When someone mentions Chinese Kung Fu, most people think of Shaolin and Wudang. But Shaolin and Wudang are very different styles of Kung Fu. Shaolin Kung Fu is an external style called Neijiaquan, while Wudang Kung Fu is an internal art called Neijiaquan or internal boxing. Though there are some who may dispute this, Wudangshan is the birthplace of Neijiaquan
Neijia is a term in Chinese martial arts for a group of styles that practice neijin. Neijiquan, translated as internal martial arts, heavily focuses on correct body structure, meditation and Qi cultivation.
Although Neijiaquan was actually a technique used in fighting and on the battlefield in ancient times, emphasis is placed on cultivating essence, qi, and spirit, through meditation and qi training. In practice, the focus is on pace and movement, not brute force. In actual combat, one uses strength, speed, reaction, actual combat experience and physical resistance.
In terms of health preservation, Wudang Kung Fu focuses on the philosophical theories of yin and yang and the five elements. Many Kung Fu masters believe that internal Kung Fu is the most advanced and highest state of Kung Fu because internal Kung Fu goes further than learning how to generate external power through body mechanics. One also learns how to control their mind, timing, breathing and Qi circulation, which are all subtle but essential attributes of fighting.
Additional health benefits of Neijiaquan include stronger willpower, improved muscle and bone health, better balance, dredging and cleansing the body’s meridians, soothing the nerves and relieving stress and depression. It is also important to note that Neijiaquan is suitable for all age groups to practice and is beneficial to those with physical problems like weakened limbs, lumbar and cervical spine pain or joint issues.
The three major styles of Neijiaquan are Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Bagua Zhang.
Bagua Zhang is an inner martial form that focuses on “palm” techniques and circle walking. The circular walk requires 8 steps to complete and resembles the Daoist 8 trigram image hence, it is called Bagua Zhang 八卦掌( 8 Palm Methods).
It utilizes circular stepping patterns and snake-like movements to evade and deflect opponents’ attacks. It employs constant movement and change, as well as the ability to fight while on the move. Bagua movements promote overall mental and health benefits as well as increase physical vitality, strength and stamina.
Xingyiquan is characterized by direct hits and attacks using speed, precision, and both internal and external power. Wudang Xing Yi Quan, although based upon the theories of Xing Yi Quan, has a greater focus on health preservation and the inter-relationships of the Five Elements. This increases its adaptability and makes the practice and application of Wudang Xing Yi Quan more dynamic.
The Five Elements (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth) represent 5 different striking methods:
Pi = Chopping, Beng = Pounding/Crushing, Zuan = Drilling, Pao = Cannon, Heng = Crossing. Xing Yi Quan also includes 12 Animal Forms that mimic the fighting techniques of those animals, (dragon, tiger, monkey, horse, rooster, swallow, snake, scorpion, eagle, bear, water strider, ostrich).
he essentials of Xing Yi practice are to slump the waist, shrink the shoulders, buckle the chest, push up, lift, horizontal and smooth, drill down and turn clearly.
The practice of Taiji is the balance of complementary opposites; the harmony of the inside and the outside, our physicality, and the inner qi- creating one interconnected system.
Created by the Daoist Nei Dan master Sanfeng, Patriarch of the Ming Dynasty, the thirteen postures are composed of starting posture, holding the ball posture, single pushing posture, exploring posture, holding posture, fluttering posture, bearing posture, dividing posture, cloud posture, transforming posture, It is composed of thirteen groups of actions with strong offensive and defensive awareness, such as double push, lower, and close. Among them are the three Daoist inner self-cultivation exercises; breathing, absorbing and supplementing. It also has thirteen combinations of power and defense, and is compatible with Daoist body-raising alchemy techniques, thus it is called “Thirteen Tai Chi Poses”. The essentials of the movements are as follows: the empty spirit is on the neck, the chest is covered and the back is pulled, the shoulders are lowered and the elbows are lowered, and the tongue is on the palate.
The common points of Neijiaquan are meditation and cultivation of Qi using Daoist inner alchemy and Qigong.
Here is a list of some of the most common forms in the Wudang curriculum:
|Ji ben tao lu
|Xuan gong quan
|Mysterious effect fist (1-3)
|Long hua quan
|Changing dragon form
|Xuan zhen quan
|Mysterious reality fist
|Fu hu quan
|Tiger Taming form
|Tai yi wu xing quan
|Great primordial unity 5 element fist
|Wu Dang Lao Ba Zhang
|Wudang Bagua Zhang
|Xing Yi Quan
|Xing Yi (Form + Intention) boxing