Succeed in IMA – Part 3 – Being Present

Being Present.

One must be able to fully concentrate, fully focus, be fully aware and have the ability to be fully in the moment. This is both a both a trained skill, and a prerequisite to long term success in the arts.

All of us have had the experience growing up through grade school while sitting in one’s English class, and just zoning out. Or you might spend that class time doodling, writing notes, or staring out the window. Many people continue to go through life like that.


Coming to class and not really paying attention to what you are doing or what you should be doing. I have often seen students come to class and then proceed to “play around.” The teacher might demonstrate one technique and explain how everyone should practice it, then a student might do that once or twice, maybe not even try, then proceed to just dawdle around or do whatever it is he/she might want to practice at the time instead of what the teacher is trying to get across. Not only is this disrespectful to the teacher, it is disrespectful and causes other students to not be able to pay attention. It is also hurting the student themselves. One thing that I have noticed that often separates the experts from the masses is attention to detail, repetition, and willing mastery of the basics. Its not the ability to do “advanced” or flowery, cool techniques that defines one as having become expert, it is their mastery of the basics. There can never be too much attention and focus paid to what one is doing at that moment.

When practicing, one’s mind should be fully present on what one is doing. One should not be daydreaming of the past or future. One should not be distracted by what happened at work or on the way to class. One should concentrate. Awareness. Focus.


One should not bring baggage to class or to practice…

I refer to this in two ways, one is personal, emotional, and psychological baggage. This is one of the most difficult things to accurately access and deal with in practice. It is often a long term project. It is also often never even considered by most teachers and practitioners. It is my belief that the Internal Martial Arts should be beneficial to one’s entire being and life. The mind does not get free escape from this attention. It is often that one’s own “issues” have a deep effect on the way they train, the way they deal with their classmates, the way they carry themselves in life, the way they approach fighting and naturally the way they approach their life.

The second is one’s past experience. Although previous training and athletic ability can be a great boon to one’s success in martial arts, it can also be an impediment. Although many people treat the old maxim as cliche’, there is great wisdom in the need to recognize how one should “empty one’s cup so that it may be filled” in approach to every class and every lesson. It is often seen that a student will bring their ego to the school and approach every lesson with something akin to “Oh yeah, that’s just like this from xyz martial art” or “I like to do it this way instead.” While some people make use of a learning mechanism wherein they need to connect everything they do new, with something they have done. This can only get you so far. There will inevitably be differences, its best to take off those blinders and see the whole picture, clearly, as its presented to you.

I’m sure everyone has also had the experience of sitting in that lecture in college and then walking out of the lecture hall having taken in nothing. Your mind was somewhere else or you just couldn’t concentrate long enough to absorb what was being presented. In a college lecture you might be able to ask your friend for the class notes. In the traditional internal martial arts, as my teacher would often remind me, there are many times where you might see something or hear something just once. If you are not present, if you are not aware and focused enough to pick it up, then that is just something you might never get.

Why limit yourself by not being there, in class or in life?

About george

George Wood is the head instructor of Zong Wu Men Internal Fighting Arts, based in Northern Virginia. He teaches the martial arts of Baguazhang and Xingyiquan.
This entry was posted in Baguazhang, General Info, Training, Xingyiquan. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Succeed in IMA – Part 3 – Being Present

  1. Buddy says:

    Great stuff, George! This is one of the reasons I didn’t sponsor Laoshi last year. Being injured and hanging around watching every one else train was just like not showing up for me.


  2. george says:

    My opinion –

    I don’t think I’ve had a day where I’ve been 100% in the past 10 years. My back was fractured (break, herniated disk, ligament tears, etc.), I broke and separated my shoulder, injured my ankle seriously, my knee, hip, neck… all this stuff pops up again later. I didn’t have insurance when much of it happened and that, coupled with youthful bull-headedness to train through injuries, leads a lot of that to come back to me now that I’m older.

    I still train and move everyday. Baguazhang has proved to me to be one of the most all-around training and healing regimens out there. Sure, there are things that need some extra help from doctors, but then I go back to Bagua to help align, strengthen and balance my body.

    When I hurt my ankle in Taiwan and couldn’t walk on it for 4-6 months, I would come to class just to listen and learn. I couldn’t physically do anything, I could barely stand. My senior taught me to do the houtian with just my hands and upper body, sans stepping, so that I could do them sitting down. I did this, a lot, and found out that I got much more fluid at my houtians as a result. I would emphasize more meditation in my practice at home. Another senior told me to put my mind and intent into healing my injuries while meditating and practicing qigong/neigong. Again, I couldn’t walk, but I was improving.

    Anyways, to put this ramble short – just because you are not 100% doesn’t mean you should not be putting in 100% effort. It may not be the same type of effort you might have been able to do last week, or last decade, but we grow, things change. The Dao and all…

  3. Buddy says:

    Aw, you put me to shame. I find I can’t put enough weight on my left leg to do much, but now it just sounds like whining. I’ll take it to heart and buckle down and bear it. Thanks.

  4. jleeger says:

    Hey guys, I think George is right, to a point…

    The more I look at Bagua, the more it seems the martial, therapeutic, and strengthening (systemic) effects are inherent in every movement.
    It’s which aspect you emphasize in your practice that determines the outcome.

    The best thing about Bagua, though, is that the benefits transfer. As long as you practice different aspects (or all of them) frequently enough, a few days of “light” training (i.e., not doing fa jing or full power expression, etc) can still have a positive impact on your overall performance when you come back…

    I think this is overlooked a lot of times.

  5. jleeger says:

    Sorry, didn’t mean to say “to a point…” just trying to interject my own observations…

  6. george says:

    Please do so my man! No worries in how you express yourself, I try not to be too thin skinned.

    Actually, I don’t want to come across as just the hard nosed old school guy who says if you’re not on your death bed you better still be training.

    The point is that there is always something that will be interfering with optimal training. Live with it! You either do it or don’t. I couldn’t stand up – I did the houtian sitting and did more meditation. I can move my arm right now, I still do circle walking, zhan zhuang, lower body conditioning, etc.

    Guess what? We all get older.

    Guess what else? If you are practicing MARTIAL ARTS (not tai chi for health or yoga bagua or whatever else someone will promote) – you’re going to get hit or tossed on your ass! If you aren’t, YOU ARE NOT DOING IT RIGHT!!!

    Again, just sayin’…

    Everyone’s “all” is always different. Everyone’s “all” will be different at different points in their life. Everyone’s “all” will change not only through a necessity to keep constant improvement, but unfortunately, sometimes it is forced upon us. Keep your emotional glass half full and find a “new” way to train and improve.

    Circle on.

  7. Buddy says:

    Just a late update, not that any of us will read or respond, as it’s 2 years later. It was osteo-arthritis and I ended up getting a brandy new hip.


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