Chinese Martial Arts are sometimes divided into two adversarial camps: Internal vs External. This has always bothered me as it is usually in some kind of advert where I see these terms. Over the years as I have kept abreast of anatomy, neuroscience research and related disciplines as part of ongoing professional development, I have always looked to resolve what I perceive a false distinction. In 2010, I published a draft definition of internal practice in my FAQ. Since then I have been fortunate to receive feedback and continue to refine the language. The audience for this post, like this website, is assumed to have a basic vocabulary of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts and related esoteric practice.
Also, we often see words like 'qi (chi)', 'shape', 'energy', 'internal feel', 'internal power', and 'jin'. These are obviously words of art specific to our discipline, but everybody defines these differently as - aside from advertising - each training system has different approaches that result in different sensations. The question remains, "Where can we find common language?" I look to neuroanatomy.
A simple and succinct definition of internal practice might be:
Internal practice is characterized by the use of interoception, the internal visceral feel, as the primary reference to generate power to respond to force, rather than proprioception or strategic concerns of martial application or technique. Additionally, internal reference in movement is explored exclusively by investigating the cycle of action informed by yi->qi->li. " - Kelley Graham 2010
From source 'Interoception... 2003 Craig' below.
Converging evidence indicates that primates have a distinct cortical image of homeostatic afferent activity that reflects all aspects of the physiological condition of all tissues of the body. This interoceptive system, associated with autonomic motor control, is distinct from the exteroceptive system (cutaneous mechanoreception and proprioception) that guides somatic motor activity. The primary interoceptive representation in the dorsal posterior insula engenders distinct highly resolved feelings from the body that include pain, temperature, itch, sensual touch, muscular and visceral sensations, vasomotor activity, hunger, thirst, and ‘air hunger’. In humans, a meta- representation of the primary interoceptive activity is engendered in the right anterior insula, which seems to provide the basis for the subjective image of the material self as a feeling (sentient) entity, that is, emotional awareness. " - Craig 2003
Do I enjoy neuroanatomy? Yes. Am I a fanboy? No! Please read this excellent article on neuroethics.
A plea for “slow science” and philosophical patience in neuroethics. The Neuroethics Blog. Retrieved on February 23, 2016, from http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2016/02/a-plea-for-slow-science-and.html