What are Internal Tai Chi Skills?

What are Internal Tai Chi Skills? Internal Tai Chi Skills are what is going on inside the practitioner of Tai Chi and are the real essence of the art.

As stated in a previous post a practitioner will need to learn and practice a form / set. However, the form / set is not the essence of Tai Chi but is instead the shell that is used to practice real Tai Chi.

I like to think of it as the body of a racing car. A racing car needs a body and ideally the car body will be aerodynamic and streamlined. But, if I have a terrific sports racing car body and the cheapest push lawnmower engine and internal parts I can find then I am still driving a glorified lawnmower and not a real sports car.

Many folks learn a Tai Chi form or set and often eventually teach that form or set thinking that they now have and teach Tai Chi. If the set was everything they would be correct. However, the form / set is only the common first beginning step in Tai Chi and not enough for anyone to be considered a Tai Chi instructor.

There are many other essential components to Tai Chi. This includes but is not limited to applications, push hands, sparring, cultivation of chi, chi kung / qi gong, energetics for health and self defense, mind intention development and internal Tai Chi skills. Without these other skills the Tai Chi may look good but there is no or very little real Tai Chi happening.

So, what are internal Tai Chi skills?

First, is the proper development of Sung relaxation (much more about the relaxation inside than out) and posture which includes connection. Relaxation and connection can easily be tested. Simple pushing against the arms of the practitioner are one of the easiest and best tests for this. If the practitioner is tense they will not be able to withstand a proper push without getting moved. Also, if there is no internal alignment or there are postural or large internal gaps and holes then the structure will easily fail and the practitioner will once again easily be moved.

Second, is the breath deep, full and complete? If it is not, then tension will enter due to lack of breath and again the structure will fail or / and the practitioner will easily be moved. Also, the energy pathways should be through the entire body ideally through the feet and down into the ground. This is considered by many to be advanced material but I have found that it is only considered advanced because so few people actually know it. It is my goal to help to change this so that many more people can begin to get the real benefits that are available from the study of Tai Chi.

The items I have mentioned so far are basic and should be taught within the first few months of any authentic Tai Chi program. The next items that I am writing about here are also internal Tai Chi skills that can normally be taught quite early in the study of Tai Chi and will really help beginners to see the internal aspects of Tai Chi.

First of all sensitivity. Learning to feel both inside and out is a hallmark of real Tai Chi study. You must be able to feel inside your body to really deeply relax and breathe into any specific area. How can you relax and breathe fully into an area that you can not feel? The answer of course is that you cannot. Sensitivity is one of the most important skills that you can develop as it makes it possible for you to really and deeply develop the other skills. Listening or Sensitivity skill in Tai Chi is referred to as Ting Jing.

Tai Chi Internal Skills includes Jing training. Jing refers to the manipulation of Chi as directed by the mind intent. Basic Jings are Peng, Lu, Ji and Ahn. These 4 basic jings are postural jings that can be used in combination with energetics in more advanced practice but in their basic form Peng / Ward Off, Lu / Roll Back, Ji / Press and Ahn / Push are structural alignments and movements that teach aspects of the application of physical structure along with being a gateway into internal practice. Some basic jings that are more energetic in nature include rooting (chen jing) which involves dropping your body weight down into the ground and jan nien jing which is sticking and adhering energy.

We will be writing more about Tai Chi internal skills and jings in future posts and as always welcome any questions and comments.



  1. Jorge Pavon says

    Richard, thank you for allowing the opportunity to communicate with you.
    I am a male 69 years young and I live in California near Oakland, actually the city is Hayward. My interest is focused in Internal Tai Chi,I am not interested in combat etc, only in the development of Chi, that is the circulation of Chi on my body, this is my main interest.
    Do you know of a Master near where I live that teaches internal practices to increase and develop the circulation of Chi? I thank you much for your attention, regards, Jorge

    • Matt Holker says

      Hello Jorge,

      We do not have any certified teachers in the Oakland area yet. Perhaps you could be the first!

      We know that it is hard to find quality instruction in the internal arts, which is why we have committed ourselves to making the high-level secrets of Tai Chi available and accessible to the public. Our long distance training programs can give you the tools you need to supplement live training, or even to make do without it until you can find the right teacher.

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