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Internal vs External in CMA

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    Internal vs External in CMA

    I've been told in the past that 'internal' arts are not about strength, but as far as I can tell IMA practitioners who actually do any fighting definitely do train to strengthen their bodies.

    I've been told that IMA are about relaxed power and body structure, but as far as I can tell all martial arts that do a good job of teaching how to hit hard teach you to relax (for speed) and to use your bodyweight intelligently (e.g. put your hips into it).

    Whilst Tai Chi (and probably other IMAs) have a slow form, people who want to use them to fight certainly don't do most of the other drills or sparring in slow motion.

    I've read that Tim Cartmell of Shenwu (a BJJ blackbelt who teaches a blend of chinese IMA for standup) considers BJJ to be an IMA. Perhaps boxing is an IMA too ? (All that training to weave, bob and slip rather than attempt to 'block' incoming blows, generating power through relaxed and coordinated bodymechanics rather than 'arm punching').

    So given that chinese IMAs, when used for fighting, seem to involve sparring and strength/stamina training as much as so-called 'external' arts used for fighting, what's the real difference between Internal and External types of CMA ?

    Is it that IMAs don't seem to go in for the 'Iron Body' type conditioning exercises which increase bone density which I've heard of other kung fu styles doing ? (I may be wrong about this, I'm a Tai Chi newb and may have just not seen it yet).

    Your thoughts appreciated.
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    #2
    It's a good question, and I have no idea how to describe what the difference is. I've read in several IMA books that external styles develope the muscles first and then develope the qi, while internal styles develope the qi first. (I use the word "qi" because those books do, before you start sidetracking this thread.) Or, the books also say that external styles work to develope a hard outer body, while internal styles stay soft.

    I think a good add-on question would be, is there such a thing as an external "soft" style, or are all "soft" styles considered internal? (the only soft style I can think of Aikido, and that is considered internal as far as I know)

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      #3
      In the martial Tai Chi I've done some training in, chi has not been discussed in class at all. We have done padwork, sparring, push hands, wrestling and fitness work.
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        #4
        I thought the classification was based on weidan vs. neidan, with each group having its own techniques and training based of the different focus of intent.


        But then I realized that I have no idea what that means.













        "Shaolin fist from external to internal."

        Whenever my old kung fu brother tries to convience me to train in the Xingyi / Baqua / Taijiquan mixture that he is doing, I simply tell him this. For me, once my body can no longer handle the training of weidan, I'll drop the bitch and make the switch.
        Last edited by Quikfeet509; 11/16/2005 10:29am, .

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          #5
          Originally posted by Cullion

          Is it that IMAs don't seem to go in for the 'Iron Body' type conditioning exercises which increase bone density which I've heard of other kung fu styles doing ? (I may be wrong about this, I'm a Tai Chi newb and may have just not seen it yet).

          Your thoughts appreciated.
          Actually, there are both internal and external "Iron Body" exercises.

          But your question about what is the difference between internal and external? Well, it's as different as yin and yang. How's that?
          “We are surrounded by warships and don’t have time to talk. Please pray for us.” — One Somali Pirate.

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            #6
            No Ma is 100% "external" just like no MA is 100% "internal".

            Fact is, those are just lables some people on the MA.

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              #7
              Originally posted by Mr_Mantis
              Actually, there are both internal and external "Iron Body" exercises.
              I've heard of this, and I thought perhaps the difference was that IMAs only do the 'internal' exercises, but maybe thats wrong.

              But your question about what is the difference between internal and external? Well, it's as different as yin and yang. How's that?
              No help I'm afraid.
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                #8
                Sun Lu Tang = Rorion Gracie of CMAs. This dude conveniently came up with the IMA/CMA distinction. Probably wasnt the first, but definitely one of the more famous CMA practitioners to do so. Not really sure of his rationale, but he was cranking out books so it might help to sell books and attract students. This was mentioned in Tim Cartmell/Dan Miller translation of Xing Yi Quan Xue: The Study of Form-Mind Boxing

                http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...books&n=507846

                For me, "internal" is more along the line of quality of the movements (structure, connection, whole-body power, etc).

                For example

                Ali = "internal" boxing.
                Tyson = more "external" when compares to Ali

                Ever seen those old Ali's KOs where the punches looked like they barely had any power?

                Here is an analogy that geeks can relate to. Alot of ppl claim that C++/Java/C#/<language-du-jour> is object-oriented. But I can spaghetti code all day long if I don't know what I am doing. Likewise, learning IMAs <> being able to do IMAs in an internal fashion.

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                  #9
                  The simplest way I can put it is that the difference is in the training. When doing something internal, there is an emphasis on breathing and relaxing the joints, those are the two key aspects IMO. When fighting actually starts, the strikes are external, because you are tightening up on impact.

                  As Ronin said, there are no purely internal or external ma. But there are pure internal or external exercises, as well as combination internal/external exercises.
                  “We are surrounded by warships and don’t have time to talk. Please pray for us.” — One Somali Pirate.

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                    #10
                    Originally posted by Mr_Mantis
                    As Ronin said, there are no purely internal or external ma. But there are pure internal or external exercises, as well as combination internal/external exercises.

                    This is true, example:
                    Sanchin is a external breathing exercise, or hard qiGong, it is about dynamic tension and hard breathing.
                    Tensho, though in some case is performed hard, shoudl be done in a relaxed manner, with NO muscular tension, to balance out the hardness of Sanchin.

                    Though, like I stated, most do Tensho as a hard kata for some reason.

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                      #11
                      Originally posted by Mr_Mantis
                      The simplest way I can put it is that the difference is in the training. When doing something internal, there is an emphasis on breathing and relaxing the joints, those are the two key aspects IMO. When fighting actually starts, the strikes are external, because you are tightening up on impact.

                      As Ronin said, there are no purely internal or external ma. But there are pure internal or external exercises, as well as combination internal/external exercises.
                      ding ding ding.....light flashing all over the place.....balloons and confetti dropping from the ceiling

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                        #12
                        Some of the lamest MA schools I have trained at have used the word "external" as a synonym to "not good enough". Paradoxically.

                        Like in: "He is OK, but..you know...external."

                        Like "special" in "special education".

                        I don't like to make the distinction. I think it is not helpful, nor useful, and it can easily lead to a categorical viewpoint, which is misleading.

                        Tomas
                        Current stage of death: denial

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                          #13
                          I'm not fond of the distinction either. As far as I'm concerned, the only thing relevant about internal vs. external comes down to the sequence/emphasis of the learning process. Anything worthwhile needs both. It's only a question of what comes first.

                          That being said, I heard an interesting anecdote last night that relates to this discussion: A concert pianist talked about how her first three weeks with a certain teacher were spent learning to relax her elbows and wrists and to simply flop her hands on a table. According to her, those three weeks went on to become the foundation for all her playing.

                          I think that this is a great example of an internal approach to teaching. It works wonderfully for some people, while others would get bored after a day and leave.

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                            #14
                            Originally posted by Repulsive Monkey
                            I'm not fond of the distinction either. As far as I'm concerned, the only thing relevant about internal vs. external comes down to the sequence/emphasis of the learning process. Anything worthwhile needs both. It's only a question of what comes first.

                            That being said, I heard an interesting anecdote last night that relates to this discussion: A concert pianist talked about how her first three weeks with a certain teacher were spent learning to relax her elbows and wrists and to simply flop her hands on a table. According to her, those three weeks went on to become the foundation for all her playing.

                            I think that this is a great example of an internal approach to teaching. It works wonderfully for some people, while others would get bored after a day and leave.

                            This brings us to another distinction:
                            Leangth of time to learn / apply .

                            In General, IMA take longer to learn and even longer to apply effectively

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                              #15
                              It seems to me to be an issue of soft/hard, fluid/explosive.

                              Internal arts seem to focus on the former initially, and try to make sure that their practitioners move with smooth fluidity. The drawback is that hard power may be lacking initially, so this must be developed over time.

                              External arts focus on abrupt explosion, which tends to make practitioners hard hitters who are used to dealing with power right out of the gates. But initially they may seem stiff and robotic. Over time, the edges of this hard movement will ideally smooth out so that combinations will flow more easily.

                              In my opinion a hard external system will prepare someone for a fight quicker. Knowing how to KTFO an opponent is probably the most important aspect of combat. Being able to deal with this type of power defensively is also vital. It seems to me that some internal stylists never seem to develop the explosion necessary to really hurt an opponent. Smooth flurries can be effective, but only if you have taken the time to actually learn to hit hard. Sometimes this just seems to get missed, and I'm not quite sure why.

                              Ideally a fighter should have attributes from both sides. They should be able to flow smoothly and explode decisively at any time, on both offense and defense.

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