Once again, self defense is about a lot more than fighting. In fact, self defense against violence is a very small part of self defense as we define it in Internal Martial Arts. Self defense is about not getting hurt in any way- mentally, physically, or spiritually. Not only that, self defense means to optimize your physical body, your mental scope, and your positive influence. In this article, let’s just talk about one part of this broad concept- using your physical body.
The entire idea of internal martial arts is to use your physical body in the most relaxed, efficient, and healthful way possible. There are three levels of the physical body to get right: External Musculature, the Skeleton, and Internal Power.
The first part of internal martial arts is to relax your muscles. This is important as areas like the shoulders, neck, chest, and lower back tend to collect tension from emotional stress. Relaxing all of these is called “song” in Chinese. We want to relax these muscles completely so they don’t get in the way of your internal power.
Next is the skeleton, or structure. Your skeleton’s job is to hold your body up. Once you have “melted” your muscles onto your skeleton, it is time to “melt” the skeleton.
This brings us to internal power. This is where you use the very strong and agile core of your body to control all of your movements. To do this, your arms and legs must be completely relaxed. Internally, you learn to use your central mass as a counterweight and your spine, your waist, and your ribcage for movement. If your limbs are relaxed then the very strong power from the torso can go through them to be used. In Chinese there is a saying that, “your internal must be bigger than your external.” This means that you must come to think and perceive your body as moving with internal power. Internal power becomes your habitual physical memory.
Internal power has many applications. It can be used for self defense as you are using the strong core muscles to do everything combined with the relaxed dead weight of your body. This gives you speed, agility, leverage, and power.
But more importantly, moving this way keeps your internal body strong and agile- meaning that your organs are in better shape and you retain better health than most people. In China they refer to this series of arts as “Neidan,” often translated as the path to immortality. To me this means that this is a path to being healthier in your old age.
You will be less likely to injure yourself by moving or lifting something incorrectly as your body mechanics are always really good.
You will be better able to deal with stress as you will have precise control over what your body does with it.
There is a direct link to your mental clarity and being physically relaxed. The more you use correct internal power, the sharper your mind is.
What it boils down to is that by learning to use internal power in your everyday life there are many, many benefits for your mind, body, and spirit.