Internal Power Classic
by Jim Dees


Most internal martial arts, Tai Chi, Hsing-i, and Pa Kua, share the following three points:
  1. There is explosive power in their movement.
  2. Strong chi and blood circulation which give good health and long life.
  3. In combat, their movement depends on the movement of the opponent which allows them to control him easily.
Therefore, since people see that these three characteristics are shared by Tai Chi, Hsing-i and Pa Kua, they group them together as internal martial arts. However, if you fail to consider how each of the different arts seeks to achieve these different characteristics, then you are missing a very important point. As you know, the forms of these arts are obviously different on the outside.

So, what are the key points hidden behind these movements that made the internal martial arts famous in their ability to deliver such tremendous power within such a wide variety of movements? Is it a special way of breathing? Is it something in the imagination? The answer is no to both questions. With this question in mind, the author has traveled throughout China to visit many different Masters of various internal martial arts. By discussing and exchanging ideas with these people he found out that the real answer is that all of these different methods of movement were being executed in the same way in terms of structure and alignment. By utilizing correct structure and alignment it does not matter what kind of movement is done externally. There are three external benefits to moving with correct structure and alignment:
  1. You will be able to support greater force with your body without relying on muscular strength.
  2. Your body will act as a single unit enabling you to release much more power.
  3. You will be able to change while maintaining a sound structure and whole body connection.
Internally, one can achieve true relaxation only through proper structure and alignment. Once proper structure is in place, the chi and blood circulation will become stronger without any forced breathing or imagination. This is the quickest, safest, and most effective way to establish good chi circulation. The chi feeling is real unlike other feelings which are intermittent and based on imagination.

Because of the many subtleties of proper structure, and the fact that the basic idea are so deep, the correct path is easily lost. As a result of improper structure, most of the techniques of the internal martial arts lose their effectiveness. The health benefits of the internal martial arts are also gone without good structure. Therefore, the feats of internal martial arts masters become nothing more than folk tales. To make up for improper structure, there are those who add elaborate breathing methods and imagination to their movements in an attempt to make their art internal. These people usually end up with no kung fu. In America, there are few who have realized the importance of structure. They only see a small portion of the structural requirements so they still can not correctly explain the fundamentals of internal martial arts.

The classic, Nei Gung Jing, offers one of the best explanations of structure in the internal martial arts. The Nei Gung Jing does not belong to any particular style of internal martial art. This was taught to people by a famous Hsing-i masters Song Shide and Song Shirong in 1893 when they moved from Hebei province to Shan Xi province. No one knows exactly where they got the book or who the author was. Just from following the prologue, you can see that it has been in the Wang family for more than 100 years. After the Song family began to practice in accordance with these classics, their level of skill in Hsing-i became even higher. The Song family's reputation for internal power became very good not only within the Hsing-i community, but throughout the internal martial arts community as well. Since then, several generations of this branch, Song family, have been well know for their fighting ability. Of even more interest is that the members of the Song family have enjoyed much longer lives as compared to their peers of other branches, many of whom enjoying healthy lives into their nineties. So, you can see how effective the Nei Gung Jing is.

While Nei Gung Jing is widely known by name, little is really known about it's true meaning. This is because it has been taught to only a very few people each generation. Even though some people who have had access to the entire article, the true meaning is hidden within the words. Those people have tried to guess at the meaning without real success only to be left with a best guess which falls short of the truth. In order to promote the true meaning of the internal martial arts outside China, we have tried to translate and explain this classic.

This shall be the first in a series of articles which translates and offers explanation to a document that was revealed in the Ching Dynasty. These classics do not belong to any particular internal style of martial art. Rather, they are a set of guidelines that are to be followed if one is to maximize the potential, both in terms of health and combat, for internal power. These classics were made public by the Song family who was well known for their skill in Hsing-i chuan. However, the information applies equally to any internal martial art.

The document is accompanied by two prefaces. This first is by Wang Nan Xi of Shan Zuo Liang ya. These four internal power classics were bought by my great grand-father Wang. At that time he was the Governor of Jiang Xi Province. After he died it was more than 100 years before we knew what they were for. One year I got this from storage and I took the time to read it. Initially, I was so confused I almost gave up. I spent years studying this book. I finally understood that this book is about martial arts and outlines the path to real internal power. I found that if you have real internal power, any technique will be effective.

These things can not be rushed. One must spend years practicing before one can get real internal power. One must proceed step by step in a manner in accordance with the classics and do not rush the program. Some may lack talent and get little from the classics. Some may be stupid, too. Also, some may try to understand these things in a short time and never do. Others are too poor and lack the spare time to devote to these things. Some start to practice and immediately try to understand the true meaning of internal martial arts and fail. All of these people will be disappointed when they compare their skill to an internal martial artist.

Now for the internal power which can be seen externally, we collected to a few compositions about developing whole body power, unitary internal power, and other details concerning internal power. The classics contain all of the components necessary to analyze the development of internal power. Within these classics are all of the key points to be followed to put you on the right path to developing real internal power.

