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  • Writer's pictureJohnny

Exploring Power and Relaxation

Qi, Jing, Li ~ 气,劲,力

In Kung Fu, there are a lot of terms thrown around. Qi, Jing, Li, and so much more. As I learned from Master Zhang, the idea behind all of these theories is to learn one and try to experience it in practice. Whether that be in your form, or sparring.

Studying martial arts in China has made me realize that these theories are quite practical. Not "mystical" like many sources would have you believe. I'm not sure if it is because of "the west" or just how Kung Fu has transformed over the years. These ideas are presented in an almost "magical" presence back home.

"肩与胯合 肘与膝合 手与足合" "Shoulders and hips together, elbows and knees together, hands and feet together" -外三合, Three External Connections


Above is one of the first theories I learned. Now that I've had some experience in martial arts. I better understand this sentence. Every time a master has taught this to me, they are talking about generating power within movements. Generating power not just through strength, but through coordination of the whole body.

I think this theory can be used for more than just power. Looking at those just starting Martial Arts; the main problem many face is the lack of coordination with their body. The simple awareness of where your legs, hands, and feet are. Knowing these things not only makes your movements better, but also helps avoid injury!

"心与意合,意与气合,气与力合" "Mind and intention (thoughts) together, intention and breath (qi) together, breath and power together" -内三合, Three Internal Connections


The next theory that you will learn is the "Internal Connections". Again, this concept is mystified "in the west" but I think it has very practical concepts that can be applied to any martial art or sport. To explain this better I will translate what Yi (意) means:

心:Xīn, noun, heart, center, core, or mind

意:Yì, noun, intent, thought, or purpose

气:Qì, noun, air, breath, energy, or spirit

力:Lì, noun, force, power, strength, energy

The first part of the "Internal Connections" talks about connecting your mind with your intent. Simply getting your "head in the game" is key to performing well in martial arts and sports. Eliminating distractions of your thoughts, focusing only on the training at hand. This is important for the same reason as the "External Connections". Focusing on training will lead to better performance and injury avoidance. An example would be weightlifting. If you're not focused on performing the exercise correct and well, you could injure yourself or others in the training space.

The second part talks about connecting your intention with your breath (or Qi). Qi in Chinese has many translations. Power, Energy, Breath, magic, and is even used to describe the feeling or "vibe" of an environment. The reason I choose to translate the second part as "breath" is because the third part speaks of power and energy directly. In sports, being aware of your breath is crucial. Whether you're playing soccer, basketball, or fighting in the ring. Losing control of your breath, or your Qi, will hinder your performance dramatically.

Which brings us to the third part. Connecting your Qi with your Power or Energy. It's no secret that our breath is key to our ability to perform. Fighters exhale on the punch, weight lifters use diaphragm breathing to lift heavier, and marathon runners need steady breathing to keep going the distance. If you have no Qi, you have no Li (power or energy). All of this begins with focus. Focusing the mind on "the game", keeping our thoughts on the training at hand, and having good awareness of our breath so that we can perform.

Hope this makes clear some of the mysticism connected with the art that I love.


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