EXPLAINING TAIJI PRINCIPLES
attributed to Yang Banhou
[translation by Paul Brennan, Sep, 2013]
 The Eight Gates & Five Steps
 On the Training Method for the Eight Gates & Five Steps
 Our Innate Ability to Distinguish
 Stick, Adhere, Connect, and Follow
 Crashing In, Collapsing, Coming Away, and Resistance
 Fighting Without Mistakes
 Practicing Maintaining the Central Ground in Fighting
 The Body’s Posture – The Waist & Headtop
 Taiji’s Circling
 Taiji’s Skill of Advancing & Retreating Ceaselessly
 Taiji’s Above & Below, or “Sky & Ground”
 Taiji’s Eight Techniques in the Realm of Mankind
 Taiji’s Substance & Application
 Taiji’s Civil & Martial Qualities
 Taiji’s Identifying of Energies
 On the Thirteen Dynamics Long Boxing Set
 Taiji’s Inversion of the Passive & Active Aspects
 The Taiji-ness of the Human Body
 Taiji’s Separation of the Civil & Martial Qualities into Three Accomplishments
 Taiji’s Lesser Accomplishment – Its Martial Quality
 Correctness of Skill in Taiji
 Taiji’s Lightness & Heaviness, Floating & Sinking
 Taiji’s Four Secondary Techniques
 The Proper Alignment of Waist & Headtop in Taiji
 A Taiji Map of the Four Seasons & Five Energies
 The Essence of Blood & Energy in Taiji
 Strength & Energy in Taiji
 Taiji’s Reducing Measurements
 Vessels, Channels, Sinews, and Acupoints in Taiji
 Some of the Terms in Taiji
 Taiji’s Reducing of Measurements in the Context of Controlling, Seizing, Capturing, or Sealing
 Taiji’s Boosting or Dissipating Energy & Strength
(Thirty-Two Sections in Total)
(i) Taiji’s Emptying, Tying Up, Filing, and Kneading
(ii) Before Identifying Energies and After
(iii) Reducing Measurements After Identifying Energies
(iv) The Fingers, Palm, Fist, and Hand in Taiji
(v) On Personal Instruction in the Acupoints that Save or Kill
(vi) What Zhang Sanfeng Inherited
(vii) The Teachings of Zhang Sanfeng
(viii) Zhang Sanfeng on Using Martial Arts to Achieve the Way]
 THE EIGHT GATES & FIVE STEPS
position / gate:
掤 南 坎
warding off – S / ☵
捋 西 離
rolling back – W / ☲
擠 東 兑
pressing – E / ☱
按 北 震
pushing – N / ☳
採 西北 巽
plucking – NW / ☴
挒 東南 乾
rending – SE / ☰
肘 東北 坤
elbowing – NE / ☷
靠 西南 艮
bumping – SW / ☶
The positions of the eight gates are based on the principle of the passive and active aspects inverting each other, cycling round and round, following each other in their process. All of the four primary techniques [corresponding to the cardinal directions] and four secondary techniques [corresponding to the corner directions] must be understood. Warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing are the four primary techniques. Plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping are the four secondary techniques. The combining of these cardinals and corners thus positions the trigrams.
The body makes its steps according to the five elements, bracing in all directions. The five elements are: advance (fire), retreat (water), step to the left (wood), step to the right (metal), and stay in the center (earth). Advancing and retreating are the steppings of water and fire, left and right are the steppings of metal and wood, and the central earth is the axis for all of them.
Embrace the eight trigrams as you step through the five elements. Techniques plus steps equals eight plus five, amounting to thirteen, naturally expressed as the Thirteen Dynamics, known as the Eight Gates & Five Steps.
 ON THE TRAINING METHOD FOR THE EIGHT GATES & FIVE STEPS
The eight trigrams and five elements are innate within us. You must first understand that they are based in these four terms: perception, realization, activation, action. [These four terms amount to “moving with awareness”. This is a breakdown of four words – 知, 覺, 運, 動 – which would typically, and especially so for modern Chinese speakers, only be considered as two terms: 知覺 and 運動. To break movement (運動) and awareness (知覺) into their component parts results in: moving = the activation (運) of movement + the act (動) of moving, and awareness = the perception (覺) that something is + the realization (知) of what it is. In short, moving with awareness. This idea is further elaborated upon in the next section, where the purpose of breaking down the two terms into four becomes more clear.]
Once you have achieved moving with awareness, then you will be able to identify energies.
Once you can identify energies, then you will be able to be miraculous. But in the beginning of training, you should understand moving with awareness. Although it is innate, it is nevertheless hard to achieve within oneself.
 OUR INNATE ABILITY TO DISTINGUISH
From birth, our eyes can see, ears can hear, nose can smell, mouth can taste. Sights and sounds, smells and tastes – all innate senses. Dance of hands, prance of feet – the abilities of our limbs are all innate forms of movement. Pondering upon this, we find it is our random experience – “Our natures make us the same, but our experiences make us unique.” [Lun Yu, 17.2] – that makes us lose touch with what is innate. If we want to return to our innate qualities, there will be no martial aspect unless we seek the source of movement, and there will be no civil aspect unless we grasp the basis of awareness. With these things, then there will be moving with awareness.
If there is activation and perception, there will be action and realization. If there is no activation or perception, there will be no action or realization. When activation is at its height, action is initiated. When perception is fully lucid, there is realization. Action and realization are the easy part. Activation and perception are tricky.
First strive to move with awareness for yourself, grasping it within your own body, then naturally you will be able to spot it in the opponent. If on the other hand you try to find it in opponents first, you will probably never find it in yourself. You have to be able to understand this concept in order to be able to identify energies.
