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Thread: Reclaiming ‘internal’: The Intuitive Method Interpretation

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011

    Reclaiming ‘internal’: The Intuitive Method Interpretation

    Reclaiming ‘internal’; The Intuitive Method Interpretation

    Article Summary:

    1. Most previous interpretations of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ are not true, and evolved only as a series of deceits to support the status, incomes, egos, reputations and low skill of a falsely elevated elite. In some cases, however, wrong interpretations have emerged due to lack of insight. The real meaning of these terms is a threat to the status and incomes of this elite, hence their resistance to it.

    2. The intuitive method interpretation (IMI) reclaims, or rather rediscovers and reasserts, the true meaning of ‘internal’ and ‘external’, and in doing so overthrows that elite, and returns these concepts to all people, for the benefit of all people, at all stages of practice. IMI enhances the training of all, while most other interpretations enhance the bank balances of frauds.

    3. IMI asserts that ‘internal’ and ‘external’ do not refer to any physical movements, or movement methods, or movement styles whatsoever, nor to any physical outcomes. As a logical consequence:

    A: ‘Soft’ and ‘hard’ movements do not define what is internal or external martial art.

    B: ‘Whole body movement’ (or more usually whole body weight power), because it is a physical movement practice, cannot be the ‘true’ meaning of internal and external, nor can it be the replacement, or superior re-statement, of these concepts.

    C: Internal and external do not refer to any method of ‘energy release’ etc., and so ‘internal’ cannot be claimed as an achieved skill. The real method of wushu is an evolving process of personal development.

    4. Internal and external refer solely to active approaches to training – ‘internal’ meaning intuitive insight and development, ‘external’ meaning the use of other people’s knowledge: i.e. coaching, copying movements, learning set-skills and movements, sports science. Both are asserted within IMI as equally important.

    5. IMI explains and resolves almost all debates surrounding this subject, and many others within Chinese martial arts, and as such is superior to all other interpretations. Similarly, IMI is true for all people at all times, at all stages of development, and so by definition is a superior interpretation than interpretations that posit the existence of things that can only ‘exist’ or be understood within one cultural, or elite, perspective.

    6. If IMI is true (and only if it is true) then criticising it through personal attack, or calling it wrong ‘just because it is’, by definition means that an individual has no experience and/or understanding of the deeper meaning of the true wushu method. Such criticisms would therefore self-negate.

    7. IMI cannot be dismissed on the grounds of being ‘just talk’ or ‘meaningless philosophy/psychobabble’ etc. because its core principle is that the intuitive method works and has meaning only insofar as someone is prepared to invest in real, serious, physical training.

    8. If IMI is true (and only if it is true) then the idea that the internal/external concept is meaningless is, by definition, an indication of lack of insight into the higher level training philosophy of Chinese wushu.


    Arguments over what ‘internal’ and ‘external’ mean in relation to Chinese martial arts (CMA) have been going on for some considerable time. The advent of the internet has seen an explosion of such discussions. As these discussions almost always end in acrimonious disagreement, with nothing proved, nothing demonstrated and nothing learned, many people have simply decided that the ideas are meaningless. Others have clung to mystical interpretations, or interpretations that refer to internal and external as different movement, or ‘energy release’ ‘platforms’.

    Part of the problem is that there is no agreed criteria via which real meanings can be decided upon. As a consequence, most people simply cling to what they already believe, arguing from the perspective that what they say is axiomatically true, for no real reason, and the basis on which other interpretations must be judged is therefore whether it is the same as theirs. Hence the endless, circular, and ultimately pointless discussions.

    Others, more cynically, manipulate meanings to serve their own ends – ends which vary from outright financial fraud, through to deceitfully parading as the bearer of special skills. All of which is to the detriment of CMA as a whole, whose reputation has been damaged by the significant skills-drift, at best away from the real CMA method, and at worst away from actual ability and towards increasingly defensive posturing over arcana. As the economist Maurice Dobb once said, untestable claims are the last, cowardly refuge of bankrupt philosophies – and this is never truer than for the many ‘internal’ so-called experts of the CMA world.

    In this article I will suggest meaningful criteria for assessing the meanings of internal and external, and then demonstrate how most previous interpretations fail to fulfil these criteria. IMI, by contrast, will be shown fully fulfil them. I will then explain in more detail what IMI is, and what it is not. In conclusion, I will argue that IMI is not only true, it is practically useful, represents a deeper insight into CMA than other interpretations, and proves itself truer than other interpretations by the sheer scope and breadth of its applications and implications.

    Meaningful Criteria

    What do ‘internal’ and ‘external’ really mean? And how would we assess this? Some information – isolated quotes – has come to us from the past. Most of our understanding of these terms, however, comes from discussions over time with the wider community of CMAists who in turn have garnered some idea from the ‘folk’ traditions of the past. Most of those traditions had oral histories, and so it is difficult to know precisely what people thought about the matter in the past, and whether our interpretations correspond with theirs. However, it is feasible that there were many interpretations in the past, based on different levels of understanding and insight. Unfortunately, we cannot know whether an isolated quote, or a particular interpretation, represents the most profound understanding, or the most glib.

    I am going to use something called the Principle of Scientific Exegesis to argue that we can in fact ‘decode’ the real meaning of internal and external, just by assuming that the best, past practitioners understood something that all good human artists come to realise: that an art is a fusion of method and idiosyncrasy, and that only by encouraging this yin/yang of methods can real skill and/or understanding come about. In fact, most people in CMA already fully understand this idea; they just have yet to link it to ‘internal’ and ‘external’, because this real meaning has been overlooked in the pursuit of arcana.

