I was more than a bit perplexed when my Teacher fist explained to me that the training method is not the art. I thought that when I practiced Jam Jong that was Yi Chuan and when I did brush the sparrow's tail that was Tai Chi.
Turns out I was mis-informed.
For the purposes of this course it is helpful to appreciate that just because we are performing exercises prescribed by the Yi Chuan Method does not mean we are doing them with Integrated Strength. We may be doing them to develop Integrated Strength but, without that key requirement, they are not yet expression of the Art of Yi Chuan.
'Hun Yuan strength', 'one-ness strength' or 'Integrated Strength' when expressed to serve a purpose is when the Art emerges. Ideally, we are looking for a spontaneous expression of Integrated Strength triggered by our intent.
This idea is not isolated in its application to Yi Chuan. Its more than possible to practice exercises, forms or routines from any method without applying Integrated Strength, focusing more on the performance of whatever it may be, what it looks like.
Mimicking movement is only the very first step in developing skills based on Integrated Strength. I know from experience that what I was doing in the early stages of my Yi Chuan training may have looked like what my Teacher was doing to the untrained eye but was actually so far off as to be laughable.
We refer to work done prior to activation Integrated Strength as a 'Searching' phase of training. When in this phase the exercises are done to 'find' through the feeling of it the specific relationships and connections that are required to move the body as a single unit. We employ lots of trick and feedback tools, positive reinforcement and clear tools to test the relationships and avoid situations where we are bullshitting ourselves about our achievements.
The 'Searching' phase transitions to the 'Sensing' phase of training when the primary goal is to develop the power, flexibility and polarity control of the Integrated Strength that was 'Found'. At first Sensing is a fickle bitch. 'Breaking' the Integrated Strength relationships is very easy and most often you are not even aware of the break. The trick in truth is to learn to sense when you are broken and when you are connected.
Once conscious control of body integration is achieved and can be maintained in fundamental shapes and while performing fundamental routes 'Testing' becomes very important, specifically testing to ensure that Integrated Strength is present and being properly applied in progressively difficult challenges. Increasing these tests challenge the tested to apply self defense principals so that the new skill can be tuned for use in combat.
As my teacher often says, "The entirety of Picasso's achievement is evident as much in each brush stroke as it is in the entire piece."
An so it is with Yi Chuan.
A single gesture expresses a lifetime of achievement. Years of trial and error, successes, failures & internalization can lie hidden inside a simple route or openly flaunted in the Health Dance.
Everything, its all in there, all the time.
That's the Art.