Testing Strength is Yi Chuan’s way of helping transform the results of solo training into functional skill. Consider this video clip of my teacher testing his strength on me.
My role in this scenario is to provide a committed attack to my teachers frame in an effort to knock him off balance or push him back. We are not fighting, yet how and where I attempt to use strength on him is not prearranged. The practice is cooperative in that my attack is not an attempt to hurt my teacher nor is his defense an attempt to hurt me. The point of the exercise is to test whether integrated strength can be used to defeat the attack.
Every attempt I make to push my teacher in this clip results in me being bounced away, effortlessly and with very little visible movement from my teacher. How is this possible?
If you watch closely you will see that in every instance my teacher is able to use his integrated strength to intercept my attack by breaking my connection to the ground (uprooting) and reflecting my strength back to me. Its not just his strength that sends me flying into the bushes but a combination of his strength and my strength that sends me out. I am really trying to push him and he is using subtle changes in his shape and timing to thwart my efforts. Sometimes the result is just a little hop back wards, sometimes I am barley able to stay on my feet.
When I was first learning to provide a frame for this type of testing strength it was common to have people behind me to catch me in case I lost balance. Overtime I learned to properly receive the strength by letting it send me back as a whole unit, landing on my feet and essentially unharmed by the discharge. So, while this video is a demonstration of my teacher’s ability to use integrated strength to bounce my attacks away it is also a demonstration of my ability to receive his strength and (for the most part) maintain my unity and preserve my balance.
Of course this is only one type of testing strength. How the principal is applied at different levels of training is really only limited by imagination and practicality. The point is to provide feedback to the solo practice. Success or failure in testing strength procedures allows you to change your practice routines and get past the many mental blocks there are in figuring out how to awaken, build and use integrated strength.