April 12, 2009

My Martial Journey To Nei-Gong

Posted in martial arts, science at 7:32 am by Jerry

blackbeltAfter about seven or eight years of practicing Karate and crossing arms (and legs) with other martial artists, I slowly developed a strong, nagging feeling that my skills were hardly at all the kind of skills I really wanted. I was always one to re-examine them. In the beginning, by teaching my younger brothers to perform them on me. And later on, I relied on my imagination to do the rest.

Eventually, I realized that re-examining which of the external (outward appearance) moves that seemed to be the most effective in a fight wasn’t addressing a deeper problem in my so-called martial skills.

While teaching my own concoction of a martial art to a number of students at the college and seminary I was attending, I became more interested in developing my balance rather than just holding on to it when I sparred with someone. I was attracted to the kind of martial effectiveness that was more than what I would call “hard tag power”. By ‘hard tag power’, I mean that I was basically using my fists and feet to make a focused slap. The hit could hurt my opponent beyond his skin but it didn’t have enough force to penetrate deep into his body, denying him the power to inflict pain on me.

My friend/roommate and I decided to buy the heaviest kicking bag we could find. I thought, “If it hurts when we hit it, our structure is wrong. If we can’t send it flying when we hit it, our power is lacking. If the time between strikes makes us feel vulnerable, we’re simply not fast enough. And if we teeter over just slightly to any direction while doing our moves in slow-motion, we’re not balanced enough.” These were the kinds of ‘lessons’ I taught my students. They were somewhat effective, but it was less of a training strategy of Dos and more a training strategy of Don’ts.

taijidubaguaAfter about five years at the college and seminary, seeking for more in my martial art journey (the last two of them teaching martial arts), I left the seminary and my martial training with it. I had become disillusioned with many things in my life at that time, including martial arts. But after seven years of little to no exercise, I was forced to begin searching again because I was unable to feel passionate about any exercise unless it was of the martial kind.

I didn’t have high expectations. I just knew that I wanted to practice something that was aesthetically appealing and felt more like a dance. It wasn’t anything modern that I was looking for. “Some sort of traditional Kung-fu” was what I had in mind. “Something circular” because not only did circular martial movements seem more aesthetically appealing to me, but I also intuited that circular movements would provide me with the feeling of being powerful and fast.

martialartpictureAfter a couple of failures the yellow pages presented me with, I found a class that taught “Baguazhang”. I had no idea what I was in for. I remembered looking through a list of martial arts in a book years ago, and finding myself attracted to Baguazhang by its description (any linear movements are a result of circular movement), but I didn’t pursue the art because I was pretty sure it was unavailable to me where I lived at that time (south of Winnipeg). And this time, knowing a little bit about such things as “Tai Chi” (Taijichuan), I realized Baguazhang was ‘one of the three internal arts‘.

From the reading I’ve done on the subject of Nei-Gong (internally trained skill), I’ve discovered there are many different opinions about what exactly it means to train ‘internally’ in the martial arts. For now, I’ll give you my simplistic introduction to it.

To me, it’s an emphasis on developing potential energy (the elastic/coiling and gravitational kind for a downward force, and the strictly elastic/coiling kind for an upward force). And it’s very important that your potential energy must be developed while avoiding any subtle loss of one’s balance, whether the surface you’re pushing or hitting is there or not.

Any loss of balance is a loss of power you had stored for your martial task. And that lost power is actually being transferred to the off-balanced parts of your body that need to be held up. So, in a sense, you’ve let gravity pull away parts of your body, parts of your strength from being used on your human opponents. The way I see it, this is a direct violation of the internal art. The internal arts emphasize whole-body power, meaning, all of one’s energy is being used simultaneously for one act of force.

In the martial classics, you’ll find the directive to seek stillness in movement, and movement in stillness. Although the martial scholars of that time didn’t have empirical science in mind when they wrote that directive, I think potential energy in a balanced body may explain the physical feelings they had in mind.

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