Q: I guess your writing has hooked up more and more beginners without 20+ years of martial art experience, without super-fit bodies and with some hurdles to take before finding access to even the beginning stage you describe. Your methods are so effective, I guess (nearly) everyone will benefit no matter which body they have in some way if they try diligently. Nevertheless, I guess many would appreciate if you would share some hints which are trivial for you and all the experienced here with their impressing progress - some methods which maybe are not the super original, never-heard-about, secret and specialized stuff you fortunately present to us, but that is useful and straight forward as all your stuff.
A: Thank you for interesting question. The biggest thing is mental. Of course I have talked a lot about using the mind in an OPERATIONAL sense of fostering the energy here or there in the body, or changing its state of manifestation. But what I haven't gone into so deeply yet is the optimal mental BACKGROUND STATE for this work. The reasons I haven't gotten into this so much are
(1) Unfortunately although its a completely tangible practical aspect, when put into words it SOUNDS uncomfortably close to the all the usual goopy mindset stuff in the 2nd chapter of every Tai Chi book ever written which every reader flips quickly past on their way to see whether a given book has got some great new pose or posture or trick for winning at push hands. Same old same old.
(2) In fact it's precisely this challenge of how to present the crucial but superficially bland MENTAL ASPECT of training - that's what I'm grappling with right now in planning my next book on the DEPLOYMENT aspect of all this (mainly as inherent in various varieties of push hands and kuzushi, but always with an eye to energetics not mechanics or sport). I'm working out how to talk about this in just the right way.
Meanwhile I can tell you one main thing: your mental “setting” is super important. The difference between the energetic yields, in both training mode and deployment modes, without mental setting vs with mental setting is like the TNT yield delta’s between fission bombs and fusion bombs: kilotons vs megatons. It really will take me a whole new book to present this right, and I’m still untangling the deeper aspects of it for my own training, working from the Xingyi manual. But it’s a totally real thing. The closest hint I can give right now is, I’m sure you recall from reading Mantak Chia and other authors, they talk about relaxing your mind with a feeling of ‘inner smile’. I’m sure that’s fine and in a way it’s along the right line, and a good tangible way of talking - but it’s not quite the optimal setting for maximal yield. (The inner smile thing is also presented as a way to connect with specific internal organs which I’m not getting into at all in this post). But it's a little bit pointed in the right direction in one way but not quite right for what I’m talking about.
For maximal yield (of course you need to have the internal power activated in the first place, I’m assuming you’ve somewhat bought into all my previous preliminary stuff, I’m not going to repeat all the ARC basics and drills here) you DO need a certain ‘mental setting’ but not quite ‘inner smile’. What you need is something so commonly talked about that its like just pure hot air to the veteran reader of this kind of stuff, totally negligible filler material in every book. But I’m telling you it is real and tangible, I just need to find the right way to express it.
And what IS this mental setting that optimizes everything and massively amps whatever internal power you have cultivated? It’s a kind of ‘inner cold’. Or even just plain ‘don’t care’ feeling. Yes yes I know you’ve heard it ALL before. Other synonyms for this I could bring up: cold, distant, detached, calm, borderline contemtuous, uncaring. Sounds kind of nasty doesn’t it? Not very ‘yogic’ at all :) NOT angry, hostile, or violent AT ALL however. As I say a narrow line to walk, mentally.
But these words are only sparrows flitting and twittering around something very real and extremely powerful and yet accessible in a fully tangible way. One way to approach this aspect of mental training for power optimization is to mimic the “feeling” that you access via looking at facial expressions of certain people. I’m NOT saying these people necessarily did or did not have any particular martial skill. Some of the ‘models’ I’ll present did, others did not (were only actors). It’s ok, all of them can be training aids. Fake it til you make it! It’s ALMOST (borderline) more to an ‘inner (slight) frown’ rather than an ‘inner smile’. It does NOT signify unhappiness, anger or agression however! It is the expression of a feeling of utter detachment, of being above, aloof. Of course nobody is really ‘above’ or ‘aloof’. We’re little boys playing war here. I’m talking about a practicle training method for a certain type of result and trying to use all possible hints to describe it. No LARPing martial arts fantasy syndrome here this just a training aid for a certain specific result, ok? Please do not misunderstand me.
Apperaing at the top of this post are a couple of phots which, no matter how far-fetched it may seem, will help you acquire this training quality. Study and ponder. Strangely enough, adopting this mental state somehow functions to relax your head, face, neck and jaw in exactly the optimal way to allow massively amped surge-through of the power you have ALREADY developed but not fully accessing due to mental distraction and non-optimal setting.
Anyway it gets tricky because don’t they say “it takes more muscles to frown than to smile” so doesn’t that run against the whole relax thing? Yeah yeah yeah. True. What can I say? Those photos are the visible manifestation of an inner mental state that I’m trying to convey here, ok? In Japanese it’s that famous 平常心 (heijoushin) ‘ordinary mind’ thing, a synonm for calm detachment. Silent brain. The same thing is referred to in the Baghavad Gita - detachment. But the trouble is (as you can see right now) the DISCUSSON of this gets real goopy, real fast. I can feel you want to start fanning pages to get to the good shit. I know, I know. So please forgive if I stop with it for now, but I AM working on how to frame this so it has immediate workable training impact, which will appear as my next book sometime later this year on DEPLOYMENT.