 STICK, ADHERE, CONNECT, AND FOLLOW
Sticking means to lift up high.
Adhering means to stay and be attached.
Connecting means to let go of yourself and not separate from the opponent.
Following means to follow him wherever he goes.
If you want to move with awareness and yet you do not understand sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, it will be beyond your reach, for it is a very subtle skill.
 CRASHING IN, COLLAPSING, COMING AWAY, AND RESISTANCE
Crashing in means sticking your head out.
Collapsing means not enough pressure.
Coming away means separating.
Resistance means too much pressure.
You should understand that these four mistakes will not merely interfere with sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, but will also prevent you from moving with awareness. When beginning to work with a partner, you must understand and especially prevent these errors. The difficulty in sticking, adhering, connecting, and following is in not allowing yourself to crash in, collapse, come away, or resist. This is not at all easy.
 FIGHTING WITHOUT MISTAKES
Crashing in, collapsing, coming away, and resistance will lose in a fight, and so they are called mistakes. If you neglect sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, you will not be able to achieve moving with awareness. And if you are not aware of yourself, how will you be able to know your opponent? Therefore when fighting, do not use crashing in, collapsing, coming away, or resistance, thereby opposing the opponent, instead use sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, thereby awaiting the opponent. If you can do it in this way, then not only will you be without mistakes, but moving with awareness will be automatically accomplished, and you can then progress to the skill of identifying energies.
 PRACTICING MAINTAINING THE CENTRAL GROUND IN FIGHTING (COMMONLY CALLED STANDING LIKE A POST)
When standing centered, your feet should be rooted.
Start by understanding the four primary techniques, then advancing and retreating.
The four techniques are ward-off, rollback, press, and push.
You have to do a lot of work to get them to be real.
For the body posture, your waist and headtop should both be correct.
When sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, your intention and energy are to be uniform throughout.
Movement and awareness respond to each other.
Mind is sovereign and body is subject.
When you get the degree just right,
you will naturally have both the civil quality and the martial. [i.e. If the “degree” is not right, there is “overcooking” or “undercooking”, in which case too civil would be undercooked and too martial would be overcooked.]
 THE BODY’S POSTURE – THE WAIST & HEADTOP
For your body’s posture, how could your waist and headtop be ignored?
Neglecting either, all your work would be in vain.
Waist and headtop are to be exhaustively studied for your whole life.
When your body’s posture is natural, it will naturally be loosened and comfortable.
If you dismiss this truth, how will you end up
but that after ten years you will still be confused?
 TAIJI’S CIRCLING [as in the circles of the pushing hands exercise]
Circling while retreating is easy, but circling while advancing is difficult,
so do not get sloppy with your waist and headtop when going forward or back.
It is hard to stay in the central position,
so the ease of retreat and difficulty of advance are to be carefully studied.
As this is a matter of movement rather than stance,
stay close to the opponent while advancing or retreating.
Circling can be like a watermill as it speeds up or slows down,
or like the dragon-like clouds or tiger-like winds winding all around.
If you use the sky as a model to help you seek this,
then after a long time it will be expressed instinctively.
 TAIJI’S SKILL OF ADVANCING & RETREATING CEASELESSLY
It is natural to ward off while advancing and roll back while retreating,
since passive and active, like water and fire, exchange roles with each other.
First understand the four primary techniques and get them to be authentic,
then you may move on to plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping,
performing the four secondary techniques on the basis of the primary.
Then there is the Thirteen Postures solo set, which goes on and on ceaselessly,
and hence is called Long Boxing. [“It is like a long river flowing into the wide ocean…”]
You may spread out and gather in as you will,
but by no means allow yourself to stray from the taiji concept.
 TAIJI’S ABOVE & BELOW, OR “SKY & GROUND”
Four techniques divide into above and below, sky and ground:
plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping each having their source [pluck & rend based in sky, elbow & bump based in ground].
When plucking and bumping are coordinated with each other,
there is no worry of above and below coming out of joint.
But if rending and elbowing are not coordinated with each other,
you will lose the relationship between sky and ground and be left with only sighs of regret.
As this explanation is clearly about the realms of sky and ground,
when advancing using elbowing or rending, return to the condition of mankind [i.e. the proper range, the balanced position, man being the middle zone between sky and ground].
 TAIJI’S EIGHT TECHNIQUES IN THE REALM OF MANKIND
This eight technique song concerns the eight trigrams with its four primary and four secondary techniques.
A mere thirteen dynamics is not a lot.
But however many there might be, if their standard is not maintained
and if the position of your waist and headtop is misplaced, you will end up sighing with woe.
The key to their being no division lies in but two words:
the “sovereign” and “subject” roles of the mind and body – ponder them carefully.
Your skill should have no division between internal and external,
and then there will be not any mistakes however many contenders you fight.
What comes out of you during a fight should be natural,
coming from such interactions as between the realms of ground and sky.
When you no longer have a problem with letting go of yourself,
there will never be hesitation as you go upward or downward, forward or back.
 TAIJI’S SUBSTANCE & APPLICATION
Principle is the substance of essence, energy, and spirit. Essence, energy, and spirit are the substance of the body. Body is mind applied. Power is the applying of body. Mind and body have a specific controller: principle. Essence, energy, and spirit also have a specific controller: heartfelt sincerity. Sincerity is the way of nature and to be sincere is the way of mankind, and neither of these ways leaves the mind for an instant.
If you understand the principle that nature and mankind are of the same substance, you will naturally grasp the solar and lunar [i.e. active and passive] flow of energy, that the energy is the flow of intention, and that spirit lies naturally hidden within principle. Then you will obtain the martial and civil aspects, and the qualities of wisdom and spirituality. In order to make use of martial arts as a means to discuss mind and body or to develop power and strength, keep it based in the Way, for this art is not only for developing skill.
