Much has been said in the debate on internal and external power. Most martial methods are built around a variety of concepts, including interior and/or exterior components. When a debate is held, we must look at the context of the debate. Basically, we should be aware of the definition of internal or external power given in the martial art we are discussing. We cannot accept a debate on good or bad unless we know the inner and outer aspects of martial art or combat sport.
Martial art built around flexible circular movements is considered as an internal method. While a martial art with a lot of muscular tension is considered an external one. Muscular tension is considered a linear action. The question about internal or external still exist and the linear/rotational answer is not sufficient. There are other aspects to take into account. Having a debate about internal and external will take up a lot of time and space. So we will consider a few creative thoughts.
Taking up space or not
External and internal movement
Very simply, external motion is a movement that takes space to perform. Running is one example of external movement, just like waving your arms or jumping up and down. A body or limb spinning around its center line without going anywhere is an expression of pure internal movement.
In the case of the internal movement of the human body, it can be clearly defined. It refers to rotations of the torso or limbs around their transverse axes, something that can take place with almost no external movement through space.
Linear and rotational movement
Linear: to move the body in space – external movement
Rotational: to turn the body around and axis – internal movement
If the torso turns around its axis, it is called internally, but our arms if outstretched move in space (external?). Our arms itself can turn around its axis, in this case we have an internal movement. All the movements we do with our body have an internal and external aspect. Talking about internal and external has to include both aspects and cannot be separated.
Another thought about the paradox of internal and external
Movement of the arm may be considered as internal and/or external action. If this movement is merely a local action, the effectiveness will be rather low, even if an internal aspect is included. Some people think that internal movements should always be stronger or better than external movements. Unfortunately, this is not true, both concepts need to be balanced to become effective for the task we use it. If the external aspect is performed with too much muscle contraction, the internal aspect will find it difficult to integrate. If the internal aspect depends too much on the relaxed or relaxed posture, the body will have problems to move correctly or perhaps completely frozen or collapse.
Another Creative Thought: Root and target
Everybody is familiar with Darwin’s famous book: The Origin of Species. The title suggests that there is an origin or a source for everything. This is a very simple thought and when one looks at the use of power in our martial art one can discover the same thought behind our source of actions. Of course, we can have a debate about where that source came from. Again, it has to be looked at in the context of this discussion. Where is “the root” as a physical part of our body?
- root: source of force for movements
- joint segments: transfer of force by using the joints of the body
- tip: end of the line of force or the point of transfer into the opponent
Take for example an action with “tegatana”, the so called sword-hand. In a very simplistic way of thinking, the shoulder is the root and tegatana is the tip. Mostly tegatana will be used as a striking weapon in case the arm is not immobilized by opponent. Tegatana is moving in space and this movement can be considered as an external movement. On the other hand, there is an internal movement included if the arm is rotated around the transverse axe.
A wave of power
When power travels from the root to the tip, it takes time to reach the target. Power goes a certain way, and at first sight it moves linearly. But actually, most of these moves are characterized by a wavy motion. Basically, there are 3 types of waveforms in the human body in the context of our martial applications, but also in the context of all human movements, a wave pattern can be discovered. The idea of bodily wave pattern can be found in a book written by Jacques Lecoq: The moving Body.
Undulation and inverse undulation (1&2)
In undulation the wave of movement starts from the feet, goes through the hips, chest, neck and at last, comes to the head. We can see a small undulation for example when a person starts to walk. The power of movement starts from the ground and is dragged through the whole body. Inverse undulation is the same “wave of movement” as undulation but it starts from the head and goes through the body to the feet. The concept of rebound can be found in the inverse undulation.
Walking or running is a good example to illustrate the harmony between undulation and inverse undulation. The integration of external powers like gravity, inertia or others is necessary to use the human body as a whole system.
Eclosion is a movement of opening and closing. It starts from the ground in a closed position and gradually expands towards the open. The movement starts from the center of the body and moves towards the head, hands and feet. The rhythm is important, and hands and legs should arrive in the open position at the same time. The closing movement is the reverse of the opening movement.
