Nim Lik — Mind Intent

Intent is one of the most misunderstood concepts in Internal Martial Arts; often discussed but rarely explained with any great detail. It remains a mysterious concept that only some “masters” understand.

The late Tsui Sheung Tin often spoke about the function of “mind power” in the proper execution of Siu Nim Tao. Master Yip told him that it was about Lop Nim — establishing an idea in your mind.

Tsui Sheung Tin explained Nim Lik (force of idea/intent) like this, “it stabilizes all Ving Tsun movements to form a springy and dynamic combination of body structures. It makes the Ving Tsun body structure able to sustain great pressure and produce rebound energy. Nim lik is the power of a highly focused mind. It helps one bring forth chi flow into every part of the body”.

We want intent because it leads to more natural, powerful movements. Is it the exclusive domain of Internal Martial Arts? No, of course not; all of us use intent in everyday life. Most of the time, however, it is a subconscious process.


Intent is simply the act of placing the mind onto an external point. We all do this, for example, when we point at something. We focus our minds on the object we are pointing at and not on the finger. If we were to test the structure of a person pointing at a far-away object, we would find that it is springy. Placing the mind far away creates a full-body stretch, not unlike the stretching we all engage in when we wake up in the morning and yawn. As Tsui Sheung Tin explained, it makes our structure springy.

Compare this to what we all do when imitating a Martial Arts movement. In this case, the mind focuses on the arms and hands. The structure is usually stiff and rigid and has no spring-like nature to it.

If your mind focuses on an external point, the eyes will show it. In Tai Chi, this is called eye-spirit. The eye-spirit interlinks with the mind and intention, which give rise to changes of opening/closing. When we utilise intent, the eyes must be open. Eye-spirit contains Yin within Yang, Yang within Yin and Yin and Yang combined.

Here is another example where no intent is present. ​ The practitioner’s focus is on her body and not on an external target. The body is rigid, and if we were to test the structure, we would find it lacks spring power.

It is important to note that simply looking far away is not enough. When true intent is applied, the body will align naturally towards the target; it will look graceful and powerful.

The eyes will reflect this by taking on an intensity resembling that of a predator stalking its prey.

So how do we apply this in practice? The idea is that if someone were to grab your arm, focusing on an external point makes your structure springy and hard to handle. You will reduce the slackness in your body.

Instead of moving at the point of contact, you will use your intent to move this external point. This point of contact with your opponent will be as still as possible.

Weapons are an effective way to train our intent. They provide a physical link to the external point associated with its use.

Try this. Have a partner grab your wrist whilst you are holding a knife (or screwdriver for safety). Don’t struggle at the point of contact, but instead, move the tip of the weapon towards him. Keep the wrist as still as possible. With some practice, you will be able to break their grip with little effort by manipulating the tip of the knife.

Rules Of Intent

1 – You can place the external point (effort) anywhere your mind desires. In application, it moves as a series of pulses.

2 – You can place the fulcrum in several locations. Its location largely depends on the direction we wish to move our opponent.

3 – The load is the point of contact with the opponent. This connection must be strong enough that there is no slippage when the intent is activated. Any slippage will diffuse the power generated by the “intent” lever.

4 – There are three classes of levers. The load is the point of contact with the opponent.

5 – This process does not include the use of esoteric forces. The method utilises visualisation (and rhythm) to maximise the level of power that the human body can achieve. The concept is that of the lever. Ω


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