Internals: Prologue and Disclaimer

For the past year and a half or so, I’ve been working on “internal” training, the esoteric–and often flaky edge–of martial arts. An accident had left me unable to train “hard,” so I started to experiment with ways to train “soft.” But, rather than merely compensating for weakness I found strength I never knew I had.

As I continue to explore internals, I want to start writing about what I have been finding. I feel that there has been very, very little accessible and concrete information published: older texts are impenetrable to the uninitiated while most modern writings are vague and full of magical thinking. Of what there is, I have seen nothing–absolutely nothing–that approaches internals the way I do.

To be clear, I am not an expert. I am a journeyman martial artist from an obscure school in a garage. I’ve been doing Asian martial arts for 17 years or so, but I have not received any explicit training in internals, except two seminars with Dan Harden (these have been invaluable; I would be groping in the dark without them, but they were only an introduction). I have also come to realize that our style contains a large amount of implicit internal training in our drills (see Training via Osmosis). But in the end, building on a foundation of training and ideas, I am figuring this all out for myself.

In short, I am nobody.

The funny thing is, that there is a tremendous freedom in being nobody. I have no face to lose and I can contradict myself as my ideas change. I can be wrong without harming guru-seeking followers. And I guarantee that I will be wrong about a lot of things. I only hope that when I publish them, somebody will tell me why I am wrong.

Nonetheless, and despite the disclaimers, I have felt something real and powerful. I have dropped everything to follow that feeling and let it lead my training. My practice had felt stagnant for years, but now when I can get things to flow right, I have aiki at a level I never thought I could reach. These moments are fleeting, and the techniques I can do are limited, but I know that this path leads somewhere extraordinary.

Longhu Hall in Zixaiao Gong, the largest temple on Wudang Shan (a.k.a. Wu-Tang Mountain). The Taoist monasteries of Wudang Shan are traditionally held to be the source of all internal martial arts.

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