Do you believe in the external philosophy, the internal philosophy, or the hybrid?

As defined thus:

External schools believe one can take a short cut to battlefield application or self defense application, by training the muscles and gaining muscle memory in actual fighting methods and techniques first, and then gaining inner mental understanding later on. This is why external schools for individuals at very high levels, become soft, like Morihei Ueshiba. There are other reasons, like age, but this is a key concept for external philosophy. Train the muscles first, and the mental understanding will come later.

Do you believe in the internal philosophy, such as Taiji Chuan, that says once one trains the mind and concentration and sensitivity for years, and then learns the martial applications, that student will have far higher fighting abilities than external martial artists of an equal caliber?

Or do you believe in a hybrid, such as the balance between Ying/Yang, where mental and physical training proceeds equally, never one outpacing the other?

That’s the basic topic I raised on one question site. The responses were interesting. As I suspected, a majority chose external. While they were leaning towards saying hybrid, what they meant was a hybrid of external/internal benefits, rather than a hybrid of external/internal philosophies. The benefits are easy to combine. The philosophy… not so much.

What I see in most martial arts training is an extremely high bias towards external training. They teach you forms and only until you memorize them, do they start talking about applications, if they even do start. They teach techniques without the user fully understanding key core fundamental principles such techniques are based upon. They teach variations of techniques, without the student first understanding the universal broad spectrum application of certain movements those variations were based upon.

This is why so many martial artists have problems actually “fighting” as popular society perceives. There’s an entire mythology built around the “Black Belt”, Bruce Lee, and Chuck Norris, even. Even a student that has learned 10 years of an external martial art, cannot integrate the moves in his head because he hasn’t done any appreciable internal training: mental training. Training the mind is crucial to developing a fighter, but what most people do is train their bodies and leave their minds behind. A rather counter productive production scheme if you ask me. It’s like being given all the answers for your Ph.D. dissertation, but if you don’t understand the theories, equations, and concepts in your thesis, the “answers” aren’t going to do you much good.

Tai Chi Chuan and other internal arts have their own problems using the internal philosophy. They spend so long developing abstract theories and sensitivity training, that they begin to forget what the moves are for, if ever they even thought about it. The external martial artist can strike, but doesn’t understand how to recompile and reverse engineer his technique to make it better. The internal martial artist doesn’t even know that the movement he is doing IS a strike, so thus never attempts to decompile it to make it stronger, even though he could.

This is why I favor hybrid methods of teaching. Even if a person in external or internal martial arts can get to the same place (Victory), the journey they will have taken will be very different. But hybrid methods of teaching utilize the best from both, since it does both. It teaches people an attack and then explains the principle behind why this attack works. It teaches people a principle, and then shows them a movement that they can use for many things. Hybrid teaching methods can start from external and go to internal. Or go internal to external. Very versatile compared to the philosophy that says “external first, you’ll get all the internal training as you do your external training” or “if you focus on internal training and concentration now, you’ll know how to fight after 10 years of never thinking about using this stuff for fighting”.

I feel sorry for these people. Yes internal power can be used to destroy or heal, but there’s something called the inverse square law when it comes to propagating power over distance. If the sun obeys it, then your body probably obeys it as well. By disconnecting themselves from the laws of physics, they aren’t going anywhere fast.

EDIT: This was a question I posted at YA Answers. You can read the responses it got here.

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