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Thoughts on the differences between internal and external Arts

June 22, 2017 4 comments

I often argue with my friends on if there is a difference or not. As a general rule my friends that claim there is or not have primarily studied one or the other and dabbled in the opposite.

One of the challenges to getting a clear answer is the fact that there are pure internal, pure external, but more commonly arts that are a combination aka/half internal half external.

While there is much in common between the two there are traits I consider different. For example both talk about being extremely relaxed as they move.

However an external stylist will tell you that they do extreme muscular contraction as they hit then relax (before and after). They exert power as they hit a pose/stance. An internal stylist will only talk about stretching instead of contracting.

One of the big issues I misunderstood when I tired to make the transition was that internal arts are always relaxed. This was a misunderstanding of what happens because I let energy leak out with misalignment’s. Maintaining alignments builds up a pressure empowering your alignments.

What I would suggest to those trying to transition is that external arts use alignments and posture with muscular contraction to generate force.

Internal practitioners use posture, alignments, that include stretching, relaxation and by keeping alignments to create a hydrodynamic pressure internally to generate force. Of course this is a far more in-depth topic, but I thought a good place to start.

Let me know your thoughts?


Mike Murphy

Categories: Concepts & Principles

Do you need to do your forms in mirror image

October 22, 2015 Leave a comment

While some forms in various systems work each side evenly, most forms do not. They will tend to do some techniques on both sides and others only on one side. With that in mind your training could cause you to have gaps in your development and skill sets. One method of resolving that issue is to do your forms in both the standard way they are taught and in mirror image. This is very common in systems that have shorter forms. In some instances they don’t tell people until they reach a certain level of development that they should be done on both sides. In others they train both ways from the beginning.

Some systems have very long forms which can make doing them in mirror image more challenging. So an option used by practitioners of many systems to ensure balanced training on both sides is to take each movement out of their forms, and do them as drills moving up and down the floor.

Both methods of training can be of great benefit to your development and should not be neglected.


Mike Murphy


Categories: Concepts & Principles

McDojo Typical Class Structure

March 29, 2015 Leave a comment

As I have previously stated a typical class for adults in a McDojo is an hour. While there are different formulas for structuring classes a typical one is broken down into four fifteen minute sections. The first two sections are normally divided into 2 sections as well.

The first 15 minutes in normally calisthenics and Stretching. This is to get the blood moving and warm up all your muscle groups before practicing skills. This helps prevent injuries and also provides some basic conditioning. This portion is typically broken down into the first half  being calisthenics, the second half stretching. Things like push-ups, sit-ups, leg-lifts, etc. are broken into 10 counts. Normally you will do 30-50 of each, though it can very from time to time to provide variety. This helps prevent boredom and also allows people to test themselves from time to time to see their improvement.

The second 15 minutes is normally spent drilling fundamentals and consists of punching and kicking drills done in place. Normally everything is broken down into a sets of 10. The first half of that 15 minutes focuses on hand strikes, the last half of that 15 minutes focuses on kicking. Since you only have 7 and a Half minutes for kicking you will normally end up with 30-50 of each kick done on each side once you have most of the kicks taught in the system. The first 10 are low, the next 10 are solar plexus or chest high, the last 10 are head high. You may also throw combination kicks.  As students progress over time they will be able to do the highers kicks and combinations more easily, and their punching and kicking speed will improve. Most McDojos have mirrors in the front of the class so students can see themselves. This also allows them to see how they are performing and how they are performing compared to the rest of the class. This can both motivate and give them a sense of accomplishment.

At this point you would be half way through the class (30 minutes in) and you started cold and worked your level of intensity up until you have been sweating and breathing hard for some length of time. You have for all practical purposes accomplished an aerobic routine with ever increasing intensity. The main difference is that you have also worked on some basic skills that can help you for self defense or for a competitive sport version of a martial art.

The third 15 minute section is normally spent working on something the students already know. This could be drills up and down the floor of various kinds, forms, one-step sparring techniques, self-defense techniques, etc. This helps them get better at skills they already have and can be also used as a method to give them goals for self improvement. It can provide a reality check on where their level of development actually is.

The last 15 minutes of the class is where you want to teach them something new. This is were they want to razzle-dazzle the student. You want to show them something they don’t know. You want to to get them excited about learning more. Then end the class and send them home. knowing they will come back to learn more.

Now if you are running 20 or so classes a week finding something new to teach all the time can be a challenge. The easiest way to do that is to teach the students what you are working on for your own development. If you are part of a big organization you may have Instructor classes or Black Belt Classes on a regular basis that you attend as the student. The top guys will teach the Black Belt Belt Classes the same way you teach yours and leave you with something to work on. You can also attend seminars with different instructors if you are not with a group that won’t allow it. In the old days before the Internet and Youtube people used to buy VHS tapes and DVD’s  to learn more. I remember buying tapes of Joe Lewis, Benny Urquidez, and Bill Wallace. I spent countless hours/days/months watching practicing and teaching what I learned from these tapes.

In the end a McDojo is a business that is successful only if it meets the wants/needs of it’s customers. For many this may be exactly what they are looking for. For others it won’t be. In the end it is up to the student to do his/her due diligence to find the school that is the best fit for them.


