Internal vs. external

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

Re: Internal vs. external

Postby Kelley Graham on Mon Apr 11, 2022 4:50 pm

For now, final addendum to the post: https://sifuondemand.com/slack
Many esoteric terms might appear to be synonomous with slack, but lack specificity. Specificity is increased using systems modeling. Our body is a complex system consisting of both open and closed components. The important structural distinction to make is between mobilizers and stabilizers. Our mobilizers are an open system. Stabilizers are a closed system.

The term 'neutral' appears when discussing internal power and is often used as a synonym for slack. I find it helpful to see 'Neutral' as a concept that only applies to open systems as there exist outside references. Neutral only has meaning in reference to something else. As the mobilizer system is responsive to outside input, it is an open system. It follows that 'neutral' only applies to the meat, not the bones.

Slack has meaning independent of any outside references. Also, unlike neutral, slack describes a dependency between the parts. Optimal efficiency and power transfer with minimal vibration (the bad kind, noisy, not the good kind, coherent and harmonic) is only possible due to slack. Take away the slack and your geartrain ceases to be functional. This relationship applies directly to CIMA.


'enuf, thx 'fist' for your feedback.
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby Doc Stier on Wed Apr 13, 2022 7:19 am

Unfortunately, most discussions on these topics quickly devolve into debates over semantics, the definition and usage of common terminology.

Clearly, personal understanding and interpretation of words like 'internal', 'chi', 'fajin', 'rooting', 'slack', etc, is often significantly different for different individuals, based upon the instruction they have received and their personal experience in training what they have learned.

Ok, so what? At the end of the day, does it really matter? From my perspective, what matters most is not a generally accepted consensus of opinion, but rather whether or not my own understanding and interpretation of core concepts, foundation principles, body methods, energy dynamics, power generation and power issuing, etc, are actually producing observable growth and development of skills and benefits in the experience of my personal practice.

If others are achieving observable results in their training with a different perspective, more power to them. It's all good! And if others are not achieving observable growth and development in their practice, then perhaps they need to question the practical value of what they have learned and/or the validity of their understanding and interpretation of same.

Personal demonstration of knowledge and skills via movement and functional application will usually reveal more in five minutes than any amount of intellectual debate ever will. Just my opinion. ymmv.
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby Bhassler on Wed Apr 13, 2022 8:23 am

Doc Stier wrote:Unfortunately, most discussions on these topics quickly devolve into debates over semantics, the definition and usage of common terminology.

Clearly, personal understanding and interpretation of words like 'internal', 'chi', 'fajin', 'rooting', 'slack', etc, is often significantly different for different individuals, based upon the instruction they have received and their personal experience in training what they have learned.

Ok, so what? At the end of the day, does it really matter? From my perspective, what matters most is not a generally accepted consensus of opinion, but rather whether or not my own understanding and interpretation of core concepts, foundation principles, body methods, energy dynamics, power generation and power issuing, etc, are actually producing observable growth and development of skills and benefits in the experience of my personal practice.

If others are achieving observable results in their training with a different perspective, more power to them. It's all good! And if others are not achieving observable growth and development in their practice, then perhaps they need to question the practical value of what they have learned and/or the validity of their understanding and interpretation of same.

Personal demonstration of knowledge and skills via movement and functional application will usually reveal more in five minutes than any amount of intellectual debate ever will. Just my opinion. ymmv.


It is true that the map is not the territory. That does not mean that maps are useless. Some maps are just better than others. Other maps are better for specific purposes-- if you're hiking in the backcountry, a topo map is way more useful than a road map. But there's no reason map makers should not discuss map making as long as it's understood that's what's happening.
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby origami_itto on Wed Apr 13, 2022 8:27 am

Bhassler wrote:
Doc Stier wrote:Unfortunately, most discussions on these topics quickly devolve into debates over semantics, the definition and usage of common terminology.

Clearly, personal understanding and interpretation of words like 'internal', 'chi', 'fajin', 'rooting', 'slack', etc, is often significantly different for different individuals, based upon the instruction they have received and their personal experience in training what they have learned.