    The ‘Principle of Scientific Exegesis’ (PSE) suggests, in simplest terms, that an explanation which explains more of an interconnected set of ideas is truer than one which explains less. In other words, if an interpretation of something makes more aspects of it make sense, then it is superior to an interpretation that makes less aspects interconnect and make sense in relation to one another. Another principle of PSE is that the meaning of ambiguous terms within a set of ideas should, where possible and where this makes sense, be interpreted in the way that conforms to the overall conclusions of the set of ideas - because it makes more sense that arguments in favour of the conclusion were the real, intended meaning than arguments against the conclusion. (This, by the way, dismisses arguments based on Chinese language interpretations – these cannot possibly represent the intended technical meanings of words within a complex idea set held by deeply thoughtful individuals, such as that surrounding Chinese wushu).

    Following PSE, I firstly assert that CMA should be seen as a practical skill development system. Without this, CMA becomes meaningless, so this statement must, by definition, be true. As a consequence, definitions of terms or ideas that come to us from the past, or during our training, must, by definition, make more sense when interpreted in a way that furthers skill development than when interpreted in a way that does not. Useless ideas are obviously bolted on, unnecessary additions, to a practical system.

    Applied to the internal/external (I/E) concept, this means that an interpretation that aids further skill development should be viewed as superior to those that do not. An idea that does not aid skill development is ‘dead’ – it may ‘make sense’ on its own in some sense, but if it does not make sense when connected to the whole, and to the intended outcome of that whole (higher skill), it has no point within that whole, and should be rejected.

    Does this mean that if there is such a skill-developing interpretation of I/E that we can then comfortably assume that it is superior to other interpretations? One could argue contrarily that the view that the I/E concept is meaningless leads to superior skill by preventing time wasting. In itself, however, this would not lead directly to further skill-development – it just would not lead you anywhere at all. In fact, if there is an interpretation that does, actively, lead to further skill-development, then ignoring it would retard potential development, rather than enhance it, and so in such a case, this criticism would have to be dismissed. Below I will argue we are dealing with such a case (one where there is an interpretation that aids skill development), and so I dismiss it.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Assuming that there is an interpretation of I/E that leads to skill development, we would then be able to comfortably dismiss two common interpretations: 1. that internal and external means Chinese and non-Chinese martial arts respectively; and 2., that it refers to the lessons of those who are trusted ‘indoor’ students of a teacher and so receive the ‘internal’, real training, compared to those who are just taught ‘outside’ level, second-rate martial arts. Neither of these interpretations leads to further skill development – and the second also, rather suspiciously, helps to excuse the empirical reality of low-level wushu by the wishful thinking that something better is happening ‘behind closed doors’.

    The dismissal of ‘physical movement’ interpretations of I/E utilises slightly different implications of PSE, however, and needs to be broken up into analytic segments.

    Firstly, according to PSE, an explanation which is in harmony with the intended outcome (in this case actual skill development) is superior to one that is not. This means, also, that actual explanations are superior to explanations which turn out not to be explanations at all. Specifically, they are better than ‘explanations’ which turn out just to be arbitrary labelling that explains nothing. It is not at all clear, for instance, why slow movements would be described as ‘internal’. Correct ‘slow movement’ training in CMA involves feelings all over the body, including on the surface of the skin and in the mind. On the whole, therefore, this ‘explanation’ has no explanatory value whatsoever; it is, rather, just a rather curious description. (Applying PSE in micro version, the explanation that this label has emerged through some kind of error makes far more sense than the idea that it refers arbitrarily to a type of movement that in reality involves the whole body, and not just its ‘inside’, moving in harmony).

    Any actual ‘explanation’ whatsoever, therefore, will be an improvement on a mere ‘description’, as it will at least move the debate out of the territory of arbitrary and meaningless labelling, and into an arena where we can question and dismiss the interpretation.

    Secondly, the counter-argument/s that certain movements are ‘internal’ because they draw on superior qi movement and/or the operation of a mystical ‘dan tien’ could probably be sufficiently dismissed by pointing out that this posits the existence of organs and bodily aspects that no one can ever see, and so is at best a spurious ‘explanation’.

    In fact, it is not an explanation at all – again, it is just a description, this time of a ‘qi system’ that some believe exists. That the qi system requires belief is itself spurious – and this has led to a whole series of knock-on ‘proofs’ that all require belief, or ‘special knowledge’ to see. IMI requires none of this.

    The case of a punch that has power also requires no positing of a qi system to explain it, nor does it require the term ‘internal’ to explain relaxation or superior body movement – in such cases, ‘internal’ is no more than a curious synonym for relaxation or power, with no ‘explanatory’ value whatsoever, save the positing of a qi system that is entirely redundant as a needed explanation.

    However, the real problem here is that other than the idea that this qi system is ‘inside you’, there is no explanation as to why this means that ‘internal’ martial arts equates to any particular form of movement – because followers of the same belief system - ‘external’ martial artists - also believe that they use this ‘internal’ system in their arts. Hence, this ‘explanation’ actually has no explanatory value at all, unless one descends into factional fanaticism over who has the ‘real’ means of utilising the magical, invisible organs operating inside them.

