Nei Jia 內家 literally means “inner family or inner school.” It is a term used to refer to styles of martial arts that in English we call “internal,” particularly if we add the character for “fist” resulting in the term 內家拳 Nei Jia Quan. Today these styles are considered to include Tai Ji Quan, Xing Yi Quan, Ba Gua Zhang, Tong Bei Quan, Yi Quan (Da Cheng Quan) and Liu Ho Ba Fa. Other styles are sometimes called internal including the Japanese art of Aikido.
At first glance, the primary difference between internal and external martial arts seems to be one of method. Speaking generally, the focus of internal arts is on principles rather than specific techniques. Internal arts have techniques, but from the very beginning it is understood that techniques are merely expression of the principles and that the ultimate goal is to create techniques in the moment out of the interaction of one’s energy and intention with the opponent’s energy and intention. Secondly, while generally speaking the external arts focus their training methods on developing muscular strength, speed and athletic prowess, internal arts stress relaxation, mind-intention, stillness and natural movement. Lastly the internal arts use alignment, breath and structural dynamics to actualize the movement of the vital force through the channels and collaterals (Jing Luo) or meridians. This is said to cultivate “whole body power” which does not rely on muscular strength, speed and athleticism. This idea has considerable overlap with the idea of body mechanics - bio-mechanical principles of movement that increase efficiency. However, the two concepts are not identical.
See the article and video series entitled: What is an Internal Martial Art?
Whiskey, Vodka and gin all work well. The Chinese traditionally use strong rice wine. We often use vodka simply because it is cheap. Basically, you want something that is 40-60% alcohol. This means that the rest is water - both water and alcohol are needed to extract the herbal substances properly. Do not use grain alcohol (100% alcohol) unless you cut it with water to make it 40-60% alcohol. This is a case where stronger is not better.
No. Some people make it that way, but in general it is less effective.
No. Although for short periods of time (1-2 weeks) the Die Da Jiu can be stored in plastic container, for example when one is traveling, in general it should not be stored in plastic. The plastic will interact with the liniment, ruining it.
▶ When making San Huang San, what is the proportion of the medium (Vaseline or egg whites) to the powdered herbs?
Qi Gong & Nei Gong
Many internal martial arts masters don’t like to talk about qi, and rightly so because talking about qi gets in the way of actually training the body and the movements, which in turn are the way we engage with qi. However in not talking about qi, it becomes the “elephant in the room” – this reluctance to talk about qi actually underscores its importance.
The ideogram for qi originally showed vapors rising to form a layer of clouds. This is also part of the character for steam:
Qi 气 The modern form of the character adds grain by using the character mi (rice) which is depicted as: 米. This creates an image of steam or vapor rising from cooking rice. 气 + 米 = 氣 Qi
Various interpretations may be made. It may depict the nurturing energies of rice reduced to their smallest component, a vapor, or changing states of energy and matter. In early Chinese Texts, qi is used to refer to various phenomena:
- Mists and Fog
- Moving Clouds
- Breathing – Inhalation and Exhalation
In common usage, qi can refer to air, gases and vapors, smells, spirit, vigor; morale, attitude, the emotions (particularly anger), as well as tone, atmospheric changes, the weather, breath and respiration. In the body qi is often discerned by its actions, the balanced and orderly regulation of body functions, partly derived from the air we breathe, that cause physical changes and maintain life. We say that someone is healthy because the functioning of the their body (the manifestation of the their qi) is orderly and without dysfunction. Every movement, every thought and emotion, our metabolism, every movement of life and consciousness, is in some measure a manifestation of qi. However, qi also embraces properties that in the West we would refer to as being emotional and spiritual.
To sum up, qi is something that can be felt, internally sensed and understood, but it cannot be seen, measured or quantified. For example in qi gong and nei gong exercises, such as the “stake standing” practiced by practitioners of the internal martial arts, we are sensing qi and we can observe its manifestations and effects, but we cannot easily define it, so words often confuse the issue. Perhaps this is why teachers of the internal arts do not say much about qi.
What we today called qi gong “qi exercises” or nei gong “internal exercises” originally came under the category of nourishing life (yang sheng) techniques. Yang Sheng methods were often collectively referred to as Dao Yin exercises (Guiding/Leading or Guiding/Pulling). Manuscripts known as the Yin Shu (“Pulling Book”) and the Dao Yin Tu (“Guiding-Pulling Chart”) were unearthed in the Zhangjiashan (Hubei) and Mawangdui (Hunan) tombs. These manuscripts date from the Early Han period (160 BC) and pre-date the Huang Ti Nei Jing, the seminal book which forms the basis of much of modern Chinese medicine. These early exercises are considered by some scholars to be truly indigenously Chinese exercises.
The dao yin Exercises originally included an mo (self-massage), tu na (breathing; inspiration-expiration), also called xing qi or yun qi, and moving exercises that imitated animals or pulled on the sinews or the area of pain. Although qi is implied in this guiding and pulling, what was effectively “dredged” or unblocked by these movements were anatomical structures and surfaces, pain and dysfunction.
In the Mawangdui tomb documents, dao yin exercises have names like “Pulling Ham Pain”; “Pulling the Nape”; “Pulling the Warm Ailment”; “Bear Ramble”. The Yi Shu includes seasonal health regimens and regimens for cultivation of the body, as well as exercises for specific illnesses or dysfunctions. Breathing is an integral part of these exercise routines.
Qi gong and nei gong are essentially modern terms for what were originally daoyYin Exercises. Some people make much of the distinction between qi gong and nei gong. In some circles qi gong exercises are considered to be only those that involve leading the qi with the mind while nei gong exercises employ breathing and external movements or subtle internal movements that move the qi in specific ways. In practice there are overlaps, so making too much of this merely causes confusion.
Nei gong is also a term used to distinguish certain exercises associated with the so called “soft,” or “internal” styles from the “hard,” or “external” styles. Qi gong implies breath or vital force and thus can be translated as breath work or “energy work.” It is a term largely re-invented in the modern era. It was used in the 1950’s to differentiate health exercises from similar practices that were considered superstitious.
Look elsewhere on this website for articles and videos which will further clarify the distinction between these terms.