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More similarities than differences
By Sifu Dutch Jenkins
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Let's make something very clear right here, right now! Any TRUE "Kung Fu" style of martial arts should have equal amounts of "internal" and "external" components. It's how these two terms are being used today that confuses people.
The concept of Yin and Yang teaches exactly that...there are two sides to a coin, one side without the other makes the coin worthless. Light/Dark, Man/Woman, Soft/Hard, etc. represent two opposites that, like the coin, do not exist without the other.
What is Internal, and what is External?
The common misconceptions are...External - the brutal fighting styles that only concentrate on physical power, and Internal - the "Chi" and breathin concentrated soft styles! These are not accurate discriptions of either of them.
Let's take the typical punch of any style of martial art. If you punch with no consideration for what you're doing, or where you are hitting...this is external. A strictly physical, muscle driven punch. But there is no style of kung fu that simply punches this way! The moment you concentrate on what you are doing, what you are hitting, and breath appropriately to the type of movement, you have now added "internal" to the punch. Internal is simply the part of the punch you DO NOT SEE with your eyes. External is the part you DO SEE with your eyes. External is the Muscles, Tendons, Ligaments and Contact of the punch! Internal is the breathing, energy, focus, intent and spirit of the punch! Put them both together and you'll knock the crap out of someone...without either part, you'll just make the other guy mad! :-)
Internal Styles: Let's take Tai Chi (only because most people know what Tai Chi is) for an example. The punch or palm strike of Tai Chi...we already know that Tai Chi concentrates on the "internal" part of the punch; breathing, balance, focus, intent, etc. But what about the "external" part of the punch? See if they didn't have an external part to their art, they would never lay a hand on anyone...then it wouldn't be a martial art would it. See, in order for them to put all that Chi into a punch, they have to make contact with their opponent...and that's the External part of it! When they make contact with their opponent, for a fraction of a second, they must contract all the muscles that are moving the body and the arm in that punch, in order to transfer the energy of the punch from them to their opponent without injuring themselves. EQUAL amounts of internal and external....SAME as "external" styles!
So, the only real difference between "internal" and "external" martial arts, are the way in which they approach the training. A punch is a punch, a kick is a kick...the difference is how the styles teach those punches or kicks. Internal styles tend to train movements slower with more initial concentration on the breathing, postures, energy. Where External styles tend to train movements faster with more initial concentration on breathing, speed, strength, posture. This is just a generalization of how each trains at the beginning. Each deals with all aspects of the punch...just one is practiced slower than the other most of the time...that's it. There is NO "SUPERIORITY" between internal and external styles. The superiority can only come in the student of either style. I personally know a few Masters from both the Internal and External sides of the fence, and not once have I ever heard any of them express that one is greater than the other. As my Sifu once said...everything in life must be in balance!Choy Lee Fut (our system) has it's own "internal" component to the style. Like I said above, a true Kung Fu style has both. Our "internal" component comprises multiple Forms (including our own Tai Chi form...similar to Chen Style Tai Chi), breathing exercises, walking exercises, standing exercises, stick exercises, etc. It's a whole system itself within the Choy Lee Fut system as a whole, and learned and used primarily for medical purposes...but there are some martial components and forms also! As a matter of fact, we know of a Tai Chi Master who is currently learning the Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu system!