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.
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