This article is the second (Article One: The Discover Yi Chuan Journey) in my series outlining a curriculum of sorts for the Discover Yi Chuan Program. We will be exploring a simplified way of looking at the core practices of DYC. The next article in this series will take a look at the core exercises that are applied in these core practices.
Standing the State
Standing the State is likely one of the most well know and least understood Integrated Strength practices. Why? Because its an empty canvas that you can paint whatever you want on. In my experience only a small percentage of people who engage in standing practices actually achieve the Integrated State. One of my goals with DYC is to help re-frame this practice to make accessible to more people.
Setting aside the statistically anomaly of the savant, I think it safe to say that most of us come to this type of training without having achieved the ability to consciously activate the Integrated State. When that is the case the focus of Standing the State should be said activation of our frame aka activating whole body tensegrity.
There is no one right way to Stand the State as the state itself should be in a 'state' of constant evolution. Even passive practice ferrets out details and insights that can be missed during active practice. Specific qualities like tension, relaxation, calmness, focus, presence, awareness, sensitivity, confidence, engagement, etc. can be refined and honed to a sharp edge when specifically focused on. Furthermore, Jam Jong becomes the primary vehicle for internalization, where routes of strength are practice with less and less visible movement until the practitioner is in a calm and relaxed state but brimming with stored strength just waiting to be released.
Standing the State is also not limited to standing positions. Standing is, of course, our primary position as it is the most likely utilize for self-defense. The state should, however, should be achievable whilst sitting, lying, kneeling, crouching or any other position you choose. Identifying which shapes and routines in which to invest your time is crucial. A Brazilian jujitsuer who likes to mountain bike may specialize in different shapes and routes then the Tai Chi person who loves to snowboard.
The three phase/aspects of Discover Yi Chuan (Discover, Develop & Use) provide a simple way of looking at the standing conundrum. In the Discover phase/aspect we use Standing the State differently then we do in the Develop and Use phases/aspects. Its a cart before the horse thing....how can you develop something you have not discovered, much less use it?
Traditionally, Standing the State is the Alpha and Omega of Integrated Strength training, meaning that the skill is both born from and returns to Standing the State. What we learn from do
ing big extended movements goes into standing. What we from stepping goes into standing. Eventually the amplitude of the wave forms generated in the body harmonize into a standing wave that does not seem to move at all.
I recall and anecdote I read from one of Old Man Contradiction's students about how Wang conducted himself when around the training grounds. According to the student, Wand did not practice at all but mostly stood around doing nothing. I smiled when I read that.
Testing the State
I view Testing the Integrated State as a skill in and of itself. In essence you want to get better and better at applying the Scientific Method to test and evaluate your and/or your partner's progress with Integrated Strength.
Let me give an example. We know that one of the qualities we are looking for in Standing the State is root or inherent stability in our frame. After a period of the appropriate training we may introduce a test to see if the practitioner's stability has increased. We may have said partner add pressure to the our shoulder in a slow an methodical way to see if stability can be maintained with more pressure then before.
This test requires a few things to be useful. First, at least one of the players should have a baseline to compare the results to. This means familiarity with the practitioner's results in previous tests. Second, we need consistency in how the test is applied. Ideally the same person performs the same test the same way. Third, there must be honesty from both players to ensure the consistency of the test and the reliability of the results.
Testing Strength is not a unilateral thing. Both the testee and tester are developing skills. Ideally the tester is of higher skill then the testee and is using that skill to provide better feedback to the testee. The tester uses his or her Integrated State like a stethoscope to 'listen' to the testee while they apply their skill. Being consistent, altruistic and articulate with both the testing procedure and subsequent feedback are the challenges for the testor.
Ego of either player often ruins Testing the State exercises. The testee will often cheat on the test to avoid a negative result and/or the tester will subtly conf
ound the testee to artificially create a negative result and or the testor will over 'feed' the testee leading to a 'false positive' result. In such cases you have to throw out the result and rework the test itself for it to be useful.
As Testing the State exercises develop the tester will of course try to confound the testee, but only in ways that are useful to identify gaps in the skill. Regardless of the outcome the purpose of testing strength is to advance the skills of the players, competitiveness that does not serve this end is to be avoided.
Testing the State does not always require a partner. A heavy door, a bumpy bus ride or just standing on one leg can provide meaningful feedback IF you have developed your Testing the State skill. Equipment training is the same, when properly utilized it can provide deep insights into both strengths to further develop and weaknesses to overcome. Its a good idea to build yourself a smart collection of toys tuned to the core activities within which you will be using Integrated Strength.
Developing the State
The Integrated State is not static. Like with meditation the more time spent in the Integrated State the more deep and nuanced the experience becomes. In fact, it is this state that allows us to know our opponent through being aware of the state of our own being. Eventually, even the arrival of another's intent on our spheroid is heralded by a subtle change of feeling when in the Integrated State.
There are many, many qualities to discover an refine in the Integrated State. We learn to Feelize, intense visualizations resulting in actual changes to the body & being. We work to deepen our root and grow our branches. We learn how the right tension in the right places allows us to deepen relaxation. We learn how to be intensely focused yet remain calm and collected. We learn to engage with the space by swimming though it like a serpent. We learn to use our core like a counterweight to absorb and redirect incoming forces. We learn how our stability requires movement, the Internal Orbit that spirals and ping pongs around endlessly. Basically we learn to consciously control our state of being and tune it to our intended purpose.
The Method suggests we work the ends to find the middle. Let us use the complimentary opposites of tension and relaxation as an example.
Initially we want to use as much tension as necessary to activate the Integrated State. Once we can consistently activate we work to achieve that activation with less tension by identifying what tension is not contributing to achieving the purpose and letting it go. In the Integrated State it is also possible to achieve even deeper levels of relaxation then when not integrated, so we are also improving our relaxation potential.
We must also, however, also improve our ability to maintain the Integrated State when using lots of tension. Another exercise in separating wheat from chaff, using intent to recruit more and more of our muscular po