Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Being Unified, Aware, Present

At the recent I Liq Chuan Workshop with Sifu Sam Chin, he repeatedly emphasized the need to be present, to react to whatever the given situation dictates based on current reality and not some pre-planned choreographed scenario. This is the essence of I Liq Chuan. Of course to do this appropriately the practitioner must be unified. While that's easy enough to say or write or discuss, it's something else altogether to do. It's all the more difficult and confusing when we see it as not something we learn to do, but more as learning to be. But we aren't just attempting to be, as we've always been, which is mostly not mindful and not unified, but rather to be unified, aware, and present. And this is something that takes many, many moons to master.

Unification, in the solo sense, unifying the self, is based on the concept of moving naturally, which most of us rarely do. Note, that is naturally not normally. Normal movement is the way most of us move, but it is not natural movement. Natural movement is the way our bodies are supposed to work, they way they were designed to work, and the way they work most efficiently. We just have to train them accordingly. To accomplish this, I Liq Chuan has a system of training that includes, among other things, what is known as the thirteen points and the five qualities. It's not necessarily that these things are new to the Neijia world, they are found in most if not all internal arts. But this art defines them well and incorporates them into a methodology for learning and training that is not only concerned with physical movement, but mindfulness as well. And that is substantial.

The thirteen points are physical aspects that we should pay attention to. They are as follows:
1. Center of Gravity--center of the feet
2. Perineum pointing down to the balance beam line
3. Tan Tien--suction and condense
4. Ming Mien--project and expand
5. Crown--suspended
6.Sternum--suction and condense
7. Kwa--maintain the energy in the center of hip joints
8. Drop shoulders over the hips
9. Tuck the ribs
10. Nine solid and one empty on the feet
11. Elbows wrapping down
12. Knees pointing to the big toes
13. Balance of Yin/Yang

The five qualities of movement:
1. Absorb/Project
2. Open/Close
3. Condense/Expand
4. Concave/Convex
5. The Three Dimensional Planes (Frontal, Horizontal, Sagittal)

While some readers may not recognize all these terms, as written, most practitioners of the Internal Arts will recognize most of these concepts as they are applied. The thirteen points are for the most part the basics of good Zhan Zhuang, but applied to moving as well. The five qualities are concerned with movement and interaction with a partner. I'm not going to go into detail on these with this posting, but will continue and look at them in depth in the future.

The I Liq Chuan system is designed so that the practitioner learns first to unify him/herself, then unify with a training partner. The thirteen points and five qualities are fundamental to this, and to training the body to move naturally in all situations. An awesome task, but a worthy one just the same. I have been working with this system, albeit very part time, for some time now. I have a very long way to go, due in part to the small amount of time I have dedicated to learning the system. The nearest study group is over an hour away, and it's sometimes difficult to make a class that doesn't conflict with other commitments. In any case, I have been increasing the level of training time I spend with I Liq Chuan over the past year. And it's been paying off. I hope to spend even more time from here on. I am starting to integrate the teaching methods into my Taiji classes. Many of the concepts are the same and teaching something requires one to know it well.

But I Liq Chuan is not Taiji. Granted there are many similarities, but this is a powerful martial art in its own right. It is one of the most impressive systems I have ever seen. While it may take many years of training to become competent, I am looking forward to giving it what I can. I guess time will tell.