The world of martial arts and internal practices is vast and varied, with a seemingly endless array of techniques, philosophies, and approaches. One area of ongoing debate and discussion is the "battle" between two types of practices: neigong and waigong. But what exactly are these practices, and what sets them apart from one another?
In this post, we'll explore the definitions, histories, and benefits of neigong and waigong, and weigh the pros and cons of each to try and settle the debate once and for all.
What is Neigong?
Neigong (内功), also known as "internal gongfu," refers to a type of training that focuses on cultivating and harnessing the body's internal energy or qi (气). This is achieved through various practices such as qigong (气功), tai chi (太极), and other forms of meditation and movement. There's a good deal of confusion around the term and qi, what exactly it is and how to manipulate it. The closet explanation that seems consistent with various claims on it's source and potential, is that qi is bioelectromagnetism.
The origins of neigong can be traced back to ancient China, where it was believed that cultivating one's internal energy could lead to improved health, longevity, and spiritual enlightenment. And in terms of traditional martial and healing arts, qi is reputed to enhance martial and healing techniques through stifling or augmenting the flow of someone's energy.
In the modern world, neigong practices continue to be popular for their many physical and mental benefits, which include improved balance, flexibility, mental clarity, memory, and stress management.
What is Waigong?
Waigong (外功), also known as "external gongfu," refers to a type of training that focuses on developing the body's physical strength and endurance through activities such as weightlifting, cardio exercise, and other forms of physical conditioning. This may even include, in the case of traditional Shaolin Kung Fu, body hardening practices that deaden nerves or lead to the calcification and growth in size and strength of bone and connective tissue through the repeated pounding of the body against sand, wood, steel, and brick.
The origins of waigong can be traced back to ancient China, where it was believed that a strong and healthy body was necessary for optimal martial arts performance. In the modern world, waigong practices are synonymous with physical conditioning and exercise, and are popular for their many physical benefits, including improved muscle tone, cardiovascular health, and overall fitness.
Weight training, running, plyometrics, calisthenics, and on and on, can all be considered waigong.
The "Battle" of Neigong vs Waigong
So, which is better: neigong or waigong?
The answer, of course, is not so simple. Both practices have their own unique benefits and drawbacks (and perhaps even woo woo mystical elements), and the best approach will depend on an individual's goals and needs.
On one hand, neigong practices can be highly effective for improving mental clarity, relaxation, and stress management. They can also be safer and less intimidating for those who are new to exercise or have physical limitations. They come with one rather large caveat however - western science has not come to consensus on what 'energy' we're speaking of, or how best to measure it. But advocates and proponents firmly believe the byproducts are not mere placebo, but are in fact tangible shifts in biology.
On the other hand, waigong practices are more effective for building physical strength and endurance, and can be more engaging and enjoyable for those who enjoy more intense or competitive activities. They are also, for that matter, directly measurable and the results are highly correlative with inputs.
Ultimately, the key to finding the right balance between neigong and waigong is to determine your personal goals and choose practices that align with them. Whether you're looking to improve your mental clarity, physical strength, or both, there's a gongfu practice out there that can help you reach your goals.
In conclusion, neigong and waigong are two distinct types of gongfu (deep skill) practices that offer their own unique benefits. Neigong focuses on cultivating the body's internal energy through practices like qigong and tai chi, while waigong focuses on building physical strength and endurance through activities like weightlifting and cardio exercise.
The "battle" between these two practices is ultimately a matter of personal preference and goals. And, as is often the case, one may determine that starting with waigong for rapid results and graduating later to internal practices, may offer the best of both worlds.