Another scenario will be the sifu teaching students how to develop rooting to the ground. He will say, ‘Relax your body and let its weight sink into the ground below your feet’. Some will not get it, they will try to relax, but they are still floating. Some students will ask, ‘do I have to train my lower body muscles to get it? Do you think squats and heel raises will help?’ Some will ask, ‘if I relax, won’t I be pushed around even more?’ The sifu will say, ‘it’s not about training big and hard muscles, it’s about relaxing them and letting force go through them into the ground. But if you are too relaxed you will simply collapse and force will not go through you. Relax but don’t move.’ At this point some will refuse to believe the sifu that you can relax and stay at the same position when a force is acting on you. They might not want to adapt to this new concept and want to do a martial art style which they think they already understand.
People these days are getting a lot of education. They want scientific backing behind everything they are involved in, well the left brained people at least. They may experience the effect of internal strength from others but they have problem believing in its method. Of course, you can’t use something which you are doubtful about. It is not impossible to teach a person to develop rooting scientifically though, like saying ’Let go of your body to gravity’ instead of ‘imagine yourself inside the ground.’ However, when they reach a certain stage they will be stuck again. Because Nei Kung involves the Jing, Qi and Shen stage, the practitioner have to believe in Qi and Shen as well as their physical existence. The practitioner is supposed to use mental imagery to manifest the power into physical application. Some who lack imagination will not be able to develop the ability to use Qi and Shen. To cure this problem, many educated internal martial art teachers have adapted their syllabus, instead of saying ‘chi’, they use ‘tendon’ instead, as it is something that atheists can believe in. Well, at least it will get them to slowly get into it and convince themselves that there is more forces at play than what we can see with our eyes and measure with scientific instruments.
After attaining rooting, the next step will be to learn how to fa jing, how to generate power. This is also an interesting topic. For my school of Chinese Kung Fu, I tell my students, ’Use the chi to pump your body to generate motion’. For some schools of Kung Fu, they tell their students, ‘lock your joints and extend your tendons’. Nothing wrong with that, it is true that the tendon method works and is one of the methods. In fact I hint my students with this tip too, in case they cannot grasp the others. The thing is, energy in this sense is supposed to be immaterial. You can’t see chi, you can’t see the more scientific tendons, it has to be created with the mind, and felt with the awareness for immaterial forces. That is the problem with left brained people, they have to see and touch things before they can believe in it. Right brained people will attempt to believe the way it is described, in fact you have to believe it if you want to see and touch it. This is why left brained people will take a very long time to start to manifest the power of Nei Kung, they take a longer time to give up on their logical restriction to believe in Nei Kung.
So I introduced this guy to internal strength as it is a compulsory milestone for my students. The direction I gave him was, ‘from the ground send a spiral/straight force to your body and to your palm. Relax your body while doing so but keep your joints in place without your joints giving way to your opponent’s resistance, without deliberately using muscular strength outside of the spiral/straight force sent from the ground.’ Any intermediate Nei Kung practitioner will be able to tell that this is an appropriate way and the instructions are quite layman friendly. I demonstrated the horizontal palm sweep on him a few times, and on another student to show him how it’s like. He was thrown back a few meters despite locking himself in place with his muscles. When it was his turn to do, he didn’t manage to move anyone, even students who are lighter than him. He asked me, ‘is it because you are using some special muscle?’ I explained the chi and tendon theory to him, and he tried again. I could tell he was still trying to find the ‘special muscle’.
I saw that he was bounced back every time he tried to generate force on someone. I told him, ‘your lower body is not stable enough.’ He asked me, ‘should I train squats with weights? Do you think it will help?’ I looked at his defined calf and thigh muscles and explained to him, ‘it is not about the muscle size and how lean the muscles are. It’s about joining your body with the ground. If you are not one with the ground, no matter how strong your muscles are you will only be pushed backward, and pushing yourself backward.’ I advised him to do the zhan zhuang, the stance training every time he came in order to see improvements. He was trying hard, but lost interest as he couldn’t get it for a few sessions. He wasn’t paying heed to what I had said to him, he was thinking about his muscles and what kind of muscle exercises he can do to make himself strong enough to use Nei Kung.
This is why I say, the emotional factor has a part in it too. If you don’t believe it, it won’t work for you. To believe others you need to be able to open your mind to others and trust people. ‘Lock your joints and extend your tendons’ can pose a problem too. Like I just mentioned there are people who will try to find the special muscle fibers. There will also be people who can’t find the tendon and become limp trying to relax, like me when my friend first introduced me to the Yang style Tai Chi method. Even if your body is aligned in the right posture you won’t attain the state unless you are able to realize those tendons. These teachers will go tendons here, tendons there, structure here, structure there and you can’t figure it out if you don’t get it in the first place. They will not tell you more as they will say you are not at the level.
