Wonders and Mysteries of Chinese Martial Arts

Internal and external components of Chinese martial arts: There is an internal component and there is an external component of Chinese martial arts. Internal component talks about Qi, some sort of bio-electric energy that circulates throughout the body. With proper training, one can build up and guide this Qi to circulate in one’s body. Practicing and building up this Qi to certain parts of your body can strengthen the power that you can exert externally and also increase your capacity to absorb the power of a strike.

But how this is done is mysterious, although most important. However, because I am not sure that today there is a good simple scientific explanation of the internal aspects of Chinese martial arts that is more or less universally accepted, I will not discuss this further here, except that I will refer to two sample videos that demonstrate the internal powers of Chinese martial arts. [1] [2]

The external component of Chinese martial arts can be understood in terms of physics and mathematics:

When you defend against an attack, you don’t block the attack head-on, because then whoever is stronger wins. Instead, you yield to the attacking force by complementing it with a small force along the same direction and simultaneously add a small force perpendicular to the attacking force. The former yields and gets your opponent off balance, and the latter, even a small force, will deflect the attacking force, because there is no force of your opponent in that direction.

This is the essence of the classic saying “four ounces can deflect a thousand pounds”.

Once you sense that your opponent is losing balance, you change direction by applying a force opposite to the direction of your opponent’s original direction of attack. This changes you from defense to offense, as illustrated by the Taiji symbol of constant change: 

Since a rotation changes the black part into the white part, and vice versa. The small white dot in the black part implies the offensive potential while in a defense position.  Similarly the small black dot in the white part implies the defensive potential while in an offense position.

When you step, you step heels down first, followed by stepping down your toes. When you do that, as your foot steps down, not only your foot moves forward, your body also moves forward. By synchronizing your arm attack with the movement of your steps, all parts of your body (foot, body, and arm) are simultaneously moving toward your opponent, thus increasing the power of your attack.

When you attack, you also add the rotation of your waist to increase the power of your attack. That is why loosing up your waist or doing waist rotation is often part of the warm-up exercises.

To increase your own stability, don’t walk like a tightrope walker or a model walking down a walkway. Instead, you always separate your two feet by about a shoulder width. As long as your center of gravity is within your lines of support of your two feet, you don’t fall and your stability is increased.

By keeping these Taiji principles:

  • Do not oppose a force head-on.
  • But deflect it and simultaneously add a small component of force along your opponent’s original direction of attack.
  • When opponent begins to lose balance, you change from defense to offense by applying a force opposite to your opponent’s original direction of attack.
  • Separating your two feet by a shoulder width provides stability.
  • Synchronizing your feet movement with your hand movement allows you to attack your opponent with your hands, feet, and body simultaneously.
  • Including rotation of your waist adds power to your attack.

By keeping these Taiji principles: Your soft and slow Taiji technique can exert the power of a football player, and your opponent feels like that he is attacking cotton.


[1] Sifu Liang De Hua: Taiji Jin 太極勁 | Part 1/2 | Liang De Hua | Season 3 Episode 9 (good demonstration of jin to resist and transform attacking force):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGEP5X78G1w. In particular, see

  • The video clip at (0:00-6:20): An introduction and the theory behind it.
  • The video clip at (9:00-12:32): More demonstration of its applications.

[2] Sifu Adam Mizner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuW4UfaC-l8. In particular, see

  • The video clip at (3:30-6:00): Applications
  • The video clip at (7:45-11:20): Striking and neutralizing striking, importance of placement, timing, and power
  • The video clip at (12:20-15:30): External versus internal martial arts

For both Reference [1] and Reference [2], I like to offer a few comments:

  • The way different people may explain it may be slightly different or they may use different terminologies.  Do not let that bother you too much because in my opinion I am not sure that currently we have a really good scientific explanation that is understandable and acceptable to all the people.
  • What one should get out from these videos is that these are real phenomena, and many people have been able to achieve these skills.
  • It is not easy to achieve the level of these experts.  It takes many years of serious training with suitable experts as your teachers.

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