"Bring the Spirit (mind awareness) within to cultivate the Qi. Avoid unnecessary movements in the three parts of the body: head, arms and torso."
Master Huang Sheng-Shyan
This week one of my students expressed how he was taking the teaching of “less is more” to heart and bringing the lesson into his forms. He went on to share how his forms have evolved after learning to drop the energy of martial applications taught in the intermediate forms curriculum and then start to apply the concept of “song” within the framework of the 108. Needless to say I was very pleased to hear this.
The difficulty in teaching internal arts lies in the fact that the experience of the practitioner is subjective. This means that no one else can ever experience what you have experienced. On top of that obstacle is how to relate that which is subjective in order to teach it or share it. But this is the challenge that we face as teachers.
Internal arts practice starts with the first level of awareness which is physical. We must become intimately aware of our bodies. The second level of practice is to become intimate with “feeling” or the language of the body. This awareness will take considerable gong fu (time and energy) to achieve, especially if your lifestyle is such that the external world demands the majority of your attention.
Master Huang does speak the truth though when he states that we must “bring the spirit within to cultivate Qi.” The quote then continues to give us a hint on how to accomplish this essential by sharing how we must “avoid unnecessary movements in the three parts of the body.” This leads us back to the less is more concept that I teach.
After learning a set, the student should strive to reduce any unwarranted movement. I always state to students that “you’ll start “big” but work towards small” as their practice matures. One should not only understand this concept physically but they should also know why it is important.
When a student losses the “excess” of their forms they will then find that which matters most and on this level of practice that would be to become intimate with the body’s language, which is “feeling”. Now, starting to “feel’ equates to hearing a new language. If someone came up to you and started to speak Icelandic I bet you wouldn’t get too much out of the conversation. So after starting to “feel” one has to learn to interpret or understand. This understanding leads to knowledge and knowledge leads to wisdom which means the proper and best use of knowledge.
Through the unwavering attention of a chef, a fine sauce is reduced slowly and continuously resulting in more potent and enhanced flavours. This analogy is applicable to your practice as well.