Mind Intention in Taijiquan

Mind Intention in Taijiquan

Postby psalchemist » Fri Sep 26, 2003 9:52 pm

Greetings all contributors,

Upon review of the accumulated materials involved from previous postings on the topic of 'The form in 20 minutes' in the 'barehand' forum I discovered a point I had neglected to pursue at the time, but which insists persistantly upon halting my attention and peaking my interest.

My query derives from the quotation Cesar provided which stated:

<The Taiji idea is to practice slowly but the idea is not to do the movements but to use your mind to control your movements. It is not your movements doing the movements it is using the inside to do the movement so every movement can be very final... > - James Fu

Probe, inspect, explore I must, or else surely be driven mad from curiosity.

The idea struck me recently that this is probably a much more profound concept than I had originally conceived it to be. Upon surface investigation it seems quite simple and obvious, but when I consider it more deeply, I am pummelled with doubts as to the real meaning behind the instruction.

Perhaps some of the more experienced Taijiquan practitioners would consider contributing their thoughts, knowledge and references on the matter of mind intention in Taijiquan solo practice form, since I myself have very little experience to speak of in this domain.

The first portion of the statement reads:
< The idea is not to do the movements but to use your mind to control your movements. > - James Fu

The question that really sticks in my mind is ...
Is this longstanding Taijiquan ideology simply drawing on the very basic need of using the mind or brain to move the body?

Please bear with me, this undoubtedly will be difficult to express...

All physical, bodily movement, of course, must be stemming originally from 'intention', the mind, the brain.

As far as I am educated, this is fact.

Whether conscious, subconscious or unconscious, all states of mind may incite movement, however their inception, indisputably must issue originally from the mind. In other words, basically, it would be technically impossible to manifest bodily movement WITHOUT the mind's participation.

Please allow me to provide an example to better explain...

When I blink my eyes, for example, this is done with my mind...of course.

Blinking one's eyes can be acheived on all levels of brain functionning: conscious, subconscious, unconscious.

Consciously, one could think ' I wish to blink my eyes', this message is then sent to the eyelids and surrounding muscles, tendons etc. through the neurological pathways as an 'electric' impulse, which, upon reaching the designated areas proceeds to blink the eyes.

The body and mind function so effectively, that unless there is some disturbance, physical defect or mental incapacity, the body will respond almost simultaneously to the minds command, a fraction of a second following the thought.

Subconsciously, if one had a dust particle in the eye, was exposed to a sudden bright flash of light, or simply when the eyeball required lubrication, the eyes would blink without conscious intention, doing so 'automatically', as remedy or self protection mechanism. This is still 'mind intent', a different level of consciousness, but 'mind intention' nonetheless.

Unconsciously, when we sleep, for example- we are almost completely unconscious. When we dream, however it is proven that our eyes blink,the eyelids tremble and the eyes shift according to our unconscious 'mind intent' from the activities we perceive occurring in the dreamstate.

The body would act out it's dream movements physically if the brain were lacking a particular chemical which is automatically transmitted to the brain during sleep hours.

Sleepwalkers get up and walk around in their semi-conscious state due to a lack of this chemical 'injection' provided by the body. Ultimately the mind/brain must give the orders to the body to supply this function, then the body supplies the substance to the brain in return(if it possesses these chemicals in sufficient quantity) and the brain gives the 'order' to necessarily paralyse the dreamer while asleep. Another automatic self preservation technique, inborn in the human being. So even in an unconscious state the mind commands the body. There is mind intention.

Movement cannot be derived from movement. An intention, be it conscious, subconscious or unconscious must be present to provoke physical movement of any sort.

Understanding this however, ironically, is the source of my confusion about the statement provided for Taijiquan.

Given the thought that all movement cannot possibly be executed without the existance of intention on some level, leads me to question what is truly meant by ...'use the mind intent to move the body'. I think this must somehow surpass the obvious connotations which I have presented here.

What intention are we speaking of exactly?

Is this a particular set of imageries, pertaining to a conflict against an opponent?

Also, this is the sole way I can understand the second part of the quote which dictates:
< It is using the inside to do the movements so every movement can be very final... > - James Fu

Again, the only manner in which I can view bringing 'finality' to a movement would be if I had one specific application in mind, which could actually be cordonned off mentally as beginning, middle, and end processes. Which could in turn be 'finalized' mentally and therefore physically at the end of it's execution.

