Part I of Internal Martial Arts "Essentials"

Part I What makes the internal martial arts different. How to train mind and body in the internal martial arts

By John Bracy

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Some internal martial art practitioners believe the genesis of their art can be traced to the discovery of a secret. Most often the secret is said to be the sudden realization by a founding master of the way to use no more than minimal effort to defeat an opponent. This narration is supposed to explain how the art came to fruition and how it was discovered that normally understood physical prowess could be replaced with a new kind of internal power. This new power was not dependent only on physical strength, but instead also relied on an individual’s inwardly cultivated forces of mind and intent, which merged with the mysterious energetic force the Chinese call ch’i (also written qi).

It is believed that the real secrets of the internal martial arts were not discovered by an alchemist-monk in the mountains of China hundreds or thousands of years ago. Instead, the genesis of the internal martial arts can be better understood as the discovery of mind-body training principles that were systematized into a new approach to close quarter combat in the late nineteenth century. At the center of this new form of combat: the ability to maintain calmness under stress and the practitioner’s ability to attain a special, definable (to be detailed below) harmony of his or her biological rhythms.

What are the internal martial arts? Based on (especially three) Chinese martial arts of Hsing I Chuan (also written xingyiquan), Ba Gua Zhang (Pa Kua Chang) and Tai Chi Chuan (taijiquan), fundamental principles of the internal martial arts were codified during a relatively short period beginning at the end of the nineteenth century.
With principles first described in the late nineteenth century and culminating with curriculum of the Central Martial Art Academy in Nanjing in the 1930s, the internal martial arts developed a unique set of body mechanics linked to mental training. When incorporated into training, these principles lead you to attainment of mastery. However, In many cases, the guidelines for correct study of these arts have been lost.

Go to Part II: Physical mechanics and training principles of the internal martial arts

Go to Part III: Entrainment and examples of advanced internal martial art skill