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Thread: What actually makes an art 'internal'?

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    Default What actually makes an art 'internal'?

    Granted, it's an adjective more often used to describe Chinese martial arts, not budo, but I occasionally hear or read of people talking about internal martial arts.

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    Do a search for the threads Mike Sigman participated in and you'll have plenty to start with.


    And yes, Mike is the real deal. I've met him, and he can do the things he says he can do. And, regardless of what certain very vocal e-budo members think, it is not just "relaxation and good technique."
    Tim Fong

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    If you're interested in the documentated history of the term, then you might want to look at the various essays by Stan Henning. See, for example, his discussion of this very topic in Tom Green's "Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia," pp. 69-70.

    Per Henning, much of the modern understanding of these terms is based on distinctions created by the Guomintang-era Central Martial Arts Institute (created in Nanjing in 1927). In the Central Martial Arts Institute worldview, martial arts were divided into Shaolin (external) and Wudang (internal) systems. The official explanation was that External (Shaolin) schools were Buddhist, while Internal (Wudang) schools were Daoist. In practice, xingyiquan, baguaquan, and taijiquan were Wudang, while Shaolin incorporated everything else. (ASIDE: Obviously, such an arbitrary distinction ignored Muslim and other non-Han influences on the Chinese martial arts.)

    Per Henning, the division into Internal and External systems appears to have originated in an essay called "Epitaph for Wang Zhengnan," written about 1669 by the Ming writer Huang Zongxi. "At the time, however," says Henning, "it was probably meant as a veiled political jab at the foreign Manchu regime rather than as a serious discussion of boxing theory."

    See also Andrew D. Morris's "Marrow of the Nation: A History of Sport and Physical Culture in Republican China." FWIW, Morris notes that there were, by the Guomintang's count, 161 official styles of martial art in China in the 1920s. Also, alongside training in xingyi, wrestling, sword, and so on, official parts of the formal curriculum in those days included lectures in "The History of National Humiliation."

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    Jason

    Mike Sigman may or may not be the "real deal" (my moneys on "not" ) but his claims are certainly open to question.

    My suggestion is to look around, there are a number of different "takes" and opinions, and viewpoints on the subject.

    Not really the best answer I know, just the best I can give you--other than to strongly suggest that you start with what JS has posted above.
    Chris Thomas

    "While people are entitled to their illusions, they are not entitled to a limitless enjoyment of them and they are not entitled to impose them upon others."

    "Team Cynicism" MVP 2005-2006
    Currently on "Injured/Reserve" list due to a scathing Sarcasm pile-up.

  5. #5
    Mark Murray Guest

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    Thanks Joe for the bit of history. Now I have more books to read.

    The question that this brings up:
    Using the historical definitions for External (Buddhist) and Internal (Daoist), do both sides have the skills that Rob, Dan, and Mike are doing? Or are those skills (which are labelled Internal) only found in the Internal (Daoist) Chinese arts?

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    An external movment uses the muscles of the limb itself to provide movement in the extremity. If, whiile holding my hand out in front of me, I bend my wrist, that is an external movement. If I bend my elbow or make any movement of the forearm independantly while keeping the elbow still, it is external.

    But if I move my arm by sitting into a stance, or a twist the waist or push with a foot, (as if the hand was just the end of a stick without ability for independant movment), that is 'internal.'

    The source of movement in the hand must be inside the body, especially to be found in the opening and closing of the qua. The taiji of the Chen Style practical taiji of Chen Zhonghua is completely based on the rotating movments of chan fa, silk reeling, which is a much more accurate and descriptive term for taijii movments that the word 'internal.'
    "Fear, not compassion, restrains the wicked."

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    Mark

    I think your post highlights a relevent point.

    The idea that Buddhist kinda auto equals "external" and that Daoist auto equals "internal" is rough, workable, line of difference.

    Clearly a workable distiction in broad strokes, just not sure how accurate it might be in dealing with individual groups and people.

    What exact "skills" are you talking about?

    And are you talking about stuff that can be done "on demand" and replicated, or are you heading into "chi ball" land??

    I mean no offense, just trying to get a handle on what exactly your asking.
    Chris Thomas

    "While people are entitled to their illusions, they are not entitled to a limitless enjoyment of them and they are not entitled to impose them upon others."

    "Team Cynicism" MVP 2005-2006
    Currently on "Injured/Reserve" list due to a scathing Sarcasm pile-up.

  8. #8
    Mark Murray Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by cxt
    Mark

    I think your post highlights a relevent point.