The only conclusion I am able to draw from these statements, myself, is that I should be visualizing an opponent before me and imagining the various applications I am performing.

Ultimately after many years of solo form practice this would neurologically imprint these applications in one's memory and facilitate their passage or automatic reaction when required. The longer one performs these techniques with conscious mind intention the more subconscious and natural they become to perform, to the point where one no longer has to think to execute an application.

There are different levels of mind intention. After thirty years of practicing a certain application it becomes as subconscious as blinking the dust out from one's eyes.

I am interested in hearing what others have to say on the subject of mind intention in Taijiquan terms.

Please feel free to contradict, ammend, or appeal any of these comments presented. I am in no way any type of authority, or expert, merely a beginner with developping theories, premises and deductions.

Best regards,

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 09-26-2003).]
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Postby andres » Fri Oct 03, 2003 2:24 pm

Hello, psalchemist. I'm new to the site, and just read your inquiry about "mind intent". I'm no master but another student. Maybe this will help. Where you put your attention, your energy will go there. When your body is sore and you place your energy on that very spot, your chi will focus there and promote healing. Now, when you have a purpose for putting your attention on a spot, it is called "intention", and now your chi will not only travel there, but will promote movement and transformation of your sore into something else, so it will not be a sore anymore but a more harmonic sensation. Applied to a Taichi posture, there is your intention of pushing, grabbing, throwing, pulling, etc accompanying a movement. That will serve to take your chi there (to your hand, fingers, elbow, etc) and potentiate your move. Thus, postures and movements serve to train your intention and your energy to move in specific contraction/expansion, offensive/defensive, absorbtion/emission patterns so you can later move "out of the box" of postures and movements and be able to contract or expand with intention only. Every time you move your chi with purpose (intention), it will slowly trasform and refine into a higher vibration product. Please let me know if this was understandable and useful to you. Best regards, Andres.
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Postby psalchemist » Sat Oct 04, 2003 2:41 pm

Hello Andres,

Welcome to the discussion board! It is very nice to exchange words with a fellow student of Taijiquan. Image

Your explanation of 'mind intention' as applied to Taijiquan has shed a new light on my understanding of the subject.

I believe I may have launched this concept from a secondary or irrelevant aspect, and appreciate your kindness in attempting to point me in the proper direction.

Your insightful response has lead my mind on a journey of deeper contemplation, which I would like to explore more profoundly before returning with comments, or more precisely more questions.

I can say without further consideration, though, that your posting was clearly understandable and definitely very useful to my progress along the path of comprehension in Taijiquan.

Best regards,
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Postby psalchemist » Sun Oct 05, 2003 2:33 am

Greetings Andres,

Your posting has lead me to several questions, as I thought it might...

Firstly, you said,
<Where you put your attention your energy will go there.> Andres

Yes, I have heard this statement many times. This comment is quite fashionable... however, its simplicity makes comprehension difficult, I find.

I am glad you continued,
< When you have a purpose for putting your attention on a spot, it is called "intention"...>

Thank-you! That is the definition I was seeking.
For clarity sake...
Are you defining "intention" as a uniquely conscious or deliberate action?
Do you rule out the possibility of multi-level mind intention, such as the subconscious or unconscious attention creating intention?

Also you wrote,
< [With intention...] your chi will not only travel there, but will promote movement...> Andres

Now that is intriguing...I had not yet fully considered the truly 'lively' nature of the chi until now...

How does chi promote movement? - By its pure active nature in itself, or is it stimulating the physical components(nerves, tendons, muscles etc.) into action by sheer proximity?

You wrote,
< Applied to a Taiji posture, there is your intention of pushing, grabbing, throwing, pulling etc. accompanying a movement. That will serve to take your chi there( to your hand, fingers, elbow etc. ) and potentiate your move.> Andres

To enter into more detail on this subject...
Is the focus to be placed on the final point of contact?
In 'Push/An' for example, does one focus on the hands throughout the process or does one place the attention/intention on 'threading the chi'?
In other words, should I put attention/intention into the movement starting from the feet(grounding), up the legs, through the waist, spine, arms to finally express with the hands and fingers...or should I place intention only in the hands?

I have heard that the upper body is defined by the eight trigram energy movements and the lower body is based in the five elements.
Do you think this has any bearing on the issue at hand?
Is there a difference between upper and lower body 'intention'?

