Making your internal martial art MORE effective

Make your Internal Martial Art to work


By John Bracy (Copyright 2020)

In this series, some alternative ways to think about and master the internal martial arts are introduced.  These ideas is offered as a guide to senior practitioners  as new ways to think about the art and, for the more junior practitioner, guidance that will help them along the path to true mastery.

Many of the points presented in this series will be controversial. For example, it will be argued that the internal martial arts (IMA), when properly actuated, represent a distinct class of training compared with most other fighting arts. The central theme that follows is that the IMA are rare since they can be simultaneously practiced as self-defense, meditative art, self-healing technique, and Taoist internal alchemy, or neidan.


This series of articles will also includes discussion on how the unique set of bio-mechanics and mind-body techniques of the IMA simultaneously serve to promote the psychological, spiritual, and physical evolution of the practitioner, and, by extension, provide benefit to society.  

Key Points

Although the framework that contributed to the development of the "internal" martial arts existed earlier, for practical purposes, the IMA were not studied in a systematic way until the late nineteenth century [ADD READ MORE]

·      For reasons that will be discussed here, in many examples, the so called "internal martial arts" are not truly "internal" since they did not make the evolutionary shift necessary to become "internal."

A Working Definition of the Internal Martial Arts


One of the specific sets of bio-mechanics that allow for a special kind of relaxed power to be expressed has to do with a principle called “Empty-Full” weight distribution or “A moveable center-line”

The way you hold your body up against the ground will determine your access to your power and ability potential. In internal martial arts terms, this has to do with what is called EMPTY-FULL principles. To be effective, you must understand and learn to apply EMPTY-FULL principles in close combat. This is a difficult challenge since the default for a person under stress is to use a fifty-fifty and fulcrum-based power. That kind of practice (which about 90 percent of YouTube IMA demos includes -to their fault) means that POWER is torque and upper back / shoulder based. This means that, without empty-full ability under stress, you will unconsciously choose a wide, and less mobile stance when facing an opponent.

Video: Demonstration of "Empty-Full" Principles

Photo:  T’ai-chi master Yang Chen-fu with superimposed center of mass and empty-full markings

One way of determining if a representation of empty full is being demonstrated in a particular presentation is to draw a plumb-line from the base of the skull to the base where the person is standing

From John Bracy’s new book, SECTION VII     This point refers to definitions by some schools, particularly Yang, which describe unique biomechanics of t’ai-chi and the internal martial arts. This way of applying force and effective technique is not over reliant on large muscle groups, for example, the use of fulcrum/ shoulder-based power of the trapezius muscles. This otherwise (for most individuals), habitual pattern of movement is replaced with integrated athletic connection expressed through a movable center vertical line called “empty-full”. The included photo of Yang Cheng- fu captures this principle in the “diagonal flying” posture. The photo indicates the forward of center “full” front leg weighting. The arrow in the middle of the photo indicates Yang’s center of mass.