    IMI, by contrast, makes full sense without any reference to any movement types whatsoever, and so fully oversteps this problem. Secondly, IMI is not culturally specific – no belief in dan tiens or qi are required for its validity to hold, and no actual qi or dan tiens need to exist for it to be true. IMI explains, in other words, so much more real skill development than the qi system explanation (which relies for its ‘proof’ on the continual assertion of yet more magic powers, such as ‘internal strikes’ that cannot be demonstrated on an unwilling subject) that, not only according to PSE, but just according to basic common sense, IMI is much more likely to be the true interpretation. Thirdly, labels and explanations that are congruent are more likely to be logically superior in terms of explanatory value to those that are not at all congruent. ‘Internal’ and ‘slow movement’ have no congruence at all. ‘Internal’ and ‘intuitive’ are deeply congruent, referring to a source of knowledge – from within the person. All of which points to IMI as a superior explanation. IMI’s applicability to real skill, compared to the fantasy explanations of other interpretations, is a solid hint that it is likely to be the correct and original meaning in a practical system such as CMA.

    However, this will not satisfy those who believe in qi and dan tiens. Fortunately, IMI does not require that anyone abandon these concepts: it explains I/E for believers and non-believers alike; a further example of its superior explicatory value. One can believe in qi and also fully understand, and benefit from, the value of the intuitive method.

    Thirdly, one cannot argue that ‘internal’ equates to slow movement by citing that those who have used slow movement have developed skill. This simply misses out the logical step in which a meaningful argument would need to be made as to why ‘internal’ should mean slow movement at all. Slow movement might lead to skill – but this does not explain why the skill is ‘internal’. Similarly for explosive power – why would anyone call this ‘internal’? Similarly, a person with real skill who calls it ‘internal’ is not explaining why their skill is ‘internal’, they are merely describing it as such – which could happen within a particular cultural milieu. The fact remains that if they cannot explain what internal means, it is only a label, and not an explanation.

    A further damaging approach to the ‘physical movement’ explanations relies on the PSE principle that ambiguous interpretations should be resolved in favour of the conclusion. This works both ways, so that a ridiculous conclusion that is faithful to its premises resolves the overall premises (or their interpretations in this case) as ridiculous. In this case, the ridiculous conclusion is people who claim to hold high level ‘internal martial arts’ skill who cannot demonstrate it and so have to resort to tricks, threats, parlour games, personal attacks, lies, and claims of what happened in the past to keep themselves in underserved elite positions. Such tricks include all instances of public boasting that are accompanied by transparent attempts to prevent having to match the boast with practical, public demonstration: such as claiming to have skills that cannot be seen or differentiated either from poor movement or from movement skills that are no different to non-‘internal’ skills (including spurious claims to ‘whole body power’). And it also includes resorting to the argument that ‘those who have real knowledge can see it’ – as this is the precise argument used in the parable of the Emperor’s new clothes. IMI does not require anyone to have elite or secret knowledge: it can be understood by anyone.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Further examples include: public boasting followed by an appeal that ‘I have nothing to prove’; public boasting followed by claims that what they do cannot be filmed; public boasting followed by claims that their skill can only be experienced in person; an individual of low skill claiming that a teacher is great because ‘I felt his power’; shills flying around against the laws of physics; public boasting and/or fraudulent demonstrations followed by appeals to the idea that ‘science isn’t everything’; public boasting followed by ‘come to my place and I’ll beat you up’; public boasting/claims followed by appeal to evidence that exists inaccessibly on a mountain in China; personal attacks against those who do not believe them; appeal to secret knowledge; appeal to magic; appeal to superior status.

    All of the above are ridiculous ‘proofs’ of a ‘master’s’ internal skill, and as such, can be reverse interpreted to reveal their interpretations of ‘internal’ as equally ridiculous. By contrast, any interpretation which does not make I/E ridiculous is superior to such explanations (even just the idea that I/E means Chinese and non-Chinese is better). IMI, by contrast, requires none of this in order to be understood as a valid idea; nor does it require any appeal to superiority, either of skill, status, knowledge or title – it is understandable, and its offshoot – the intuitive method - experienceable, by everyone; and as it refers to a process that is intended to have clear practical results, its results can be seen, assessed and enjoyed by anyone.

    By this means, almost all support for the traditional interpretations of I/E is eliminated, as this support was primarily the conglomerate lie of individuals and/or their followers guilty of the above listed tricks. As such individuals have no demonstrable skill – or what skill they claim relies on belief, and the above tricks to enforce that belief - their support for any particular interpretation is mere conjecture on their part.

    However, this does not of course mean that they were necessarily wrong, as one may, for example, follow IMI and still have poor skill. If IMI is true then it is true regardless of the skill level of the person who advocates it, simply because it is true – so why not the magic internal claims of frauds?

    The response to this must be the more robust argument that it is logical that their (the fraud’s) interpretations of I/E did not lead to their skill because they have no ‘internal’ skill – and therefore one can presume that their interpretation of I/E has evolved after the fact to protect the fraud: invisible organs, mystical qi powers, skills too deadly to use, or too subtle to be seen by the neophyte, skills that are invisible, that only work on the ‘sensitive’, or which must be inferred from cracks in concrete blocks – all of these have one thing in common: They all require one to ‘believe’ that something exists that is otherwise not perceivable by non-believers. IMI requires none of this. It requires no belief whatsoever, and so is superior to these people’s interpretations.

    What is the Internal Method Interpretation?