    The idea that Buddhist kinda auto equals "external" and that Daoist auto equals "internal" is rough, workable, line of difference.

    Clearly a workable distiction in broad strokes, just not sure how accurate it might be in dealing with individual groups and people.

    What exact "skills" are you talking about?

    And are you talking about stuff that can be done "on demand" and replicated, or are you heading into "chi ball" land??

    I mean no offense, just trying to get a handle on what exactly your asking.
    Hello Chris,
    I'm talking about the stuff that can be done "on demand" and teachable. Stuff that Rob, Mike, and Dan are doing (among others, possibly Ikeda but I really don't have the skill set to determine for sure.) I don't think anyone can really doubt that what they're doing isn't real. There's a post somewhere here on E-Budo about Rob and his teacher. If you go to AikiWeb, you can read more there (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11178). And for Mike, read Ledyard sensei's post (http://www.aikidojournal.com/forums/...p=81930#81930).

    That's the stuff I'm wondering how it's defined in the martial arts. It's always called Internal, but is it found only in the Chinese Internal arts defined by Joe's post? My guess would be that it isn't. Which sometimes causes miscommunications when talking about Internal martial arts.

    And brings us back to just what exactly are these Internal (as defined by Rob, Mike, Dan) martial arts? I'd definitely say that Aikido should be one of them (the question of "Is It?" is a whole different topic). I think, for me, it would be defined by using this "internal stuff" more often than not in a martial art. So, while theoretically, you could use it in lineages of karate, it wouldn't be a majority of usage. I'd then define that line of karate as not an internal art. Which wouldn't mean that all karate would be excluded.

    Guess I'm just rambling at this point.

    Mark

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    Mark

    Cool--just wanted to be sure that we are the same relative page here.

    BTW--that's the second time you have mentioned "skills" without being specific as to what exactly your talking about.
    Its very hard to help answer your question without knowing specifcs of what you mean.

    Since I have no idea of what you mean, I can offer no opinion as to if its "real" or not.

    Or how it might be classified.

    In VERY general terms--I sometimes feel that all to often people get too hung up in the minuta of small--sometimes nearly impossible to establish titular "differences" in how arts are trained and applied.

    Distinctions with little difference.

    In gross terms--was the blow "you" used to break "my" nose generated by "internal springing force/power" or was it overt "hard" power?

    Either way "I" still have a broken nose and need to deal with the blood and trauma.

    One of the worst beatings I ever took (friendly match ) was at the hands of a Sun Taji Stylist.
    It was almost as fun getting in on the sometimes heated discussion between him, a Chen style guy, and a Hsing-I practitioner over who was doing what "wrong."

    In a way it was kinda refreashing to find that the "internal" camp has as many differing viewpoints, opinions, perceptions etc as the "hard" stylists do.
    Chris Thomas

    "While people are entitled to their illusions, they are not entitled to a limitless enjoyment of them and they are not entitled to impose them upon others."

    "Team Cynicism" MVP 2005-2006
    Currently on "Injured/Reserve" list due to a scathing Sarcasm pile-up.

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    Chris,

    It's the difference between transferring your weight by leaning from side to side, and transferring it by moving inside the body. It can be demonstrated: in karate Ushiro Kenji has demonsrated it, and there are plenty of Okinawan karate videos on youtube that demonstrate it.

    Higaonna Morio
    part 1 -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X98FolFBAVA
    part 2 -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44aMGGHj6Ec
    part 3 -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7XwH9FRG0M

    Uechi Ryu
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=mGIHXVeL24o

    (sorry Mark, I know you've seen these already)

    taiji:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUDNr8v7eRI
    Chen Zhonghua shows that even though he's in a deep horse stance, his _weight_ is mostly on one leg.


    It is not a minor difference. It is the difference between the art, and a parody of same.

    And as I tried to tell you earlier this year, and as Mark is telling you right now, it is teachable, learnable and repeatable.

    I really am having a hard time understanding why you keep insisitng it's a small difference when it's really the whole deal.
    Last edited by edg176; 8th November 2006 at 17:49.
    Tim Fong

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    edge

    god (small "g" help me) not this again.

    "Why" because I'm a practical guy.

    That is pretty much the attitude I was getting at with my whole "broken nose" example.

    We could spend forever on arguements over how force is "generated"--when in practical terms it ALL takes a backseat to how its "applied" and what effect it has.

    Try it like this.

    I hit a guy in the face and knock him out----you don't actually see exactly how I hit him--you just see the result--a "KO."

    Now, how did I generate the power to do it?

