I developed this training routine to help you learn how to use intention to develop unity in your body’s structure (frame).
The state of unity or ‘Hunyan’ as we refer to it in Yi Chuan is the dynamic balance between tension and compression forces that is both discovered and refined through Yi Chuan’s practice of Jam Jong, also called ‘standing the stake’ or simply standing. It may be more accurate to say that without Hunyan you are not actually doing Jam Jong…….without unity you are literally left standing outside the gate, near but not within the practice.
As the name implies Yi (intention) Chuan (fist) puts the use of intention at the core of the training method. This ‘MSTI Exercise’ as I have called it will help you get more out of standing practices you are already doing or jump start a practice you are just beginning. In most circumstances this is the first exercise I teach to new students and I encourage anyone seeking a consultation with me to practice this exercise progressively for at least a couple of weeks before we meet.
This exercise presumes you have a general knowledge of the basic body requirements like tucking the tailbone, suspending the head, grabbing the toes, spreading the fingers, etc. Ideally it should be practiced at least once daily for about 10-15 minutes to start and longer as your practice develops. Practicing a couple of times a day is even better, however, I would recommend against trying to over extend the training time if you happen to miss a day or two. Its better to make up missed sessions by doing 2 or more sessions spread out through the day until you are caught up.
MSTI is a progressive exercise. The practice should evolve as your understanding of how to use your intent to manifest structure changes based on what you experience while doing the exercise. Do not do the exercise the same way each day and expect results.
During the first four weeks of practicing MSTI some portion of each training session should be dedicated to practicing tension. I know that to many who practice standing exercises ‘tension’ is considered the enemy and should be avoided at all costs. You will have to trust me, its important to include it in your practice. However, try to limit the amount of tension to 80% of your max and less than 80% in the first couple of weeks. Additionally, I advise you to decrease the amount of time you spend practicing with tension over time. If you are practicing daily for 8 weeks I advise you to leave behind tension training after that time period and only use it sparingly when you feel it will help.
To begin I recommend using the classic ‘hugging the tree’ posture and visualize that you are actually hugging a tree, a big one. That means you work to actually feel your arms wrapped around it, fingers digging into the bark, chest pressed against it and squeezing it between your legs.
You have to make the tree REAL…a solid, immovable object that you are physically latched onto. By making it real your subconscious mind is compelled to align your structure as if your were actually holding a tree. The old saying is that strong intent (Yi) transforms into strong energy (Chi) which transforms into strong strength (Li).
I use the term Feelization to describe what happens when a visualization is so strong that it results in a physical response or manifestation within your frame. When you feelalize, your short cut around the intellect and manifest structure through your subconscious intelligence.
Once you have firmly established your intimate connection with the tree you are going to add a vector, meaning you are going to feelalize trying to move your tree in a particular direction.
Keep in mind this is a big, heavy, solid tree. Its not going anywhere, meaning you are not going to be moving much at all. For a period of about 10-20 seconds you are going to try and move that tree but the tree itself is going to keep you from going anywhere.
During this 10-20 (or longer as your training progresses) second period feel around your body and try to get each and every part of it engaged in working that vector. You want to feel your neck, your back, your feet, cheeks, fingers, abs, everything contributing to your effort to move the tree. Go easy at first, limit out at 80% of maximum effort. Its far more important to include all of you bits and pieces than maximizing tension in isolation. And again, you are not looking for just for isometric tension, you want tension that is actually contributing to your intention.
I suggest you work with 10 vectors:
- Lifting the tree up
- Pushing the tree down
- Pushing the tree forward
- Pulling the tree backward
- Shifting the tree to the right
- Shifting the tree to the left
- Horizontally turning the tree to the right
- Horizontally turning the tree to the left
- Vertically turning the tree clockwise
- Vertically turning the tree clockwise
After you have spent 10-20 seconds building up both the amount of tension you are using and the percentage of your anatomy that is participating take a deep breath and release all the tension you can without:
- Changing shape
- Letting go of your tree
Take a few moments, relax within the shape and let your breathing return to normal. If necessary take a couple of extra deep breaths and release as much tension as you can, again without changing your shape or letting go of your tree.
When you are ready, double check that you can feel the tree and have a go at another vector. After completing whatever set of vectors you decided to work on, let go of the tree, relax walk around and shake it off for a minute or two before proceeding to additional tension training or the relaxation phase.
Assume your hugging the tree posture and again get the feeling of there actually being a tree in there. You are now going to repeat each vector that you practiced during tension training with a very important difference. Simply recall how the vector (like lifting the tree) felt without adding the muscular tension. Hold onto the feeling of lifting while consciously keeping your muscles as relaxed as you can.
After 20-40 seconds Release, again without changing your shape or letting go of your tree. Repeat this process for each of the vectors you practiced in tension training for approximately double the duration.
Once you have completed your relaxation set take a few more deep breaths and release excess tension in your frame without changing shape or letting go of that feeling of the tree.
Shift your perspective from that of doer to observer. Notice how you feel. Feel the space around you. Notice how gravity pulls you into the earth. Feel the subtle air currents. Notice your breathing, heart rate, perpetration. Simply be for a little while until you mind kicks back in and you feel compelled to check twitter or whatever.
My hope is that practicing MSTI for a month or two will help you to understand the role of intention in standing practice. If you are successful the quality of your standing will greatly improve as will your sense of satisfaction and well being. MSTI is, however, just a beginning. From this foundation you can work to combine opposite vectors, creating vector chains and learning to express Hunyan strength in your standing, gestures and form. But those are topics for other articles and/or conversations.