Power comes from the sinews. Strength comes from the bones. Looking at it purely physically, one who has great strength is able to carry many hundreds of pounds, but this is an externally showy action of bones and joints, a stiff strength. If on the other hand the power of your whole body is used, it may appear you are unable to lift hardly any weight at all, yet there is an internal robustness of essence and energy, and once you have achieved skill, you will seem to have something more wonderful than one who has the stiff sort of strength. Thus runs the method of physical training for self-cultivation.
 TAIJI’S CIVIL & MARTIAL QUALITIES
The civil quality is the substance. The martial quality is the application. The civil training within the martial application is a matter of the essence, energy, and spirit. It is the physical cultivation. The martial training of the civil substance is a matter of mind and body. It is the martial reality. The civil and martial qualities in the training process are a matter of when to coil and when to release. This is the basis of physical cultivation. The civil and martial qualities in a fighting situation are a matter of when best to store and when best to issue. This is the foundation of martial reality.
It is said that a dose of civil in the martial makes it a softened physical exercise, the sinewy power of essence, energy, and spirit, while adding more martial to the martial would make it a hardened fighting drill, a solid effort of mind and body. The civil quality without the martial quality at the ready would be just application without substance. The martial quality without the civil quality in tandem would be substance without application. Since one piece of wood will not support a whole building, and since you cannot clap your hands with just one hand, this is not just a matter of health and fighting, but is a principle that applies to everything.
The civil quality is the inner principle. The martial quality is the outward skill. Those who have the outward skill but lack the civil principle will be consumed by reckless glory. Discarding the original purpose of the art, they will try to overpower opponents and inevitably lose. Those on the other hand who have the civil principle but lack the outward skill will be distracted by meditative expectation. They will have no idea what to do in a fight, and they will be destroyed the moment it turns chaotic. To apply this art upon an opponent, you must understand both the civil and martial qualities.
 TAIJI’S IDENTIFYING OF ENERGIES
Once you are identifying your own energies, you will be working your way toward something miraculous. Succeed at the civil aspect and then delve into the martial. There are at all times in the body seventy-two channels for passive energy [as well as seventy-two channels for active energy]. When the active aspect is balanced by the passive, water and fire are in a state of mutual benefit, skyness and groundness are at peace with each other, and the genuineness of one’s life essence is preserved.
Once you are identifying the opponent’s energies, in a state of seeing them and hearing them, you are adapting to everything you encounter, and will naturally obtain the subtlety of falseness and trueness [i.e. the manipulating of emptiness and fullness]. The postures will be performed with effortless precision and your movements will be conducted with awareness. Once at this degree of skill, everything you do will be appropriate and you will not have to put thought into what you are doing.
 ON THE THIRTEEN DYNAMICS LONG BOXING SET
In your own training of each posture, once you have learned them all, they are joined together to make a long routine, flowing on and on without interruption, one posture after another, and thus it is called Long Boxing. It is crucial for the set of postures to be performed consistently, otherwise it may after a while turn instead into either “slippery boxing” or “stiff boxing”. You assuredly must not lose your pliability, and the movement of your whole body should be grounded upon mind and spirit. After practicing over a long period of time, you will naturally have a breakthrough and attain everything you have been working toward, and nothing will be strong enough to stand up against you.
When working with a partner, the four techniques of ward-off, rollback, press, and push are the first of the thirteen dynamics to work on. Stand in one place and do the four techniques rolling in circles, then do them advancing and retreating, doing them at a middle height. Then do them higher and lower as well, practicing at all three heights. Starting with the basics, work your way through the solo set. Then begin working with the four techniques, larger gross movements at first, then focusing on the finer details until the skill of extending and contracting is fluent, and you will have ascended through the midway of attainment, and then will continue to the top.
 TAIJI’S INVERSION OF THE PASSIVE & ACTIVE ASPECTS
Examples of the active / passive:
☰ / ☷
sky / ground
sun / moon
fire / water
☲ / ☵
releasing / coiling
exiting / entering
issuing / storing
offense / defense
opening / closing
subject / sovereign
muscle / bone
the practice / the theory
the energy / the principle
body / mind
martial / civil
dedicated to / absorbed in
square / round
exhale / inhale
up / down
advance / retreat
oblique / direct
The inversion principle can be explained with water and fire. Left to their own devices, fire rises and water sinks, but if water is placed above fire then they are in an inverted state. Of course, if not done properly there would be no inverted state, [just a fire put out and some water made into steam,] and so it has to be a situation of water being put in a pot which is then positioned over a fire. When the water in the pot receives the fire’s heat, not only will it not be able to sink away, it will also absorb the fire’s heat and inevitably become warm, and although the fire is rising to the pot, it is stopped there and goes no further. By not allowing the fire to rise freely or the water to sink away, this is water and fire as in After Completion [hexagram 63 – made of water ☵ on top of fire ☲], and is the principle of inversion. If the fire is allowed to rise freely and the water to sink away, the result will of course be that the water and fire will go their separate ways as two entities, and this is water and fire as in Before Completion [hexagram 64 – made of fire ☲ on top of water ☵]. So goes the principle that in separating they become two and in joining they become one, and thus it is said that one becomes two, then two becomes one, which totals three, namely sky, ground, and mankind.
