Exercise the physique, and the body will remain intact,
Pare away emotional desires,
And the spirit will remain intact.
Be careful of your speech,
And blessings will remain intact.
Keeping these things intact is called purity and goodness of the way.
– King Sang-Tzu
This article focuses on training the body in the internal martial and healing arts often collectively called the inner family (Nei Jia 內 家) methods. Let me be clear. When I use the term internal martial or internal arts my definition may be at odds with those who seek mystical power or engage in magical thinking about the real ways in which these methods function.
No, I am speaking of practical methods based on sound science, psychology, bio-mechanics and the proven effects of the mind upon the body and its internal systems. Internal means coming from within and no matter if we are talking about health or combative concepts it all starts in the mind and the mind controls the body’s internal functions including the immune system, blood flow, lymphatics as well as physical methods of locomotion.
To me the study of internal arts (Nei Shu 內 術 ), be it the martial methods (Nei-wushu 內 武 術 ) or health and longevity internal exercises (Nei-lianxi 內 練習), are all about exercising every system and part of the human body from the inside to the outside and the outside to the inside. Such development involves the mind directing the systems including the physical muscles to produce increases in strength, speed, sensitivity and suppleness. What appears, as magic becomes science when one seeks the answers in the ways of nature!
idea that internal (Nei Jia) martial arts existed as separate from other martial arts is a misconception. The truth is that real Nei Jia martial arts require just as much physical work as the so called external family (Wai Jia 外家) arts. Both inner and outer methods engage in mental and physical exercises. The major difference is upon where the emphasis is placed in the respective methods especially in the beginning stages of training.
Nei Jia arts were believed to have begun with mental training and development of subtle internal control later they also would also focus on physical prowess. What was important was the development of an individual possessed of the highest level of health and martial skill possible. My teacher Master Li, Long-dao felt that each student had strong and weak points and he taught each student according to what that particular individual needed. His training taught me that Nei Jia grows out of Wai Jia. Inner and outer training are both important for development in a functional system of martial arts. We could say that Wai Jia builds the vessel while Nei Jia is the substance filling it.
Traditionally so called internal schools begin with the inside and work outward. That is to say they train the mind with meditation, perform yoga like exercises to relax tension in the body first, and then begin working on the strength and power aspects. So called external schools are thought to develop speed, power and strength first and this is true to some extent, however external students are also taught meditative methods as well as flexibility and life force exercises (Qigong).
Separatism is not conducive to improvement in any endeavor. This is especially true when individuals try to describe Chinese martial arts as internal school or external school. With divisions misunderstandings are sure to arise. Historical research shows that for thousands of years Chinese martial arts had no major divisions.
Until Huang Zongxi (1610-1695) wrote a work in 1699 titled Epitaph for Wang Zhengnan where he tried to describe internal and external work there was no internal or external schools, hard and soft style divisions. Prior to this work all martial arts were primarily combative methods for self-protection. If we look realistically at all Chinese martial arts, even if today so many practice them for health and stress relief, they are really all derived from combative methods and in early times there was no clear division between these systems. In truth both Daoist and Buddhist martial artists train muscles, the mind and what some call internal energy or Qi. What is different is training focus and priorities given to a sequence of learning.
I believe that I am able to objectively and dispassionately examine these methods and provide a realistic non-mystical approach to aiding our readers in understanding them. It is this and more I will try to provide for our readers in this publication. I cannot guarantee you will agree with all of my postulations but I do guarantee that all we say herein will be base upon firm research and long years of experience.