A concise (and troubling) history of the term “internal” (Nei Jia)

Sifu David Ross

Frequently, I lament the fact we can not travel back in time. I am a historian by training, and I suppose every historian in a way is trying to help everyone travel back in time. Where Chinese martial arts are concerned, the ability to reconstruct the past would be quite a service, a service to help clean up the clap-trap of myth, fantasy and fake history that has accumulated in the community.

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Those who practice the so called “internal arts” (Nei Jia Quan) of Taiji, Hsing Yi and Bagua might be rather confused if they stepped into a time machine and exited in mid 19th century China. These so called “internal arts” were in fact popular among those who used these methods for fighting. There was probably very little discussion of Daoist philosophy or health maintenance. More importantly, they would not call what they do “internal” (Nei Jia Quan) and…

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