Another preface is offered by Zhong Jing Fang from Hai You Shan Xan. It reads as follows. My friend Liang Xi's grandfather was the governor of Jiang Yi Province. In the early part of the Ching Dynasty he docked his boat by the bank of the Dan Qing river. He saw a business man recover a stone case from the bottom of the river. There were two scrolls inside the case. One was called the Jiang Dan (energy of the sword). The other was called the Nei Gong Zen Chuan (real message of internal power). There are four classics contained in the Nei Gong Zen Chuan. The first is the Nei Gong Jing (internal power classic). The second is the Nan Gua Jing (I-Ching matching classic). The third is called the Shen Yun Jing (spirit driving classic). The fourth is Di Long Jing (Ground Dragon classic). Governor Wang paid a high price for these two scrolls and made them available to the public.

In this article we shall offer a translation and explanation of the Nei Gong Jing. Please remember that the original text in Chinese is written to sound like a rhythmic poem. This does not translate to English. Also, the original text was written in the Chinese language of the day and, as I understand it, is somewhat difficult to translate into modern Chinese let alone English. But, considering the important messages contained in the material, we believe the effort of translation and explanation to be worth while.


The chi circulates along the Ren meridian on the front of the body to the Du meridian along the back continuously. The power of fa jing is released along the shoulder well (jian jing) and the curved pond. Although there are many variations, they all rely on the same principle. If you can understand these points you will see the infinite possibilities of this Art. The chi rises through the coccyx. The chi goes down to the tan dien. As a result, the mind is brighter and the spirit is raised.

This part discusses the small heavenly circle of chi which flows from the ming men up along the Du meridian, over the head, through the palate, and down the Ren meridian to the tan dien. It has been said that when one opens the path of the small heavenly circle that he will enjoy good health. The reference to fa jing emphasizes the correct path that energy takes when striking with fa jing. Specifically, the chi passes from the torso to the palm via the shoulder well (jian jing) and the curved pond. The curved pond refers to a particular point on the upper side of the elbow when it is slightly bent. There are countless variations in technique but, when using internal power, you will rely on the circulation of chi and relaxation. Once you understand this simple yet profound point, you will see that the number of techniques are infinite. The key points are the principles of internal power. The techniques are incidental. This section closes by referring again to the small heavenly circle and its health benefits.

Once we understand the chi paths, we should study structure and alignment. The head is straight and rising. Flatten the shoulders to unlock them. Make the chest hollow. Make firm the lower back. The feet are firm and stable. The knees are bent and extended. The inner groin is deep and hidden. The rib cage is open and expanded.

Here we have the next step in the development of internal power. After studying the pathways of chi, we should examine structure and alignment. This study will deepen our understanding of chi pathways as well as enlighten us as to the martial side of chi. The position of the head is as though it is being suspended from the crown by a thread that is pulling it up. There is a rising inclination here. Flatten the shoulders refers to relaxing them and allowing them to sit naturally. Their natural position being slightly rounded down to the sides and forward. This helps relax and hollow the chest. The term hollow here being used to emphasize the relaxation of the chest. Hollow as opposed to protruding. Firming the lower back results when the chi settles to the tan dien. The reference to the feet emphasizes the stability inherent when one is well rooted. Sinking the chi makes the lower half heavier and increases stability. The knees being bent and extended refers to a screwing action of the legs into the ground. The toes here will grasp the ground lightly as the heel push slightly to the outside. This has the effect of opening the inner thigh and helps the chi flow to the lower extremities. Also, it makes the inner groin open up which greatly increases the range of motion in the hip area. This explains the reference to the inner groin being deep and hidden. The rib cage being open and expanded refers to deep and relaxed natural breathing.

Breathing should be balanced and even. The force is relaxed and tight. First inhale and then exhale. The chi goes in and out. The chi also rises and falls. Inside is the tan dien which is the home of the chi. In the lower half of the body you should lift the anus. In the upper half of the body you should suspend the head. Standing or sitting, inhale through the throat and use the mind to gradually deliver the breath down to the bottom. There is a way for the chi going up. It is with the ribs rising. Also, there is a way for the chi going down. It is for the chi to go through the shu kuo.

The breathing being balanced and even is indicative of a calm and relaxed body and mind. The force being relaxed and tight refers to the state of the body. Specifically, the body should be relaxed yet structurally sound. Tight in this sense meaning tight in terms of connection and alignment. First inhale and then exhale. The chi goes in and out as well as rises and falls. This shows the relationship between breathing and chi. As you inhale the chi goes in and then out as you exhale. Actually, the chi does not go out per se. Chi is circulated within the body. The chi rising and falling refers to the circular path that chi follows in the body. The tan dien is the home of the chi. This is where we gather the chi. In the lower half of the body you should lift the anus. This refers to the hui yin which is located between the anus and the genitals. By gently lifting this area the Ren and Du meridians are connected. The upper half of the body suspending the head emphasizes the importance of relaxing and opening the spine. Standing or sitting means that no matter what you are doing, breathe deeply and relax the body so that the lungs can absorb as much air as is possible. This is done by breathing into the dan tien. The way for the chi going up and down refers to the natural path that the chi follows along the Ren and Du meridians. Inhaling the chi goes from the ming men up to the head and exhaling it completes the circle.