Mike Murphy


Categories: Concepts & Principles

McDojo Class Length

March 8, 2015 Leave a comment

One of the easiest ways to tell if you are in a McDojo is by the class length. A typical class length for adults and older children will be an hour. Younger children will be either 30 minutes or 45 minutes (give or take). The reason for this is profit margins for the school. Floor space (rent) is the biggest budgetary expense they have.  So the more space you have for larger classes the more it costs to operate. In order to maximize the use of your floor space (instead of increasing it), you need to increase the number of classes you run. In order to run more classes they have to be shorter in duration. The more classes you have, the more students you can maintain in the same school/floor space. The more students the more money comes into the school.

Most potential students are hobbyist, and just looking for a good exercise routine etc. to help improve their lives, overall health, and possibly give them skills for self defense if they ever need them. So the typical student attends 1 to 3 one hour classes a week and may do some supplemental training.  It is about the same amount of time the average person would spend at a health club. This type of class provides most people with exactly what they are looking for.

Traditional Schools and hardcore martial artists, as well as athletes of any kind train much longer and more frequently. Though a traditional class may be as short as 2 hours long, serious practitioners do supplemental training too. Your hardcore serious practitioner will train anywhere from 2-5 hours a day (some more in the range of 8 hours) 5-6 days a week. Their daily training may be broken down into sections/sessions spread out through the day. Such as road work, conditioning, bag work, forms, grappling, or sparring.

When picking a school you need to be honest with yourself about your long term goals and how training fits into your life. You need to pick a path that will allow you to continue, and enjoy training for the longest period of time. Of course at different stages in ones life the best way for any individual to train will change. Be open minded and flexible you’ll get more out of your training . You will also enjoy it more.


Mike Murphy


Categories: Concepts & Principles

How a McDojo or picks its location

February 20, 2015 Leave a comment

The purpose of this post is to help people that are considering training in the martial arts understand the dynamics involved in running a commercial school. This way they have a better grasp of what type of school they are in or considering joining. Hopefully it will provide some insight that could help you pick the best school for you. This is not a “how-to” post for school owners.

When someone decides to run a school for a living the first thing they need to do is pick the right location for their school. Anyone that has ever had a retail business knows that the three most important things are: 1) Location, 2) location, and 3) location!

So the first step is what type of area do you want to set up your business in. Well you are looking to make money so you want to be in a well-to-do neighborhood/town/city. You need potential customers/students that can afford to pay for your services. You need to have enough potential students/customers to generate enough cash flow for you to live in the lifestyle you want. You need to know your demographics to be able to make good decisions. You need to know what percentage of the population in your area is even interested in martial arts. You need to know what your competition is, and how many of the potential students in the area are already with them. You can google the information you are looking for or go to sites like this  for general demographics. Be aware that the wealthier and area is the higher the cost of doing business is.  You need to consider both drive-by and walk-by potential customers per day at your location. This impacts how much advertising you will have to do. Are you on the side of the street the sun hits the most, etc. the list goes on.

Another important thing to consider is the square footage for your school. The space will need to have a training area, changing rooms, rest rooms, an office, and enough room near the entry for people to watch class. The larger the space the more expensive it will be, and the higher your budget will be.With that in mind there is a correlation between how much your rent is, and how many students you must have and how much you charge them to run your school in the black. I have seen schools start with only a few hundred feet. I have also seen successful schools with 3000 square foot, and even a few with 5000 square feet or more. If you are starting out on your own without deep pockets, and an existing student base the optimal size seems to be about 1500 square foot, give or take a couple/few hundred. More than 2000 can be a strain on the pocket book until you have built that student base. Large chains that have multiple schools to support the initial financial drain while building a customer/student base may start with 3000-5000 square feet.

As you can see a martial arts school with a store front is a business just like any retail store you enter. You should keep that in mind while considering their sales pitch and buying their products. Shop carefully to ensure you get what you are looking for.


Mike Murphy




October 31, 2014 Leave a comment

I read this translation again and it is by far the best translation I have ever seen of the book on Zimen Boxing (Tzu Men Chuan).

Brennan Translation

by Hu Yisheng
authorized by the Central Martial Arts Institute
[published Mar, 1933]

[translation by Paul Brennan, Oct, 2014]

This book has been sent to the publishers with a couple of extra verses to start it off:

I have written down what I was taught, attentively gathering it all up,
but I feel only that “the more I look up at his teaching, the higher it goes, and the more I drill into his teaching, the harder it gets”. [Lun Yu, 9.11]
I have told it as I have heard it,
so much have I heard that I dare compare myself to Ananda [Buddha’s main disciple].
     The art’s boundless subtle truths provoke interpretations,
and so I have elaborated upon the method, pushed to produce twelve essays.
I am blessed…

View original post 35,645 more words

Categories: Concepts & Principles

Tzu Men Chuan Book

October 29, 2014 Leave a comment

I had asked Paul to translate this book a long time ago. It is the book that has been published for many decades on Tzu Men Chuan.  It is still available today. I can’t thank him enough for translating it. If you haven’t been to his site you should visit it. He has translated many treasures and continues to do so.

Mike Murphy

Categories: Concepts & Principles