Internal Practice versus External Practice? What's Right?


There has been a prevailing view among many martial disciplines that proclaims internal training i.e., tai chi or chi kung for example, interferes with the external arts. This incorrect attitude has led to a chasm of sorts whereby practitioners of these arts have been somewhat separated. It is rare to find instructors versed in both aspects of the art in this era of specialization.

Without a doubt, both arts should be practiced diligently, side by side.

Chi Kung is the internal component of many kung fu systems. In fact it is the backbone of most systems with this treasure being lost to its external adherents. Many if not most instructors of external kung fu have little or no training in the internal arts, with some considering the practice as unnecessary or soft. The belief that internal practice will soften your kung fu is still prevalent in the martial arts community coupled with pervasive ignorance about its real value. Most kung fu practitioners are not up for internal practice because it is not mandatory in many systems except by virtue of some imbedded material in the external systems.

At Shaolin Kung Fu Studios all external kung fu students must sign up for the internal 18 Lohan Chi Kung and Yang style Tai Chi classes. How does this requirement help the martial artist? What advantages does one who practices both have over those who don't?

First, the biggest advantage is you will be practicing the art as it was taught for hundreds of years. The 'splitting' of internal and external was never meant to happen. It did so primarily because the information coming out of China flowed in a piecemeal fashion due to gradual relaxing of strict prohibitions. Chi Kung was the last of the treasures from China to be released for public consumption. It has also been the most closely guarded. This fact alone should give you, the student, a clue to its value.

Second, your internal strength will be greatly enhanced. Recovery time from hard training and injuries will be improved tremendously, often miraculously. Rigorous testing over long periods will be less stressful. Your internal power, neigong, will increase making you a more effective and powerful martial competitor. Your punches and kicks will be more powerful, your stances stronger, deeper. Stamina will improve.

An instructor can usually tell who is practicing their internals by their behavior and performance on the training floor, particularly during testing. The internal/external student has more composure, is less stressed, is generally more powerful and less tired.

Lastly, you will spiritually advance, being calmer and better equipped to handle the strains and demands of modern society. You will be thrown less by outside influences. Problem solving will flow easier. Solutions will present themselves more easily. Your powers of perception will be enhanced. Energy consciousness will afford you advantages in all your affairs, material, personal or spiritual. Emotional balance will improve.

You will be more connected with all those you come in contact within the human family. Your confidence will shine, as will your health and state of well-being.

To those of you out there who may think that these arts can be learned from a book or a CD...save your money. Find an instructor. That is the only way to proceed. 


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