Having studied for so many years with George Xu, he has had an influence on me. He is constantly coming up with new lists defining Internal Martial Arts. These lists are sometimes things to practice, sometimes definitional concepts, sometimes just weird.
Anyway, at the moment I have a clear vision of what defines Internal Martial Arts so I am sharing it.
- Neigong, which means inward strength.
- Counterbalance Skills (the Waltz and acrobatics are good examples)
- The Golden Elixir (jindan)--which is the correct ordering and distillation of jing, qi, shen and xu (the physical, what animates it, spatial imagination, and emptiness).
- Pure Jing (the physical body empty of all intent).
This list is awesome because for me, right now, this is the complete picture. But two things must be said. 1) None of these work alone, they are all interdependent. 2) They all can be subdivided into a longer list of skills.
This is not a George Xu list because we think differently. For example, his list for the last 8 years has had something called "Maximum Gravity" on it. Maximum Gravity is a quality of movement that you can test with another person. To do it well requires the integration of all four of my Elements from above. It is a good test for ranking students. But it is not a component. It is not an Element. It is more like a magic trick that can be applied to fighting.
Back to my list of Elements. Neigong is super important. It can be cultivated by itself. For instance, acrobats tend to have awesome Neigong skills. But to use them for fighting one must have both Counterbalance skills and Pure Jing. Otherwise the movement is too easy for the opponent to read. It will not work on its own. Also Neigong is key because it is totally incompatible with Neijin. Why? Because Neijin requires a positive root. Rooting will kill Neigong. To develop Neigong one must have reverse root.
All of the Elements mix like this. They need each other. I have worked with acrobats that had awesome counterbalance skills on the first day. But to use those for fighting one needs Pure Jing to create an illusion. (Although anyone with fighting skills will fight even better with counterbalance skills-- they just won't be "internal.")
The Golden Elixir can be subdivided into an almost infinite number of experiments. Brush bathing, for example, can be used to increase the qi field on the outside of the body. But none of these experiments should be used to generate power. If a person tries to use a qi field, or structure, or fluid, or twisting, or bowing the spine, or shrinking and expanding, for power, they will never figure out the Golden Elixir. No matter how good they get at the individual pieces, they will always have a mix of internal and external power. They will never make the Immortal Egg, they will make Scrambled Egg.