This week I have finally had the opportunity to try out I Liq Chuan and it was just as promising as it seemed to. I have been really impressed by the body-awareness, balance, and skill of the practitioners. Not only where they able to easily push or pull me out of balance, but - more importantly - showed me and enabled me to feel how a small change may make a big difference. I have been introduced into the 13 structural points, from weight approximately on the middle of the feet (actually, there should be equal weight on the 5 fingers, heel, and other 3 point), knee pointing with (and well connected to) the toes, all the way up through the hips etc. up to the shoulders resting freely on the torso and the “suspended” crown of the head. We discussed the concept of “yin” muscles on the front of the body, bottom of the arms, and inside of the legs, that contract towards the center of the body, and “yang” muscles (back, upside of arms, outside of legs) that expand from the center (or rather it “back side”). Feeling all the yin muscles from my stretching (“projecting”) hand all the way down to the feet, with the movement itself starting in the center but immediately manifested in this fingers, having this conscious connection of all the muscles and joints involved, proved to be a great learning experience, though of course very challenging. I have a long way to go. And as you understand (or rather manage to “make real for yourself”, or experience) something, you always discover there is a deeper level and other factors to take into account. So yin and yang muscles are not separate, in all movement you need to be aware of both, even if focusing more on one of them, and there needs to by a dynamic balance between them. We explored different types (qualities?) of force and movement in all three dimensions. It is overwhelming to try feeling connection all way from fingers to the ground (not skipping anything), apply all the 13 points, be aware of what muscle groups work in which movement and the edges where this switches over, etc.
This only touches a part of what we went through and what I have been able to some extent experience. And it is just a tiny part of what I Liq Chuan has to offer (and certainly quite inaccurate as well).
Many of the principles that my - very experienced - Aikido teacher mentions during his lessons are studied here on their own, with deep understanding and seemingly simple yet very profound exercises aimed at experiencing them as directly as possible. So I would certainly see it as beneficial to take break from Aikido and the distracting techniques, and to focus on studying - and, much more importantly, experiencing - the principles themselves so that I could eventually come back and practice Aikido of a much higher quality.
Interestingly, one of the practitioners, a former boxer, mentioned that the practice of I Liq Chuan has visibly improved his sparring skills, even though he has done little boxing training lately. I can imagine how the improved acute awareness of balance (in movement!), the whole-body connection and deep understanding of force could do that. Another interesting remark was that at first, you have to be very conscious and intent on practicing the awareness of the structural points and principles, but eventually, when you experience them, you develop “feeling” for them. Then you can just follow the feeling, without checking the points themselves. It is also interesting that as you become aware of some of this points in yourself, you reportedly also become aware of their presence - or absence - in others, making it easier to take their balance.
I would love to practice this impressive art with these evidently keen and capable practitioners, but cannot at this point. However I hope I will be able to make some progress by practicing the few basic exercises I have learned on my own and by bringing the same awareness to my other daily activities. The teaching materials could be better, but it is still much better than being kicked into the bone, as my dear grandfather used to say.