FAQ

1. What is a typical class like?

Students generally work on their own assigned curriculum according to their own pace, with the instructor moving from group to group giving corrections. First time students are usually given more personal instruction from the instructor or a senior student. Our approach is that students should practice at home so that class can be used for correction and learning new material.

2. How long are the classes?

Classes are one hour long.

3. What should I wear?

Students should dress comfortably and seasonally appropriate (remembering that we are engaging in physical exercise outdoors in Florida). Please do not wear watches, necklaces, or jewelry during class.

4. Will I receive individual instruction, or is it more of a group format?

It’s a little of both, actually. A common characteristic of traditional Chinese schools is several students (or small groups) working on their own assigned material at the same time as the instructor moves from group to group offering correction. There are also group sessions of class when appropriate, such as for teaching applications.

5. Can I pay by the class?

Yes. You can pay by the class or in advance (see our About Us page for details). All payments are made after class to the instructor.

6. What time should I arrive?

It’s suggested that you arrive early enough to stretch as much as you need before class as we do not stretch or warm up in-class. So at least 15 minutes early is recommended.

7. What is Neijia?

The term Neijia (內家 “internal family” pronounced “NAY-jee-ah”) was popularized by the famous master Sun Lutang in the early 20th century (the term neijiaquan was used much earlier, but referring to a martial art that has since been lost), referring to the joint instruction and training of Taijiquan, Baguazhang, and Xingyiquan as these three styles were viewed as complementary and mutually beneficial due to common theoretical principles. This makes it possible for the adept practitioner to seamlessly move between all three while still keeping the systems whole and intact. It is important to note that all three systems are taught in their entirety (different from the “best of” approach favored by many modern schools).

Neijia is emphasized as being separate from waijia (外家 “external family”) due to it’s reliance on internal power vs. waijia’s reliance on muscular strength and agility.

8. Is Tai Chi really a martial art?

Yes it is! Although it is possible to practice Tai Chi without getting into the applications, Taijiquan is a full-spectrum martial art, with fighting applications and weapons.

9. What is Baguazhang?

Baguazhang (八卦掌 “Eight Trigrams Palm” pronounced “BAH-gwah-jahng”) is an internal martial art founded by Dong Haichuan in the 19th century. There is significant speculation over exactly how the art was created, but it is generally accepted to be a synthesis of previously existing styles, also incorporating Daoist concepts such as the eight trigrams (from the Yijing) and circle walking as a training tool. Like Taijiquan and Xingyiquan, it is also considered one of the most modern of the traditional Chinese martial arts (being only a couple hundred years old). Baguazhang’s most obvious characteristics are its circular training method, its reliance on rapid changes based on the opponent’s movements, adaptability, and suppleness of body “moving like a swimming dragon”. Our specific form of Baguazhang (Gao style of Cheng School) comes from Gao Yisheng, student of Cheng Tinghua who was in turn student of Dong Haichuan. Gao style is different from other systems of Baguazhang in that along with the main circular curriculum (which we call Pre-Heaven Palms) there is a second, more obviously application-focused linear curriculum (called Post-Heaven Palms) that trains linear power and also provides a link to Xingyiquan (of which Gao Yisheng was also a master).

Gao Style Bagua trains the body to be strong and supple in order to be able to adapt and survive in even difficult and disadvantageous positions and is primarily about controlling the opponent. An old saying states, “It’s easy to kill someone but difficult to control them”. In this way, Baguazhang is considered to be superior to Xingyiquan, which focuses on striking.

As an internal style, Baguazhang also significantly contributes to health and well-being.

10. What is Xingyiquan?

Xingyiquan (形意拳 “Form and Mind Boxing” pronounced “SHEENG-ee-chwen”) is an internal martial art frequently attributed to Ji Jike. Our school traces its lineage to Ji Jike through Li Luoneng who is generally considered the father of modern Xingyiquan. It’s core curriculum consists of five methods of applying power called the Wuxing (“five elements”) and contains no hand techniques. Wuxing refers to the Five Element system of correspondences of traditional Chinese science (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth).

Xingyiquan is summarized in old scripts by the words “lift, drill, drop, overturn.” As it is very difficult to talk about an art with no discrete techniques, Xingyiquan could be described as the art of using Internal power to overcome opposition, with the aforementioned theory of “lift, drill, drop, overturn” and “touch the body, release the power.” It looks very simple on the outside but is, in fact, very complex internally and difficult to acquire.

