Mind & Neuromuscular Connections (Martial Arts)

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An internal martial artist focuses on enhancing their perception of the body, movement and force (energy) through the development of their mind and increased awareness of its control over the psychological and physiological attributes of their body. The first step in an internal practitioner’s training is that they must concentrate on developing heightened coordination between mind and body by identifying the possibilities of intrinsic human potential.

The alignment and posture of the musculoskeletal system is tremendously important in the pursuit of an internal martial artist’s prowess. There should be a singular awareness of the body’s structure in static positions, as well as in movement. Kinematics and dynamics deal with instantaneous motion (velocity and acceleration), transformation and generation of interconnected muscular systems in the human body.

We are controlled and directed by the mind and/or the true intentions of our heart. We must use our mind to make a deliberate and concerted effort to identify and control our bodies and the attacks made on it physically. Knowledge and understanding take precedence over physical size or brute force. For the internal boxer, these theories demand his focused attention and must be solidified in his mind.

Master Wang revolutionized martial arts through the development of I-Chuan (Mind Boxing), which teaches practitioners to employ similar methods. The basic premise of I-Chuan is to use the mind to maintain proper alignment of the musculoskeletal system and to control one’s “center” in order to do the internal work of accepting weight and arranging the body’s systems to defend against attacks in combat. Your mind must deal with the questions of; how fast can messages be sent to the muscles? How strong are the signals? How many can be integrated all at one moment? How powerful are the internal connections, and how long can the recruited muscles endure, to fulfill the demands being made? To study these concepts properly, the student needs to have a basic understanding of the nature of the mind and its control over the musculoskeletal system.

The student must also be aware of how the musculoskeletal system supports the body and efficiently bears weight. The weight of the body should be controlled with the mind to fall down the front of the spine and not the back, eliminating the pressure on the knees and lumbar spine. This allows the body to intrinsically accept weight or aid in connecting the trunk to the legs for power. The student must have a proper relationship between the head and neck, trunk and waist, knees and feet. These relationships need to be subservient to the earth (ground). There needs to be a balance between the tension and the relaxation throughout the body. This is a fundamental principle in martial arts known as “Sung”. The mind should hold the body as though it is on the verge of action, yet not allow it to move until it is released.

THE IMPORTANCE OF POSTURE

Here, I will illustrate these concepts with the classical essence of San Ti to depict the proper positioning of the body.

The body can, by no means, develop power if it is leaning forward, backward, left or right.

The shoulders must be relaxed and diminishing downward. There should be a correlation between them. It is through the shoulders that strength from the trunk is transferred to the hands.

The left arm must be extended forward at chest level, and the right arm bowed around the right ribs. They should embrace the space of the arm pits. The arms must be extended, but not straight and bowed, yet not flexed.

The right hand should be extended to the armpit and then to the navel, left hand should be elevated to chest height. Both hands should have the palm side downward, and the influence should be even. The back of the hand should have a soft roundness to it. The palm of the left hand should be held outward to promote recirculation of energy back into the body.

The fingers must be separated, curved as a shallow hook; rounded, but relaxed. The practitioner should focus energy at the fingers, but never forcefully. Energy here means Intention or mind/will.

The left leg should be placed in front with the knee just over the heel of the left foot. The right leg is holding back with the coccyx bone never passing behind the rear heel.

The feet should hold to the principle of heel, knee toe alignment. The front toes ought to be pointing forward and the rear should turn out 45 to 70 degrees.

The hips must be tilted upward and forward so that energy can be transferred to the limbs easily, or your Qi will be scattered. Do not force the pelvis to tuck, it should fall naturally being relaxed so that the lumbar spine aligns with the thoracic and cervical spine. The back should be flat and on line with the coccyx bone with the head lifted and chin tucked.

The Tongue ought to be pressing forward against the palate of the mouth. This will link the Governor and Conception meridians. Qi will sink to the Tan Tien intrinsically if these points are followed.

The six body styles of XsingYi are: Trunk of a Dragon; Hands of an Eagle; Legs of a Chicken; Shoulders of a Bear; Poise of a Tiger; and Thunder and Roaring. Power is transmitted in a interconnected fashion from the legs, waist and torso by intricate manipulations of the kinematic paths in a rapid pulse held by the mind and released at the perfect moment.

The means to expressing power is the management of changes between tension and relaxation. The body must be held in tensegrity for the body to be efficient in movement. Tensegrity, which is a term proper to architecture that means “the property of skeleton structures that employ continuous tension members and discontinuous compression members in such a way that each member operates with the maximum efficiency and economy.” This is a most appropriate name because it is a mixture of two terms: tension and integrity. Tension and relaxation are both very imperative and need to be equal, as the Chinese’s theory of Yin/Yang. Most people have the predisposition to hold to much tension in the body, which makes it unfeasible to develop full dynamic force and speed, so this is the reason that you will be instructed to place your focus on relaxation.

The act of expressing power is a progression of the changes between the tension and relaxation of various kinematic chains. The moment of delivering power should be as brief as possible. The force must be “complete” and not “isolated”, which means that the mind must control the whole body in a coordinated and balanced way. What instantaneous motions can the internal chain generate for one or more reference frames on its links? (Explain: instantaneous motion or force generated between two joints) How does the internal chain move under forces applied to its links or joints? How are the chain’s motions and forces related to the motions and the forces of the center compressing into the earth, and the energy that drive the chains? These questions are truly what an internalist needs to focus on.