Internal/External, Yes/No

Since I  just wrote about my experiences with Joe Lewis I recalled  another story. Joe was lecturing once and in the middle of the presentation gave his own definition of internal and external. He took a fighting pose—which, in the case of Lewis, was like saying Margot Fonteyn struck an arabesque—then lowered his eyes a shade, pulling back into himself so you could physically observe the muscle tone fade, his whole attitude becoming defensive and problematic; not a vacancy but more of a hiding in the back of the store. It was like watching  a grape shrink to a prune. Then he went on to present external focus, awareness and potential rippling through his body, eyes bright, action promised. He definitely was  showing—and dramatically—that for him these  opposites were not theoretical but  demonstrably different.

Everyone talks so much about “Internal” today. People believe in it or don’t because they think it involves qi. Even the names are confusing because, early on, these terms denoted internal TO CHINA or external TO CHINA, in other words Indian or Chinese as in Buddhism or Taoism methods. Modern Western practitioners often seem completely external, muscles and “supplements”, but then talk about focus and determination and, if you really listen, you will see a lot of centering techniques and other undefinable qualities.

There is something worthwhile to the subject, I can guarantee it. I remember the shock of judging the teenagers at a tournament once. It was a good group of young people. Then a Chinese boy about fourteen stood up and demonstrated a rather rare Southern form which looked somewhat like Southern Shaolin (Sil Lum) or White Eyebrow. And he had it. Things came right out of the inside then manifested on the outside. I looked over to my fellow judge and she nodded. After the performance I hunted the boy down and asked about his training. I found out that he was the son of an instructor and had been practicing his “whole life” of fourteen years. And it showed.

But really most of these considerations bring me back to that demonstration with Joe Lewis. In a way everyone may have gotten it wrong. The guy who punches the bag all day looking for the perfect power punch with no thought of “internal” and the martial artist who gets great benefits from just practicing without referring to the function of every movement are each making a CHOICE. That’s it for me, Internal and External are choices directing the path to be taken and sights to be seen. And slowly, no matter where you start, they seem to converge. At least that’s my experience.

One Response to “Internal/External, Yes/No”

  1. Jeff says:

    There can’t be one without the other.

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