You also stated,
< Thus postures and movements serve to train your intention and your energy to move in a specific contraction/expansion, defensive/offensive, absorption/emission patterns so you can later move "out of the box" of postures and movements and be able to contract and expand with intention only.> Andres

The former portion I have heard expressed as 'creating or establishing neurological pathways', and can understand this.

The latter portion however, halts my attention abruptly...< be able to contract or expand with intention only.> Would you consider this to be a highly efficient and functioning 'kinesthetic' ability?...Well then, that is awesome! Maybe I'll be closer to that level of development in about twenty years!

< Everytime you move your chi with purpose(intention), it will slowly transform and refine into a higher vibration product> Andres
Yes, right, practice, practice Image

Lastly, in the health area, you advised,
< When your body is sore and you place your energy on that very spot, you chi will focus there and promote healing.> Andres

That is great advice for everyone. I'll try it out and let you know how the remedy worked.

Thank-you for your help,
Best regards,
Psalchemist. Image
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Postby dorshugla » Mon Oct 06, 2003 5:48 pm

Mind intention is USELESS. It is a good byproduct of taijiquan practice but never the goal.
1. Do zhanzhuang
2. Do individual posture training
3. DO form
4. Do weapons practice
5. Have fun

Mind only controls movement when you have accumulated the gong of practice, meaning you have the duration and frequency down and when that stage is reached, then thing smay be more automatic.

If you want to be an Olympic athlete (referring to 'higher' caliber of practice) 1 hour a day is insufficeint. SOme people can reach that high level with 1000 hours of concerted practice, others 500 hrs, others 10,000 hours, soem peak early, others remain consistant until middle age, etc so there is no one set formula (we all know that) for all.

All I am saying we need to be more realistic and practice more.

me with the big FAT belly
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Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Oct 06, 2003 6:03 pm

Greetings D,

You wrote: "Mind intention is USELESS. It is a good byproduct of taijiquan practice but never the goal."

I would have to disagree. I don't think mind intent is 1)useless, 2)a byproduct, or 3)a goal.

May I ask, how can you do the things you've listed without the intent to do them?

Take care,
Louis Swaim
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Postby Audi » Tue Oct 07, 2003 12:29 am

Greetings Psalchemist (and all),

This is a difficult topic, but one I think is essential for anyone wishing to study Taijiquan at intermediate and advanced levels. I even have my doubts about whether one can ignore this issue at beginning levels, but that is probably more a matter of teaching style than of theory.

By the way, I would be curious if any of the teachers or would-be teachers could comment on when they think it is appropriate to stress this side of Taijiquan with students. I think I understand Dorshugla’s viewpoint, but would be interested in others’ opinions. Should you discuss things like “mind intent” on the second day of instruction? Halfway through teaching the form? After teaching the gross movements of the whole form? Do you just provide “one leg of the table” on the first few days of instruction, and let the students provide the other “three legs” when they are ready? If you do not stress the importance of intention and give direct and clear guidance, do you risk that students will underestimate its importance or will misunderstand your meaning through confusion with other prevalent notions?

Psalchemist, I more or less agree with what Andres said quite cogently. I also agree with Louis’ brief post. The only thing I might quibble with in Andres’ explanation is that his wording seems to imply that the postures can teach you how to use intent all by themselves. I would prefer stating that the postures give you a theater in which you can learn to practice using intent and to see how intent works. I happen to believe it is possible to do postures quite esthetically, reasonably accurately, and even martially, while failing to mobilize your “internal” resources correctly. In other words, I believe that you must consciously choose to exercise your intent and that the postures will not do this for you.

I can only guess at the meaning of James Fu’s words about “making the movements final”; and so cannot help with this part of your initial post. I can, however, give some help about some of the Chinese words behind this issue and about my own personal practice and interpretations.

Chinese, like many languages, has many words whose meanings overlap with what the term “mind” covers. Of the Chinese words, I have seen in my meager readings of the classics, the word that comes closest to the English word is the term “xin” (pronounced like the English word “shin” and usually glossed as “heart”). This term refers to the “seat” and “origin” of one’s thoughts, as well as to most of the meanings covered by the word “heart.” Despite what you might think, this word does not seem to get much play in the classics, perhaps because too much talk of “thinking” implies not being in the “Dao” of the moment.

