Daoism and Martial Arts

Ritual SwordsIf you read Stephen R. Bokenkamp's excellent Book Early Daoist Scriptures you can learn something about Daoism. There was a Daoist precept against keeping (or collecting) rare or excessively sharp weapons. This suggests that it was pretty normal to have something handy around the house, but that fighting was not considered part of their job (also weapons are talismanic, they are said to attract demons).
There is another precept which is really interesting: Daoists were forbidden to fight in the army, but if they were forced (threatened with the extermination of family) than they were forbidden to serve in a subordinate position--Meaning they had to command troops.
Other important precepts are cultivate: weakness, softness, stillness and non-aggression. There were also prohibitions against wasting qi or jing, or loosing your qi (i.e., getting angry to the point of self injury).
The vast number of Daoists were house holders, married men and women, priests whose job it was to regulate or manage local cults and the rectification of the unresolved dead.
Daoist thinking is important in the creation of internal martial arts, but the connection is not easy to make.
Kristofer Schipper who I mentioned in an earlier blog, says that there were two types of Daoists, black hat and red hat. Red hat were aloud to practice martial arts and black hat were not. The distinction between these two is not a simple one, but red hat's are usually transmediums or shaman (wu).
The idea that certain internal martial arts (taijiquan, xingyiquan, baguazhang) are Daoist or Daoist influenced may not predate the 20th century. It very much depends on what we think Daoism is, and what constitutes an "influence."
I intend to deal with this subject in depth in the coming months, but I thought I might give my readers a head start on the reading.