I wrote something about the term Neijiaquan in a Facebook group, The Kwoon because there was a question about this distinction. I’ve thought about writing something about it for years and have collected many sources. I was planning for something longer, than this. But I want to share it before someone copy it and claim the words to be their. I’ll just add a little bit info to sort out what I am talking about. I’ll revise, edit and add more later. So please come back if you are interested in more of this.
Neijiaquan is a term that is used as a collective name for the three arts Taijiquan (T’ai Chi Ch’uan), Baguazhang (Pa Kwa Chang) and Xingyiquan (Hsing Yi Ch’uan). Some other related arts as Yiquan and Liuhe Bafa are mostly also included in this name. Many people believe that the term was invented by Sun Style creator Sun Lutang who studied all of these arts and made his own versions of all of these three arts. People like Tim Cartmell says so and apparently he should have been told so by Sun Jianyun, the daughter of Sun Lutang. But this is not true.
First, the members of the “Wudang arts association” already used “neijiaquan” about TCC, BGZ and XYQ before Sun Lutang entered the organization. Second, The term Neijiaquan is first found in 14th century literature, specifically “The Gentry of Ningbo” or Ningbo Fu Shi, dating 1368. It was used to give a name to the Daoist arts of Zhang San Feng. So the connection of “nei” is the same of neidan. Sun Lutang and friends used Neija to connect their arts to Wudang and Taoism as their arts and their philosophy are based on Daoist philosophy.
Here’s a classic quote from Black Belt Mag, 1964:
Here below is an excerpt from one of Sun Lutang’s own books. It’s very clear that he didn’t invent or that he was the first to use it in a more modern manner. You can read all of the book here:
“Those who discuss martial arts nowadays always divide them into internal and external. Some say that Shaolin styles are external and Wudang styles are internal, or that Daoist styles are internal and Buddhist styles are external. Actually all of these judgments are superficial. When styles are categorized as either Shaolin or Wudang, there is really no distinction being made between internal or external. Shaolin is a temple. Wudang is a mountain. When boxing arts are named after places, there is no indication at all of whether they are good or bad. When all is said and done, to label something Shaolin instead of Wudang is just as good as otherwise.
Regarding the Shaolin Temple boxing arts, there are a great many styles and the names of their contents are extensive, having been handed down through many generations and repeated over and over again in detail. This is not the case for the Wudang arts, which have been practiced by so few that the highest members of its society do not even know for sure which province the Wudang arts started in, and no, I am not exaggerating the matter. Was not Zhang Songxi of Zhejiang a disciple of the Wudang arts? Then why is it to this day that the people of Zhejiang have never heard of him? It is only in recent decades that people have begun to somewhat understand the value of the Wudang arts. The reason for this situation with Shaolin and Wudang is that one school is on display while the other is obscure. How then can they so easily be put into classifications of internal and external?
Some say that if boxing arts are not divided into internal and external, their techniques could not be discerned as being hard or soft. It is not understood that one [internal] trains to go from softness to hardness and the other [external] trains to go from hardness to softness, and that although hardness and softness are distinct, the achievement in either direction is the same. When martial arts make use of harmony in order to function, it is from a condition of harmoniousness that fighting prowess is developed.
I have practiced boxing arts for several decades. In the beginning, I too accepted common views. Every day I accumulated energy into my elixir field until my lower abdomen became as hard as a rock. When I roused the energy in my abdomen, I could throw an opponent some eight or ten feet away. Whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, at any time it was thus. I thought that by accumulating energy through sinking it down, I would likely attain the art’s internal power, and that those who were unable to sink energy to their lower abdomens were all of the external school.
One day, I sent Song Shirong of Shanxi a letter requesting a visit to him since I would be visiting Shanxi. After exchanging conventional greetings, I asked about the distinction between internal and external.
Song said: “Breathing is divided into internal and external, but in boxing arts there’s no distinction between internal and external. If you are good at nurturing energy, then it’s internal. If you’re not good at nurturing energy, then it’s external. Consider the phrase [Mengzi, chapter 2a] “good at nurturing one’s noble energy”. Surely it reveals the deeper meaning of the internal school. When practicing boxing arts, seek stillness through movement. In meditation arts, seek movement through stillness. Truly there is stillness within movement and movement within stillness, because basically they represent a single essence that cannot be branched off into two. Building on this point, when stillness is at its peak, there is movement, and when movement is at its peak, there is stillness, because movement and stillness are so connected that they generate each other. If movement and stillness were used to make distinction between internal and external, how would this not be a case of miscalculating by an inch and being off by a thousand miles?”