11. Tell me about the instructor.

Check our About Page for more information about our instructor.

12. Do you have testing? Are there belts?

We do not use any system of ranking or differentiation. Everyone is working on what they are working on, at their own pace.

13. What are the benefits of the Internal arts in general?

The Internal arts are renowned for their positive benefits to physical and mental health, longevity, and feeling of well-being. Chinese doctors often prescribe Taijiquan to patients with a wide array of health difficulties, often with tremendous results. Even conventional Western medicine is beginning to see its benefit, recommending Taijiquan and Qigong to patients with chronic pain and reduced mobility. With time and regular practice, students can expect to experience increased mental and physical energy, increased strength, flexibility, and endurance, increased calm and peace of mind, and many other benefits. (Note that these benefits are common to all three internal styles and not just Taijiquan!) Read this article from Harvard Magazine for more information regarding the potential health benefits.

14. What are the benefits of the Internal arts for martial artists?

The Internal arts are of special benefit to the practitioner who is in it for the long haul. External styles are dependent upon external power (meaning muscular strength and stamina as well as fast-twitch muscle speed) which, unfortunately, tends to fade with age and use. Internal styles rely on internal power (Qi and structure). One of the reasons the Internal arts came into existence was because masters wanted to be able to continue practicing the art they had devoted their entire lives to into old age.

The Internal arts continually sharpen the mind, improve balance and coordination. and improve mind-body connection and awareness. They are low-impact (in the sense of impact on the joints, taxation of the body’s resources, etc.) but will develop significant muscular strength at the same time. The higher one progresses, the more the core muscles are relied upon. Finally, there are beneficial effects on the tendons and connective tissues of the body, especially at higher levels, which can contribute to improvements in health.

15. What is internal power?

To understand internal power, it’s helpful to first understand what is meant by external power. External power is the type of strength used in every day life, as well as that used in athletic activities such as basketball or football. It is the use of the large muscle groups to deliver power (the mass x velocity principle). Boxing, MMA, and External styles (including non-Chinese arts such as Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, etc.) rely on this method. External power is trained and improved through tools such as weight training, speed bags, heavy bags, focus mitts/makiwaras, and so on. External power relies less on trained skill and more on characteristics (how fast can you swing your arm or leg? How strong are you?). External power would also be considered an open kinetic chain activity. It’s also very easy to see what it does and how it works. When a heavyweight boxer hits the heavy bag and the bag folds in half, it’s very easy to see why this result happened.

Internal power is difficult to see because it relies on a very different method of power generation and delivery. Internal power is a closed kinetic chain activity (if you’ve ever pushed a car, to some extent you have experienced closed kinetic chain). The difficulty in seeing it comes from its reliance on structure and Qi rather than overt muscular force. By structure, we mean the relationship of the parts of the body to each other in terms of both positioning and timing (and not necessarily angle-dependent). Qi will be explained below. All of this is very hard to see because it takes place “inside the body”, therefore the term Internal is used.

Please note: we absolutely do not mean an invisible and magical force when we talk about internal power or Qi. What we are discussing is purely physical and a result of the complex (and marvelous) workings of the human body.

16. What is Qi?

Well, that depends on who you are asking. Qi is a difficult subject to engage in with Westerners if for no other reason than it being a concept from a traditional culture that views the world in a very different way than modern society currently does. Qi is frequently reduced to a narrow definition such as “the energy that comes from food” (coming from a very literal interpretation of the character 氣) or bioelectricity or something akin to a magical energy field or even just energy.

Unfortunately, all these definitions miss the mark. Qi should be understood to be a broad concept with many potential meanings (like many concepts in traditional Chinese science) and those meanings will differ depending on the context of the discussion. It includes concepts such as potential for activity, the typical behavior of something and what that thing tends to do, the essential nature of a thing, the observable evidence of activity in a living thing (and therefore evidence of its being alive), as well as the indescribable thusness of life.

So, yes, it can be looked at through the Western lens of energy as long as one understands that this definition is only looking at a small part of the whole. So whereas we could say when speaking of Qigong, “This exercise (in ways we don’t fully understand) somehow encourages the multitude of biological processes  that result in the state we commonly consider physical alive-ness and increases their effects resulting in increased vitality” we could just save time and say, “This exercise builds Qi”.

