Many folk over the last handful of years have asked me similar questions dealing with my ability to maintain strength, speed, flexibility, precision/accuracy and power when I struggle with my overall health. Those of course are great questions and if I weren’t me, I would wonder as well!
For those of you who have followed my work, know me personally and understand bits and pieces of my history, it is well known that I’ve spent the last thirteen and a half years dealing with ongoing health challenges. Ever since I was poisoned my body and health have not been the same and my organs, endocrine system and nervous systems have struggled greatly because of that event. None of this is new information. In my last interview, found through this link, I explained briefly of these ongoing struggles.
Nevertheless, the question remains on many people’s minds; how is it I’m able to maintain the core foundations of my martial skills and abilities?
The answer dwells inside and deals with internal arts.
As I’ve told students for years, the external physical body will breakdown with age and weaken respectively. There is nothing we can do to change that in the long run. It’s just a fact of physical life. Though conditioning and training of the external body is vital throughout youth and adulthood, the external physical strength and vigor of youth will always outdo age down the line. Sorry but when you’re 50 your body just isn’t 20 anymore, no matter how much strength and aerobic training you might do.
It is the development, maintenance and refinement of internal energy that is the key to continuing skills and abilities into old age.
When I speak of the external physical body I refer to muscles, tendons, ligaments and all the things can be developed and used for part of our lives for strength, speed, flexibility and movement in general. The internal body, if you will, points to the core energy that flows through the entire physical mass. Muscle, bone, tendon, ligament, tissue are all just parts of the physical mass, the vehicle in-which we ride. The internal energy is the oil and fuel and the refined internal energy is the combustion of that fuel that moves the mass and gives it life.
Every cell of the body runs on that fuel and the combustion of it. Without it, the physical body becomes lifeless. Scientifically speaking the internal energy can be viewed, in-part, comes from the mitochondria, which are literally the work-horses of every cell. They produce somewhere around 90% of our body’s internal energy. Mitochondria are the parts of the cells that transform protein, sugar and fat into useable chemical energy. That process is called oxidative phosphorylation. They also help break-down waste in the body and help old cells die-off so new ones can take their place.
Even if we have or develop some sort of physical issue that prevents us from conditioning our external body like we used to, this does not mean we need to deteriorate and lose our physical abilities, specifically in reference to martial skills, but also all other general or specific life skills. Let’s face it, being able to grab something or say lift 30 pounds is typically far more useful and required in our daily life’s that throwing a powerful kick. But trauma from injury and physical damage can dramatically interfere with being able to execute the level of physical conditioning we may have embraced before. Just because someone might not be able to do 100 or even 25 push-ups like they once could, does not mean they need to lose strength.
Push-ups are a form of external conditioning, just as running, swimming, bicycling, and other forms of calisthenics and action sports. But they do not develop, cultivate or refine internal energy, only external strength and circulation. But if that is all you know how to do, injury and other traumas that steal those abilities can seriously hamper your physical body and ability to move and live.
This is where the focus on internal energy development comes into play. It will not allow you to live forever in your physical body, but it will help increase your quality of life in ways that sit-ups and running could never do. And it will not fatigue and degrade the integrity of your body as you age, like many action sports and conditioning practice certainly do.
This is not a “how-to” set of articles on internal martial practice, but rather a brief description on the types of energies and how I personally have and continue to use them for health and wellbeing, especially when physical health challenges prevent other forms of regular exercise.
It will give you a pretty good idea of why, though I can no longer drop and do 100 push-ups or run five miles, I can still execute martial techniques and hand-to-hand combative techniques with refined precision, penetrating power and lightening speed, even more so than I could when practicing with full daily conditioning routines. Just ask students of my Combat Survival Camps :-)
I spent over 25 years training daily in the hardcore aspects of the external conditioning routines of martial arts, sports, fighting and combat. But I was also training in the internal energy development. As of today I’ve spent 37 years developing and practicing the internal energy aspects of my body and life. Since I was poisoned my ability to physically condition like I used to has become impossible. However, my ability to continue with internal energy development and usage remains strong.
Truly, it has been that internal energy training and focus that has saved my life, and today allows me to function in ways I otherwise shouldn’t be able to because of my extreme history of physical trauma.
In the following articles I will address the energies of:
For a more detailed explanation on this video please read the blog post for it here:
Internal Fire Strikes in Snow
Elder White Wolf: