Solo Training: How to Build Iron Body & Internal Power without a Partner

One of the most common questions we get is:

“I don’t have a training partner, Can I build Internal Power?”

First, there are limitations to how much you can progress without a partner. Part of your regular training routine should be dedicated to finding additional training partners.

However, you should never let an absence of partners stop you from training.

Qigong exercises and forms are the two most common ways to train by yourself.

Unfortunately, far too many people simply perform the movements of their Tai Chi sets or their qigong and that simply isn’t enough.

The key to getting benefit from these types of practices is to know exactly what they are designed for, how they produce the benefits you’re looking for and be able to feel the energy flow or principle you are working on.

So, before you do a Tai Chi set you must first ask yourself which skill you are going to practice while you perform the set.

Is it alignment? Root? Peng? Silk Reeling? Iron Body?

Pick one and focus on just that skill. Make sure you are paying close enough attention that you can find and fix the errors you make during your set.

If you’re practicing Qigong it’s a little different. While the Tai Chi set can be used in many different ways for many different things, A Qigong exercise is usually designed as a very specific tool with a very specific goal.

So with Qigong exercises you must pick and choose which ones will be most beneficial to your goals.

The Qigong exercises in the Internal Iron Body DVD have been carefully selected to compliment each other and maximize your Internal Iron Body and power development.

These are all solo exercises you can train by yourself.

They are taught step by step so you’ll not just learn how to do them, you’ll learn the principles that make them work. So you can apply this understanding to all your Tai Chi.

Iron Body is NOT about getting hit

A lot of folks train Internal Iron Body so that they can take a hit.

This is wrong.

…and it’s missing the true purpose and value of Iron Body practices.

Don’t get me wrong, being able to take a powerful hit without injury is a great side effect.

But it’s not the purpose of training.

Remember, we have to assume the attackers are armed and can hit very hard. So not getting hit is still a top priority even with advanced Iron Body skills.

So, What’s the Point?

Internal Iron Body is about making your body stronger, more connected, healthier and more resilient from the inside out.

Your body is only as strong as the weakest link.

You can have the strongest arms in the world but if you pick up a large object incorrectly you’ll still throw your back out.

Internal Iron Body training is about making you healthy and vibrant and strong from the inside out.

…and filling in all those weak links.

It’s also about power.

When you hit someone, with almost any part of your body, you are now hitting with everything.

And when you issue (with fajing for example), you can issue much more power because your body has the integrity to do so without hurting yourself.

This is why all the internal arts contain iron body methods.

Learn these methods with our Internal Iron Body DVD that’s on sale until Thursday.

Hate mail from other Tai Chi teachers.

A little while ago I was cleaning out some of the old spam comments on our Tai Chi site and stumbled across this nice piece of criticism we received from an Internet Tai Chi Guru back in 2009.

This was right after we started talking very publicly about the Iron Body training in Tai Chi.

This letter is a great example of the more common myths and misconceptions about Iron Body training.

Sifu Clear,
Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang, whose family created tai chi, was asked one day if the Chen family practiced Iron Shirt. I was there. He replied, “Iron Shirt good for demonstration, not for fighting.”

If you read the book, American Shaolin, about the young American who studied for 2 years at the Shaolin Temple, you’ll find that the monks who do the miraculous feats of chi like breaking ice blocks with their heads or concrete with their hands are all crippled by the time they reach middle age. The guys who use their heads to break things have huge knots on their heads and talk in stutters.

You are leading students down the wrong path. Tai Chi depends on good body mechanics, not fantasy. You can’t fool physics, and the human body will be hurt by force. A silly slap on the chest with a forearm is far different from a blow from a motivated attacker.

If you or any of your students have attained real powers doing this, I encourage you to stand in front of an MMA fighter and let him hit you anywhere he wants — maybe the nose. Then let’s see how your chi dispersal myth protects you.

[Name removed to protect the misguided]

The most common misconception about Iron Body training is that there’s only one type.

The term Iron Shirt is most commonly associated with the external Iron Body methods used by Shaolin performers for demonstration. If that’s the type of Iron Body that Master Chen was referring to in his quote I absolutely agree with him.

..but the teacher who wrote this email seems to have missed that distinction. He goes on to describe examples of external iron body taken to horrible extremes.

I’ve met highly skilled Iron Body specialists who say that this is a mischaracterization and is not representative of external Iron Body done properly (much less internal Iron Body.)

After all, Tai Chi is an internal system and so by definition any Tai Chi Iron Body methods would have to be internal and not external.

Now this teacher goes on to say, “Tai Chi depends on good body mechanics, not fantasy.”

Well, one of the core body mechanics of Tai Chi that is emphasized quite heavily in Chen Style is Silk Reeling.

