What is Internal, What is External?

Matt Stone

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Just curious what definitions you folks out there in Martial Talk Land use to differentiate between the two.

I know the commonly held view, I know the original view, and I understand the differences and ultimate similarities between them, but I would like to see what others think/feel about this issue...

Gambarimasu.
:asian:
 
interesting question...I won't give you the bog standard definition, I believe that at a high level of skill, all martial arts are 'internal' at lower levels when you are getting used to the movement and how to line up your body and feeling awkward then regardless of which style you practice then it is external.
 
TaiJiFan,

That IS it exactly...


As a side note...

Nishiyama Sensei of Shotokan fame actually wanted his most senior students to learn TaiJiQuan to help them discover the internal in their art...Nishiyama Sensei practiced TaiJiQuan, but he didn't advertise it...He recognized the internal in the art and followed a path that would help him develop a better understanding of his art...

Thanks...
...you see we really are on the same track here...just explaining it differently...and NO, I don't practice Karate...never did...

:asian:
chufeng
 
you see we really are on the same track here...just explaining it differently...and NO, I don't practice Karate...never did...
well I did practice karate for a time and let me tell you those boys would have given my a$$ a good kicking, it was working with them that i did realise that they were good internal martial artists.....interetsing thing though they were also practising qiqong and and talking about 'energy' and body mechanics........its a funny old world:)
 
Yiliquan1

Well done for bringing this discussion to a more appropriate location. And yes, I am convinced we are all sitting around the same camp fire. And once again if I caused offence, I unreservedly apologise. I was of course indulging in the classic IMA tactic of gently pushing my "opponent" in a direction he/she did not want to go, in the expectation of provoking a predictable response. But of course, if I apply too hard a push, then I lose the contest!

The relationship between the external and internal arts is not clear cut. In fact it is extremely complex. I have three external exponents (Tai Kwon Do, Karate and Lau Gar) who come to my Taijiquan classes to try and find the relationship between their own arts and the Internal arts and to try and make their external arts more internal. Will it work? I don't know. I don't know that you can pick and mix or mix and match. I think that cross-training is essential no matter which MA you practise, but others would say that it dilutes the original art. What's the opinion of others. I am hoping that the Lau Gar exponent (who also incidentally teaches) will write something for a Chinese Arts magazine on the subject shortly.

As for Zhan Zhuang (standing post), it can be used in a variety of ways. Health, strength or even "character building". We use it in Yiquan/Dachengchuan (Mind Boxing) to train the stabiliser muscles. Those muscles which we are not aware of, but asTaji Fan so quaintly put it, stop us pouring ourselves into a bucket.

As for the definition of an internal art, my master always claimed that an internal art was initially defensive whilst an external art was primarily offensive and that muscle power translated as forceful intent had no place in an internal art. And as you know, 1000 pounds can easily be deflected by four ounces of turning the waist.

Yes, lets get back to sensible discussion.

Very best wishes.
 
An excellent disscusion so far I hope you can get more responses. Thanks for putting the question on the board]
As for myslef Im not sure I can give an answere different from what has been given.
My guess is that you have to first belive in the internal arts for them to work for you where as as anyone can produce with the external power.
Shadow:asian:
 
Shadow,

Yes and No...

Belief, in the sense that qi moves where yi (intent) goes.
It also requires a certain amount of relaxation in one's technique, so the training is a bit different.

But I've been hit by "external" stylists (who didn't give qi much credence) who were relaxed and focused their intent...they were moving qi, no doubt about it...they just didn't know it.

So, I think if the mechanics are correct and one moves with intent, one IS doing internal boxing of sorts...

This whole idea of internal vs. external is a contrived thing and oftentimes moves the two "camps" apart...when we should all be moving in the same direction; different paths, maybe, but with a single destination in site.

:asian:
chufeng
 
It's all relative. I had a dear friend, Mr. Sherm Harrill, who was a 6th dan in Isshinryu karate (he recently passed away). Sherm was fascinated with the idea of chi and we would often talk about it and I showed him some of our training methods. He developed some of his own methods and came up with his own "style" of Isshinryu that was, truly, internal! A light slap from Sherm would often cause an explosion of white light in your head and would knock you out - even if he hit you on the arm!

JKA Shotokan karate Master Hidetaka Nishiyama possesses great skill with chi although he trains in Shotokan (he has also trained in Taiji to help improve his karate).

I am old enough to remember when the martial arts media "discovered" the internal arts which they then termed "soft" (as opposed to "hard"- as in karate and so forth). This terminology led to a lot of misunderstanding...for instance, Xingyi stylists certainly don't appear to be "soft" at all!
They also would write articles about how these "soft" arts used no muscular strength or force; they used a mysterious power known as "chi."
Naturally, many of those in the "hard" camp thought this was so much horsepoopie.

