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Monday, June 4, 2012

Qi: One Energy - Two Expressions (2 of 3)

Qi Magazine - September 2007
By Adrian Chan-Whyles, PhD

External Training
In Chinese medical thinking, any movement that has its origins of power generation on the outside of the bone, i.e. through the muscles, ligaments and tendons, is termed external in nature. This is important and the main way that human beings produce power from an early age.

It is as if we are genetically pre-programmed to produce power only from the musculature, even in our untrained state. External training then harnesses this power in a systematic manner. A practitioner will learn how to control their bodies via their musculature in a well co-ordinated and will timed series of martial exercises. The basic power for this expression is essentially forward or backward motion with an un-dropped bodyweight (i.e. when muscular tension is used to 'suspend' the body structure in a solid sheet, in one orientation, to protect against incoming blows). The 'weight' of the practitioner, (using the body joints as levers), propels the weight forward, through an arm or a leg, in a fast ripple-like fashion.

The hip and shoulder joints are used as a 'hinge' mechanism, as if one were slamming a door. As the muscles tire, so does the power output, and blows start to lose their effectiveness. This is why external styels emphasize muscular development through the practice of external Qigong, or in other words training the musculature to store Qi. This makes the musculature hard and robust when tensed for combat. This is called external 'iron vest' training (Hard Qigong), whereby the musculature acts as a barrier to the possible harmful effects of incoming, external blows.

External training prepares the mind and body for a journey toward transformation. Slowly, over time, the practitioner will develop an ever-increasing awareness of his/her mind and body. The older traditional styles usually have a clear external component, and a clear internal component. However, as the soft and gentle (i.e. Yin) cannot exist without the hard unyielding force (i.e. Yang), we must acknowledge that any style that conforms to ancient Chinese scientific thinking must fully embrace both aspects of the energy spectrum and training will reflect this.

Generally speaking, at the start of the journey, the human body is overly tense and hard. The external training harnesses this state. As the practitioner progresses, the musculature begins to relax. This process may be observed with the analysis of technique. Initially, if a punch was observed, the arm would be extended forward, with much thrusting force and in order to prevent injury, the muscles of the hand would be tensed throughout the entire process, to protect the fist structure from the re-coil of impact.

This tension would also exist in the arm and throughout the body. Any other observed technique would reveal the same dynamic of movement. As the practitioner progresses - tension recedes and more and more of the technique starts to be performed in a relaxed manner. This is the slow path toward the internal from the perspective of the external. Eventually, the practitioner is able to punch with a relaxed hand at the point of contact. How this happens can be understood by the clear investigation of what it means to produce internal force.