aden

Internal cultivation for martial arts

42 posts in this topic

Hello all,

 

 

As a beginning martial arts practitioner (Northern long fist) who has been training for around a year and

 

far less experienced in internal work, I have been trying to look for a proper teacher who'll be able to 

 

guide me in internal cultivation for martial arts - mainly for internal power development/control. 

 

From the numerous posts I've seen on these forums, there seems to be a lot of people who are 

 

very experienced in internal work and skill, whether it is for martial arts or spiritual cultivation (or 

 

both). However, I also feel like people with genuine, high level internal cultivation are extremely 

 

rare, so I come for your advice.

 

 

 

 

I have an opportunity to learn Sheng Zhen Gong with one of Master Li Junfeng's direct 

 

students. From the information online, it seems that it is more of a spiritual-focused one, rather 

 

than a martial-focused one. However, some teachers in my area (Austin, TX) highly recommended me

 

to learn from his system, as they informed me that Master Li is also very experienced in martial arts as

 

well.

 

 

 

 

Any thoughts?

Edited by aden
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Hello all,

 

 

As a beginning martial arts practitioner (Northern long fist) who has been training for around a year and

 

far less experienced in internal work, I have been trying to look for a proper teacher who'll be able to 

 

guide me in internal cultivation for martial arts - mainly for internal power development/control. 

 

From the numerous posts I've seen on these forums, there seems to be a lot of people who are 

 

very experienced in internal work and skill, whether it is for martial arts or spiritual cultivation (or 

 

both). However, I also feel like people with genuine, high level internal cultivation are extremely 

 

rare, so I come for your advice.

 

 

 

 

I have an opportunity to learn Sheng Zhen Gong with one of Master Li Junfeng's direct 

 

students. From the information online, it seems that it is more of a spiritual-focused one, rather 

 

than a martial-focused one. However, some teachers in my area (Austin, TX) highly recommended me

 

to learn from his system, as they informed me that Master Li is also very experienced in martial arts as

 

well.

 

 

 

 

Any thoughts?

 

Hi Aden,

Thanks for reaching out. I studied taijiquan, xingyiquan, and baguazhang for about 12 years. After 2 years I also began studying Daoist meditation (neigong). Our curriculum also included several qigong forms. In terms of developing internal energy and power, there is nothing better than taijiquan taught by an instructor who is genuinely familiar with the martial applications. Neigong or meditation are essential in achieving deeper and more effective development in the internal martial arts. One qigong form we practiced was also very good for building internal power, shiba luohangong. We would practice it with both "internal" breathing patterns which were good for health and fitness, and "external" breathing patterns (much more physically demanding) which were good for building power. 

 

While I think any good meditation and qigong practice will enhance martial arts, I also think there are some practices that are likely to be more effective in building power and martial efficacy. Shen zheng gong seems to me to have little focus on martial development. I came across another teacher in Austin, Jingyu Gu, who teaches a curriculum that sounds more aligned with your martial goals - http://www.taichiimmortal.com/.

 

My own story is that my Daoist meditation practice took me to some amazing places and gave me some powerful insight. My teacher, being 100% focused on martial arts, could not (or would not) guide me beyond a certain point. I subsequently connected with a Bön Buddhist master who was able to help me understand and put into context the changes I was experiencing through neigong practice. It ultimately led me to abandon martial training and focus entirely on spiritual development. I still practice some qigong, some circle walking, and the occasional taiji form but have little interest in anything martial any longer.

 

So if you are looking for spiritual development, the sheng zhen gong looks powerful, but if martial prowess is your primary focus the curriculum taught by Jingyu Gu looks more appropriate. I hope that's helpful. 

 

Good luck to you!

Steve

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Hi Aden,

 

I`ve been to several workshops with Master Li and recommend Sheng Zhen highly.  Agree with Steve that it might not be the best adjunct to your martial arts (really don`t know anything about that), but as qi gung forms for health and spiritual development, Master Li`s system is first rate.

 

LL

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Thank you so much for your reply, steve.

 

Just one question, since you recommended me to learn from a internal martial arts teacher:

 

Would Taijiquan, or qigong related to taijiquan, compatible to other "external" martial arts?

 

(ex: long fist, tan tui)

 

Some northern chinese martial arts schools dedicated to internal work practice stuff like 18 Lohan

 

Art/Hands; wouldn't incorporating Taijiquan qigong have similar effects? Some people think Taijiquan

 

and "external" martial arts are completely incompatible.

 

 

Hi Aden,

 

I`ve been to several workshops with Master Li and recommend Sheng Zhen highly.  Agree with Steve that it might not be the best adjunct to your martial arts (really don`t know anything about that), but as qi gung forms for health and spiritual development, Master Li`s system is first rate.

 

LL

 

Thank you for your recommendation, liminal_luke,

 

I most likely will start off with qigong work in Taijiquan, but will end up learning one or two meditation

 

forms from Master Li - if I have the chance.

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Is there any requirements in terms of physical fitness to get into martial arts?

 

Can a 70 year old person, who is not firm physically, learn martial arts?  They say, anyone can learn yoga, etc.  But, martial arts portrayed on the movies always show young and fit people training....

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Hi aden, i am also learning in the austin area, though i am just starting. I agree with steve in that, if you are looking for internal power specefically to enhance your martial art i think taijiquan would be a great addition to your practice. There is quite a few options to choose from here so its kind of overwhelming. I am personally taking classes with jingyu gu right now and since iv only been learning for a few months i havent scratched the surface of the possibilities of the art, but i do know jingyu is very versed in the philosophy and concepts of taiji as well as chinese medicine and nei dan. I have also heard external and internal arts dont mix but im not sure, there are quite a few practitioners that practice both and i think it could really benefit you personally. If your not sure if it would mix with your current style you should always ask your teacher though to be sure.

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Is there any requirements in terms of physical fitness to get into martial arts?

 

Can a 70 year old person, who is not firm physically, learn martial arts?  They say, anyone can learn yoga, etc.  But, martial arts portrayed on the movies always show young and fit people training....

 

My personal opinion is that before learning martial arts, regardless whether the style is internal or "external" - should start with energy work. Regardless of whether a person is relatively "fit" or not, I can see good energy work providing a solid foundation in martial arts for any person.

 

Although I myself feel arrogant for stating this as a beginner martial arts practitioner, I firmly believe this is the optimal route. Learning introductory level Cosmos Qigong (from Sifu Korahais) completely changed my views - my allergy symptoms have become much more mitigated, and I feel more relaxed and mentally clear throughout life.

 

Martial arts and combat training is always related to the external (tensing their muscles, grunting, straining, taking hits), which turns more "physically incapable" people away from martial arts; personally, I think this is just all show and no go - at least compared to what energy work can offer.

 

 

Hi aden, i am also learning in the austin area, though i am just starting. I agree with steve in that, if you are looking for internal power specefically to enhance your martial art i think taijiquan would be a great addition to your practice. There is quite a few options to choose from here so its kind of overwhelming. I am personally taking classes with jingyu gu right now and since iv only been learning for a few months i havent scratched the surface of the possibilities of the art, but i do know jingyu is very versed in the philosophy and concepts of taiji as well as chinese medicine and nei dan. I have also heard external and internal arts dont mix but im not sure, there are quite a few practitioners that practice both and i think it could really benefit you personally. If your not sure if it would mix with your current style you should always ask your teacher though to be sure.

 

Hello Seatle185,

 

Nice to see another member from the Austin area.

 

I agree that proper Taijiquan practitioner tend to have one of the best internal developments for martial arts. Unfortunately, I have been looking into learning force training alone to support my current martial arts (Northern long fist), rather than learning another style altogether.

 

At my request, Sifu Gu actually said that he couldn't teach me Qigong alone, as he was focusing on teaching Taijiquan as a whole system. Therefore, off to look for another teacher :(

 

I may end up learning Sheng Zhen, but I have my doubts.

 

Any further recommendations?

 

 

 

Edit: I actually read somewhere that "external" kung fu styles also used to extensively train internal force. Northern shaolin masters in the past potentially could have developed their force practicing arts such as numerous variations of 18 Lohan gong. Some masters who were lucky even had access to Lightness arts.

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I also completelt agree that energy work should be taught first but it seems rare unfortunately. The energy work like you said can clear up alergies or maybe posture issues that stem from energy blockage.

 

Yes at first i only wantes to learn the qigong too haha, i had searched for a long time to find someone who only taught qigong but eventually i became more and more interested in the complete taiji system, because it can encompass so much. I think it would be very hard to learn fajin through sheng zen since as far as i know you only develop jins through the internal arts but prehaps it is possible, i wish i knew more to help but im pretty knew to the concept of it as well. As for further recomendations in the area, maybe you could try to look for just a zhan zhuang teacher but i havent had much luck there yet. i know the internal arts develop alot of internal power through it.

 

There is also books, if you have a decent foundation and posture they might help.

 

Also i agree too, that the external kung fu systems of china probobly did focus on internal development too just maybe not as much, i think it is somewhat of an organic process if you continually train and refine your body and mind to eventually see and work with the internal

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Yes at first i only wantes to learn the qigong too haha, i had searched for a long time to find someone who only taught qigong but eventually i became more and more interested in the complete taiji system, because it can encompass so much. I think it would be very hard to learn fajin through sheng zen since as far as i know you only develop jins through the internal arts but prehaps it is possible, i wish i knew more to help but im pretty knew to the concept of it as well. As for further recomendations in the area, maybe you could try to look for just a zhan zhuang teacher but i havent had much luck there yet. i know the internal arts develop alot of internal power through it.

 

Thanks for the advice, Seatle185.

 

Thing about fajin is, that I am already in the process of learning 18 Lohan gong, which contains 6 fajin exercises. I haven't learnt any Fajin exercises yet, but am instead focusing on force exercises. (I plan to start practicing fajin exercises after practicing force exercises for a few more months & hopefully finding a good teacher to monitor my practice).

Since I already have the martial technique side of neigong covered, what I am really looking for is training Jing and Shen (mind/spirit). I am also very interested in more "general" developments people gain from high level qigong, such as increased vitality, mental clarity & perception, and being able to use internal force for augmenting physical movements. What I'm saying is that I would like to practice internal cultivation to enrich other aspects as well, not just fajin.

 

Although, I also firmly believe that Taijiquan is also much, much more than just fajin.

 

It's just that I would like to focus on my current martial system that I am learning. :(

 

 

 

Also i agree too, that the external kung fu systems of china probobly did focus on internal development too just maybe not as much, i think it is somewhat of an organic process if you continually train and refine your body and mind to eventually see and work with the internal

 

I actually wouldn't be surprised if some top level professional mma fighters had rudimentary forms of internal force.  Of course, it probably would pale in comparison with a moderately experienced internal practitioner. 

 

You may hear about accounts of top level athletes, musicians, or regular people without internal cultivation background "being in the zone", or in extreme state of focus to a degree that time slow down and such, etc. due to focusing on a competitive match or being in an accident. Not surprisingly, everybody has energy and mind.

 

Now, being able to train and practice energy and mind, as well as use and direct it to one's own will in an optimal matter? That's probably on a different level entirely. 

Edited by aden

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Ah yes thats great, i am very interested in the more spiritual practices too and i am hoping jingyu can take me where i want to go but im not sure yet. See after a few years of the taiji i wanted to delve into his nei dan class and work directly with jing, chi, shen and the only teacher i could find that actually advertised that he taught nei dan in the area was jingyu so thats why i was initially drawn there over other places. Unfortunately another student recently told me he isnt teaching that side of the art anymore, but i took it to mean he doesnt think anyone has refined themselves enough to engage in it so we'll see, i know i have a long way to go until then haha.

 

Well if i do come across anything that works more on the deeper neigong/neidan practices i will keep you in mind, im still kind of looking to see what others have to offer that might benefit my practice too. Good luck!

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If you're looking for something that focuses on External and Internal martial arts, I'd recommend HDMA. If you want to keep with your style, it isn't the place to go, but the teacher is great and it's in Austin.

 

I will say in general, since this came up in the discussion, that internal martial work becomes more viable the more you practice externally. It's the simple concept of jing transforms to qi which transforms to shen. Without decent focus on jing (that is, developing the external stuff), you don't form the basis to do internal work. So I suppose I'm of the opposite mindset of several people here, and definitely advocate starting externally.

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I would tend to agree when interested in having martial skill. I began my training at a kung fu temple as a young student it was necessary to have martial skill before I was taught the higher arts like Tai Chi Chuan..

 

A lot of hard work of controlling ones own body and doing physically demanding routines is extremely beneficial as I have found as I get older. People of my age complain of many aliments and body problems that just do not exist for me thanks to my training.

