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(8 pages total)


Finding Qi in Internal Martial Arts

I began my study of martial arts at a young age. From the beginning, I was one of those trouble-making students who always asked too many questions. Unfortunately, my early martial arts teachers didn't know the answers to these questions. Worse, they didnt seem to care. I had to look elsewhere. I was most interested in internal power. Was it real? How could it be relevant to throwing a punch or knocking someone down? If internal power really existed, how could I develop it? I sensed that there were deep and powerful secrets to uncover. I was never satisfied with training that was based solely on the physical and that did not incorporate less substantial aspects of energy and subtlety. My search for answers led me to esoteric studies found in the internal Chinese martial arts. First in the U.S. and later in Taiwan and China I sought out teachers who could give instruction in the internal energy arts.

Liu Xing-Han

The late master, Liu Xing-Han shows the author the finer points in 1988

 

Internal power

Eventually I found that internal power is real, and has healing and martial applications. In terms of the martial, the skill can be demonstrated when proper physical mechanics are used in conjunction with internal methods, such as that found in taijiquan or baguazhang. This skill represents a special kind of internal force that is unique and distinctly different in appearance and effect from the way the use of force is normally observed and felt. An internal power punch, for example, delivered in a relaxed manner and from a few inches awayactually no more than a tapcan have an effect much greater than suggested by its appearance. However, while it is a unique kind of force, generally appearing light and effortless to observers, it is not unique to the martial arts. It may manifest in any undertaking that requires the merging of human will with intense concentration, spirit and athletic skill. In most cases internal power happens by chance, appearing as athletic gift or naturalness to a lucky individual. However, one may also bring it about through careful training.

Internal power manifests when there is a merging of physical mechanics with what we might term physical-energetic poles. In terms of the internal ­martial arts, it is the result of a ­special kind of force brought about by solving the puzzle at the core of the healing and martial arts: how to find the proper relationship be­tween energy and structure. For internal artists, the key to the puzzle is to correctly balance the poles of physical mechanics with sensitive (the so-called soft) energetic ­methods.

 

Internal Power in the Martial Arts

In terms of the internal arts, the ideal is to combine physical mechanics with energetic principles from ancient (nei tan) Daoist yogic methods developed by Chinese alchemists long ago1. These, matched in just the right way, result in the manifestation of a special force. This force is very elusive and may disappear in a moment. It is the result of the merging of human will with trained (or gifted, natural) ways of making the body move efficiently (what I call mechanics). When this happens, the effect sometimes appears as if by magic. The manifestation of this magic represents the merging of human will with physical form and consciousness.

 

Merging of physical and energetic skills

Internal power manifests in various ways, determined by training, inherent gifts and intent of the practitioner. In some cases its effect appears as a light touch that throws an opponent several feet, or flick of the wrist, elbow or palm which generates an electric-shock effect to an opponent from a strike initiated a few inches away. Although this article examines one area of internal power: the martial; it should be noted that internal power is manifested outside of the martial arts. Most notably it may be focused as healing force which can exponentially increase the effect of herbal prescriptions, needles or ­tradi­tional massage. However, in almost all ­martial art examples, the manifestation of internal force represents merging poles of ­physical and energetic skills.


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