Join Date: Oct 2006
Re: "Internal" and "External"
"External" and "internal" are crappy terms, so non-descript and terribly inaccurate, but people grope and flounder for something better suited and come up short.
IME, the difference lies in conventional ("normal") vs. unconventional use of the body and mental intent. The latter involves a number of unusual approaches to:
1. hold the body frame and structure in such a way that, instantaneously and at will, one can direct force through it in a way that routes it to the ground (the body as a "lighting rod") and back up again to tandan (dantian) for exploitation and then to a chosen exit point, rather than letting it break one's alignment and balance (you could say that it protects the "One Point") or to let damaging force be delivered to body tissues. This can be applied against pushes and pulls, punches and kicks, etc.
2. manipulate that force in ways that produce unusual power and stability, without having to rely on: a) using the torso and/or hip muscles to turn the upper body and torque the hip to create power (as in a baseball bat swing, or typical karate punch). b) moving the entire body with forward and/or downward momentum, and/or centripedal-force momentum, to create power ( as in a baseball pitch , typical karate punch, or aikido "tenkan"). c) sequential chains of action that build up delivery of power (as in a typical karate punch, golf swing or baseball pitch sequence).
3. use a continuous, non-sequential process of spiraling force generated by a combination of ground contact, manipulation of the connective tissues of the hip joints, inner arch of the legs/thighs and tandan-meimon dynamic, coordinated to exploit the dynamic tension of those opposing forces.
In other words, an "internal" process is non-linear/non-sequential, constant cycle of manipulations; does not rely on
external centripedal, forward and/or downward-drop momentum movements and doesn't involve the use of the waist-torso-upper body musculature to generate "strength" and power. It employs unconventional groups of muscle and connective tissues not typically associated with body movement or power generation, and refined use of these is not outwardly visible, or is barely so. And, mental intent is used to generate and hold all of these processes together.
The sum result is the ability to use the whole, unified body to instantaneously generate and transmit power, rather than pieces of it in sequential steps to build force and power and pass it along to the exit point until it reaches the exit point.
That's only a partial aspect of "internal," but a critical part. There are many nuances as to how it can be used that go well beyond striking force and structural stability
Martially, "internal" has some advantages over an "external" approach:
1. It allows a person to maintain an extremely stable structure that, at will, becomes hugely difficult to move or offbalance, or to take-down or throw.
2. It allows a person to strike and punch continuously without having to re-chamber the hip and create a gap that an opponent can exploit. His strikes and kicks will be extremely heavy and concussively damaging while using minimal outward movement and effort.
3. It allows a person to be extremely "sticky" and "heavy," spiralingly tight and smothering in grappling
4. It allows a person to receive/absorb and re-route the force from a "non-internal" opponent's kicks and strikes and neutralize their power... and to exploit the opponent's force to augment one's own.
5. It allows a person to move and step without compromising stability and "groundedness." This reduces vulnerability to being off-balanced by an opponent, and also allows a person to use the entire body in motion, backed up by the ground, to apply power in ate-waza.
How is this relevant to aikido? Where do I begin? At the most basic level, it makes uke have to react to you , rather than you having to react to uke. His world literally revolves around your stable center of the universe. And this is in a very different way than most contemporary aikidoka currently understand that concept. It brings a whole new level of meaning to “effortlessness,” and “motion in stillness, stillness in motion.”
Even if one never uses strikes, kicks or other forms of aggressive action, an aikidoka can so substantially increase personal physical stability and reduce windows of vulnerability to being off-balanced and having his sphere of defense penetrated. This transfers naturally to calmness of mind and presence, and, practiced long enough, can lead to transcendence where you no longer have to think about what you are doing, but simply experience being in the moment. Perhaps that is what gave O-Sensei the power to contemplate the Floating Bridge, joining together the powers of heaven and earth, and being an avatar of the kami.
Just scratching the surface here.
As an aside, concerning little kids and posture --- I think that a lot that we ascribe to “natural” and “unspoiled” movement in small children has more to do with their lesser body mass and, particularly, the big difference in their body proportions to that of a typical adult. The kinds of body machinations we’re discussion in “internal” movement really has to be learned, and does not come intuitively in a child’s body.