Saturday, January 30, 2010

“Filling”—an amazing technique with many applications

A few years ago, at a Jiulong seminar, I learned a technique called “filling.”

This is another of those things that is very hard to describe in words, but I will try: it means to achieve a balance between your body’s relaxation and tension, while taking a posture that is structurally solid, so that when pressure is applied to any part of your body, it is transmitted evenly throughout. Though this sounds very mechanical, we approach it as a form of meditation, by trying to call up the feeling that occurs when the body is in this state.

Your body then behaves less like a disconnected jumble of limbs and more like a unit, say, a beach ball or an A-frame house. When you fill properly, it feels as if there are no “gaps” in your structure, as if you could, for example, extend your hand just by leaning into your opposite foot.

In martial terms, the applications are obvious: (1) to put the mass of your whole body into any strike, and (2) to absorb force on any part of your body safely throughout your structure and into the ground.

But it turns out that filling has countless other applications too, from enhancing mundane everyday tasks to bolstering confidence, affecting other people’s reactions, and even improving one’s marksmanship.

This summer, I had an experience with the latter.

Central CO mountains

I had gone camping with some friends in the mountains of Colorado, and we were shooting targets in the woods. I am an absolute novice when it comes to shooting, so I was doing my best to follow my friends’ tips on proper grip, trigger pull, sighting, etc. They were very encouraging: I was not bad for a beginner, etc.

At one point, I found myself aiming a .22 rifle at a swinging metal target about 25 yards away—which was proving to be a challenge for me—and the way I happened to be shifting my stance suddenly reminded me of filling.

I thought, “What if I fill from my feet through my whole body, and into the rifle?” In other words, what if I take the rifle as an extension of my arms and fill the entire unit, from my heels all the way to its tip?

Now, this filling business is a very subtle skill, and I am no expert at it. But I did my best, and after a few seconds of concentration, I could really feel that rifle connecting into my entire arm. Both arms, in fact. A little more focus, and I could almost feel a vein of connected matter from the very tip down to my opposite heel.

“Here goes,” I thought, and I could already feel the expectation building, tension sprouting through my body. “No, no. Settle that out and fill again.” I got there once more, pretended I wasn’t really trying to do anything, waited until part of my mind was ready to wander, and then pulled the trigger.

Bulls-eye! The little target spun prettily on its swivel.

This turned out to be repeatable. Not efficient, by any means, but quite repeatable!

There are more filling stories, more odd little situations in which I have found an unexpected use for filling. I will share them in future posts.

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