Once you understand this principle of passive and active inverting, then the Way can be discussed. Once you understand that the Way cannot be departed from for a moment, then human beings can be discussed, and it is through human beings that the Way can be glorified. Once you understand that the Way is not far away from human beings, then the universe can be discussed. It is all one entity of sky above, ground below, and mankind in the middle. If you can examine the world, and be one with the shine of the sun and moon, with the grandeur and erosion of the landscape, with the wax and wane of the seasons, with the growth and decay of plants, and come to terms with the favors and frownings of spirits, and understand the rising and declining of human affairs, then can be discussed the larger universe of skyness and groundness, and the smaller universe that is a human being.
To understand the human body and mind, study the awareness and abilities of things in Nature. Then the human awareness and abilities that come from Nature can be discussed. If you do not forget your innate talents, nor your noble energy, constantly nurturing it and never harming it, you will survive indefinitely. And so it is said that a human being is a small universe. The sky represents your nature, the ground represents your life, and your naturalness represents your spirit. If you do not understand this, how will you be a blending of sky and ground to make a third? Unless you express your nature and sustain your life, the work of spiritual enlightenment and transformation has nothing to build on and cannot come to fruition.
 THE TAIJI-NESS OF THE HUMAN BODY
The heart is in charge of the whole body, the body’s taiji [the body’s “grand polarity”, the body’s “1”].
 The eyes are the solar and lunar aspects, the “two polarities”.
 The head represents the sky and the feet represent the ground. The Renzhong acupoint [between lip and nose] represents mankind, along with the Zhongwan acupoint [solar plexus]. The three combined are the “three substances”.
 The four limbs are the “four manifestations”.
 The passive [or more solid organ] correspondences [to the five elements] within the body are: kidneys – water, heart – fire, liver – wood, lungs – metal, spleen – earth. The active [or more bag-like organ] correspondences within the body are: bladder – water, small intestine – fire, gallbladder – wood, large intestine – metal, stomach – earth. The external correspondences are: headtop – fire, jowls and Chengjiang acupoint [below the lower lip] – water, left ear – metal, right ear – wood, both sides of the “life gate” [earth]. Spirit is expressed from the heart. The eyes are the sprouts of the heart [similar to “windows to the soul”]. Essence is expressed from the kidneys. The brain and kidneys are the source of the essence. Energy is expressed from the lungs. The gallbladder energy has its source in the lungs. When the eyes see clearly, the actions of the heart make the spirit flow. When the ears hear clearly, the actions of the brain make the kidneys smooth. As breath goes in and out, what is perceived by the senses of smell and taste are: salty – water, sour – wood, spice [sweet] – earth, bitter – fire, sweet [spice] – metal. And the sounds they produce are: clear – wood, fire – hoarse, congested – metal, breathy – earth, distracted – water. The scent and taste of the air as the lungs pump it in and out, and as the wind (☴) and thunder (☳) of liver and gallbladder produce the five manners of voice, comes and goes as the five fragrances/flavors.
 Mouth, eye, nose, tongue, spirit, and intent make the six internal unions by which the six desires will be overcome. Hand, foot, shoulder, knee, elbow, and hip make the six external unions by which the six paths [front, back, left, right, up, down] will be straightened [i.e. moved toward efficiently].
 The seven external apertures are: eye, ear, nose, mouth, anus, urethra, navel. The seven internal emotions, which are governed by the heart, are: joy, rage, worry, obsessiveness, grief, fear, shock. Inside, joy is in the heart, rage is in the liver, worry is in the spleen, grief is in the lungs, fear is in the kidneys, shock is in the gallbladder, obsessiveness is in the small intestine, terror is in the bladder, anxiety is in the stomach, and pensiveness is in the large intestine.
 The internal qualities of the eight trigrams:
☲: S / Wu [noon] / fire / heart meridian
☵: N / Zi [midnight] / water / kidney meridian
☳: E / Mao [dawn] / wood / liver meridian
☱: W / You [sunset] / metal / lung meridian
☰: NW / metal / large intestine / transforming of water
☷: SW / earth / spleen / transforming of earth
☴: SE / wood / gallbladder / transforming of earth
☶: NE / earth / stomach / transforming of fire
 Externally, ☵ is 1, ☷ is 2, ☳ is 3, ☴ is 4, the center is 5, ☰ is 6, ☱ is 7, ☶ is 8, and ☲ is 9. 2 and 4 are the shoulders, 6 and 8 are the feet, at the top is 9, at the bottom is 1, on the left is 3, on the right is 7 [producing a “magic square” in which every line of three numbers – horizontal, vertical, diagonal – adds up to the same number]:
4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6
These are the “nine palaces” [eight trigrams plus the center]. The internal quality of the nine palaces is the same.
 The inner and outer [alignment with the ten Celestial Stems (the names of the days of the ancient ten-day week, a poetic microcosm of the agricultural process: 甲 Jia – “Seed”, 乙 Yi – “Sprout”, 丙 Bing – “Shoot”, 丁 Ding – “Ear”, 戊 Wu – “Sickle”, 己 Ji – “Bundle”, 庚 Geng – “Pestle”, 辛 Xin – “Sack”, 壬 Ren – “Haul”, 癸 Gui – “Store”. The pulse of the days is: active, passive, active, passive, the odd-numbered active days intended as being more work-oriented days and the even-numbered passive days intended as being more rest-oriented days. The order is twisted below because the pairings are presented passive/active rather than active/passive.)] runs thus:
Yi: liver and left ribs / transformed by the metal of the lungs
Jia: gallbladder / transforms the earth of the spleen
Ding: heart / transformed by the wood of the gallbladder and liver
Bing: small intestine / transforms the water of the kidneys
Ji: spleen / transformed by the earth of the stomach
Wu: stomach / transforms the fire of the heart, energy coursing through the mountain and valley of back and chest
Xin: lungs and right ribs / transformed by the water of the kidneys
Geng: large intestine / transforms the metal of the lungs
Gui: kidneys and lower body / transformed by the fire of the heart
Ren: bladder / transforms the wood of the liver
These are the internal and external qualities of the ten Celestial Stems.