Later, the media found the terms "internal" and "external" to be more accurate. So the classical arts of Taiji, xingyi, and bagua were termed "internal" and arts such as karate, taekwondo, Shao-lin (and it's derivatives) - pretty much most of everything else was "external." They inferred that external arts did not use chi but relied on muscular strength instead.
This also led to a lot of misunderstanding because ALL Chinese arts utilize chi one way or another.

This "hard vs soft" dichotomy doesn't exist in China (at least it didn't when I was there).

I would say that the so-called "internal" systems train to move FROM THE INSIDE and utilize the whole body in their movements. The so-called "external" systems focus on moving FROM THE OUTSIDE and concentrate primarily on moving the limbs independently of the rest of the body (as a whole).
Some "external" systems DO have chigong training programs (particularly those which are Chinese) while others have nothing of the sort.

I also believe that one who trains assiduously in an "external" method will ultimately become "internal." That is, hard (yang) ultimately becomes "soft." I have seen this in highly advanced karate masters who can make a very slight motion and send an opponent flying (or drop him on the spot).
On the other hand, that which is "soft" (yin) become "hard" (yang) as can be seen when an "internal" stylist makes a light slap and it feels like the blow of a sledgehammer.

Based on several decades of observation, I would say that it generally takes longer for hard to become soft than for soft to become hard.

Yang ultimately becomes yin. Yin ultimately becomes yang. However, let us seek that which is "wuchi"; that which existed before yin or yang. Therein lies the truth.
 
Originally posted by yilisifu

I also believe that one who trains assiduously in an "external" method will ultimately become "internal." That is, hard (yang) ultimately becomes "soft." I have seen this in highly advanced karate masters who can make a very slight motion and send an opponent flying (or drop him on the spot).
On the other hand, that which is "soft" (yin) become "hard" (yang) as can be seen when an "internal" stylist makes a light slap and it feels like the blow of a sledgehammer.

Based on several decades of observation, I would say that it generally takes longer for hard to become soft than for soft to become hard.

This was a very interesting post, and it's going to affect how I describe "internal" vice "external" in the future. I can't match your experience but your last line corresponds with my observations as well.
 
Originally posted by yilisifu
I would say that the so-called "internal" systems train to move FROM THE INSIDE and utilize the whole body in their movements. The so-called "external" systems focus on moving FROM THE OUTSIDE and concentrate primarily on moving the limbs independently of the rest of the body (as a whole).
Some "external" systems DO have chigong training programs (particularly those which are Chinese) while others have nothing of the sort.

That's a pretty good description. I would say though, that a lot of the "external" martial arts practice how to use the whole body.

I'd like to attempt a clarification: the practitioners of the so-called "internal" systems pay attention to how their bodies are feeling while they practice a movement. This involves an awareness of certain internal connections (also called "body mechanics") that are deemed more important than the ability to issue power right away. This is why progress is relatively slow compared to the external styles. The practitioners of the so-called "external" systems pay attention to the immediate and practical application of power. Athletic ability usually accounts for a lot here, There is also an appreciation of body mechanics (usually conceived in terms of structural allignment and leverage) but generally this appreciation is subservient to the actual results. This is why progress is generally faster compared to the internal styles.
 
The development in an external style towards eventual internal I believe I am experiencing first hand. I had some Bagua training years ago and am now a TKD practicioner of some years. I always noticed how loose my TKD teacher seemed and how his smallest of gestures carried a lot of force over the years. It's the progression pattern of forms, in my school, that helps this along in large part I think. After practicing Koryo for some time, I noticed/felt a suppleness not experienced since my taste of Bagua. My body was rotating more at the hips and waist. My spine was also snapping forward into my strikes like a willow branch or leafspring. When I went back to my lower belt Palgae forms, my movements started having a more explosive whip like motion and the other students were seeing it before I myself noticed. It is very gradual apparently. My arms feel like ropes with bricks or hatchets at the ends more and more. My center a catapult. My sparring partners were doing extra cardio to keep up with me. I mainly practiced my TKD forms. The relaxed development was allowing me to conserve energy in my sparring by not tensing up. They thought I was running everyday or something. Now some of them too are starting to experience it. If a person does not eventually surrender to the center of their body, I think they will hit a ceiling in their potential development and spin their wheels. The other Black Belt forms seem to be doing some interesting things to me too. Not too many pointers were given from my Korean teacher on this, but he always emphasizes two words, "turn" and "loose". "More breathing" is a mantra of sorts too. Are we talking about the same thing here guys?

white belt
 
You are fortunate...so few (very, very few) TaeKwonDo practitioners figure this out...in large part. because so many start teaching too soon...but it sounds as though your teacher understands...

Yes, coodinate each movement with the breath...relax and only the muscles necessary for any given technique will come into play...you will maximize mass and velocity...further you will NOT impede the flow of qi...

Keep working on it...don't let the "naysayers" convince you otherwise; you are following the right path...

Good training

:asian:
chufeng
 
Internal Versus External

External is the use of the body and the physical impact?