However, this is only part of the story. Different schools of traditional Chinese art and science would intend different meanings when using the word Qi. A Buddhist acupuncturist would mean something very different from a Daoist astrogeomancer, who would mean something different from a Confucian calligrapher. All three would use the term (as it’s a concept Chinese people would be broadly aware of) but the meaning would diverge wildly.

For the sake of introducing some clarity for a Western audience, we will broadly divide Qi into two categories (as Guo Yunshen did), being Civil Qi and Martial Qi.

Civil Qi is what is described by those who practice Qigong or receive acupuncture. A tingling sensation, hot and cold, numbness, feelings of fulness or inflation, these are all associated with the presence and manipulation of Civil Qi. In a Western biomechanical sense, Civil Qi would be a change in the activity of the nervous system that results in change of regulation of the activity of body systems, tissues, organs, etc.

Old documents characterize training Civil Qi by “…as if it is really there,” meaning using the imagination to create the aforementioned physical responses. By its nature, it is fairly intangible and mostly observable by the description of the person experiencing it and its effects.

Martial Qi is tangible and much more easily observable. Martial Qi is considered to be the opposite of Muscle (meaning the type of strength and body usage commonly found in manual labor, sports, and our everyday lives). The presence of Martial Qi is marked by its firm but supple nature and the relative relaxation of the major muscles.

An arm pressed against that is relying on Muscle will have a springy quality that will decrease in power after about seven seconds of continuous opposition (due to lactic acid buildup in the biceps and triceps), possibly also shaking a bit as the person tries to keep the shape steady. The arm of someone relying on Martial Qi will feel like pushing against a wall and will feel like it is eating into the arm pushing against it.

Why is this? Martial Qi is, rather than relying on overt muscular strength, relying on connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, small muscles, and connection with the deep core muscles in order to do Work, in the physics sense. The complexity of connective tissue in the human body is such that force does not transfer in a linear fashion but rather “spirals”, which to some extent negates reliance upon exact angles in order to resist or defeat incoming force. Training Martial Qi is described as, “…like pushing a river car (gondola)“, which in modern terms is describing a closed kinetic chain activity.

17. Should I do qigong outside of class?

Qigong, like the martial arts, should be practiced under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Whereas it is generally not necessary to study Qigong separately while training the Internal arts, neither do we object to our students doing so, provided they are seeing beneficial results from it.

18. Does weightlifting/bodybuilding help with Neijia?

No. It can actually hinder your progress. Neijia depends on making the shift to relying on internal power instead of muscles and using the whole body as one unit rather than isolated limbs. Most weightlifting practices work in direct opposition to this and will, in fact, make you worse at your art and not better.

 
 

19. Can I also train in another martial art while training here?

Training in another martial art simultaneously is discouraged due to the likelihood of it interfering with your progress.

20. There’s lots of videos on YouTube/DVD. Can’t I just learn from those?

Not the authentic stuff, no. In videos (or even in person) you can see the shape of the technique but it’s impossible to see the fine details that make it actually do what it does. Without those details, you’ll just be doing the shape without the function. The Internal arts are so complex that to learn without a teacher is nearly impossible.

21. Can I learn from a book?

No. (See #20.) Unfortunately there are a lot of martial artists who have attempted this in our time, and the results are not good.

22. But it’s an authentic copy of the master’s own personal manual!

The problem with manuals is that they aren’t written for students, they’re written for masters to, essentially, keep them from forgetting the ten thousand things in the curriculum. For the same reasons explained in #20, a master’s manual won’t do you any good.

23. Most styles give out a black belt after around three years. How about you?

There’s an old saying in Taijiquan, which is “Ten years in the house without going outside” which is to say that it’s likely to take you about ten years to really acquire the art. Ten years isn’t a hard and fast rule, it all depends on the student’s ability and time they put in. It could be much less, it could be much more.  However, ten years is a fairly good rule for your typical student to become truly adept.

24.Am I going to get beat up in class?

Absolutely not. We do not do sparring or sanda, and the instructor will only demonstrate a technique on students in a controlled fashion in order to help them understand it. Bruises (and more rarely scrapes) will happen on occasion, but as this is not a school attempting to teach fighters or self defense, it’s really not something to be concerned over.