internal force

I discovered that students in chi kung classes developed internal force too

Question 2

How does development of consolidating force influence flowing force, and vice versa, and what are important practical considerations to ensure these processes are efficient and balanced?



An excellent way to answer the question is to describe my teaching of internal force over many years, which will reveal not only the influence of consolidated force over flowing force, and vice versa, but also beneficial aspects like how this understanding can make our training more cost-effective and how its application can enrich our daily life.

Both the terms and the developmental processes of consolidating force and of flowing force are my invention. These terms were not mentioned in internal art classics before, neither were their developmental processes described.

Indeed, I don’t have the equivalent Chinese terms with me right now. Perhaps those fluent in Chinese may suggest some relevant terms, here in the open forum or privately via e-mails or messages to me.

This will be interesting. This is the first time in the history of internal arts, which I believe are unique to the Chinese, where the philosophy, based on practical experience, was first explained in English and back flowed to the Chinese language.

Internal force, of course, existed in China in the past. But terms like “consolidating force” and “flowing force” were not known. The processes of consolidating force and of flowing force did happen, but they were not defined or described because practitioners were unaware of them.

Internal force was normally taught only to selected students who had proven their worth. They had to practice the required techniques dedicatedly for many years before they could acquire the internal force. By the time they had acquired sufficient internal force they usually had reached master’s’ level though they might have started their training when they were still students. I myself went through the same procedure.

As I taught internal force development to many classes for over 20 years, with more than 100 classes a year and developing internal force was involved in some ways in every class, I had the opportunity to refine its methodology as well as to confirm its effectiveness.

One of my earliest realizations was that practicing chi kung was also building internal force. This was not a new discovery but identifying a process, the identification of which contributed greatly to a better understanding and effectiveness in teaching internal force.

I discovered that my early chi kung students, without undergoing external exercises like skipping rope and lifting weights, increased their power and stamina remarkably. The force developed was obviously internal. This gave me my first indication that chi kung developed internal force. It confirmed the saying that “internally, train qi”, or “noi lean yiet hou hei” in Cantonese.

At this time my approach to chi kung was still through form, though I paid much attention to being relaxed and not thinking of anything, an invaluable lesson I learn some years ago from my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, over casual conversation. In other words, students performed chi kung forms over and over again, and eventually they had a chi flow. Like most other chi kung practitioners today, at first I thought that performing chi kung exercise was practicing chi kung. It was later that I realized the essence was chi flow, and without chi flow it was only gentle physical exercise.

Later I discovered that if I led students to be relaxed and not thinking of anything, which I subsequently learned was called a chi kung state of mind in modern chi kung terminology, I could speed up result remarkably. This led me to an important conclusion that the three essential requirements in chi kung or any internal art training were mind, energy and form in that order of importance, confirming another classical principle, which was similar to but an expansion of the one mentioned earlier that “internally, train mind, energy and essence; externally, train tendons, bones and muscles”, or “noi lean jin shen hei, ngoi lean kern quat pei”.

This indicates the importance of energy flow in building internal force, or the influence of flow over consolidation. Over the years I also discovered that the smoother and bigger the volume of energy flow, the more internal force was consolidated. This led to my philosophical understanding of the fact that while external strength is limited by size, age and gentle, internal force is not.

The realization of the influence of consolidating force over flowing force occurred even earlier. When I learned from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, vigorous energy flow was not encouraged, though we enjoyed slight spontaneous movements of “Flowing Breeze Swaying Willows”. When I had started teaching the Eighteen Lohan Hands to the public later on, I realized that chi flow was very beneficial, though at that time I had not crystallized the concept that it is chi flow that gives the wonderful benefits of chi kung.

So with this habit and understanding, after practicing internal force training, like One-Finger Zen and Golden Bridge, I let go and found that I went into chi flow with much increase of volume and speed. This led to my conclusion that the more internal force I had consolidated, the more vigorous would be my subsequent chi flow. I also discovered from my own experience that the vigorous chi flow further increased remarkably the internal force I had earlier consolidated.