    Firstly, IMI is not a training method. The ‘intuitive method’, which is a natural corollary of IMI, is a training method, while IMI itself is simply an interpretation of the meanings of the terms internal and external as applied to Chinese martial arts. IMI simply interprets these terms in the most practical, useful way, believing this to be fully in harmony with the overall practical orientation of CMA. Because CMA is practical, all of its terms should lead towards practical results (practical in the sense of real, which includes self-defence, health and aesthetic).

    Rejecting all interpretations of I/E that lead nowhere, and that do not help a person progress, or which protect and justify an elite of frauds who have destroyed the reputation of Chinese wushu, IMI posits simply that ‘internal’ means intuitive development, while ‘external’ means learning from others.

    Intuitive development, in this case, is an evolving skill; as a person learns from their coach, over the years they should begin to take deeper control of their own progress, physical movement development, learning and interpretations. According to Wang Xiang Zhai, by breaking them free from the rules and fixed methods of past training, the intuitive method will lead a diligent individual to unfold natural skill that is both framed within Quan as a historical aesthetic, and yet also a formless personal expression of Quan as a trained, idiosyncratic skill. In this way, IMI also resolves the question of whether martial art is ‘art’ or not; in the sense of individual expression, it is art, while in the sense of being trained for a purpose, it is martial. There are further claims for the intuitive method, such as the development of higher level skill, but I am not qualified to demonstrate this, and so it is not a part of this article or its claims.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    ‘External’, by contrast, means utilising the skills of others; exploiting (in a positive way) their knowledge, technical coaching, transferable skills and particular techniques.

    Wang Xiang Zhai, who is regarded as having been high level according to all interpretations of I/E, fully rejected as meaningless and superficial I/E explanations that divide wushu into different schools based on different movement principles. Wang recommended the intuitive method as the real path of Quan, and so IMI is the only interpretation fully in harmony with Wang’s teachings, while all those who parasitise his reputation to justify their false I/E claims act fully against his beliefs; a further proof of IMI.

    IMI resolves all debates.

    IMI does not declare internal as superior to external: it reveals that, by definition, the true Quan is a combination of both. Art (painting), or break dancing, are both examples of intuitive method, with a skill-set learned from others, working in harmony with natural ability and intuition, guiding an individual, ultimately, to an idiosyncratic but skilled expression of the discipline. In this way, IMI is not only in harmony with CMA principles, it is a principle of human development per se; and so it is an interpretation of I/E that sweeps away unneeded culturally specific interpretations such as dan tiens and qi, while not eliminating their cultural validity. In harmony with PSE, this broad application is further indication of the truth of IMI. Similarly, IMI is fully in harmony with most CMAist’s intuitive understanding that any real martial art system should ultimately be a vehicle that leads to the development of idiosyncratic skills – yet further confirmation.

    That the intuitive method can be shown to have real, practical benefits across most if not all human disciplines, whereas other definitions of I/E cannot even be shown to have practical benefits to CMA, means that IMI is the real explanation.

    Traditional interpretations of I/E rely on the belief in an elite knowledge base, understandable only by the initiated. By contrast, IMI is fully understandable by the neophyte – and yet, its implications also become more profound as the neophyte progresses; yet further proofs that IMI is the true interpretation.

    IMI reclaims internal and external as harmonious approaches to training, and so eliminates all debates as to what kinds of physical movement I/E relates to, or which is superior. IMI reveals all of these as long standing misunderstandings. As such, it fully reconnects our modern training with the ideas, methods and aims of the past. IMI is, in other words, fully in harmony with both past and contemporary approaches. IMI is represented in yin/yang as much as in modern sports psychology.

    While current interpretations of I/E rely on expending vast amounts of energy justifying why suspiciously poor quality looking individuals are really top-level masters, IMI only requires to be understood, not believed.

    The intuitive method, which is the practical application of IMI, is as equally applicable to taijiquan as it is to MMA, JKD, TKD, break dancing, drumming, jazz and archery. This universal application is further proof that it is a universal principle, simply misunderstood – or deliberately made complex - by a parasitic elite who rely on false I/E explanations to justify their otherwise inexplicable status.

    IMI is understandable, and useable, by all people; one does not have to have a specialist, elite knowledge, nor does one need to become immersed in the arcana of secret Chinese mystical practices. Further to PSE, this reveals that IMI is a naturally true thing, and so is far more likely to be the real explanation of I/E than complex, culturally specific mysticism.

    IMI is simple. And yet its implications are profound. This means that it cuts through and dismisses all mystical and philosophical convolutions, while at the same time offering real, practical benefits to people who understand it and follow the intuitive method.

    The intuitive method is a process; this means that people of all levels can ‘master’ it, and benefit from it, even if it does not lead to high level; one gets out of it precisely what one puts into it. False views of I/E meanwhile lead people a merry dance forever – or until they find themselves having to use all the old parlour tricks to justify their status.

    While false views of I/E are used to gouge people out of cash, the intuitive method is free to everyone.

    Why is IMI resisted?
    Many people have vested interests in the false interpretations of I/E. Their businesses, their status, egos, sense of petty internet importance, and even their sex lives may depend on the false interpretations. It is really that simple. Others have simply long given up on the idea that I/E has any useful value.

    Will I die if I accept IMI? And will I have to give up the training that I do and enjoy?