Silk Reeling is essentially a method for running spirals through the body. It’s no coincidence that this same spiralling as at the heart of many muscle tendon changing methods.

Many external/internal kung fu systems exploit this principle for its iron body effects by pushing it to extremes. It’s also a key component in the Kuntao Silat Iron Body method that we talked about a few days ago.

Tai Chi uses this principle in much more balanced ways. In Chen style it’s the most obvious. Yang and Wu style use it constantly, but it’s done very softly and subtly so that it’s typically invisible to the average person.

…but that’s just one principle and only one type of Iron.

As we discussed a few days ago, The Golden Bell method taught in the Tai Chi Iron Body DVDs is different altogether.

A massive part of Tai Chi education is understanding force and how to control it inside the body.

How to deliver a lot of power of course,

…but also how to take a serious hit and neutralize it, dissipate it or send it back to the person hitting you without taking any damage yourself.

I wouldn’t expect your run of the mill Tai Chi teacher to know this, but any of the prominent teachers out there should be able to rattle off a bunch of ways Tai Chi produces Internal Iron (and most can.)

In his last two paragraphs this guy falls victim to two very common misconception that are usually only present in folks who have not trained with many internal martial artists before.

That external stylists hit harder
That we don’t hit each other in training

We work with a lot of folks with many different backgrounds, internal and external.

There are plenty of external folks who hit hard, but the internal folks I’ve met are consistently more powerful. Their strikes penetrate much deeper and suck much more to receive.

How do I know this?

Because we do a whole lot of drills where you stand in front of someone and let them hit you wherever they want while you practice neutralizing, redirecting or dissipating the force of their strikes.

I understand why someone who’s only been to a couple bad Tai Chi schools — and looked no further — would have these misconceptions. But in today’s world a quick internet search will find a bunch of internal guys who train with contact and power.

…and of course anyone who’s taken the time to become a prominent teacher in the field will have met a bunch of folks who train this way over the years (and probably should have done a bunch of this themselves.)

Anyway, help us dispel these myths by practicing your Tai Chi Iron Body. Become an example of the results Tai Chi can deliver.

Internal Iron Body: The Safe And Healthy Tai Chi Method

Developing a powerful iron body to be able to take powerful hits and to also be able to deliver penetrating, bone crushing strikes is a high level skill of the true internal arts.

But it is well within your reach if you are willing to do the work.

The Tai Chi method for developing Iron Body is very safe and actually very healthy. It does not require that you conctantly beat on and damage you body. The methods are down internally creating an Iron Body of an exceptional and unique quality.

You are not required to learn any new postures, most of the traning is done from a standing position.

The most important thing is that you ahve to use your mind.

Without the proper ‘Mind Intent’ you will be unable to work your body internally.

Tai Chi’ Iron Body: A life Long Gift

Another important feature of Tai Chi’s Internal Iron Body is that once you understand the principles you can work on it throughout any move your body makes meaning you can work on it as you go about the business of moving through your everyday life.

This form on Iron Body will also stay with you for most of you life and you can continue to train and develop it well into your later years.

Internal Iron Shirt VS Golden Bell

A student recently asked me if this description of an internal iron shirt method was similar to Tai Chi Golden Bell methods on our Iron Body video.

“…a series of exercises that are designed to stretch and strengthen the body’s fascia. Your fascia will thicken and strengthen over time. To create a stronger body able to absorb more punishment.”

The answer is no.

The type of method above can build a beginning level of Internal Iron fairly quickly.

In fact this is the first type of Internal Iron we teach in Clear’s Silat curriculum for just this purpose. It strengthens the body and builds a quick (relatively) and powerful foundation from which students can progress to more advanced iron body methods.

However there’s a downside.

To build the iron it uses a lot of energy. In addition to your Iron Body training you’ll need to take good vitamins, eat well and do a lot of energy building qigong to balance it out. Typically this is for people under the age of 40.

This creates a cycle.

  1. Build energy with qigong & healthy lifestyle
  2. Use that energy to build iron
  3. Repeat

As you get older (sometime after 40 for most people) you’ll want to stop spending the energy you build and start saving it for it’s longevity benefits.

So you need to graduate to a cycle that looks like this:

  1. Build energy with qigong & healthy lifestyle.
  2. Store that energy
  3. Repeat

Tai Chi’s Golden Bell training works this way. The same practices that build your Internal Iron also build energy.

So instead of using up energy to build Iron, the iron comes as a side effect of your energy building work.

Health and Martial are unified in one practice.

That’s Tai Chi.

Energize your body and mind with our powerful Internal Iron Body training:

Our Tai Chi Iron Body DVD teaches this Golden Bell method in depth.

