View Full Version : Power in Internal vs. External Arts

01-14-2005, 07:00 AM
I attended a workshop last Saturday near here. The host divided four hours into sections on Karate, Xingyi, Bagua Staff, and Bagua empty hand. He began each section with 1/2 hour of kata/forms teaching; the kata Kusanku from Okinawan Karate, Pi Chuan from Xingyi, and so on. Each second half hour was focused on how identical applications arose from apparently divergent arts like Bagua Staff and Karate.

What he said and demonstrated which hit home, however, was how power is built up in in "external" arts like Karate vs. "internal" arts like Xingyi. In Karate, the fist is accelerated between the striker and the recipient through a variety of techniques. In the internal arts, power is built internally before discharging through the hand. In practical terms, the experienced internal stylists were to a man/woman adept at explosive release from a position resting against the target. External stylists with equal years of training needed more distance to build the power, though the more advanced the Karateka, the less space they needed (my external "wind-up" needs a virtual airport runway, while my internal discharge is essentially non-existant).


01-14-2005, 07:35 AM
don't sell yourself short;how long have you been practicing?
internal power in tjqn is bouncy, like a basketball.In a tjqn strike,other elements such as mind intent and awareness of your opponent are factored in;it's complicated but yet simple at the same time because no thought is required and it sounds like thought may be hanging you up;you describe too much and that means you're thinking too much;with time and practice a smoothly choreographed,spontaneous penetrating action will result.
(demonstrations of so called "hard qigong" w/bricks and so forth are often faked but if you see a taiji master bounce a student off of him it's real and even a bystander can feel it)
there's a lot of talk about "power" in tjqn. striking but i'll let you in on a little secret,what you're relying mostly on is speed

01-15-2005, 12:52 PM

Great. It is rare to find anyone who can see the concept /principle in all martial disciplines. It is just that people are at various levels of 'discovery'. and they stay at the lower levels forevr without seeing beyond a punch or a kick.

When I was in Okinawa, I never paid to much attention to the various levels of empty hands methods in a serious manner but some of the Bubushi researchers (I believe Patrick McCarthy?) went to S. China and found that alot of the Okinawan arts had origins in various crane systems that were transplanted to the island and got its own flavour. Even Nathan Johnson (UK) ' BArefoot Zen' and its deconstruction analyses of various systems (Chinese/Korean/Japanese) show the roots have truly been lost and rarely taught in a systematic manner.

All the karate books printed (last 100 years-a guess) showed punching, kicking and various 'simplistic' approaches to attacks where, in reality that all had the equivalent of trapping, tuishou (rolling hands/push hands), qi'na (ju-jitsu?) in many if not all katas.

01-16-2005, 06:33 PM
I would like to clarify to Shark that Bill described the punch so clearly because one needs words to explain this in the forum. The workshop was great IMO, one of my students is a 7th dan karate master and I learnt what Bill described in his post.

NOt knowing much about karate, I just agree with Stanton that shuaijao e.g. is present in Chen style"withdraw hands and knees", Yang"grasping sparrows tail" and many techniques in Wing Chun are similar, just the names are different. The same with qin nar techniques, in Wing Chun it is called tan sau, bong sau and lop sau, in Sun style Tai Chi'deflect downwards, parry and punch" where the vital shoulder and elbow joints are locked.

Normally these techniques are hard-wired in the form first, then limited sparring application, later free sparring which in real situation hopefully will happen naturally.......I am not talking yet about focus, relaxation and qi circulation.

01-20-2005, 10:06 AM
One aspect I have noticed from switching from external to internal arts is not really the distance moved but how that distance is covered, a lot of internal power can be derived from the spiral movements, whilst the apparent distance the fist moves to the external viewer appears small muscle movement is much greater, think more of the distance travelled by the elbow joint, in external arts it is more of a straight line but the arc of the elbow (esp in chen taiji due to chan si jin) is a greater distance and applying basic physics force = mass X acceleration and we can't change the mass of our fist but since acceleration = distance / time, increase distance, increase acceleration and bingo increase power, so since IMA wraps all the movement up in its sleeves and thats just li gong don't even consider qi, jin, joint expansion and the other amazing tricks taiji, xingyi, bagua and the rest does to your insides that we can't see.

01-20-2005, 10:38 AM
A lot of the power in Xingyi comes from "Internal Coordination," the skill of timing internal processes so is to issue great power externally. In training, we do a good bit of work learning the appropriate internal sensations, and initially use large external movements because by moving more slowly over a longer distance, it is easier to feel the necessary timings. I believe this is true of Tai Chi form training as well.

According to my Xingyi/Bagua instructor, as skill increases, the ability to coordinate internally increases, so the same amount of power can be developed in less space. Certainly, he moves me and my Tai Chi partner (a Karate black belt, 6' 3", 275 lbs.) around with great economy of movement. You are quite correct that a spiral path allows more distance for acceleration, however. Indeed, in all three internal arts I've studied, the energy flow from feet through fingers is spiral (though Xingyi is generally more akin to a tire rolling forward, while Bagua emphasizes an internal movement closer to a phonograph or whirlpool). Bill

01-20-2005, 05:22 PM
You can effect how much of your mass is actual transmitted. Ridgid body for example restricts who much mass is acelerated.

01-21-2005, 04:57 AM
yes bill, i'm a xingyi man too and all those tiny corrections you develop doin those hours of san ti shi (and zhang zuang in taiji and circle walkin in bagua) help create smoother pathways to transmit power, a well oiled and correctly aligned machine will always be a more efficient and that is definitely what IMA make us. Loss of power to what i like to call "body friction" is quite the norm but even External guys have good mechanics although IMA is more about mechanical transmission than pure force, more akin to a well tuned racing car rather than a monster truck, both have huge amounts of power but the race car is more controlable and better round the curve (just like bagua LOL)
yes elan i agree with training and good relaxation you can put more mass behind the punch but i was only using a simple comparative arguement and one thing i have learned from boxing is that IMA's don't have a monopoly on these things rather i think it's an almalgum of lots of different wrinkles that exist in Exteranal systems that are all being used at the same time but of course the drawback is it makes Taiji/Xingyi/Bagua/etc a lot harder to make good, making one trick work is not too hard but making two, three or more ain't easy but thankfully our neijia ancestors were nice people and made our respective systems full of nice qigongs, forms and drills that show us what is all in there. and sure we've got the rest of our lives to learn it, god i'd get real bored if all i had to look forward to was a black belt :D :D :D