Everything that lives, moves.
It's the only things that separates the things we consider alive from what we consider dead and inanimate.
All action is movement, as is breathing, blood pumping, and even cellular respiration. To move is to live and to live is to exist in the world around oneself and have the opportunity to interact with it.
However, if you observe your life experience and you decide to look for the origin of your own movement, you will discover an interesting fact. All movement begins in the inner stillness of your mind. Movement must be mentally conceived before it can be physically created.
These roots of movement are often observed, studied and mastered by internal martial artists by utilizing the nei jia martial arts and the skills of subtle awareness. Once known and understood, these martial artists try to use this internal awareness to strengthen their actions and prowess within their martial disciplines.
However, this knowledge is not just effective in martial arts but in all aspects of athletics and all aspects of living. Since all of life is movement there is no part of life that is not enhanced by understanding where this movement is coming from.
Intention VS. Reaction
Most individuals spend life reacting to things which are happening outside themselves. They walk through their daily life experience and when something or someone else gets their attention they have a knee jerk reaction to it and move accordingly.
These reactions are simply habituated responses, they have been trained into our bodies through repetition and outer programing. Most of our emotions, thoughts, and perceptions also fall into this category, they are all simply long-standing patterns of internal movement stirred up by outer stimulus.
And once these inner movements take place, they often stimulate action or spoken word without us ever intervening to analyze them first. This type of reactive living has given rise to the modern meme of the NPC (non-player character). Because like the computer-generated characters on video games, this type of human is already programmed and doesn't bother using their own free will. They are controlled by those who have programmed them in the past and present.
The other option is to move through life intentionally. This requires us not to suppress our knee jerk reactions and emotions, but to pause momentarily in order to observe them. Once observed, the individual has given him or herself the opportunity for free will, the ability to choose what they will do with their own life and how they will move within it.
Athletic Movement and the Still Void Within
In fitness and athletics, we see the same pattern, most people will move in habitual patterns without ever truly observing the inner source of these movements. In this way the opportunity for authentic free will movement is wasted, and the potential creativity of the mover is lost.
The luckier movers will at least have had a good coach along the way to help build some quality habituated movements. Yet even this is simply a consolation prize, with the real treasure only being found by those who travel within and gain sovereignty over themselves and their movement.
The problem with athletic movements is it's not enough to simply observe your reactions and choose. While this is great for daily living it's simply not fast enough for high-speed activities like athletics and martial arts. For this you must find the actual source of the movement, the still part of the inner mind.
The mind is itself always in movement, with awareness darting from one thing to the next and thoughts popping up every few seconds throughout the day. However, there is a part of the mind which came before all this movement, the part of the mind which simply observes that which is experienced.
It is often discovered on a long journey of awareness taking the individual from the outer world of movement and stimulation to the inner world of sensation and perception. There is much to learn and master in the inner realm of movement, but the goal of this journey is still further inward, beneath even the movements of the mind.
This is often called the void, the soul, the source or simply the "I 'am". This is the part of your mind that simply exists and is aware of existing. It is not thought, emotion or sensation but is instead the part of the mind which observes these experiences. Once you find this within yourself and become acquainted with it, the outside world will never be able to program you again. All learning and all action will come from a place of true individual choice.
This benefits the entire life experience in innumerable ways, but within athletic movements specifically, it allows for a speed and creativity of movement that is unparalleled by preprogrammed movement. This is because the awareness of the situation and the choice of movement are taking place in the same location as your mental focus.
If this subject interests you, consider meditation as an excellent method of initial inner self discovery. There are many books and resources online to help you should you feel you need it, but the overall premise is simple. Simply sit still and allow some time for your mind to slow down and your thoughts to pass by. Look for deeper and deeper stillness of mind until you enter a state of self-awareness without thought, this is the destination you are looking for.
Once you find it and begin to know it, it will be easier and easier to get back to. Soon you can do standing meditations, and then move on to moving meditations such as internal martial arts or yoga. At this point the benefits of this inner journey will permeate your fitness and athletic endeavors as well as your life experience in general.
A beginning issue you may run into is finding a quiet place to do your meditation. If this is you, I would recommend some sort of partial sensory deprivation such as noise canceling headphones and possibly a blind fold.
Also, it's common for the initial sitting position to become uncomfortable quickly, especially if you have flexibility issues. If this sounds like you, I recommend sitting on something such as a cushion to increase your comfort. There are also specialized meditation cushions for this very purpose called Zafus and Zabutons which help keep you comfortable while maintain proper spinal posture. There are also meditation benches which allow one to easily stay in a comfortable kneeling position for extended periods of time while meditating. Both are excellent ways of keeping the spine straight and keeping the focus of the mind off the discomfort of the body.
And finally, if you're interested in moving onto moving meditation consider yoga or the internal martial arts. Below are some links to some excellent books on the subject to help you get started. There are many other books as well but these are all books I have personally read and can vouch for.
Chi Kong: Way of power by Master Lam Kam Chuen - One of my favorites on the subject. A short book with illustrations on every page and very easy to understand. A great way to quickly and easily get started with the Qigong tradition.
Inner Structure of Tai Chi by Mantak Chia and Juan Li- Excellent book on Tai Chi. Will get you started with basic forms and gives much of the foundational concepts of Tai Chi from an eastern perspective, i.e., qi energy and postural effects on qi energy. Has plenty of illustrations but is not fully illustrated.
Chinese Internal Martial Arts-My Personal Journey by Dixon Fung- First-hand account of a personal transformation through the use of internal martial arts. This is an excellent book if your new to the subject or if your an accomplished internal artist and you want to follow along the story of a kindred spirit. Very entertaining and plenty to learn along the way.
The Tao of Bioenergetics: East and West by George Katchmer- A very unique book a stumbled upon at a used bookstore years ago. Currently out of print but there are often used copies available. The book reviews and compares the many attempts in modern and ancient times to study the flow of life force known as bioenergy in the west and qi in the east. This comparative study is a gold mine a inciteful information.
Hope you enjoyed and best of luck in your movement practices.