Now that you understand the key points of the chi, we will explain the key points about force. The key points of the force's path are circulation, passing through, penetrate, close, relaxation, courage, unitary, stability. Push down the shoulders to practice the stepping. Collapse the inner groin to stabilize the knee. Keep the groin as a circle to stabilize the hip. Lift up the chest to sink down the lower back. Lift up the jaw to straighten the neck. Fill the back to circulate chi to emit force. Relax the shoulder to emit force. Relax the sternum to emit force. Separate the spine to let the chi go down and look at the he gu to set up the gate. Know the strengths of forward and sideward. Forward gets its strength from sideward. Sideward gets its strength from forward.

This passage begins by emphasizing the importance of having a sound understanding of the fundamentals of chi before discussing force. Specific key points about force are listed. Circulation refers to having the pathways of chi open. Passing through means that the chi is unobstructed. Penetrate refers to the chi penetrating and filling the body. Close refers to the proximity between you and your opponent. Relaxation is the state of your body and mind. Courage means to keep calm and to be decisive in the face of danger without hesitation. Unitary means the body and mind should be connected as one. Stability is having a sound structure. By pushing down the shoulders to practice stepping is to avoid coming up out of root and structure when in motion. Collapsing the inner groin to stabilize the knee is a technique of relaxing the body to allow more of the body's weight to be supported by the skeleton. Keeping the groin as a circle to stabilize the hip is in effect making the groin in the shape of a U as opposed to a V. The makes it much easier for the body to follow the force of and opponent and to keep the body unified. Lifting up the chest to sink down the lower back refers to the relaxing of the torso to allow the body to sink and relax. The lifting of the jaw to straighten the neck is akin to slightly tucking the chin which raises the rear jaw bone thereby straightening the spine. Filling the back to circulate chi to emit force is to ensure that the proper structure is in place to allow the chi to flow completely unobstructed. If the lower back is hollow this will not be possible. Relaxing the shoulders to emit force is a comment on the relaxed body in general. If there is tension in the shoulders then the flow of chi will stagnate there and there will be a loss of power and possible injury to yourself. Relaxing the sternum is a reference to relaxing the chest which is necessary to maximize the issuance of force. Separating the spine means to relax and extend the vertebrae to ensure an open pathway for the chi. Looking at the he gu to set up the gate refers to keeping your eyes focused on your opponent through the tiger's mouth which is located between the index finger and your thumb. Knowing the strengths of forward and sideward, each getting its strength from the other. To maximize power in the forward direction, you must maintain good structure and relax specifically in the kua of the opposite side of the issuance of force in order to rotate the body to gain full benefit of the ground and structure. In term of emitting force to the side, you must pay particular attention to relax the kua on the same side as the issuing force so that you may go forward to wrap the energy around the opponent and attack from the weak angle.

Five chi are going to the original place over and over again. Four limbs and the head collect the chi wonderfully. Rise and fall, in and out, up and down, chi goes together harmoniously. The heaven and earth are very stable. The water goes up and the fire goes down. The head and the feet connect together very well. When you are quiet the brightness could be seen. When you move then you could fly.

Here the five chi refer to the element of the wu xing. Going to the original place over and over again is in reference to the continuous path that the chi flows. The original place is the tan dien. The four limbs and the head collect the chi wonderfully means that there is no place that the chi can not reach. Rise and fall, in and out, up and down, chi goes together harmoniously. This is in reference to the fluidity and continuity of the chi passing through the meridians. The reference to the heaven and earth and water and fire indicate that the chi of the body is in balance. When the chi of the body is allowed to flow smoothly through the unobstructed meridians the body will be connected as one. This explains the reference to the head and feet connect together very well. When you are quiet the brightness could be seen. The next sentence speaks of a brightness that is visible in the eyes of a person who is calm and has a strong chi flow. Often times after standing meditation you will notice the skin of a person becomes more pink as the flow of chi increases. When you move then you could fly means that a connected body can be very fast when triggered by a thought.

We have tried to present our understanding of the Nei Gung Jing so that others may benefit and find the true path to internal power. In doing so we have had several obstacles to overcome. Initially, the translation from old Chinese to new. Then, from Chinese to English. Anyone having any experience with foreign languages will attest to the difficulties inherent to such a task. But, we felt the project was worth the effort to inform more people about real internal martial arts. Again, let us emphasize that this information does not belong to any specific art. As some of you may know Mr. Yan's background is primarily Chen style Tai Chi and Mr. Dees' is Hsing-i. What we have incommon is obviously not form rather a common pursuit of structure, alignment and relaxation for health and martial purposes. We hope that you will study the information provided carefully.

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