What are Internal Tai Chi Skills?

What are Internal Tai Chi Skills? Internal Tai Chi Skills are what is going on inside the practitioner of Tai Chi and are the real essence of the art.

As stated in a previous post a practitioner will need to learn and practice a form / set. However, the form / set is not the essence of Tai Chi but is instead the shell that is used to practice real Tai Chi.

I like to think of it as the body of a racing car. A racing car needs a body and ideally the car body will be aerodynamic and streamlined. But, if I have a terrific sports racing car body and the cheapest push lawnmower engine and internal parts I can find then I am still driving a glorified lawnmower and not a real sports car.

Many folks learn a Tai Chi form or set and often eventually teach that form or set thinking that they now have and teach Tai Chi. If the set was everything they would be correct. However, the form / set is only the common first beginning step in Tai Chi and not enough for anyone to be considered a Tai Chi instructor.

There are many other essential components to Tai Chi. This includes but is not limited to applications, push hands, sparring, cultivation of chi, chi kung / qi gong, energetics for health and self defense, mind intention development and internal Tai Chi skills. Without these other skills the Tai Chi may look good but there is no or very little real Tai Chi happening.

So, what are internal Tai Chi skills?

First, is the proper development of Sung relaxation (much more about the relaxation inside than out) and posture which includes connection. Relaxation and connection can easily be tested. Simple pushing against the arms of the practitioner are one of the easiest and best tests for this. If the practitioner is tense they will not be able to withstand a proper push without getting moved. Also, if there is no internal alignment or there are postural or large internal gaps and holes then the structure will easily fail and the practitioner will once again easily be moved.

Second, is the breath deep, full and complete? If it is not, then tension will enter due to lack of breath and again the structure will fail or / and the practitioner will easily be moved. Also, the energy pathways should be through the entire body ideally through the feet and down into the ground. This is considered by many to be advanced material but I have found that it is only considered advanced because so few people actually know it. It is my goal to help to change this so that many more people can begin to get the real benefits that are available from the study of Tai Chi.

The items I have mentioned so far are basic and should be taught within the first few months of any authentic Tai Chi program. The next items that I am writing about here are also internal Tai Chi skills that can normally be taught quite early in the study of Tai Chi and will really help beginners to see the internal aspects of Tai Chi.

First of all sensitivity. Learning to feel both inside and out is a hallmark of real Tai Chi study. You must be able to feel inside your body to really deeply relax and breathe into any specific area. How can you relax and breathe fully into an area that you can not feel? The answer of course is that you cannot. Sensitivity is one of the most important skills that you can develop as it makes it possible for you to really and deeply develop the other skills. Listening or Sensitivity skill in Tai Chi is referred to as Ting Jing.

Tai Chi Internal Skills includes Jing training. Jing refers to the manipulation of Chi as directed by the mind intent. Basic Jings are Peng, Lu, Ji and Ahn. These 4 basic jings are postural jings that can be used in combination with energetics in more advanced practice but in their basic form Peng / Ward Off, Lu / Roll Back, Ji / Press and Ahn / Push are structural alignments and movements that teach aspects of the application of physical structure along with being a gateway into internal practice. Some basic jings that are more energetic in nature include rooting (chen jing) which involves dropping your body weight down into the ground and jan nien jing which is sticking and adhering energy.

We will be writing more about Tai Chi internal skills and jings in future posts and as always welcome any questions and comments.


Nei Jia – 7 Criteria of the Internal Martial Arts

Nei Jia (Internal arts) are generally considered to be different than external arts. In this post I would like to suggest some of the reasons for how and why.

When Tai Chi masters are grading a Tai Chi practitioner’s set the first thing they look at is what can be physically seen. This includes such things as is the form / set correct and how is the posture and flow between postures and how / what is the expression of the individuals Tai Chi.

When this is correct and it is obvious that the practitioner is not a beginner then the very next thing that is evaluated and looked at are the internal aspects usually stated as “are they internal”. To someone who has not heard this before it obviously begs the question, “what is internal?”.

I have heard many different explanations of what makes an internal art. These range from as simple as external arts (wai jia) referring to arts that came from the outside of China and nei jia originating inside of China to how the external arts are about physical force and the internal arts are secret mystical mumbo jumbo.

