Internal power

Ian Deavin demonstrates Chen Laojia form

Some notes on Relaxation, Speed, Power, Flexibility – a Physical, Mental and Emotional Triangle looking at what we mean by these terms and how they are linked. This piece was written many years ago but I still believe is essentially correct and hopefully a useful piece of the jigsaw.


To say that speed is about quickness sounds trite but somehow the word speed carries connotations of power and perhaps the idea that fast movement should feel powerful at the same time. In fact it seems true that if an action feels fast in these terms then it probably isn’t and you are probably trying too hard. The true feeling of ‘speed’ has more to do with effortlessness than with feeling ‘powerful’.

The ability to work at a particular rate in mechanical terms can also be seen in the ability for example to break blocks, tiles etc., as in many martial arts films or demonstrations.

Focusing all our energies with total commitment in a specific way enables a great deal to be achieved in a split second. Here perhaps we can find a hint of how this concept can apply in wider areas – achievement. For the point about power in relation to human beings is that what we are really looking for is the ability to achieve, so direction in an effective way is essential.

When the irresistible force meets the immovable object then something has to give. Too much structure with everything tied down too tight leads in the end to grid lock.

Every system needs a certain amount of ‘slack’ to operate in the real world – to be without is to be robotic and even with robots then the more sophisticated we make them the more flexibility we need to build in.
Read the full article here.

World Tai Chi Day seminar at Shefford Tai ChiHere’s a teamwork idea – think of yourself as a committee – and your body and your mind and your spirit as sub-committees.

This structure is like a team or a shoal of fish/flock of birds – but unlike any of these you do not have the option to “drop” one of the team – they are with you for life – so the only option is to grow the team from within. You cannot rely on a few star players you must get the whole team home. So you focus instead on supporting the weak players, guiding them and giving them every opportunity to grow and learn how to co-ordinate with the rest of the team – how to work in sync, in rhythm and in the same direction as the rest – unless they do then you remain unconnected and your energy is scattered like a tug-o-war team who doesn’t practice.

So you invest in loss – because that gives you the best opportunity for the feedback which can show you what is not working and why and allow you to work out how to fix it.

It is the power of teamwork that generates Chi and the skill gained from consistent practice – your Kung Fu – that enables us to develop it.

Read the full article for further explanation.

My kids can’t/won’t have their breakfast, brush their teeth, get dressed, go to school in the morning until I have done their breakfast first – it is a time honoured sequence – there are many occasions in life where one action or outcome depends on a defined sequence like making a cup of tea. In my golf I find that the ball does not go where I want it to unless I prepare in a particular sequence then hit it – if I omit part of the sequence then it does not do what I would like. If I decide to have a shower and get myself dressed first in the morning then I am late doing the breakfast and the kids are potentially late for school, if you do not boil the kettle first then you have only cold tea. We can of course multi-task – but that simply involves juggling a number of parallel sequential processes – we still end up constrained by the length of the longest sequence – check out Critical Path Analysis.

So far so obvious – but look around and check just how basic this is – whether or not time exists in the quantum world – here in the macro world it certainly involves one thing happening after another – likewise in Tai Chi.

You cannot crack a whip without first moving the handle then sequentially each and every part of the whip one after the previous one – each building on the movement of the last to accelerate the next until finally the very tip is moving at the speed of sound – your relatively slow hand movement of the whip has been transformed into supersonic speed. Consider then if we work backwards from the handle to the hand and arm into the body to the centre and even further down our legs to the ground. Now let us travel backward – surely the force of the whip is rooted on/in the ground by our feet which are stationary, with the force itself initiated by the movement of our centre and augmented in the legs controlled and directed by the centre then transmitted sequentially out through each segment of the body, all the way down the arm where it initiates the movement of the whip itself. Our body has become a part of the whip – and infact works like the whip. Similarly with a weapon or a golf club – so we can say that the Chi is projected down the weapon or  club to the tip or the head where it gets transferred to our opponent – or ideally the ball.

It is this movement which gives us the feeling of connectedness and fluidity – derived from the way each segment interacts with its neighbour and as with the whip any stiffness inhibits that interaction – we can say that “the Chi is blocked”. So we relax the stiffness, then we can move from the centre to initiate the power so that it can move outward in a fluid segmentally sequential movement. Indeed everything moves together – from the centre to the feet and from the centre to the finger tips.

If we get the sequence right then as with the whip we can create great speed and power in what looks like a very simple way. So perhaps in life – get the sequence right and life can be simple?

I was asked this question recently and thought it a very sensible one – given the health orientation of Chi Kung and a similar orientation of most people who come to Tai Chi classes, at least with me. So after some consideration my answer was as follows:

Chi Kung ( energy work ) is about learning to move energy around the body in a way beneficial to health – this energy work involves a high degree of body awareness and the ability to adjust internal tensions, posture and the relationships of body parts both statically and in movement.

Tai Chi – is a form of Chi Kung – but also develops the movement aspect further toward principles such as balance, structure, sensitivity, internal power etc. which are of value both in health and in martial arts.

So in early Tai Chi training we focus very much on good healthy body movement based on Tai Chi principles, which can then be extended if desired into the martial art of Tai Chi Chuan.

More on Golf and Tai Chi

23 May 2012

My own Golf lessons are proceeding well – lots of internal awareness and structural corrections, plus course craft about reading the layout and topography etc. Really satisfying when it goes well – laugh it off when it doesn’t! Following on from which I have arranged to run a 7 week series of “Tai Chi for […]

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Chipping and putting

16 March 2012

My 2nd golf lesson yesterday – chipping to the green – this time using hips – just as in Tai Chi with some conscious adjustment needed to accommodate the mechanics of the club but basically pulling it through from the centre as one pulls a sword or ones arms in silk reeling – controlling power and body […]

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Tai Chi movement and Internal Power

2 March 2011

I’ve had some experiences and pause for thought recently that have lead me to believe that the important part of Tai Chi is the way of moving it promotes – a sort of segmented, sequential and centred, wavelike spiraling – which when allied to all the other Tai Chi principles leads to what is refered to as […]

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