The key to progress in the internal martial arts is to recognize the three forces at work behind your techniques and your power.  There are two “intelligent” forces at work that have power and one which depletes power.  The depleting force is all the habits within the muscles and nerves which are based on fear.  These habits have their own agenda which have nothing to do with your task at hand. 

The powerful, intelligent forces are your intentions and the body’s own consciousness.  Internal training requires that you connect your intentions to the body’s consciousness.  For most people the body’s consciousness has been so suppressed that their intentions are connected only to the forces of habit.  In this case your intentions are side-tracked by the emotional agenda of your entire life.

A common example is that when we spar we like to feel powerful.  Most people feel powerful when they are tense.  The tension makes them feel solid.  Tension however, slows the body down and makes joint movement difficult.  That person’s sparring becomes awkward and based on emotional anger and fear.  He is, in fact, countering his own power. 

The body’s natural intelligence (Body-Mind) is based on the biological structure and function of each part of the body.  This intelligence can be felt as strongly as the fear-emotions which are usually lodged within each part of the body.  When your intentions are connected to this natural intelligence your actions are “clean”, smooth and effective. 

Yet you feel “empty”.  You feel as though you didn’t do anything.  This is a feeling I call, “nothing” (“wu” in Chinese).  When I teach Phantom Kung-fu I emphasize that the students should seek that feeling of nothing at all times.  At first they don’t trust that feeling because it doesn’t feel “powerful”.  Yet when they are in that state they are indeed powerful, fast and effective. 

At this point they need to re-adjust what they consider to be the feeling of power.  The feeling of “nothing” becomes their new feeling of power.  They come to rely on using the experience of the natural intelligence (Body-Mind) as their reference point rather than relying on anger or other emotions.

People ask me, “How does the Body-Mind feel?  How do you know when you are feeling it?”  I explain that it is like smelling a hint of freshly baked bread as you walk down the street.  You follow that smell because you know there is a bakery nearby.  Your nose automatically aligns itself with that smell and your body automatically follows it.  Where your nose points, your body follows.

As we approach the spring season the body naturally begins to stir.  We emerge from the winter’s hibernation.  At this time of year it is the easiest to “smell” the stirrings of the body’s intelligence.  This is called the “stirrings of the dragon” in Zookinesis mythology.

Imagine that you come upon a huge cave.  You smell a dragon and even see its footprints around the cave.  You peer into the cave’s entrance, not daring to venture in.  You can imagine the power within that empty cave.  Then you begin to hear the rustlings of its waking.  What do you do then?  Do you run away or stay to watch it emerge?  That depends on how connected your intentions are to your fears.

Most of us would quickly cement over the entrance to the cave and invest our energy adding layer after layer of cement to make sure the dragon doesn’t escape.  Yet that dragon is our own power.  Why in the world would we hide our own power? 

The key to answering that question is to ask, “Who are we?”  Are we indeed that dragon, our natural intelligence or are we the patterns of behavior based on fear?  If we are the latter, then the emergence of the dragon would surely endanger us.  Part of my work as a Zookinesis and Tai-chi teacher is to tell you that you are not your fears.  You are the dragon.  The dragon’s actions are not based on fear and are therefore not destructive.  When your intentions are connected to your natural power then you are not destructive. 

Yes, you punch or kick with great power but it is not power borne of anger and fear.  It is power borne of competence.  It is a relaxed, comfortable power, not an agitated power. 

Once you understand these three parts of you – intentions, natural power (Body-Mind) and fear-based behavior patterns, you can start to differentiate them in each of your actions.

Your intentions house your training.  For example, if you want to avoid getting hit by the sparring partner’s punch your intentions would be to block if you are in an external martial arts style and to evade if you are in an internal martial arts style.  Your intentions tell you what situation you are in and how to respond. 

With the external styles an intruder is entering your space and you need to remove him from that space.  With the internal styles force is flowing by you and you are naturally pushed aside by that force.  You gently accommodate your alignment to allow the force to flow by while remaining in an advantageous position with the sparring partner.  In this case sparring is not a matter of conflict but of realignment to maintain harmony and balance.  This is, in fact, the way the body is structured to behave. 

When the dragon emerges from its cave, stretches and warms up in the sun, you can then ride it into the clouds.  Your intentions are clear and connected to your inner power.  You can do anything.

This is the training of Tai-chi and Zookinesis.  Take advantage of the spring season when the dragon begins to stir.  Avoid cementing the entrance to the cave and in fact, break down the old cement (the body’s tensions).  Allow the fears within you to flee when they hear the stirrings of the dragon but realize that you are not those fears.  Give each fear a piece of cement to carry away with him.  Remain at the entrance of the cave to greet the dragon. 

The sun is used as a symbol of the energy of consciousness which flows through all living things.  It unites all life on earth.  When you feel the warmth of the spring sun it is easy to allow your fears to melt and to allow the dragon to emerge.  All the natural parts of you become united.  Then you realize that the feeling of “nothing” is really everything in your training.

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