In September 2021 Dr. John Stewart hosted 4 sessions for IntentionFist members in Fort Worth, Texas. We had a great day putting different 'hands on the elephant' as I like to say
with a diverse program that included group energy work, developing vertical linkages, ground & bag work.
This article is a brief summary of the event with links to clips that were captured during the session. Ideally this will serve as a refresh for attendees and allow folks who were not able to attend to benefit from the teachings as well. Feedback from all participants, in person, virtual or otherwise is very much appreciated as I work to maximize the benefits all of the participants realize from these seminars/intensives.
I would also like to give a special shout out to my friend and teacher, Dr. Michael Tran who was kind enough to make the long drive down with his wife. It was great to catch up over some spicy Cajun food and its great to be training together again!
We began the day at Dr. John's Saginaw office to focus on energy work for the first session.
In my experience, doing energy work as a group can be very beneficial. Each person generates an energy field. When in close proximity those fields will influence each other. When done with the right vibe the participant's can experience a magnified energetic feelings that would likely be more difficult to induce on one's own.
After circling up I introduced Yi Chuan as a martial art, providing
some basic demonstrations of how Integrated Strength changes self-defense then spoke to the purpose of the session, energy work.
While they don't necessarily jump out at you, the Yin aspects of Yi Chuan training are equally as fascinating and useful as the Yang. The ability to use the oneness state to 'listen' to the environment, to your your opponent and to yourself at the same time allows us to be present in the situation rather than plotting. Listening is not a passive act, it requires presence and focus like try to understand a faint conversation through a closed door.
My approach with the whole day was to put 'hands on different parts of elephant'. I think it is important to recognize that Integrated Strength can be approached from many angles. Health restoration, exercise & self-defense are huge categories in and of themselves. Diving into the various modalities and specialties within those categories exposes more than a few ways to skin the proverbial cat.
During the session we created an imaginary ball in our circle, and, through our intent, feelized lifting, propping, pushing, pulling, pressing in between grounding & clearing.
With each participant, even the virtual ones, I took a moment to stimulate their fields leading to some interesting energetic reactions and experiences.
Earth & Sky
For session two we moved to Dr. John's Fort Worth office for a bit of a leg burner. Our focus was the Earth & Sky exercise that I have modified to highlight a number of over-looked aspects of moving with Integrated Strength.
Unfortunately the session did not record, so I have no clips to share from it. However, the Earth & Sky will give you a good refresh of the content while Hump Day Hump & Morning Coffee incorporate the exercise in each session. Next week I will be conducting a live session deep dive into Earth & Sky so please RSVP if you would like to join in real time, ask questions and get some feedback.
For Discover Yi Chuan members Earth & Sky is a critical exercises that should be focused on, at least for a period. There are several reasons for this:
First, the exercise is a microcosm of the entire method. Its all there. Each element of the new movement habit is laid bare, with a focus on activating the 'mother' or vertical linkage. Consummating the connection between sky & earth or up & down if you prefer is what allows for Integrated Strength to appear and is a precursor to being able to vector IS non-vertically.
Second, the exercise serves as a reference point for future work....not sure how there is stepping in standing? This exercise will show you. Not sure how you could get leverage from that angle? Lets go back to Earth & Sky to find out. Want to analyze explosives strength? Earth & Sky.
Third, it opens the kwa and wakes up your legs. As some of you have now learned our relationship with gravity needs attention. The way I used to stand now seems like I was standing on stilts my awareness and energetic penetration of the ground was so poor. Changing our polarity so we plug into the Earth rather than stand on it changes everything.
During the session we reviewed the body mechanics in (excruciating?) detail and then used two contrasting Feelizations to create very different experiences with the same exercise. Specifically we used 'the hay bale' to get one experience of the route and 'the wet suit' to experience the other.
When tossing a hay bale the need to project the weight of the bale beyond ones person requires an acceleration of its mass with our internal orbit while clinginess of the wetsuit has us using the same body mechanic to 'choke-up' on the strength, overlapping with each undulation.
