internal before external is a waste of time?

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby I-mon on Fri Apr 15, 2011 5:54 am

with all the talk going around these days about taiji or why IMA people can't fight etc...

honestly, what most of us are doing doesn't deserve to be called taijiquan, xingyiquan or baguazhang, because we don't have the foundation. The foundation of chinese martial arts (maybe just the northern styles? i'm not sure) involves completely opening the hips and shoulders, strengthening the legs so that deep stances and one-legged stances can be held and moved through comfortably, basic striking and kicking methods which involve a high degree of balance and coordination and the development of a strong central axis around which to rotate, and pai-da body conditioning.

Most of us in the west are starting in adulthood with all sorts of postural issues and physical imbalances. It seems like in the past and probably in the present also all of the people who actually managed to get good at IMA had a strong foundation already and were competent fighters or wrestlers before they started IMA training in order to take things to the next level.

I'm not saying that "internal" training before external training is without value, I'm saying that it may not be efficient use of our time, especially if we are interested in developing fighting skill or "high level" skill.

This is old news, I know. BTDT. But still these topics keep coming up. Why is the taiji form a waste of time for most people? because they have no foundation, weak legs, poor posture, tension everywhere, and can't fight, hence they have no skills to refine. Why is pushhands competition a joke? because most taiji people can't wrestle to begin with. Etc.
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby somatai on Fri Apr 15, 2011 5:58 am

+1.....my teacher is strong as a bull and the method we train is hard as hell, once you get strong enough however, true relaxation becomes possible, then if you want to be a fighter, it is simple, fight......the body method and skills developed are unique and deep, but one must figure out how to implement them against someone in real time and this is only done through practice....you cannot overlay a theory onto reality
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby Interloper on Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:40 am

Most people, especially younger people, want skills they can use right away for self-defense and fighting. So, most will not have the interest or patience to work on internal body method. That's a reality. Internal training takes huge amounts of solo work -- the antithesis to "learning to fight." The men who became legendary as internal martial artists mostly were training in hard fighting arts before they discovered "internal." If they learned internal methods earilier in life, it seems that it's because they began as children entrusted by their fathers to the training and influence of an accomplished internal martial artist. (example: Sokaku Takeda's student Sagawa claims to have learned "aiki-age" (pengjin) at 17.) Or, their fathers (and maybe mothers) -were- that accomplished teacher and they thus got indoctrinated in the skills as soon as they showed the physical and mental ability to train.

The rest of us lesser folk just wanted to learn to kick ass. ;)

To play devil's advocate for a paragraph, I have to point out that coming into internal training after having trained "external" (whether MA or physical training such as power lifting) for a long time, can be detrimental to inculcating the "wiring" and habits of internal methods. It can take years, for example, to undo the wiring for firing shoulder and upper back muscles, torquing/twisting the hips to punch and strike, and other mechanically different methodology.

That said, people coming into internal training from no martial background don't seem to learn internal method any faster or sooner than fighting-trained people do, except allowing for individual talent. The former may not have the "external arts" wiring of the latter to undo, but they do come with their own individual body habits that need to be re-trained to accept the new way of moving and being. Some teachers say they'd rather teach students with no prior MA training, and I can see that "tabula rasa" as appearing to be easier than erasing some other teacher's work and inputting one's own. But question whether that's really always true.
Last edited by Interloper on Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby Andy_S on Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:44 am

+2.

I spent 13 years in EMA before switching completely to IMA: Speed, power, strength are much more basic to MA than feeling, sensitivity and subtlely.

There again, the Taiji and Bagua I practice is more vigorous than most of the IMA I see out there, so I am with Derek when he says that the method, even of IMA, can (should?) be physically taxing.

The downside of starting off in EMA (in my case, anyway) is that one tends to fall back on one's previous EMA training in application, be it sparring, SD drills, etc. Only now, after 15 years in the art, am I starting to get Taiji to the point where I can use it - and then, even only some of it.

I agree in principle with those who say that a good fighting art should take effect from months rather than years, but that has not, alas, been my experience. I suspect this is because historically, in the Chen Village method, they were taught from infancy, and it was exercise without combat until they reached their late teens.
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby jaskey on Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:56 am

I do think that the internal arts are more of a graduate school of martial arts than a complete system. There is a step in internal arts that is missing and it's a taboo, even to think about having this step. This step is the strength based techniques.

First you develop strength through conditioning. (workouts, standing practice, or any none combative practice that builds up your physical condition.)

Then most external arts takes that physical strength and refines with a technique to create a power based attack(external techniques). These power based attacks would be normal attacks that doesn't require borrowing of the force or finding a weak angle. An attack that work just as well on a heavy bag as a live person. (Or in grappler's case, a forced throws that doesn't require any movement on the part of the opponent.) This power attack becomes a standard response and a base to fall back into when things goes wrong because of their lack of flexiblity in the execution, on the user part, while being completely flexible in uses.

Then should come the attacks that are reliant on the response, condition of the time, and weak angles that internal arts specialize on(internal techniques). These attacks are devistating when executed correctly, but they would require a set up and support from more power based attacks. But the internal arts are taught, we go from conditioning straight into the last step of internal techniques and have no external techniques to set up or fall back on. It's as difficult as constantly swinging a hay-maker and hoping something would land.
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby Patrick on Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:35 am

Power, speed, etc. without a deeper understanding of the martial circumstances(when to apply, how to apply etc) makes you "blind".
Understanding of the martial circumstances without power, speed etc, makes your applications "empty."
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby kreese on Fri Apr 15, 2011 8:45 am

Nobody talks about shen fa anymore, and how it relates direction to application. You can't be doing two different things, one thing in practice and another when fighting. It has to be the same.

