External grounding for internal arts?

qi-tah

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Hi all;

Of everyone here who practices internal CMA, did you get a basic grounding in an external art first, or did you go straight into the internal arts? Does yr school perhaps require you train an external art (such as long fist) for a while before teaching you xing yi or ba gua? (I don't actually know of any school which requires prior study before beginning Taiji! Kinda sad in a way...) If you did/do train an external art, how long did you train in it before taking up an internal art, and how useful have you found that background to be? Do you train external as well as internal arts side-by-side, or train internal only?

Be good to hear of yr thoughts/experiences. :asian:
 

Jin Gang

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I read an interview of a Taoist martial arts teacher/monk from Wudang who said that he believes external martial arts should be learned first, when one is young and strong. He said that is how they teach at Wudang, the young learn external methods first, and focus on internal arts as they get older. I think both are still taught, side by side, but the focus changes.

Where I learned, we learned both side by side...but my school wasn't really a traditional Chinese style either, it was from Indonesia, where methods from other cultures and styles got mixed in as well. Most people who study only internal arts would say that my old school doesn't do taiji, bagua, or xingyi the correct way.

Personally, I think that it is good to practice and understand external methods of power generation in order to more rapidly progress in the application of the internal styles. The subtle internal methods eventually merge with the external styles anyway, I think it is good to practice both early on, to develop a balanced approach.

On a side note...every "complete" style incorporates both hard and soft, internal and external methods, and is balanced. That's what makes it "complete". Whether this manifests as practicing longfist forms and taiji forms, or having different ways of practicing the same forms, the end result is the same.
 

Steel Tiger

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I did a couple of years of a JKD style art before switching to bagua.

The external arts are very good for teaching the gross physical, technical aspects of CMAs. At my own school we teach Hu Quan first, the Shih Quan, and then bagua. This progression moves a student from an external form, tiger (hu), through something that borders on a fusion of external and internal, snake (shih), to the internal with the bagua forms.

Interestingly, I start teaching basic circle walking earlier than the forms as this helps a student understand the essential movement in bagua.
 

grydth

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Here in my area it seems as if many people, like myself, were karate practitioners before coming to Tai Chi/Qi Gong. It certainly was not a master plan or intended progression. At least 2 had attained Dan rankings in karate before moving to Tai Chi.

My daughters both practice Goju Ryu karate, and have a belt test this Friday. The oldest uses a Qi Gong set to calm herself before a test or tournament.

Every now and then one of the little piranhas will tease me about being old, and I show them a soft way to defeat one of those ferocious attacks of theirs. They can't figure out how they get on the carpet with no pain, violence, injury or noise involved.

I would have to say that the external arts do appear better for the young and I definitely feel the internal arts are superior for those of us north of 50.
 

Taijiguy

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I did chang quan for 4 or 5 years before learning taiji quan, but it wasn't required or anything. Basically I hurt my knee pretty bad (torn ACL and meniscus) so I took up taiji quan. I picked it up much faster than most, but some things were a bit more difficult for me. For example, I have a tendency to over extend my uper body in relation to the shorter footwork :p It's a little tough to keep my knees from going past my toes as I instinctively try to make my posture "long" in the form work, while using the shorter taiji steps. I'm starting to play around with "external" arts again though, learning a Choy Lay Fut form from video for fun (to see if I like it). Hurt my back and knees (again!) at work so I'm not doing anything too crazy ;)
 
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qi-tah

qi-tah

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I did chang quan for 4 or 5 years before learning taiji quan, but it wasn't required or anything. Basically I hurt my knee pretty bad (torn ACL and meniscus) so I took up taiji quan. I picked it up much faster than most, but some things were a bit more difficult for me. For example, I have a tendency to over extend my uper body in relation to the shorter footwork :p It's a little tough to keep my knees from going past my toes as I instinctively try to make my posture "long" in the form work, while using the shorter taiji steps.

In our class we have the opposite problem... to the point where our teacher has perscribed 6 months of revision of the 10 shaolin kick flicks! We've just been working hard on 6 and 7 this week, lots of lower back stretching and chest expansion followed by relaxing of Ming Men. As he says, if you can't do this, how can you make yr ba gua swimming dragon swim?? At the moment i think my swimming dragon has floaties on... maybe it's more like a wading pool dragon!
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I'm starting to play around with "external" arts again though, learning a Choy Lay Fut form from video for fun (to see if I like it). Hurt my back and knees (again!) at work so I'm not doing anything too crazy ;)

Oof! Glad to hear it! Take care of yrself, hey.
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Flying Crane

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I had many years of kenpo and capoeira before I began learning tai chi. My sifu teaches bagua and xing-i as well, but I am not studying them. Instead, I'm really still more focused on external stuff that he teaches, Tibetan White Crane, Shaolin and stuff. I also still train kenpo, and occasionally visit my capoeira school.

I do believe that my prior training has helped with my tai chi. I think it's easier for me to interpret usefulness from the tai chi postures and movements. But I think in some ways it has hindered me as well. I tend to over-muscle things, and that's from my prior training.

It seems to me that having an external background, and even training internal and external at the same time is beneficial. I think all the old tai chi masters had prior external training, and I think this gives your internal training a bit of a jump start. In the same light, I think training internal gives your external a boost as well. I really feel that they go best together, not just one or the other.
 

jonbey

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Knowing some external martial art before starting an internal is probably recommended, however in an ideal world it would not be required. Internal systems are generally complete systems, the difficulty is usually finding an instructor who is confident with the martial side, and also willing to teach it. Many just each the softer side, with forms, chi gung etc. Having a grounding in an external martial art will mean the from the start a student will spot the applications pretty quick and have a greater understanding of what they are trying to achieve - however, a good internal instructor should be able to teach that anyway.
 

NanFeiShen

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Of everyone here who practices internal CMA, did you get a basic grounding in an external art first, or did you go straight into the internal arts?
Basic grounding in Wing Chun , 7 Star Mantis , and "Shaolin" Long Fist (My instructor visited the temple in the late 80's and early 92, bringing back 3 forms which he passed on to us.)

If you did/do train an external art, how long did you train in it before taking up an internal art, and how useful have you found that background to be?
Wing Chun & 7 Star Mantis for 10 years, mingled with the Shaolin .... experience wise, indispensible, and I would not be the teacher I am if I hadnt.

Do you train external as well as internal arts side-by-side, or train internal only?
Was doing hard systems mentioned for 5 years before beginning Taiji, and kept all 3 sytems alive for a further 5 years, after which i slowly came to focus only on Taiji.

I was very fortunate, in that the 3 hard system i followed, were very different in structure to each other in so many ways, that getting them crossed was virtually impossible, plus they also emphasised the 3 variations of fighting very well, being "short range" as in Wing Chun, "medium range" in 7 Star Mantis and "long range" in the Shaolin.
This has allowed me to pass on to my students, the idea that Taiji can be used close in or open, and given me a wealth of knowledge to draw applications for the Taiji postures from.
I also found that having the "hard" style background allows me to give students who have never done a martial art, drills and exercises that help develop a more martial thought process to their Taiji.
IMHO Taiji is and always will be a martial art of great skill and power, and it is only truly powerful if trained as a martial art. The health benefits are secondary benefits derived from the martial training.
 

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