In the Wudang system of Tai Chi Chuan Internal Strength training is considered the most important aspect
In more than 35 years of martial arts training and strength and conditioning practice I’ve never found a more useful and important method than Tai Chi’s nei gong 内功 exercises, literally meaning “internal work”.
The fighting Tai Chi master Cheng Tin Hung stated directly that it “is the most important part of the art of Tai Chi Chuan”. He was one of only a few masters who had learned it and would teach it to his disciples. He was so dominant as a fight trainer (and Nei gong as the primary training) his students had a record in Hong Kong lei tai (full contact) matches of 31 wins from 32 fights.
The nei gong 内功 are specific forms designed to condition the body in various ways and are focussed on developing jin 勁 (martial power) as well as to make the body and mind strong and healthy.
The practice is based around two sets of exercises, a yin 陰 set and a yang 陽 set, each made up of twelve exercises. The yin 陰 set focusses mainly on strengthening the health of the body, building strength and endurance in the lower body, back and shoulders. They also concentrate on developing foundational jins 勁 such as pan jin 盤勁 (rooting energy) and peng jin 掤勁 (buoyant structural energy).
In contrast, the yang 陽 set builds dynamic tensile strength and trains the ability to release energy, fa jin 發勁, in various ways and in all major directions.
The Yin exercises are practiced on one day and Yang exercises the next. This gives practitioners a comprehensive method of training for their body, mind and technique on a daily basis.
Inner and Outer in Unity
In the first stage of practice breath and movement are harmonized. It is a feature of this syllabus that generally no deliberate effort is made to co-ordinate the breath and movement, instead this is allowed to arise gradually and naturally as the body becomes more familiar with the movements. With regular practice breathing deepens, the diaphragm is strengthened and we can utilise the full potential of our respiratory system. Better breathing patterns can help you achieve deep states of relaxation as well as calm and relieve symptoms of stress. Insomnia is often cured or improved significantly with Nei gong practice.
Mind and Body in Unity
This is the stage where we have trained to be able to connect our minds to our body in an advanced way, leading to high levels of refined coordination in all movement patterns. From a martial arts perspective this improved level of movement control improves the execution of all our techniques. This is the stage at which consciousness of movement comes to fruition.
Heaven and Thought in Unity
This is said to be an impersonal state, where through the practice of Nei gong we have reached a state where we respond perfectly in accord to the requirements of the situation. Taoists would call it a state of Wu Wei, where your actions are executed effortlessly and without ego concerns. We could say it’s a kind of enlightened state. In sports performance this is known as the flow state.
The course design
Nei gong can’t effectively be learned through video alone. Corrections need to be made and things have to be discussed and talked through to get the most from the training.
For this reason my Neigong course has both the video instructional part and then the correction/discussion part with me either in person at a workshop or online.
Once you have begun to practice the exercises you can join the regular online workshop/discussion group to get assistance and guidance where required. Groups are held every fortnight.
Video part of the course
Detailed, clear and easy to follow instruction via 6 video tutorials, each one containing 4 exercises. This is the traditional approach to learning, practicing 4 for a while and then moving on when they are familiar.