"Internal Power is a kind of vibrating energy inside the body.
When it is carried out by Tai Chi Chuan's Fa Jing techniques, it has a very
This is the
explanation my father (Gin Soon Chu Sifu, disciple of the famous Yang Sau
Chung) gave me one day when I asked about internal power.
Generating internal power is guarded, secret information in the history of
martial arts. It is the key training technique to determine the quality and
survival of style and system. Every style has one or more techniques on how to
generate internal power.
Because it is so classified, this technique is usually transmitted orally,
without writing down, to prevent outside access. Therefore, the students
selected to inherit this information are those considered the best and most
trustworthy by their masters.
To understand how this internal power develops in Tai Chi Chuan, one must
first understand human physiology. The body is a complex machine, it has many
organs and systems. If one of these systems malfunctions, the body does not work
or gets sick. The system involved with movement is the skeleton and muscles.
When the body moves it involves many muscles by way of extension and
contraction. When all the muscles in the arm act together, we call it
decentralized movement, for it involves only the movement of the arm. However,
when all the muscles of the body act together, we call this centralized
movement, for it involves the whole body. The power generated from this unified
movement is called internal power. It is invisible to the naked eye, for people
pay attention only to the result and not to the mechanical procedure.
This internal power is so potent that people compare it to the power of ocean
waves crashing to the shore, losing control of a car on ice, two trains
colliding together, or flood water breaking from a reservoir.
There are many styles of Chinese martial art, each with its own method of
generating power. A closer examination however, shows three common ways. The
techniques vary according to the requirements of the style, but are similar in
how the body is incorporated.
- Decentralized or localized generated power -- trains the arms, hands or
feet to strengthen them individually. Involves external objects as a training
tool. This method is common among hard style, such as kicking or punching sand
bags to strengthen the hands and feet.
- Centralized or body generated power -- to train the coordination of body
with hands and feet. The emphasis is on the Six Harmony principle or body
mechanics. The power generated is the result of body coordination, not an
external object. This method is common among internal or soft styles.
- Whole body or natural generated power -- a method involving the mental as
well as the physical disciplines. This is available to a select number of
internal stylists. Although Tai Chi Chuan is commonly practiced slowly and in
a relaxed fashion, the members of the Yang Family were known for their skill
and power. When they did Push Hands it could be soft as cotton or hard like
steel. People who were thrown away often described it as like a bullet fired
from the barrel of a gun.
Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan has four steps involved
in developing internal power. Each step builds on the previous, though they
can be practiced separately. This information is known to very few people and
often only one or two methods would be transmitted. The techniques are guided
by Tai Chi philosophy. They involve motion and stillness, hard and soft, solo
exercise and partner training, following the common concepts of yin and
This step requires concentrating on both the physical and mental disciplines. It is
said that small movement is better than large movement and no movement is
better than small movement. This means that internal or mental movement which
one cannot see is better than external or physical movement which one can see.
This serves as the beginning of the practitioner's understanding of how
physical and mental coordinate to create a new awareness growing from the
person's inborn ability. This ability goes beyond muscles and tendons so that
all responses are automatic.
It is said that the intent directs the chi
flow and that physical movement is an expression of chi. This is why the Tai
Chi Chuan Classics state that intent and chi are primary, flesh and bones
secondary. Yang Cheng Fu also pointed out the importance of using intent and
not physical power in his Ten Principles of Tai Chi Chuan.
Creativity of the Solo Form
Tai Chi Chuan's Solo Form
How to Remember the Solo Form's Movements
In this step the practitioner concentrates on the connection and relationship
between mental creativity and physical movement. It is a common understanding
among Chinese martial artists that posture is the shell and motion is the
soul. External movement without intention is empty movement. Intention without
external movement is a meaningless thought. A true movement is that which
combines intention and external movement.
Lao Tzu pointed out that stiffness symbolizes death and flexibility
life. This explains the value of routine, or form, training. This is why
masters often said that the Tai Chi Chuan solo form contains everything. It is
a question of how much information is transmitted.
Also known as solo exercise. In this step concentration is on
refining and maximizing the connection between the physical and mental
disciplines. It is done by repeated exercise of isolated individual routine
movements. In this step the practitioner absorbs the movement's application
and practices the movement based on this application. The emphasis of this
exercise is on practice as reality and reality as practice. Fa Jing techniques
come from routine training with speed and mobility.
This step is the highest level of internal power development.
Push Hands exercise acts as a bridge between form and free sparring. The
emphasis is on how to generate power with coordination of physical and mental
disciplines. It is not the double-joint hands exercise with stationary step we
often see in Push Hands competitions today -- to distinguish this technique
our school calls it the Dynamic Push. The method involves two people with
their hands under pressure. From this physical and mental pressure one's
inborn ability is developed. By nature things always prefer to exist in a
balanced state. However if this balance is disrupted one will look for new
balance by releasing or absorbing power. Dynamic Push Hands exercise is based
on this concept and train the practitioner to master this mechanical
procedure. It is said that if one works on the same steel for a hundred times,
this steel will be so flexible it can be easily bent with the fingers. This is
the reason why members of the Yang Family were so powerful. Everyone knows
that under competitive pressure, the best of oneself comes out. There have
been many examples when someone demonstrated enormous power in a life
threatening situation. It is the most difficult step to master as it is a
function of inborn ability, the combination of physical and mental. It is a
unification of oneness.
Although Tai Chi Chuan is known as a health
discipline, over the years it became famous as the martial system of the Yang
Family. There were many stories of the power possessed by these people. Today
many assume that these stories are fairy tales. However, if one goes through
the training, one will understand and interpret them differently. After all,
one cannot fully understand until one gets there. Our students often reply,
when asked how they felt from Push Hands: "it is difficult to explain, you
have to experience it to know it".
Article by Vincent Chu