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Internal martial arts, or Nei Kung (or Nei Gong) concentrate
on the cultivation, development and application of internal energy - generally Chi, but also Shen and Jing, known collectively
as Nei Jia. This is in opposition to the 'hard' martial arts styles which concentrate on conventional strength, speed and
conditioning. The art of cultivating and controlling such energy is known as Qi Gong or Chi Kung; all internal martial arts
contain some element of Chi Kung which can also be practiced as an indepenedent discipline.
In addition to combat applications the internal styles can be of great benefit
to your health and spiritual development, and in many schools (particularly of Tai Chi) these aspects are emphasised above
and beyond learning to actually fight. This does not mean, however, that they are not devastatingly effective when used for
combat. Actually, the distinction between hard and soft martial arts is a very blurred line, as all kung fu contains the same
principles, and kind of Chi Kung is practiced in the majority of kung fu schools. It basically boils down to a difference
of direction and emphasis - in hard martial arts you begin with basic physical techniques that you an use straight
away, and over many years, if you are a dedicated student, you will come learn the more advanced aspects which work with the
internal energies; in an internal martial arts school you begin by learning to cultivate and direct internal energies, and
if you are a dedicated student then after many years you will learn how to apply what you have learned in combat.
The main internal martial arts are Bagua, also known as Pa Kua or Bagua Zhang,
Hsing I or Xing Yi, and Taijiquan or Tai Chi.
For a person who practices a hard martial arts style, whether that is
kung fu or anything else, learning the internal arts will greatly improve your fighting ability and enable you to accomplish
things that you had thought impossible. Practicing the internal martial arts can be particularly effective for helping to
develop power, stamina, sensitivity and the kind of natural application of technique that is often thought of as being
innate talent. As the internal martial arts often take a long time to learn a person studting a 'hard' martial art who wishes
to harness the immense power of Chi would probably be best advised to concentrate on Qi Gong rather than one of the internal
martial arts, however if you practice Kung Fu then it is not too difficult to integrate the teachings of the internal martial
arts into your usual style, thus gaining real benefits at a stage where a student studying only the internal martial arts
would not yet have developed a high enough level of skill to be competent in combat.