Traditional Chinese martial arts are divided into internal and external family. External direction for the Europeans is more understandable; it is that which we have come to know as martial arts- "punches and kicks, variations of technique, uneven rhythm. External styles can be considered the attacking techniques.
External direction – is an effective way of training the aerobic system, coordination, it is the best way to train strength, endurance, speed (of the musculoskeletal system, flexibility…). The direction has existed for more than 5000 years. The highest honor the master of Chinese martial arts could reach - was the title “Master of life” who was considered a man who could do just about everything.
Chinese tradition is the special way of taking in the world, practically seeing the world through the eyes of Chinese. It might seem an impossible task for people who were not born in China. The Chinese think like that (not all of them though). But it is far from truth. To see the world without personal preferences but full of colours and shades is possible for everybody. According to the admonitions of old masters to attain this state one needs to have clear soul, modesty and honesty. If these qualities are possessed, according to the philosophy of Taoism (the main philosophy of all the Chinese) the master will appear in front of the person, who will help one to attain Ude – virtue, the warrior’s virtue.
Internal and External are not two familys. There is no most important part of a whole, and by dividing a whole in parts we forever exclude the possibility of stepping on the path of wisdom and self-perfection. It can be compared to standing in front of a pile of bricks trying to imagine what kind of house they made. Difficult isn’t it? Division of Internal and External does formally exist, but only within the limits of one tendency. Here the External work is aimed at developing the outer strength (Li), flexibility, coordination, stamina etc. Internal work is developing of effort (Jing) and all that, covered by Chinese meaning Neigong (inner work): developing strength of thought, spirit and mind, power of chi etc. But it is important to remember that one without the other is nothing. Ing and Yang don’t exist without one another – those are the basics. And if you want to achieve something worthwhile those cannot be neglected. Dividing the styles into External and Internal families is complete rubbish, especially in the interpretation that is used today. It is strange, but there is an opinion (for some reason considered an axiom) that External – is a strength involving tendency requiring literally bull’s force to perform effectively. But even that would not be enough if you lack “inborn capacity”. And that Internal family is a “fine technique”, no force required, because there is “super chi” that will do everything instead of you, and no need for press-ups till unconsciousness. Talking about the use of it (in a fight and not only), it is being thought that the External can be used to fight, and the Internal is not applicable. Ravings of a madman, but people believe it. Why? The answer is quite simple – ignorance, that is: absolute lack of understanding what martial arts are.
The ancients used to say: possibility of choice is the worst illness of mind. Forgetting that modern people spend precious time in life looking for ones personal self, choosing clothes, things, which are supposed to define the invented image. They dash between “what to do” and “how to act”. Thinking that argument invokes the truth, they follow the path of “try and mistake” and eventually end up like Pushkin’s old woman: the wash-tub’s broken, tons of mistakes, and the truth’s still nowhere around. Certainly no-one in the world can avoid mistakes, but if one succeeds in stopping to think in clichés (like everybody) and pay more attention to oneself, but not from the position “I want”, but from the position “who am I”, “what am I capable of”(unbiased, not in dreams) and only after “what do I deserve”, then the number of mistakes will recede by numbers. And if you add on it the understanding that life is action, theorising and reasoning about the truth will disappear because you will see it instead. It’s easy. Try it. And now let’s talk about what should be considered when choosing the style in martial arts. From the first sight it’s a difficult task, because if you start to simply name all the styles, directions and tendencies, and then write a book about it, I’m afraid it will be longer than “War and peace”. The thing is that styles get invented and books get written by whoever’s mind it crosses. Many people start one thing and without reaching any worthy results “studying for long time, whole seven months” consider, that it’s not for them, so they start inventing their own bicycle (even if it’s got triangular wheels). Then they buy a patent, register a federation and there it is – another pile ready for the dump. But let us leave the inventers alone and look at everything impartially.