There’s a saying by the Chinese masters of the olden days: “when you practice kungfu, the first 3 years – you are standing still being beaten. the next 4-5 years, you are moving forward being beaten. In the beginning, your arms, legs, breath will experience substantial resistance, yet this is crucial to build up strength.”
If you study deeper into martial arts, there’s really no separation of internal or external martial arts. In fact you need to train both together to develop and evolve your kungfu skills.
If external is present, you must have internal.
When you are younger, you will rely on physical (external) strength. It is normal and not wrong. But remember this: Physical Strength has its limits. And “Once External Strength Reach Its Peak, It Will Start To Diminish” 力一尽，就退化. Therefore, it is important to start cultivating inner strength at the same time. As your age declines, you need to rely on inner strength to accommodate the lost of physical strength. As there will always be someone else stronger than you, faster than you, more powerful than you.
If there’s no inner strength, then it’s game over.
Even so, you cannot just practice softly/gently and expect to possess actual internal strength…you need to encounter hard force and experience vigorous resistance during training. Or else you won’t be able handle a person who comes in with full power (whether external or internal). That’s just wishful thinking.
The great news is that cultivation of internal strength is ever-growing regardless of how old you are.
Normally when we do physical training, we get stronger and build more muscles. But once we stop, we start to lose power and our muscles shrink.
On the other hand, internal strength is boundless and will always stay with you. Which means that even if you take a break for 8-10 years, that matured strength is still present inside you. This almost sound illogical, but I am one of the living proof. Until today, I am still acquiring and refining my inner strength. Physical strength comes fast and obvious; internal strength comes slow and subtle. So most people will be drawn to the former.
The only downside preventing the majority from achieving this type of internal strength is perseverance, diligent training, and the curious mind.
In regards to a real fight, “Fist No More Than 3 Strikes, Pole No More Than 2 Thuds (Blows)” 拳无三下，棍无二响. This simply means real fights do not last long and pretty. And if you truly understand the devastating consequences of an actual brawl, you wouldn’t really want to engage in one in the first place. Most of what we see in the media or movies are plainly demonstrations or wushu (武术）－ in which their training is suited for aesthetics performance, to look dramatic & stylish for capturing audiences’ attention. Over the years, this conditions us to false expectation and concept of real kungfu fighting. There is no right or wrong. It really boils down to what you are seeking, and want to accomplish at the end of the day.
GM Jimmy Heow
Sifu Jimmy Talks
Co-founder of I Liq Chuan & Founder of Wu Ji I Liq Chuan Academy
(translated by Ben Yeoh as close as possible and faithful to original intended message)