    No. Most things in CMA are not really understood. We ‘appoint’ expectations about what they mean. We build these expectations up into massive things at times, assuming that they are so complex. We invest a lot into them in terms of our identity, and even in terms of time and money. However, many very wise things turn out to be obvious and hidden in full view. When we realise that the very complex thing we were buying into was actually much simpler – that it was just ‘oh that, but that’s obvious’ – we ‘dis’ appoint our expectations and become ‘disappointed’. For a time this can make the whole thing seem pointless – and the great damage the frauds have done to CMA is to push so many into this position when they realised the truth about their teacher and their ‘art’ and thus decided that CMA was valueless. This also explains those people who only see value in aspects of CMA that they think are useful in a fight – they do not see the intuitive method, and its value as a training approach, and so think that CMA is, in Wang Xiang Zhai’s words, no more than ‘hits and beats’. But from the real understanding – and only from the real understanding – of the intuitive method, anyone even begin to understand the real point of wushu, and its immense value to the human race, and to individuals seeking a real path of personal development.

    IMI belongs to everyone already.

    I am deeply grateful to Wang Xiang Zhai, Zhao DaoXin, Andrew Kliman, Sheila, Spirit Warrior, my wushu family, and all the others who have, through books or in person, tried to help me see the puzzle more clearly over the years, and whose collected insights this is a summary of much more than it is a set of my own insights – while all errors or misjudgements here are mine.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Great Lakes State, U.S.A.
    Quite an article, miqi! Finished reading the first page, much content to absorb so I will take some time reading the other pages. I think you are being very through and realistic about your assessment in defining the two terms that have been in play for at least a hundred years when it comes to marketing TCMA.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    Tampa, FL
    There is no such thing as internal and external. There is only the complete body, the entire structure.

    Divisions are for sycophants and dilettantes and not martial artists.
    Mouth Boxers have not the testicular nor the spinal fortitude to be known.
    Hence they hide rather than be known as adults.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    IMI and the Dialectic Single System: Further Implications of the Intuitive Method Interpretation, and why it is Important to Think, and not just Train

    This article continues on from the broad principles outlined in the article Reclaiming ‘Internal’: The Intuitive Method Interpretation. The ideas contained in that article will not be significantly rehearsed again here, but rather, built upon, with the provision of further proofs, implications and applications of the intuitive method interpretation.


    The intuitive method interpretation (IMI) posits that the Chinese martial arts terms ‘internal’ and ‘external’ do not refer to any forms of physical movement, physical practice, schools of wushu etc., but rather, to two pedagogic methods. According to IMI, ‘internal’ means the intuitive unfolding of knowledge and insight which leads to, but is not synonymous with, idiosyncratic skill, while ‘external’ refers to the exploitation (in the positive sense) of other people’s knowledge (i.e. coaches, teachers, books, videos, articles etc.).
    A significant account of IMI has already been given in the article Reclaiming ‘Internal’: The Intuitive Method Interpretation. This article will present a more advanced set of implications – particularly the ideas of: the ‘single system’ approach, the dialectic of internal and external, the solving of the ‘formlessness’ debate, the elimination of the ‘hierarchy’ ideology of internal and external, and the real meaning of ‘dacheng’ or ‘ultimate achievement’, and the assertion that of individuals who instruct others not to think about wushu are in direct contradiction to its essential training methodology.

    The Single System – Methodological Introduction

    The idea that Chinese wushu can be divided into different schools described as ‘internal’ and ‘external’ had already been in circulation for some time when Wang Xiang Zhai wrote in the 1950s that this school division nomenclature was meaningless. By definition, IMI confirms Wang’s argument because IMI negates the notion that I/E refers to any physical movement styles, methods or physical skills whatsoever. However, simply to assert such is obviously not the same thing as proving it.

    Proving IMI, however, is not possible in any straightforward sense. The very fact that debates over the meaning of I/E have gone on, in circular and pointless fashion, for many decades is proof of the ultimate futility of any direct attempt to prove any one interpretation. There simply is no one, single, unquestionably authoritative source that we can go to and find an interpretation that makes everything to do with I/E make sense in a useful, meaningful way. (Only IMI, in fact, does this. And only IMI can be put together by anyone considering openly all the facts – while other interpretations rely upon buying into the belief that a dubious elite possessed an arcane, specialist knowledge which we need to ‘trust’ – a doubtful basis for the empirical understanding of this issue.)

    As a resolution to this problem, IMI is based on the principle that the best interpretation is the one that makes more of the available, relevant issues, terms and information make sense than the other interpretations do. The more sense that is made, the more likely that interpretation is to be closer to being the correct one. In the case of IMI, this article, as with other IMI articles, asserts that the proof of the correctness of IMI is that it makes not only more elements of Chinese wushu theory, terminology and practice pertaining to I/E makes sense, but that it makes all Chinese wushu theory, terminology and practice pertaining to I/E make sense, and in a way that other interpretations of I/E spectacularly fail to achieve. This is the approach that will be carried on here: IMI will be shown to be true, not by appeal to ancient scripture, or current dogma, but by appeal to the significant sense that it makes of I/E overall.

