The Five Excellences

The Five Excellences goes back to the the middle of 20th Century China. Professor Cheng Man-Ch’ing, a t’ai chi teacher, regarded a set of five disciplines–the “Five Excellences”–to be the mark of a well-rounded person: calligraphy, painting, poetry, t’ai chi, and medicine.

Later, Stephen Russell who wrote under the pseudonym Barefoot Doctor updated these Excellences into a more modern format:

– Meditation
– Medicine
– Martial Arts
– Composition
– Presentation

The idea being if you can excel in these 5 different arenas of life then you will have all the skills you need to live, thrive and survive. Plus, you’ll have a skill set that you can earn a living from.

How the Five Excellence can help you

Meditation will help preserve your sanity, calm your mind, give you focus to do the things you need to do.

Medicine, or any type of healing, means you can maintain yourself and others. Be it first aid, understanding nutrition, sports health, all these things will help you keep on keeping on.

Excelling at a martial art allows you to protect yourself and other whilst keeping fit and healthy.

Having a set of creative composition skills, like music, art, video games, filmmaking, writing, woodblock printing, and so on and so forth, will give you a sense of purpose and direction in your life.

Finally, having mastery in presentation skills gives you the opportunity to present yourself, your skills, your compositions to the world in the best way possible leaving you feeling fulfilled in your purpose.

You should also be able to make a living using any or all of these Five Excellences. Teaching tai chi, selling video games, presenting at conferences, making healthy meals, and so on and so forth.

How to start down the path of the Five Excellences

The Five Excellences is basically a training template for your whole life. You’ll always be a student and life will become your university.

First things first, go meditate. Doesn’t matter which style. Start trying it every day. From now on. Forever. First thing in the morning, or last thing at night. Or both.

Next up, join a martial arts / self defence class. Stick with it. If you’re a bit older or have limited mobility try t’ai chi. That will help you practice and learn what you need to do. Some point you’ll be one of those people practicing in the park by the tree-line pretending that this is normal. If you have no interest in doing a martial art, then there’s dancing, yoga, pilates, working out in the gym.

Go do a first aid course. What you learn on that course will give you the confidence in dealing with all sorts of situations you hope will never happen. Learn how to cook properly. And healthily. Research fermented foods and good gut biomes and periodic fasting. Consider becoming a vegan. But don’t get caught up in the woo. Research and learn the science behind these things. The how. And the why.

Get a creative hobby. Doesn’t really matter what. You’ll find that there will be one or two things that you are particularly good at. Go do one of them. Just one. And do it often and well. Practice, does indeed, make perfect. Feel free to document this creative journey so you can mark your progress. Share you techniques with those that are interested.

The presentation one I think is the most difficult to start and get practice in. Learn what things look and sound good. And how. Go study design. Join a Toastmasters. Build a website and write a blog, go on Twitch, do a marketing course. Look at ways that you can present all the things you do to the outside world.

How I use the Five Excellences

I’m still exploring this path and so far I am doing the following:

Meditation: Once a day I take time out to sit in nature and listen to the birds.

Medicine: I do a first aid course every couple of years and have taught myself how to cook healthily.

Martial Arts: I go to the gym. I sometimes do yoga. I should do more yoga.

Composition: I make things, I make music, I enjoy woodblock / linocutting. I’m trying to make guitars. I might have too many of these, but they all make me happy and give me worth.

Presentation: I did an industrial design degree. I studied graphic design. I taught myself web design. I have this blog where I write things.

So there you have it

That’s pretty much all there is to the Five Excellences. Go start doing things relevant to you in the categories provided and let me know if you’ve got any questions.