Internal is the use of the mind and the spirit or 'ki' or 'qi'?


As a street fighter and a Filipino Martial Arts practitioner, I would have to say I have only been trained in external fighting.

We have been taught to use your breath to control your pulse, to breath properly to get oxygen to the body and brain. If you bring your breathing under control you can bring your heart rate under control.

Now do the following questions / examples represent internal?

While bouncing I knew there was going to be a fight, I would relax and exhale and allow the adrenaline to flow through my body. In this state I could move quicker than when I was all tensed up and 'Ready' to fight. I found this as a natural survival method / technique. Numerous time this occurred, so it was not a single event.

While test driving a vehicle and having someone else control the switch to lock up the brakes. I just reacted to the vehicle by the 'feel' of the body of the vehicle. The instructor seriously trying to lock the brakes and make it spin out, while the vehicle was on a wet surface designed for spins.

While learning a new technique, many times I need to close my eyes and feel how my body is working and moving. Once I understand how my body is moving then I see how the opponents body is moving.


Are these examples of Internal Martial Arts?

Thanks

Rich

:asian:
 
Rich,

In a way, yes...

But you see, even though your trainingt was mostly "external" you were able to use "internal" ideas in certain situations.

Truth is, there is NO external or internal...it was a thing contrived in the 60s by American martial arts magazines...people who knew little to nothing about some of the more esoteric systems from China tried to explain, in their own limited way, how those systems differed from "hard-style" karate...

All Chinese systems utilize the development of internal energy...
All of the classical "internal" systems rely on some sort of muscle strength (you can't fight or stand if your as loose as a wet noodle). What the "internal" systems emphasize is a relaxed state of readiness...a coiled force ready to be released...brought about by correct body allignment and expansion of every joint along the line at just the right moment.

Yes. relaxation is necessary...
Yes, breath control and coordination are necessary...
BUT...the "external" arts develop these things too, just later in the curriculum.

I hope that helps...

:asian:
chufeng
 
I always noticed how loose my TKD teacher seemed and how his smallest of gestures carried a lot of force over the years.
hmmm i wonder if that's common in TKD on higher level... my teacher too hav this quality n he's just IV dan, his form looks like tai chi moving whole body connected...

just doing TKD forms with powerful flow makes u feel like doing tai chi(remeber i m doing tai chi too :D)
from my point of view on Internal n external is that they r bit different to start with but in the End they r at the same place... External becomes internal too but the question is how many of those externalist become like that??...
-TkdWarrior-
 
Re. "All of the classical "internal" systems rely on some sort of muscle strength (you can't fight or stand if your as loose as a wet noodle). What the "internal" systems emphasize is a relaxed state of readiness...a coiled force ready to be released...brought about by correct body allignment and expansion of every joint along the line at just the right moment."

That's right. The first nine months of my Xing Yi training consisted of exercises designed to strengthen muscle and sinew; they're still some of the most difficult callesthetics I've ever done. One of the reasons is to build the body up in order to avoid injuries later on. Later on there is more emphasis on exercises designed to loosen the body up and to bring everything into proper allignment, but these are done after the initial set of exercises.

As far as "external becomming internal, etc." goes I agree that these are just names for a certain way of training and living in the body. I've met boxers, wrestlers, fencers, etc. who are, in essence, "internal" martial artists due to the way that they train and fight.

Best,

Steve Lamade
 
Originally posted by chufeng
Rich,

In a way, yes...

But you see, even though your trainingt was mostly "external" you were able to use "internal" ideas in certain situations.

Truth is, there is NO external or internal...it was a thing contrived in the 60s by American martial arts magazines...people who knew little to nothing about some of the more esoteric systems from China tried to explain, in their own limited way, how those systems differed from "hard-style" karate...

All Chinese systems utilize the development of internal energy...
All of the classical "internal" systems rely on some sort of muscle strength (you can't fight or stand if your as loose as a wet noodle). What the "internal" systems emphasize is a relaxed state of readiness...a coiled force ready to be released...brought about by correct body allignment and expansion of every joint along the line at just the right moment.

Yes. relaxation is necessary...
Yes, breath control and coordination are necessary...
BUT...the "external" arts develop these things too, just later in the curriculum.

I hope that helps...

:asian:
chufeng

chufeng ,

Thank you for the feedback.

I will continue with my studies, and also continue to read here, even though I know nothing of the arts yuo all speak of. Yet, I learn a little by reading here.
Thanks again

Rich
:asian:
 
I take Karate and it is a good mixture of internal and external.
 
There are plenty of qigong/breathing excersises in most styles of Karate. Mas Oyama had an extensive program for his Kyokushin style, and that`s considered one of the hardest styles out there!
Same with shaolin ("more chi!train harder!") and as mentioned earlier most if not all chinese systems. It`s interesting that the distinction between "hard" and "soft" styles seems to come from a western point of wiew.
 

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