I was quick to put this discovery for the benefit of students. So in my early years of teaching I often told students that if they did not go into a chi flow after stance training or any internal force building exercise, they would miss more than half the benefit. I did not mention this statement later on because by then chi flow after force building had become standard procedure.

The benefit is not just a remarkable increase of internal force. It makes internal force training safe, a problem that many internal art practitioners dread. Any blockage or deviated practice unwittingly sustained during the training will be automatically eliminated by the immediate chi flow.

It makes the practitioners balanced. Instead of concentrating internal force at certain parts of the body when the training is focused, usually at the arms, palm or chest, chi flow spread the internal force all over the body for better balance and elegance. Too much concentration of internal force on certain parts of the body may bring a practitioner adverse physical or emotional side-effects, which masters in the past actually suffered from. Yang Deng Fu, the great Taijiquan master, and Dong Hai Chuan, the great Baguazhang master, for example, were recorded to be easily irritable, despite their tremendous internal force.

It also put internal force to its use, i.e. maintain life and enhancing life, instead of just enhancing combat, which rarely happens nowadays. When internal force is focused at the palms or arms, it may give a practitioner Iron Palm or Iron Arm. But when it is spread all over the body by chi flow, the internal force will nourishes all organs and systems of the bdoy, contributing to the good health, vitality and longevity of the practitioner, and excess force will be stored at the dan tian and eight wondrous meridians, to be drawn out for expedient needs for combat or for daily life.

internal force

Internal force gives us energy and zest to enjoy our work and play

With this background, we can have a better understanding and be able to answer the questions directly as a form of recapitulation.

Development of consolidating force gives volume to flowing force, making the flow smoother and more vigorous. In turn this further increase the volume of internal force, which we may consolidate if we want to, or just leave it flowing. Force, like cash, is more useful when it is flowing, and better contributes to good health, vitality, longevity, peak performance, mental clarity and spiritual joys.

To ensure this process of flowing force is most effective, practitioners should be relaxed and not thinking of anything. Once a practitioner tenses his muscles or starts to intellectualize, he stops his flow of energy. Not being relaxed and intellectualizing are the two main reasons why a lot of people do not enjoy the benefits of flowing force even when the techniques they employ in their training are correct.

Examples are plentiful, though those involved may not realize it or accept their mistake. They are found in the great majority of people who practice chi kung, Taijiquan and other internal arts.

It is understandable that a practitioner may not be perfect in being relaxed and not intellectualizing. But if he knows the underlying philosophy, he can work on it, or rectify mistakes when he makes them. Don’t do anything is certainly easier than doing anything. Don’t tense your muscles, don’t intellectualize or don’t climb up a coconut tree is certainly easier than tensing your muscles, intellectualize or climb up a coconut tree.

On the other hand, development of flowing force is necessary before the development of consolidating force. Otherwise, the training becomes an external art of building muscles. Not many people, including those who eventually have succeeded in developing internal force, know this underlying principle. This development of flowing force happened haphazardly without their conscious knowing, thus denying them the great advantage of accumulated effect daily, even when they may train every day.

In other words, they have chi flow in their training only once a while. Suppose they have a chi flow once in 10 days, with which they can consolidate 100 units of internal force. So they have flowing force which they can develop into consolidated force 3 times a month, and each time they can develop 100 units of force. But they don’t have 300 units of force in 1 month, because the force would have dissipated during the intervening period leaving them a negligible increase. Let us say they can develop 120 units of consolidated force a month, which is a fair estimate. If it takes to build 15,000 units of consolidate force before they can said to have some reasonable internal force, they would take about 10 years to achieve this level.

If a practitioner knows the underlying principles, and enters into a chi kung state of mind every time he trains internal force, he will be able to have a chi flow every time he trains, and convert it to consolidated force. If he consolidates 100 units of force a day, he can consolidate 3000 units of force in 1 month as he has the great advantage of accumulated effect because his force building happens every day. Hence he will be able to consolidate 15,000 units of force in about half a year.

Actually he will need less than half a year to have consolidated sufficient force to be rated as having some reasonable internal force because as the volume of flow increases, the amount of force also increases proportionately. But even if we presume the increase to be uniform, he will have acquired a reasonable amount of consolidated force in 6 months, whereas those who do not understand and implement this principle of internal force training will need 10 years! Our Shaolin Wahnam students today are in this elite situation, whereas past masters who had internal force, including myself in my own training, were in the other situation.

