Aiki and Internal Training
The first martial art I practiced for a length of time (and on might say the one I remain best at today) was modern jujutsu. Specifically, a self-defense oriented amalgam of Aikido, Judo, Jujutsu, and Kempo/Karate. I have since transitioned from practicing modern jujutsu as my primary martial art and instead have spent a good amount of time learning internal martial arts ideas via the route of baguazhang, taijiquan, and xingyiquan. This has illuminated my striking and grappling practice, offering a glimpse of the higher levels of martial arts training that was suggested but ever elusive in my original jujutsu school.
I am spending some time working with a student on how to specifically codify a modified subset of jujutsu and self-defense waza (i.e., “techniques”) in the context of baguazhang and xingyiquan practice, so that they can be applied while respecting bagua and xinyi principles.
This is also helping me organize my approach to baguazhang as a martial art, including applications of the various palm changes – to make sure form and application are the same. Ellis Amdur has a recent article on internal training and specifically Aikido that I recommend highly. In it he talks about the different options available to someone who practices Aikido and wants to make sure there is “aiki” (which in the article he equates with what I would call internal training or internal practice):
I recommend it highly.
Last year I had written a short essay on internal training that took a similar train of thought. Specifically, how a practitioner of modern budo can approach internal training, and what to expect to get out of it, can be aided by an understanding first of what internal training is, versus Chinese martial arts in general: