The Dantian of Xingyi

THE ELIXIR FIELD
The elixir field is the source of the active aspect, the mansion of energy and power. If you want to be proficient in the art, you must first strengthen your elixir field, and if you want to strengthen your elixir field, you must first practice the art. The back-and-forth of the two will solidify each other.
     My art comes down to understanding the importance of the elixir field. When we consider past teachers, there was oral instruction passed down but few writings, and so for later generations of students it has been quite difficult to understand their reasoning. What I solemnly learned from my father and have practiced for twenty years I will describe briefly.
     “If you want to be proficient in the art, you must first strengthen your elixir field.” This is because if your elixir field is deficient, your energy will not be full. If your energy is not full, your power will not be sufficient, and those five elements and twelve animals will be but empty postures. In your defensive techniques, it would be like you are guarding a city wall against emptiness, and in your offensive techniques, it would be like you are an army defeating weaklings. Therefore, when facing an enemy and frustrating his formations, you must always be as if there is a ball of resolute energy within your lower abdomen. Energy suddenly goes from your waist, through your back and neck, and courses through straight to your headtop. At that moment, your eyes become a vanguard observing and your mind becomes a general strategizing. Drilling and overturning, horizontal and vertical, lifting and dropping – they are applied according to the situation. Dragon or tiger, monkey or horse, eagle & bear – they are transformed into as is appropriate. In a moment of the opponent’s slightest inattention, victory or defeat can be firmly discerned. This is the fullness of the elixir field resulting in the refining of skill.
     “If you want to strengthen your elixir field, you must first practice the art.” Why is this so? I will explain. Some say the elixir field receives what is innate and inherent in the body, that there is enough within the self and nothing to wait for from outside [meaning specific practices or rituals are not required, not that there is no need for obvious requirements such as air, water, food]. You can still be good at sufficiently taking care of yourself, so why put it off until there is something to practice? Personally, I disagree with this. Sure, when people do not overindulge in sex, thereby not wasting their kidney essence, and take care of themselves properly, then vitality will be abundant. In this way you can promote longevity, but you will not actually be able to get energy from the elixir field to be expressed skillfully. If you want it to express skillfully, that is the point where practice must be begun.
     The method of practice is half gathering [energy], half wielding [energy]. Gathering has to do with methods within the “eight requirements” [explained in the following chapter], such as: your tongue should prop up, your teeth should be closed together, your anus should be tucked in, and your “three centers” should be combined [The center of your headtop goes downward, the center of your foot goes upward, and the center of your hand withdraws.], and also you must send out your diaphragm. If energy can course through all of the five organs – heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys – one after another without obstruction, then it will be fulfilling what is said within the eight requirements that “the five elements should be smooth”.
     After doing this for a long time, the energy will begin to be able to fully collect in your elixir field. Although you are gathering, if you are not good at wielding, you will still not be able to express it skillfully. You must send energy collected in your elixir field upward from your lower back to dwell in your chest, fill your abdomen and organs, be concentrated at your ribs, and flush your brain. Additionally, in your ordinary practice, your body will be unusually upright and your hands and feet will be unusually maneuverable. When dealing with an opponent’s attack, your posture will be adaptive. Responding to the changes of your posture, the energy will go along with it and arrive in an instant. When your adaptiveness is beyond description, this is what it means to be good at wielding. And so gathering and wielding should be part of your hard work on a daily basis.
     This art is not like those who sit in silent meditation to cultivate an elixir of immortality. Past experts in this art faced large groups of opponents alone. While we do not know how abundant was the energy in their elixir fields, surely they had it in mind and there was not one who did not diligently practice this art by training the elixir field from the start. Once we are discussing the elixir field with a good understanding, then we can gain access to the martial path.
TRAINING THE ENERGY
In martial techniques, what has shape is the postures and what has no shape is the energy and power. What the postures wield is energy and power, for without energy and power, the postures have no use. Therefore the energy and power is the foundation of the posture. But if you want the power to be sufficient, you must first seek for the energy to be full. Thus the energy is the basis of the power.
     In the previous chapter, I mentioned gathering and wielding, which I have already gone over, but the secrets of my method of training the energy I have not yet discussed fully, so I will now describe the rest of it in detail.
     The practitioner uses the “eight requirements” as the starting point. They are the beginning of the Xingyi boxing art. While internally training the energy and externally performing the posture, whether it be the five elements or twelve animals, the alternating between empty and full, lifting and dropping, drilling and overturning, you must never depart from the eight for an instant.
     What are the eight requirements? 1. The inside should be lifted. 2. The three centers should combine. 3. The three intentions should be linked. 4. The five elements should be smooth. 5. The four tips should work in unison. 6. The mind should be leisurely. 7. The three structure points should align. 8. The eyes should be venomous. These will be individually explained below:
[1] The inside should be lifted:
     Tuck in your anus to lift its energy up into the elixir field. The energy gathered there then goes from the spine straight to the headtop, then returns and then goes up again, circulating round and round endlessly. As it says in the Manual: “By tucking in the anus, the inside is lifted [energetically].”
[2] The three centers should combine:
     The center of the headtop goes downward, the center of the foot goes upward, and the center of the hand withdraws. The three therefore make the energy gather into one place [i.e. the elixir field, which is the center between the three centers]. If the center of the headtop does not go downward, then the energy goes upward and cannot enter the elixir field. If the center of the foot does not go upward, then the energy goes downward and cannot gather in the elixir field. If the center of the hand does not withdraw, then the energy goes outward and cannot contract into the elixir field. Therefore the three centers must combine together, for only then can their energies return to being one.