The words most referenced in the classics are probably “Yi” and “Shen.” Neither really should be translated with the word “mind,” but they nevertheless are the words that govern the process of using the mind to lead the body to do the movements. We have touched on “shen” several times within the last six months on this forum, and so I will not comment about I here. We have also talked about “yi” from time to time, but I think I have a few new thoughts I can share.

First, let me re-state some things we have touched on before, since they bear on discussions of this type. In understanding and applying the terminology of Taijiquan, there are three things to bear in mind. First, there are very few words that have a 100% correspondence to any words in another language. This applies not only to complex and subtle terms, but also to words as “simple” as body parts. If we are not thinking about Taijiquan terminology in the way a native Mandarin speaker would, we run two risks. We will project things from our native language onto the Taiji words that do not exist in the Chinese, and we will exclude things that a native speaker would necessarily associate with the Chinese word.

A second difficulty is that ordinary Chinese words may have acquired additional nuances for Taijiquan or even specialized meanings that do not apply to ordinary usage. Sometimes there is a mixture of both; i.e. sometimes the word is used in its ordinary sense by practitioners and sometimes in a specialized sense.

A third difficulty is that some terminology has acquired different meanings in various martial arts or even in various styles or sub-styles of Taijiquan. To navigate this difficulty, you must seek out authentic practitioners of whatever tradition you are trying to investigate in order to understand precisely what is being talked about.

In the case of “yi,” I think the first and the third difficulties are present. In other words, there is no simple equivalent of this word in English, and different teachers of Taijiquan seem to stress different aspects of this concept. These differences lead to significant differences in practice.

“Yi” is generally pronounced like the “ee” sound in the word “feet.” A frequent translation used for it in Taiji circles is “mind intent.” It refers to the meaning, idea, or purpose that one projects onto something. For instance, when you say: “What is the meaning of this?,” you are talking about territory covered by “yi.” When you say that you did something “with the best of intentions” or “with evil intent,” this is again “yi.” Although “yi” is an element of one’s “intention” to do something, this really goes a little beyond what “yi” covers. “Yi” has more to do with “meaning” and “conception” than with “deliberation,” “resolution,” “decision making,” or “planning.”

Most of the common compound words in Chinese that can translate “idea,” “concept,” or “meaning” include “yi” (e.g., “zhuyi” (“idea”), “yijian” (“opinion,” “view”), “yinian” (“notion”), “yisi” (“meaning”), “yiyi” (“significance,” “meaning”). “Yiwai” means “outside “what one might or could conceive.’” “Yi zai yan wai” means “having a ‘meaning’ going beyond what can be expressed in words.” The mere fact that you “intend” to do something can also include “yi,” but this can be expressed in ways that do not have to use this word.

There are some practitioners that say that one should not have “intent” in certain situations, for example in Pushing Hands or while trying to “listen” to the opponent’s energy (“Ting Jin”). My personal belief is that this does not apply to the methods the Yangs teach, but I could be wrong about this. I also wonder whether this teaching is an artifact of meanings that the word “intent” has in English and that are much less prominent or even absent in the Chinese word “yi.”

“Intent” in English can have a strong future orientation, implying that one becomes attached to a future course of action or a future reality that may never be realized. (Like “dasuan”?) In my opinion, such actions are not good Taijiquan, even outside of “listening to energy” or Push Hands.

Although I believe that the word “yi” does not preclude a future orientation, I think that it is more oriented toward the present. In other words, I think it concerns more what one is doing “in the moment.” In my personal practice, I try to apply “yi” at all times without exception.

Another idea I would like to distinguish from my concept of “yi” is the idea that using “yi” involves “adding” mental activity to physical activity. For me, using “yi” does not have this feel at all. In other words, it does not involve merely bringing focus or imagination to my performance of the postures. I do not “add” something to my physical practice. My practice is about using “yi,” not about reproducing limb movements from memory and then focusing on body parts. What I am physically practicing is indivisible from what I am mentally practicing. Without using “yi” or by using it differently, I would be engaged in a completely different exercise.

I also want to make clear that I am not talking about something related to ability. I am not claiming to be “so good” at postures that I can imbue them with spirit or mental energy. I am talking about something that just about anyone can do immediately, as long as the process is understood or properly explained. One on one and in person, I think such an explanation can be done in about 60 seconds to ten minutes, if someone has a reasonable foundation in the form.