Of course it is important to be focused and not try to grasp too many points at one time. But simply giving one pointer will be too hard to help a person be enlightened about things. Why don’t they cut some slack for the poor guy and tell him, ‘you should try to hold and move your body with your qi which you control with your mental intent.’ Allow him to pick up the control of qi without pressuring him about his joint alignment. If he get one thing right, the others will follow, so don’t hide him from the rest of the syllabus. It may work for the guy might be a right brained person who can be taught the classical way. Why I do not say ‘move your body with your intent’ directly? Because there will be people who think the intent is a kind of special nerve, they will not be able to use the force outside their physical body.
A person might take this path, but that does not mean those who learn from him must take the same exact path. The syllabus should be the same but the order of learning can be different. A teacher should guide the student towards achieving learning goals instead of dictating the order of learning goals. It will not be harmful to work backwards as long as the method is correct.
It all boils down to the way someone deals with things. Some people will simply do things without thinking, some will hesitate for a long time before starting to do anything. Often it is better to be in the first behavior pattern, just that you have to listen and think a little while trying things out. It is can be challenging for some people to do, think of how to do and listen to guidance at the same time. Some people simply cannot multi-task, the moment they do their own thing, they are shut out from the outside world, some vice versa. Some lack the confidence and courage to do new things. They do not have enough drive to break through the gravity of doubt.
For people who hesitate a long time before starting, this is called ‘analysis paralysis’. Often identified by psychologists to be the situation where a person keeps on thinking, gathering information but not taking any action. I can’t say it’s definitely a bad thing in other areas of life, but in Kung Fu you have to experience it to understand it. As you do things, you get more accurate information from your own experience with it, the feeling during the process. Then you start to understand more, find better ways to do it and eventually master it. From then you move on to new skills, and discover new pointers and maybe realize old pointers which you left out some time ago. This is the learning process in which things will gradually fall into place as you do it. As learning Kung Fu is picking up skills, you don’t learn anything by doing research, asking questions and watching videos and not moving your body to try it.
Most importantly, the first step to pick up Nei Kung is to believe in it. If you don’t believe it you won’t be able to absorb, your body will reject doing it. It is all about belief. If you don’t believe you are sitting on a ball, you will not have it. If you believe you are sitting on a ball, you will be able to manifest its power. I’d say that this intent which Nei Kung practitioners speak about all the time comes from belief. You have to believe that a person throwing a punch at you is actually a form of chi moving at you. You don’t keep thinking that a person with big muscular arms and six pack abs is punching you and you won’t be able to handle it.
After believing that the person’s punch is moving chi, you have to react with your own chi movement. You have to believe that you yourself are made of chi, and you mould your entity of chi into the form you want it to be. This is your own chi, you can imbue it with energy, you can vary its pressure and intensity at different parts of your body and even extend it beyond your body. You do so in the form of mental visualization, so it may take someone with strong creativity and dimensional awareness to develop strong intent. The ground you are standing on, the objects in your environment and the air around you are made of chi too. By believing in your surroundings being made of chi, you can connect with it and anchor your own chi to it. This is how Nei Kung users actually root themselves to the ground and send force through things. Modern internal martial art groups which go by tendons actually originate from the Taoist concept of energy and its flow.
This is also referred to as the first creation in your mind(originally referred to as the spiritual realm, but let us keep it at ‘mind’ in case some people cannot accept it). The second creation will be in reality where it shows its effect. Many people cannot manifest the second creation because they are not making the first creation.
To be able to create the first creation, you need to believe it. To strengthen the imagery, one has to build on his creative energies.
The next step will be to let go of your body’s usually tense state and allow it to be one with everything else. Allow the environment to ‘accept’ your body. Allow your body to accept the environment too.
Now you need to channel your mental visualization into reality to let this power take effect. By now, your perception of your body and the world around you should be ‘a world of flowing energy’. There should at least be some effect if you are doing it correctly. You can improve the efficiency by strengthening the link between virtual and reality, which is actually how your body receives your mind.
There are people who are stuck at the mind stage. They are unable to express their mental energy into reality. This may result from fear of reality, fear of the world outside one’s existence. There are people who reject the world outside and shell themselves up inside their own minds. This is no good. You have to connect the world inside with the world outside, so what you want will be what you get.
All this can be improved through silent meditation and practice of techniques. There are 3 parts which I break it down into, 1) Mental visualization 2) Merge with the flow 3) Expressing visualization into reality
In the end, you will need both left and right brain for materializing internal energy. Right brain for creation and left brain for execution.