Ok, so what? At the end of the day, does it really matter? From my perspective, what matters most is not a generally accepted consensus of opinion, but rather whether or not my own understanding and interpretation of core concepts, foundation principles, body methods, energy dynamics, power generation and power issuing, etc, are actually producing observable growth and development of skills and benefits in the experience of my personal practice.

If others are achieving observable results in their training with a different perspective, more power to them. It's all good! And if others are not achieving observable growth and development in their practice, then perhaps they need to question the practical value of what they have learned and/or the validity of their understanding and interpretation of same.

Personal demonstration of knowledge and skills via movement and functional application will usually reveal more in five minutes than any amount of intellectual debate ever will. Just my opinion. ymmv.


It is true that the map is not the territory. That does not mean that maps are useless. Some maps are just better than others. Other maps are better for specific purposes-- if you're hiking in the backcountry, a topo map is way more useful than a road map. But there's no reason map makers should not discuss map making as long as it's understood that's what's happening.


And it's important to distinguish between a map and a travelogue.

Actionable instruction you can work into your training versus waxing rhapsodic on the exotic curiosities.
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby Kelley Graham on Wed Apr 13, 2022 12:40 pm

It bears repeating that a profession that refuses to define itself, via language, quickly ceases to exist. Every generation of practitioners must protect their discipline’s intellectual property. Movement and personal preferences cannot provide this continuity. Also, new information must be incorporated into the professional practice as well. Of course it’s not wrong to prefer movement based standards for a movement based art, but infinite variability must rest on something in order to be relevant. Overall, broad and clearly defined terminology provides such relevance. This relevance is what brings in new blood, not individual expertise.
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby Doc Stier on Wed Apr 13, 2022 1:17 pm

Kelley Graham wrote:It bears repeating that a profession that refuses to define itself, via language, quickly ceases to exist. Every generation of practitioners must protect their discipline’s intellectual property. Movement and personal preferences cannot provide this continuity. Also, new information must be incorporated into the professional practice as well. Of course it’s not wrong to prefer movement based standards for a movement based art, but infinite variability must rest on something in order to be relevant. Overall, broad and clearly defined terminology provides such relevance. This relevance is what brings in new blood, not individual expertise.

Agreed. However, it should be quite clear by now that personal perspective is reality for most people, and that such perspectives vary considerably.

As such, my point was simply that there will probably never be an accepted general consensus of what truly constitutes an "overall, broad and clearly defined terminology".

If anything, relevant new blood will be manifested via additional unique and proprietary ideas and perspectives which don't represent a widely accepted consensus of opinion either. -shrug-
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby Kelley Graham on Thu Apr 14, 2022 9:51 am

Doc Stier wrote:
Kelley Graham wrote:It bears repeating that a profession that refuses to define itself, via language, quickly ceases to exist. Every generation of practitioners must protect their discipline’s intellectual property. Movement and personal preferences cannot provide this continuity. Also, new information must be incorporated into the professional practice as well. Of course it’s not wrong to prefer movement based standards for a movement based art, but infinite variability must rest on something in order to be relevant. Overall, broad and clearly defined terminology provides such relevance. This relevance is what brings in new blood, not individual expertise.

Agreed. However, it should be quite clear by now that personal perspective is reality for most people, and that such perspectives vary considerably.

As such, my point was simply that there will probably never be an accepted general consensus of what truly constitutes an "overall, broad and clearly defined terminology".

If anything, relevant new blood will be manifested via additional unique and proprietary ideas and perspectives which don't represent a widely accepted consensus of opinion either. -shrug-


all too true. also, more reason to establish and maintain professional standards. :)
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby origami_itto on Fri Apr 15, 2022 8:24 am

Kelley Graham wrote:
Doc Stier wrote:
Kelley Graham wrote:It bears repeating that a profession that refuses to define itself, via language, quickly ceases to exist. Every generation of practitioners must protect their discipline’s intellectual property. Movement and personal preferences cannot provide this continuity. Also, new information must be incorporated into the professional practice as well. Of course it’s not wrong to prefer movement based standards for a movement based art, but infinite variability must rest on something in order to be relevant. Overall, broad and clearly defined terminology provides such relevance. This relevance is what brings in new blood, not individual expertise.

