Chi-Power Golf Part 3 - The Real Inner Game
Have you ever noticed how the likes of Tiger and other professional tour players make the golf swing look so easy and effortless? Yet, when you try to re-create this in your own game, the results can be far from satisfactory?
Accomplished masters of any art, from golf and other sports to musicians and indeed martial artists, all seem to make their craft look effortless to the untrained eye, but why? Perhaps by delving again into the world of kung-fu, we can begin to understand the process of mastery and take steps to accomplish this ourselves.
All martial arts, no matter what style the practise, start out being external (i.e. relying on brute or muscular force) because they use segmented strength and an excess of movement. The process of mastery is defined precisely by the mastery of the economy of motion and the transformation of external or segmented strength into internal or integrated strength. Taken to its highest artistic level, as the martial artist transforms all movement into stillness (that is, stillness in motion), the use of strength becomes invisible.
The uniqueness of the internal styles such as T'ai Chi (upon which chi-power GOLF is based) is that right from the beginning of training these schools make the end product of the developmental process - stillness and awareness - the fundamental practise of their disciplines. Hence the emphasis on seated and standing meditation (Zen and I Ch'uan respectively) to quieten the mind, develop high level connection or joint-stacking (integrated strength) for increased power and of course, the release of explosive force (Fa Jing).
The transformational process really beings with understanding that any improvements to your golf will be the result of things you discover for yourself - about the way you breathe, think, stand, swing etc. As Fred Shoemaker writes in "Extraordinary Golf", improvement can only ever be the product of awareness and awareness means quietening the mind and starting the process of self observation.
Ok. Enough philosophy! But golfers who put this into practise and commit to developing awareness through meditation have seen great improvements to their game in relatively short periods of time. One client even knocked his handicap down from 15 to 11 within just 6 short months of taking up meditation, as he started to develop a greater feel for his swing and produced his own learning and improvements from the new-found calmness of his mind.
Let me share with you now a few swing drills which I've developed, based on the art of T'ai Chi, to help you take the emphasis off swing thoughts and start the transformational process of getting in touch with your inner swing.
Drill # 1: Chi Kung Swing (Breathing into your centre)
Swing naturally while focusing only on your breathing. Lower your awareness to your t'an tien - (your body's natural centre of gravity, located approximately 2" below the navel) and take a few deep breaths. Keep your shoulders down, empty your chest, relax your jaw and find your feet. Set-up to the ball, breathe in while you move to the top of your back-swing, and then exhale all the way through to your finish position. Focus entirely on your breathing, exhaling fully as you hit through the ball, and trust your swing.
Drill # 2:Wu Chi Swing (Holding your posture)
Find a 'problem' area with your swing; something you are striving to perfect. It could be making sure your hands are ahead of the club-head before impact or keeping your right elbow down at the top of your backswing. Get into the correct position and freeze-frame for at least 30 seconds, holding the position and memorising the movement with your mind and body. Remember to relax and breathe into your t'an tien while holding the position.When 30 seconds is a breeze, try for a minute, 90 seconds and so on. The emphasis should be on relaxed strength, such that if a buddy came and gave you a gentle nudge, you wouldn't fall into a crumpled heap in your driving bay, but would remain grounded and balanced.
Drill # 3: T'ai Chi Swing (Slow motion)
Set-up to the ball and take a few deep breaths into your t'an tien.
Swing as slowly as possible and stay relaxed throughout the swing, breathing normally. Take at least one minute to complete your swing, without resisting the slowness or anticipating the finish. Take your time and fully engage with all aspects of the swing, from shifting your weight, turning your waist, and raising and lowering your arms.When you can comfortably take one minute to perform your swing, try it with your eyes closed! This will really test your balance and control.
Many golf professionals advocate the use of the slow-motion drill but this is T'ai Chi slow, which takes the principle to a whole other level. A minute is a long, long time in which to swing and if you can stick to the pace, focus on your breathing and not anticipate or rush to finish, you will be well on your way to self-mastery. Try each drill "empty-handed", just using the motion of your body, without a club in your hands, and then take a few swings with a club, but without attempting to hit the ball.
Note your feedback on a scale of 1 - 10, 1 being poor and 10 being excellent. Only when you have done this, start to hit balls with your favourite iron and/or driver. Special Training Reports on both seated and standing meditation for golfers are available at www.chipowergolf.com