What is meant by “internal martial arts?” Generally, it refers to an emphasis on structure, breathing, and dealing with opposing forces to defend against an attack. In Wing Tsun, to strengthen the body, many joint exercises are represented in the three forms to unify the body as a coordinated whole. Structure, angles and in the case of Leung Ting WingTsun®, mobility are paramount issues in dealing with an attack. The development of the elastic qualities of the body are used to facilitate defense when encountering stronger forces.
An external martial art has more emphasis on using the skeletal muscles to focus power in the hands, to kick with power, to block with power, to stretch, and step straight in. Angling is also used. Training is directed toward developing athletic skills. These styles often use external power generated by the skeletal muscles to overcome the strength of an attacker. Most styles are long range and use strategies within this range. Some exceptions exist.
Few martial arts are purely internal or external. The classic three internal styles in China are Baguazhang, Xingyiquan, and Taijiquan. Even these have, traditionally had a few external elements.
Wing Tsun is often referred to as an internal style. Wing Tsun is not one of the three styles above. It is not thought of by Chinese martial artists as internal. In many cases, a martial art is only as internal or external as it is taught and what emphasis it is given. The internal aspects of a martial art are more difficult to master and take many years to learn well. Wing Tsun has many practical elements which are taught first. The easier something is to learn, the sooner they can become useful in an attack. In Leung Ting WingTsun®, the sticky hands, an internal aspect of Wing Tsun, is not taught until 3rd Student Grade. Instead of beginning with that, Grandmaster Leung Ting designed his teaching program to teach more practical self-defense skills sooner. The Siu Nim Tau, however, with an internal emphasis on slow movements, is taught first.
The Siu Nim Tau is an excellent short form, relatively simple to perform. Done correctly, it can enhance health, wake you up the morning and contribute to a better understanding of Wing Tsun in general.
-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg