The traditional classifications of Chinese Martial Arts
These two 'methods' are both sides of the same coin. In Chinese martial arts we have various sayings that illustrate reaching this precipice of balance.
In Hung Gar and hard styles we say, "Practice big in order to have the power small." "Compound the tension and slowly move to pack the Chi and correctly structure the body." "In time less tension is needed because the power has been 'put into the body'."
By contrast in internal/soft styles of Tai Chi we say, "relax, let go. Slowly move paying attention to your structure, power comes from paying attention to yourself." "Diminish tension this allows the chi to flow, to release tension structure must be aligned properly." "in time you can direct 10,000 lbs with 4 oz. because your sensitivity won't allow a fly alight from, or a feather to be placed on any part of the body."
For today we're going to focus primarily on the physical and martial requirements and application of internal/external. That being said keep in mind that this view of yin/soft/internal + Yang/hard/external, goes far deeper than just the martial power piece that we're covering here, if you want to read more on Yin and Yang balance be sure to reference some of my earlier posts: Here I reference Yin and Yang classifications in exercise- THE Supreme Ultimate Exercise!... In this one I talk about how we can more efficiently train using Yin and Yang classifications- Supreme Ultimate Fist- Tai Chi Chuan ... and here I talk on how we work from tension to relaxation in Chi Kung- From Tension to Relaxation... That being said let's continue.
How do we define Internal and External Power?
External power- External power is power generated through gross movements and tension stacked onto big body movements. Resulting in using momentum that can be easily seen moving from the ground up or seen in muscular exertion.
Having defined them what are the requirements of each?
Requirements- Although internal and external power come from slightly different training methods or paths, both have the same foundational pieces.
Those pieces are:
- Structure- Both internal and external power are reliant on structure, although in 2 different ways… Internal power relies on keeping structure using it to follow through with relaxed closely stacked momentum w/ or w/o linking the point of impact to the ground, i.e. relaxation is the anchor not the structure itself. External power on the other hand relies on the structure linking to the ground and working w/ full body lining up or “setting” together at the point of impact to transfer// smash into the target.
- Timing- Timing is equally important to develop for both methods of power generation. Likewise the timing should be precisely sequenced and pinpointed for optimum effect. Internal power requires a releasing and aligning for follow through, whereas external requires a stacking of tension and structure for it to land where and when you want it.
- Tension- Tension is generally looked on as an impediment to internal power, however it is still a requirement. I say this because it is tension that brings about movement in any way. The use and amount of tension is the only thing that differs. Internal power uses tension only to provide impetus for the movement, and direction thereof. External power uses tension for overall movement and driving force of power through the joints, thus it is used to develop strength and uses more effort to do said movement.
- Knowing the importance of these three let’s theoretically look at how they balance out in both cases.
Timing – 50%
In closing, if you're training hard, or soft get it done, and always pay utmost attention to your actions. Wherever you are in your achievement is never as important as your focus on the current endeavor, or exercise. If you're having a bad day focus on your work, if you're having a good day, similarly focus on your work. Great peace comes from that focus, and likewise the greatest progress is only possible with that focus.
Breathe deep, relax well, work hard!
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