Qi follows Yi – Energy follows intent.
Qi follows Yi. Energy follows intent.
We try to awaken, strengthen and guide our energy through Tai Chi practice. In order to be successful with that, it is not enough to ‘go through the motions’. We need to be intentional, deliberate and present when practicing Tai Chi.
Doing the form without intent is a waste of time. Not focusing on the moment misses the main point of what we want to achieve with Tai Chi. Go get a beer and watch a movie instead.
Energy follows intent. Qi follows Yi.
That is one of the big principles of Tai Chi that all styles agree on. It is hard to explain, but something you develop an awareness for when you work with a teacher. Learning from heart to heart.
Make it a point to always put your mind into what you’re doing. Just as in meditation, you will be distracted more than once. You will notice your mind wandering. Gently catch it, bring it back in and focus on what you’re doing and why.
While this seems like an esoteric concept, there are actually a few simple exercises that can give you a glimpse into ‘qi follows yi’. I learned them from an Aikido teacher many years ago when he explained the importance of energy flow to me. Both exercises require a partner.
Pick up the keys from the floor
Ask your partner to hold your wrist with one or two hands, depending how the balance of strength is between you. Try to pull your arm out of his grip. Chances are it’s hard and in most cases won’t work without dirty tricks.
Now imagine there is a set of keys on the floor, right where your fingers point to. Don’t think about the grip, just pick up the keys. The first few times you will fail at this because your mind will still be focused on ‘breaking the grip’. However, as soon as you relax and put your mind (your intent) into picking up the keys and nothing else, you will find that it is very easy to slip out of the grip. Your Qi followed your Yi.
Many things happen here. For one, you will not signal to your partner that your movement is about to start by activating muscles too early in anticipation of wanting to break free. You will also eliminate any unnecessary movements, like jerking, since all you are focused on is getting down to the keys. Lastly, you will be relaxed and it will be as hard to get a hold on you as it would be to grab a wet wiggly fish.
Put real keys on the floor if you have a hard time to let go mentally. You can also try to pick up the key a few times without having anyone hold you, and then repeat the same movement, ignoring that someone now squeezes your wrist.
Water flows through your arm like a garden hose
A similar exercise is to put your hand stretched out on your partner’s shoulder, with the palms of your hands facing up. Ask your partner to put both his hands on your elbow joint and try to bend it down. It will be very hard to prevent your arm from being bent, even if you exert all your muscle power.
Now again try to forget your partner and what he is doing. Rather close your eyes and think of your arm as a water hose. Imagine the strong stream of water rushing through your arm and shooting out into infinity. Don’t think of your partner, let him do his thing and just imagine the water rushing out your fingertips. Chances are he will not be able to bend your arms and you will not feel that you have to exert a lot of muscle power.
Call it mind tricks if you want. Or placebo effect. Either way, it works!
Qi follows Yi.