[3] The three intentions should be linked:
     The intentions of mind, energy, and power are linked into one. They are the three internal unions. These three use mind as the planner, energy as the commander, and power as the soldiers. If the energy is not abundant, the power will be insufficient, and even though the mind is scheming, nothing will be of any use. Therefore when the energy intention is trained well, then you can externally command the power intention, corresponding internally with the mind intention. I would also say that the linking of the three intentions begins with the energy.
[4] The five elements should be smooth:
     Externally the five elements are the five boxing techniques: chopping, crashing, drilling, blasting, and crossing. Internally the five elements are the five organs: heart, liver, stomach, lungs, and kidneys. The external five elements techniques change from one to another according to a smooth sequence. There is a pattern to the whole and rules for the changes. Where the energy and power goes, the posture follows, and where the posture goes, the energy and power concentrate. Therefore when the energy and power are full, the posture is useful, and by practicing the posture, the energy and power can be increased.
     The Manual has this to say about the internal five element organs: “The five elements are basically five key pathways. If left unguarded, they will get blocked up.” When I began to learn these skills, I was inclined toward learning ways of moving energy around, such as the shoulders hanging, the neck straightening, the teeth being closed together, the tongue pressing up, the inside lifting, and so on. I practiced in this way doing a single posture for several days, and gradually the energy was able to reach to my solar plexus. I had tired my body out until my limbs were drained of strength. After training hard for several days, I gradually felt the energy slightly travelling downward, and again I was exhausted. After practicing like this several times, I started to be able to get the energy to go straight to my elixir field as soon as I got into a posture. This has to do with the five elements as five key junctures. [It seemed after the last passage from “the Manual” that he was going to discuss the five organs, but instead he seems to be saying he went through the above process with each of the five element boxing techniques as if they were five stages of an energy-training ordeal.]
     By not ardently practicing, progress will be broken and impeded, and you will be unable to gather energy into the elixir field or wield energy in the four limbs. For the energy to be adequate for a martial artist, the five elements should be smooth, and you will thereby have smoothed energy.
[5] The four tips should work in unison:
     The tongue should prop up, the teeth should be closed together, the fingers and toes should curl in, and the pores should be tight. If the tongue presses up to the palate, then the saliva is concentrated and there is better circulation of energy. If the teeth are tightly closed together, the energy penetrates to the marrow. If the fingers and toes are curling inward, the energy is concentrated in the sinews. If the pores are tight, the energy of the whole body is gathered and strong. By “unison” is meant that when in each posture, if all of these four are working together in this way, there will be no parts [of the body] getting ahead of or falling behind any other parts, none going slower or faster. If any of these four is missing, the energy will be scattered and the power will be slackened, and then there will be little purpose in talking about technique.
[6] The mind should be leisurely:
     When practicing, there is to be no panic or haste within the mind. Panic leads to fear. Haste leads to stress. Scared, the energy will be discouraged. Stressed, the energy will be disorganized. When discouraged and disorganized, the hands and feet will be out of arrangement. If you are generally not practicing, then internally you will be deficient and empty, and when encountering opponents, you will be timid and recoiling. When facing an opponent, never be scared or stressed, but have instead a mind at ease. Therefore the leisurely mind and the training of the energy are the outer and inner aspects of each other.
[7] The three structure points should align:
     The nose, hands, and feet are to align with each other. If the hands are not aligned with the nose, then if you incline to the left, the right side will be empty, and if you incline to the right, the left side will be empty. If the hands with the feet or the feet with the nose are not aligned, the error is the same. If the three seem very aligned with each other, but when you incline diagonally the strength is not evenly placed throughout the body, they will surely be unable to be united into one and the energy will be scattered as a result. Even if the center of the headtop goes downward, the energy will not easily move downward. Even if the center of the foot goes upward, the energy will not easily gather upward. Even if the center of the hand withdraws, the energy will not easily contract inward. This is a natural principle. Therefore if the three structure points do not align, it will be a big obstruction to the training of the energy.
[8] The eyes should be venomous:
     If the eyes do not seem to be very connected to the training of energy, you do not understand that venomousness has an intention of quick perception. One without abundant vitality will not be able to have this. Experience dictates that our skills are not something only soldiers should practice, civilians also should practice them. By training your strength everyday, you can invigorate your body, and by training your energy, you can develop your spirit. The elixir field will be concentrated and the five organs will be comfortable. For such a person, his spirit is sure to be nimble and his mind is sure to be quick. The orifice senses of hearing, tasting, and smelling will surely be able to be fully sensitive, but the eyes especially will surely be shining and bright, having a sharpness that shoots at the opponent. Who says the venom of the eyes is not energy?
In such law-of-the-jungle moments, all creatures and countries emphasize their skills. The distance an archer can shoot depends entirely on the quality of the bow, but hitting the target depends entirely on the archer’s strength of mind, hand, and eye. Thus for one whose energy and power are insufficient, he may have spied the target with precision, yet when the moment comes to shoot, his mind shivers and his hand shakes, and he is unable to hit the mark. It is then therefore crucial to give eager attention to your daily practice. When your body is strengthened, your vitality abundant, and inside and out are as one, you can then rectify your errors.
     You may say: “So energy moves inside and power manifests outside. You have discussed the energy. What about the power?” To which I say: “From the outside a person observes me and my power is easy to see, and because of my training, my energy is easy to understand. Furthermore, energy and power are basically one thing. When the energy is sufficient, the power can be known.”
     You may also say: “You have been talking purely of energy and power. Can you not talk some about the postures?” To which I say: “When training the postures, you must first seek to make the energy full, but when training the energy, you must first discuss postures. This is because the energy and postures are applied together. Because the posture forms on the outside, it has signs which can be seen. Because the energy moves on the inside, it is profound, subtle, unobservable. Thus the student who consistently pays attention to the postures often neglects the moving of energy. Our outward posture lies solely in the energy and power, and that is why attention is to be continually devoted there.”