Energy manipulation has always been a staple of self-mastery traditions down through the ages.
The practice of focused movement was developed as a means of strengthening the muscles, learning sophisticated limb movements, and directing bodily energy.
It’s been called many things, but we prefer Concentrated Movement, which encompasses all varieties of the practice, including stance training, spatial awareness, striking, and mind-to-body coordination.
It essentially allows for a more seamless control of motor skills, strike intensity, and reaction time in the martial arts.
If you’re not incorporating some kind of Concentrated Movement training in your regimen, you’re missing out on a huge part of self-mastery.
To completely understand the concept however, you might have to do away with any misconceptions you have about our bodies and what they are capable of. You also might have to expand your definitions of such ideas as “strength,” “force,” “power,” and “speed.”
When it comes to self-mastery and martial arts in general, these terms may take on a deeper meaning.
The Relationship Between Movement and Energy
The reason a distinction needs to be made can be summed up perfectly when you observe that some of the most massive or athletic people out there still don’t hit with significant force, despite their bulging muscles and the ability to lift heavy amounts of weight.
True striking power and bodily speed is simply more complicated than equations of mass and force.
In times of duress, seemingly weak people can display feats of strength that put power-lifters to shame. Also known as hysterical strength, it typically happens in life and death situations and is very hard to “reproduce” in controlled conditions.
It is actually simple to grasp once you realize that the ability to move the body with concentrated force has little to do with the size of the body, and everything to do with the way kinetic force is generated.
Your strength on the pure kinetic level depends ultimately on honing the nervous system so as to increase the activation of your muscles, and this gives rise to power.
Power relies on leverage and strength as well as a sound mechanical structure without loss of momentum from wasted movement.
Most people simply twitch their muscles in the direction of their target, and thus would never know what great power they could have if they could focus their movement and energy.
When a mind-body connection is established, kinetic force can be chained, resulting in strength that often appears “supernatural” to the untrained eye.
On purely a muscular way of looking at purely physical force, it is the delivery system of one’s hips, waist, and spine that will give you the greatest power output, regardless of whether you are punching, kicking, or performing any other kind of movement.
On the level of kinetic force, this phenomenon can be further amplified, by taking advantage of the flow of your body.
Even if you have no interest in martial discipline, concentrated movement training has a lot of other practical applications.
The greater your awareness of body, the better you can perform all kinds of physical tasks.
It also raises your ability to take in your surroundings, react quickly during crisis, maintain a healthy metabolism, and lessen the chance of sustaining an injury during your workouts.
The Etheric Connection
It may sound too simple, or even redundant, but to bridge the gap between mind and body in your movements, the first step is to simply place the center of attention on the limb you are moving.
When practicing this, never move without purpose.
Extend your palm forward, then move your arm outwards to the side, but perform these actions slowly and deliberately.
Attempt to “extend” your mind, or awareness, into the limb as you do this. Associate with it.
When performing this action, tense your muscles and move as if pushing against an invisible force. This creates the necessary mental dynamic.
Remember to breathe deeply and evenly while performing these exercises, as it is deceptively simple to tire yourself by doing them. You need all the oxygen and prana you can get.
Allow your consciousness to “sink” into the limb you are moving, in this case, your hand.
This simple technique will teach you how to “feel” the flow of your own kinetic energy chain, which we can also call your prana, or chi.
Continue to move your hands in such a fashion, and occasionally increase the tension.
You can learn quite a bit about yourself when you make the mind-body connection.
Allow feelings and impressions from your limbs to teach you how to better move and flow.
The video here displays concentrated movement in Tai Chi. This is a simple exercise that greatly enhances anyone’s ability to “feel” the flow of their own energy, which is the ultimate goal of all concentrated movements exercises.
It helps to enter an almost meditative state while performing concentrated movement.
Get in the habit of “feeling” the movement rather than seeing it with your eyes. Know where the locality of your limb is by feeling it.
Our eyes are marvelous, but they can only pick up data so fast.
Our minds process data much faster by raw impression.
Martial artists use this fact to their advantage, by doing as much “seeing” as possible with the mind.
This is another one of the ultimate goals of practicing concentrated movement, the development of your intuitive sight and reaction time independent of “seeing” stimuli.
Over time you will rely less on conventional senses when it matters most, which is a good thing.
You want to have split-second reaction time, as animals do.
These exercises were developed to reconstruct the bridge between mind and body that we have lost collectively as a species.
Strength Comes With Flow
Experiment with various kinds of movements.
As you do this, you’ll find yourself wanting to perform increasingly more exotic hand movements.
You are just following the energy, which often moves in ways that appear strange, since it’s not something we often see.
Tai chi, and similar flow-based exercises, are akin to a “dance,” in that they are more about feeling and rhythm than physical practicality, at least to the untrained eye.
Remember, since your actual striking strength comes from the flow of kinetic energy, and not muscle mass or physical speed, you will be using these apparently “bizarre” body movements to your advantage.
If you’ve ever wondered what the point of them in martial arts is, well now you know.
Most of the movements used in advanced martial arts are designed to follow flow and channel energy.
It’s all about creating a sort of chain with the latent energy that is inside of you.
If flowing in a certain way, the force created by your muscles working in sync throughout your body enables you to multiply what strength you might possess.
The ability to associate your mind with the striking limb helps in this regard, because the coordinated movement has a more dramatic impact than the haphazard flailing of limbs.
Once you begin to feel comfortable doing basic concentrated movement exercises, you can move on to slightly more advanced variations, which focus on breathwork and the true movement of etheric energy inside of the body.
The key to this is allowing your mind to associate with your limbs.
Put another way, allow your mind to go blank, and only “feel.” Feel the movements, feel the breath, but do not make any attempt at conscious thought or deliberate on movement.
Allow your mind-body connection to do the heavy lifting here.
This kind of energy work in conjunction with basic concentrated movement, will amplify your ability to react on a dime and direct your body exactly how you want it in the heat of the moment.
Lentation and Controlled Adrenaline
Concentrated movement is a part of a wider umbrella of exercises loosely known as lentation.
Lentation is the art of using your willpower to increase the flow of etheric energy (prana) in the body, which in turn increases your adrenaline manually.
Many of us have experienced moments of lentation before without intending to. If you’ve ever been engaged in a strenuous physical or mental activity and you’ve suddenly felt as if you were moving faster and more precise than everyone around you, it was likely some variant of lentation.
This technique, which is the evolution of concentrated movement, enables the body and mind to move physical faster and perform better than normal due to the influx of adrenaline and raw energy.
Triggering lentation is more difficult than concentrated movement. It requires more than just “feeling” the energy or flow of a limb.
To engage in lentation, you must “feel” a connection with your surroundings while simultaneously willing an increase in your own energy.
Cultivating this skill is worth the time, however, as it is one of the cornerstones of physical mastery and martial discipline.
Training this requires honing your reflexes and attempting to reproduce those moments of extreme strength and clarity.
One popular method is to toss a small object into the air before you, and without looking at its trajectory, catching it out of the air as it falls in front of your vision.
When you first attempt this, you will fail many times.
I fondly recall my first attempts at lentation training with a small ball, and it was not glorious.
However, after some time, your adrenaline will spike, your reaction time will increase, and you will learn what it feels like to be “in the zone.”
Once you can reproduce this feeling at will, you are making progress.
Why train something like this? Like all self-mastery, the benefits of such a skill translate in a variety of ways to everyday life.
Better reaction time, clearer thinking, improved metabolism (which in turn helps with weight regulation, the immune system, and your heart), and an improved understanding of Self.