Often I hear from people who practice Yi Chuan for health purposes. They really have no interest in developing their self-defense capacity, rather they would like to benefit from the energy and health benefits associated with the art.
There is nothing wrong with that. There are many forms of Chi Gung, Yoga, meditation and other methods that improve health and increase energy without involving self-defense. However, Yi Chuan was designed as a MARTIAL development method, removing the martial practices from Yi Chuan is throwing away the baby with the bath water.
Here is why:
- Standing post practice, searching for strength, trying strength, elongation, footwork and other types of Yi Chuan practices need to be done with an integrated frame and proper internal relationships to improve health and energy.
- The many forms of testing strength practices like rooting, uprooting, push hands, bouncing and explosive strength training are critical feedback tools that are designed to help the practitioner get the ‘right feeling’ and ‘right ideas’ in their practice.
- Not engaging in these practices because of a focus on ‘health benefits’ severely cripples the method’s ability to get your practice ‘right’ so you can get those benefits.
If you can’t neutralize a partner’s attempt to push you back then you are not rooted, you don’t have a dynamic relationship with gravity.
If you can’t uproot your partner on contact you have not opened the joints and connected the elastic tissues in your body.
If you can’t bounce your partner away you have not learned to store and release energy with your frame.
If you can’t evade your partner in push hands you have not learned to energetically ‘listen’ to their movements.
If you can’t step without breaking unity you have not learned to use the internal orbit to govern the external movement.
Working through these seemingly ‘martial’ aspects of the method are just as important for someone focused on health as someone focused on self defense. Each of the lessons learned through testing strength must be applied right back to the solo practices, improving them, refining them, making them more powerful.