We are all born with a sixth sense. Sometimes some of us will have a hunch and we will act on it. Other times we just know that something is about to happen and it does.
Most of us live our lives aware of our adult brain without understanding how to communicate with that part of our mental system that governs our fundamental activities. In this article we intend to explain how martial arts training is intentionally designed to teach the student how to access his sixth sense and rely upon the information he obtains even in crisis mode.
This training process breaks down into three major sections. The first is self training; the second training with a partner and the third involves interacting with the environment. The results of this process is best explained by the poem “ I Know” by Sifu Jason Tsou.
“I know what I know,
I know what you know,”
I know what you don’t know
but you don’t know what I know.”
“I know what I know,
In competition, everyone is always looking for a “leg up”. Most people think that the leg up is a new or different technique. As long as they think that way, they will be focused upon 1% of what is really involved in training. The majority of people learning martial arts are focusing all their attention on learning this 1% of the material. It is my belief that learning the other 99% or as much of it as possible is the surest way to have a leg up.
Traditional Chinese Martial Art training gives this leg up to anyone willing to make the necessary effort. The training methodology is built around an ancient culture. It combines an Ancient Chinese philosophy and perspective that values balance and harmony with a series of exercises that were developed by people who clearly understood the underlying principles governing human behavior.
At times, it is often difficult for modern people who are interested in immediate payoffs to see past the illusions and hype attendant to popular forms of martial arts. While I am not trying to disparage modern martial arts, I am deeply concerned that a teaching method which focuses upon the teaching and learning of a number of fighting techniques will ultimately result in a shallow understanding of what is really of value in any martial art. At the highest levels, techniques are 1%. They compose that part of martial arts that deal with “How”. The other 99% of martial arts deals with “Why”. If you understand the “why” you can develop your own techniques.
One of my favorite martial arts writers is Wang Zhong Yue. 王宗岳 He lived about 300 years ago. He wrote a manual on long spear 隂符鎗譜 and a treatise on Taiji 太極拳論. In his Taiji Quan Treatise Master Wang discussed the concept of Dong Jing 懂勁. Master Wang explained Dong Jing as the understanding of Yin and Yang energy. His theory was that with an understanding of why energy works, we can harness the energy around us and to use it as a martial artist.
Compare this approach to that of learning a number of fighting techniques.. You may learn a technique and if you are lucky enough to harness the energy in the environment as you apply the technique, the technique will be successful but if you are unable to harness the energy the technique will fail. Regardless of success or failure, your results won’t be repeatable since they depend too much on the 99% of the area that you do not know.
The person who understands that he wants to harness the energy in his environment will be able to view any given technique from a different perspective. He will be able to see “Why” the technique worked and he is in a position where he can ask himself, “What do I need in order to control the energy in this situation?” The person who asks this question does not need to memorize a thousand techniques, he can use the information that he has detected from his environment (which includes his opponent) to improvise.
While there may be value in some of the modern martial arts, the best way to judge the value of a martial art is to see whether it has survived the test of time. If a 5000 year old Martial Art has remained relevant for 5000 years, then it may have more value than a martial art that will be forgotten 5 years from now.
Many people tend to shrug off theory as less important. They may feel that they can read a book to understand it or they may feel that developing the skills necessary to use it will take too long. Regardless of their rationale, they shy away from training their senses to the point where they can begin to understand that body of knowledge that composes the “Why”.
A major criticism of the “Why” approach is that it takes too long to learn. If it takes a lifetime to get value from the practice of a martial art, it may have no immediate value to the person who wants to use it tomorrow. This same premise was true 5000 years ago as it is today. For a martial art to have had worth then, it needed to be able to provide an immediate payoff. The training techniques that have come down to us are designed to give immediate as well as long term benefits.
Beginners, quite naturally assume that techniques are more important than concepts. But even a beginner, needs to understand that techniques should only involve 10-20% of what he needs to know. As a student advances, the percentage of technique gets even lower since his understanding of why and his ability to use his own creativity becomes higher.
At the highest level, a person does not have any techniques in mind when combat begins Techniques just happen, not so much in reaction to the opponent but in relationship to the situation. It goes without saying that the fighter who is part of his environment and experiences both himself and his opponent as part of his environment has a better chance of controlling the situation in which he finds himself than the fighter who either has to react to an opponent’s movements or follow a pre-designed script that his opponent my also know. For example, if someone tells you that they like mixed martial arts will you be surprised to find that they want to go to the ground?
Going to the ground may work sometimes but not always. Understanding the “Why” allows you to understand the limits of that strategy’s value. Furthermore, when you know why something is done, you are able to create your own techniques. You will look at a form differently. You will see it not as the proscribed way of dealing with a situation but as an option among many you can recognize from the move in the form that you can employ when and if you need to. When you develop your own techniques, they will fit your body type better than any set of standard techniques, and they will have the additional benefit of being less predictable.
Generally speaking there are three levels to most training. The first level is designed to help a person gain a deeper personal understanding. The second level is designed to help that person gain an understanding of others and the third level involves understanding the interaction that both the person and his opponents have with the environment as a whole. Used properly, this training results in the Leg Up that I referred to previously.
It is possible for dedicated persons to train their minds to the point that they are able to predict another’s behavior. A person who has this ability will seem to possess a sixth sense. If you fight with them they have the uncanny ability to anticipate you attack and be ready to respond to it before you begin. Such a person has taken an important step towards becoming one with their environment and regardless of what style they employ, they have a leg up on those who cannot anticipate as well.
First Level Training
Five plus One
We start the first level with a Qigong-like training called five plus one This training involves developing all five of your senses. It begins by understanding that you each sense has two polarities and many points of variation between the two polarities. The polarities are focused and diffused. With proper training, your conscious mind can learn to fine tune how your body alternates between the two. For instance, you can hear what you need to hear but sleep next to a train track. You can see specific details and remember them but you can also visually take in your entire surroundings. You can smell odors but also distinguish the scent of a flower at a fish market. You can feel an object but also the area that surrounds that object. You can taste many flavors in the food you eat and yet pinpoint too much or too little salt.
The mind is the “plus one”.
The mind divides into two parts as well. Body awareness can be analogized to using the mind in a focused way and imagination to the diffused use of the mind. There is a danger in being too much in either polarity. A person who is only involved with awareness will be unable to see things in context and be locked into a type of tunnel vision that will limit him in many situations. A person who is totally absorbed by imagination will be locked in their own world as well.
I will teach you a number of exercises that will help you develop these senses. In order to be effective, these exercises require that you understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. To understand what we are doing let’s start with how our body works. In general, we can divide body function into those that are controllable and our within the domain of our conscious mind and those that are uncontrollable and in the domain of our autonomic nervous system. Of course some functions, such as breathing, can be accessed by both parts of the brain but even here the autonomic system has the final say in whether or not we continue to breath.
