There are three “classic” internal martial arts, t’ai-chi ch’üan (taijiquan), hsing-i ch’üan (xingyiquan), and ba gua zhang (pa-kua chang). Their study and application are different from most martial arts. When mastered, they are “soft,” yet effective. They are yogic, yet combative. Their secrets emerge from inner calmness in the midst of the chaos. Their practice can help awaken and transform the individual.
When fully embraced, the internal arts become simultaneously the practice of Taoist yoga, internal alchemy, and the highest level of effective personal protection. However, when a practitioner does not search deep enough for their essence, they are only a showpiece with little practicality.
These pages introduce the mystery of how those arts can not only be powerful and effective as close-combat skills, but simultaneously spiritually and mentally transformative. At the heart of that mystery is the meaning of “softness.”
The following material is from portions of the new book
(From Into to Sections VI and VII)
For a serious adult practitioner investigating the step-by-step evolution of the “soft” and “energetic” martial arts, larger-than-life stories of those arts born in a mountain-top monastery a thousand or more years ago are not helpful. Instead, for the mature seeker, it is more useful to ask questions about the evolutionary conditions that might have contributed to the art’s initial development. For example, the term neijiaquan appears as early as Huang Pai-chia’s (Huang Baijia) seventeenth-century Neijia Quanfa (“Boxing methods of the Internal School”). However, it did not become a common classifier of martial arts styles until the nineteenth century, 6 and for practical purposes, not until Sun Lu-tang’s use of the term to characterize a category of martial arts based on “soft” power, in books published in the 1920s.