Second Look: The Science of Internal Strength Boxing

This is an extraordinary book and should live on the library shelf for martial practice.

It is not too far from right to say that I missed the point on my first reading. On the other hand, this is not an easy read. This book argues for the advantages of internal training. But rather than swamp you with conjectures and factoids, it focuses all of its reasons through the famous saying “Fu Shu Xiang Kuan” or “firm abdomen and relaxed chest.” Springing forward from this point, the author, Zhang Nai Qi, explains in dozens of ways how this one concept can fill your entire practice with the benefits of  internal boxing.

Unlike the title, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the text is really “scientific.” It is more in the manner of Aristotle rather than modern science. Still, it is fascinating to watch the insights into martial training and human movement that Zhang materializes out of his canny observations of normal people doing normal things and their relation to Daoist concepts and internal training.

What IS scientific about the text is its objective and detailed observation of its subject, and its subject is human movement including its traps…

“The unification of the hands and feet with Internal Strength Boxing to acquire an appropriate fulcrum.”

At the same time his explanations discard many classical and definitely mystical terms. His leverage is observation and simplification of these often oily terms…

“…maintain a condition of abdominal firmness and relaxation of the chest. Then it doesn’t matter if the heart is open (kai xin) because the heart is already open, and it doesn’t matter if there is worry or anxiousness (jiao xin) , there will be no harm to heart and lungs.”

This text was written in 1933. Marcus Brinkman’s translation is literate. I have not checked out the original text but this version has a definite “voice,” giving the entire book consistency.

Reading this book is is like talking to a highly experienced practitioner and watching him apply his insight to the whole field. Some of the arguments are unusual, but all are thought provoking.

A classic, indeed.


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