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Intangible Targets – Yin / Yang

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The 12th email I have sent out to my Heavy Hands Internal Iron Palm group on Facebook Thought I would share it here as well as on the group itself : Iron Palm Study Group Another tip to work on release of force rather than making strong force is to have a mark on the wall near your bag that you think of as the board or brick you would be hitting. Just by passing the hand through the plane where the brick would be you work to tell the mind to soften and relax and go through. Being able to release our minds from targeting in the normal way helps us to work on the separation of mind and body needed for advanced practice.

I reread what I write and thought I should expand on that last statement, so it is not misunderstood.

In the beginning of martial training we are working to remove the duality of the mind and body. We see them as two separate things, which is easy to do since we can watch a movement and think we understand it yet not be able to make our bodies replicate it. Over time in training martial arts we follow others through movements and train them over and over so that what we see in our minds eye can become reality for our body more and more quickly, thus bringing the integration of mind and body closer together. The realization that takes place eventually is that there is no mind body duality at all. The two are entwined and cannot be separated other than by a thought paradigm that we have in place from our culture. The integration of the mind into the flesh is one of the most important steps in martial arts training and can take years of practice under the right teacher with good instruction to achieve. This easily explains why so many martial artists can train for decades and still not fully finds that integration, there is a disconnect in some way. Many things must be in place for a person to achieve a real integration of mind and body into mind/body. So, from duality we create singularity simply with two poles or interwoven opposite parts. Of course, this is studied and discussed from the very beginning in most martial arts practices as yin/yang theory or principle. However most even call this Yin and Yang even from the very beginning of a students training, this is a small matter of semantics yes but, how we verbalize concepts changes radically how we or others we are speaking to think about them. Yin and Yang implies duality, two separate things and we describe them as such using examples as Male and Female, Day and Night and so on. Even if we as teachers of others or ourselves feel we understand that these are simply two aspects of the same thing as the two sides of a coin, we must be careful how we speak to ourselves or anyone else we are trying to convey the idea to. Lest it be “lost in translation” Now from the beginner stage of duality we have reached the intermediate stage of singularity of body and mind. However, the realization that there has always been singularity has to come to see that the original duality was a construct in the first place. This is an important aspect for the martial artist. This is when we realize that the opponent is not separate from ourselves. They too are a part of the moment and pressure of the combat. They too are affected by our thoughts and we theirs, we are like two aspects of the single thing, the fight itself. At this stage martial artists tend to become competent and no longer are unskilled meatheads swinging at other people. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule but the clear majority of people in this stage of development become genuinely skilled. Able to manipulate the opponent and themselves as if there was little to no separation between them. However, this understanding of the singularity of mind/body is not the advanced stage of training the mind/body. Once the mind teaches the body martial arts from observation and trial and error the body begins to teach the mind from experiences, sensations and feedback. The mind then takes that information and again teaches the body what to change and when and so on and so forth. This is what is referred to as Yin/Yang reversal. Yin becomes, and Yang and Yang becomes Yin given the time and environment to come to fruition. The mind teaches the body, so the body can teach the mind. On a larger scale however, this means that the mind and body becoming a singular rather than a duality is only one transformation. Like the mind teaching the body. They must again separate into two distinct parts eventually to engage in high level practice. This way the Yin/Yang reversal completes itself fully as is the way of everything in reality. The mind and body separating means that the body which has been taught by and integrated with the mind is now highly skilled. The body can undertake any trained movement without the need of the minds impulse to direct it always. This is like learning a dance or a form and practicing it so much that eventually you can perform it while thinking about other things. When I learned Tai Ji the change in level from beginner to intermediate and from intermediate to advanced stages was tested by my teacher asking to see me perform the form and then having a conversation with me while I did it! He wanted to see how well the mind could separate from the body while the body was engaged in skilled movement. Would the body forget and make mistakes? Would I be able to hold a cognizant discussion, or would I drift off to ‘remember’ what movements came next? The thing I remember most about the talk was actually the subject of conversation…. Cars rather than the form itself. Once the body can perform in this way the mind can be freed for more tasks. This is where creation of intentions can be made freely, like targeting an imaginary line during practice. The use of the mind now during martial practice needs to be guided by a teacher who has already experienced this level of training in order to avoid costly mistakes. Dreaming or seeking fairy tale powers can very easily lead the mind down a path that will not only not help the skills but can actually degrade them over time. I cannot recommend enough that this is where a substantial teacher is needed to make the most of this stage of training. To quote a student, swordsman and friend of mine Jason Deatherage “The power is not the shape; the power goes through the shape.” This is a great example of the body knowing the shape and the mind available for other tasks.

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