Here’s a few clips from that DVD:

Which type of Iron Body should you study?

If you’re only interested in Tai Chi then just study the Tai Chi Iron Body DVD.

However if you’re interested in both, then layer them the way we do in our Silat curriculum.

Use the Kuntao Silat Iron Body to build a foundation that will accelerate your progress with other iron body training later.

What live training can never give you…

I thought I was at a seminar with Sigung Clear…

Later we were discussing the training over dinner when I realized sigung Clear had been to a completely different seminar than me.

We were in the same room,
at the same time,
in front of the same teacher…

…But Sigung Clear saw very different things then I did.

Of course, that’s to be expected.

He has a whole lot more experience & knowledge than I do.

That was a couple years ago.

I often wonder, if [Read more…]

Internal Iron Body & Iron Palm Misconceptions

Due to recent inquiries I am compelled to write a post on Internal Iron Body & Iron Palm Misconceptions.

As we continue to write on real internal skills and gain more acceptance as an authority on Tai Chi, both the Internal healing aspects and the combat aspects, I am finding that we are drawing questions and criticisms from other American instructors that are very revealing about the unfortunate state of real Tai Chi in America.

This year will mark my 25th year as a teacher of Tai Chi and Internal arts. It will mark my 31st year as a practitioner of Tai Chi. I have been and always will be an avid student of the martial arts and particularly of the internal martial arts. I have had the fortune of studying from some very skilled high level teachers who have openly taught me.

Also, I have had to do extensive research and continue to do more research and put myself in front of senior teachers on a regular basis to keep my sword sharp and to broaden my horizons.

Test your skills to see what is real.

I am an avid believer in testing my skills to see what is real and what is good and what needs to be improved. I welcome the opportunity to interact with others. A few years ago I avidly began to look for other high level Internal Tai Chi teachers here in the states and what happened again and again was that I would contact someone who I thought had higher level skill just to find more often than not that I was the person who was the teacher when it came to internal skills. Let me state here that I have studied from and continue to study from excellent teachers as well and that I obviously have far to go but fortunately I am on the road to get there.

Due to the cultural history of senior teachers hiding information from their students research and practice is the only way that I have found to get to the bottom of the truths that point the way for advanced high level Tai Chi studies.

I have learned to be wary of teachers I don’t know and to watch what they do as much or more than just listen to what they say. Last year, on 3 separate occasions, I asked 3 different senior Tai Chi masters the same push hands question (that I already fully knew the answer to). I had already felt and perceived enough to know the answer that these 3 teachers have in their actual practice of the art. All three teachers lied to me and tried to point me in a direction that was obviously false. Since each time this happened was in a seminar / workshop format I did not make the teachers lose face but I also did not allow anyone else present in the room to push or move me and I used the real answer to the question to stop them. In each case the master was put in a dilemma to explain and on each occasion they simply stated that I was obviously an advanced practitioner and then moved on to another subject.

I find that unfortunately many so called internal arts teachers here in the USA are only familiar with external training methods. As a result they write articles claiming that Tai Chi Internal Iron Palm and Internal Iron Body methods do not exist or worse yet without any knowledge they dismiss the training methods as being inappropriate and unhealthy for internal practitioners and everyone else.

This misinformation is exacerbated by real high level Tai Chi instructors who want to keep the real Tai Chi secrets so badly that they will lie to their students about the internal skills while teaching them form after form. These American students who now know a lot of forms but not much else then represent themselves as the authority (as if they were the only one) here in North America and quote their teachers lies as the real info regarding internal skills.

I highly recommend that seekers look for themselves and read articles and watch videos and then ask questions of the teachers themselves to see who actually has it. Then, make arrangements to study some of the materials to see what you can learn.

Is your material internal?

Our material is internal. That really is the first question that should be asked. “Is your material internal?”. Ours is. Another question to ask is, “How do I know if it is internal?”. Internal simply means inside and the training is done inside the body. Generally speaking internal is very healthy for you long term.

Beating on your body etc is not internal because it is external beating. I am amazed at how many teachers represent this as internal iron body. The only reason for hitting an internal iron body practitioner is to test their ability or to demonstrate their ability and NOT TO BUILD their ability. Hitting to build iron body is external training.

Our Internal Iron Body and Iron Palm building is really Internal and healthy for you long term. Most External Iron Palm and Iron Body is not healthy for you long term. If a teacher sees a demo of us performing Internal Iron Body or Iron Palm on youtube and says that it is unhealthy for you or that Internal Iron Palm or Iron Body do not exist then what they are really saying is that they do not know real internal training or they are lying and trying to hide the truth.

