Types of internal martial art power

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Two types of power are used in Ba Gua and the other internal arts; both methods are called "internal." Fundamentally, internal power begins with physical mechanics or mingjing, which translates as "obvious force." With correct training, students naturally progress from obvious force to anjing, "hidden power" ^J and ultimately, huajing, "mysterious power."9

Mingjing, literally "bright" or "observable" power, is the term used for mingjing physical mechanics of the internal. Instead of "throwing" a punch in the conventional manner, the internal artist learns to move in ways that coordinate and balance the body up and down, front to back. A vertical axis throughout the body is maintained instead of horizontal swing common to most external styles anjing and boxers.10 Efficient movement oriented toward balanced, counteropposing muscle groups replace physical tension. Smooth efficiency is used instead of the raw power and torque found in most other styles of strike-based martial arts. Training is based on efficiency and coordination with relaxed movements that allow qi and blood to circulate optimally. This category of training, because it does not rely on torque, heals the body through harmony and balance.

When mingjing is correctly practiced, the student naturally begins to develop more advanced "internal" levels. It is a process of tuning oneself to a once common state reminiscent of deep connections to nature, where mankind walked with a fluid, natural gait, effortlessly developed by walking on natural, not artificial, terrain. Our bodies were designed for uneven ground, not smooth, flat surfaces. Variable pressure resulting from the foot stepping on uneven ground has a profound impact on health and power because of the way the body receives and responds to the force of the step. This is the basic principle behind foot acupressure and various other foot therapies in the present day. Even today people who live close to nature, climb trees, and walk on unpaved ground naturally develop the connected power of mingjing. To regain natural power, "civilized"

people must relearn it. Learning to create variable pressure in the body that imitates the design of nature, and learning not to create and carry unnatural tension and "lock up." The effects brought about by this type of training are powerful. When the student is successful in developing this type of power, it allows a man or a woman the ability to defend themselves with minimal effort even into their later years when advantages of agility and youthful strength are no longer present. This is one of the great secrets of all internal arts.

As illustrated above, mingjing type of power is not something exclusive to the internal arts. Some sports use internal style mingjing more than others. The golf stroke is a good example of this type of power. In this sport natural balance is of primary importance when the forward and upward momentum of a golfer performing a strong golf drive is matched by his downward force pressing against the earth as he swings through. For an effective swing, the shoulders are relaxed and the waist directs the power forward with mechanics that adjust to force with equal backward and downward pressures. One of my teachers, Ho Shen-Ting, described this principle as "100 percent forward, 100 percent backward," by which he meant that internal power has a bidirectional internal movement of muscle groups within the body.

Correctly applied, internal mingjing power is invisible to the eye of an untrained observer. In fact, the performance may even appear "soft" or weak, although in reality it may be surprisingly powerful. Internal power like this is relaxed and doesn't require foot stomping or added torque to achieve effect anymore than the pro-golfer needs stomping or added torque while performing a swing. Controlled relaxation is important and tension, especially that which is characterized by "grunting" and the appearance of excessive muscular tension, is antithetical to the development of this type of power.

Mingjing as a science of movement is based on Taoist yogic practices originating almost two thousand years ago. Designed to stimulate energy centers and open energetic pathways, the effect of this type of training is especially strong in opening the eight extra meridians associated with Taoist yoga.11

The mechanics of mingjing just described stimulate the meridian and energetic system of the body and encourage the development of huajing, or "hidden power." Huajing is unique to internal martial arts and is based on Taoist yogic alchemy. It involves the movement and transformation of the body's qi. For the student, huajing is an exciting stage of development since it is where he or she learns to feel the flow of internal energy in his or her body. Most report that it feels like currents of heat, pressure, and/or electricity. It is developed and controlled through Taoist breathing exercises, qi gong posture, and

Ho Shen-Ting qigong

A. the will, "yi." When someone first develops this "hidden power" they can be yi quite dangerous, since the expression of power will not feel like anything special, and since the skill is not yet consistent and the pugilist doesn't yet recognize the subtle cues as to when he or she is "on." Occasionally students have had to be cautioned when coming into this power to be very careful since their "lightly touching" another student in a demonstration may result in the partner being dropped to the ground and possibly hurt. Senior instructors breathe much easier when the students coming into this power start to figure out the cues.

