I've been interested in taking up Yiquan for a while which stems from a more or less lifelong interest in the internal martial arts, and their legendary "power". This little quest lead me to a man named Dan Harden, who I have previously mentioned here at Irongarm:
He claims that there is a completely different (soft) way to generate power that is common to all internal arts (japanes, chinese etc.) and that it is/was rarely taught in the open, so today we have people from internal traditions (the usual aikido and tai chi suspects) thinking they know it all with their flowery movements, when they in fact lack the basis for their entire martial art.
He received a lot skepticism initially, but everybody who has met up with this Dan Harden (or gone to his seminars, which are picking up pace and are being held both in the US and Europe) have vouched for him and agree that he has incredibly power unlike anything they have ever felt...amazing stuff. And more importantly, he can explain exactly what he does and how he does it and teach it openly. And you can apply the power principles to the technique of any art - supposedly he trains some MMA guys...
He is/was very active over at the http://www.aikiweb.com
forums if anybody want to investigate it.
He also has a lot of good things to say about a Japanes guy called Akuzawa Minoru, who apparently has the same idea - and again everybody who meets up with him say that their claims of power abilities is no exaggeration: http://www.aunkai.net/eng/aunkai/index.html
I've followed this Dan Harden on the net for a couple of years, and have made a little collection of quotes from him:
The arts were always about improving you, changing your body to make it strong.
The "power" they were referring to was internal power or internal strength. - A profoundly connected body, a strengthened zero balance or central equilibrium, very relaxed, and fluid, not fixed or static.
This power in the body is not dependant on an art, not expressed in a technique. It comes from a trained body/body training (Tanren), not from practicing some martial art. It comes from retained balance of In/yo ho (joining of opposites, Japanese Yin/yang), a trained relaxed power in your own body.
The idea of internal strength is all over the place in Japan and in China (by act... not name) in many arts. It would do a disservice to anyone to just look for it in Daito ryu or in some arts techniques.
The truth of the matter is that a strengthened and retained central equilibrium, through tanren is the key to gaining power and sensitivity in all the Asian arts.
Tai chi does not look like Xing-I but the results from training the body are the same.
They are all about rising energy, sinking energy, weight transfer and dantien/center manipulated fascia work, joined with breath power.
The training of it takes years. What you see the hands doing to make a technique means nothing, that's an art form. Another form of the same rising energy.
It is my view that Tanren is so profound that it is the key to all the arts, it is the engine that drives them. The heiho while important, is of lesser importance overall. Were folks in a pinch Tanren will give you better chances than spending equal time learning techniques and strategy
Hard is easier
Soft takes longer
Most like hard training
Hard can feel soft...go train with some good jujutsu guys
Soft can feel hard...go get hit by some soft internal guys
Since "the hard can feel soft" and "the soft can be hard," you might want to also consider that
"Hard can just be...hard"
"Soft can just be useless."
My opinion is soft is the best way to train long term as it contains the best of both qualities and it doesn't fade. Hard cannot do what soft does.
It is my belief that internal training is the best thing in the world for whole body strength, power and health into our golden years
I'd seriously consider that if you do not have significant power and sensitivity and can handle most anything with ease after 5 years of daily training in solo work + Twice week with a group, that you quit, and go find a teacher who can teach.
How to gauge proficiency? Here are a couple of test:
This should be a cake walk.
1. Have someone push your chest with one hand in an attempt to push you over. Really push.
2. Then two hands as hard as he can. We're talking total 100% full force of whole body pushing you.
3. Then have him pile drive into you.
4. Then even casually.. increasing to severely- pull you and push you around while you stand there without moving your feet. Let them have your wrist and let them pull you for all their worth.
5. Place your hand on his chest. Without moving your shoulders or body in any discernable way, send them 3-6' with your hand
Results and benefits
Were I have to choose between all the martial arts in the world combined, or IP/aiki...I'd take this. It's the single greatest advantage in the world. And its a key to good health in your old age. As a conditioning system for knockout power and being hard to throw and for overall power it is superior and doesn't fade like normal strength. More importantly it is the cornerstone of what made the asian arts great.
It is extremely difficult to be thrown-damn near impossible for many in budo, while at the same time creating a significant drawing ability as well, will make you all but unlockable, will allow you to absorb strikes and kicks much better than an untrained body, will create and enhanced sense of speed, and a balanced one at that from that of normal movement, and will give you far greater hitting power with no wind up, useful in close-in work.
People feel like they grabbed a rubber statue planted into the ground, then you suddenly-move- and they are led up off their feet or launched in some manner of one arts waza or another. Other times you can absorb and zero out forces in you and folks feel like their grab disappeared, and then you move. Of course all of this happens while you are actively in-motion as well. A side benefit is that your hands and feet including fingers feel like drills and hit you like a hammer.
You can crack ribs- with your hand never leaving the ribs.
you can train to be almost unthrowable, unlockable, hit like a hammer, absorb blows to the body without damage, and move with constant power.
someone who is adept at this, is a son-of-a-bitch to try and throw or lock up. It’s damn near impossible, and getting hit by them feels like getting hit from a truck. With this training your retention of balance is greatly enhanced and extends ranges of stablility and it completely changes the natural human tendency to carry weight on one side, the typical walking sway.
You should be able to have really strong men push on you and you simply stand there. Or gab your body and try to throw you and have their force captured and zeroed out by your body and you throw them in an instant or cast them off.
Once you have trained your body it exists in you and can be used in anything from Judo to jujutsu to MMA. You could invite just about anyone to try and throw you, and they would have one hell of time doing so, if at all. Your trained balance would be so profound that others coming into contact with it are manipulated by your choice of where and how you choose to move and they have little option to resist. It will express itself in a throw, choke, or lock, and just as viable in not being able to to be thrown or locked, or in a kick or short distance kidney or headshot. The “delivery system” means little to nothing, it’s merely an outer form, not the essence of real power and sensitivity.
it doesn't diminish with age like normal power does. it IS a better more efficient way to do martial arts
How is it done?
