Internal power occurs and is generated differently than external power. Internal power requires all body parts to work in conjunction to deliver the most force into the smallest area of your target.
There is of course, muscular and skeletal interaction, however, not to the degree of a pure external martial art. The internal principles will express themselves or appear as external techniques when applied. When an external fighter applies his techniques he uses mostly external power, based on muscle and bone. Basically, in combat the internal fighter uses a higher percentage of internal principles versus external muscle and technique. The external fighter relies more on external muscle and technique with a small amount of internal principles. An internal fighter will be able to deliver a lot of power with efficiency and quickness. This is simply based on his principles of delivering full body power into every strike as well as his ability to move off line of a counter strike if one is delivered due to his elusive footwork. I have noticed through my training in Kung Fu internal arts, Bando, Taekwondo, western boxing, grappling/wrestling and combat sport sparring, that reaction to an opponent must be decisive and quick.
I would hope that you, the reader, of this article will never find yourself in a violent encounter. However if you do find yourself in a dangerous situation, the fight must end before it starts or if not as soon as possible. There can be no playing with techniques, or back and forth with your opponent. This is not a sparring or grappling session. Your reaction will determine how hurt either you are or the thug who is attacking you will be. An attacker can have an accomplice, weapon, or both. So your training needs to be on point and sharp to help you in this situation. I have also noticed that the internal forms teach how to flow anywhere you need to go with power and technique - no thought required. There are thousands of self-defense techniques available which are derived from forms of different internal arts. By closely studying each move over time, a more profound understanding of the application will be developed.
Through diligent training in forms and principles on a daily basis, your proficiency will increase. Essentially, repetition of the form's movements and focus as to what each move is teaching will pay great dividends in your training.
Meditation on forms and principles is another area that assists in developing the growth and understanding of martial arts fighting techniques. I find that by meditating on the forms and proceeding to practice them makes the application express itself more correctly and effortlessly. For personal growth, meditation is one of the most important areas. Meditation lets the brain relax, controls the body, and also allows it to be in a relaxed yet aware and ready state. Self-visualizing yourself executing each movement is important to imprint the principle into the body's muscle memory. This will allow for better movement when doing forms and executing techniques.
Speed of internal forms are typically linked to the slow circular motions of Tai Chi. However, when looking at the Chen style they will tend to do the forms a bit faster with more explosive movements at the end. I practice three (3) internal martial arts, Yang style Tai Chi, Water Boxing, and Hsing I (yee). Each of these internal arts has different rhythms and flow methods. Tai Chi can be done smoothly with stretching and relaxation. However, it can also be practiced with power and speed. Water Boxing can be practiced at a medium speed with power at the end of execution and has a whole fighting section where each movement is applicable for self-defense. Hsing I when viewed will completely resemble an external form while still using internal principles. This is a battle field art which is meant to devastate and overwhelm an opponent.
Training time, body conditioning and practical drills. I feel that most of your time should be spent on developing principles by practicing the forms. The next focus should be given to Chi Gong, which are breathing exercises to develop the lungs and breathing. This will increase overall health. Also, conditioning the limbs to the force it will receive from striking an opponent is important. This can be accomplished by working on a heavy bag, striking a makiwara (striking post), and/or repeatedly hitting a brick. Make sure to condition with proper training technique. The amount of conditioning is relative to proper execution of the technique being applied. Damage to limbs should be minimal, if at all. Time should also be spent on developing fighting applications by breaking down each movement within the form. Finally, time should be given to practicing individual drills, i.e., partner drills, sparring, push hands (and all its variants), and Chin Na (Chinese grappling).
This is a brief overview of my observations in internal training and its benefits. In my future blogs I will be elaborating on more specific areas of internal martial arts, as well as external. I look forward to viewing your comments related to this article.
As always train frequently and with full mind intent, and as one great Tai Chi master said "Do not ask how many years I have trained but how many minutes".