We respond to sensory messages on two levels. The first is Somatic the second autonomic. A somatic response is easier to understand because we are aware of it. If something gets in our eye we blink. This is a somatic response. If we watch a sad movie and cry the response is autonomic.
Our senses communicate with both our somatic and our autonomic systems. Each of these systems have their centers in our brain. We are conscious of our somatic system when it responds to external stimuli received from our sensory neurons. Our autonomic system also responds to stimuli but does so by regulating our internal organs. We are aware of the results of this type of stimulation but not the stimulation itself.
For example in Martial Arts, a somatic response to a punch would involve a person turning his body as he is punched in order to lessen the effects of the blow. The autonomic process is more complicated and more fraught with potential danger. As a species we have developed a response system that is usually described as Fight or Flight. Fight or Flight is an autonomic response. If that same person gets punched a primal assessment will take place. If he feels he can control the situation, he will feel confident and decide to fight back. If the situation seems too dangerous he will become frightened and run.
One big problem with autonomic responses is that they cloud our reasoning process and a second related problem is that our untrained autonomic responses are often self defeating. When a person becomes frightened, his breathing will get quicker, his eyes may dilate and his legs may get weak all of which may hamper his ability to run effectively. The man who decides to fight back does so with tensed muscles that will react more slowly to a situation than were he relaxed and less pumped up on adrenalin.
The first level has three basic stages. First we work on training our senses separately. Then we work on training the senses in conjunction with each other. After that we work on cross training our brain with the intent of enhancing our five senses. It would require a book to completely cover the material involved. For this reason, it seems better for me to give a few examples of specific training and allow you, the reader to use your own knowledge base to fill in the specifics.
The Nose and smelling
We use the nose for breathing. We know that breathing techniques can be employed to increase our lung capacity. But we also use Qigong to increase our sensory capacity by rotating from focused to diffused smell and breathing. An example of focused smell involves finding a tree or a flower, that is some distance from you, and deciding that you are going to smell its scent as you inhale. You then inhale and use your imagination to become aware of the scent you have decided to smell.
Similarly, when you wish to use diffuse smell, use your mind to take in your entire surroundings, the Earth, the sky, lakes, oceans, and everything else in the environment.
After you get used to this training, you need to switch from one to the other (e.g. smell the tree, than the environment as a whole and then the tree again).
The Eyes and seeing
We use the eyes for seeing. Find a nice place to stand outside. Focus on a tree growing on a distant hill. Stare at this tree for a while until your other surroundings become blurry and you can only see the tree. Then close your eyes and in your mind’s eye visualize the tree. Open your eyes again and use your diffuse vision to see the whole picture. Try to see the entire panorama. Pay attention to the spatial relationship of this tree with the rest of its environment as well as yourself. Then close your eyes and again visualize the picture but this time visualize the diffuse picture with all of the details that you have seen as you used your diffused or panoramic vision. After you become accustomed to this process, accelerate the opening and closing of your eyes so that you become more and more accustomed to taking in all the details of your surroundings with just a glance.
The Ears and hearing
The best time to practice this is nighttime. Find a relatively quiet place outside and focus on one sound. It may be a dog’s bark or a cricket or the sound of an insect flying, footsteps, a car or anything else. Then become aware of all the sounds in your environment. As you become aware of these sounds, identify them quickly so that you know as much about them as possible through your ears as quickly as possible.
After you get used to this process begin to train yourself to go from one sound to the totality of sounds and back again so that you can identify the background of each sound, know where it is coming from and assess its proximity.
The Mouth and tasting
The basic level of training for focused taste begins with water. Put a little water in your mouth. Put it in various parts of your mouth. You can taste it below your tongue, on the sides of your mouth and between your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Repeat this process taking small sips until you have finished an entire glass of water.
Put a little sugar or salt in the water. Take sips of water and see how various parts of your mouth experience the salt or sugar differently. You can further develop this skill by tasting wines, gourmet foods, various other liquors, chocolates and whatever else you fancy. As you taste various foods try to identify the ingredients that you taste and make judgments regarding how well they balance together.
The Skin and tactile perceptions
We use our skin to sense.
Our skin is our largest organ. It covers the whole body. It is our body radar. It senses everything. We have all heard expressions like “prickling of the skin” “something gets under my skin” and a host of other comments. Our skin senses temperature, moisture and pressure. This constitutes a major category in what makes up the body of our perceptions. For this reason, the training can be very versatile.
We are going to confine ourselves to one example involving the feet. The feet are important because they are the furthest extremity from our brain. For this reason, internal communications between the brain and the feet travel the longest distance.
The focus exercise involves placing small objects such as peanuts on the floor. Without looking feel these peanuts gently without breaking their husk and then pick one up with your toes. Later you can switch to walnuts or pecans and again practice the same exercise.
When you practice the diffused, mix all the nuts together and then touch them without looking and attempt to identify and count them. (Count how many peanuts, how many walnuts and how many pecans etc.) After you have practiced counting and identifying the nuts pick them up and create separate piles of each one while not looking at what you are doing.
The Chinese Medicine Balls that we see in Chinatown are another example of an exercise for developing touch sensitivity. When you rotate two balls counter clockwise and then clockwise you are training focused touch. If you increase the number of balls in your hand and attempt to rotate three or more balls you will find that you are using other parts of your hand and developing a more diffused sense.
None of the above exercises can be done without the use of the mind. But when we focus on the mind our object is to use it differently than merely as a means of directing body function. For our purposes mental functioning can be divided into two broad categories: (1) Body Awareness and (2) Imagination.
Our objective in this next part is to increase the degree to which imagination becomes involved in our use of our 5 senses. The more we employ our imagination, the more likely we are to learn how to use our mind to better sharpen our existing five senses. Additionally, as our five senses become increasingly sharp, our imagination will help us to mold the data we are receiving from them into our sixth sense.
This is a good time to discuss the 5th dimension. Our reality involves 4 dimensions. These are the three dimensional spatial reality that we all experience as matter on this planet and time. The fifth dimension is our imagination. Our imagination goes beyond time and space. If we use our imagination, we can visit Mars. With our imagination we can explore underwater caves in one moment and witness Caesar’s assassination in the next. Imagination knows few if any boundaries.
When we use our imagination, we use it in conjunction with our five senses. For instance, we can look at a tree and imagine it as older, younger, a different color, pruned differently or whatever else suits our fancy. When we close our eyes we can imagine it growing bigger. We can imagine it getting smaller. We can imagine it in a pot in the corner of a room composed of our visual field. When we look at a Picasso painting we are looking at what a man’s imagination can do with the reality he confronts with at least his visual sense.
