The Art of Effortless Power

I wanted to create an art based on fundamental observations of physics, perception, intent, impulse, and energy — an art that gears itself to meet any situation because it is founded on understanding the principles in which interaction takes place.

I wanted an art that would be adaptable and well-designed, forged through training and techniques but designed to teach something beyond the form.

The Art of Effortless Power is such an art.

~Peter Ralston

The Art of Effortless Power is the most wide-ranging domain of martial arts study within Cheng Hsin. It is within the context of this wonderful Art — a dynamic interaction of sufficient power, complexity and clarity — that we are able to study interaction and ability in a grounded and real way.

The Art is one of throwing and uprooting rooted in three traditional arts: T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Aikido, and Pa Kua Ch’ang, with influence from arts such as Judo, Jujitsu, boxing and others. The student of The Art learns to neutralize aggression, blend with forces, and disrupt the balance and power of attackers by projecting them through space or throwing them to the ground.

Designed to reveal the intrinsic nature and source of power

The Art initially omits the “boxing” arts or arts of striking; it is, however, designed by a master boxer with mastery of boxing in mind. What this means is that the skills have been designed to be fully transferable to a striking context, and habits developed in this practice which accord with the Principles of the Art will greatly enhance one’s abilities in any striking art.

The Art also incorporates ground-breaking explorations of perception, feeling-awareness, balance, relationship and others, which have distinguished the teachings of Grandmaster Peter Ralston.

This feedback into the structure and restrictions of our “self” can provide insight into the fundamental nature of our own event of being.

Oriented towards Mastery

In The Art we frequently practice the techniques in a ritualized form. This allows an opportunity to more fully understand every aspect of the technique and the training, and draws attention to the fact that the activity taking place is a ritual of process. The more we understand what process is, the greater our capacity to masterfully engage in process.

Done for fun

On the other hand, in order to empower an understanding of the principles of interaction and the requirements for creating spontaneous interactive process, The Art also includes the practice of various forms of freeplay. These are non-ritualistic and freeform except for the framework or parameters in which they are played.

Most of these games involve spontaneous and creative interactive play, so as to train an alignment with life as it comes to us. Since roles in life are ever-shifting, I believe a practice should include a forum for confronting that fact.

Making Progress

Our starting point is most frequently an introduction of body-being basics, learning to relax and let go, and then we move on quickly to learn effective yielding. We also begin our study of intrinsic strength early on, to begin the develop an effortless power. We learn simple falling methods, and essential routines for leading and neutralizing, as well as basic uprooting and then throwing techniques.

As we progress through the Art, we go from simple, easy, interactive games and exercises to more complex and advanced games and freeplay. We learn more and more advanced techniques (around a 150 in all), and master many interactive principles such as joining, leading, complementing, changing, and many more. Through the integration of techniques, principles, and games an art is mastered and a person is transformed.

Advancement is achieved one step at a time through a degree system involving 30 sub-levels, or kyus, and 8 Certified Degrees.

Designed for deep and transformational learning

The real goal of The Art of Effortless Power is to understand deeply, bodily, the principles from which process, body-mechanics, interaction — and so life itself — manifest. Therefore, no matter how “good” one becomes, the study remains bigger than the individual.

Aimed directly at the Heart of It All.

The purpose for the practice is to “be” the principles, the event, the spirit. Pursuing the goal of effortless power leads us to see the limitations in which we live and think.

For more on the design of The Art of Effortless Power, see The Creation of Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou – an early interview with Peter Ralston.