Author: Manny O.G
Internal martial arts is occupied with spiritual, mental, or qi-related aspects, as opposed to an “external” approach focused on physiological aspects. Internal martial arts core is on recognition and awareness of the spirit and mind with the use of easy and composed leverage rather than muscular tension and stress. The method of pushing hands is commonly used in Chinese internal martial arts to develop sensitivity and softness, however time can be spent on normal physical training like stances, strengthening of muscles and stretching, as well as emptyhand and weapon forms. Internal martial arts are performed either slowly or with sudden bursts of explosive movements like in Chen TaiJi and Bagua Zhang. The generally slow pace improves coordination and balance by increasing the work load, and requires the student to pay minute attention to their whole body and weight distribution as they perform a technique. At the advanced level, and in cases of physical combat, internal martial arts is performed quickly with the goal of involving the entire body in every motion, staying relaxed with deep controlled breathing while coordinating the motions of the body and maintaining perfect balance all at once.
Silat and Kungfu
Within internal martial arts, internal power is often taught through two primary methods. In the first, learn internal power by first studying neigong/chi gung as a separate art for Chinese systems. And in Silat systems, Tenaga Dalam, which combines the mental training with martial body culture exercises as was explained in the Internal Silat video in the online video library. The second method of imparting internal power, is about putting the internal power work into your physical martial movements as you are simultaneously learning the forms. This stage dramatically shifts your emphasis, to get you to rely on the internal soft power, rather than on the habit of relying on larger muscles for power. If you practice external martial arts, such as karate, Taekwondo or Silat, internal martial arts can greatly upgrade your power, form and weight distribution to make you stronger and more efficient in your movement.
Power and Efficiency
If we compare martial arts to car design, training to increase power output in the external martial arts involves trying to make the engine bigger and more powerful. Training in the internal martial arts focuses first on releasing the emergency brake and streamlining the car. In the human body, it turns out that the “emergency brake” — biomechanical as well as mental inefficiencies that impede, limit, or drain power –has a startlingly significant effect. The emergency brake analogy still applies. You can see obviously that a car with its emergency brake on will handle far more poorly and slowly than one without. Because the objective is never about muscling a technique but using a combination of body mechanics and coordinated tensioning and relaxation of the muscles. In a non-martial arts context, compare broadjumps when using muscular strength against relaxed coordination of jumping fundamentals. Relaxed coordination helped with exploding forward with less effort.
External styles are extremely efficient at developing the core basic fitness skills such as push-ups, sit-ups, running, holding very low stances to develop strength and stamina. And the mindset of the external school is: “first show me what really works best in a street fight, than maybe later we can talk about philosophy”. But training in the internal martial arts doesn’t just make your body and mind more efficient during combative situations, but in virtually all situations. And this follows the Silat Sharaf principle of being a Martial Strategist by applying the philosophy of Silat to all aspects of life and not just combat.