"There was no martial arts taught at this temple, and my Chan master would wake me in the early hours of the morning and ask me to come and chant with him. I told him I couldn't concentrate. He asked me what I could concentrate on, and I told him: my training. He then instructed me to let my training be my meditation.
Early in my training life, I had this notion that I could perfect my stance and essentially become immovable. I thought that I needed to train my body alignment so that I could redirect any incoming force through my structure into the ground. While there was some merit to that line of thinking, it was nonetheless flawed. The "perfect" stance is an unachievable goal.
Relaxation and center of gravity are the first two concepts of the Six Physical Points in I-Liq Chuan. The two concepts are distinct yet closely interrelated. Without first achieving understanding of the center of gravity (i.e. stacking up the body structure over the center of the feet), the body cannot fully relax. As it turns out, not understanding the center of gravity not only affects your muscular tension, but it also affects your movement patterns.
As part of Asian Culture Awareness month, we did a tai chi demo at Franklin and Marshall College. Thanks to the F&M Asian Cultural Society for hosting us at one of their events! After a quick form demo, we did some light warmups (qigong and stretches), a couple of basic exercises, 3 moves of the 21 form, and a little sticky hands. Not too shabby for an hour demo!
Few real-world functional movements consist solely of simplistic single joint action. Other than doing a bicep curl to grab bags of groceries, how many isolated movements occur in the real-world? Most functional movements inolve motion at several joints and the coordination between different groups of muscles, between flexors and extensors and between contraction and lengthening. This joint and muscle coordination can be understood in terms of yin and yang. Learning functional movement then becomes an exercise in harmonizing the ying and yang.
While I don't entirely agree with the bias against strength training, I think the rest of this video has an interesting take on the upright posture. It's not that different than the idea of feelng body structure stack up over the feet (center of gravity). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRw6lpkBjSc
"The art of the sword consists of never being concerned with victory or defeat, with strength or weakness, of not moving one step forward, nor one step backward, or the enemy not seeing me and my not seeing the enemy. Penetrating to that which is fundamental before the separation of heaven and earth where even yin and yang cannot reach, one instantly attains proficiency in the art."
The first time I met Sifu, I remember him spending a good bit of time discussing being "in the moment" during training. At the time, my mind was already spinning from the sheer amount of knowledge being taught and demonstrated; adding discussions of mindfulness, the ability to "change with the change," and perceiving the conditions of the moment only made my head hurt even more. I had a vague understanding that the attaining true skill in the art was less about physical skill and more about mental clarity. It would be a while (and the many repeated exposures to the concepts) before I could truly appreciate that first lesson.
The I-Liq Chuan system has a carefully thought out curriculum to advance the student's understanding and skill level. Having a systematized plan for transmitting the art is a boon for instructors and helpful for students to see a defined path for skill progression. Admittedly, I was initially a skeptic of a standardized curriculum for teaching a concept based art. But as I start teaching more students and deepening my own understanding, I am beginning to appreciate the wisdom of having a carefully laid out plan for skill advancement.
kaizen - noun
Continuous and incremental improvement.
Originally a Japanese term roughly meaning "change for better", kaizen has been adopted as a principle for improving manufacturing efficiency, business practices, and life in general. The concept of kaizen is useful for approaching general improvement processe, including one's training.