Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.
Intent (as we mean it in this training) is the link between the minds thought to act and the bodies resulting action. Although ever present, there are several ways we can train this link to make it stronger, faster and more direct.
One way is the exercise of - ’move before you move’. When standing in a specific position we can REALLY try to reach into the distance with our posture. That is to say our mind is telling our body that we are really going to begin moving that direction at any second.
Another aspect of intent training, is in the method of holding end positions physically but continuing them with your intent. Much like the classical idea of Zanshin, but with a more focused outcome. (for instance it was one of the ways we used to pin an opponent*)
When we perform a motion from our martial art, at its culmination we continue the motion further and further, but without actually moving.This is like reaching your hand up to take something slightly beyond your grasp, no amount of wish to reach it will get you there, but your body will react by trying! In Internal Power training this reaction of the body 'trying' in response to our intent to move, is one of the of several methods used to trick the body into learning faster. It is a targeted struggle that will create strong neural pathways and ingrain movements more deeply.
A VERY good way to train a movement you may be struggling with!
In the last few articles we have looked at ‘Intent’ and its physiology as it relates to the internal arts, so in this article I will provide a couple of practical ways in which we can practice following the line of our intent to improve our movement.
There is a saying in the internal arts that one ‘follows the line of intent’, this is the process of moving in accordance with our will to act using the Intent as the link between the mind and the motion. But there is more to this concept than simply following how we would like to move.
Following on from the previous post we are now going to dig into the relevance of specific lines for internal arts movement, power and methods and we will start with perhaps the most important of all the lines the Axis.
The Axis can describe several things in the internal arts, from the conceptual ‘center line’, to the spine itself, to the tissues of the central channel of the body. All of these definitions have their place and purpose, however much of the time we see them intermingled or used in conjunction with each other. The process of producing the spine wave for instance is not solely a spine related endeavor, instead needing the action of the deep tissues of the torso in order to create the action. Rotation of the torso to equalize incoming forces does not only related to the turning of the body around a conceptual center line but also how the spine flexes and how the tissues twist during the demand.
'Softening training' is something we encounter a lot in the internal arts, indeed these arts are sometimes called ‘soft arts’. But what is the practical utility of softening practices and why do we need to perform them?
Well there are 4 big reasons for using soft work for internal power development. These are related to the joints, the alignments, the fascia and the nervous system.
Lets Look at these primary problem areas that many softening exercises address.
Linked to the last article, in this post we will be talking about how ‘mental preparation’ increases performance and how this is utilized by the Internal Arts. Most notably in the form of the intent training method called ‘Move before you move’.
There are several very well-known examples of mental preparation being used by elite level performers to increase their physical capability. Perhaps most strikingly this is seen in Olympic Weight Lifters who will often spend time behind the bar in deep focus and concentration, then time with their hands on the bar with a yet deeper level of focus before attempting and completing their lift. Indeed, we often hear of unsuccessful lifts that ‘His mind wasn’t there’ or ‘He lost his focus’ rather than ‘he wasn’t strong enough’.
Following on from the previous article, today we will talk about one of the most fundamental aspects of internal power training, utilizing our intent to enhance and fuel our movement. Some systems of internal art place this concept at the very forefront of the system, Xing Yi Quan being a prominent example. The important of ‘intent’ should not be overlooked by the practitioner as it is both a useful training tool and a fundamental movement enhancer.
Intent can have many different interpretations in the various internal arts, there are some who say it means mind, some who say it means visualization, still others who say it is the direct use of our nervous systems, or others who identify it as the will to move energy around the body. For the purpose of clarity in this article I will use my own definition of Intent as it relates to the Internal practices I teach, but understand and accept that others may well define this idea differently for instance some would define my ideas on Intent as 'will power' (zhi rather than Yi).
The Internal Arts are perhaps best separated from their more externally focused brethren by the softening practices of its practitioners.
This focus on 'softness' or on training relaxation, 'sung' or releasing can sometimes actually become the sole priority of some internal arts styles and practitioners. But there are, in fact, many methods that require a cycle of 'hard' and 'soft' training to achieve their goals. Primarily those related to training connection and elastic recoil qualities.
It is through targeted loading (with or without applied weight), 'wound' isometric holds and other specific practices (which involve some degree 'hardness') that we are able to condition certain tissues so that they become more elastic, springy and strong. These tissues are the connective tissues of the body, the tendons, ligaments and other types of material generally lumped into tissues known as fascia.
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