Agreed. However, it should be quite clear by now that personal perspective is reality for most people, and that such perspectives vary considerably.

As such, my point was simply that there will probably never be an accepted general consensus of what truly constitutes an "overall, broad and clearly defined terminology".

If anything, relevant new blood will be manifested via additional unique and proprietary ideas and perspectives which don't represent a widely accepted consensus of opinion either. -shrug-


all too true. also, more reason to establish and maintain professional standards. :)


But then who sets the standards? What are they based on? What are you certifying? How does that allow for innovation and prevent entropy?

Would standards for Chen Taijiquan be the same as for Yang? I liq Chuan?

Standards are a way of enforcing a dominant perspective but particularly in areas like this I believe we're best served by many perspectives.

Surely, within a school or lineage, you want a single perspective. You're advancing a particular line of teaching. But who is to say it's appropriate for, say, you, to sit on a board and make decisions about what, say, Doc can teach and how he should teach it and how he should verify progress in his students.

You haven't studied what he studied and therefore don't understand it, you certainly aren't qualified to regulate it.

And I don't mean this personally I'm just putting some actual people in these positions to make an example.

And of course I don't mean to imply that you're ignorant. Just that you study and teach what you have trained and so does Doc and they aren't the same thing and that's fine, we need diversity.

I've had great teachers that I respect a great deal tell me something was impossible and then watched another teacher open a class with it and found I could do it myself. I've had others offer explanations of things based on brief observations that are at complete odds with my direct experience.

They still had much to teach me. As it turns out, they use their bodies in fundamentally different ways because they have slightly different goals for the process. Therefore they simply don't understand what they are seeing. That's fine.

If we decide THIS IS THE THING and start forcing people to teach that thing and only that thing, we will lose so much more than we could ever stand to gain.

I mean the Beijing stuff is great and all, isn't it?

What's happened in the UK since they started licensing?

I touched hands with probably 30 people at the retreat and I felt 30 different approaches to push hands. 30 different things to attack and defend against. You can really start to get the flavor of other martial arts and styles of Taijiquan by playing push hands with their exponents. So much variety and beauty.

And that comes from that differing understanding and different vocabulary and different practice. The more we try to lock that down into a single paradigm, the more we lose.

So, sure, accurate medical terminology is helpful where appropriate in my opinion, sometimes. For most folks just knowing what it looks like and is supposed to feel like is plenty enough information.

I guess I'm saying I think we should stay in our lanes. Worry more about our own cultivation that what those other folks are up to. Too busy doing me to be mad at what you do, as the kids say.

I dunno, I'm ranting all over the Internet today to avoid work.
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby Doc Stier on Fri Apr 15, 2022 11:08 am

Of course, it goes without saying that the standards of curriculum and training methods will often vary considerably among different styles, or even among teachers within the same style from different lineages.

That's why so many establish and maintain their own school organizations or associations to regulate a proprietary teaching curriculum and certification requirements. None of these regulating bodies would ever seriously consider dictating what such standards should be in other styles, schools, or organizations.

Thus, to each as they deem best for themselves alone, and let the results of the curriculum and the training methods speak for themselves over time. The fact remains, that excellent personal achievements in any program, or the lack of same, is ultimately impossible to conceal.
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby co-lee on Fri Apr 15, 2022 12:32 pm

origami_itto wrote:
Kelley Graham wrote:
Doc Stier wrote:Agreed. However, it should be quite clear by now that personal perspective is reality for most people, and that such perspectives vary considerably.

As such, my point was simply that there will probably never be an accepted general consensus of what truly constitutes an "overall, broad and clearly defined terminology".