  8. #8
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    Jul 2011
    The Single System – Explanation

    Consequently, there will be no major detour here as to why we should reject the idea that different schools can be meaningfully divided into ‘internal’ and ‘external’. It is logically sufficient at this point, given the argument we need to make and review in order to proceed, simply to take Wang’s dismissal of the idea as our starting hypothesis – i.e. we can begin with the claim that the use of the terms in that sense is meaningless, and proceed to see if we cannot find a far better interpretation before being forced (should we be defeated in our attempt) to go back and endeavour to dissect thousands of wushu styles to see why one arm movement is ‘internal’ while another is not. The latter seems to me, intuitively, to be a rather trivial pursuit, and very much a quagmire for our attention. It would lead away from skill development simply by virtue of time wasting, and it would be false by definition in that what we would be looking for is what we had already, beforehand, decided ‘internal’ to look like. (This in itself is a point that is significantly damaging to the idea that I/E means types of physical movements – there is no way round the fact that any criteria upon which the judgement is made that a movement is, say, ‘external’ is by definition just dogma: i.e. that ‘stiff’ movement is ‘external’ is just a dogmatic belief and the arbitrary application of a label, because stiffness in itself in no way empirically presents itself as ‘external’ unless one already believes that it does.)
    In contrast, the broad principle that an interpretation of I/E that begins with simple premises that can then be meaningfully applied to all cases, seems far more likely to be valid than the idea that assessing what is an ‘external’ movement has to be established on an infinite case by case, person by person, movement by movement basis. The latter would be quite the fool’s errand.

    IMI, fortunately, is based on a much simpler hypothesis: i.e. that internal and external are not schools, but approaches to training. However, this idea can still find itself caught up in the aura of misunderstanding emitted by the previous sense of ‘different schools’ (the different schools fallacy) – after all, might not IMI refer to different approaches taken by different schools? This is not the case, however. IMI is a ‘single system’ approach. As will be shown below, this approach makes far more sense than any version of the two schools fallacy.

    The Single System Approach

    While I/E refers to two distinct approaches to training, this does not mean that these approaches are alienated from one another in the way that the ‘internal’ and ‘external’ schools are purported to be in the two schools fallacy. Rather, they are integrated approaches to training – i.e. integrated within a single, over-arching training methodology, hence ‘single system’. It must be this way for the simple reason that only via this method can the use of intuitive exploration make any sense in the wider training aims of Chinese wushu. In other words, intuition on its own, without being trained and formed within an externally applied and learned method, does not provide an individual with the training frame that forms the basis of intuitive modification in the first place. Which is not to say, as Wang Xiang Zhai puts it, that a sage-like person could not achieve high level through solely intuitive means – it means only that for the vast majority of people, the dialectic interplay of external and internal methods will achieve the best possible outcomes over time (modified, of course, by talent and effort – there are infinite possible outcomes of the true I/E method, making it the only explanation of I/E that actually matches the empirical reality of the martial arts world).
    One might argue here that I have assumed the single system approach to be true simply because it is a logical offshoot of IMI, and that I have in turn taken that conclusion as proof of what might turn out to be its false premise. This is possible. The only way that this can be judged is to note that the overall product – the dialectic single system – turns out to be fully in harmony with Chinese wushu method (at both basic and profound levels), common sense, and empirical practice experienced by millions across multiple art forms and endeavours. IMI is, in other words, a description of how people learn, and how they become very good at things. This easily outweighs any doubts over whether the premise matches the conclusion – it clearly does.

    The Dialectic of the Single System

    The single system is ‘dialectic’ in that each aspect of I/E has a conditioning effect upon the other. There is not enough space here to fully explore the particulars of dialectic systems, but a brief mention is in order of what dialectic systems are not. Dialectic systems are active, and so should not be confused with static models in which there is ‘a bit of both’ or in which one part holds the other in check. For one thing, dialectic systems may draw in and incorporate multiple tertiary elements – in this case, a person’s talent, training ethic, insight, coach’s ability, diet, age, physiology, historical time frame, wider social knowledge of sports and martial science, intended outcome and so on. All of these play a part in the overall training dialectic.

    Dialectic systems lead to change, and to a moving forwards, not to stasis or ‘balance’ – they amount to a process with direction; a process which agitates the dialectic elements towards a continually re-modified outcome. Note, for example, that the dialectic concept of the yin/yang indicates movement, process, and not static equilibrium. The core dialectic between I/E – that is, if IMI is the correct interpretation of I/E - is therefore not intended to find ‘balance’, but to push training forwards by encouraging the student to gradually modify externally given knowledge according to their idiosyncratic abilities. (This must be the kind of dialectic in IMI, if IMI is true, because this is the whole basis of why it makes sense as an interpretation of I/E – i.e. its practical ability to produce wushu experts).

    One consequence of this insight is that any sense that I/E refers to ‘a balance of hard and soft’ is necessarily wrong, because, while it might be true in physical terms that this is a necessity (although, it probably is not a necessity, and on deeper investigation we would probably find this claim to be more rhetorical than empirical), such a balance does not lead to higher level, but only to a physical stasis. A real dialectic – as in that between the external and internal approaches – is designed to keep pushing actual level forwards, to open up deeper insight on a continual and unfolding basis, and to produce real wushu experts in a practical, not rhetorical sense: a further proof of IMI, given that this is the primary point of wushu training in the first place.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Negation of ‘Style’ as a Metaphysic, and its Re-establishment as ‘Data’

