As opposed to the category known as waigong 外功 or "external skill" which is historically associated with Shaolin Quan or the so-called "hard style", "external" or wàijiā 外家 Chinese martial arts. Both have many different schools, disciplines and practices and historically there has been mutual influence between the two and distinguishing precisely between them differs from school to school.

     There is both martial and non-martial Nei Kung. Well known examples of martial Nei Kung are the various breathing and focus training's taught in some traditional Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan schools. An example of non-martial Nei Kung is the discipline known as Taoyin.




     This type of practice is said to require concentration and internal reflection which results in a heightened self-awareness that increases over time with continued practice. Neigong practitioners report awareness of the mechanics of their blood circulation, peristalsis, muscular movement, skeletal alignment, balance, etc.

     What is said to be occurring as the result of continual practice is a type of internal alchemy, that is a refinement and transmutation of the "Three Treasures" or San Bao (三寳), in Chinese. The Three Treasures are known as Jing (精), Qi (氣) and Shen (神) and can be loosely translated as Essence, Vitality andSpirit.

     According to Daoist doctrine the Three Treasures can be described as three types of energy available to humans. The Dao De Jing purported to be written by Lao zi states in chapter 42 that "The Dao (道) gives birth to the One, the One gives birth to the Two (Taiji (太極) or Yin and Yang (陰陽)) and the Two gives birth to the Three (which some interpret to mean Jing 精, Qi 氣 and Shen 神, or sometimes Heaven Tian 天, Earth Di 地 and Man Ren 人) and lastly the Three gives birth to the 10,000 Things (Wanwu 萬物); which is all that exists in heaven and on earth.