The notion of internal did not originally exist in CMA because separating it into internal and external is plain silly. Its like saying the engine in the car that is hidden (internal) underneath the hood is more important than the wheels that can be seen (external).
Even in Tai Chi we say learn the techniques to learn the art and vice versa and not just focus on one thing. It is like a three legged table – which leg is more important?
When I teach Tai Chi I tell students not to focus on fajing. Do they listen?
No, of course not. They know better than me. They know fajing is the secret sauce. They try to fajing in their form even when I tell them not to. No matter what I say or how I correct them they still try to do fajing. They want to do it even if it is meaningless, inconsequential or a tiny little discreet movement. It is like an itch that has to be scratched.
But they can’t fool me because I have a quiet eye and can spot these things. I tell them not to fajing not because it is not important but that it is not important at their stage of learning.
Fajing for the sake of fajing is like farting, all air. The smelly air might rock the smeller and even knock him back a few steps but the result is momentary and of no lasting effect, well perhaps on the memory of the event.
Good fajing is part of the process of movements done properly. Just because you do not emphasize it does not mean it is not there. Only you know it is there because your intention is defining it, and of course, when your opponent gets hit by it. This is what we in Tai Chi, specifically Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s lineage, mean by internal i.e. the use of the intent to govern the movements from a state of have-mind to no-mind.
However, it does not mean there are no external components. There are and they are matched to our intent, what we are thinking of, how we map out the principles. This is why the movements done properly look minimal even boring, and outwardly look calm and not particularly powerful. But then when a tsunami is moving along the ocean you cannot see anything. It is when it comes nearer to shore that you see the power and force manifested. This is what we mean in Tai Chi when we say that man is a micro-universe.
The internal of Tai Chi is something that practitioners of other arts want to know about, even steal and import into their system. However, until and unless the aspirant casts aside all other arts and devote oneself wholeheartedly to uncovering the Tai Chi internal path by walking it solely for a number of years, having no other style except one, then you will never really know its true meaning, complexity and depth. Instead, you end up with a not here, not there result.
This is why people can read about it, play with it a bit, modify it and think they have it but they could still be miles off course without knowing it. The workings of the internal can fool the eye. Even those who felt it normally could not see what had happened and had to have it explained slowly and carefully before they have a glimmer of understanding.
Photos and videos cannot easily capture the feeling of the internal because the movements are too subtle, too fast and many times its all in the mind. All this sounds a bit mad but there is a method to the madness. There is a science here. I have poured through books on science and various topics to find a way to explain this and yes, a scientific explanation can be constructed and I have taken a small step to using it to explain it in a way that can make sense to the layman at (https://mastertaichitoday.com/7-brief-lessons/).
But then if it can only be felt how then can I tell who is internal and who is not. Some I can’t but for many I can. I am not blind, I am not stupid, I am not gullible and as long as I can see, think and not be swayed by blind feelings of admiration, worship and idolize I know when I see that which is just soft, smooth and flowing but not necessarily internal, at least by the definition of our Tai Chi. You could use your definition and claim that it is internal and that is your right.
A style like Tai Chi probably did not set out to be turned into a difficult technical subject of study anymore than the pioneers of flying started off with a complete technical subject called aeronautics. It probably started off life with someone in China thinking about how to improve what he knew and developing from there, taking inspiration and lessons from nature, and along the way possibly influenced by Taoism. I do not really know what happened back then, what happened along the way, and how we got here. What is important is that we got here, we are still here and we can pass it along.
Tai Chi or any of the true internal styles are not arts of magic or invincibility. This is why no matter how fantastic the history of a style is, how glorious it was in fights, matches, war and so on no one style prevails for all time. The right practitioner and the right opponent maketh the victory and the history of the style.
So the next time you find yourself falling under the spell of the internal ask whether this particular internal is really useful and is effective against a resisting opponent or just another pushy, pushy, showy method of showmanship for the deluded and those happy to be relieved of their cash.
If not, then I suggest you turn around and get the hell out of there before you are conned of your money and time. Well, maybe money is not such a big loss but you cannot earn back time; well perhaps if you have a time machine and can go back in time. Until then caveat emptor (buyer beware).