Yi is not your martial intent

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Yi is not your martial intent

Postby GrahamB on Thu Feb 24, 2022 5:03 pm

I find it strange that the most common interpretation of yi in Tai Chi is as a kind of martial intent. Here intent is “your intent to do something”, and in Tai Chi people generally mean a martial intention that needs to be contained within every particular posture or movement. So, for example, when you do the ward off movement, you need to have the intention of deflecting a blow away. If you movement lacks that intention, it is said to be empty.

Now this may all be true, and not knowing the martial applications of a movement inevitably leads to it becoming too abstract and unfocused, but this understanding of ‘intent’ is clearly not what is being talked about in the Tai Chi Classics when it admonishes us to “use the mind, not force”. If all it meant was to have a martial intention behind the movements, then it’s impossible to see how that can match up with lines from the classics like:

“If the yi wants to move upward,
it must simultaneously have intent downward.”

What has that got to do with martial intent?

Clearly this is talking about something else. Yes, a martial spirit is obviously important for Tai Chi, and some Chinese teachers refer to an “eye spirit” which his making sure you are focused and looking in the right place in form performance, and you look like your actions are martially proficient, but I don’t really think this is what is specifically meant by yi in the Tai Chi classics.

I had more thoughts on this on my blog, but that's a point I thought was interesting enough to deserve its own thread.
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby windwalker on Thu Feb 24, 2022 5:44 pm

Seems like it depends on line of teaching, level of teaching, and ability

Some thoughts

Interesting enough.

Once asked about something I felt my classmates used..

Asking my teacher through translator about it...

He mentioned " what you feel is called "Yi"
Do not try to force it
Do not try to use it
In time it will come of it's own and you will know it..."

Found this to be true in my own practice.

Excerpts from a translation that specifically addresses this aspect

汪永泉授楊式太極拳語錄及拳照
Wang Yongquan Writings on Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan
Translated by Richard Man,
http://facebook.com/groups/IMA.LiteraryTradition

意 (Yi) ­ Mindful intention. Harmonizing Shen, Yi and Qi is the core practice of Yang Style Tai Chi Chua


(十)內勁是神意氣的化合,不是神意氣的集中
(Ten) Neijin Is Harmonizing Shen Yi Qi, and Not Concentrating Shen Yi Qi
編者按:汪永泉老師對內勁兒的本質及其和力的區別作了專門講述。這是非常重要的。有些人沒 有弄清楚,誤把力當成勁兒,走入歧途。
Editor: Teacher Wang Yongquan said that there are fundamental differences between Neijin (內 勁/ internal refined force) and other practices. This is a very important point. Some people do not make the distinction clear, and confuse force as Jin, going down the wrong path.

(十一)練拳主要是煉神、意、氣
(Eleven) Practicing Martial Art Is About Refining Shen, Yi and Qi
內功是神、意、氣的化合。神、意、氣是結合在一起的,神到、意到、氣到。
練拳主要是煉神、意、氣。
盤架子是神、意、氣的運行。明了這點,才知道應該如何盤架子。
神、意、氣運行走虛。

Neijin (internal gong) is harmonizing Shen, Yi, and Qi (神、意、氣, ‘spirit’, mind intent and Qi). When the Shen, Yi and Qi are harmonized together, when Shen is expressed, so would Yi and Qi.


The main point of practicing martial art is to refine Shen, Yi and Qi.
The form is about moving Shen, Yi, and Qi. You have to understand this point, before you can learn how to do the form.
Shen, Yi and Qi move where it is empty and insubstantial.


My own work aligns with this line of thought "theory"
through my teachers practice.

Interesting thread,,good subject :)
Last edited by windwalker on Thu Feb 24, 2022 6:29 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby origami_itto on Thu Feb 24, 2022 7:47 pm

I don't understand yi as martial intent, more like the mental map of a shape or expression of energy. The triggers and hookups that correspond to an action of some sort. The control panel.

