I have always been slightly suspicious when I see someone label their wing chun or any martial art as internal. The main reason is that I have seen so many people who have claimed it but failed to deliver it under pressure, either when I have seen them tested on video or by myself in person. The other reason is that I have experienced it at the highest level (Chu Shong Tin), and thereafter everyone else pales in comparison.
What does internal mean?? I do not accept talk of chi as a valid explanation, I find it to be cop out from proper analysis. Good internal methods rely on relaxing the chains of muscles through your body so the joints can rotate freely, therefore directing the mass of the body when striking and throwing. Instead of pushing muscle, a release of the postural muscles provides a different type of tone and stability not present when you rely on muscular contraction. You will find deeper and more complete explanations than this on the net, but as guiding principles these are sufficient.
The term internal martial art is usually claimed by tai chi, however if you give it its full title of tai chi chuan (grand ultimate boxing) most schools generally fail to teach the chuan aspect and an important ingredient of the art is lost. The alignments may look good, but the relaxation is superficial, unconnected and unusable. We have had students who have trained many years with the largest tai chi school in Sheffield, but despite push hands training they were unable to utilise what they had practiced until we were able to realign what they had been shown and told.
None of this is meant to say that wing chun can only be internal, I have practised with people who were very external and were able to use their size, speed and aggression to great effect. Fantastic when training for competition where you have a matched weight catagory, but less effective for self defence where you are at a size or strength disadvantage.
At Sung we cannot say that everything we do is internal, but it is where we aim for ourselves and our students. I am happy to use the words internal wing chun because I have seen new students struggle with a movement for several minutes, but after some adjustment, when they let go, when they stop trying, I have felt the irresistible force which takes me back to the reason I keep practicing.
There is a third option taught at a lot of schools, a marriage or the internal and external. I call this off/on wing chun because they attempt to use noodle relaxation to avoid and deflect, and muscular contraction to hit. My experience is that this gives the worst of both worlds, it works in class because subconscious patterns of co-operation are learned within drills, but crucially the power to issue and deal with force directed to the body is neglected. The focus is in the hands.
Online there are now more and more good teachers trying to explain, demystify and push the boundaries. Look to people like Tony Psaila, Nima King, John Kaufman and Mox Murugan and you can see the internal aspects revealing themselves to a wider audience.
I borrowed the title of this blog from a video of a wing teacher called Mox Murugan. Although I have not met Mox he teaches internal wing chun in Sweden and he has been nice enough to refer people to our school to train.
I have provided a link to the YouTube video below because I found it very interesting and it discusses many areas I have came across in my training. Specifically how training this type of wing chun not requiring you to change the person you are. When I started practicing with Jon (Jones) we discussed this, specifically he had decided to stop practicing Karate as it made him aggressive and prone to the red mist when sparing. This is hard to believe as Jon is one of the nicest people I know. If you train to want to injure people, train to perceive everyone as a threat, pretty soon the world becomes a worse place because of your presence in it. In the past I would rile Jon when we were chi sauing to tense him up, he would start to push and I could take advantage. After all of these years training, trying that tactic on him now does not work and I end up tense and vulnerable to his relaxed structure. Wing chun training has allowed him to remain himself even when under physical threat (I am more aggressive than him!).
The moral of the story is that the cure does not have to be worse than the problem. You do not have to spend hours in the gym lifting weights, punching bags or being beaten up by an instructor to to learn the art. With wing chun you attempt to master your own body and mind, you see the evidence that relaxed power at least matches muscular effort, and the confidence that builds in yourself already makes you less of a target to those looking for victims. On top of that it is also a great martial art.
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