Hence, the development of flowing force speeds up the development of consolidating force in an incredible manner, unprecedented before in all chi kung and kungfu history! Not only flowing force makes consolidating force incredibly fast and effective, but also it makes the training sure and safe.

When students first develop flowing force, they will be sure to consolidate the force – if they have the skills. Of course, if they don’t have the skills to consolidate force, but only the skills to develop flowing force, they will only have flowing force, like a few Taijiquan masters who have internal force. If they don’t have the skill to develop flowing force, they will perform gentle physical exercise, even when their techniques are correct, like the great majority of Taijiquan practitioners.

If they do not have flowing force, they will be unable to consolidate the flowing force into internal force even when they have the skills of consolidating force. Their training may become isometric exercise, like some Iron Wire masters. Worse, their training may give them big muscles instead of internal force, like some Wing Choon masters. They have a lot of muscular strength, but the big muscles may be detrimental to their health.

Such statements may be sensitive, but they are given here in good faith. Whether the isometric masters or the big-muscle masters take heed of the advice is their own business.

Further, having flowing force before consolidating force will also make their training safe, or at least safer than had there been no flowing force. Their flowing force will eliminate or at least minimize blockage or other deviated practice unwittingly sustained in their previous training session. In our case, even when our training is on consolidating force, we have a chi flow at the end of the session, which will make our training doubly safe by a big margin.

When the force is flowing and you consolidate it, the risk of harmful side-effects is zero, unless you stop the flow by tensing your muscles or intellectualizing. As an analogy, when water is flowing vigorously, it is flowing force. When it consolidates into a glacier but still flowing, it is consolidated internal force. When it frozen into ice and not flowing, it is muscular strength.

When big muscles lock up stagnant energy, it can be harmful. Your energy which is supposed to work your organs and systems are now locked up, giving you more mass, and forcing your organs and systems, already short of energy, to work harder. If your consolidated force is flowing, albeit slowly, it is alive and not harmful.

You can have a clearer picture with this imagery. Visualize a mass of muscles in your arm. The energy in your muscles was the same energy a month ago. Now visualize consolidated internal force in your arm. The energy in the consolidated internal force was not the same energy a month ago. The energy as consolidated internal force a month ago is now doing useful work in other parts of your body, like digesting you food or clearing away virus.

The following practical considerations are needed to ensure the beneficial influence of flowing force on consolidating force. You must be relaxed and not intellectualizing, otherwise the chi flow will stop.

The requirement to be relaxed is more difficult when consolidating flowing energy than when letting energy flow spontaneously. To let chi flow, by not tensing muscles (as well as not intellectualizing), the chi will flow. To consolidate flowing energy, you have to bring a lot of energy together, and at the same time you have to let this mass of concentrated energy flow. You have to perform two apparently opposite actions at the same time.

The mistake very commonly made by most people is that they tense their muscles when consolidating energy. This may bring energy together, but the energy stops flowing. This results in building isometric tension or building muscles.

How do you overcome these two seemingly contradictory actions? There are two ways as follow.

One way is to use physical movement while you consolidate your energy. A good example is “Double Dragons Emerge from Sea” in the triple-stretch method. As you consolidate energy at your arms, you also move your arms forward and backward.

The second method is to use your mind. While your chi is flowing, you use your mind to consolidate the flowing energy.

In practice, we combine the two methods. After the training, we go into a chi flow to enhance the results in many ways.

By comparison, stance training is mainly consolidating energy. Hence, we enhance the result greatly when we go into a chi flow after the stance training.

This philosophical understanding of consolidating force and flowing force not only make our training incredibly cost effective, but also bring us many benefits other students may not think possible.

internal force

The Dragon Strength Set provides some excellent methods to combine consolidated force with flowing force

Shaolin Wahnam Summer Camp 2014

Secrets of Building Internal Focce – Overview

The questions and answers are reproduced from the thread Secrets of Building Internal Force in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.