The twelve Terrestrial Branches also have internal and external qualities [which for some reason are not delved into here. The Terrestrial Branches are the names of the ancient “hours” of the day: 子 Zi (11pm-1am – “Conception” – picture of a baby, representing also the new day beginning at midnight), 丑 Chou (1am-3am – “Curled Up” – in sleep), 寅 Yin (3am-5am – “Contortion” – curled up further in sleep), 卯 Mao (5am-7am – “Shutters Opening” – i.e. dawn), 辰 Chen (7am-9am – “Slight Bowing” – looking down away from the sun above the horizon), 巳 Si (9am-11am – “Deep Bowing” – slouching over in response to rising sun), 午 Wu (11am-1pm – “Oppression” – sun directly above), 未 Wei (1pm-3pm – “Short Shadow” – shadow finally moving off center), 申 Shen (3pm-5pm – “Long Shadow”), 酉 You (5pm-7pm – “Wine Withdrawn” – the wine going back into the bottle, i.e. sunset), 戌 Xu (7pm-9pm – “Depression” – woundingly missing the daylight), 亥 Hai (9pm-11pm – “Bliss” – picture of a man and woman in bed together). As a further side note, since the Celestial Stems describe an agricultural process and the Terrestrial Branches are based on the progress of the sun through the sky, the 天干地支 Celestial Stems and Terrestrial Branches probably should have been called the 地干天支 Terrestrial Stems and Celestial Branches.]
Once you are clear about this theory [that there is a taiji quality of passives and actives inherent in the body], you will then be able to talk of the methods of self-cultivation.
 TAIJI’S SEPARATION OF THE CIVIL & MARTIAL QUALITIES INTO THREE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
As far as the Way goes, without cultivating the self, there is no source from which to obtain it. It is separated into three vehicles for cultivation, “vehicle” meaning accomplishment. The greater vehicle takes you all the way to the top. The lesser vehicle gets you at least to the bottom. The middle vehicle is to succeed via sincerity. The methods are separated into three kinds of cultivation, but are working towards the same accomplishment.
Cultivation of the civil quality is internal. Cultivation of the martial quality is external. Physical training is internal. Martial affairs are external. When the cultivation methods, both internal and external, surface and interior, are merged and achieved together, this is a grand accomplishment, the top.
When one obtains the martial quality by way of the civil training or obtains the civil quality by way of the martial training, this is the middle.
When one knows only the civil training but knows nothing of the martial part of it or focuses on only the martial part of it but does not do the civil training, this is the bottom.
 TAIJI’S LESSER ACCOMPLISHMENT – ITS MARTIAL QUALITY
Taiji’s martial quality is to be outwardly soft while inwardly hard, always seeking softness. By being outwardly soft over a longer and longer period, you will naturally obtain inner hardness, so long as your mind is focused on the softness rather than the hardness. The difficulty lies in containing hardness within and not letting it expose itself, outwardly only engaging the opponent with softness. By using softness to respond to hardness, his hardness is made to dissipate until it is spent.
How is such a skill to be obtained? Once your sticking, adhering, connecting, and following are complete, you will naturally have achieved moving with awareness, and from there you will move on to identifying energies, then gain a miraculous understanding, and ultimately you will have been transformed.
As for the subtlety of four ounces moving a thousand pounds – how could you have such an ability if your skill has not reached a transformative state? Thus it is said that you are to recognize when you are connected to the opponent, and thereby obtain the art of keenly observing and listening.
 CORRECTNESS OF SKILL IN TAIJI
Taiji is round, never abandoning its roundness whether going in or out, up or down, left or right. And Taiji is square, never abandoning its squareness whether going in or out, up or down, left or right. As you roundly exit and enter, or squarely advance and retreat, follow squareness with roundness, and vice versa. Squareness has to do with expanding, roundness with contracting. [Squareness means a directional focus along which you can express your power. Roundness means an all-around buoyancy with which you can receive and neutralize the opponent’s power.]
The main rule is that you be squared and rounded. After all, could there be anything beyond these things? By means of this you will become proficient at the skill. But “gazing up, it grows higher, and drilling in, it gets harder…” [i.e. there is always more to it], so magical it is. When you look upon it at last, it hides again, revealing there is yet more subtlety to it, illumination upon illumination. It generates new features infinitely, rendering you “unable to quit even if there were the desire to do so.” [Lun Yu, 9.11]
 TAIJI’S LIGHTNESS & HEAVINESS, FLOATING & SINKING
– [1a] Both sides fully heavy [“double pressure”] is wrong. It is too full. It is different from sinking.
– [1b] Both sides fully sinking is okay. It has to do with being ready to move. It is different from heaviness.
– [1c] Both sides fully floating [“double vacuum”] is wrong. It is too empty. It is different from lightness.
– [1d] Both sides fully light is okay. It has to do with natural nimbleness. It is different from floating.
– [2a] One side under-light and one side under-heavy is okay. To underdo means one side is stable. Therefore it is okay. Since to underdo is stable, it will not lose squareness and roundness.
– [2b] One side over-light and one side over-heavy is wrong. To overdo means neither side is stable. Therefore it is wrong. Since to overdo is unstable, it will lose squareness and roundness.
– [2c] One side under-floating and one side under-sinking is wrong, for it is not enough.
– [2d] One side over-floating and one side over-sinking [is wrong, for it] is too much.
