There has been some question regarding the benefits in martial arts dealing with internal and external training, What are they? How are they important? Which of the two is better? Can you use both? It’s enough to drive the person looking for the right system to train in crazy. Here, we will cover each of these questions and give you our findings in a – hopefully – easy to understand way.
External Martial Arts
Perform a kick, throw a punch or use an elbow or head-butt and you are using external martial arts. There is, however, a LOT more to it than that. External martial arts includes positioning, distance, timing, speed, power and many other concepts. In short, it is what you do with your body in a martial context.
Additionally, physics, kinetic linking, structure and technique play huge roles in external martial arts. It is the “what to do” and the “how to do” it of the martial world. One might even say the external principles are the foundation of being able to perform martial arts. With them – some would say – it martial arts would be just a fancy dance with no practicality.
Many martial arts – such as karate, certain styles of kung fu, “mixed martial arts”, judo, jujitsu and others – focus on the efficiency of movement, the power generated by each movement and how to blend the techniques together to create a devastating martial art or self defense system.
All of these things are good, but they are not the whole story.
Internal Martial Arts
Mysticism, Chi, meditation and – maybe – even Tai Chi or Qi Gong is what a lot of people think when the term “Internal” is associated with martial arts. Except the “mysticism” part, they would not be wrong. There is nothing mystical about internal martial arts.
Internal martial arts is primarily a mindset used when confronted with a conflict situation. It is also a method used to link our breathing with our movement to create relaxation throughout the body and generate EXTREME amounts of power with as little effort as possible.
Training internally lets you have control over your emotions, clearly evaluate your surroundings and maintain the harmonious link between mind, body and spirit.
Internal martial arts also promote good health in the body’s organs, keeps a person limber and improves balance while moving.
Is Internal or External Martial Arts Better?
This is a controversial question that abounds in the martial community. Some think knowing the structure of the body, how to move it around in a combat situation and how to blend attacks to create an effective physical flow is enough. They believe the more they practice forms, techniques and build their bodies will provide them the strength and power they seek.
Others believe that those who use purely physical techniques, focus on using their strength to generate power and use force-on-force techniques are wasting precious energy on the inessentials. They believe that the efforts used on external systems restrict the natural power we all have.
So which philosophy is right? Only you can decide for yourself.
Can You Use Both Internal and External Martial Arts?
If you look at systems like Silat Suffian Bella Diri, Systema, Aikido, Wing Chun Kung Fu or Kyo-Jitsu, you know the answer to the question is: Yes!! In fact, combining the focused relaxation techniques found in all of the internal systems with the leverage, motion, flow, strategies and tactics of external system affords whatever system you practice a balance you will not find alone in either.
Can you imagine the power a person can generate if they are structured properly, have all of the logistics down and are calm, relaxed and simply let one movement flow into the other effortlessly? Can you imagine the personal control a person would have by being emotionally centered and loose while punching or kicking at a target but not offering a leverage point to control them by?
There is no rule saying you have to use one or the other. You can mix and match any of the tools found in ALL martial systems to become a better martial artist. You can create your own “style” inside various systems once you learn ways to become efficient and it doesn’t even need a name. Martial arts is a very personal thing and it is up to the practitioner at the time of use to decide what to use, why to use it and when.
Balance in Martial Arts Realized
External martial arts are very powerful. You can witness this in martial sports competitions like the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships), self defense situations, military or paramilitary combat and even street fighting.
Internal martial arts aids in calming a person, having the right mind set while confronted with adversity, removes the strain caused by challenges experienced in life, provides a conduit for the power generated by moving the body and keeps a person healthy and fit without taking the chance of damage from impact trauma to the joints.
The benefits from using both the internal and external methods in a person’s practice are limitless. If you learn to combine the two concepts, there is really no way an attacker or opponent can control you or cause you to do something you do not intend to do.
Through focused relaxation combined with physical skill, a person could potentially be a person who wins in almost any situation. That person would be calm under pressure, physically balanced and move with a speed and power that would amaze friends and confuse enemies.
It is, therefore, this author’s observation that anyone keeping to only one of the concepts of internal or external martial practices is truly denying themselves of the full benefit in martial arts. The are only getting half of the story.
An external martial arts would be a lot slower, less accurate, less controlled and less powerful than they truly want to be. They may get drawn into situations they don’t want to be in
Conversely the solely internal martial artist would lack in the practical application skills necessary to defeat an opponent, remain safe on the streets or return home from a battle.