Monday, September 29, 2008

Yi, Intent

In Tai Quan, there is a saying "用意不用力 Use Yi (Intent) not Li (physical strength)".

So, what exactly is intent? How do we use it?

As mentioned many times before, the most important aspect of good Tai Chi is the cultivation of Shen Yi Qi 神意氣. Shen is the master control, related to the subconscious, and not accessible directly. Qi follows the expression of the Shen, directed by "真意 Zhen Yi" or "True Intent". So Yi becomes the only part of the Shen Yi Qi equation that we can have direct, conscious control over.

When we are consciously lifting weights, while we are consciously drive our actions, we are ignoring all other sensory input from the body and the master control of Shen. Hence even if we are able to generate a lot of muscular strength, it is not smart strength.

Through Tai Chi training, we learn to communicate with the Shen. When we "intent" to achieve a certain result and unite it with the Shen, "Zhen Yi" is achieved which directs the Qi that drives the movement of the body almost on a subconscious level. The good thing about generating strength in this manner is that sensory input from the body is not ignored by the Shen (your subconscious), so it is constantly micro adjusted to the most effective state to achieve the result. This is why Tai Chi master seems to be able to issue such powerful strikes and throws with such minimal effort. Really, the effort is there, but at a different level.

When we want to read the opponent's intention, it is basically the process in reverse. If we rely on just our eyes to observe the opponent, the rest of our senses are ignored and we become ineffective. However, if we let it be, we let all our body senses free to acquire information, passing it to the Shen (our subconscious), and the Shen presents the summarized information to our conscious awareness, often in the form of "intuition" or even Qi sensation. Again, it is only possible if we have learnt to utilize our Shen Yi Qi effectively.