If anything, relevant new blood will be manifested via additional unique and proprietary ideas and perspectives which don't represent a widely accepted consensus of opinion either. -shrug-


all too true. also, more reason to establish and maintain professional standards. :)


But then who sets the standards? What are they based on? What are you certifying? How does that allow for innovation and prevent entropy?

Seems pretty clear that Kelly is nominating himself to be the one who sets the standards and determines which terminology is allowed. Cause otherwise, he'd just be using the traditional terminology from the field or he'd be happy to accept multiple clear terms rather than arguing that everyone needs to adopt the particular term he feels is most appropriate. If the concern were truly about standards for the community, one could work on developing community consensus on terms, curriculum, etc. As part of a standards committee (I've served on a number of those in other domains), passionate arguments about terms and process are appropriate, but need to be coupled w/a willingness to accept the committee's decisions. If someone's views are the precise and only correct ones, then that's not very useful input to developing a community consensus.

Me, I don't really feel threatened by other people practicing differently than I do, teaching different material than I do, or using different language than I do. I am interested in hearing what others think and what they consider. But, ultimately, I own my own thoughts and how I take the approaches my teachers used and apply those to my own work.

Obviously, some feel differently. And some of those folks feel that they need to enforce their "professional standards" on what they perceive as the larger community. It is what it is...

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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby Kelley Graham on Fri Apr 15, 2022 6:02 pm

Lol! Not me. No way. You do you. I like to share my work. If it benefits you, great! If not, great! Engaging in discussion about general terms like, ‘What is internal’ is very different than setting up standards of practice. Standards of practice come way after a profession is well defined, which NeiJia is not.
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby Appledog on Sat Apr 16, 2022 9:51 pm

origami_itto wrote:But then who sets the standards? What are they based on? What are you certifying? How does that allow for innovation and prevent entropy?

Would standards for Chen Taijiquan be the same as for Yang? I liq Chuan?

Standards are a way of enforcing a dominant perspective but particularly in areas like this I believe we're best served by many perspectives.

Surely, within a school or lineage, you want a single perspective. You're advancing a particular line of teaching. But who is to say it's appropriate for, say, you, to sit on a board and make decisions about what, say, Doc can teach and how he should teach it and how he should verify progress in his students.

You haven't studied what he studied and therefore don't understand it, you certainly aren't qualified to regulate it.


I think you're highlighting an important distinction here.

Q: But then who sets the standards? What are they based on? What are you certifying? How does that allow for innovation and prevent entropy?
A: That would be me. I'm an inheritor and a teacher. I judged my first international tai chi tournament in 1995. I've been judging tai chi internationally longer than some people here have been alive. Am I embellishing a little? Well yes and no, but the point is... even when someone is skilled, or has the capacity to judge, or even is unskilled but is placed in the position of judge for practical reasons (not enough judges -- hey kid, come here)...

...there's a caveat:

Q: Would standards for Chen Taijiquan be the same as for Yang? I liq Chuan?
A: No! While Sun Lu Tang may have said all the internal arts come from a common principle, this is not understood very clearly in that some people use it to say all the arts are basically the same. There are some common methods and ideas, but they branch out at relatively early stages. And while some core ideas remain the same they can be expressed differently. It becomes difficult to accurately judge someone's shapes when you are from a different art. But I will say this, when someone is high level and gives a demonstration you can often tell by the alive nature of their presentation that they are high level. I saw Wai Lun Choi demonstrate LHBF and it was visibly dangerous. I got the sense he could destroy Jacky Chan in a fight, that's how badass his form looked. His form. Imagine just touching hands with someone like that. But I digress.

Q: Standards are a way of enforcing a dominant perspective but particularly in areas like this I believe we're best served by many perspectives.
A: I'd disagree. At some point in your career, especially once you have been learning for quite some time, especially as a disciple, you either were given or were forced to make certain "decisions" on what things meant. Sometimes it's because you go from one level to another so you "assume" that your training, ideology and methodology was largely correct to get you from A to B (now that you are at C) so you just assume that your way is the correct way, or at least one good way to get from A to B. The problem is that you have to base everything on the platform of ideas methods moves skills jibengong philosophy etc. that you were taught and have chosen to follow. It doesn't necessarily translate. It's not guaranteed that anyone outside of your system (or even your school) will relate to the analogies you have come up with to describe how to progress. Sometimes you will rant an eloquent explanation of everything and no one will understand it because their basis for comparison is just so different. Sometimes it's because they have a different basis, sometimes because they don't have a basis. But it's different for everyone.

