Natural Speed: Three Step Program

unlocking martial speed I won’t keep you in suspense about what the three step is, so here’s the saying: “Slow is fluid, and fluid is fast.” On at least one level, pretty much everyone might agree with this. And, as your Kung Fu skills increase, that border between fluid and fast will start to wash away.

The hard part is not fluid to fast; the real difficulty comes from nursing fluidity out of slowness. This concept is just weird to those born into a digital culture where every question is answered with too many hits and not enough solitude.

unlocking martial speed This is an easy practice to lie about. You can raise your hand and decide it is slow, but slow enough? The first problem arises, as you might suspect, when you try to move your hand slowly and indeed do retard the motion but then the hand commences to jump. The energy of the hand wants to be expressed one way or the other. If it can’t go fast, well, then–the heck with you and your wishes–it will shake along the route.

So you stumble, almost, on the first trick. The fact is that the hand won’t move like a slow snake unless you have some goal, some idea of WHERE you want to move. Holding your hand still in the air is just too wobbly. Moving it slowly forward, even if invisibly, is more of the ticket.

unlocking martial speed This activates what we call Yi or “intent.” If Yi were a magnet it would be just a bit ahead of your actual position, tugging you along the direction of your own purpose. This does not mean you just throw your hand out as fast as you can. Sure, a small amount of your intent may be there, but the action is so fast you cannot monitor its integrity.

So, slowly, you learn to DRAW your action along behind your intent. Fluid, when you look at it that way, is not just something that happens on the outside. It hides inside you, too. And, the more you practice, the clearer it becomes, until after a while you have convinced yourself that you are following some trace of inner concentration.

unlocking martial speed You haven’t attained full speed yet but your motion seems more fluid, smoother. At this point you might just start to blend slowness with stillness. You fool yourself. You move your hand as slowly as possible and then stop it, just for a bit, then start it up again. You try to go slow steadily before you halt and also attempt the even harder task of starting up again without a jolt. And here you are at the second level realization. There must be no jerking at either end. Slow to still, still to slow, the transitions must be clean and clear. Intent now appears with a new duty. Instead of just starting, you now build a little intent before the action. The magnet that was leading you through space by being just a bit ahead, is now leading you through time by controlling the rate of initiating movement and therefore its smoothness. Of course, it is obvious, this process is invaluable for attaining a speed that does not announce itself before it comes with a barely perceivable jolt, creating a “tell” that completely spoils your plans.

unlocking martial speed When smoothness manifests like that, speed can’t be far behind. The trouble is that it is SO EASY to go reasonably fast. And, if you re not concentrating, you will tell yourself that movements which are average have real speed to them. This happens a lot when people begin to reach speeds they never associated with their own bodies. You can imagine it. A teacher tells you this and that and you try it and WOW! it works. And what do you guess happens next? That’s right, you slow back down because you are trying to force the speed rather than do what was successful not ten seconds ago, when your speed was the consequence of thinking, not tensing.

unlocking martial speed Oh, well, it takes a while to burn this piece of information into the actions of the aspiring master, but after you see the difference a little intention can bring, the news sifts in. And things will change again as you find that smooth wasn’t just a physical attribute but an attitude that would not allow jumps, jerks, tensions or even goals to interfere with the natural working of mind and body. When there is an interwoven pattern of mind and body, it is so perfectly matched that you can’t even separate the one from the other.

Now that’s a martial practice you might find absolutely valid while being totally tailored to your mind and your body. Good luck with it.


3 Responses to “Natural Speed: Three Step Program”


    Thanks Sifu Ted for these wise words. They fill the gap I’ve been missing in my Xing Yi Training. Relaxation, smooth connections, fluid and smooth,
    letting the intent pull the body. Maybe I have this wrong, but now I think I understand the power of slowness and relaxation in my xingyi training.
    wow! my teacher wil be impressed with me, I hope that is.
    Thank you for the article. lesson learned

  2. Yaphett says:

    This is commentary on the road to mastery! I have never read a clearer explanation of the “Yi” concept. To practice this would put you ahead of so many fighters…
    You have done it again, Ted Shifu!

  3. DC says:

    Thanks so much. Good explanation.

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