Friday, October 15, 2010

Evolution of Internal Energy in Tai Chi (part 2)

AhWong said:

in my opinion, as time goes by, many of us have seemed to lose the true understanding of "internal" martial art. What could be worse is that branding of some soft / internal martial arts as ways that could lead to better health - but such training methods may not necessarily be in accordance with traditional chinese medicine theory. 
As an ex-practitioner of a variant style of a mainstream Japanese "internal" art (taught officially to the tokyo riot police), i know full well the frustrations of trying to know what internal really means. Perhaps I was a slow learner, but after 10 years hitting the mat getting thrown like a rag-doll, there's that sinking feeling that i still know nothing at all despite striving hard to achieve good technique. Alas, "li bu di fa, fa bu di gong" (strength does not overcome technique, technique does not overcome power). correct me if i am wrong, but i do think the "power" in martial art context should mean internal energy. And i do believe that classical taichi can serve as one of the methods to attain the elusive internal energy all martial artists strive for (unless these people are satisfied up to achieving perfect technique).
Note: I've given up the art i studied for 10 years upon advice of a TCM doctor that i've messed up all my meridians at the back body from all those breakfalls over the years. And who would i rather believe when it comes to life and death or internal and external health? A TCM doctor who has 30 years experience or a martial art teacher who brands the art as internal art that could supposedly improve "real" health"? 

Dear AhWong,

As I said in the first installment, the martial artists who devised the methodology for gaining internal energy did not have the wherewithal to objectively test and measure it.  

We have already established that we must defer to science when talking about internal energy, other than that it is ethereal or wishful thinking. If I do not practice however, I will not feel the energy and the same goes for you.   As I said, even if I told  they need to study it, they would undoubtedly defer to the lowest common denominator:  "Why can't I just take a pill for my health or carry that nickel plated 9 mm pistol for self defense"?

I was a medical technologist by profession before I went to work for Customs and Border Protection.  Even with that science background, I've got a whole lot of ground to cover in understanding Internal Energy.  So I can only offer my take on the individual facets, I have not finished traveling on the road myself.

 In regard to TCM, Meridians and Internal Energy, I stick to what my teacher tells me because those discussions are really out of my league:

  • It is therefore quite reasonable to think that Young Laoshi  would have told his student of 30+ years (Hwa Laoshi) to concern himself as well if Meridians and TCM played such a major role rather than just Tai Chi principles in the learning of internal discipline. I have no evidence that he did so.

In our discourse on the evolution of internal energy however: Consider the fact in the video Tao of Martial Applications Master Hwa could probably not wrap his arms around me and lift me off the ground.  However, the video evidence shows that he can knock me off balance with no visible use of force.  In other words, he did not line up like a football player and use brute strength to move me.  I think I can say with some assurance that his ability to use a type of force to lift me has likely diminished as he has grown older but his internal energy has either stayed the same or improved with age.

If he were to lift me he would have to use a relatively linear or straight line of force, lift from point A to point B, from ground to up in the air.  When he uses "fajing" in punching a student through a pad he is using a curved, or circular, or even wave of energy if you will.  I mentioned to him that he was not lined up like the martial arts portrayed on the covers of magazines, his feet are not even separated.  He responded, "I did not even think about it".  I thought he meant, he  was not aware of how he was standing.

 After thinking about this for awhile, I realized he was very aware.  I had an inkling however that there was a way that he could do the punch from such small stature and that was if the punch moved in a curve, with the energy rising.  That is, the energy curving up, even though his fist seems to travel in a straight line to an observer.  I know a good way to find these things out is not to act completely ignorant but to offer some solution myself, it shows that one is at least trying to find the answer themselves. Later on, he confirmed this fact to me in private conversation.  The nature of that "peng" or punch there was of a rising nature. 

We hear of the formula F=M x A, in the use of force.  Well, it seems if Master Hwa were using anything other than Internal Energy, he would have had to draw back his fist to gain "A" (acceleration) would he not?  The other thing to consider if he did draw back and then punch, what if I moved?  In that case he would miss and then be subject to the pitfalls of momentum could he change in light of that?  

Where did this internal energy and training of internal discipline arise in the annals of Tai Chi?  How did those early Yang masters devise it from the art they learned from the Chens?  As we said, we know that Yang Lu Chan's Compact Form resembles Wu Chien Chuan's Compact Form rather than anything from the Chens.  I think further attempts to glimpse into History can give some more insight in subsequent parts to this discussion.

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