 

To this day I train the cardio of kung fu forms as well as the high level internal stuff.

 

If one happens to begin training of Tai Chi Chuan with a martial proficient teacher they may be more concerned with your ability to move and how you use force before discussing cultivation.

 

The funny part is that you will be cultivating the whole time.

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If you're looking for something that focuses on External and Internal martial arts, I'd recommend HDMA. If you want to keep with your style, it isn't the place to go, but the teacher is great and it's in Austin.

 

I will say in general, since this came up in the discussion, that internal martial work becomes more viable the more you practice externally. It's the simple concept of jing transforms to qi which transforms to shen. Without decent focus on jing (that is, developing the external stuff), you don't form the basis to do internal work. So I suppose I'm of the opposite mindset of several people here, and definitely advocate starting externally.

 

Thank you for the recommendation, azucenaalev.

 

What type of experiences did you have with this school? Do they extensively practice internal work? How about combat application/sequences from forms? Won Hop Loong Quan sounds interesting; never heard of it, but is it a northern kung fu style by nature?

 

I'm genuinely interested.

 

 

 

Edit: I know that more "spiritual" systems don't necessarily do internal work for martial arts, but couldn't they still be cost effective? I also hear that advancing in internal cultivation for martial arts / medical usages don't come without spiritual development.

 

I know that it probably won't in terms of Fa jin, as they do not practice it - but rather in terms of mind development (mental clarity & awareness/alertness), suppleness, and energy cultivation. 

 

The reason why I've been keeping Sheng Zhen as one of my potential options is because they also have seated forms & meditation forms that work on training the mind, qi circulation (microcosmic orbit?), and opening up the middle and upper dantian. On their website, they listed the middle dantian as the heart, and the upper dantian as the third eye.

 

In addition, I've began practicing Shiba Luohan Gong, which already has force/fa jin/agility exercises. I was thinking that practicing a martial-specific moving form like Shiba Luohan Gong alongside the seated/meditative Sheng Zhen forms under a good teacher may complement each other tremendously.

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I'd recommend getting in touch with Justin Harris who is based in Fort Worth (longish drive from Austin). He seems quite accomplished in IMA.

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I'd recommend getting in touch with Justin Harris who is based in Fort Worth (longish drive from Austin). He seems quite accomplished in IMA.

 

Thank you for your recommendation dwai.

 

 

 

Edit:

 

Alright, just got in touch with Sifu Harris today. We will be meeting in about a week from now on.

 

Hopefully I will find what I've been looking for a long time; regardless of whether I do or not, I will come back to this discussion later.

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I took up Taiji in order to "internalize" my practice of Kenpo Karate, but it did change the way I perform the techniques. Just trying to add chi flow to the movements of an external martial arts might not work so well. Movements are done differently in the internal arts - for instance there is emphasis laid on contraction and expansion of the chest, whereas external styles (such as the two styles of Japanese Karate I used to practice) tend to hold the body in more of a stiff posture. Not sure about the Kung fu style you're practicing which you said includes fajin practice.

 

It should be noted that there are some teachers and styles that integrate "internal" aspects even into Karate, typically inspired by Southern White Crane, which has been called a half internal/half external style. Indeed, the distinction in "internal" and "external" arts is really rather a question of emphasis than an absolute one.

 

A useful recommendation of a mpore general kind may be to practice the MCO as it enhances your ability to consciously guide chi to different parts of your body, which should be useful for the kind of martial application you have in mind.

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I took up Taiji in order to "internalize" my practice of Kenpo Karate, but it did change the way I perform the techniques. Just trying to add chi flow to the movements of an external martial arts might not work so well. Movements are done differently in the internal arts - for instance there is emphasis laid on contraction and expansion of the chest, whereas external styles (such as the two styles of Japanese Karate I used to practice) tend to hold the body in more of a stiff posture. Not sure about the Kung fu style you're practicing which you said includes fajin practice.

 

I can imagine the movements changing a bit after integrating IMA principles in an external art. 

 

Of course, majority of the kung fu styles tend to be more "flowing"  than other martial arts, regardless of they are external or internal.  (This is not to say that other martial arts styles are stiff and rigid, or kung fu styles lack force).