– [3a] One side under-heavy and one side over-heavy, you will be not only sluggish but also unsquared.
– [3b] One side under-light and one side over-light, you will still be nimble but you will be unrounded.
– [3c] One side under-sinking and one side over-sinking, you will still be balanced but you will be unsquared.
– [3d] One side under-floating and one side over-floating, you will be not only scattered but also unrounded.
Both sides fully light [1d] is not a matter of floating, and thus it is nimbleness. Both sides fully sinking [1b] is not a matter of heaviness, and thus it is alertness. Thus it is said: “The best technique is both light and heavy [2a], half and half, thus you will have a balanced technique.” Anything beyond these three [1b, 1d, 2a] would be wrong.
When your inner naturalness is not obscured, it can be sent outward as purified energy, flowing into your limbs. If you do not exhaustively study these aspects of technique – lightness, heaviness, floating, sinking – it would be like digging a dry well. But if you possess squareness and roundness, then warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing will all be there inside and out down to their smallest detail, and you will have attained a great achievement, and then plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping will also be squared and rounded. And so it is said: “Square but round, round but square.” Going beyond the shape [squareness OR roundness] takes you to the highest level [squareness AND roundness].
 TAIJI’S FOUR SECONDARY TECHNIQUES
The four primary techniques, aligned with the four cardinal compass points, are ward-off, rollback, press, and push. In the beginning, there will be a lack of understanding of the principle that squareness can lead to roundness and that they may alternate. Thus ability will emerge in the four secondary techniques of pluck, rend, elbow, and bump. Due to your outer limbs and inner spirit not maintaining nimbleness of squareness/roundness in the primary techniques, the mistakes of lightness, heaviness, floating, or sinking will start to manifest, and with them the secondary techniques.
For example [3a]: “One side under-heavy and one side over-heavy, you will be not only sluggish but also unsquared.” This situation will naturally lead to the secondary techniques. Or [1a]: “Both sides fully heavy… is too full.” Again the secondaries will emerge. If your technique has many flaws, you will be compelled to use the secondary techniques to make up for them in order to regain a roundness that is centered and a squareness that is squared. Even a beginner can achieve this with the techniques of elbow or bump. But one whose skill has risen to a higher level still has to maintain the techniques of pluck and rend to regain a position that is centered and squared. Therefore the purpose of the four secondary techniques is to troubleshoot the mistakes you make in those moments when your technique is performed contrary to the theory.
 THE PROPER ALIGNMENT OF WAIST & HEADTOP IN TAIJI
Your head is like a centered pole, as in “your headtop is suspended”, and with your hands making the trays to each side, your waist being the platform base, you are “standing like a scale”. Whether you receive the slightest bit of lightness or heaviness, floating or sinking, the tipping of the trays to either side will reveal all to you. With your headtop suspended and waist rooted below, you are connected from tailbone to skullbone.
Standing in a vertical line,
all depends on a horizontal rotation.
My adaptations can catch the smallest change,
and I can distinguish all measurements.
Rotating my waist,
the great flag is waved.
My mind sends the command, the energy carries the directing banners,
and I naturally move with facility.
My whole body is activated
like a toughened arhat warrior.
one will be either early or late.
Joining with the opponent, I send him away,
but it is not necessary for me to try to launch him into the stratosphere.
With an amount of power contained,
I need only express a “ha!” and he goes far enough.
But this is something that must be taught personally
in order for the door to be opened and the view to be seen.
 A TAIJI MAP OF THE FOUR SEASONS & FIVE ENERGIES [meaning the five elements]
春木噓東 ☯ 西呬金秋
S: summer / fire / “he” [scolding]
E: spring / wood / “xu” [shushing] (taiji) W: autumn / metal / “xi” [sighing]
N: winter / water / “chui” [boasting]
Center: earth / “hu-xi” [breathing]
 THE ESSENCE OF BLOOD & ENERGY IN TAIJI
Blood is for nourishment. Energy is for defense. Blood flows through muscles, tissues, and limbs. Energy flows through bones, sinews, and vessels. Healthy sinews and nails are a sign of healthy bone. Healthy scalp hair and body hair is a sign of healthy blood. When the blood is vigorous, the scalp and body hair is lush. When the energy is full, the sinews and nails are robust.
Thus the boldness and strength of the blood and energy when the blood is emphasized manifests outwardly in the robustness of the bones, skin, and hair, while the form and function of the energy and blood when the energy is emphasized manifests inwardly in the robustness of the muscles, sinews, and nails. The energy relies on the blood’s burgeoning or depleting. The blood relies on the energy’s decreasing or increasing. Decreasing then increasing, burgeoning then depleting, the cycle goes on endlessly. Make use of this your whole life and you will never be worn out.
 STRENGTH & ENERGY IN TAIJI
Energy courses through the tissues, limbs, sinews, and vessels. Strength emerges from the blood, muscles, skin, and bones. Therefore a strong person has an outer robustness to their skin and bones, a matter of posture, while an energized person has an inner robustness to their sinews and vessels, a matter of presence. Training the energy and blood with emphasis on the energy will empower the internal. Training the blood and energy with emphasis on the blood will enhance the external.
If you awaken to the functions of these two things, both the energy and the blood, you will naturally come to understand the basis of strength and energy. Understanding what strength and energy are all about, you will naturally be able to distinguish between the using of strength and the moving of energy: the moving of energy will be felt in your sinews and vessels, while the using of strength will be felt in your skin and bones – extremely different things indeed.