After many years of study, practice and research as well as hundreds of conversations with senior masters about this topic I have come to my own conclusions regarding the topic.

Internal refers to what is going on inside the person.

Following is a partial list of the criteria that is used to determine and evaluate internal.

  1. What is the mind state of the practitioner?
  2. How is the practitioner breathing?
  3. How relaxed is the practitioner?
  4. Is the root sunk and the head floating?
  5. What is the movement inside of the practitioner?
  6. What is the sensitivity of the practitioner to the inside of their body?
  7. How are the internal connections of the practitioner? This includes such things as:
    • Internal Connection pathways through the body. Ideally this is an unbroken flow of the line of force from the foot through the expression point which changes constantly but is intelligent and directed.
    • Is the body movement and action one piece or a collection of parts?
    • Is the upper and lower body connected and coordinated?

Hopefully this list will help to stimulate conversation and questions and be a good beginning point for anyone seeking to understand the internal. This list is not comprehensive and I will be adding more posts regarding the internal in the near future.

One more item for thought. An external art may have some internal aspects to it but will tend to focus on fighting and strategy and external drills etc with very little or no focus on the internal.

Internal arts tend to do only the amount of external movement necessary to have a vehicle to practice the internal and are looking to really enhance and improve the internal aspects of practice which will then improve and enhance the rest of the art including the external trappings of the art(s).

Nei Gung Benefits

In Tai Chi Nei Gung the Wu Chi physical and energetic alignments begin the energetic process by allowing the electrical energy to build and flow.  This causes the Micro Cosmic Orbit and the Macro Cosmic Orbit to turn on without the practitioner having to individually focus on them by themselves.  Physical and energetic blockages can impede the flow of energy around the body.  Performed properly with understanding The Tai Chi physical moves can really remove or help to remove the blockages and they can also help the practitioner to get the feel of the energy so that the movement of energy can be influenced, enhanced and directed by the practitioners mind.

Moving properly with Tai Chi Nei Gung will over time make it so that if you touch someone with intent to do it the Fa Jing will express and either send them flying or it will go inside and affect them according to your intention.  One of the more common effects being that the energy goes into them and affects an area causing the recipient to seize up and double over.

Tai Chi Nei Gung practice includes a lot of other high level abilities and benefits both for health and healing as well as for self defense.  A lot of the benefits are not something that have to be focused on to obtain and can often be surprising to the practitioner because it seems no effort was put into acquiring the skill.  The primary most important developments are the amazing level of youthful strength and health and the ability to build, manipulate, feel and move energy.

However here is a major warning about Tai Chi Nei Gung or any Nei Gung practice. The personal character and morality of the practitioner must be strong and well grounded.  Weak minded individuals usually cannot get very far with the training to begin with.  But, those for whom personal power over others is the end all be all of training usually end up with mental issues (some would say they had mental issues to start with) when practicing Nei Gung even Tai Chi Nei Gung if personal power over others is the only goal.  Fighting and self protection are an aspect of this but helping and healing the self and others is more or at least equally important and certainly much more useful to most people living in modern society today.

Empty Force

The Empty Force is a higher level of Tai Chi Nei Gung expression. Although I have seen and exhibited Empty Force energy at a very high level it is relatively rare in the West. Due to the controversial nature of Empty Force most teachers who know or are familiar with Empty Force don’t even like talking about it.

The Empty Force has been a point of public controversy and contention in Tai Chi and Chi Kung due to the nature of it, by which I mean it is this invisible energy that does things to people (in public demonstrations usually moving people or even sending them flying) that is unexplainable and seemingly impossible. It is not my desire or intention to get into a debate or argument with anyone about this and I usually avoid this subject unless directly asked because I do not wish to be in any argument let alone an argument about the Empty Force which I liken to arguing with a primitive person who lives in a cave about if the earth is flat vs round. When you try to show the primitive pictures of the earth they don’t believe you because the big blue marble in the picture does not in any way reflect their experience of earth. So, you end up wasting your time and really annoying the primitive.

