This past weekend I had the opportunity to sit in the same room with a half dozen guys recounting their martial arts training. Frankly, I was impressed and even intimidated by the breadth and depth of martial arts training some of these guys had; black belts, sometimes in more than one style, competitions, and trophies.
However, when I considered what brought us all to this room, despite all our collective years of experience and belts and trophies (or lack of), none of us through our past training were taught or learned whole-body strength, the internal connections, or groundpath known as internal strength. Suddenly, I didn't feel so intimidated anymore. We all recognized a gap in our training and came together to learn to close that gap, to develop internal connection, to develop whole-body strength.
Later, I wondered about the state of "internal" martial arts training and competition these days, eg., taiji, bagua, xing-yi, aikido, wushu, push-hands. Are competition judges required to demonstrate a level of internal connection, of whole-body strength before becoming judges or not? Are competitors judged on the level of internal connection/whole-body strength they can demonstrate or not?
The "internal" arts are truly not that art unless performed with internal connection, with whole-body strength. If belts are awarded and trophies given for well executed forms and for competency in techniques (all performed without demonstrating internal connection/whole-body strength), doesn't this dilute the art, lower the bar, and mislead the practitioner?
As I learned, I thought I was doing Tai-ji Chuan but in fact, I was merely imitating Tai-ji Chuan by performing only the outward movements because my "Taiji" lacked internal connection/whole-body strength. I've also learned that those who develop internal connection/whole-body strength also develop an eye for seeing who has and doesn't have internal connection and to what level. A real teacher will not only tell you what you are doing wrong but will also guide you in how to develop your internal connectedness. We are all adorned with the Emperors New Clothes.