Let me try to explain more specifically why I find “yi” important to my personal practice and why it goes beyond my normal mental activity in controlling the movement of my limbs. Imagine trying to juggle three tennis balls. Imagine taking a videotape of your movements. Now imagine watching the tape and trying to copy the same movements precisely, but without using any tennis balls. Would you really be engaged in the same activity? Would you be developing the same skills, even though your arms would be involved in similar motions? Notice that I say “imagine trying to juggle,” rather than “imagine juggling.” Whether one succeeds or not in the juggling is not really relevant, since I am talking about a method, process, or attitude to the activity. In other words, the level of skill is not what is at issue.

Here is another example. Imagine trying to balance a basketball or soccer ball on your finger. Now take away the ball and “practice” the same movements with your finger. Is this at all the same activity? Are you relating to your finger, hand, or arm in the same way?

For me, doing form is like trying to juggle balls or trying to balance a basketball on my finger. It is a live activity that rote memorization or muscle memory has little or nothing to do with. It requires my full mental attention to retain its essential character. Without consciously using “yi,” my postures are completely empty, and doing form has little meaning and little value for me.

I find that “yi” is important for knowing how to “fangsong” (“loosen up”/”relax”). It is often said that Taijiquan involves concentration on tendons and sinews, whereas hard martial arts involve concentration on muscle and bone. Below is how I conceive of this at the moment. I probably have certain aspects of the basic anatomy wrong, but I think my general idea is correct.

Each joint is controlled by opposing muscle groups that work through tendons and sinews. During each moment of the form, you should be engaging one and only one of these two sets of muscles. Normally, if you do this outside of correct form practice, you will end up moving the joint to its limit and locking it. You can even run the risk of hyper-extending it. I believe that you avoid this in form by using different pairs of muscle groups to provide the necessary opposition. In other words, you do not make use of opposition within a joint, but rather use opposition between different joints and between sets of joints (e.g. deng vs. cheng). In this way, you have the feeling of constantly extending the joints, but still have control over how much extension is actually realized. You are constantly experiencing a dynamic yin-yang equilibrium that is Taiji (not Wuji or some yin with some yang). There is no sensation of every freezing, stopping, or locking a joint. You merely move from equilibrium to equilibrium at whatever pace you want.

The physical problem that this type of movement presents is that there are an infinite number of yin-yang equilibriums. To choose the correct one for the given moment, you must use “yi” to guide your muscle movement and preserve the necessary sensation in the tendons and sinews. With the correct “yi,” the equilibrium you choose will be self-reinforcing. You do not have to put your mind on the components of the equilibrium since this is naturally determined by your “yi.” Similarly, when you draw a bow, you do not have to give much thought to where you pull on the bowstring or when to stop pulling on it. The various forces simply move to equalize and match your “yi.” Your pulling elbow feels it has to line up correctly. You do not have to worry about locking the fingers holding the string.

Another example is a parachute. It deploys in a certain pattern, not because it has rigid structures, but because the energy of gravity and air pressure make it assume a particular shape. The focus of the energy that controls everything else is at the point where the lines come together at the bottom. Similarly, every posture has a focus of energy, a “jin point,” that defines how all the rest of the limbs deploy.

If your “yi” is on the correct energy pattern, your limbs will seem to deploy themselves. The shape of the posture will feel self-reinforcing. The structure of the energy will feel well defined, even though you do not put your mind on defining any particular position of the limbs in three-dimensional space. If you withdraw your “yi” or even put it directly on your limbs, this process becomes impossible. It becomes like practicing juggling or balancing motions without a ball. The externals may be there, but there is nothing inside.

To take a concrete example, if someone is trying to do the Push Posture, it is very easy to project the “habits” of daily life into one’s Taijiquan and to ignore what is actually happening in the present moment. One incorrectly puts one’s mind wholly on the position of the palm in order to reproduce the push one uses to open a door. This use of “yi” gives no meaning to the rest of the joints in the body. It is a completely local movement that has little or none of the qualities necessary for good Taijiquan. Hardly any of the Ten Essentials are involved. Instead, one should give meaning (i.e., “yi”) to each and every joint and to the “energy network” they form as a whole. This cannot be done without training your “yi” and acquiring a “conscious understanding of movement.”