The main thing I will say here about performing the Empty Force against a skeptic is that everyone has some ability to do it within them even if they are not able to exhibit it and that, very similar to a contest of wills, if I am pushing against someone with a weak will they do still have a will and can say no to my yes for at least awhile.

Tai Chi Nei Gung Empty Force Jing expression can be applied in a variety of ways. It can be used, as in the public demonstrations, to move someone but it can also be used to heal others and for self defense use it can be directed to go inside of someone causing a variety of effects including but not limited to fairly immediate naseua and dizziness.

Nei Gung Skills

The basic Tai Chi Nei Gung Skills include but are not limited to:

  • Wu Chi
  • The Micro Cosmic Orbit
  • The Macro Cosmic Orbit
  • Bone Marrow Washing
  • 3 Dan Tiens Linear
  • Golden Bell Covered Iron Body
  • String of Pearls internal unification and manipulation of energy
  • Fa Jing internal transfer of force without external physical movement
  • Empty Force manipulation of energy

Tai Chi Nei Kung

Most high level Tai Chi Nei Kung can be practiced either stationary or while you are performing your Tai Chi set.  In other words, you do not have to practice Tai Chi and then practice nei kung seperately.  It should all happen at the same time.  Once you really have the internal feel and understanding of the energetics you can even practice Tai Chi Nei Kung while you are simply walking or whenever you happen to think about it.  After you have practiced properly for a period of time (months/years) then your training will progress to a level where as soon as you think about the energy flow or manipulation then the energy will turn on and start flowing.

To practice Tai Chi nei kung first study the basic moves and applications of Tai Chi.  Then, study the various nei kung skills and methods.  After real understanding of both the Tai Chi and the nei kung work including energy manipulation and breathing is accomplished then you can practice your Tai Chi with the correct movement, alignment and flow in a manner so that practice and benefits of Tai Chi Nei Kung all happen at the same time.

Nei Kung Training

If a skilled opponent can see and understand my alignments, my weight distribution or the energetics I’m using then they can use that against me. In this article I have given some examples of what can be accomplished with proper nei kung training so that you can get an idea of what is actually involved. In nei kung energy manipulation training you will start big and with physical motion to help the training but then you will work on making the manipulation happen with less and less physical movement until the manipulations and movements are only happening inside the body without any unnecessary physical movement. Of course, then, the more advanced way is for both the nei kung Golden Bell covered and jing(s) to be working to protect your body while you are engaged in whatever physical movement you need or desire (for instance to depart from the immediate area or attack if unavoidable).

One aspect of nei kung internal work is that I want to be able to use an opponents power against them and understand force and power enough to be able to put energy inside them or remove energy from them and also on the healing side to have enough understanding of Chi / Qi energy that I can put healing energy in them or remove negative energy from them. Advanced nei kung training teaches how to manipulate the Chi / Qi energy like this. First you must be able to manipulate energy inside of yourself then you can manipulate it inside of others. Not the other way around.

Understanding internal force, power and energetics has amazing health benefits and the longer term benefits of proper nei kung practice are quite impressive. On the other hand improper nei kung practice can be quite devastating so it is very important to have a very qualified teacher for this kind of training.

We have a nei kung video that is part of our Tai Chi Basic Instructor video package and it is simply based on how to internalize the movement and feel and build the internal connection to the movement which is one powerful part of the beginning nei kung training. Taking the time to do this properly and thoroughly will develop your ability to feel other internal connections essential to high level nei kung training. The information on the nei kung video is safe and when properly worked will make it easy to progress to the next stage of nei kung training.

NeiGung & Internal Iron Body

neigung-internal-iron-bodySee the Nei Gung post for the first part in this series on Neigung

Neigung has many amazing self defense benefits. Iron Body training exists in both internal and external Chinese training methods.  Of course the methods are quite different from one another.  Iron shirt usually refers to an external kind of Iron Body created from specific conditioning of the muscles within the body and is generally not the kind of iron body that results from neigung training. Neigung develops an internal type of Iron Body known as Golden Bell Covered.  Fortunately, I have trained extensively in both types of training and so I am well equipped to compare and contrast the two different methods.

