Integrated strength exhibits characteristics that differentiate it from ordinary strength. In Yi Chuan the procedures for testing integrated strength are designed to help the practitioner recognize these differences. In many cases the practitioner will fail the test if he or she is not using integrated strength, and by fail I mean simply won’t be able to perform the task required. Consider the following video where my teacher is demonstrating how integrated strength is different by bouncing students away in unusual ways:
The first time I witnessed him perform these types of demonstrations I was perplexed. I really could not understand how he was doing that. Later, when he began to use me in these kinds of demonstrations, I was even more perplexed. I could not figure out how he was able to repel me with so little apparent effort and almost no movement. Even more confusing was how he could do it from anywhere on his body and even throw two or more of us out at the same time. My brain was in an f=ma world and what my teacher was doing simply did not compute.
Then one day I was out surfing some overhead waves. After riding a pretty good one until it closed out and receiving a really good beat down it dawned on me that my teacher was using a wave! The force I was experiencing when being thrown out in push hands or testing strength was just like the force propelling me forward on the board. By linking his frame into a single unit my teacher was able to create and control a wave within his structure that integrated the strength of all the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and fascia in his body.
At that point in my training I had already achieved the ability to link my frame into a single unit. However, because my mind was stuck on force=mass x acceleration (f=ma) as the formula for generating force I was using my frame like a battering ram, clumsily slamming into my training partners in an effort to express my strength. The results were poor and looked nothing like what my teacher was doing.
Over the next few months I was able to break through my old habits and use my realization to transform my practice. What had been hard became easy and what was impossible became possible. I was able to use much less strength and get much more result. I could hardly believe how long it took me to make that realization and thanked my teacher for his patience.
Finally the strange ways my teacher could express his strength and the various ways he would set up testing strength procedures began to make sense. He was forcing us to confront our preconceptions about how to generate and use force. The force in his hands could not be explained by just looking at the hands. It needed to include awareness of power of the wave behind them.