    In the past, many people have made the critical error of equating the data passed on via the external method (forms, techniques etc.) with the ‘art’ itself, leading to the catastrophic (for wushu) belief that an individual can represent ‘a style’, rather than merely their own achieved ‘outcome’ (i.e. their actual level). This has allowed people to divert attention from their own poor level by claiming to have privileged inheritance of data – for example by claiming to be ‘lineage holders’, or to be the students of famous teachers, or the ‘knowers’ of the authentic forms, techniques etc.. This whole lie-scheme has its own self-replicating logic, with those who do not ‘see’ why poor level is really good level being criticised for failing to recognise the superior status, provenance, lineage etc. of the master. However, the intuitive method reveals this as simply a red herring – a further proof of IMI – by restoring the common sense principle that only a person’s actual level is their level. That is, if level is the product of a process, then no one can inherit level – they can only achieve it by following the process. Because IMI re-establishes the actual, individual skill achieved as the whole point and outcome of I/E, it erases all other claims to level that are based on lineage, reputation, family, time spent training, status, titles or arcane knowledge. At the same time, however, IMI also emphasises the critical importance of having high quality coaching methods feeding into the external approach – and so IMI also solves the problem of which is more important, individual or method; or rather, it reveals this to be, as most people already intuitively grasp, a dialectic combination of elements. Only in the IMI interpretation, however, is the full dialectic between coaching method and intuitive engagement presented as the highest pedagogic method (in the best cases involving the highest examples of both feeding into one another) – and so only IMI actually provides any reason for following I/E or believing it to be an excellent training method.

    Rejecting the Hard-Soft Fallacy

    In one sense, the dialectic approach does appear to be in harmony with the position of the many people who have tried to solve the I/E debate by arguing that internal and external need to ‘compliment’ one another. However, this ‘complimentary’ explanation of I/E, in this physicalist sense – i.e. ‘hard and soft physical movement complement each other’ - must be rejected on the following grounds:

    (a) There is no clear reason why hard and soft movements should be described as ‘internal’ and ‘external’ respectively, rather than simply ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. Because these extra terms are redundant, it seems logical to reject them, and to doubt that they were originally intended to be applied to hard and soft movements.

    (b) By the defining axiom of the ‘both are needed’ explanation, all ‘proper’ schools of wushu must indeed include both hard and soft, hence, the idea that I/E could ever have referred to different schools which emphasised an imbalance of one or the other, but which were nevertheless still all ‘proper’, would have to be largely meaningless.

    (c) In attempting to side-step the question of what I/E really means, the ‘both are needed’ fallacy forgets that concretely premised definitions of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ have to be supplied before the idea can be taken to a higher analytical level. It simply asserts that ‘both internal and external are needed’. Once the idea that I/E refers to hard and soft is dropped, this becomes nothing but a logical trick: both of what are needed? If neither was ever defined, a combination of the two is equally as meaningless as the individual components were.

    However, there is a further hint that IMI is true in that it provides real substance to the otherwise hollow ‘both are needed’ thesis. Only in and through IMI does this thesis begin to make any real sense, because only in IMI are the premises themselves solidified. In IMI, I/E is revealed as two approaches to training – intuitive development, and the exploitation of pre-extant knowledge. They merge together – both are needed – in dialectic interaction.

    Another hint that IMI is true is that this explains why one would even need to differentiate I/E in the first place: the differentiation is pedagogic, transmissive and methodological. It disconnects external data (training methodology passed on from other people) from any particular individual, so that it can exist and pass on on its own - but then, when the time is right in a person’s training, the very concept of ‘internal’, properly understood, guides them towards what it is that they need to do (and are probably already doing if they are at this point) to breathe life into those training methods to transform them into their own expression. In other words, the student should – in the correct method – be made to realise at a certain point that their intuitive adaptation of the external data must now form that data into a living, idiosyncratic expression of the art that maximises their own strengths. IMI therefore has as a core axiom the a person must not become a clone of their teacher, but find individual expression of the art – thus IMI solves the riddle of apeing the master, rejects it, and quite in harmony with common sense, relegates it to the dustbin of training practice.

    The person thus becomes the art. The art is not, and never was merely the data (what we normally call a ‘style’). Wushu is revealed as a living thing, not a dead system, and each individual revealed as the ‘master’ only of their own idiosyncratic ‘style’, and their mastery revealed solely as their actual achievement and level.

    This, in turn, is what allows errors in method to be corrected, and the art to evolve and move forward dialectically (as one person’s idiosyncratic expression modifies, and to a degree becomes the data that is passed on to the next person via the external method). That this is how real knowledge grows in all fields is yet further proof of IMI – and also a dismissal of all of those who claim status based solely on knowledge of the data of a system. The data is only one part – the most limited part. The most sophisticated part is the real outcome that was achieved via intuitive exploration of that data. (It should be noted that this is also in perfect harmony with Bruce Lee’s theory, while not being JKD specific – a further proof of IMI).

