外練筋骨皮 wài liàn jīn gǔ pí: External training – tendon, bone and skin
內練精氣神 nèi liàn jīng qì shén: Internal training – Jīng, Qì and Shén
內練一口氣 nèi liàn yī kǒu qì: Internal training – one breath
He explained that Chinese martial arts all have this in common whereas Western martial arts generally focus on the external training and miss the internal.
This being said, it is interesting to note that the external training is not focused on developing the muscles as would generally be expected of an art like boxing.
The external training is focusing on the tendons – GM Tse explained that we need to make them elastic like rubber bands. This concept is also starting to spread in Western sports science but is still in its infancy.
Training the bones is done through stamping, hitting the bones and foremost through the Kung Fu stances that develop the bone through the weight and pressure of upholding the body. Bone training in the West is mainly targeted towards the elderly population where osteoporosis can lead to fractures and then hospitalisation and disability. This training, however, uses strength exercises such as weightlifting to stress the bones – not stances and body weight or hitting the bone.
Martial arts like kick-boxing will also condition the bones, especially of the shin, through repeated beating. This training is, again, different, as it generally misses the fact that without a good supply of Qì to the bones they will only develop and strengthen to a lesser degree. Like a tree on the heath will develop strong roots and a strong trunk when battling the winds, it will be stronger still if it has a good supply of water and sunlight.
The last external training area is the skin. Without this the skin will easily tear and the resulting pain will make it hard to fight on efficiently.
The internal training, however, is what makes Chinese martial arts so distinct. The poem lists the following elements: Jīng, Qì and Shén. These are not easily translated into English as they have no apparent counterpart. Jīng can be seen as the potential for growth and development in the body. As people grow old they will use up their Jīng until it is spent.
Jīng can produce Qì which can be seen as the body’s power supply. With a lot of Qì the body feels vibrant and lively and all its functions work more efficiently.
Qì can produce Shén which is akin to spirit or soul. With a good amount of Shén the mind will be clear and highly intuitive. When problems arise it will give you the strength and drive to resolve them.
Thus Jīng, Qì and Shén are like an evolutionary ladder where one builds on the foundation below. This is how it should be trained – from the bottom up. As a Tse Centre polo had written one year: good development because of good foundations (根深葉茂 gēn shēn yè mào).
Developing Shén or mental training is not uncommon in the West – it is seen in competitive sports and in the training of soldiers. Concepts like iron-will, undivided focus and self-confidence abound. This training does, however, not take Jīng or Qì into account, which means that the Shén has no foundation and so will be weaker or unbalanced. As Shén depends on Qì such training also runs the risk of draining the body of Qì, making it feel sluggish and inviting dysfunction and disease.
GM Tse explained how everything must be balanced and supported – external and internal, top and bottom, body and mind. The traditional Chinese martial arts incorporate this philosophy in their training. So training correctly will not only make a person physically powerful and able to defend oneself but make the whole body healthy and the mind balanced and open.
GM Tse’s lectures always inspire. Training the Dragon Shadow Sword has taken on new depths – there is more than meets the eye. Now we may look forward to the next seminar and in the meantime we can think about the lecture and how we can apply it to our own training.
by Paul Hogg
Dragon Shadow Sword has some particularly fun and unusual positions. The lecture on internal and external training was insightful. Thanks to Sigong and everyone in breakout rooms. – Kay
Excellent Dragon Shadow Sword seminar today! It was very interesting to do the new part with extra smoothing if the sword and kicks. Also a great lecture on external and internal training components as well as the benefits of having a good relationship with your Sifu. Thank you, Sigong. Best, Tom Hogg.
It took me a couple of goes to get the direction right at the end but I think I have it now — we finish the section facing 180º to how we started. it was the extra 90º as we come up on one leg, and then the left blossom kick turning those 90º back again which caught me. Thanks Sigong for keeping me sharp! Lee B
Enjoying learning the Dragon Shadow Sword, a tricky form, but with lots of unusual details and movements ! Thank you Sigong. Christine
A very enjoyable Dragon Shadow Sword seminar today – and we are getting a fair way through the form now. The earlier parts of the form are beginning to feel much more natural now. It’s always nice to see everyone in the breakout rooms – also often getting tips I hadn’t thought about before. Thanks for another great seminar Sigong. Peter Hogg
Another very enjoyable Dragon Shadow sword seminar, lots of tricky details to learn, a challenging and fun form. Thank you Sifu
I feel like I’m getting a reasonable shape on the form after today’s seminar. Thank you Sifu and all in the breakout rooms for your help. Very good lecture again, many thanks Sifu. Peadar
I am enjoying the form a lot. I find some parts quite challenging so I like to work on them to better understand the energy of the movements. Looking forward to know the form fully! Thank you Sifu!
Great Dragon Shadow sword seminar. Really useful to be able to go over the form and break down the movements in the breakout rooms with a partner as the turns and directions can be a bit tricky. Very exciting to start adding kicks. Sam
I thought the pacing was excellent today, we got to review a lot of details and made good progress today. This form is quite interesting and really enjoyable. Thank you Sigong for sharing. Yunki