Energy systems

Once the correct mechanics and other precursors of the internal arts have taken, the student will make progress at an ever-increasing rate. The evolution of an internal artist moves toward direct personal experience of the internal energy moving within his or her body. Knowledge of how to move correctly, how to breathe correctly, and how to stand correctly become less abstract and increasingly experiential as the student detects the flow and blockages of qi in the body. This involves the sensation of qi in the body becoming a type of biofeedback signal. Sensations of electric-like tingling and/or heat traveling throughout the body will be noticed. With sensitivity and personal experiment, presence of the "signal" informs the student if he or she is correct, where absence of the signal indicates that a particular movement is "off." Through this method the student perceives when something is out of balance. Say, for example, the shoulder complex tends to be held tightly instead of released when the student lifts his or her arm. The student who has evolved to the point of sensing the movement oiqi in the body will notice pressure or a trapped heat feeling in the shoulder. The ability to directly sense energetic flow ensures greater success in correcting the problem. During the student's experimentation with the angle variation of his or her arm he or she has access to another set of criteria compared with the student who does not have direct experiential feedback. Students who sense qi in the way just described are on the path to mastery and more.

This way of understanding the body will be extrapolated to areas outside of the martial. For instance, a typical result is that the student gains ability to directly affect his or her physical health; through the ability to detect imbalances he or she will often be in tune with his body and in many cases will be able to detect imbalances before serious illness sets in, such as allowing for corrections to take place in diet, exercise patterns or lifestyle. Students like this find that the right hint from a knowledgeable coach encourages leaps instead of steps in their progress.

Qi, and mind-body-spirit development

The ability to tune in and directly experience qi sensations assists the student with progress in spiritual and meditative practices. Three assumptions about qi are useful. First, although qi is not fully understood by science, the phenomenon exists in the physical universe. Second, it can be monitored and controlled by the student. And third, development and balance of qi in humans is associated not only with mental and physical optimization, but spiritual or emotional states as well. In the same way that physical health can be monitored by one's tuning into the biofeedback qi signals (and assuming an ideal mind-body-spirit state is possible to attain), subtle adjustments can be made in one's thought processes and emotional blockages (unbalanced qi) can be ferreted out by the yz'-yogic practitioner.

It is very recent that medical science and psychology have begun to understand that the mind, mental-emotional and physical body function intercon-nectedly as a total unit. For example, a now common therapy for the treatment of phobia is to train patients in physical relaxation techniques. Irrational fear, as any fear, is strongly associated with physical tension. It is essentially impossible to be fearful while in a relaxed state. The ability to eliminate irrational fear goes hand-in-hand with the induction of relaxation. This principle from modern psychology is just one of many Taoist approaches to mind-body integration that are being validated by scientific research today. This approach, the converging point of mind-body-spirit, places applied Taoism as one of the oldest holistic health systems in the world.

Applied (religious) Taoism

Ancient Chinese Taoists developed deep insights into human nature in areas of psychology, physical health, and spirit. They understood the negative health consequences of socially manufactured stress and the deleterious effects of imbal-anced physical movement on physical and emotional health. Their approach to


The writings of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu


Merging of three separate traditions, previously separate yin-yang school, neo-Confucianism, and Taoism. New system sought physical immortality and magical power. Birth of proto science.


Traditional medicine Metallurgy Sexual yogas Healing massage Physio-therapeutics

Tao Chia

Tao Jiao ft tan tan

Metallurgy Taoism

a pai nting of Ko Hung at his alchemical laboratory understanding the human condition has a lineage to it and did not just appear one day from the writings of Lao Tzu alone. The most important influence is a great body of work collectively called "Taoist yoga." These exercises, originating from Taoist philosophy, promoted a return to natural laws, gave birth to mind-body unification exercises, and were a way of understanding life. Most often approaches that involve mastery of internal energy and mind-body unification in ancient China have their roots in Taoist philosophy and ancient psycho-physiological exercises. It is useful to examine the source of these ideas.

Although philosophical Taoism, Tao Chia (literally Taoist family) existed since the writing attributed to Lao Tzu around 500 B.C., new approaches to Taoist study,

Tao Jiao, or "applied" Taoism (usually translated as "religious Taoism") became popular several hundred years later.12 This tradition from ancient days of China, around 200 B.C., became the foundation of medical and mystical practices.

About 300 years after the birth of Taoism, the then separate school of yin-yang blended with the declining neo-Confucian school and philosophical Taoism to create a new and separate genre unlike anything seen before in human history. New schools, collectively called applied or "religious" Taoism, emerged that believed that man was a model and reflection of the entire universe. Practitioners of this ideology believed that they could access the secrets of life and death and manipulate the normal life cycle process with resultant deterioration through alchemical and yogic practices and that this manipulation would empower them with the ability to grasp and act upon the essence of life. Some of these schools sought to break the bond of death and obtain physical immortality through ingestion of a special formula, in Chinese, called tan. Secret prescriptions that were common to these schools were compressed, dried, and treated in myriad ways and finally brought to boil in the alchemist's vessel in search of the secret drug of immortality.13

a pai nting of Ko Hung at his alchemical laboratory

Tao Jiao

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