Tag Archives: Energy

The Four Energies

One of the central concepts behind SPM is the idea of four energies – types of motion, flow, or interaction, in some sense.  They’re Sink, Float, Spit, and Swallow.  (Some of you reading this probably have your mind in the gutter, going by some of the reactions I’ve gotten talking to friends about this.  Not the idea.)

I’m sure that, as my understanding and experience develop, how I characterize each of these energies will change.  For now, though, I’d describe them – simply – like this:

  • Sink – Grounding incoming energy or dispersing it through your roots.  “Stick” to the ground and become the Immovable Object
  • Float – Throwing energy upward/forward to lift your opponent and extend or open their structure
  • Spit – Whipping, waving or snapping energy.  Imagine a bullwhip in slow motion – the energy travels in a wave down its length until it reaches the tip, which snaps hard enough to generate a sonic boom (really!)
  • Swallow – Redirecting energy with circles.  Using incoming energy to add power to your own counterattack or strength to your structure

I like the idea of martial arts as philosophies, which sometimes is part of the intent, sometimes makes for some neat ideas, and sometimes is probably mostly just intellectual masturbation.  I have been toying with looking at other aspects of Life, the Universe, and Everything through the perspective of the Four Energies, though, and I think I like some of my inferences.

Sinking –

My first thought was stubbornness, really.  Or stick-to-it-iveness, if you’d rather.  When pressure is applied to you, hunker down.  Strengthen your structure.  If you have a sound foundation, you can use what’s testing you to strengthen your resolve.

Second thought?  Something I hear over and over in so many arenas, it’s uncanny: When in doubt, fall back on your fundamentals, your foundation.  If you couldn’t get a flying kick in Karate, my Sensei would tell you to work on your cat stance or your standing, stationary kicks.  If you aren’t closing sales in business, learn how to carry on a conversation, how to ask questions to get people talking about things they like and are excited about, and how to find common interests.  Build relationships.

Floating –

If you’re faced with a knotty problem you can’t break through or sneak around, take it apart.  See what gives it its structure and separate it.  Attack the problem a piece at a time or get straight to the root once you know which bits you can disregard.  Keep your focus and your form while you assault the same in whatever you’re facing.

Spitting –

Couple of things here, too.  Use everything at your disposal in conjunction to achieve huge results.  To borrow a cliche, be like flowing water and then, just for a moment, a tsunami crashing into your objective.  I actually relate this to the mindset I try to adopt when pursuing any of a number of goals.  I aspire to applying education, experience, fundamentals, and focus consistently day to day, week to week, etc.  When I pull that off, I do feel like I get this strange whipping effect.  I make a little progress, make more and steadier progress, and suddenly everything might fall into place and I’ll almost snap from a bit of a distance away to having achieved what I was going for.

Swallowing –

I like thinking of this as sort of a rhetorical device.  It’s redirecting a question to allow myself room to ask my own.  This applies to the wargaming I like to nerd out on, too.  My opponent might ask me a question by fielding lots of hard-to-hit models.  My answer, and a question in its own right, might be the threat of skating past all those difficult to kill models and winning the game by assassination – essentially killing the opposing army’s commander.  It’s having a debate – “Yes, you say that, but on the other hand…”

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…Which reminds me of one of my Sifu’s favorite metaphors.  He likens Mantis to learning a language.  First you learn some words and grammar with simple techniques and basics.  As you progress, you string some of those words together into phrases.  Eventually, you can generate a sentence of techniques, footwork, structure, breathing, and energy.  Ultimately, you carry on a conversation, a debate, or an argument as you work with other practitioners or, if necessary, engage in a fight.

So, things I have fun toying with while I’m doing busywork or just enjoying some quiet.  If any other martial artists or people with analogous experience would like to chime in with their thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

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Clutter

I live!  It’s been a while, and it’s been a busy one.  Lots to write about, but I’m going to try to keep this one short.

On the clarity of your ideas depends the scope of your success in any endeavour – James Robertsons

A thing I’ve been wrestling with lately – more than usual, anyway – is over-commitment.  I feel like I have, or want to, priorities, attention, obligations, and work to do in every direction sometimes.  There’s my wife (recently official) and my relationship with her, martial arts (recently re-christened Iron Pagoda Fitness Club), maintaining and improving friendships new and old, my day gig, my for-now-part-time business, other business ideas that I play with now and again, gaming with friends, hobby stuff, housekeeping, focused diet and exercise outside of the gym, reading, listening, studying, learning…  This list seems to go on forever sometimes, and my tendency is to want to see some kind of improvement in all of them more or less every day.  Preferably something measurable.  Preferably something quantifiable, plannable, executable, and check-boxable.

Naturally, this produces some problems.

That approach makes a lot of sense for a lot of things.  It does not make sense for some of the most important.  I can’t realistically check a box that says that I’ve helped my wife have a better day today.  I can’t realistically say that I have certainly accomplished things that will definitively make me a better friend to Kate or Ness or Chris or any of the mob in Madison.  I can’t say, in advance, that doing X at Y time will make me feel more spiritually fulfilled.  Some things I just need to be opportunistic about.  Some things I just need to do, and perceived quality or efficacy be damned.  I wrote a note to my best friend thanking her for being who she is and tucked it into her gift for standing with me at my wedding.  I try to do something every day that will remind the Cap’n that I’m thinking of her and that she and our life together are important to me.  It’s more important to exercise consistently and to pay attention to what I eat than it is to measure every second, every rep, every ingredient, every calorie.  It’s more important that I show up and work hard at Taijiquan and SPM than that I excel or show immediate, self-perceived “improvement” in every class or with every week that goes by.

Where I start to stumble is, I think, when I forget something that my Sifu mentioned to me the other day: Training is a refuge – a source of peace and stillness – and not a task or a job.  It applies particularly to SPM for me, but to some other things, as well.  SPM is fantastic because it hurts; bruising my body in destruction drills or having muscles so fatigued that it feels like my shoulders shouldn’t still be in their sockets or my legs keeping me standing gets me out of my head and into the moment.  It puts me in the now, where I stop worrying about what I need to do, what I haven’t done, and what’s looming over the horizon.  Painting minis does that for me when I get lost in the details of the model.  Clean brush, apply paint, clean brush, apply paint, clean brush, correct paint, clean brush, apply paint…  Even getting lost in a good novel for hours at a time.  All of them are special meditations for me.  Refuges from planning, maintaining focus, working against some of my instincts and weaknesses.  They’re places where I can flow instead of putting myself on rails.

I need to be reminded sometimes to protect those sanctuaries, and to keep the kind of order required to meet some goals from creeping into my sources of a serenity that is both a goal in itself and a source of energy for continuing to pursue the rest.