Sometimes, in discussions, we happen to talk about the frequencies of one’s practice.
Regarding the Chinese internal arts, of Taoist inspiration or not, if the practice is not a daily one, then there is no practice. This may seem an exaggeration, but it is a reality.
It is not possible to practice “a little” from time to time, it cannot be an internal practice that leads somewhere.
I repeat here an image that is dear to me: the water must be boiling: the alternation of a fierce fire and then a time without fire will not allow the water to start boiling. There must be a continuity in the fire to sufficiently heat the liquid, which thus reaches the critical temperature change.
Practice is a reflection of this example. This transformation, this alchemy can only be done with a sustained and relaxed effort, otherwise either we burn the pot is burning or we do not heat the water enough… But that’s another topic.
Participating in Tai Chi Chuan “sessions” two or three times a week or taking chi kung lessons is not practicing… There should be no confusion!Exercises learned during the lessons, the theory and the forms, serve only to discover the personal practice, which is the only source of change.
This new way of life, based on a constant awareness of one’s actions, in accordance with the concepts of one’s practice, has nothing to do with this entertaining session of “sport”.It is not enough to make slow movements while breathing through the nose, or to dress up like a Chinese, with the music that goes with it, to pretend to be in the Internal Arts. No, one must follow a very precise training protocol, on a significant duration.
It would be easy and unfair to throw things like that and then stop saying “You should not do that, it is not good … Good bye now!”. Since I have the opportunity, I would rather let you enjoy the vision of my tradition, so as to share.
This is not “the” truth (or it’s a fluke …), but it is close to “my” truth.
Daily work must follow a specific direction that requires a real continuity and an exclusivity in the consistency of the effort.
Deep understanding of each part enables us to free ourselves of “what to do” and to go to a natural and personal way.
The fact of “changing” the training before getting to the bottom of it does not enable us to be on a solid foundation. Staying “stuck” in one’s little concepts of “truth” is even sadder, it is a sign of lack of freedom.
Practice is clear and strict, but it must be “freed”, sooner or later, to unite to what we are. It should not get stuck on what is taught, but must grow and return to the natural.
The steps are often the same in Chinese internal arts:
– Relax the body
– Form the body
– Anchor the body
– Strengthen the body
– Coordinate breathing
– Unite breath and movement,
– Calm the mind and strengthen the intention,
– Unite and feel the energy
These steps are obviously a quick summary, but they give an idea of the work that is required.It is obvious that if, in the period when we relax the body, you practice the hard chi kung of the White Crane (for example), the contrary informations may not be absorbed by the neuromuscular system. Yes, you move and circulate the blood, but you do not learn, you do not build.
Similarly, if you practice American boxing exercises to relax, it will not be possible either. It will at most be a good external practice, relaxed and fluid, but it will never be an internal practice.
It does not work with Thai boxing and sumo either…
The profound changes, that have a purpose other than simply being able to perform major stinging slaps, require a continuity and a presence to the work (no, we can not do the tree watching the news or a Jet Li movie! it is better than nothing, but the real work is not there, and anyway, “we will have to dig where we left the earth”).
“Uniting” implies not dispersing.
One must, for an internal practice according to the traditions that I know, respect several steps that dictate the guidelines of work:
– Understand the work you have to do (thus requiring the details and supervision of a “qualified” teacher), not working in a vacuum, for nothing, or doing stupid things that ruin everything.
– Bring a comfort in the practice, both physical and mental. A practice that is too far from our availability, which goes against our culture, that we do not understand, which is too painful… It is not possible, you should arrange it to find that comfort, otherwise it leads to nothing. I did not say it would be easy …
– Integrate your practice in your life … or in fact, your life in your practice.
– Do not go “against” the changes that the practice brings ( whether professional, emotional, physical …), it is a good example of “non action.”
– Repeat the exercises tirelessly and without much questioning (well, knowing that it is impossible for the Westerners that we are not to ask questions…)
– The attention must be total but relaxed … I know this is science fiction, but I share my teachings. Well, if you are present to what you do, it’s not bad for starters.
Too often, concentration is an attention “stuck” on a topic, an image, a goal.
The intention may be “attentive” or “concentrated”.The “yi” is a conceptualization that tends to want to realize itself through the “zhi”, the strength of the kidneys. Basically, the “yi” says: “I will give him a good slap through the understanding of my body mechanics” but the “zhi” must do, or flee (“fight or flight” syndrome).
The mistake that is often made by practitioners who love martial arts intellectually, is to think much “how” and “why”, through the “yi”, but forget to feed the beast, strengthen the body, the primal force of the kidneys, the “zhi”.
A body that feels weak, who does not trust itself, will have a “zhi” who will not go to actual combat.
If it is “concentrated” according to the terms defined here, we are less efficient than if we are “attentive”, a bit like the muscle, which should be soft, not tight.
Again, daily practice, with its inevitable “tests” enables us to understand this better than worthless words.
– And, big secret if there is one, you must discover a “hidden treasure”; you must “enter” the Internal Arts through the discovery of enthusiasm, the pleasure of practice. It is the enthusiasm that will prevent us from having harmful distractions to our practice, because we will better understand the value of what we have.
This way of working has to be the same for the different aspects of the practice, which are not progressive, but mingled with each other.
There is no “half practice.” If the internal practice is not “merged” with one’s life, then you are on the doorstep, but you have not entered yet.
For those who pretend to want, but evoke false excuses such as logistical concerns for example, I would say that if the mental availability is real and clear, the physical availability will tend to establish herself.
Without enthusiasm, it is only possible to pretend or wish to want and try, but never do. Our entire practice is in action.
Discovering enthusiasm can not be learned, as the Tao can not be described, but we have the means to “feel” it through the practice.
Several styles of ancient Chinese internal boxes are called “men” and not “chuan” (fist) or “fa” (method) or “zang” (palm)… “Men” means door, entrance, portal, an entrance to the internal arts.
We speak of “practicing” Chinese boxing, but of “entering” in the internal arts, and we do so through a door: “men”. It is obvious that many internal styles are not called “men”… This is an example.
I think if you practice 12 minutes per day, every day, without effort or questioning, then we can “enter”. The constancy of the return to the body and to the “shen”, of this connection, this slow but durable fire, can gently lead to this subtle boiling… I think the problem is that we will surely have to return to this story of questioning, enthusiasm and effort.
However, to use the power of the internal arts in a physical confrontations, it will take more than 12 minutes per day, that’s for sure!
For a good right to be closer to a “bong chuan” than a good right of a cowboy, we will have to work (me being the first…)!
An internal strike is penetrating, this requires a relaxed body and mind. The “united” body worked a split second, and everything breaks loose … For that kind of result, I think we need to organize our lives around our practice so that it really works, but it is a difficult choice.
This is a vision of the practice in my tradition, the Taoist arts that I know follow this path and I give them to you as I received them.