But not for your students. As a student it then becomes our responsibility to follow the system laid out for us by our teacher. If we are surfing many different ideas, it is my opinion that is a translation of 'I haven't found a sifu yet'.

Q: Surely, within a school or lineage, you want a single perspective. You're advancing a particular line of teaching. But who is to say it's appropriate for, say, you, to sit on a board and make decisions about what, say, Doc can teach and how he should teach it and how he should verify progress in his students.

Sometimes a little quality control can be good but you must take it upon yourself, or hope your sifu does it for you. Look at the T.T. Liang video. It's an "half-power" form. But some people try to copy his exact movements like it's something special. I know people that actually try to move like that. Spry young athletic types. Copying the shortcuts that some people put into their forms, copying half-power movements, crooked kicks, and so on. Why would anyone want to do that? For example IIRC Feng removed the kicks in his form. Is there anything wrong with that? No... But everyone has to follow and explore their capacity. Your capacity is not necessarily indicative of your skill in the art. They are separate things. It's important to understand this. You have to be able to see a persons' capacity as well as their skill level and judge if each one is being expressed to it's fullest level.

So there are ways to judge others, but it's impolite to attack people or to do it like an insult. Everyone has something to learn from others. it's best to be open minded. But no, no one gets to set a standard that others are forced to follow. Yet if your own students do not follow your standard how can they be called your students?

So we reach the conclusion that there are different levels of players; there are outside the door students and inside the door students. There are also not-your-students, I suppose :)

Q: You haven't studied what he studied and therefore don't understand it, you certainly aren't qualified to regulate it.
A: Yes, qualified to judge. I don't mean walking up to someone and criticizing the hell out of their form. I mean for your own benefit. It is a valuable skill. Fast eyes. See once and copy. It's a skill you can get from judging. Or being open hearted enough to realize such a thing is possible. You have to be able to evaluate other people at some point. If you have reached a high enough level it does not matter what the words are. You know -- you can see it, you can feel it. It is often said that with one touch you can evaluate someone. Well for me it requires three or four touches and often me getting thrown on my butt :) but i'm working on it.

In conclusion there may be many traditions and many are right, as many are wrong. I think the survivor-ship of ideas and methods is good enough as is. Teach whatever you want. Let the best tradition win :) There's always push hands to test out your ideas. If they're wrong, change 'em.

After all haven't you ever noticed, that even though everyone's tai chi form looks different and there are so many styles.. that everyone pushes hands in the same format? I cannot be sure but I feel therein lies the secret of Tai Chi (at least) and I hope to discover it someday.
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby origami_itto on Sun Apr 17, 2022 5:16 am

So a couple of points.
Wai Lun Choi - I only know of his methods through Ray Hayward but I study his Xingyi and yeah it looks much different than most other xingyi you see and it's extremely powerful.
I've shown his movement to a lot of people and many of them are confused and start going off on what he's doing wrong, but I have to look at it and say, yes, he can move like that AND he can crack a coconut with the back of each hand in a single strike.

This speaks directly to my point. We judge what we see based on what we know, but we don't know what we don't know. I wish I had permission to share video of his Taijiquan form. It's a but mind blowing actually.

T.T. Liang - the form is just part of the method. Each movement has a handful of criteria to be considered mastered. It's my first system so about twenty years basically studying other interpretations through that lens.

So, half power? I don't think so. White he definitely teaches there are different ways to approach practicing the form what he's doing there is pretty close to how he would teach you to practice.