 

The qigong material I previously learned was not from the kung fu school I learn in, but from one of Sifu Anthony Korahais's classes - where I learned some basic principles of Cosmos qigong & picked up some useful exercises from him. It changed my view towards qigong entirely, as I attained many benefits I simply thought wasn't possible with "woo-woo gentle exercises". (mental clarity, mitigated allergies & relaxation, increased sensitivity, etc.)

 

 

It should be noted that there are some teachers and styles that integrate "internal" aspects even into Karate, typically inspired by Southern White Crane, which has been called a half internal/half external style. Indeed, the distinction in "internal" and "external" arts is really rather a question of emphasis than an absolute one.

 

A useful recommendation of a mpore general kind may be to practice the MCO as it enhances your ability to consciously guide chi to different parts of your body, which should be useful for the kind of martial application you have in mind.

 

Actually, Sifu Harris (the Sifu I'll be meeting with this upcoming weekend) also teaches White Crane, along with Taiji & Bagua.

He did mention that he could help me with applying internal aspects into my Northern Longfist style; I presume he will use similar principles as he does with White Crane.

 

My personal assumption/opinion is that it is impossible to reach pinnacle attainment of martial arts by purely/primarily external means; there needs to be a certain degree of emphasis on internal cultivation involved. (half internal/half external approach of White Crane - I feel like pretty much all kung fu styles can be adopted into this approach, as well as quite a few karate styles)

 

Isn't MCO an advanced technique, by the way? Don't you need to establish a strong base before attempting it?

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I can imagine the movements changing a bit after integrating IMA principles in an external art. 

 

Of course, majority of the kung fu styles tend to be more "flowing"  than other martial arts, regardless of they are external or internal.  (This is not to say that other martial arts styles are stiff and rigid, or kung fu styles lack force).

 

The qigong material I previously learned was not from the kung fu school I learn in, but from one of Sifu Anthony Korahais's classes - where I learned some basic principles of Cosmos qigong & picked up some useful exercises from him. It changed my view towards qigong entirely, as I attained many benefits I simply thought wasn't possible with "woo-woo gentle exercises". (mental clarity, mitigated allergies & relaxation, increased sensitivity, etc.)

 

 

 

 

Actually, Sifu Harris (the Sifu I'll be meeting with this upcoming weekend) also teaches White Crane, along with Taiji & Bagua.

He did mention that he could help me with applying internal aspects into my Northern Longfist style; I presume he will use similar principles as he does with White Crane.

 

My personal assumption/opinion is that it is impossible to reach pinnacle attainment of martial arts by purely/primarily external means; there needs to be a certain degree of emphasis on internal cultivation involved. (half internal/half external approach of White Crane - I feel like pretty much all kung fu styles can be adopted into this approach, as well as quite a few karate styles)

 

Isn't MCO an advanced technique, by the way? Don't you need to establish a strong base before attempting it?

Actually, I don't think it's too advanced for somebody with your background. In fact, what you really want to aim at for your purposes is the Macrocosmic Orbit, for which the Microcosmic Orbit would be a preparation.

 

Maybe this helps:

 

http://www.neo-duddhism.org/the-macro-cosmic-orbit-in-more-detail.html

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Actually, I don't think it's too advanced for somebody with your background. In fact, what you really want to aim at for your purposes is the Macrocosmic Orbit, for which the Microcosmic Orbit would be a preparation.

 

Maybe this helps:

 

http://www.neo-duddhism.org/the-macro-cosmic-orbit-in-more-detail.html

 

What are the specific benefits of Macrocosmic Orbit? Specifically referring to martial arts.

 

Does it depend on which school one is learning in? I did read some styles aim to speed up the MCO to cultivate force and increase general speed.

 

I can also imagine the type of results achieved differs from style to style as well.

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What are the specific benefits of Macrocosmic Orbit? Specifically referring to martial arts.

 

Unlike Microcosmic Orbit, Macrocosmic Orbit teaches how to guide chi along the meridians into your arms and legs. The martial arts specific benefits should be obvious now.

 

Does it depend on which school one is learning in? I did read some styles aim to speed up the MCO to cultivate force and increase general speed.

 

I haven't heard about that. But I know that a healthy chi flow has its natural speed, and it would seem best not to mess with that too much.

 

Anyway, can you tell me which styles are advocating such a practice? I would like to look into this further.

