Distinctions between Art as Mind-Body Practice and Art for Combat Training

The essence of internal martial arts is the ability to pay attention to subtle internal feedback signals.

From the Book

In the Chinese traditions such as those just cited, whether correctly or incorrectly observed, practitioners learned to identify certain sensations within their bodies in the context of nei qi, or “internal energy.” Thus, t’ai-chi pioneers, without knowing it, practiced a form of biofeedback training. For early practitioners of the art, this required a working theory to explain the discipline they engaged in, which in turn required a history. The best fit was one that drew from Taoist mysticism, and the result was a merger of Taoist philosophy, alchemy, and meditation principles with combat science. Subsequently, pioneers referred to their new art as “ultimate” boxing, or t'ai-chi ch’üan.


From the Book:  All societies have examples of remarkable talent expressed through individuals who achieve the highest level of performance. There is fighting, there are warrior disciplines, and then there are those rarer martial art disciplines where a spiritual practice merges with a fighting art. War dances have always been quasi-religious; the ancient Greek Olympics were religious festivals, and the warrior / athlete’s training in the gymnasium was inseparable from philosophy. Other examples include Buddhism and Shaolin, and Shinto and aikido, as well as Zen and Japanese archery. They all cross the mind-body dichotomy. T’ai-chi is among those rarer fighting arts: part meditation, part Taoist inner alchemy, and partly a unique set of physical principles.