People lost in the desert have claimed to smell the breeze from the ocean even when its thousands of miles away. Water can be turned into chicken broth. A good Burgundy can seem to develop a tensile strength when tasted and some California Cabernet Sauvignons seem to have the density of a caramel when pressed against the upper part of the mouth with the tongue. In survival training, soldiers are taught to imagine a hot environment as a way of resisting cold. Athletes will often talk about visualizing their performance in their head before attempting a goal, shooting an arrow, throwing a ball or putting for a birdie.
In Chinese Martial arts many of the names of movements are designed to employ the imagination. Upward movements such as Titan supports the Heavens or Rhinoceros gazes at the moon and downward movements like Needle at the Sea Bottom or Black Tiger Sits in his den. Horizontal movements include “wipe out an army of a Thousand, Parting Wild Horses Mane and weight of the power can also be described by the name. For instance, “Split the Mountain” describes a forceful chop while “Wind Blows the Willow” describes a soft diverting movement. The shape of a move can also be described. “White Ape presents Fruit” connotes a contracting movement while “Phoenix spreads it wings” suggests an expansive movement.
During Han Dynasty this type of Tuina was called Dao-In. The theory involves the use of external pressure to help stimulate the internal organs. As you will recall, regulation of the internal organs is the domain of the autonomic nervous system. Part of what makes this approach so fascinating is that the ancient Chinese developed techniques through which we could increase our prospects for better communication between our conscious mind and our autonomic nervous system. In many cases, this communication takes place because the conscious mind learns how to create situations that trigger autonomic responses.
The meridian system became a road map for the understanding or our body. With modern medicine and the surgical techniques attendant thereto, we have other ways of understanding anatomy. But we should not forget how surprisingly accurate the understanding of the ancient TCM practioner was both in the knowledge of anatomy and the understanding of the various functions of our internal organs.
For instance, stimulation through self massage to the head is the first step in improving the lines of communication between our conscious mind and our autonomic nervous system. As we consciously stimulate our face, head, and scalp, we also increase our mental clarity. We do so because our autonomic system responds to this stimulus by sending more blood to the affected area.
Massage of the areas around the eyes, nose, ears and mouth also helps the function of these senses. There are many Tuina systems that are effective for this type of massage. !2 Brocade is one of my favorites. Tuina does not just confine itself to massage.
When we talk about our limbs, Tuina also includes stretches. We can massage the joints and limbs but we can also stretch them. A good way to understand the thinking is to imagine the limbs as large pipes with the various joints as pipe fittings (particularly when they involve direction change) and booster pumps. We want to have good energy flow through the pipes. Most of the problems we have with good energy flow occur at the valves and fittings. The 12 Meridian lines together with the eight extra channels function as a flow chart of this piping system. As a result, when we massage, we follow the Meridian lines. Pressure points tend to occur along our meridian lines while a few are in close proximity. The major points are usually located at places where they function to either open or close valves. The points on the limbs relate to both muscle function and to various internal organ function as well.
Massage of the Torso gives a more direct signal to the autonomic system. The Torso’s function can be understood if we think of piping processing equipment. The heart functions as a pump, the lungs, liver and kidneys all function both to filter out what our body needs and as a part of our body’s waste elimination. The stomach is a material processor. When we practice Tuina on our torso, we get direct benefit to the organs housed close by while we stimulate our meridian lines which in turn stimulate our internal organs.
Self Tuina is more effective when linked to mental attitude. At UCLA where I have taught Taiji for a number of years, I have asked students to hold one arm out and resist my efforts to push it down. I have then asked the same student to think about something pleasurable and resist my efforts and then to think about something painful while I attempted to push the arm down. We have varied the sequence in an attempt to eliminate the possibility that the student would become tired on the third attempt. In at least 9 out of 10 cases we have found that students feel stronger and have more strength to resist my downward push when they are thinking good thoughts. Also almost every student found that they felt weaker when they imagined something negative or sad. As a result, we believe that the mind and mental attitude is a major factor in physical performance.
When we do the Tuina, we need to make positive use of our mind and our imagination. This is best done by visualization. Picture good energy (it has light, bright, colors) entering your body and bad energy (it has dark, dull colors) exiting. When you massage along your limbs it is helpful to picture energy traveling along the meridian pipe line and if you have pain, think of it as blocked energy and gear your massage in such a way as to get the blocked energy to again flow.
Paida, a systematic method of striking the body with either one’s hand, a stick or another appropriate object is a type of Tuina. Paida exercises can involve striking the body along the meridian lines, striking the joints, striking the head or striking the limbs and the torso. Most people wrongly assume that the benefits of Paida are confined to martial arts training. Such an assumption fails to understand that the primary benefit of Paida involves its ability to escalate and improve the quality of Qi flow.
When we strike our body we stimulate our meridian lines. This in turn helps to build up our neurological pathways within our body. Since the hands and feet have all the meridian lines within them and since the meridians are all linked together in a vast network of passageways throughout our body, when we use our hands and feet to strike our body we get a double benefit from each movement. The first benefit is the stimulation of the meridian lines in the receiving part of our body; and the second benefit is the stimulation of the meridians on our striking hand or foot. The result of this dual stimulation is that the network of interconnections within our neuro pathways are stimulated in such a way as to quicken our ability to receive and respond to sensation which has the effect of quickening our reaction time.
Paida, when we make use our body for both purposes creates a “bio-vibration”. It is commonly accepted by both martial artists and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine that certain vibrations can be used to stimulate our internal organs and bring increased blood flow as well as Qi flow to the various internal systems. Our internal organs are like ATM machines for our major Qi Repository, the dantien and part of advanced martial art training involves learning how to access the energy stored within our organs for martial arts training.
If we think of our internal organs as musical instruments, we can gain a better insight into this process. First of all, we know that all of our sensory equipment has a range in which it can operate. The ear for instance can’t hear sounds above or below certain frequencies. Our other organs work in much the same way as receptors. What we are less aware of is that our organs also emit frequencies in the form of waves or vibrations. We have all experienced the sense of being aware of our heart beat at one point or another in our lives. But most of us have less experience with our other organs.
If we look at our internal organs as a orchestra, then we can all recognize the need for a conductor. The conductor at most if not all stages of our lives is our autonomic nervous system. Most of us have been at concerts where an orchestra is tuning up before the conductor takes the stage. While each instrument might sound good by itself, without a conductor, an orchestra lacks balance, harmony and direction. Without the mental component, Paida exercises resemble an orchestra as it tunes up.
Part of the process of training our sixth sense involves using our conscious mind in a constructive engagement with our autonomic nervous system. As we practice Paida, we need to recognize that the organs are being stimulated by the vibrations and they in turn are emitting sound. These sound waves follow patterns. Each organ vibrates differently and this results in various resonances. The pattern that emerges can be called frequencies.
Different organs respond to different resonances. As we have seen a dogs respond to a whistle that we cannot hear, so does our organs respond to vibrations within us of which we are not consciously aware. We use our mind to guide our hand.
