Intent is one of the most misunderstood concepts in Internal Martial Arts. It is often spoken about, but rarely is it explained with any great detail. It remains a mysterious concept which some “masters” are able to utilise whilst the rest are left to ponder about.

The late Tsui Sheung Tin often spoke about the function of “mind power” in the proper execution of Siu Nim Tao. He mentioned that Master Yip told him: “This is about Lop Nim — to establish an idea in the 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. Intent is used by all of us, all the time. It’s just that most of the time, it is done in a subconscious manner, so it becomes difficult to use it at will when one needs it.


Intent is simply the art of placing the mind onto an external point. We all do this, for example, when we point at something. Our mind is placed on the object we are pointing at, and not on our arm or finger. If one was to “test” the structure of a person pointing at a far-away object, they would find that the structure is strong and springy. This is Nim Lik (force of idea/intent). 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 strong and springy.

Compare this to what we all normally do when imitating a Martial Arts movement. In this case, the mind is focused on the arms and hands. The structure is usually stiff and rigid and has no spring-like nature to it. Ironically, the person pointing at a far-away object has much better structure than the person who deliberately tries to create a good structure.

If your mind is truly focused on an external point, the eyes will show it.  In Tai Chi, they call it “Eye Spirit” or “Eye Expression”and it is a complex subject beyond the scope of this article. The Eye Expression (Eye Spirit) is naturally interlinked with the mind and intention, which give rise to changes of Opening/Closing. When utilising “intent”, the eyes must be open. Eye expression must have flow containing Yin within Yang, Yang within Yin and Yin and Yang combined together. 

“When “Eye Expression” is fixed on a point, do not use strength and strain the eyes. This can be harmful to your health.”

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

It is important to note that simply looking far away does not mean one is using “intent”. When true intent is used, the body will align naturally towards the target and will look graceful and powerful.

The eyes will reflect this by taking on an intensity which resembles 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 will make the structure strong, springy and hard to handle. The slackness in your structure will be reduced.

Instead of moving at the point of contact, you will use your intent to move this external point. The point of contact with your opponent will be still as possible.  This next photo displays the concept perfectly. If the practitioner holding the weapon would move the tip of the stick rather than the point of contact with his opponent, he would be able to counter him more effectively. 

This is why weapons are still trained in so many internal martial arts today, even though they are outlawed in most societies. They are a good way to train the intent by providing a physical link to the external point you are focusing on. The Wing Chun Knives provide an opportunity to train this concept.

Try this. Have a partner  grab your wrist whilst you are holding a knife (or screw-driver for safety). Instead of struggling at the point of contact, move the tip of the knife towards him, keeping the wrist as still as possible. With some practice, you will be able to break your partner’s grip with little effort by manipulating the tip of the knife.

Rules Of Intent

1 – The external point (effort) can be placed anywhere and is determined by the mind intent. In application, it moves as a serious of pulses, with distinct pauses in between.

2 – The Fulcrum can be placed in several locations and is also determined by the mind intent. Its location largely depends on the direction we wish to move our opponent.

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

4 – There are 3 classes of levers. The load is the point of contact with the opponent. The effort and fulcrum points however, are determined by the mind intent and can be placed almost anywhere. 

5 – As far as the writer is aware, this process does not include the use of esoteric forces. The method simply utilises visualisation (and rhythm) to maximise the level of power that the human body can achieve. The concept is that of the lever. Ω

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *