Recognizing the “internal” in Internal Martial Arts

Master Yun Yen Sin
Master Yun Yen Sin

Even though tai chi is an “internal” martial art many people don’t yet grasp the “internal.” The only way to truly know it is to experience it firsthand through practice. It’s a mind-body-energy synthesis that energizes you everywhere. Something to get excited about.

You can witness internal energy moving in someone even though you don’t do it yourself yet. I remember once being moved by energy from a distance when I first saw Yun Yen Sin perform his Liu He Ba Fa form in Shanghai during George Xu’s 2004 China Camp demonstration day. Many people performed that day and we all saw some impressive demonstrations of various styles and skills from several accomplished martial artists. But Master Yun did something that the others didn’t.

The many people who had crowded into the room for the performances were very chatty during the demos. Often, in China people talk loudly during various kinds of performances. Once I heard a Chinese opera singer drowned out by people in the audience. But when Master Yun did his form the room fell silent and all eyes were upon him. His internal quiet filled the air from floor to ceiling as he expanded his chi and yi intention outward to all corners. It was really impressive and memorable.

I was videotaping and both Susan Matthews and I have filmed him in workshops. You can see a clips of him on Sifu Matthews’ site. Happily, I believe our videos have helped Master Yun to become known around the world. Students from Europe and the US visit him in Shanghai to train with him for extended periods. He has come to the US twice that I know of, sponsored by Master Xu.

I saw true internal energy that day and have many times since. And I feel it in myself now as well. Although mysterious, the internal part of internal martial arts that attracts so many of us to practice is not so elusive as it may seem at first, because it is a natural part of us. Learning to recognize it and its flowing movement within us, and beyond, is definitely achievable rather quickly with focus and a good teacher, but directing it with purpose is where regular practice is necessary.

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