Although in that particular video shared recently, he's performing, seems maybe a little nervous, is going about 3/4 faster than usual so he's not getting into a meditative state and throwing some little embellishments in for show.
But there isn't a "more powerful" version. The power comes from correct form it's not something you add to your movement. Issuing energy takes specific training, just like neutralizing it. Just like in Choi's Xingyi, we're conduits for the power. I'm actual use the specific nature of the jin will inform visible and hidden details of the movement so general practice is laying on a sort of ready state for the tool that you learn to use in other drills and exercises. I could do a form five different ways and I doubt you would be able to tell me three meaningful differences in the performance.

But, I honor your perspective, maybe you could produce a video demonstrating the difference?

everyone pushes hands in the same format


I'm afraid I have to ask for clarification this reads a bit to me like "everybody has sex the same way". What is the format in this? Patterns, one on one?

The guidance in the classics is that it takes four hands to learn. Beyond that it's a laboratory.

And on forms judging, yeah, I don't believe in it even the tiniest bit.

I've known teachers with a couple dozen students, chest full of medals for forms competitions and even some push hands at these tournaments. They're so proud of their expertise and 20 years judging forms, and then you touch hands and there is absolutely nothing there. Jenga towers you have to be careful NOT to knock over.

They might have memorized the choreography but they haven't built the engine. They're slapping a Porsche body on a beetle and calling it a sports car.

So yeah those guys can make up all the standards they want and enforce them amongst their little group of buddies. They aren't qualified to judge what I do, but I love working with them.
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby Appledog on Sun Apr 17, 2022 8:09 am

origami_itto wrote:But there isn't a "more powerful" version. The power comes from correct form it's not something you add to your movement. Issuing energy takes specific training, just like neutralizing it. Just like in Choi's Xingyi, we're conduits for the power. I'm(in) actual use the specific nature of the jin will inform visible and hidden details of the movement so general practice is laying on a sort of ready state for the tool that you learn to use in other drills and exercises. I could do a form five different ways and I doubt you would be able to tell me three meaningful differences in the performance.

But, I honor your perspective, maybe you could produce a video demonstrating the difference?


It's ok, I think you got the point - WLC's form looks powerful, and TT Liang's was at 3/4. We can pick up on these by watching. So then if the physical form can differ so widely 'capacity' is not a replacement for 'internal skill'. However, "I could do a form five different ways..." is a bit much... given the specific requirements of tai chi it is in fact possible to see and know to a degree someone's internal skill and judge their 'form' more or less. This is just my personal experience after spending a lot of time watching people.

origami_itto wrote:
everyone pushes hands in the same format


I'm afraid I have to ask for clarification this reads a bit to me like "everybody has sex the same way". What is the format in this? Patterns, one on one?


Every style of tai chi I've ever seen generally uses the same interchangeable forms to practice push hands. Across sun style, yang, wu, chen, there is single hand, double hand, fixed step, moving step... There are usually one or two specialities or advanced methods or more but they are not unique to styles.

Granted people approach the exercise in different ways and have different rulesets and ideas about what is going on, but because of the similarity in form I suspect that there is more the same (or should be) about these exercises than is different. I view it on one level as people coming back together after going different journeys to compare notes. Thank goodness for pushhands, without it tai chi would not be the one family that it is.
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Re: Internal vs. external

Postby origami_itto on Sun Apr 17, 2022 9:00 am

I mean that's not what I said at all lol.

What I said was that as a demonstration master Liang was playing the form about 3/4 FASTER than normal practice for his own benefit. It's

They have different methods, different arts. Different perspective and information. It's a mistake to judge them as if they were the same thing. Apples to apples.

My thesis here, addressing pretty much all of your points, is that you can't know my medicine from the shape of my gourd.

You can make assumptions based on what you think you know but you can't really know.

I mean, maybe you do know. Maybe your skill and understanding is so far beyond my own that you can truly interpret the hidden aspects of a form based on watching a video online. I would like to reach that point.

Based on your description of your approach, I'm pretty sure we're working with different theories and different internals and traveling different paths to different destinations.

And that's what's great about it.

I find my approach to be effective and rewarding regarding my goals, health and self defense. Ymmv.
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