To increase internal strength and the capability to hold the musculoskeletal structure with tensegrity, and use the mind to attain the neuromuscular signals to emanate power, the training methods need to be specific and purposeful. These methods have been developed to help the student ascertain the sensations and enhance an awareness of center and to identify in their body the correct structure and pathways for power to be issued.
The first priority for the internal student is that they recognize an awareness of their center (Dian Tien). The quickest way to discover this is by practicing Pile Standing (Zhan Zhuang). This practice allows the mind to be still and to train a relaxed focus without mental distractions. The relaxed body with efficient structure also frees the mind from bodily discomfort which can interfere with its efficient function. This allows for the Qi (energy) to flow in a balanced way in the body. Qi (energy) is a third system separate of the blood and nervous system which surges an internal energy field through the body. With persistence and discipline the student will acquire a relationship with the center of their mass and its link to the earth in a fairly short period of time.
Once the student has a basic awareness of the relationship between their center and the ground they can move to the next level in training. At this level the practitioner learns to acquire a connection between the torso and the truck or legs. Again this is another place that Pile Standing is by far the most efficient way to develop this ability. One must remember that it is not the length of time that one stands or holds a posture that is important but the internal work that is being done while in the posture. Dysfunctional motor coordination systems governing movement, postural support and alignment are what the practitioner needs to address (ref: Mind & Musculoskeletal Systems and Mind & Neuromuscular Connections).
As the student stays diligent in their quest to understand their body and its complete function they will develop the accurate patterns that will produce efficiency in combat using minimum effort and achieving maximum effect. Block or post training is a system that has been used for thousands of years to aid the student in identifying and developing these correct patterns. In the beginning stages of block or post training the student should practice their standing postures on the tops of the blocks or posts. This will increase their minds awareness of their root and center and the neuromuscular connections throughout the body.
As the practitioner gains a basic understanding of the correct structure of the body and is learning to identify Qi (energy) moving through the body the next stage of training starts to fulfill itself intrinsically. Holding the body in tensegrity establishes a whole body connection linking the lower and upper half of the body giving it the ability to express itself very efficiently. There are many different methods that work well for this phase of development. The intention is to open the shoulder joints and force the use of the intercostals to pass the Qi (energy) to the hands. There are postures such as Phoenix, extending outwards and the “Secret Pinky Method” to help identify the correct neuromuscular patterns and the proper skeletal positioning. The practitioner must hold these positions for periods of 45-60 minutes at a time to achieve NMR or Neuromuscular Reprogramming.
With the students mastery of these exercises and holding the body in the correct musculoskeletal position the Qi (energy) can then flow evenly through the body. Moving with this new knowledge is a formidable task. Exercises like Shili (testing Strength) and T’ai Chi are great to make considerable breakthroughs in moving the body as a unit and focusing the Qi (energy) into your movements. These have tremendous effect because of the movements are done at very slow speeds. The slower and less complex the movement the more focus the student can give to the interactions between the mind and body connections, and the Qi (energy) that is circulating throughout the body.
I would suggest that the student would give extra consideration to Shili of the legs before actually doing moving step or Friction Stepping (Mo Ca Bu). Shili of the legs is the work of keeping the centerline of the body positioned directly between the feet and not swaying left or right and holding the hips and pelvis as if it were boneless while moving in a fixed stance in the eight directions (four corners and four sides) in the correct manner (ref. Awareness). Some students have trouble with the intricacies of T’ai Chi arrangements and should resort to very simple actions so that they can do the internal work necessary to achieve power in their movements or stepping. Students should practice their movements or Friction Stepping (Mo Ca Bu) on cinder blocks or posts to increase the dynamic tension through the body and help in increasing the students rooting ability and power. This also helps to elevate the focus of the mind (I) and to move the Qi (energy) more efficiently.
One of the best exercises to increase the time frame of NMR (neuromuscular Reprogramming) is to stand with the feet just a few inches apart and use the mind to force the movement of the legs without shifting the centerline or coccyx bone left, right, forward or backwards. As you will find out that the term friction stepping is very appropriate, as the foot will only be able to slide along the floor for only a half inch or so. A higher level of this same exercise is to place a couple 4X4 boards on top of blocks or posts and repeat the exercise. As your ability to control the kinematic chains that are used to move without shifting, advance the exercise by moving the boards a fist distance apart and repeat then continue to separate the boards a little at a time until you are not able to move.
Master Wang one of the great masters of the internal arts once did a demonstration where he put his right foot and his right shoulder against a wall and proceeded to lift his left foot off the ground. His capability to make any part of his body the centerline gave him this amazing ability. The work that one does standing still is the most crucial and pivotal to the mastery of the neuromuscular skeletal systems of the body. One of the main keys is to be very honest with yourself about the stillness of your movement. All these exercises should be done under the guidance of a skilled instructor for you to gain the ability to master your mind and body.