I-Liq Chuan Reflections
What originally got me interested in I-Liq Chuan (literally translated mental-physical fist) was an interaction I had with Sifu Sam F.S. Chin. When I was still in North Carolina, we invited Sifu to give a workshop introducing his family art. I touched hands with Sifu during the seminar and experienced something quite unexpected. Sifu’s touch had me jammed up. My structure was locked up, and I could not lift my feet from the ground without Sifu controlling my balance. At the same time I had this sinking feeling that releasing his touch from my arms was not a safe method of escape. It was disconcerting to be completely dominated on touch.
The skill level demonstrated got my attention, but what hooked me was the teaching approach. The first thing taught was not techniques, drills, or forms. The first thing Sifu discussed was mindfulness. The emphasis from the beginning was that martial skill was based on the mind being free to perceive what our senses are telling us. At the time, the philosophical discussion left my head throbbing and wondering how it was relevant to training a martial art. Yet, it is this very grounding in Zen thought that has been the most important lesson imparted from the training. Training one’s mental attentions develops the mind-body connection and unification of the self; it also enhances perception of the conditions of the moment, which is essential for harmonizing with an opponent.
What committed me to I-Liq Chuan was seeing skill being transmitted to the students. It is one thing to have the master who can demonstrate the skills; it’s more impressive to see students also manifesting the same skills. Sifu Chin spent a long time contemplating the best methods for teaching the art. The result of that effort is a well-defined curriculum which first lays out the philosophy, principles and concepts, and then outlines progressions of solo and partner training. By starting with the conceptual framework, the ILC system establishes a philosophical foundation to guide the training. This top-down approach (i.e. concepts before specific training) emphasizes active attention to the core principles. In this manner, the training is guided by purpose and a clear path of progression.
Though I initially started training for martial purposes, fighting ability has not been the most valued skill I’ve learned from training ILC. Rather, I value more that ILC has equipped me to develop on my own. I haven’t always had consistent access to ILC training partners. A lot of my training has involved cross-training with practitioners of other arts. Despite this, having an understanding of key principles has allowed me to continue advancing my skill in ILC. Instead of distracting me from my core art, the cross-training has served as a test of my understanding and training of principles across different contexts. ILC has provided me with a conceptual framework and mental tools to take charge of my own progress. The ability to self-reflect and self-guide my training has given me the most valuable skill: self-improvement.
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* – Sifu Sam Chin is the founder of I-Liq Chuan. For more info on him and this family system, visit his page [here]