For instance, as we use our mind to guide our hand we can imagine that we are bringing good energy into our body with each strike and pulling bad Qi out of our body each time we retract our hand. This creates a sense of cleansing for the body since it is bringing in good Qi and discarding bad Qi with each strike.
Another approach that we can take is to think of the striking hand as either Yin or Yang and the receptor spot on the body as it’s opposite. Done this way, neutralization of Yin and Yang occurs each time the body is struck at the spot where your hand strikes. This process of thinking about balance enables us to balance our energy throughout our body.
We can also incorporate five element concepts into the Paida. As we strike a part of our body we can think of the sound that was made as one of the five elements (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth). The lungs are related to metal energy. As you strike the lung channel on your chest you can imagine a metallic sound (like a gong). As you strike your kidney area you can imagine a bag of water being struck or water dropping down a mountain stream into a pond. As you strike your rib cage you can imagine two wooden sticks being hit together and picture the vibrations from these sticks passing through the rib cage into your liver area. The stomach and Spleen area relate to Earth and here you can imagine a large animal stomping on the ground. With fire, the heart is involved you can visualize a fire burning and the crackling of material as it is burned or you can visualize the click of a light switch.
Because of the dual involvement of both the striking instrument and the receptor location when we use our hands as feet to strike, I believe that Paida sixth sense training is best when we employ our own hands and feet as opposed to an inanimate instrument. The ultimate goal of this training is to develop the ability to feel this energy without the physical stimulation of the Paida. After we practice Paida for a while, we will find that we have trained our mind to recognize the frequencies that create the resonance within our internal organs. When we can internally create the conditions that enable us to experience energy being emitted from our internal organs, we have taken a major step in developing a sixth sense.
An advanced martial artist can think about a bell ringing and use this to trigger metal energy which is stored in the lungs. This is the beginning of the wireless process. Later when we talk about the environment, we will learn that micro energy or the energy we take from the environment is also comprehended by the body through resonance frequency.
There are several ways that people can use to develop a better capacity with self Tuina. Hot water can be used to calm the body and make it more receptive. Some people enjoy listening to music. A religious person might find it beneficial to recite mantras, or think of scriptures or prayers as they do the Tuina. While we do not want to over involve our logical mind, whatever method we can use to employ the imagination as a bridge in the process of communicating with the autonomic system is helpful. But this is not conducive to watching television as you walk on a treadmill, chatting with others, or listening to a book on tape. When our logical mind gets involved we become too distracted and much of the true value of Tuina is lost.
Cross Training of the brain
From a martial artist’s point of view, there are 4 areas of the body that need to coordinate with one another; the eyes, the hands, the body and the legs. The training is geared to increase the efficiency of the neural pathways as a means of developing more and more precise coordination between these areas.
Our neural pathways have a finite degree of efficiency. At a certain point in time we need to go beyond the realm of the physical if we are going to increase our speed. We are all familiar with land lines and cell phones. We are also familiar with conventional electric stoves and with microwaves. Both cell phones and microwaves utilize a different kind of energy. The energy used by cell phones and microwaves is far stronger than the electrical impulses generated by a land line phone or an electric stove. We also know that this energy travels further and has more potential usages than conventional energy.
Similarly, we can describe our neural pathways as our conventional neurology. These pathways convey sensory messages from our body to our brain or motor impulses from our brain to our body. While we may sharpen the efficiency of these pathways to some degree, this is not the area that was traditionally emphasized when martial artists were trained to develop a sixth sense.
What may surprise some readers is that the human body, like the microwave and the cell phone is capable of sending wireless messages. Our brain is capable of emitting waves that another person can sense. Our ability to transmit and receive brain waves in the form of vibration is the infrastructure of a wireless net work. Messages are sent and received in frequencies that have different vibratory patterns. We can learn to recognize these vibratory patterns and this recognition leads to higher and more efficient levels of interpretation.
When we use a cell phone, we are able to transmit our call from our instrument to a tower that sends a message to a satellite that in turn sends the message to a tower which then transmits the message to another cell phone. In a similar way, our brain acts like a tower for both the sending and receiving of messages. But our ability to receive and transmit messages is not confined to our brain. Other parts of our body are able to function as sub towers. These sub towers are able to both transmit and receive external impulses in the form of vibration and we use both our brain and our sub towers to develop a sixth sense.
To begin this training, we need a starting point. The mind has two functions in martial arts. The first of these functions involves what it tells us about our body and the second is the vistas it opens up for us after we have a sufficient understanding of our body, its strengths and its limitations. This is the area of body awareness. Our body awareness cannot take us beyond or physical neurological pathways. Going beyond such a point requires us to use our mind in a different way. We have to use our ability to imagine.
Our imagination becomes the instrument through which we travel from the world of land lines and conventional stoves to the world of cell phones and microwaves. We can make the analogy between the understanding of our world we gain from physics and the understanding of our world we gain from Quantum physics. The energy we are dealing with as we develop our sixth sense exists in the realm of quantum physics. We will not find our sixth sense without using our imagination. As a result, much of what we have to overcome is the doubts we will experience as we begin this training.
At this point, it many readers may begin to understand why so many good martial arts teachers confine themselves to the teaching of 1% of the body of material that martial artists need to know and understand. Although many people are uncomfortable when asked to use their imagination, the way to develop the “leg up” is to learn how to successfully coordinate our imagination with our body awareness. Rather than reinventing the wheel and coming up with a new set of exercises that everyone has to learn, we plan to focus upon four areas of martial arts practice that to some extent is part of everyone’s regimen. These areas are:1) Solo Bare Hand Training, 2) Solo Weapons Training, 3) Equipment Training, and (4) Non Martial Art related hobbies
Solo Bare Hand Training
Most people have had the experience of repeating a form so many times that the movements become robotic. When this happens much of what is valuable about practicing the form becomes lost. The mental part of any martial arts training is intangible but the results of such training are apparent. Without the mental aspect of such training the form is dead and meaningless with proper mental training the form takes on life and meaning. Often in tournaments we will see a person who has palpable energy. It’s as though you can hear the energy, taste the energy and feel the energy as it moves through the person’s body and is emitted. When this happens, the person receives a high score not because they display a higher objective level of skill but because they have incorporated and communicated a high subjective level to the judges and perhaps to the rest of us as well. When we look at two dancers performing the same movement we may say that one is more graceful than the other. Perhaps we are saying the same thing since any judgment concerning the level of gracefulness is by definition a subjective judgment.
The starting point for cross training the mind when you are practicing forms is the imaginary enemy. When you do the form you create an imaginary opponent and you interact with the imaginary energy of your opponent. If you are fighting, you will also use your imagination to imagine that there is no one there and that you are still interacting with energy (this time real) of your opponent. Between the time when you begin to practice forms and the time that you participate in a sparring match the process becomes more involved. All martial art movements can be understood in terms of four types of energy or Jings. These Jings are Ting, Hwa, Na and Fa. Ting has to do with listening (with all of your senses) Hwa with diverting, Na with controlling and Fa with power issuing.
