The Main Concept
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.
Talking about a decent level of knowledge in these disciplines is not at all necessary for the reason of their absence. Because most of so-called “instructors”, “masters” and “grand masters” most enjoy going to China and Japan, watch (but note, not train) the “great” masters, admire, pay for the certificate of “novice”, “monk” or “patriarch”. And upon the return, being under a great impression, write a book, or even better – books, about 50 of them, in which they tell that their line of transmission is the most straight, and knowledge and style – the deepest. The question is: when do they find the time to train? This is the problem, talking more, than one can do is amoral, but who thinks about it these days. Everybody wants fame and money. But how can one sell a diamond that one does not possess? That’s why one sells the stories of seeing it. This is where the distortion of information happens, all sorts of dividing into External and Internal, true and false. But as you understand, if one is foolish, he will not get a Noble prize. The ancients said: if you get at the root, you understand the problem. So let’s get there.
Traditionally in China the division between Internal and External occurred the following way: the term “External” has a meaning of superficial, fragile, not true; “Internal” means deep, solid, and veritable. Hence, in China all kinds of traditional Kung Fu are related to “Internal”, not depending on the kind of movements. It doesn’t matter whether they are smooth or harsh. The “line of transmission” does not matter either. If the movements are specific, not abstract, and work following the main concept – minimum effort, maximum result – it is not important who had taught you. “External” on the other hand are the trendy styles, which do not have the specified base, like Changquan, Sanda (in modern reading) etc.
In our school we hold on to the traditional approach, not dividing Internal and External families in teaching. But when making choice the division exists for you to begin training according to your physical condition. It is foolish to begin the training and harm your health. For that reason everyone can chose what is suitable for them. The External family in our school is physically quite hard, the Internal slightly easier. But together those are martial arts that have practical use under real circumstances of our life. And no abstractions. You train spirit, mind; strengthen your will, body and health (as much physically as psychologically), but if you need to fight, you do it without hesitation and with maximum efficiency.
The ancients said: the Internal and the External go together, the real firmness in movement, real independence in unity – the great philosophy. Remember – only the Internal and External together give the mastery in Kung Fu .
And now a little about what happens in out trainings.
The External family is a form of training, demanding great physical effort. Push-ups, squatting, exercises for stomach and back, developing of joints, flexibility and stretching: and all of this in large quantities. Plus the exercises for coordination, introductory acrobatics (that is the ability to fall in a correct way), Qigong – working with respiration (how to breathe, with what and what for) – and no legends about “super chi”. Concerning the main part of training – for first five-seven years the basics are studied, that is the traditional Chuan Fa (the methods of a fist) – basic blows with arms, legs, methods of protection and movement, basics of throwing technique and Qinna (technique of catching and locking), and, of course, tactics, strategies and methods of single combat. Of course Kung Fu is philosophy and self-realization, but without the fighting skills it is no more than gymnastics, that does not have much relation to good health.
The thing is that health (both in Chinese tradition and modern life) has not only physical, but also a psycho emotional component. It also depends on ability to adjust one’s consciousness. It is an undeniable fact acknowledged by modern medicine. That is why the skills of single combat are necessary, because the regular banal fight compel the person (if, of course, he wants to win) not only to make physical effort, but also to regulate his emotions and consciousness, which, in its turn, helps to take care of health. According to traditional Chinese medicine the health depends on the sufficient amount and the correct flow of the Chi energy. Emotionality, both normal and pathological, was considered an overflow of Chi, which is why the methods of controlling it are necessary. Emotional people and those who like to fight have the so-called Hao-Chi – inclination to Chi, - and they strongly need an effective way of balancing it. And, oddly enough, the best way of self-regulation is conducting combat. No better way had been invented over thousands of years. That is why, if beginning self-development at all, it is better to do it full-on. Well, this was a digression, now let us follow…
After gaining solid knowledge in the base technique fighting with traditional weapons is studied (staffs, poles, blades, etc.); and finally when the basic technique is mastered in full extend specialization in Hung Gar (Hung Kuen) is possible.
Why is the specialization possible? Because not everybody is prepared to make enough effort to study the basics (it is really difficult and time-consuming), but those few who reveal enough patience can understand without the formalities which path to follow. Chinese say: - thousands different styles of Chinese Box in the essence are the same thing. That is everything that you need to know.
The Internal family – in Quan Fa section (the methods of work) the main attention is given to the mobility of joints (joint limbering-up), smoothness (movements of the body principally correct from the point of view of physiology and mechanics of it), Qigong, Neigong (inner work). Evident aerobic load is not present, but you should not get an impression that if things are done smoothly and slowly – they are easy. Some exercises are more difficult to be carried out slowly than faster (and there is plenty of this kind). The main part of training is dedicated to studying the traditional Tai Chi Chuan, Xingyiquan and Qinna techniques.
And then as follows: seven years of base studies, plus traditional weapon. And you will have a clear understanding of “path” and how to follow it.