This type of skill is best trained initially in solo practice. Over and over we read of men practicing Solo in the mountains and coming back with "enlightenment." I prefer to teach static, then dynamic.
Kata can sometimes build connection from the outside in, but be a "catch as catch can" and slow learning device. Learning the outer...to capture the inner...is the slow boat to China.
It is mind / body that we are discussing so of course, in the end, the mind has to do...a thing. The intent driven and trained body is learning to physically move tissue, so there is a huge physical componant, but I would argue just where we are going to get the most bang for our buck, and it isn't in doing a series of exercises!
It's in intent driven training, then adding-in / augmenting with certain physical movement exercises that are intent driven and the movements and goals and how your body ends up.
1. no external movement, learning pathways and framework using intent
You can listen to your body all the day long when you start training this way; most everything you are getting as proprioceptive feedback that is familiar to you is wrong. It's why standing-though an excellent exercise- can be so slow a process of discovery. We alter that with forcing postures and force-feeding lines by hands on manipulation in a very intimate way.
When I put them in the proper stance-many of them for the first time in their lives- what did they all say? "This feels wrong, weak, and unnatural." So much for proprioception in the beginning.
First and foremost it involves the spine. Learning to open and strengthen the way it supports load, transfers weight and issues power from the ground, or manipulates incoming force.
In essence you learn to support the spine and turn the body around it, remove slack, have center activated and move.
Learning where lines of force come from, connect, and how they balance out in the body to support the body.
The body works best when it is supported by opposing tensions. These work in front and back, and side and side and up and down. People do not move this way naturally. This union of opposites has a reason for being. It both supports and manipulates at the same time.
In doing so your body learns to absorb force and send it or allow it to sink to the ground, hence any incoming horizontal force goes straight to the ground. The result is that once the body is trained to connect on the inside and to remove slack it understands what it needs to do to manipulate force. What receives also feeds. The cleaner the current, the more your body can create rising or sinking energy in any part that is touched. Head, shoulders, arms, hands what have you. Hand shapes and waza are nothing more than a technique and they…cease to have significance.
It is conditioning; mentally and physically, but it is very soft, meant to not be physically exhausting, by rather mentally exhausting. Stop when tired. We need your mind at its peak and your body aware and listening. It's a soft, gradual process. "Burning it in" with hard exercises will just screw it up, so will doing it fast. All that comes later.
2. Moving, doing connection exercises
I think the most strident failure is folks not understanding In yo ho (yin yang method) and intent, so they end up mimicing movement they see, without ever attaining the power and softness therein.
once you have trained the body to maintain this integrity in motion certain effect begins to emerge when you encounter incoming forces. Depending on the stress level the joining of forces and your own conditioning it becomes very magnetic and compelling; leading into holes, capturing energy, and manipulating those forces coming in. The inverse of that is power-out, in rising energy, sinking energy, strikes and close-in hits with body parts, shoulders, chest wall, elbows and knees.
3. Moving, with load resisitence from a helper
- “Zhan Zhuang can be very important or not at all, depending on what your mind is doing”
- I was teaching in a Birenkai Aikido dojo last night and subject of "exercises" came up and why I don't do a lot of them. Has anyone considered the nature of these various "exercises" and what they are and are not doing to and for your body? Have you considered not doing exercises, or at least augmenting them with standing still and manifesting intent?
How about standing still with someone pressing on your arm and other body parts and changing the pressure both you and they feel by changing what you are doing in your body...without you moving at all?
Has anyone considered how this intent driven movement would generate power of a type or open up an idea for something completely different, that they are not all the same even with the same type of core intent driven movement?
...So I still say, go slow and go soft, even later on, after many years of training. I know experts who are very fast and loose who still move slow and stand every day of their lives. - Dan Harden
- I have played with other Yi quan guys who were very soft. To me softness, is the key to the best training out there.
- While I don't know Yi quan -I have trained with any number of people who keep telling me that same thing [that it is similar to what he does/teaches]
- Dan and others who openly teach methods to achieve internal power point out, this stuff may be sublime, but it isn't new or revolutionary. It's been around a long time and is the objective of many arts, in particular the CIMA. A little while back I came across the Yiquan training group in Honolulu. Yiquan is notable in that it focuses on exercises for using the mind/intent (as the name of the art implies) to develop the body vs. forms/waza/kata that primarily comprise other CIMA from which Yiquan was derived and the Japanese arts discussed above. In fact, many Yiquan exercises resemble those taught by Dan (he cited influences from / similarities to Yiquan and other CIMA during his workshop). – Dan seminar attendee
Anyway, I found a place to practice Yiquan, and the instructor is supposedly the greatest here in Denmark when it comes to these internal power things, and not just standing for the sake of health. Should be interesting. I have my first class planned on Tuesday. My daily routine will mainly be sitting meditation until then. After that Yiquan and sitting meditation. I really want to see how far it is possible to take this thing. Let the journey begin!
First of all, you need to understand that what we're calling the "ki" and "kokyu" skills are actually a type of training regimen that came from *very* far back. Somewhere B.C.E.
It's a very famous regimen and it gives unusual power and health, stamina, strengthened organs, body-structure support, etc., that it was a coveted thing to learn.
As Shioda, O-Sensei, and many other Asians noted in writings, it is an "investment for your old age". It leads to the old stories of people who live long, immortality, super-powers, leaping high, great power releases, etc.
- Mike Sigman (another one of the main guys in the "internal strength" movement)