It is said that: “Where the Yi goes, the Qi goes.” and that “The Yi leads, the movement follows.” If we skip talking about Qi for the moment and only focus on Yi and movement, then what movement follow the Yi? I find that when it comes to Yi or “intent” many speak about movement without considering Tai Chi body mechanics. What should follow the Yi is Tai Chi movement. Tai Chi movement from a Tai Chi body. This means that when you consider “Yi” and practice this aspect of the mind, what follows should be your whole trained Tai Chi body. If your idea is to reach out your fist to punch, move in to push, or to evade, follow and lead, the Yi must be connected not only to movement but also to your Tai Chi body. This means that without a proper body method, without correct body mechanics, all talk about Yi or intent is superficial and probably unnecessary.
Compare the calm mind-set and the relaxed body state that we practice and strive towards in Tai chi with the common fighting attitude and mind-set people automatically tune into when they they approach a fight. When going into the “fighting-mode”, most people will automatically tense up the body and clench the fists with muscular strength. But instead the Yi in Tai Chi should work as an “idea” that triggers your body so you will automatically relax, drop the strength and sink. This means that when you practice Yi, you always need to connect both your relaxed mind-state and your whole-body state with the Yi. You should have this in mind while practicing so you can teach your Tai Chi body and Tai Chi mind to respond on aggression and threat instead of the caveman residing inside of each of us.
When practicing punching, pushing or defensive moves, alone or with a partner, make sure you get every ingredient of your body state in everything you do. Always when you “want” to do something, even before doing something, connect the idea of what you want to do with the whole body state: relax, sink the strength, sink the breath, feel the floor with your feet, feel the zhongding (centerline), move with your body as a whole and move from the dantian.
When you consciously practice “to do”, whatever you are doing for the moment, then practice to “do” or act directly without thinking. Make sure that your whole internal body state follows. This takes time. First you need to learn a correct Tai Chi shenfa, a body method. After you have learned the method and you know how to move and act according to the Tai Chi method, the practice of Yi means that you will learn how to trigger this body method, to step directly into your Tai Chi animal just by using the “idea” of doing something. The “idea” when use your Yi should not be “to use” Tai Chi. Instead, every idea connected to use of practical application should trigger your whole shenfa. For instance, when you step into a defensive posture, maybe an all natural looking stance with your hands gently raised for a subtle guard, your whole shenfa should be there. When you act, you should act accordingly to your shenfa. The shenfa or the whole body method should be behind those movements that follow your Yi. This is what Hao Weizhen meant by: ”If you are able to use intention to attack the opponent, then after long experience, even intention does not need to be applied, for the body standards will always be conformed to.“ When you have understood “mind” and “body” as they are understood in Tai Chi, and further learned to connect the shenfa in action through the application of “Yi”, then there will be no difference between being and doing. Doing means being in your Tai Chi state, the Tai Chi state means being able to move freely within this state. The “Mind state” will more or less be nothing else than what naturally connects “being” and “doing” together as a whole.