To further illustrate my meaning, let me give one last practical example, from the form. In reality, this concept of “yi” exists at all times within the form and should be visible in each joint, but I am trying to give examples that might be more obvious so that you can see for yourself if there is anything to what I say.

Between the beginning of the posture Strike the Tiger (Left) and the beginning of the last spin in the Second Paragraph, there are six transitions between open palms and fists. In my opinion, at least five of these are accomplished with a very specific and visible relationship to the energy being manifested by the trunk of the body. (I leave out the sixth only because I am not knowledgeable enough to have a firm opinion of the facts.) Each of these five are also done with a different “segment” of energy. For instance, in Double Peaks/Winds to the Ears (Shuang feng guan er), I believe the fists are formed by the energy used between touching the floor with the right heel and flattening the foot.

If your “yi” does not account for all these uses of energy, I think it is very easy to form or relax fists in ways that do not really relate to the body’s movement, and the Qi will not thread correctly. If someone has a background in hard styles, I think it is also easy to see the shape of the hands only in terms of the final culmination of the posture and not care about the energy relationships in between and in the transitions. For such people, “yi” does not go beyond thinking of punching “with great intensity” and with “good mental focus.”

Some people teach that fists should only be formed at the very last minute, to provide the maximum options. I do not believe, however, that this is the “yi” that the Yangs teach. For instance, in Strike the Tiger and Step Back to Ride the Tiger, the fists are indeed formed or released at the last second. However, I believe this is because the practitioner is expected to show two meanings during a single performance of the postures. In Strike the Tiger, these meanings are plucks (cai/ts’ai) and punches. In Step Back to Ride the Tiger, the meanings are a punch and an overhead block. Again the emphasis is not so much on drilling an external application, but understanding how to use your “yi” correctly to produce a given result.

This is all I have time for at the moment. Any comments welcome.

Take care,
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Oct 07, 2003 2:07 pm

Greetings Dorshugla,

Thank-you for providing your opinions.

You said:
<Mind intention is USELESS. It is a good byproduct of taijiquan practice but never the goal> -Dorshugla-

I, as Louis, must disagree with this statement.

Intention is NOT a by-product or a result in any way. It is, in my opinion, a TOOL, which I, personally, find very useful.

Mind intention as a goal? No that thought has never occurred to me either, mind intention is a vehicle which potentiates(Andres-good word!-potentiate) the effectiveness and meaning of the posture/movement.

Dorshugla you listed:
<Do Zhuanzhang> I am unfamiliar with this, perhaps you could explain?

<Do individual posture training> I prefer 'short sequence training'.

<Do form> Yes, I agree that daily form training is essential.

<Do weapons practice> That depends upon your level of education in Taijiquan, I do not practice weapons forms yet myself.

<Do have fun> Yes, of course, enjoy the journey.

You said:
<Mind only controls movement when you have accumulated the gong of practice, meaning you have the duration and frequancy down and when that stage is reached, then things may be more automatic> Dorshugla

Could you please rephrase your statement, I am unsure of what you are trying to convey, and wouldn't want to misinterpret your words.

You also made several comments distinguishing individual goals, hours of practice and years of traning.

Yes I agree, everyone is different.

Lastly you stated:
<All I am saying we need to be more realistic and pactice more> Dorshugla

Actually, I am not sure I find it highly realistic to advise everyone that they should practice more.

Everyone is different.

I would personally be more willing to advise everyone to listen to and respect their bodies' limitations, and to practice in accord with their overall personal goals.

I also believe that quality should precede quantity. Do less, but do it well...Maybe with some intention and spirit.

These are only MY opinions.

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Postby dorshugla » Tue Oct 07, 2003 6:44 pm


where do I start?
1. Zhanzhuang aka post standing, post staking, wiji zhuang, wujizhanzhuang all convey the same meaning. It basically is holding static postures (without external movemnt) for periods of time. It is an important training that many neglect today especially in Yang style. This is a carryover from my Chen style training
PURPOSE: To build stability and lower body strength. Sometimes when I do not feel like moving, I do zhanzhuang but I usually incorporate both within the same training sequence.

2. Your comment on suggesting that people practice more is interesting. How can one want to progress in taijiquan but not work harder (duration of practice)? It can never happen, at least from my view.

3. Individual posture training is repeated movement(s) of the specifc posture(s) over an extended period of time. WHy? One is isolating the movement, assessing its potential martial context (providing one was taught the fundamentals), experimenting with short and long range methods and posture, protecting the circle/square (distance) on how and when to react by prejudged areas of escalation of conflict. excuse some of the language-i am an ex-Marine). Based on what ou were taught, you expond on your own references instead of just relying on "my teacher told me so mentality". Just be creative.

4. I am using mind as multidimentsional. First stage of practice in familiarization, actual practice, external stuff (arms, legs postitoning. Mind is just following and being built/reinforced/new pathways being regenerated/strengthened through the new learning process. SO mind doesn;t do anything. It follows character/attitude so no need to change or think about it. It takes care of itself and follows discipline.
I am looking at mind as not just brain but all of its permutations. Mind also encompasses aspects of heart and even ones gut (as in gut feeling). I am walking down a jungle trail and although I see nothing and hear nothing, my guts tell me something is going to hit the fan.
If I want to better posture, I have to work on external things-just telling my mind is not enough. If i do the external stuff, the mind will adapt on its own. Is motivation mind no but some mental process is involbed. Some may call intention mind. Each person will have to answer on their own.

It is easy to talk quality but few people want to "sweat".

<Mind only controls movement when you have accumulated the gong of practice, meaning you have the duration and frequancy down and when that stage is reached, then things may be more automatic> to elaborate when one has gone through the physcial external process of training in all spheres, ovbiously more that 30 minutes a day, then the mind will be at a level whenre it can control/direct movemnt and awareness. By going throught he training process of taijiquan, th emind becomes alert meaning the neurological pathways have been created to respond in an efficient manner. As an example, some Marine pals who have went through "internal' martial systems say that alot of the stuff is reminescent of rifle or sniper training in that the first few days one just takes the rifle and just point, aim, assessing wind(age), and soft stuff without amunition ("snapping in" as is called). One is learning the skill of proper handling of the weapon.

Audi'e point is a good one since you have to start with basic concepts when learning a new subject-usually with external, idenitfiable stuff so a reference can be created.

Regarding weapons training, I have recently found that the wrestlers' tool called the pole (an heavy iron staff liek object-forget the actual name) is an excellent workout apparatus for strength and flexibility. This is adaptive for me in that since I do not do physical labour it has the elements of taxing my muscular system and providing the heart rate necessary for training.
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Postby Michael » Wed Oct 08, 2003 7:09 am


I guess I would be one of those who says that at times one should have no "intent". Just to be clear, even without a "definition" of "intent", I link it with movement, action, or reponse. I view the lack of "intent" in this context, as "Wuji"--the place where all possibilities exist. That is one of my favorite definitions. There are so many ways of looking at it, and you bring up several.

What is my "intent" without input? Should I have any? In push hands to be without any intent would be that no one starts first. I want to determine the opponents "intent" before I pull any triggers. Don't want to fire the wrong weapon.


On points 1,2,and 3. You'll get no argument from me.

Point 1. Standing. It is overlooked all too often. I confess to not doing as much as I used to.

Point 2, Time put in. You are indeed correct when talking about martial practice. One cannot expect to reach certain levels without "the bitter". Some want more, some need less. It all depends on what one wants out of practice. I don't want anyone getting me wrong here but, it has been said that there are fewer and fewer "high" level martial artists. I think that might be true. Today people are not maybe so "single minded". For good or ill, we have a great many distractions and different demands on each one of us--work, family, and "wasting" time. But as Bertrand Russell said--"The time one enjoys wasting is not wasted time." I digress. The point is that what you gain from practice is directly correlated with time you put in. I think that is maybe the one "truth" you will ever hear from me. I definitely know this about martial arts training, but it is true about nearly any endeavor. We each need to figure out what we want and then do what is necessary to get that result. That way one will have no regrets.

Point 3. Single movement/posture training that is what it is about. A very important practice.

As far as "intent" goes I think you are correct in that everyone "has to answer on his own". I also think that these "answers" or "definitions", at least for me, come not from forming words but from hard practice. These things for me usually do not result in thoughts that can be communicated with words but are felt by both the body and mind---they are inseparable, and that is a "goal" I think.

Now each of us learns differently. Some need the mind to arrive at "answers" first to make the body respond. For me it works the other way.

Look forward to hearing more of your take on things.
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Postby psalchemist » Wed Oct 08, 2003 8:07 am

Greetings Michael,

I enjoyed reading your posting, you make some interesting points as usual, which I will take under consideration.