The role of kyokotsu
The “kyokotsu” exercise is one of the exercises for generating a waveform pattern. Of course, it takes several months of regular training to feel the wave of power. Most people have no flexible torso, especially at the level of the sternum. The kyokotsu exercise is not only a movement of the lower part of the breastbone, it forces the torso to open en close in different directions. The concept of “eclosion” discussed earlier can be found in this exercise.
When we move our kyokotsu forward or backward, it affects the pelvis by tilting it in both directions. Moving kyokotsu creates an undulatory movement in the body along the spine.
Kyokotsu is not the power generator, but the kyokotsu movement invokes the body to move according a wave pattern. Movement generates power with the help of the floor and gravity.
The better we can connect the different body parts, the more efficient use of power is possible.
A first goal to achieve is the connection between the elbows and the kyokotsu. The muscles in the back can be felt when a connection is made between kyokotsu and elbows. If we move the elbows without the use of the back muscles, there is no connection.
The next goal is connecting kyokotsu and pelvis. Don’t move pelvis without connecting with kyokotsu.
Tenshikei or winding power
The idea of winding power can be illustrated by the squeezing of multiple fibres. It stores power and by unwinding its release the power. By using the correct skill or technique, the power can be used to neutralize the actions of an opponent.
Tenshikei can be seen as a form of using an internal movement to generate power. The key to a successful procedure is the ability to keep the muscles and tendons flexible. When muscles and tendons become stiff and lack mobility, power generation will lack efficiency.
This is an exercise to develop a basic idea of tenshikei with a partner. It is an exercise and cannot be seen as a technique for self-defence. Tenshikei skill can be used in different situations if the training allows the study of this kind of power generation.
The elbow exercise can be performed with various concepts and some concepts do not use tenshikei or winding power effectively. If the focus is on the use of leverage, the winding energy will be virtually absent because the production of energy comes from the use of leverage. Below is a sample of an internal movement generating tenshikei taken from a DVD by Hino sensei.
Another view at the 2 types of power
Previous was mentioned external and internal power and its relationship with the surrounding space. But of course, there are different ways of looking at the use of power by the human body. To apply power, a movement is needed to give transport to the strength generated by the body with the help of our main source of power “gravity”.
Open and closed chain movement
In open-chain and closed-chain exercises, the chain referred to is a series of body parts, such as a hip, knee, ankle, and foot. In an open-chain exercise, the body is stationary while the limb moves. In the closed – chain exercise, the limb is stationary while the body moves. For example, a squat is a closed-chain exercise because your feet stay stationary while your quadriceps do the work.
In martial arts open and closed chain movements can be seen during basic training and randori. The open chain movement uses the momentum from the limb accelerated by the body. Closed chain techniques are those that use the ground and the stabilization of the body to produce the power. Open chain techniques depend on motion and speed to build their inertia while closed chain techniques use the ground to brace the body and transmit the force to the target.
In randori, the use of local power is often seen to force a movement on the opponent, or to block a lock on the arm or wrist.. Those manoeuvres belong mostly to the category of a closed chain movement. If the practitioner is more skilled in the use of full body power, the combination of linked chains can give more power. By using an appropriate technique or movement, the game of strategy becomes important.
Rendo, the art of mixing
In the music industry, the art of mixing based upon existing songs is very popular. Mostly it is used during festivals for dance. It is a kind of becoming into trance. Body and mind are becoming one, and the movements of the body can be seen as whole body movements.
The art of Rendo is a similar process where different movements are mixed into one whole body movement. We are not using the word “mixing”, but we use “linking”. Rendo has also a time component, because it takes time power travelling from the source or root to the target. The previous elbow exercise is an example of linking different movements by using winding and unwinding power.
Strategy and power
If the focus is on power, internal or external, it is not “the solution” to win a fight. It is important to have a method “how to use power” in a fight. This method is based on a mix of skills in the range from pure physical to pure spirit. Of course, as usual, the extreme ends have to be avoided, it is better to use a well-balanced method.
One of the most difficult skills in martial art is the use of a wave power pattern. Most practitioners will rely on the power of a closed chain movement, mostly locally executed. For example, only arm power generated by the muscle of the arm and shoulder.
As I mentioned in other blog posts, the concept of a creative mind is one of the cornerstones to become a skilful practitioner.