A Balancing Act -- The Mental and Physical Goal of the Internal Martial Arts
Feb 11, 2019
The goal in training the internal martial arts is to maintain both mental and physical balance.
We work on developing physical balance with everything we put our bodies through, from Zhan Zhuang to individual movements that make up forms, to balancing exercises and sparring.
As our bodies grow stronger and we learn to balance during difficult movements, and through close-up grappling and push hands that allow us to work freestyle against an opponent who wants to take us down.
In a self-defense situation, your opponent has lost his mental balance. He is out of harmony with the Tao.
It is your job to maintain not only your physical balance when you are attacked, but also your mental balance.
In a lot of schools, mental balance is mentioned in passing but rarely is it part of the training. In reality, mental and physical balance is as important as any skill you gain through these arts.
How to Develop Mental Balance
When you do standing stake, you work to calm the mind and body. You focus on your breathing and your Dantien. You can do mental visualization.
The goal, then, is to recapture the calm, centered feeling that you have during Zhan Zhuang in your daily life when you run into stressful, tense situations.
Often, when we encounter an angry person or stressful situation, we tense up.
Your goal should be to calm your mind and body the same as you do in Zhan Zhuang.
If you do this, you will find that you handle stressful situations a lot better, whether it is a sudden deadline at work, a partner or spouse that is upset, or when someone cuts you off on the road.
This mental balance takes a LOT of work, and if you are not achieving it, you are not working hard enough.
It is very easy to work on your forms and fighting techniques without any regard for the mental aspects. It is very easy to do Zhan Zhuang and then forget it as soon as you walk away.
The Eye in the Center of the Hurricane
I worked in TV news -- an incredibly stressful environment. I produced the 6:00 news in Omaha when I first started practicing Qigong.
Each day at lunch, I went to the basement, which was empty, and I did standing or I sat and did the Microcosmic Orbit.
Then I tried to adapt it to daily life.
One evening in 1988, around 5:00 p.m., a wall cloud was passing the station, ready to drop a tornado. There was panic in the newsroom. People were running and they were rolling cameras outside to get a live look at the wall cloud. It was chaos in the newsroom.
I was at my typewriter, preparing the 6:00 script, when I heard someone laugh.
I looked up and saw a sports guy at his desk, looking at me and laughing, shaking his head.
"What?" I asked.
"Man," he said, "everyone is running around like crazy and you are just sitting there getting it done. You are Dr. Chill."
At that moment, I realized the Qigong was working, the Zhan Zhuang and the attempt to capture the centered feeling in times of stress.
I had become the eye in the center of the hurricane. When chaos swirled around me, I felt calm and balanced, and I could keep part of my mind on my Dantien and most of my mind on the problem at hand.
Nothing Mystical About It
This is NOT about mysticism and it isn't about invisible energy running through your body. It is a matter of hard work and training your mind and body.
This same feeling of being centered should be part of every movement you make in Xingyi, Taiji and Bagua.
Your homework for the next week is to work this into your practice. Do Zhan Zhuang, calm the mind and body, put your mind on your Dantien, even if you can only work in five minutes a day.
Then take that feeling into your daily life when stress happens. The next time you are faced with a moment that normally causes you to tense up, just exhale, put part of your mind on your Dantien, and sink your energy. Relax the body and calm your mind.
Now, address the issue while maintaining this feeling.
I have used it at work, I have used it in relationships (it can save a LOT of arguments), when walking the crowded streets of New York City, and even when driving.
You will be surprised at the positive impact it can have on your life.
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