Power vs. Technique: Which do you think is more important?
By Chen Xiao Ping
The word Gong Fu in the modern
Chinese Dictionary is translated as "ability" or "attainment".
As for the martial arts, the ability or attainment that one gets from their
practice should be viewed in two ways:
1. Practical methods. This refers to the
ways of striking and neutralizing. It includes: kicking, punching, throwing,
gabbing and so on.
2. Gong Li. This refers to the power that is built up and used in ones techniques.
It also has to do with the amount of power one can take from an impact to
The practical methods in Chinese martial arts are so numerous that no body knows how many there are. There are hundreds
of forms among the various styles. Each style has its own special techniques
and methods. If those techniques are executed will, they can have unexpected
results. I am sure that this exists in every style, not just in Chinese martial
As for the Gong Li in the Chinese martial arts world, there are two ways this can be developed. One is to get power
by practicing with power. For example, punching sand bags, lifting weights,
body patting and so on. Western boxing is a martial art that follows this
method. Some people consider this type of power Wai Gong or "External
Power." Another way is to get power without using power.
This method is used by martial arts such as Taiji Quan, Yi Quan (mind boxing) and so on. They start by relaxing, using
calmness and focusing on the mind. No force is used; meaning they do not let
the muscle become tense. The theory is based on the Qi (internal energy).
People call this method of obtaining power Nei Gong or "Internal Power."
The power one obtains from Nei Gong practice not only has a bigger striking
power; it also has a greater ability to take strong impact to one's body.
In my opinion, the Gong Li in the Chinese Gong Fu should be cultivated by using this second method, Nei Gong, and not
the first method, which is Wai Gong. The reason for this is that the internal
energy emphasizes maintaining one's body. Let the Qi become strong first,
flowing through the meridians of your body and ridding the body of sickness.
When your body grows stronger, you are building up the foundation for future training. Therefore, you are increasing
your health and developing internal strength at the same time. There is no
end to the amount of power one can build by developing the inner strength.
Its explosive force is unbelievable. Though it cannot be explained by the
scientific research, its power had been proven through generations of practice.
It is a pity that this special Chinese method is not understood or accepted by many people. Even some martial arts
lovers do not agree that there are two kinds of energy, Both internal and
external power. They don't believe that power can be developed by simply relaxing.
To these people the Qi is considered a philosophical idea or belief. The essence
of Chinese martial arts is being thrown into the garbage. I feel very bad
that some people cannot accept this concept.
Between Gong Li and the practical methods, which is more important? Some people say; "A person with power can defeat
a person with ten methods (skill or techniques)." These people consider
power to be more important. Other people say, "A person with skills can
move a thousand pounds." In this way of thinking, the method is more important.
Everyone has his/her own opinion. In my mind, the Gong Li is the foundation. It is just like a building. No matter
how beautiful the building looks and how reasonable the structure is, if the
foundation is not strong enough, it is only a castle in the air. It cannot
take the abuse of wind or rain. It is just like one who does not have enough
power to catch and tie a chicken; no matter how many techniques he/she has
learned they are useless. Do you agree? What if that person builds a very
strong foundation and doesn't know any practical methods, what would be the
use of the internal energy? (With the exception of internal energy for the
I still remember the advice of one of my teachers.
"The important point in training is that every one should follow the rules and the requirements of each posture
when he/she practices the forms. From the training, he/she will gradually
Understand their meaning. When he/she starts to practice in pairs, he/she
will only need a little advice. That is all. If people don't follow the rules
and the requirements in training, they will go nowhere. If he/she cannot get
Gong Li from practicing postures, even if he/she is taught how to use them,
it will not work either. If he/she wants to take the short path and goes out
to find people to touch hands with them or has learned some techniques, then
believes that he/she is good, it is wrong."
Here, my teacher was talking about how important Gong Li is (We practice Gong Li when we follow the rules and the
requirements for each of the postures). We can't do anything if we don't develop
any Gong Li in our bodies. At the same time, my teacher also pointed out the
important of the practical methods, "a little advice refers to the methods
So, in my opinion, Gong Li must be developed first and then the practical method second. These two cannot be separated.
I mean that you can't just have one, and ignore the other. It is like a bird
with two wings, and the wagon with its wheels. If the bird were missing a
wing or the wagon missing a wheel neither would be able to go any further.
Now, what makes up "real" Chinese Gong Fu? We can see it from two perspectives. First, only the Chinese have
this and the other styles do not. Second, it is not only found in Chinese
styles but it is better developed in the Chinese styles in comparison with
the other styles. So, I think that the Nei Gong is the main component of "real"
Chinese Gong Fu, secondary is the unique practical methods of each style found
in the Chinese martial arts.
Back To The Articles