 TAIJI’S REDUCING MEASUREMENTS
Work first at training gross movements, then finer details. When the gross movements are obtained, then the finer movements can be talked of. When the finer movements are obtained, then measures of a foot and below can be talked of. When your skill has progressed to the level of a foot, then you can progress to the level of an inch, then to a tenth of an inch, then to the width of a hair. This is what is meant by the principle of reducing measurements.
A foot has ten “inches”. An inch has ten tenths. A tenth has ten hairs. These are the measurements. It was long ago said: “Fighting is a matter of measuring.” Understanding the measurements, you can achieve the reducing of measurements. But if you want to understand the measuring, you will not be able to without the deeper teachings.
 VESSELS, CHANNELS, SINEWS, AND ACUPOINTS IN TAIJI
Controlling his vessels, seizing his channels, capturing his sinews, and sealing his acupoints – these four skills are to be worked toward after you are able to measure down from the level of a foot to the level of an inch, then to a tenth of an inch, then to the width of a hair. When his vessels are controlled, his blood will not circulate. When his channels are seized, his energy will not move. When his sinews are captured, his body will have no control. When his acupoints are sealed, he will lose consciousness.
By controlling certain vessels, he will seem half dead. By seizing certain channels, he will seem fully dead. By capturing certain sinews, his power will be cut off. By sealing the lethal acupoints, he will not survive. Basically, if he is without energy, blood, or spirit, how will he have any control over his body? However, even if you have ability in the skills of control, seize, capture, and seal, these particular effects will not work without specific instruction in them.
 SOME OF THE TERMS IN TAIJI
Applying to either yourself or the opponent: file, knead, punch, strike, push down, rub in, push out, seize, spread, merge, ascend, descend. These twelve terms are all techniques.
Applying to either yourself or the opponent: bending, extending, movement, stillness, rising, falling, quick, leisurely, evade, counter, incite, conclude. These twelve terms apply to your own energy in relation to the opponent’s techniques.
Applying to your own body in relation to the opponent’s stepping: turn, switch, advance, retreat. Applying to your own gaze in relation to the opponent’s techniques: look left, look right, look forward, look behind. These eight terms have to do with your spirit.
These four terms have to with intention and power: disconnecting, connecting, bowing forward, yawning backward. Disconnecting and connecting have to do with your spirit and energy. Bowing forward and yawning back have to do with your hands and feet. The power may disconnect, but the intention does not. If the intention disconnects, the spirit can stay connected. If the power, intention, and spirit disconnect together, there will be bowing forward or yawning back, your hands and feet not touching or landing where they would have. To bow forward is to end up cracking your head. To yawn backward is to end up toppling over. To keep yourself from cracking your head or toppling over, you must disconnect then reconnect. Bowing forward and yawning backward are important things to consider in fighting. At no moment allow there to be in mind, body, hand, or foot a disconnection without reconnecting, and then you will prevent bowing forward or yawning back.
Seeking for the skills of disconnecting and connecting will not work without seeing what is concealed and revealing what is subtle. With concealment and subtlety, it is like you have disconnected but not disconnected. With seeing and revealing, it is like you have connected but not connected. By connecting and disconnecting, disconnecting and connecting, in mind, body, and spirit, you will ultimately be concealing and revealing, and then you will have no worry that you are not sticking, adhering, connecting, and following.
 TAIJI’S REDUCING OF MEASUREMENTS IN THE CONTEXT OF CONTROLLING, SEIZING, CAPTURING, OR SEALING
When in your fighting skill you have obtained the sense of a foot, an inch, a tenth of an inch, and the width of a hair, you can then estimate the opponent. Regardless of any ease you may have with the techniques of controlling, seizing, capturing, and sealing, in order to control his vessels, seize his channels, capture his sinews, and seal his acupoints, you must make estimations of a foot, an inch, a tenth of an inch, and the width of a hair.
To control without estimation, his vessels can be obtained through pushing down. To seize without estimation, his channels can be obtained through rubbing in. To capture without estimation, his sinews can be obtained through pushing out. But as for sealing, without estimation his acupoints cannot be reached, because [to get to his acupoints] you have to work your way down from the level of a foot to the level of an inch, then to a tenth of an inch, then to the width of a hair. For these four skills, even if you receive instruction from an expert, you will not be able to master them unless you personally put a lot of work into them over a long period.
 TAIJI’S BOOSTING OR DISSIPATING ENERGY & STRENGTH
There is difficulty in boosting or dissipating your own energy and strength. There is also difficulty in boosting or dissipating the energy and strength of the opponent. When your awareness is insufficient, boost [your energy]. When your movement is overdone, dissipate [your strength]. These are things that are not easy matters when it comes to yourself.
When the opponent has too much energy, boost it. When he has too much strength, dissipate it. By this means, you will win and he will lose. Or you may when he has too much energy, dissipate it, or when he has too much strength, boost it. The principle is the same in either case, and yet to elaborate further: if he has too much [of either], add more so that he is overdoing, or if he has too little [of either], dissipate it further so that in his insufficiency he adds more and again ends up overdoing. Both boosting his energy and dissipating his strength induce him to overdo it. Boosting his energy is called the method of “tying up his energy”. Dissipating his strength is called the method of “emptying his strength”.
[i] TAIJI’S EMPTYING, TYING UP, FILING, AND KNEADING
To empty or tie up by way of filing is different from emptying or tying up by way of kneading. Emptying by way of filing, the opponent’s strength is boxed in. Tying up by way of filing, his energy is interrupted. Emptying by way of kneading, his strength is spread out. Tying up by way of kneading, his energy is boxed in.
If you apply the tying & kneading filing, then his energy and strength will be reversed. If you apply the emptying & kneading filing, then his energy and strength will fail. If you apply the tying & filing kneading, his strength will build up from his energy until his strength is greater than his energy. If you apply the emptying & filing kneading, his energy will build up from his strength, making his energy overloaded and his strength insufficient.