The Taiji symbol that we have included demonstrates the relationship of these four energies to Yin and Yang energy. It is important to note that Fa Jing has a larger component of Yin energy than Na Jing. The Yin energy in Fa Jing is necessary to allow us to transition from our movement where we issue power to the next movement. Also it is important to understand that when we speak of Yin and Yang energy in terms of this diagram we are talking about movements in opposite directions. For instance, down is Yin and up is Yang, in is Yin and out is Yang, turning away from your opponent is yin and towards your opponent is Yang and backward is Yin and forward is Yang.
We can increase the level of mental involvement further by incorporating physical shapes into our form practice. For instance, in Yang Style Taiji we can look at all Ting and Hwa (sensory) and Na (controlling) movements as Ball and Fa (attacking) movements as bowl. The mental process would be to visualize a ball made from your arms and pertinent body parts which becomes more solid with Hwa. The ball is then compressed, twisted, stretched or whatever during Na (it retains it’s curved features) and is turned into a bowl as power is issued. This imagery can be better understood if we think of an inflated ball which is punctured and releases air from its core. The release is the equivalent of Fa Jing and the shape of the ball when deflated is like that of a bowl.
We can introduce other geometric shapes into the equation as well. We can think of Ting Jing as a dotted line that forms a circle as we transition to Hwa Jing the line forming the circle becomes more solid until it changes shape and becomes a square with our transition into Na Jing. With the insertion of a diagonal line from one corner to the opposite, this square has the potential of forming two triangles. The pointed edge of either triangle (There are actually eight different triangles when you draw both diagonals) can be viewed as the sharp edge of the weapon you are using against your imaginary opponent.
Many of us have been asked to explain why people practice internal arts slowly. The reason should now be apparent. If a student moves too quickly, he will be unable to incorporate all of the mental processes into his movement. When using an internal martial art for training, it is necessary to move slowly enough to allow the conscious mind to lead the body through the Ting-Hwa-Na-Fa process. You need to be able to recognize the parts of this movement that constitute this process as well as allow the mind and body to form and recognize whatever geometric shapes are involved in the movements and to further understand the potential variables created by an awareness of these geometric shapes.
In other words a form may show you how to use one triangle for Fa Jing but if you know that the square has two diagonal lines forming eight triangles, you will appreciate a wealth of information otherwise inaccessible to you. When you get used more acquainted with this process you will begin to see that the movements involve transitions from circles to sharp points and that any sharp point can be used as Fa Jing and any circular movement can be used as part of the sensory/deflecting/controlling process.
While most of us understand this process as it applies to internal styles, there is a resistance among many to take the additional step and apply these same concepts to styles which rely upon speed and agility. Much of this resistance seems to be grounded in the fear that once the conscious mind becomes involved, movement will inevitably become slower. We can use the mind to increase both speed and power. To do this, we need to change our visualizations. We can imagine the rapidity of a flame that flickers, the downward power of a waterfall, the pervasive qualities of water as it finds the course of least resistance into and/or through any bulwark set up to block it. We can also visualize a tree waving in the wind, when we contract we can imagine we are burrowing into he tall grass and when we stand on one leg we can imagine we are on the top of a tall mountain.
We can also imitate the spirit of an animal. This concept is often misunderstood by people who feel that what they need to do is mimic animal behavior. While this may be entertaining, it is often ineffective. In Baji we look to the Bear for sinking power and the Tiger for striking power. In Piqua we use the eagle’s wings as our model when we want to develop better arm movement. These wings are flexible, strong and they can change directions at any time. We also use the snake for developing a nimble, flexible spine. The snake is able to turn and twist well and Piqua footwork has a snakelike serpentine quality to it as well.
Northern Praying Mantis is actually a mixture of arm movements that try to capture the spirit of the Praying Mantis and footwork that tries to capture the spirit of the monkey. Bagua has eight animals and Xing-yi (both Shanxi and Hebei) have 12 animals.
Solo Weapon Training
Chinese Martial arts is known for having the dimension of weapons training as part of almost any given style’s training. There is an old martial arts saying that bare hand helps the weapon and the weapon helps the bare hand. Although some students do not want to learn cold weapons, its real value is not practical training but the benefit it provides the student as he learns to cross train his brain.
There are many ways we can use martial arts weapons to train our brain. In part the method of training is determined by the weapon and in part it depends upon a person’s level and ability to handle weapons. For instance, it would not be advisable to give a beginning student a long hard weapon for one hand and a short flexible weapon for the other. For example it is difficult for anyone to handle a nine-section chain with one hand and a saber with the other.
There are many styles of weapons and each weapon places different demands upon the student. To some degree, each style of weapon requires a different training which in turn develops different neural pathways. For instance, some weapons are long range and some short range. Some are heavy others light. Some can be thrown others cannot. Some can be handled with one hand; some are easily transferable from right hand to left, while others are not. Some weapons require two hands, some weapons are solid and others are flexible. Some weapons can be used as double weapons. Some emphasize speed and agility, others strong stance work. Some weapons are concealed and some weapons are exposed.
Handling a weapon is like handling a tool. A good technician has good sensitivity and knows his tool well enough to understand how to accomplish his objectives. Our objective is to deliver energy along our neuro-musculo-skeletal pathways, and each weapon we become familiar with helps us learn, by their very shape and nature, a different method of delivering energy along these pathways. Just as we practiced with an imaginary opponent in the bare handed forms, we need to image an opponent in this setting as well.
Because each weapon requires a different approach to the issuance of energy, we need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of our weapons. For example when learning Chinese Sword we have a small hilt that does not always protect the hand holding the sword. At the same time, learning Chinese Sword involves learning how to use both the left hand and the right hand for sparring. The smallness of the hilt enables us to change hands more readily. This promotes a higher level of ambidexterity. This ambidexterity is accomplished by the development and broadening of the passageways in our body. While some may desire to become experts in the use of some weapons, the goal we are suggesting is less ambitious. As we find a level of comfort and familiarity with the use of weapons, we broaden our level of sensitivity and increase our body’s ability to transmit and carry out the signals sent by our brain.
The weapon is an extension of your arm. Delivering energy to the tip of your weapon while like delivering energy to the tip of a hand or leg requires larger neural pathways and in most cases more energy. When learning weapons forms, we can use the same concepts that were discussed in empty hand training but we also need to emphasize the development of the ability to flow with the weapon. When the weapon becomes an extension of your body, that sense of flow is achieved.
