In Wudang wushu, the training first focuses on “form” and then “intention”. Master Yuan’s training regime is to first soften the body, then to strengthen it to the correct hardness (“hard” here does not mean stiff or rigid), then from the correct hardness to the correct softness, and to finally fuse the soft and hard to become one.
Hardness without softness is like steel: it is strong, but can be broken with a single twist; jumping and spinning in modern wushu with large overly expressed movements, while at the same time adding regular combat training, usually causes injuries to the students. Similarly, if students train only softness but not hardness, they lose the basic defensive power that is trained for in actual combat, as well as the power for attack; losing both of these means losing the meaning of the practice of wushu.
Master Yuan believes that for internal wushu, one needs to first build the right basics of body mechanics and movements and the movements must be repeatedly practiced until there are ingrained in the practitioner. After one has trained in the correct body mechanics and movements, one can begin to regulate breathing and cultivate “qi” through standing and sitting meditation. Only when both training systems have been attained can one combine “form” and “intention” together. When this is done, forms and movements can flow uninterrupted like clouds and running water. Looking from the surface there is no force, only “intention”, but in the true practice there is a full power hidden within, without fully expressing itself. If one continues to practice there will be unlimited “qi” congregated in the “dan tian’’ (the “dan tian” is the physical energy center of the body) ready to be used and can destroy all hardness.
To accomplish this, Master Yuan strives to keep the traditional training basics as part of the main practice here at WDTKA. Every class begins with a focus on a variety of basic stances, kicks, fighting patterns, coordination, flexibility, balance exercises, jumps, internal work, and more in order to give the students a full spectrum of ways in which to practice.
Following the seasons and the natural phases of life, we continue our basics throughout the year. Learning and mastering the basics of wushu takes time and practice. They provide a foundation from which we build to and learn different styles. Not learning basics is akin to building a house without a foundation. This house will not be strong and stable. But if we diligently practice the basic exercises, our health, balance, flexibility, coordination, power, endurance, stamina, longevity, circulation, and clarity can all be improved while simultaneously we can rid our body and mind from bad habits, poor posture, unstable emotions, and many health imbalances.