    Note, however, that the two methods – I/E – are just methods, or means of installing and modifying data in a person, not the data that is passed on or modified.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2011

    A further mystery solved by IMI’s dialectic single system approach is that of ‘formlessness’. Occasionally, arguments will flare up on internet forums over this issue. Usually, the mistake is to posit formlessness as an abstract concept. As such, no one can ever really explain what it is (after all, who is ever really without form?) while those who see the value in the ‘data’ of a system (techniques, shen fa etc.) find it difficult to see why abandoning that data would be beneficial, nor what it would ‘leave behind’ that would be of use. IMI resolves this problem by revealing ‘formlessness’ to be the outcome of a dialectic training process. ‘Formlessness’, if it were to be achieved at its highest possible level, would mean someone who was capable in all circumstances of executing techniques freely across a continuum of expression, from the most perfect traditional movements, through to movements stripped of all extraneous movement - stripped down to the barest expressions of the principles of wushu (for example, explosive whole body power) – and even beyond, to movements that contradict those principles in idiosyncratic but effective (given the circumstance) ways. (This interpretation is – not coincidentally - a much better interpretation of the JKD concept of ‘Liberty’ than the usual line of mere ‘letting go of form/s’, as it seems logically obvious that one is not truly ‘liberated’ from all ideologies, physical and mental, unless one is also liberated from the ideology that one must never use anything from the ‘classical mess’. This is a further proof of IMI’s veracity.) Such a being is unlikely to exist, of course – although Wang Xiang Zhai has been built up, rather doubtfully I suspect, as something close to it. But as the dialectic single system approach to IMI posits a ‘process’, it is entirely in harmony with IMI – indeed explains what the intuitive method would be as a practical outcome – that a person could, after some time following the intuitive method, be capable of ‘formlessness’ on less advanced levels, for example by being able to use the principles of wushu, to some effective degree, either with ‘correct form’ of a traditional movement, or by expressing simply the ‘principle’ in simple, natural movement, as they wish. That this is actually only possible if IMI is true is an axiomatic proof of IMI – i.e. one must, by definition, have proceeded via intuition to modify the external data (forms and techniques) in order to be able to produce idiosyncratic skill – hence IMI must be logically valid in itself, as the description of a real method. Secondly, that IMI therefore fully applies to the use of any technique – whether traditional, or merely a stripped down principle - is further proof that IMI is a real wushu principle, whereas arcane arguments over what constitutes an ‘authentic wushu technique’ contradict the profound wushu idea that wushu has principles first, of which techniques of any type are only arbitrary, secondary crystallisations. ‘Balance of hard and soft’, for instance, has no such widespread or profound explanatory applicability.

    Overthrowing the Hierarchy

    One of the more ridiculous outcomes of the mistaken belief that I/E refers to different schools is the establishment of a hierarchy in some people’s minds of something akin to a social class system, with ‘internal’ schools at the top (sometimes with these so-called internal schools themselves listed in a hierarchy against one another – and of course, usually with one internal ‘master’ at the very, very top), ‘external’ schools below – and often ‘foreign’ martial arts lower still. These bizarre lists sometimes are, literally, social strata, with a hierarchy drawing money from its peddling of false information to the ‘lower orders’. One might also note that these ‘higher’ schools are often the ones that have least actual practical training and – by definition - ability, yet make the most significant claims.

    Such ideas should be self-revealing as nonsense to any sensible person. More so because in almost every case there is little evidence that anyone in the ‘internal’ schools has any actual ‘superior’ ability. By and large, such schools are run by older, overweight individuals who need to rely on reputation, obnoxious dismissal of critics, comical threats and parlour tricks to maintain their position. Not coincidentally, such humbugs are very often the ‘masters’ who most absurdly insist that people should refrain from thinking and instead go and do more (presumably mindless) training. (Personally, I always check the physical fitness of these people, to assess what level of training they actually do themselves – an essential, when dealing with a physical art form, I believe).
    IMI is in direct contradiction to these people – they cannot both be correct, because thinking is a key aspect of the intuitive method. And of life generally – in which case, while IMI is in harmony with common sense, the humbugs are not only not, they are also very suspiciously telling people not to think, which should surely ring alarm bells. The intuitive method, on the other hand, is, by definition, based on thinking deeply.

    I do not intend to labour the point on this: IMI and the ‘hierarchy’ approach cannot both be true. However, IMI is equally applicable to all styles, and proposes all styles as potential vehicles to achieve an idiosyncratic understanding and expression of Quan, free from the need to be a sycophant to any school or master, or the need to rely on any connection to any school or master. Indeed, IMI even solves the problem of great students emerging from poor teachers, in that a greater degree of intuitive practice can transform poor external method transmission into something far better than the teacher ever achieved. Whereas the hierarchy approach posits only one school - their own school, and their own masters - as the apex of wushu. There are many reasons for rejecting that approach, while the reasons for accepting it apply only to the personal, financial, and ego interests of a very few.

    For wushu, my true love, in partial payment of my debt.

    Well informed readers will note significant similarities between the ideas presented here, and the economic TSSI theory. This is not a coincidence.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    A review of the many original sources that support IMI is no doubt in order at some point - but in the meantime, I found this today, attributed to Yang Ban Hou, which made me, and the other dilettentes, all smile:

    "As long as we are able to follow our nature, we will not lose touch with our origin. By not forgetting where we come from, we will not lose touch with where we are headed, for if you want to know where you are going, you must first know where you are coming from. With our origin mapped out, our way ahead is a clear route that will be traversed by way of instinct. We all, whether smart or stupid, worthy or worthless, have an instinctive awareness that will point us to the Way. If we cultivate the Way, we will be able to know our origin and can fulfill our destiny. To know our origin and fulfill our destiny lies in being able to cultivate the self. Thus it is said [in the Da Xue]: ‘From king to commoner, it all comes down to self-cultivation.’ The way to cultivate the self is through instinctive understanding and ability: eyes keenly seeing and ears acutely hearing, hands dancing and feet prancing, martiality and civility. ‘Broaden your understanding by studying things deeply, thereby improving your intellect and smoothing your emotions.'"

    Last edited by Miqi; 04-01-2014 at 06:20 AM.

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