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The Eye of the Tiger and the Three Internal Harmonies -- Spirit is the Beginning of It All

Ken-Spars-1983-EyeofTigerDid you ever find yourself in a situation where a bigger bully attacked you and it was clear that you didn't have a chance? Have you ever been frightened and covered up to protect yourself?

Here is another question. Have you ever found yourself in a position when you had to defend yourself and you were determined to win?

There is a big difference between those two situations, and the difference is Spirit.

In the internal arts, Spirit is called "Shen." It is the "emotional mind."

The Three Internal Harmonies begin with Spirit. The state of your emotional mind combines with your Mind/Intent ("Yi" -- pronounced Yee). Shen is often called the "emotional mind" while Yi is sometimes called the "wisdom mind."

Think of one of the greatest fighters in history -- Muhammad Ali. Think of his attitude when he entered a fight. Confident, bold, smart, ready and willing to rumble.

Then think of a time when you were sparring -- or perhaps in a fight in school or on the street -- and you were not confident, not sure of your toughness, and afraid you were going to be defeated.

This is the difference between strong and weak Spirit.

You can train spirit when you are practicing. If you practice weak technique and fail to push yourself toward excellence and precision, you have weak Spirit. But if you push yourself to be stronger, faster, and precise and powerful with your mechanics and techniques, even when you are just practicing, you train your Spirit to be strong.

Sometimes, I get on students for having weak Spirit. They just sleep-walk through their techniques in a sloppy way. Sometimes, I can tell a student's spirit is weak when he expresses doubt in his ability to defend himself.

TourneyOne student spent years training, but he was unable to solve his own poor self-esteem. He constantly put himself down and said he would be unable to defend himself in a real fight. Early on, he competed in tournaments, but he was defeated time after time, and it became a vicious cycle -- he did not have the Spirit to win and he did not win. He gave up and stopped competing.

"I can point the way," I told him many times, "but I can't take you there. You have to understand and believe that you can do this."

When I find myself in a situation that could potentially require self-defense skills, I instantly adopt the Eye of the Tiger. I am calm but ready, and I will not be defeated. It is this Spirit that helped me win fights when I was younger and tournaments when I was older. 

When rapists are targeting victims, they look for women who appear to have weak Spirit. Women who are confident and appear strong are passed by in favor of victims who look like they will not fight back.

In Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Bagua, your Spirit and Intent combine, then your body mechanics, body structure and technique are directed to achieve the Intent. If your mechanics and technique are right, your Chi is flowing. In this way, the Yi leads the Chi. Your mind's intent leads the body mechanics and technique. 

When you are determined, and have good technique, your Strength (Li) happens naturally. Strong Shen and Yi and good Chi cannot help but generate strong Li.

This is the meaning of the Three Internal Harmonies. It is not mystical. Chi does not mean a mystical invisible energy flowing through meridians in your body. It means proper structure, mechanics, and technique. Strength is the result of a strong mind and a precise body.

By training seriously, pushing yourself toward precision, power, and good conditioning, and sparring with a variety of partners to develop your self-defense skills, proper Spirit should come naturally.

But I can't take you there. I can only point the way. Your Spirit is unique and lives within you.

Finally, do you want to see a great example of Spirit? It is embodied in a small French bulldog who could have been eaten by two big bears that invaded his yard. But his Spirit and his Intent produced some powerful Chi. It is a funny video, but it truly drives home the point. Do you have the Spirit of this bulldog?  

Chen Tai Chi Straight Sword Applications from Internal Fighting Arts Website

I recently shot applications for the entire Chen Tai Chi Straight Sword Form for my website. I've always believed that if a student is going to learn a weapons form, he should know how it is used in combat. For each of the weapons forms that I teach in Chen Taiji, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang, I teach the body mechanics and fighting applications, too.

This is a very short video showing two applications from two movements in the form -- "Ancient Tree Entwines its Roots" and "Hungry Tiger Searches for Food."

The straight sword was a popular weapon on the battlefields of ancient China. Fighting with a straight sword was a high-level skill. These two sword-fighting applications involve deflecting, sticking, following, controlling your opponent's blade and thrusting.

The video of all the sword applications is available only on my membership website, along with over 700 other video lessons covering the three internal arts and Qigong. There are also ebooks for members to download as part of their membership. If you are in need of deeper insights into the body mechanics and applications of Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua, try two weeks free by going to There are no contracts and you can cancel anytime (and no payment as you try it out with full access for two weeks).


An Interview with Qigong Master Ken Cohen -- The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast

Ken Cohen 3
Ken Cohen

This is the first podcast interview I have done with someone who is described as a Qigong Master.

I became aware of Ken Cohen in the late Nineties, when I saw one of his books in a public library next to Alan Watts' books on Taoism.

Ken's website describes him this way: "...renowned health educator, Qigong GrandMaster, and practitioner of indigenous medicine. He is the author of the critically acclaimed books The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing and Honoring the Medicine: The Essential Guide to Native American Healing, as well as numerous Sounds True audio/DVD courses and more than 200 journal articles on spirituality and health. Ken speaks and reads the Chinese language, and his academic training includes graduate study of Taoism and theology."

Ken is also a student of William C.C. Chen and has also studied Chen Taiji and Taoism.

I have practiced Qigong since 1987 and find it to be beneficial, although I am skeptical about some of the "science" used to explain it. But I respect Ken's work and the interview turned out to be informative and thought-provoking.

Listen to the interview with Ken Cohen online or download the file through this link to the Internal Fighting Arts podcast on Audello.

You can also subscribe to the podcast by going to the Internal Fighting Arts podcast on iTunes.