In the early part of the Ching Dynasty, a weapons expert whose specialty was the long spear named Wu Su 吳殳 compiled weapon major training methods into a book called the Record of Arms 手臂錄 . In the section on long spear, Wu Su drew diagrams of patterns including repeating arcs, the horn of an ox, circles, semi circles, fingernail shapes, a full moon, a crescent moon as well as others. The student was asked to draw these shapes with the tip of his 12 foot long spear in the air. As he repeatedly drew these images, the student practiced various long spear techniques.
Another example of the use of images which I like to use as a basic concept is Point, Line and Area. For instance, if someone attempts to cut downward (Pi) so as to strike me with a long saber (Miao Dao) I can use a curved upward move to cover the otherwise vulnerable area. Once the area is covered, without retracting or resetting I can use my weapon to penetrate his gate. This is done with a straight line thrust towards his head.
In reaction to this thrust, my opponent will probably back up which enables me to strike downward so that the point of my Miao Dao disables his wrist rendering his weapon useless. Of course this is not the only way that I can use my Miao Dao. But as I start to view the weapon in terms of these three functions, I become aware of the strategies and options open to me as I use this particular weapon. Further, I start of become aware of how an opponent will react in a combat setting and this information will benefit me in the future regardless of whether I have a sword, or I am empty handed or I am using some other weapon. In fact, I would go so far as to say that even a verbal interaction such as a debate or argument among lawyers in a courtroom can have many of the same characteristics as we’ve just described. In other words, some arguments can cover a whole area, some penetrate and make an opponent step back and others score points.
The goal of the equipment training that we are about to describe is not to develop muscle nor is it to stretch tendons or train the body externally. As you read further, many of you will recognize these same exercises as ones that you do for the above stated purpose. When you do these exercises with the intent of broadening, deepening and developing an increasingly more efficient set of communication lines within your body, you will achieve all of these ancillary effects while at the same time promoting faster reflexes and training your mind and body to respond to the signals being directed at you by your sixth sense.
One potential problem that some of you will encounter involves the use of equipment made of artificial material as opposed to natural material. Our sixth sense is linked to a very primitive part of our mind and signals which we receive from modern synthetic materials such as plastic are not necessarily as easily interpreted as signals received from natural objects such as rocks, leather and wood. When we reach the third level of this training, we will speak more about the ways to use nature as an ally when you are in need of enhanced power. The import of Five Element Theory is that such a thing is possible and the mechanism through which it becomes possible is the body’s ability to connect with the vibrations emitted from natural objects that surround us. While it is true that artificial objects will also emit vibrations, we may not yet be at an evolutionary stage at which we can make efficient use of these.
Generally speaking all of the equipment used in martial arts is to achieve at least one of three training goals. These are speed, power and accuracy. All of these goals are connected in some way to being in touch with our sixth sense. The question becomes that of developing training routines that are geared at helping us connect with these goals. We have selected a few of the more common pieces of training equipment and we will use these as the spring board for this discussion. But it is important to understand that any piece of equipment can be used as a means of developing our sixth sense. For those of you who read this article and find that you have other pieces of equipment that you use, we hope that the information provided will provide enough of a context to give you insight in how to use such equipment.
Depending on their size, balls can either be used as a form of weight training or movement training. A shot-put held in each hand can intensify the signals sent in the form of centering energy coming from the Lao Gong. Medicine balls are readily manipulated and this process can stimulate the various sensors in our hands. The sensory messages we get tend to be multiple and diffused. By contrast, when we make our elbows fulcrums and direct the weight through the elbows into our rib cage the additional weight of a shot-put intensifies the signals sent and facilitates focusing these signals into the liver area (see picture) or depending on the posture, other part of the body.
If we have smaller medicine balls and circle them in our hands (two or even three at a time) we will activate all of the sensors in our palms and fingers. Arousing all of these sensors develops better finger dexterity in part because the fingers become quicker as they become more responsive to the messages sent by our brain. As we turn the balls we build up many neural pathways. We do not have to confine our exercise to one approach. We can use two balls both going in the same direction or one going one way and the other the opposite. We can increase the number of balls and we can increase their size and weight. The ability to do this type of work requires a huge neural pathway and the development of this pathway will further our ability to access our sixth sense. In TCM, these medicine balls are used to help and even cure mental disease such as old age dementia.
Since our goal is to build up more neuro pathways and our reason for doing so is to further enable our body to perform complicated and difficult tasks, we can add walking to these exercises. The feet are function as a source of a great deal of sensory information. Geographically, the feet are the furthest from the brain. Since we need to maintain balance and exert power in most movements, executing most martial art movements are dependent on the brain first receiving information from the feet.
Walking can include a number of variables. We can walk on grass, flat ground, concrete, asphalt, rocky terrain, sandy beaches, wet sand at the beach as well as other terrain. We can walk in many different ways. Those who have been trained in Bagua can use their Bagua walk. Others can use Taiji steps, mantis steps, or any other method of movement they choose. It is perfectly acceptable to use a normal method of walking to the extent that you keep your weight on your back foot long enough to avoid tripping forward as you progress.
Changing ground is an important aspect of developing neural pathways. It is for this reason alone that we discourage training on a treadmill. The treadmill goes in only one direction, the terrain maintains a constancy which you are unlikely to find in natural surroundings and as a result most of what you need to develop the appropriate neural pathways is not available. When we change direction, we make many adjustments in order to maintain balance. We live on a planet that is circling the sun. This planet is also spinning. We are composed of various particles of energy and matter that remains connected by virtue of a bio-magnetic force that we call Qi. We also are composed largely of water. We know that the moon affects tides and we know that emergency room doctors anecdotally swear to a concurrency between a full moon and a busy night at the E.R.
As we turn our force field is affected by the sun’s pull, the Earth’s spin as well as a myriad of other factors including the moon. For the most part our conscious mind is only vaguely aware of all the machinations involved in this process. This is not to say that our conscious mind isn’t familiar with the process. Part of our every day behavior involves compromising and balancing various issues on a conscious level. The process that our autonomic system performs is virtually the same. It is the process of recognizing what is Yin, what is Yang and finding the balance point between the two pulls. When possible, we recommend walking barefooted and if shoes are being worn, then to the extent possible it is better to use natural substances such as natural rubber and leather or cloth since these will conduct the energy from the ground more efficiently.
While we can’t prioritize the importance of one sense over another, we can all recognize the importance of the eyes in martial arts. The necessity of good hand/eye coordination requires no discussion. We can use walking with balls as a method of training our eyes and improving this coordination. For example, when you are holding the balls and walking you can use diffuse vision but when you want to change angles you can switch to focused vision and then back to diffuse vision.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with these terms, the eyes have two receptors; rods and cones. The center of the eye is composed mostly of cones. They relay information to our conscious mind and they detect among other things color. Our rods are probably a more primitive method of viewing. They communicate directly with our autonomic system, they do not detect color, they are our primary source in night vision and we rely on them primarily when we use our diffused vision. When you use focused vision, it does not mean that you look directly at an object to the exclusion of all others. Instead your vision is dioramic. In other words you sight the object in relation to its spatial environment. This process of sighting is not dissimilar to how a marksman uses the cross hairs of a rifle to sight a target except in this situation your goal involves being aware of the spatial relationships as opposed to focusing on one target to the exclusion of the rest.