The martial intention of a shape and the quality of cruelty or mercy it contains is generated by xin in my opinion. Yi just shapes that raw intention into the idea of a shape that will express it and pushes the buttons to run that program, sending qi to the body and generating jin.
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that jing.
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby Giles on Fri Feb 25, 2022 6:38 am

I agree with Origami.
To cite some (not all) aspects of yi in the four basic energies of Taijiquan:
In peng, the yi directs/facilitates the body to sink downwards (but not collapsing) while also expanding upwards and outwards in all directions, like a balloon being inflated.
In lu, the yi directs/facilitates the body to become empty with reference to the incoming force, like a balloon deflating and making space, while not actually retreating a millimetre.
In an, the yi directs/facilitates the body to sink downwards, at least a little, while simultaneously sending a broad-fronted wave forwards or downwards or a direction in between.
In ji, the yi directs/facilitates the body to mobilize and funnel its own mass and force into a smaller external point. Comparable to the way a magnifying glass takes a broader 'channel' of sunlight and focuses the light onto a point, even making the object burn.

In all these cases the yi directs what happens with the mass, impetus and direction(s) of the body, making the use of the body more precise and efficient. A little more 'abstract' than one would imagine a martial response to be. But done in the right place, at the right time, this influencing of the moving body has a martial effect. And a pretty good one, too, if done well. But even then it's better to keep the mind at the level of the processes described about, not to concentrate on an imagined or desired martial result. That can even be contraproductive. So the yi shouldn't "say" deflect the incoming punch to the side or backwards or upwards or all of these. Instead it should "say" release all excess tension and sink inside as you expand like a balloon, also into the point of contact for the incoming punch. (And see what happens then). With training, the latter will be more martially effective than the former.
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby windwalker on Fri Feb 25, 2022 8:25 am

Interesting reading the different perspectives.

Seems quite different from

Ten) Neijin Is Harmonizing Shen Yi Qi, and Not Concentrating Shen Yi Qi
編者按:汪永泉老師對內勁兒的本質及其和力的區別作了專門講述。這是非常重要的。有些人沒 有弄清楚,誤把力當成勁兒,走入歧途。
Editor:

Teacher Wang Yongquan said that there are fundamental differences between Neijin (內 勁/ internal refined force) and other practices.

This is a very important point. Some people do not make the distinction clear, and confuse force as Jin, going down the wrong path.


Used to illustrate differences, not as a distinction between correct or incorrect practices.

Can any say what they can do with the use of their "Yi" that they couldn't do with out it ?
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby Bao on Fri Feb 25, 2022 10:34 am

Totally agree.

Yi is not martial intent. But also it’s not something that leads the body.

Yi and body state cannot be separated. Correct Yi starts within the body. If the Yi is wrong, then the body state is wrong, and if the body state is wrong, the Yi is wrong.

Or as my favorite quote about Yi from Hao Weizhen states:

”If you are able to use intention to attack the opponent, then after long experience, even intention does not need to be applied, for the body standards will always be conformed to.“
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby Graculus on Fri Feb 25, 2022 10:01 pm

You might find this podcast by Hai Yang to be of interest:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHcyG67g_kM

He is talking about nei yi, which is (I think) the yi we are talking about here.

In his view, it includes both "martial yi" and "energetic yi" (or attention to what the movements are doing to the enemy and what the energy is doing in your body) and a couple of other things as well.

My own experiences support this, and the term "yi" was used fairly freely to explain techniques. My teachers would used a range of language to explain concepts and would not get hung up on terminology, but preferred to demonstrate physically. Higher levels of technique depended more on use of "yi" and would not work correctly without it, which made for some challenging practice sessions.

Some people may feel that when drilling a solo technique, the intention to cut with a sword or to punch someone in the face is "martial yi" and a different kind of thing from "yi", but while the function is different, I feel the faculty is the same.

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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby Appledog on Sat Feb 26, 2022 7:07 am

形 勢 意 氣 勁 神 (xíng shì yì qì jìn shén) — Shape, Stance, Will/Intention, Chi, Jing, Shen.

First you train the correct shape of the form, then you acquire the postures of the form. The difference between these two is essentially once you must learn the form, then you must correct it and ingrain it. Stage one is usually completed once you have done the form about 100 times. Stage two will usually take 1,000 times but may take up to 10,000 times.
After this stage you will intuitively understand intention because you will begin to realize that your intention to perform a move causes the move to begin. Without this realization you are unable to understand yi no matter how it is described to you. Before this stage your yi is simply your desire to perform a movement at the moment you desire to perform it. Like picking up a glass of water, by commanding your body to do so. Nothing more.

