In traditional Chinese martial arts there are only 3 levels of grade: Student, Disciple, and Master. The Disciple follows the teachings of a Master and a Master is one who has Disciple followers. A Grandmaster is one who has brought others to the Master level. In C&S Self Defense Association, a Student must train for at least 3 years before requesting permission to test for or receiving a promotion to Certified 1st Degree Black Belt. The Student must then wait an additional 2 years before petitioning the Master to take the 2nd Degree Black Belt exams and to become his Disciple and thus a Disciple in the Order of the White Cobra and indirect Disciple of Grandmaster Rose.
The Order of the White Cobra is one path an individual may follow to study as his Way. The Order of the White Cobra teaches the Principles of Individual Moral Responsibility: to develop the body; to develop the mind; to harmoniously coordinate the activities of the body with those of the mind; and, to share with others the skills and knowledge which the individual has developed. These Principles of Individual Moral Responsibility form the foundation of belief and study for the Disciple of the Order of the White Cobra.
Listen to the words of the I Ching:
In terms of human affairs, this means that the great man makes his appearance in his chosen field of activity. As yet he has no commanding position but is still with his peers. However, what distinguishes him from the others is his seriousness of purpose, his unqualifying reliability, and the influence he exerts on his environment without conscious effort. Such a man is destined to gain great influence and to se the world in order. Therefore it is favorable to see him… If the individual acts consistently and is true to himself, he will find the way that is appropriate for him. This way is right for him and without blame.
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, "To know ones self is to know the ten thousand things." To be at peace with ones self is to be at peace with all of Nature. And to share ones self with another is to share all of Nature. A Disciple's life carries great responsibility with it, for his life interacts with others much as a billiard ball in collision interacts with other balls it may strike. A Disciple never knows the radical effect his presence or words may have upon another due to a brief encounter - much as a billiard ball which, through the slightest of contact with another ball, might send it off on a completely new direction. A Disciple must be totally aware of himself so that he may be better able to regulate and control the effect he may have upon another. A Disciple is a direct reflection in the mirror of life of the Order of the White Cobra, and thus he must temper the ways of his life in accord with the Principles of Individual Moral Responsibility.
In the Tao Te Ching it is said:
Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind rest at peace.
The Ten Thousand things rise and fall while the self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to the source.
Retaining to the source is stillness, which is the way of Nature.
The way of Nature is unchanging.
Knowing constancy is insight.
Not knowing constancy leads to disaster.
With an open mind, you will be openhearted.
Being openhearted, you will act royally.
Being royal, you will attain the divine.
Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao is eternal.
And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away.
And in the words of the poet, Walt Whitman:
And I know I am solid and sound.
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.
I know that I am deathless.
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenters compass,
I know that I shall not pass like a child's curlicue cut with a burnt stick at night.
I know I am august.
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all.
I exist as I am - that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware, I sit content,
And if each and all be aware, I sit content.
One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today, or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.
My foothold is tenanted and mortised in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.
I am the poet of the body,
And I am the poet of the Soul.
The system was formed with the Cobra as a figure head because the King Cobra is a sneaky and treacherous animal. It is extremely aggressive, and will attack anything that moves. It is the White Cobra because white represents purity and enlightenment. I found the duality of this purity with the process of the duality of all of Nature.
The structure of the Order of the White Cobra is based upon one minor set, and two major sets. The first set, White Crane spreading Wings at the Break of Dawn, is considered a minor set, and it is used as the introductory set for the new Disciples. Its execution is intended to initiate the basic concepts of inner force development to the Disciple. The set creates a foundation for the Disciple to build his character and spirit upon.
The following two sets are much more extensive, and are considered major sets. They are each formed around Nature's strongest geometric shape - the sphere in three dimensions, the circle in two dimensions, and the point in one dimension. The sets themselves comprise the two dimensions of length and breadth, with the Disciple absorbing the dimension of depth. Each of these major sets is comprised of four quadrants representing the four major phases of the moon. Each quadrant, however, can stand on its own as an independent form. The two major sets taken together represents a flowing cycle from one full phase of the moon to the next to demonstrate the continuity of Nature in its never ending flowing through the seasons from winter into summer.
The first of the two major sets - Tiger Breathing at Sunset - is intended to introduce to the Disciple the concepts of fluidity of body movement within Nature through a progressive series of interrelated advanced fighting techniques. The first two quadrants of this set (Study of the Light Tiger, and Study of the Twisting Tiger) represents a defense against a single opponent, while the following two quadrants (Study of the Searching Tiger, and Study of the Calm Tiger) develop concepts of multiple attack self defense.
The second of the two major sets - Cobra in the Shadow of the Full Moon - is intended for only the most advanced practitioners in the Order of the White Cobra. Movements in the Cobra set are primarily techniques for either maiming or disfiguring an opponent or for joint lock twisting. The cobra has no defense except its readiness to attack, and thus the set is very aggressive in its execution with no overt blocking techniques. The defensive movements of the cobra lie in its ability to execute complicated evasive maneuvers, which are seen to be transitional elements positioning the cobra for the attack. The pattern of the cobra set is that of a tight sphere of radius equal to body height of the practitioner, and represents a close in fighting system rather than the long-range structure of the Crane or Tiger sets.
To begin a set in the Order of the White Cobra, the Disciple moves into the unknown. This is so because only at the termination of the set will the benefit from performing the set be realized. To begin movement into the unknown is to move into darkness. Darkness is cold, and cold is equated with North. Thus a set begins straight ahead, to the North, and into winter. Behind the Disciple is the South and summer. Spring is to the right and east toward the rising sun, which begins to warm the day, and fall is to the left and west toward the coolness of the setting of the sun. Thus, direction to the set is established for the Disciple. The established direction of the set symbolizes to the Disciple the progressive path he must follow toward fulfillment of the Principles of Individual Moral Responsibility that form the cornerstone of the structure upon which the Order of the White Cobra is foundational.
From the Order of the White Cobra
The White Crane Spreading Wings
At the Break of Dawn Set
The Crane stands silently motionless in the pale grayness of the breaking dawn, and calmly waits for the sun to burst forth from the far distant horizon over its right wing to the East. The Crane stood so for the eternity of time past waiting in meditation for the first glimmering rays of golden brilliance to pour across its soft body, and to warm the inner most life surging crevices of its spirit into fresh awakening. So the Crane waits, head hung low in humility and contemplation. There is no hurry. There is no time. There is no need for time…
Dawn breaks, and as the first brilliant arrows of light pierce out of the orange-red horizon, the Crane steps forward to greet the day. The Crane opens the set with the traditional greeting of the warrior: the extension of the clenched fist behind an open left hand symbolizing the secret nature of the Art within which the Crane lives; the opening of the hands to demonstrate that the Art which the Crane studies requires no weapons but that of the body and mind of the Crane itself, the hands circling high in the air in graceful wide arcs representing the Cranes joy at being in harmony with all of Nature, and finally, the slow and deliberate lowering of the hands formed in an open triangle symbolizing the Cranes seeking for understanding and enlightenment into the void of the universe through the window of awareness the Crane forms with its own body. The set has been opened. The Crane is ready.