Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.
When we think of the Internal Arts we often think of the slow motion practice or people standing in static postures but there is an interesting phenomena related to these practices. One which we see in combative exchange but is not immediately apparent in these fundamental training methods. This is the ability for some internal artists to move at blindingly fast speeds even though much of their training can be focused moving slowly.
How does static posture training or slow movement practice actually increase the speed of the practitioner? The two ideas seem to be at odds!
There are several factors at play here but first we can say that moving slowly or holding a static position makes us better able to recognize precisely how much effort is needed to perform a given action.
There is a physical law known as the Weber Fenscher Law which states:
’The higher the speed of a given movement, the less able we become to recognise the power required to perform it.’
In this method we use the front and back of the Lower Dan Tien or Taren, in harmony with one another. It is this complimentary harmony of opposites, a pair of actions happening simultaneously but in opposition that gives this method its name. It is not a singular direction or motion but a 'Pair' of actions creating 'one' result. The Ming Men and Qi hai are the origination and termination points for the harmonized opening and closing in of the torso we will talk about in this post.
The internal arts and methods are perhaps best defined by the way in which they utilize the body to create, receive and transform forces. There are many different ways in which the body is used in this regard from rotating and rolling the Center, to tensioning the connective tissue web, to co-ordinating the limb and body into a unified action. But in this post we will be looking at one of these interesting methods that utilizes the Axis of the body in a ‘wave’. This is often referred to as the ‘spine wave’.
The spine wave is created by the action of the Lumbar Spine, the thoracic spine and associated tissues working sequentially but in harmony with one another. It is often seen in the crashing forward direction of Xing Yi Quan’s Pi or ‘splitting’ method or in TaiJi Quan’s An or ‘push downwards’ method.
All the Principles of Heaven and Earth are living inside you"
Ueshiba Morihei - Founder of Aikido.
‘Heaven, Earth, Man’ is a concept we find in many of the internal arts. Although the model can relate to many things, from Taoist mystical concepts to the nature of our place in reality.
I like to use the model to describe a practical part of internal power training and movement. The training of the balance of opposites within the body and how letting one win over the other can create movement or action.
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.
"rooted in the feet,
generated from the legs,
controlled by the waist, and
manifested through the fingers."
Tai Chi Classics.
This famous verse from the Tai Chi Classics identifies how the various parts of the body act in unison with each other to produce whole body connected power. One of the really interesting and often misinterpreted areas of the body for study is the waist. Some people consider this the pelvis, some the ‘hips’, some the area between the lower ribs and the iliac crests, but we can actually look at the muscle groups associated with ‘control’ to better understand why it is so important to the internal artists.
The breath is intimately linked with Internal Practices. Almost all of the internal practies i have researched or encountered have a very close relationship with the breathing system.
Obviously without breath we would not be around to practice, but why is this part of the body process so deeply focused on in the internal arts? Over the next few posts we will be examining a small section of this very large topic!
But firstly and practically, we can say that the breath is a very useful tool to lead relaxation and to remove unwanted tension. When we ask someone to relax, one of their natural responces (if they are not thinking too hard) is to let out their breath. This is the natural way for us to release tension.
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