Usually when people start Tai Chi they must dedicate their first year to doing the form 3 times daily, at a minimum, which is 1,000 times in the first year. This is usually enough to get to the yi stage, but many people will dedicate themselves to 30 times a day (10,000 in the first year). This kind of dedication is reserved for people who aim to make tai chi their trade or career, but practicing this amount of time in a year will provide guaranteed progress into the qi level (one more further than the yi level). It's said that after the first year people in Chen village would start learning push hands, because some of them would easily reach the qi stage after one year and all of them would be at the yi stage which is considered the absolute hard requirement for push hands (your yi must be correct or you will fall into incorrect shape immediately as a result of not knowing the pattern of leading and following). I know this seems simple when explained but look at any push hands competition. They lose their shape after less than three circles. Forget about yi, qi, shen. They have not progressed beyond xing and shi!

As an aside. If your yi is scattered (not refined) ex. by practicing contrary arts or by an incorrect idea about the form, it is worse than missing a day of practice. It was said by Confucious that if you miss a day the river will drift you back three days; but if you row in the wrong direction you can lose incredible amounts of time. What is worse you may come to rely on skills gained from contrary arts and in this case the door of tai chi will be closed to you. Some people might say closed forever, but if you work very hard it is possible to reverse certain kinds of damage... You just have to want it badly enough.
Last edited by Appledog on Sat Feb 26, 2022 7:10 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby Quigga on Sat Feb 26, 2022 12:00 pm

Hey Appledog, suddenly you taste juicy and sweet instead of tart and sour. I like your post :-)
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby D_Glenn on Fri Apr 29, 2022 7:25 pm

Just visualize this- say you have two hammers. One in each hand. Someone is in front of you that you want to fight. You raise up the hammer in your right hand, muscles flexing, fist clenching tighter, muscles transitioning from relaxed to tension, as you begin to bring the hammer smashing down, your left hand just, without warning, whips down and tags the person below the belt.
Your Yi/ Intention was all being put into your right hand. The other person naturally/ instinctively became worried about that hand and lost attention on your other hand.

That’s the most banal and basic usage or understanding Yi. But what it actually is, is the physiological process that is happening. The nervous system signaling, the muscle fibers recruiting. But the, not so basic, usage, is that your Yi can be moved into and out of your extremities, without the muscle tension, or actual recruiting of fibers. It’s sort of just the messenger. And this message can be endlessly strengthened, with repetition and practice. To the point where the message alone, can trigger the instinctive behaviors of another person.

It is, and it isn’t, just “Martial Intent” ;)
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby wayne hansen on Fri Apr 29, 2022 7:55 pm

Time and training change everything
What is written in stone today is but an idea tomorrow
Don't put power into the form let it naturally arise from the form
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby origami_itto on Fri Apr 29, 2022 9:03 pm

wayne hansen wrote:Time and training change everything
What is written in stone today is but an idea tomorrow

Right?
not that today is wrong... the landscape of the mountain changes
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that jing.
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby Strange on Sun May 01, 2022 1:21 am

if you practice the move 300x today
at at tomorrow's practice, you said that you are using intent and not force
I would believe you; otherwise it is all just soft and will crumble at the first touch.

depending on context, a word can have different meaning.
it is not wrong to say that moving upwards with intention to go down.
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby cloudz on Sun May 01, 2022 6:14 am

it's probably more a case of semantics sometimes; describing the same thing in different words. isn't it more rather a reflection of a certain martial tai chi crowd making the distinction. I had a discussion along these same lines on another forum. Basically I didn't agree with the reasoning behind that somewhat 'common' argument in amongst that group that I think you allude to: the intent 'has' to or 'should' be martial. I argue that it just had to be correct iirc.. I'll probably post the link in due course to see what I mean.

if you're doing a martial art practice it's all "martial intent" - semantically speaking..
if you're doing a movement and meditation practice, it's not martial intent, it's just intent..

in both cases the 'tai chi intent' should be the same in terms of body movement.

but yeah :)
Last edited by cloudz on Sun May 01, 2022 6:33 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Yi is not your martial intent

Postby cloudz on Sun May 01, 2022 6:30 am

Regards
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