    "Internal" power, "external" "hard" power, or did I have roll of nickles in my hand?

    And other than the roll of nickels--what possible difference can it make to the guy on the ground???????

    I don't understand why YOU have such a hard time understanding THAT.
    Chris Thomas

    "While people are entitled to their illusions, they are not entitled to a limitless enjoyment of them and they are not entitled to impose them upon others."

    "Team Cynicism" MVP 2005-2006
    Currently on "Injured/Reserve" list due to a scathing Sarcasm pile-up.

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    Default Uhhhhhh....

    Because when you lean when tranferring your weight, you telegraph your movement.

    Think about why it would be an advantage to not telegraph your weight shift. For karate, kendo, judo, escrima, mma, soccer, whatever.

    I'm not a master, (not even close) and even I can see the potential advantage. I'm having a hard time understanding why you can't.
    Tim Fong

  13. #13
    Mark Murray Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by cxt
    Mark

    Cool--just wanted to be sure that we are the same relative page here.

    BTW--that's the second time you have mentioned "skills" without being specific as to what exactly your talking about.
    Its very hard to help answer your question without knowing specifcs of what you mean.

    Since I have no idea of what you mean, I can offer no opinion as to if its "real" or not.

    Or how it might be classified.
    Chris,
    I'll have to defer to those who know this way better than I do. The "skills" I'm referring to are those that Mike, Rob, and Dan can do.

    Quote Originally Posted by cxt
    One of the worst beatings I ever took (friendly match ) was at the hands of a Sun Taji Stylist.
    It was almost as fun getting in on the sometimes heated discussion between him, a Chen style guy, and a Hsing-I practitioner over who was doing what "wrong."

    In a way it was kinda refreashing to find that the "internal" camp has as many differing viewpoints, opinions, perceptions etc as the "hard" stylists do.
    LOL, yeah, that would be refreshing to know.

    Mark

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    edge

    Please at least try and answer direct questions put to you.

    I'm talking about concrete results---your talking about vague, poorly defined, rather nebulous methods to generate power.

    (and a number of not really correct assumption I might add)

    I deal with results and you want to deal with anything BUT results.

    I just don't get that.
    Chris Thomas

    "While people are entitled to their illusions, they are not entitled to a limitless enjoyment of them and they are not entitled to impose them upon others."

    "Team Cynicism" MVP 2005-2006
    Currently on "Injured/Reserve" list due to a scathing Sarcasm pile-up.

  15. #15
    Mark Murray Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by cxt
    edge

    god (small "g" help me) not this again.

    "Why" because I'm a practical guy.

    That is pretty much the attitude I was getting at with my whole "broken nose" example.

    We could spend forever on arguements over how force is "generated"--when in practical terms it ALL takes a backseat to how its "applied" and what effect it has.

    Try it like this.

    I hit a guy in the face and knock him out----you don't actually see exactly how I hit him--you just see the result--a "KO."

    Now, how did I generate the power to do it?

    "Internal" power, "external" "hard" power, or did I have roll of nickles in my hand?

    And other than the roll of nickels--what possible difference can it make to the guy on the ground???????

    I don't understand why YOU have such a hard time understanding THAT.
    In your example, I'd say that, really, there isn't much difference.

    However, in other aspects, there is a world of difference. For example. Let's be the guy about to get hit in the nose. Depending on what the person doing the punching is using, my options are completely different. If it's just a muscle punch with a roll of nickels, hey, I can use basic martial arts and respond. Block and punch with karate, move and blend with aikido, etc.

    If it's an external punch with some skill behind it, I have to be a lot better at timing, kuzushi, etc. My skills have to be close to the attacker.

    If it's someone who is using internal skills, then I must be on par or better. In other words, I'd better know the internal skills, too.

    Let's go back to a different perspective. Let's say, like you do, that we're doing the punching. Sure, the guy gets KOed. What does it matter how? Well, with just physical muscle and a roll of nickles, the chances are near 100% that we're going to break something and/or do some damage around the face area.

    If we add some skill, we might be able to hit the face and KO the guy but the impact will be mostly in the head area. May or may not be bruising, but there's a likely chance.

    If we use internal skills, we could KO the guy by sending force through the head area or we could also add that force through the whole body to rattle it.

    So, yes, in your example, the guy is KOed. Who cares? In my example, I get a multitude of ways to get to the same point. I have a lot more options open to me. And isn't that what the martial arts are about? Opening up an infinite amount of accessible options?

    Does that help convey a reason why?

    Mark

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