Please read our post on Internal Iron Palm, Internal Iron Body, Nei Gung and other internal posts and you will find more answers regarding real internal training.

Thank you.

Tai Chi Internal Iron Body

The first thing to know is that there are several different kinds of Tai Chi Internal Iron Body.

All of the Tai Chi Internal Iron Body methods are relatively secret methods that are trained quite differently than external Iron Body methods.

What Makes It Internal?

For the most part, the most basic external Iron Body methods involve taking hits and building up the body to take more and more force due to conditioning the body through impact.

For this reason most external Iron Body methods are not desirable or good for long term practice and health as they tends to debilitate the body in old age.

Tai Chi Internal Iron Body on the other hand is trained through the correct practice and manipulation of energy.

So How Do You Do That?

There are a number of essential skills that are required in order to develop various Tai Chi Internal Iron Body methods. The ability to feel and manipulate energy is an essential requirement for this kind of training. This involves a deep understanding of Sung relaxing, Peng internal connection and rooting jings.

Also, being able to feel, understand and work with energy flow through various acupoints is essential to develop real internal Tai Chi Iron Body.

These acupoints include, among others, the Lao Gong in the palms, the Yong Quan (Bubbling Well) in the feet, the Hui Yin between the anus and genitals and the Bai Hui on top of the head.

The Body Quality You Get

Over time and correct practice in Tai Chi Internal Iron Body the body develops a skill that is known as Golden Bell Covered. Golden Bell Covered gives the practitioner the ability to withstand and, more importantly, disperse hits received.

A practitioner that has this skill develops the true steel wrapped in cotton quality that is such a famous part of the Tai Chi Classic writings. With this quality you can barely tap an attacker with your forearm and it feels to them like you are hitting them with a crow bar that is covered with a thin layer of cotton about the thickness of a sock.

The hits are fierce and penetrating.

Advanced practitioners can also take hits to their body and send the energy back into the attacker through the point of impact breaking the attacker’s wrist or elbow or dislocating the shoulder of the attacker.

Bone Marrow Washing: An Essential Component

Bone Marrow Washing is an essential skill that is required for good Tai Chi Internal Iron Body work.

Due to the secrecy that is so often found in the internal arts including Tai Chi and Chi Kung, I have found that there is a lot of confusion about what Bone Marrow Washing is and how to train it.

The practice is relatively simple to understand and it is taught in our beginning basic curriculum.

Without this training being done correctly it is impossible to do high level Tai Chi Internal Iron Body.

Heaven and Earth

The ability to work with heaven and earth energy separately and together is essential for high level Tai Chi Internal Iron Body.

When this practice is understood correctly it is much easier for the practitioner to manipulate the energy and the Tai Chi Internal Iron Body and Iron Palm are much easier to obtain.

Many people who practice and teach Tai Chi do not know about these methods or the training required to obtain them due to the secrecy surrounding the methods.

I also find that many people who have trained in Tai Chi for years do not understand the real Tai Chi basics enough to be able to learn these methods without relearning much of what they thought they knew about Tai Chi.

For more on this situation, check out my post on Internal Iron Palm & Iron Body Misconceptions

Tai Chi – Steel Wrapped in Cotton

Steel wrapped in cotton is a type of Tai Chi Iron Body.

The phrase “Steel wrapped in cotton” is common among people who are really studying Tai Chi in-depth and are interested in the combat Tai Chi.

Interestingly enough, if you go to find instruction in ‘steel wrapped in cotton’ most people either don’t teach it or don’t know it.

What It Feels Like

Here’s what “steel wrapped in cotton” means. Picture what it would feel like if you took a crowbar and wrapped around it a piece of cloth that is just little bit thick.

If you just tapped it with your hand, you would get the sensation that there’s metal under there. You wouldn’t want to get hit on the arm with it.

Even though the surface would be soft, that crowbar is going to break your arm.

It’s that kind of a quality. So when someone feels the surface, it feels like there’s just a thin layer of cotton wrapped around it so it’s soft, but as soon as that layer gets penetrated, they’re hitting an iron bar.

It’s part of what makes real Tai Chi just plain deadly. If you take a crowbar like that and smack somebody in the head at the speed and direction I just moved my hand at “BAM,” how many people could take that hit from a crowbar?

Or if an attacker hits me, he takes the force of the hit and it’s nothing to me on the receiving side.

The quality is actually through the whole body.

It is Tai Chi’s version of Iron Palm & Iron Body.

It makes it so you can withstand a pretty serious shot, and you only have to hit them once. If you graze them, maybe you have to hit them twice and that’s it because its got this crowbar quality to it that we’re talking about.

Whether you hit them with with your elbow, your palm or even your fingers.

Photo by Peter Gene