And with what I-mon said, you want to be as healthy and strong as you can be, only then can you realize your true potential. Energy cultivation is a must, as is conditioning.
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby johnwang on Fri Apr 15, 2011 11:13 am

The window that you can develop your combat skill is very small. You will have the rest of your life to develop your general skill.

I have always want to try surfboard when I was young but never had chance. Now I live by the beach 6 months a year and I may be too old to learn surfing. Time is just a big joke. :-\
Last edited by johnwang on Fri Apr 15, 2011 11:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby Steve Rowe on Fri Apr 15, 2011 11:31 am

I think everyone learns differently, some learn external and then internal to enhance their skill and some internal leading to express it externally - horses for courses....
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby TrainingDummy on Fri Apr 15, 2011 2:55 pm

johnwang wrote:The window that you can develop your combat skill is very small. You will have the rest of your life to develop your general skill.

I have always want to try surfboard when I was young but never had chance. Now I live by the beach 6 months a year and I may be too old to learn surfing. Time is just a big joke. :-\


Garbage! I've a friend in his 60s who teaches a learn to surf class and is leading a group surf for his deceased brother at Bells Beach this weekend.

http://bobbybrownsurfinglegend.com

Problem with surfing is that is takes a lot of dedication and years of falling on your face before you get anywhere with it.

I wonder what other sports are like that?.....
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby D_Glenn on Fri Apr 15, 2011 4:10 pm

Once the Chinese figured out how to use 'Tong Bei' (through the back method) it gradually spread and was incorporated into to every style and hence they all at one time had 'shen fa' (torso methods) of which there are really only 2 ways to use the spine: 'bolang jin' (forward wave) and 'fanlang jin' (reversing wave) and how these movements of the torso work with the hands and feet is also considered the overall 'shenfa' of the style.

As arts were stolen and not properly handed down from one generation to the next, many styles begin to lose the 'shen fa' (torso methods) because it's a very complicated learning curve and the first thing that is lost when a style is not properly handed down or learned from a book. So we now have many styles that were passed down completely 'inside door/family styles' (internal) and styles that lost the skill to use the torso (shenfa) called 'outside door/family' (external).

So for example there are many, many examples of External Taijiquan. The name alone does not make it Internal.

A second part is that we have 'Externally Moving' (tension; strong), 'Externally Still' (relaxed; whip-like), 'Internally Moving' (Qi and blood moving), 'Internally Still' (Qi and blood stilled). So the basic foundation practices of a complete style train 'Externally Moving' and 'Internally Still' as you want the limbs to develop solidness and strength and don't worry about or put real thought into moving blood, this of course changes into 'Externally Still' and 'Internally Moving'. Relaxed whipping strikes that really penetrate into the opponent but without the years of developing strength in the limbs then physically hitting someone with a relaxed, weak and fragile arm may break one's own bones and not effect the opponent at all. So, for example, doing Taijiquan without having a previously strong body and trying to relax and soften an already weak, fragile body makes no sense -- an exercise in delusion and futility.

What should be noted though is that what truly makes an art "Internal" (inner door) is really it's existence and use of 'shen fa' (spine/torso methods) and not just relaxed limbs.

Should you train strength and tension before relaxation? Yes.

Should you first train an incomplete 'outside door' style that has no 'shenfa'? No.

One should start learning 'shenfa' from day one, it's a long process and the sooner the better, plus it's really hard to change old habits and get someone to learn new tricks.



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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby Chris Fleming on Fri Apr 15, 2011 4:25 pm

"We're all Kick Boxers now..."

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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby I-mon on Fri Apr 15, 2011 5:12 pm

Jolly good!

Some points:

Derek-somatai is lucky to have a solid teacher of xinyiliuhequan, which is perhaps the only "internal" martial art suitable for an absolute beginner without needing to alter the usual training methodology. Simple, single movements which develop crazy strong legs and core, excellent body axis rotation, rooting and driving force, body toughening, steep learning curve and applicable to fighting within a very short time.

Steve I certainly wouldn't argue with you, people should definitely do what they feel works for them, and many people who might be sick or naturally very tense or weak or whatever can benefit greatly by starting off with qigong, zhanzhuang, slow taiji forms etc. Plus people are naturally drawn towards certain things and I think it's super important to follow those feelings.

JW I agree and was going to mention that I actually think you sound like a perfect example of someone with enough foundation to learn internal martial arts really deeply, if you could get over your resistance to the idea and go beyond training speed/power/technique and start looking at the refined training of the nervous system which is the specialty of IMA.

Great points from DGlenn, all wrapped up in fancy-talk just how we likes it.

"If you become tense and your central axis collapses when moving through deep stances, learn to do squats with good posture it will develop your stances far more quickly than practicing taiji forms or circling walking" - Gandhi.
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby johnwang on Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:09 pm

kreese wrote:Nobody talks about shen fa anymore, and how it relates direction to application.

The Shen Fa is very important in the throwing art. Whether your body rotation include "face changing" or not can decide whether your throw work or not. The problem is if you have not developed that throw then no matter how great your Shen Fa may be, you still cannot execute that throw. If you can execute a throw, even if your Shen Fa is not perfect, you can always enhance it later.

It's better to be able to do it with "bad" Shen Fa first and enhance your Shen Fa later than to have a perfect Shen Fa but never be able to do it. I have seen people with excellent Shen Fa in solo training. The moment they stepped into the ring, they got beaten badly.
Last edited by johnwang on Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: internal before external is a waste of time?

Postby mattiabaldi on Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:04 pm

With 5 years with a good master in china of one style, a master who will teach the whole method fight included, are enough for kick ass, maybe not Tyson but ok for defeat yourself.

3 years for build an internal structure

2 years for learn how to use it


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