Developing the ability to consciously switch from focused to diffuse vision enables the martial artist to have better conscious control of his environment. This increases awareness leading to better gate control but more importantly better accuracy in all phases of martial arts.
Our primary goal with the large punching bag is to sharpen our nervous system. If we are to accomplish this goal we need to hit the bag and avoid having the bag hit us. What this means is that we need to develop footwork with hand eye coordination to make our movements coincide with the movements of the bag. While some people may think that striking a bag as it moves towards them will strengthen their arm muscles and allow them to punch harder. We discourage this approach because of the deleterious effect upon the nervous system that occurs. When we strike the incoming bag, the reaction force travels back into our body and shocks our nervous system. Instead of promoting better neurological pathways and better connection between the brain and the fist we actually shut down what already exists and fail to promote growth and increased speed.
If on the other hand, we practice timing the movement of the bag so that we punch it as it sways away from us we can develop a number of sensory skills as well as speed, footwork and power. This is not to say that we don’t want to develop muscular strength, but rather we want to develop muscular strength that we can use. Many years ago in Venice Beach California, we once saw this well known muscle man need assistance putting on his own tank top. While this man had a strong body, he lacked flexibility and his muscles became a hindrance which greatly restricted his range of motion.
When we practice punches we need to integrate our entire body to create the greatest resultant force. This process of integration relies heavily upon an effective neurological system. Both our sensory and motor systems are called into play as we use our legs, our torso and our arms (both of them one backward and one forward) to deliver our best and most forceful punch, remaining relaxed until the moment of impact and maintaining control and balance. We use natural breathing until the moment of impact when we breathe outward to reinforce our punch. Because we are not being punished by a resultant force, and because we are able to exercise better mental control, we can effectively use our imagination to visualize both penetrating and explosive power. As we imagine sending energy through the bag (penetrating punch usually involving a longer motion) or having our energy explode within the bag (shorter punch that causes the bag to vibrate) we can also develop various hybrid techniques and incorporate them into our footwork.
When we punch we need to be aware of our entire arm as a weapon. Trying to hit with just a fist is restrictive and limiting. The forearm, the elbow, even the bicep or shoulder can deliver a damaging blow. All possibilities need to be explored on the bag and as you become aware of how your body moves when you strike, you will be able to imagine more and more possibilities until the choices available to you in a given situation seem limitless which becomes an unsettling prospect to your opponent when he tries to defend against them.
If we have a bigger bag we can also kick. The same concepts apply. Kick the bag as it moves away. Don’t kick without hand movements (partially designed to distract and partially designed to strengthen the force of your kicks. The leg needs to be relaxed until the moment you strike and the energy center is the Kua and dantien area for your kick. As the bag comes in, you can practice dodging or intercepting its path with your knee or the bottom of your feet. As the soccer player often stops the ball before he kicks it, so can you stop the progress of the bag, absorb through diversion its force and then send it outward in the direction you choose.
Because you relax you can move faster. Because you use your imagination you can have more power and because you have synchronized all the moving parts (upper/lower, left side /right side, front/back, circular/linear) into one you will have better gate control which means improved combat habits as well as a higher degree of accuracy which is developed through better hand/eye coordination and knowing how and when to transfer between focused/diffuse not just with the eyes but with all Five senses as well as the mind which is composed of both body awareness (focused) and imagination (diffuse).
We achieve the goal of better endurance almost as a by product of this approach. Because your mind is calm your thoughts are clear. Since your brain is not producing excess chemicals, your body remains more relaxed. Since your body is more relaxed the muscles are not demanding as much oxygen and consequently your breathing is easier to control. This increased control allows you to do more with less which is the essence of endurance.
If we lay the bag on a bench we have a horizontal bag. We can ten train our arms with downward strikes. The arms, front and back of the hand including fingers can all be used in this training. The arm should remain relaxed and we need to employ the shoulder and the Kua as our energy centers. When we use the shoulder as an energy center, we focus primarily on the scapulae or shoulder blades. With the Kua, our object is to sink into our hip which involves both the vertical sinking and a horizontal rotation of the pelvis around the lower spine. We have already used one aspect of the mind, body awareness to focus on our energy centers. By visualizing our arms as whips, we can use our imagination to further facilitate this process.
Small bag training allows for more dynamic training. Usually this training involves hanging four bags at different heights from ropes. These bags need to be spaced so that they form a square (see diagram). We have the option of kicking and striking any of these bags with any part of our body. Because we are standing inside the square, the bags will come back at us from different directions, at different levels and at different speeds. We have the options of dodging, diverting or striking these moving bags. Since on many occasions the bag coming from a blind spot, we learn quickly how to rely upon our sixth sense to anticipate impending collisions and divert or avid them. In our opinion, this is a better way to train than to develop a pattern of punching with a single speed bag. The speed bag requires a pattern while this exercise provides us with the ability to practice accommodation to random change.
We prefer a vertical post to one with branches that stick out horizontally. Our reason is we can train our whole body with a vertical smooth surfaced post. We can be stationary and train our arms, we can also train our legs by touching, striking kicking, pretending to trip and we can also incorporate footwork with our hands arms and body around this post. When we do this, we use our imagination to conjure up the movements of a snake or a dragon as it wraps its body around the post.
There are two ways to train with footwork. The first is to maintain tactile contact with the post at all times. While in contact with the post we can practice all phases of the Ting, Hwa, Na, Fa cycle. The second approach is to not touch the post and still do Ting Hwa Na and Fa with the post. At this level of training, we maintain an air gap with the post. The first method involves use of land line neurological pathways the second method employs the imagination at a different level and becomes wireless training. At the wireless level, we can imagine ourselves swimming through the air as we wrap around the post. We can visualize ourselves emitting an aura of energy that encircles the post as we move or we can use whatever other imagery best facilitates the movements we are attempting to use.
We may also practice mixing the two methods and develop the ability to go from one system to the other, one imaginary scene to another, as desired. We can also get multiple posts, by increasing the number of the posts. We need to space the posts in such a way that we can rebound from one to the other. We can rebound from a post; we can borrow energy from one post and use it to strike another. We can bounce off posts like a pin ball or devise other methods of movement. This increase in options and allows for greater creativity in our movements.
When we use the second method we can visualize our movements as tantamount to swimming through the air between the posts. We still need to pay heed to the cycle of Ting Hwa Na Fa energies but we give our imagination an increasing amount of free rein as we do so.