I especially appreciated your(one of your) "favorite definition" -


Is this quoted from somewhere, to your knowledge?

Greetings Audi,

Wonderfully diverse and highly interesting posting.

I must contemplate all it's intricacies before responding further, to give full credit to the diligent efforts employed.

I just wanted to thank you in the meantime for the stimulating input.

Best regards,
Psalchemist. Image
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Postby dorshugla » Wed Oct 08, 2003 3:50 pm


Thanks for the response. Sometimes I get tired of form and it does become monotonous so I do more post standing. As i get old(er), I ave tried to 'simplify' for lack of a better word but ony do form to remember the sequence and keep it im mind.

Thanks for sharing.
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Postby Audi » Thu Oct 09, 2003 1:23 am

Hi Michael:

I think I see what you are getting at, but I would argue that Wuji refers to a state of undifferentiated relationships. If you have an opponent, you have differentiation and contrast. Hence, I would argue that when there is an “opponent,” this is the beginning of Taiji.

When you have an opponent, you must listen for his or her energy (“ting jin”). Listening is contrasted with not listening, and here again we have Taiji.

If you refuse to do Ting Jin, this will affect the likely outcome of the contest; but the contest, itself, still implies contrast and a state of Taiji.

When you do Ting Jin, you need to exhibit the Ten Essentials, at least for our system. You must find the right relationships between full and empty, inner and outer, upper and lower, etc. Here again, we have contrast and Taiji.

If you have no opponent, then I would argue that you are indeed in a state of Wuji with respect to the future. All possibilities are open. Ting Jin has no room for application. Doing it or not doing it really have no meaning.

If, by “having no intent,” you mean that one should not be committed to a course of action, I completely agree. However, I would argue that this principle more or less applies at all levels and all states of Taijiquan. One should not “plan” a course of action, because all the skills of Taijiquan incorporate some of the “yi” of the opponent, which cannot be produced by one’s own will. You must simply work with what the opponent gives you.

Even if your opponent stands before you and remains still, I would argue that Taijiquan already begins. You do not want to be in a state like Zen meditation, where you are trying to be a neutral observer of reality with no attachment to anything.

Take care,
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Postby Michael » Thu Oct 09, 2003 2:46 am


I found that definition in a Daoist text. Of course not being able to read Chinese I am at the mercy of the translator. I can't remember off hand in which one however.


We agree for the most part, except for the terminology. On actual translation of Chinese I bow to your greater experience. However I look at it in terms of no movement. I borrow the term "wuji" for this. This may not be a correct use, but I think it is a useful description. I hope this does not confuse anyone. But the definition that wuji is the state from which "all possiblities exist", I argue is that time or moments before action. I am describing the time before one is in contact with the opponent. Just before contact is made it would become "taiji", just as you say. Now there is "intent". I see that I did not make that clear.

You are correct concerning my "having no intent" being not committed to any certain action(s).

I cannot really comment on the "Zen meditation" state. What I am looking for is "open" or "clear" awareness. And yes I do not want to be "attached" to much. I have found that this allows for much quicker responsiveness in the initial stage of a confrontation especially---sparring or more serious.

We usually agree, we just happen to approach from different places at times.

my best,


[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 10-08-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Oct 09, 2003 1:59 pm

None of the above discussions seems to explain "use mind not body" as I understand this concept.
Use of Shi San Shi (Thirteen Postures) also known as Bamen Wubu (Eight Gates, Five Steps) is how the idea of "use mind not body" was expressed to me.
I have no idea if the Yang family utilizes this or not, and if they do if the theory is similar.
VERY briefly:
The Bamen (eight gates, the four fixed <sizheng>, the four diagonal <siyu> ) are used for fajin, the Wubu (fives steps) are your foundation. I will cover Bamen here as that is the more pertinent reference.
Put your "mind" onto one of the sizheng, Peng, Lu, Ji or An fajin happens, harmonize (combine with your mind) one of the sizheng with one of the siyu, Cai, Lie, Zhou or Kou fajin happens.
Using "mind not body" has less to do with using the mind to impell physical movement, though that can be the end result, and more to do with using the mind to move energy (fajin), at least as I understand it.
If this is not how YCF style TCC practices the idea of mind intent, then I humbly submit that I misunderstand the question being asked here and please feel free to explain where I went wrong.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 10-09-2003).]
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