Iron Shirt protects you from blows but it generally will not help you to generate energy jing type strikes with your body and the entire body must be worked through various different  postures held over a long period of time in order for the entire body to be covered with Iron as opposed to just having Iron Shirt or vest which just covers your torso but not your arms and legs.  Golden Bell Covered neigung is specific energetic training that is about your internal development from head to toe.  Golden Bell Covered neigung protects you from head to toe and the training will help you to generate strikes that originate from your body as well.  This can be an important skill against multiple attackers or a surprise attack.

One aspect of this kind of neigung internal iron body but which can also be used for quite a few other purposes including Distant Energy Healing (energy healing of others from a distance) is called The 3 Powers of Heaven Earth and Man.  The 3 powers connections are each trained separately and then they are trained altogether at the same time.  When you can immediately activate and utilize all aspects of the 3 powers connection with your mind as soon as you think to do it then you will have the proper energetic connection to do quite a few of the more advanced Tai Chi skills including generating jing strikes with your body against someone striking or shoving you.  The effect of a fa jing strike with your body  is that the striker literally gets thrown off of your body.  You will still have to train the jing skills but without the neigung the jing skills are not even possible.

Please do not confuse the 3 Powers of neigung training with the 3 Treasures of internal martial arts.  The 3 Treasures are Chi / Qi, Mind Intent Shen or Yi, and Jing.  In order to do the 3 Powers training you use your mind intent and proper body alignment to make the appropriate connections and then allow the body to fill with Chi / Qi on the inside and on the outside or surface of the body.  The inside filling, connecting and then working of the Chi / Qi is all neigung.  Once you have the 3 Powers and the ability to move the Chi / Qi energy inside your body with other aspects of the neigung training then you can manipulate and express the Chi / Qi energy as jing or form the energy into various different jing expressions so that your body takes on different energetic qualities as you desire.  This is still within the parameters of neigung or internal work training.

to be continued…

Nei gung

nei-gungNei gung literally translates as internal work. Most people involved in the martial arts have heard of Chi Kung / Qi Gong which translates as Energy work but most people are not familiar with nei gung or they may have heard of nei gung but do not have any idea what it means. The 3 major internal arts Tai Chi, Ba Gua / Pa Kua and Hsing-I are collectively known as Nei Jia which simply translates as Internal Arts. All 3 arts include both Chi Kung / Qi Gong and nei gung.

Part of nei gung is learning to really relax inside and out. Relaxation is a major part of learning to manipulate the distribution of weight within your own body. This movement is nei gung or internal work and becomes more sophisticated and profound as you deepen and continue your practice of nei gung.

In nei gung training you also learn to manipulate the breath deep inside your body. Nei gung breath control starts out fairly simply and then the breath is trained through stages until the breathing and breath manipulation are very advanced. In the Chinese Chi Kung / Qi Gong and nei gung literature and practices there are quite a few different breathing methods. Basic nei gung breathing methods include natural and reverse breathing. One of the higher level nei gung breathing methods is known as whole body breathing. Advanced whole body breathing involves nei gung internal energy manipulation such that you can breathe into every and any cell in the body at will.

Bone Marrow Washing is an advanced nei gung breathing, visualization and energetic practice. Where you can reach and feel with your mind and the energy you can influence and affect. Bone Marrow Washing nei gung teaches you to feel inside the bone marrow in the body and cause it to interact in an extremely healthy way with the rest of the body. There is a very safe and reasonably simple Bone Marrow Washing nei gung exercise presented in the book CHI ENERGY: Activation, Cultivation and Flow which is also included with the Basic Tai Chi skills instructor package.

Neigung involves building and learning to manipulate your internal body mechanics so that you learn how to feel, circulate and build Chi / Qi inside your body with your mind. In the beginning to practice nei gung you need very good alignment and structure but eventually you can perform nei gung from almost any position as long as you can relax and internally move.

Nei gung has many health benefits including the ability to get rid of head aches, lower your blood pressure and even affect your internal organs. Excess tension can cause headaches, it can raise blood pressure and even cause heart attacks. Nei Gung practices reduce the risk of all these problems by teaching you how to control the tension deep inside your body and use it only when, where and how you need to.