Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.
In a step away from the mechanics of internal power, this post will deal with a subject that I come up against time and again in the internal arts community. A subject hotly debated but rarely agreed upon. The subject of ‘chi’.
More specifically I would like to address my apparent rejection of ‘Chi’ as a useful term in my writings and teachings.
It would be fair to say that for many years, the idea of Chi and the use of the term was a part of my practice. I had some teachers who would use the term regularly to describe feelings experienced during practice or to explain how they were able to create certain effects in a partner. So why do I so rarely use it now in my teachings or practice?
Firstly, some of the most influential teachers I have met did not use the term regularly. They could do everything that those who did use the term could do but they would explain everything in precise terms. They would talk of tissue, nerves, mass, direction and acceleration rather that this ‘chi’ or that ‘chi’.
This influence and my naturally probing mind led me to look into the possible explanations for the effects that I had experienced throughout my years of training. Needless to say I was to discover that absolutely no effect experienced in solo training or via the hands of a master required the concept of ‘chi’ to be understood. The tingling hands, the ‘feeling of something flowing’, the light touch producing huge effects ... all of these things could be explained with the right research, often laterally into disciplines not related to the internal arts. This became the focus of my writings and teachings.
Secondly, for anyone that has discussed the subject of ‘Chi’ on the internet you will hear a great and varied series of opinions on what it is. Everyone is SURE that they know the answer but no one can agree. Some of the definitions that commonly crop up are:
- Undiscovered type of energy
- Potential and Kinetic energy
- Bio electricity
- The list is long and expansive
So with this great variability and the problems associated with the variety of interpretations, the term quickly loses its usefulness in discussions on the Internal Arts. As with anything, for a discussion or lesson to be truly useful, we need to agree on the definition. This agreement is always lacking when the word ‘chi’ is used to describe a phenomena.
Lastly, it is extremely common for viewers or readers to be turned off the subject as a whole, if the article doesn’t use Chi in accordance with their personal definition. This means that they can miss the really useful information that is out there and being explored by a few of us, simply because the use of a single term didn’t fit with their personal dogma. I hope that by avoiding the term in most cases, the readers will always find something useful in my writings.
So in conclusion, it is certainly not that I reject the idea of ‘chi’ in its various definitions, even though it may seem this way. As any good researcher and practitioner should be, I remain completely open minded. However, when trying to explore the intricacies of the Internal Arts and their utility in general, it will remain my last point of call in explanation, especially when other explanations help the community at large to a far greater degree. I will always explore every avenue before turning to the esoteric.
Happy training all.
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’.
Whole body power forms the bedrock of the internal arts. Our abilities to move every part of our body in harmony is as fundamental to the health benefits as it is to the martial effectiveness found in these styles. In this article we will explore one aspect of this whole body work, which I call the attribution of effort technique.
So far we have talked about various parts of the body and the associated tissue chains in isolation. But it is important to remember that these lines, chains, alignments and tissues all constitute a single interconnected and inseparable unit.
The quote from the Tai chi classics i recently posted really speaks to the idea of integration.
“stand like a perfectly balanced scale” this is to say that you have equal and balanced body, front to back, left to right, up to down.
“move like a turning wheel” a wheel moves as one, there is no part left behind and no part disassociated from the rest.
Low energy levels is a common issue we see in individuals inquiring into internal training. People may be systemically tired or feeling weak regardless of apparent physical exertion. Perhaps the most common (but least recognized in the individual) impact on a persons energy level can be tensions and misalignment causing inefficient body usage and excessive physical expenditure.
If we examine the actual load forces and mechanical effort that a given action takes for a relaxed and aligned person vs a tense and misaligned person we may see a multiple time increase in the forces required for the given action. This shouldn’t be too surprising to any mechanical engineers out there considering the ‘lever’ natural of many of our articulations.
This posture, so common to many martial traditions is the result masters from a wide range of styles identifying the importance of the interior tissues of the legs in support, mobility, stability and movement. These tissues are identified as the ‘Crotch Arch’ or in some systems the ‘Dang’.
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