We also looked at how the entire exercise performed in either direction is an expression of strength at any point. I used the 'thousand pound drop' as an example allowing each participant feel how the pulling down of the sky incorporated by entire body even thought the strength was expressed from my elbow.
Perhaps one of the participants will volunteer a description of their experience with the 1,000 lb. drop?
Session 3 brought us back to Dr. John's house where we had a soft floor and reflex bags set up.
Pounding Ground is an introduction to groundwork that I am excited to put out there. While I have obviously been influenced by my background in Aikijutsu, I personally find groundwork a very useful and rewarding way to spend my practice time. Most evenings these days you will find me on the thick carpet rolling, twisting and stretching my frame, experiencing new shapes and orientations while confronting limits, adhesions, pain and numbness. My hope is that many more of you discover the value of developing Integrated Strength through groundwork.
One of the top reasons is that groundwork is a great contrast to standing training and serves as an excellent second hand on the elephant. There are a lot of differences. When standing the legs are under load, not so when doing ground work where its more likely the arms will take the load. The root is no longer below the feet, gravity compresses the body differently and bits that were used to engage the opponents are now tied up with locomotion.
Consider how much emphasis groundwork puts on the core. You know, that thing we used to call the dantien, that special place in the middle that acts like a skyscraper counterweight, where we tie our belts. The demands put on our core during groundwork are FANTASTIC for discovering more torque in locomotion that can be applied to the opponent instead, standing, sitting or lying down.
We looked at simple but profound way of stretching called 'Engage Release' where we learn to stretch without losing integration, thereby elongating the entire shape instead of a section within it. Further taking basic ground positions and performing Yi Chuan exercises that are typically done standing were discussed before we turned our attention to some mobility exercises.
I introduced a number of basic skills, including back rolls, side rolls, barrel rolls, transitions, moving up & down. The idea is to connect the skills into the ability to seamlessly flow from any position back into one that can get you on your feet. On one hand it feels like we are pushing hands with the earth, while on the other that feeling seems to eat the strength of an attacker.
I've started several of my more advanced students on groundwork and will look forward to some feedback either here or in the Forum.
Our final session of the day found us in Dr. John's garage for some work on reflex bags. These guys are cheap as chips on Amazon and can be used almost anywhere. We opted for the garage because sometime you end up knocking the business end clean off and we don't need any more broken windows.
One of the main things I emphasize when training with equipment is always stick with The Method. As long as you adapt yourself to use whatever tools you have at your disposal to support your Integrated Strength goals you won't go too wrong. Use your tools in a way that reinforces old habits or confuses your IS expression and you have just created more work and frustration for yourself. Can't say I didn't warn you:)
As with Pounding Ground, I arranged Better Baggin as a series of skills that can be worked on individually, combined with others or evolve into pure freestyle. The Displacement clip does a good job of framing the practice.
After getting in sync with our reflex bags before touching them we looked at the contrast between flinging a portion of our mass at the target vs. moving our entire mass through the target. Additionally we looked at sticking, trapping, deflecting and insisting on precision during reflex bag training.
Testing Strength Bonus
Dr. John and I recorded a few Testing Strength clips for those of you out there testing your frame.
We start with testing Vertical Integration and the Root before looking at the Receiving Force Test is used to see if you can pass strength through your frame into the ground while delivering force to the opponent. We take a quick look at uprooting your opponent from a wrist grab and I Riff about the role of bouncing practice in general before having some fun with the yoga ball.
Let me again thank all the participants who showed up in person and online for the Intensive. I know how difficult it can be to make time in your day, particularly a Saturday, to learn Gung Fu.
On behalf of all the participants I would like to thank Dr. John and his Finace's Stacey for their work in arranging each event and offering his offices and home for our use. Dr. John has put in many, many hours developing his skill and I am very pleased he is so open to sharing with others.
I look forward to many more rewarding experiences with IntentionFist members in Fort Worth and other locations as travel permits.
As with all of the training routines I am introducing via IntentionFist, I truly appreciate feedback and suggestions as well as your experiences with these exercises. As always, you can comment on this article, in the Forum or message me directly.