Because we are moving and because we are sticking to the post (either physically or in our imagination) we are also developing reeling silk energy (Chan Si Jing). This energy is important in the development of the sixth sense. Since Chan Si Jing is often only partially understood, it may be helpful to discuss it for a moment. Usually described in terms of the sensitivity that a person needs to nurse the strand of silk from the silk worm in the pot of boiling water, Chan Si Jing also involves the idea that if this person stands over this pot all day their arm will tire. In order to continue the work for long periods of time, the person needs to spiral energy into the ground. The reaction force returns as spiraling energy and this than moves through the body and motors the arm into the slow, sensitive spiraling movement that we describe as Chan Si Jing.
Chan Si Jing involves twisting penetrating power. It is both powerful when used and hard to detect. As you train with the post you begin to understand how to issue Chan Si Jing. The deeper this awareness becomes the easier it becomes for you to detect Chan Si Jing when another is issuing it. Part of the development of a sixth sense involves development of this ability to detect what another person is about to do at or before the time that they actually do it. It is as though you have hacked into their mind and can now read both their land line messages and their wireless transmissions.
As you develop hobbies, you also develop neural pathways. Since you already have these pathways, they can assist you as you develop main routes in martial arts. Two highly respected Masters that Sifu Jason Tsou studied under, Liu Yun Chiao and Chang Dong Sheng were skilled in calligraphy and Er Hu (two stringed musical instrument) respectively. They both felt that their ability with these subjects helped them to both develop and balance the Qi. Chinese history is replete with famous generals who found this same ability to balance their Qi from pursuing Yin like arts.
Whatever we do, be it music, dancing, cooking, painting, playing chess, throwing pots, reading, gardening or tasting wines can be used to develop our five senses. Unfortunately, watching television or playing video games involves being bombarded by a lot of electronic energy. With many people this energy is both too strong and too negative. People become drawn into the television or the game to the extent that they are no longer able to activate that part of their mind needed for cultivating better communication with their five senses. Ironically people who become too engrossed in these games and in television lose rather than enhance their ability to imagine independently and become dependent upon the external source for more than just stimulus. In summary, any hobby that activates the mind, develops body awareness and supports use of the imagination as a means of accessing our autonomic system will help us to develop our ability to communicate with, and quicken our ability to act upon the stimuli received from our sixth sense.
Non-Martial Art Related Hobbies
We can also introduce geometric shapes into our form practice. Ting Jing can be a round circle with a dotted line (not that substantial) Hwa Jing becomes a round circle with a solid line. Na Jing can become a square and Fa Jing becomes a triangle.
Training- bare hand
Training with equipment
Enhance training with your hobbies
Qigong, music, art and certain hobbies (wine tasting or gourmet cooking) are all valuable tools for the development of the senses. Some Qigongs have eye massages; some involve closing and opening of the eyes, other Qigongs.
Even if you are not close to the ocean imagine that you can smell the sea water and the fishes swimming in the ocean.
The old masters had techniques designed to train their students to anticipate an opponent’s behavior during a fight. Much is made of developing “sticky hands”-(the ability to stick with an opponent). Part of having sticky hands involves maintaining a level of relaxation that is quiet enough to enable us to sense what our opponent is doing. The concept of having “sticky hands” has value because being confident in our ability to predict what your opponent is about to do removes much of the stress from our minds and allows us as martial artists to remain relaxed. But use of sticky hands is only part of a method of training. If we focus on sticking to the detriment of our other senses we limit ourselves. If we want to use sticky hands we have to know why it is important and in what context in can be used successfully.
Having sticky hands is not the same thing as having a sixth sense. The sixth sense is a gate into the higher realms of martial arts. Hearing one’s sixth sense opens the door to developing the ability to become one with an opponent. When you are one with an opponent you will understand what I mean when I say, “I know what you know, I know what you don’t know,” but you don’t know what I know.”
I can’t say whether or not everyone is born with a sixth sense. What I can say is that we can use certain training to create the skills necessary to put people in touch with their own senses in such a way that they are able to anticipate how another will react. The goal as I see it involves developing a better means of communication between our conscious mind and our autonomic nervous system. We can accomplish this task by enlarging our neuro pathways and extending the existing network of passageways wherever possible.
Any of you who have ever watched a cat respond to stimuli will understand that their responses are immediate. The cat seems to by-pass the message from the conscious mind to the muscles, it just jumps. A primitive brain reacts as though it is a life and death situation and a sluggishness of movement which we identify with the behavior of civilized man is not present. No time is wasted in thought process between stimulus and reaction. Is this because their reasoning brain is smaller than ours? Perhaps, but it also involves the linkages that exist between their most rudimentary brain functions and their body movements.
We don’t have to confine our study to cats. Reptiles seem to react to stimulae without thinking as well. David Linden, a Professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University has been quoted as saying,” In evolution, you never build something new if you can adapt something you’ve already got.” He goes on to say that as we evolved as a species, we adapted the original brains we had to meet new circumstances in our changing environment. Our original brain evolved when we were reptiles. This brain now comprises our autonomic nervous system. Imposed upon that brain is a second brain that we developed when we were more akin to rodents and super-imposed over both of these brains is our adult human brain . The problem we all face as human beings is how best to communicate between our conscious mind and the older more primitive minds that control many aspects of our behavior. Ironically, the ancient Chinese martial arts masters give us their own particular insight into this very modern problem.
The second level of training involves consciously taking energy from our environment. Science tells us that we derive vitamin D from the sun, energy from our food and water. Our lives depend upon oxygen which helps us burn and utilize the energy we receive from the Earth. So we know that the idea of taking energy from our environment is not too far- fetched. The difficulty arises as we realize we need to communicate with the autonomic nervous system which controls these activities. This part of the brain is our earliest and most rudimentary part. It is older and in some ways less trainable than a cat’s brain. That is not to say that it wants to retain its independence from our conscious mind, it is more likely that it does not understand us when we send it directives.
Our “lizard brain” as some will call it derives from our earliest evolution. It has adapted rather than be thrown out and remade because this is the nature of the evolutionary process. It understands visualizations better than spoken words. For this reason the golfer who looks at the part of the fairway he wants his ball to land in will always be more successful than the golfer who doesn’t want to hit his ball into the lake. The method then is to employ the five elements and use them as a means of visualizing the extraction of the various elements from the universe into the body and specifically to the organs within the body that correspond to the various elements. The autonomic nervous system can understand these visualizations and it will respond to them appropriately. As a result, the conscious mind will be able to direct the body to take energy from many otherwise unavailable sources.
The Third level is to make an alliance with all of this energy. When this alliance is created, your opponent is alone against the world. Thus, a much larger opponent becomes smaller than you and your allies and it is your allies and the energy that they send which feeds the five senses and creates the sixth sense that is your guarantee of survival.
With this outline in place, lets begin with the first level of training.