someone from harming you. At their highest level, the arts are paths to self-knowledge, brotherhood and the beauty of life.
The martial artist must be both artist and scientist. We must learn the traditions, techniques, principles, and theories upon which martial artistry is based.
We must then practice them with passion so as to properly learn and understand what it is we are doing. Only then can we master ourselves, our lives, and the Arts.
Ping Shen Tao is both an external and an internal style that incorporates both linear and circular techniques. In addition, much emphasis is placed on learning to zone on your opponent’s energy and to flow with whatever your opponent comes at you. Stopping with one counter hit is not likely; students must learn to flow until the situation is no longer a threatening one. When this is done; we have Ping Shen Tao.
The martial arts are both art and science. It can be said that art is a passion pursued with discipline; science is a discipline pursued with passion. Over my lifetime, I have created a successful teaching technique that incorporates character building philosophies with traditional martial arts training methods. With younger students, the art focuses on helping them to understand and use the martial arts in order to develop discipline, self control, and respect. It also helps them to establish healthy life style habits at an early age.
With older students, we enjoy sharing the intricacies of a modern martial way. Our unique style of traditional martial arts training and modern workouts, plus stress reducing Chi Kung sets, allow individuals to gain the physical benefits, and confidence that can only be achieved through effective self-defense training. Basic meditation is also part of the curriculum as a way to help open one’s mind to the learning process. Students are instructed in the ethics of the martial way, including loyalty to nation and family, truthfulness, keeping one’s word, and the necessity to “justify your means” when using force.
In a sparring competition or a street fight, the basic strategy is the same: to cause your opponent to submit as quickly as possible while absorbing the least amount of punishment possible. Ping Shen Tao teaches one to control an opponent, concentrating on balance, leverage, and technique to control one’s opponent and ultimately end all conflict.
A fight should never last for more than few seconds. Learning to control an attacker is the key to ending a fight quickly. If you can’t control a man, you can’t cause him to submit. And if you are finding yourself fighting, you are probably not controlling your opponent properly. There are many set techniques, but there is much emphasis put on improvised problem solving. Sparring emphasizes blocking and attacking at the same time along a center line strike points. When we must use our art to defend, we “use the whole body as a weapon”. This is not for everybody. It is sometime very brutal but there is no question that it is effective.
Stated in the simplest of terms, PST teaches you how to effectively and efficiently control and defeat your opponent. As the name Ping Shen Tao (Peaceful Spirit Way) suggests, peace comes first. Thus, a PST practitioner must first learn to avoid problem situations, as much as learn blocks, take-downs, controls, locks and positioning. To use your whole body as a weapon, you must first learn control of yourself. Endurance and conditioning training is rooted in the basics of take downs, footwork defenses, and joint control. These are the first concepts drilled.
PST’s goal is to cover all facets of fighting, ranging from striking and grappling to weapons, and incorporating all the different martial systems so that any given art may be countered. The main distinction between most martial artist and those skilled in the PST way is that there are no illegal holds. There is so much more to martial arts than strikes, arm bars and chokes… in real combat. We as martial artists should understand the science of body manipulation. Ankle locks, knee locks, hip cranks, forearm locks, wrist traps, and neck cranks are all incorporated into the training. It doesn’t matter if you are on top, bottom, sideways, or on your feet. Once you understand the physiology behind any art, you can apply it from most any position, in a most crippling manner.
In its ultimate form, PST is as much a psychological mastery as it is a physical one. You train to bait your opponent and continuously control him. You train to trap your opponent from any position. You train to maintain control by flowing into what they themselves are pulling or pushing themselves into… don’t fight just flow from beginning to end.
We as martial artists should always be on the lookout for what works and what does not: this is the only true way of the arts. This is why I have gone on to explore such arts as Kali, Goju Ryu, Kobudo, Ju Jitsu, Silat and Shotokan to bring back what really works. Remember, “Ping Shen Tao is not better than any other Art, it’s just some of the best of many Arts combined.”
Ping Shen Tao As A Maxim
In our day to day life we are always faced with conflict, and it’s how we deal with these issues that becomes the way we are judged by our friends, family, and co-workers. It’s just a fact. None of us need any of this stress in our lives, yet there it is time and time again.
Peace over power is the whole idea, to solve issues in a manner all can walk away from feeling that they haven’t lost face. There is never good in hurting another being, stronger or weaker, physically or mentally.
When we are provoked or baited we can choose to calm our heart and quiet the mind to acquire tranquility and stillness of intent. This is the time to stop and think before you act. Most of us just re-act instead of taking that few extra seconds that it could take to make the right choice.
Do not confuse the name of the art and its peaceful nature as an unwillingness to defend one’s self. Peace over power is always first but, not always last. We as practitioners of Ping are bound never to use our art in an indiscriminate manner. A true practitioner of my art will do all that can be done not to fight. At the same time, they should be someone who has resolved to take action in the face of mortal danger and should anyone attempt to harm them or part of their family; the attacker will be confronted by a highly trained and committed fighter!
We are the good guys first and foremost.
The best student to teach is the one who feels the strongest about keeping peace. If a student doesn’t understand this, then don’t teach them.
The thing to remember is that we do not learn to attack, but to defend. We do not act, we react. We do only enough to stop the enemy’s attack. Once their attack is thwarted and they have stopped, we cease. If we continued to fight, we’d no longer be defending ourselves, we’d just be assaulting them. We react to the attack itself. After it’s over, it’s in the past and we have no right to attack anymore. So there’s an element there of control as well as mercy. We attack the attack, not the attacker. However, in that response to the attack we may avoid, check, we may hurt, or maim, depending on the situation and the threat level. But we are reacting to an attack, not instigating one.
That’s the important thing.
We would be wise to simply not be there, run, get away, but if an innocent is knocked to the ground, hurt, or unconscious, they can’t run. So to defend them I have to use my training until the injured can recover and run. Or if they’re unconscious or hurt, we may have to fight until the enemy is incapacitated. I’ve always thought of my art as not only to defend myself but also focus my training on the idea that I will use it to defend someone else who may not be able to defend themselves.
“Avoid rather than check; check rather than block; block rather than strike; strike rather than hurt; hurt rather than maim; maim rather than kill—for all life is precious. Nor can any be replaced.”
A Final Note From Sensei Kevin Pence, Sr.
A final note to all…
Class-time is where we not only train, but we better ourselves, support each other, challenge one another, and become skilled. This art is effective in a myriad of situations and scenarios with simple techniques for the practitioner, but most of all it teaches the practitioner to be adaptive to situations, and respond quickly to threats. My goal is to spread the art of Ping Shen Tao to as many people as possible. I have been a practitioner of the arts most of my life and have never lost my love or fascination for the martial arts diversity. Truly, this is an art that anyone can learn and be effective in.
I spend time training each and every student, and get to know everyone I train. I take interest in the development of all students that train with me, and has a desire to learn the art.
I will teach the student the techniques of P.S.T. along with the theory of how each technique works and why. What I try to give is a deeper understanding of how the art works, and not just a series of motions that could work in the right case. To give the students more than just technique and form, but also style & effectiveness, that is my aim.
False prophets and frauds promising salvation abound in all endeavors, from businesses, to religion, to martial arts. I claim to be nothing but a man who has found a love for passing on the good that I have received from other great martial artist from around the world. Along with the love of my family, it is what drives me and completes me.
It took a life time for me to name my art, the way I think of it, the way I train, the way I share it. Maybe because I finally found the peace I was looking for.
Yours in the Arts,