 

I can also imagine the type of results achieved differs from style to style as well.

 

I doubt that somehow. Styles are distinguished often just by minor details - and we're talking about pretty basic stuff here. However, if somebody has got information on this to share, I would certainly like to hear it.

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I haven't heard about that. But I know that a healthy chi flow has its natural speed, and it would seem best not to mess with that too much.

 

Anyway, can you tell me which styles are advocating such a practice? I would like to look into this further.

 

 

I may be seriously misinformed about this, but I read something about Gary Clyman's system doing something in the lines of "circulating your qi 1,000 times per breath - at the speed of light (!)". Again take it with a grain of salt, as I have no experience in his system (or any intermediate/advanced system for that matter). 

 

Can anybody inform me about this topic?

 

 

 

I doubt that somehow. Styles are distinguished often just by minor details - and we're talking about pretty basic stuff here. However, if somebody has got information on this to share, I would certainly like to hear it.

 

 

 

 

 

Yes. Again, can anybody inform us about this?

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I may be seriously misinformed about this, but I read something about Gary Clyman's system doing something in the lines of "circulating your qi 1,000 times per breath - at the speed of light (!)". Again take it with a grain of salt, as I have no experience in his system (or any intermediate/advanced system for that matter). 

 

Can anybody inform me about this topic?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes. Again, can anybody inform us about this?

 

 

Gary Clyman does not represent Temple Style Tai Chi ... despite his self-proclaimed "oldest surviving student of Master Liao" adage!

 

It's better to do indirect method of energy work -- http://www.thedaobums.com/topic/42248-indirect-method-using-taiji-ball-practice/?hl=%2Bindirect+%2Bmethod

 

Working with the channels using the mind directly is fraught with difficulty and is a forceful way. it's better to induce the qi movements. 

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You may want to check out Path Notes of an American Ninja Master by Glenn Morris. It talks a great deal about the relationship ship between martial arts and internal work.

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Is there any requirements in terms of physical fitness to get into martial arts?

 

Can a 70 year old person, who is not firm physically, learn martial arts?  They say, anyone can learn yoga, etc.  But, martial arts portrayed on the movies always show young and fit people training....

In truth, no one does (or should do) martial arts as portrayed in movies. 

 

That said, in my experience, unfortunately most dojo's aren't geared towards the 65+ beginners crowd.  There are undoubtedly exceptions to this rule.  One might call local dojo's and see if they have classes primarily for older folks.  If so watch a few before signing up.  In my experience when you see the 65+ crowd performing, often with excellence, its because they have decades of experience.  Even my beloved Aikido, a 'soft' art can be hard on stiff bodies;  one doesn't want a break fall to be taken too literally.

 

Tai chi is an excellent exception.   Where many groups have classes aimed at seniors, because it offers so many good lessons on balance and movement. 

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hi Aden, lets go back to your original post. You have a year's practice in Northern Long Fist. If you wish to continue with it and at the same time begin your 'internal cultivation', you can. I've 2 questions on your NLF: 1. Do you use a waist sash to constrict your waist during the training? 2. Does your instructor teaches 'standing post' of his martial arts system. If both answers are 'yes', then it is worthwhile to continue. Reasons: 1. the sash is important to contain your qi within the middle-dan tien. This is the qi used in Northern longfist styles as there are alot of jumping, springing actions, rolling and somersaults. Can't do all these if your qi is rooted like the Southern martial arts, like White Crane for instance. Everytime a White Crane practitioner jumps, he has to bring his qi up from his lower dan tien, and that slows his action. 2. Standing Post: every martial arts system has their own system of stationery rooting, even for NLF. This however depends whether the instructor wants to put the trainees through the system. Its exhausting, and no fun. He will lose students. However, this 'standing posts' will bring you to the level of internal cultivation, if done correctly that is. If this 'standing posts' is not within your school's syllabus, then perhaps, if your NLF is that of Chin Wu's, your first basic set should be The 12 Routines of T'an T'ui; or the 10 Routines of T'an T'ui of Liu-He-M'en. Either of the T'an T'ui set is for 'internal cultivation'. Now, you should be confused with whether my definition of 'internal cultivation' is the same as yours. The 'internal cultivation' that i refers to is Nei-gung, not that of the Daoists' with their cultivation of 'dan' or pill of elixir. Do ponder what I suggested.

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