It was a fresher day today, thanks to a cold north wind that made my nose stream. Not much to report, really: it was just walk, walk, walk, first in a straight line, then in circles. Sometimes I did it ok, mostly I didn’t.

I was thinking further on the same lines as yesterday: that getting this right is fundamentally a mental problem, not a physical one. I’m speaking from a learner’s point of view of course. As I was trying to walk the way Kong Cheng was telling me to, I was trying to hold my attention simultaneously in my feet, my hips, my pelvis and lower back, my shoulders, and my hands. Of course, I couldn’t do it, that’s too much! I realised that I was searching for the right vizualisation.

I’ve been wary of vizualisation, which comes from my meditation training. Vipassana involves using the mind to feel what is happening in different parts of the body; the danger is that the practitioner vizualises the body part, in other words creates a mental illusion, rather than stilling mental activity and simply sensing what’s happening in reality.

For martial arts training, though, it hit me today how useful visualisation is. Rather than herding cats, as my mind was trying to do this morning, the correct visualisation of an action or movement presents the mind with an activity it’s already familiar with, so that it knows exactly what to do with the body and doesn’t have to worry about it any more. Of course, this is precisely why the Chinese martial arts have such poetic names for their postures and movements: they are precisely describing a movement, energy and/or attitude in terms that would make a great deal of sense to traditional practitioners. Of course, they lived in a more unspoiled and natural world, and so were far more familiar with the movements of wild animals etc, that we are today. Working on the basic tang ni bu, I’m having to create a new vizualisation: “Cross-country skier holds down balloon”, but there’s got to be something better….

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