The Internal Power Training Blog

Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.

The effect of mind on movement Bookmark

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).



A few years into training the Internal Martial Arts, after many years of Daito Ryu and Tai chi Training I became exposed to the direct and highly effect martial art of Xing Yi Quan. The power and forward force of this art was something I had not encountered before, the practitioners seems to be so intently focused on taking the space you occupied it seems as though nothing could stop them. It was an art I was to throw myself into and became the second foundation upon which all of my subsequent methods were to be built (the first being Daito Ryu). It was in this art that I was to learn the importance of ‘Intent’ and the absolutely vital role it plays in efficient, powerful and effective movement for it was the intent that gave the Xing Yi practitioners their amazing power.

Movement can often be thought of in two ways, the mechanical process of articulating our bodies, or the minds ability to create those mechanical processes. But there is a 3rd important part to the process of movement that straddles both of these concepts and that is the manner in which the mind transfers and receives information to the mechanical tissues. This ‘link’ is what I define as Intent. It is the link between the mind and the body.

Strengthening this link is one of the fundamental exercises of Xing Yi and its famous San Ti posture is designed to maximize our ability to direct our intent so that when our body follows, over time, the motion is extremely refined and efficient and at one with the direction of the minds will.

But how exactly does this seemingly esoteric practice translate to real refinement of movement? Well numerous experiments have shown a direct link between thinking of an action and that thoughts improvement of the physical action itself.

“A study in 2004 found that volunteers were able to increase muscle strength simply by imagining using the muscles. Scientists divided thirty volunteers into groups: some did physical training of their little finger for 15 minutes, five days a week for twelve weeks. The others only imagined doing the training. At the end of the twelve weeks the group doing the physical exercise had increased their muscle strength by 53% as expected, but the group that imagined doing the exercise also had a significant increase in strength of 35%.  Another study in Canada showed that participants who learned a series of foot movements through mental rehearsal alone showed an improvement in performance. Not only that, but scans showed changes in the brain had occurred that were consistent with the kind of changes that occur after physical practice. The researchers suggested that mental practice improved performance by acting on preparation and anticipation of movements. “

From 'Whole science article - Visualisation key to improving sports performance"
NOTE: study links present at the bottom of this article.

In the internal arts we combine these two processes in a very refined way, first utilizing and building the intent, then following it with the physical action. When we consider movement vs imagined or intended movement they are actually extremely similar. Both rely on the firing of neurons in specific sequence to achieve the movement, over time the practice will strengthen and optimize the organization of these neurons whether the resulting movement is achieved or not.

The training of the intent, the link between the minds will to act and the bodies physical action, found in the internal arts is directed towards strengthening the link between these two systems. Often it is described as the strength at which the intended action commands are transferred to the muscle and tissue in order to make the motion occur. It has been shown that some of the strongest people in the world are able to command their muscles to create larger volumes of force in shorter periods of time, the signal from their brain to their hand is strong, pure and direct. This is the essence of building the intent in the internal arts and although we are not trying to win any strong man competitions, the basic idea is the same.

The intent is the translation of thought into action in as pure and direct a way as possible. It could be thought of as the bodies preparatory or anticipatory mechanisms combined with the health or strength of the nervous system. Once this strong source, signal and action is in harmony a new and uniquely refined way of moving presents itself. We see the Internal masters moving effortlessly but with extremely strong and clear expression. This is the result of a clear mind linked to a connected body by a strong intent.

In the internal systems there are several methods to increase this connection, all of which require great attention to the details. I will outline the details of these methods in the next article. Stay tuned!




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