The filing & tying kneading and the kneading & tying filing will both result in his energy getting sealed off by his strength. The filing & emptying kneading and the kneading & emptying filing will both result in his strength being chiseled away by his energy. Basically, methods such as tying up by way of filing or emptying by way of kneading all require that you work your way down from measurements of a foot, to an inch, to a tenth of an inch, to the width of a hair. If not, there will be no occasion of filing or kneading and a flattened out void for emptying or tying, for they will not be gotten from anywhere.
[ii] BEFORE IDENTIFYING ENERGIES AND AFTER
Before you are identifying energies, you will typically be making the mistakes of crashing in, collapsing, coming away, and resistance. Once you are identifying energies, you will perhaps still make the mistakes of disconnecting, connecting, bowing forward, and yawning back. Before you are indentifying energies, it is natural to be making mistakes, but even after you are identifying energies, there are reasons as to why there are still mistakes to be made. When in that vague zone of almost but not quite indentifying energies, there is a lack of precision in disconnecting and connecting, hence there will be mistakes. And then when almost but not quite at the level of the miraculous, bowing forward and yawning back may still not be entirely under control, again resulting in mistakes.
As long as you are not making the mistakes of disconnecting, connecting, bowing forward, or yawning back, you are doing it right, for if your identifying of energies is not genuine, you would not able to prevent such mistakes. What does it mean for it to be genuine? Simply that a sensory foundation must be laid to build it up into a reality. Be aware through observing: there is looking forward, looking behind, looking left, looking right. Be aware through listening: there is rising, falling, quickness, leisure. Be aware through feeling: there is evading, countering, inciting, concluding. Be aware through acting: there is turning, switching, advancing, retreating. In this way, your identifying of energies will be genuine.
You will then be able to reach the level of the miraculous, and this is because there is a foundation, the foundation being the identifying of energies. The subtleties of bending, extending, movement, and stillness are automatically built upon that foundation. Then spreading, merging, ascending, and descending are in turn built upon bending, extending, movement, and stillness. By way of bending and extending, movement and stillness, spread his attack aside when you see him enter, then merge with him as he tries to exit. Descend when you see his attack come in, then ascend as he withdraws.
Once your genuineness in identifying energies reaches all the way to the point of the miraculous, at such a level you will thereafter be mindful in every activity – whether it be walking, sitting, lying down, running, eating, drinking, or even going to the bathroom. By this means, your achievement will go from middling to great.
[iii] REDUCING MEASUREMENTS AFTER IDENTIFYING ENERGIES
If you strive for the reducing of measurements before identifying energies, yours will amount to a small achievement and be but a smattering of martial skill. You will not be able to estimate the opponent even at the level of a foot before you are identifying energies. After you have achieved identifying energies, you will have a miraculous understanding, and you will automatically have the ability to reduce measurements. From there you will then be able to control, seize, capture, and seal.
To understand the theory of vessels, channels, sinews, and acupoints, it is necessary to be clear about which techniques will save or kill. To understand the techniques that will save or kill, it is necessary to be clear about the acupoints for life and death. In the acupoint art, how could you go without knowing them [seeing as not knowing them might result in killing someone by mistake]? To know how to activate the life and death acupoints, it is necessary to be clear about the technique of sealing. Sealing is what determines both life and death.
[iv] THE FINGERS, PALM, FIST, AND HAND IN TAIJI
The “palm” is the area of the hand below the fingers and above the wrist. The “hand” refers to the whole thing up to the fingertips. A “finger” refers to any of the five fingers. A “fist” is when the five fingers are clasped inward to emphasize the back of the hand. Palm techniques are matters of pushing down and pushing out. Finger techniques are matters of seizing, kneading, capturing, and sealing. Hand techniques are matters of filing and rubbing. Fist techniques are matters of striking.
Fist techniques: Parry & Block, Punch to the Crotch, Under the Elbow, Torso-Flung Punch, and beyond these four there is also the Overturned Punch. Palm techniques: Brush the Knee, Exchanging Palms, Single Whip, Through the Back, and beyond these four there is also the Threading Palm. Hand techniques: Clouding Hands, Raising Hand, Seizing Hand, Crossed Hands, and beyond these four there is also the Reversing Hand. Finger techniques: bending, extending, pinching, sealing, and beyond these four there is also estimating, which is also called “reducing measurements” or “seeking acupoints”. The five fingers also have five-fingered functions, operating as a whole hand as well as individual fingers, and so these can be termed as either hand or finger techniques: corkscrewing, planting, curling, or closing inward, and beyond these four hand/finger techniques, there is also “standing alone”.
The forefinger is the impatient finger, sword finger, assisting finger, or sticking finger. The middle finger is the central finger, closing finger, hooking finger, or smearing finger. The ring finger is the completing finger, surrounding finger, exchanging finger, or covering finger. The little finger is the helping finger, healing finger, enticing finger, or hanging finger. Though the names of these techniques are easy to comprehend, they are difficult to apply, even with personal instruction in the deeper methods.
Supplementary palm techniques: Palms Facing Each Other, Push the Mountain, Shoot the Goose, Spreading Wings. Supplementary finger techniques: Sealing Shut, Jab in a Crossed Stance, Bending the Bow, Working the Shuttles. Supplementary hand techniques: Reaching Out to the Horse, Bending the Bow, Capturing the Tiger, Maiden’s Hands, Sitting Tiger Hands. Supplementary fist techniques: Punch Through the Mountain, Punch Under the Leaf, Turning Behind Punch, Momentum-Splitting Punch, Wrap & File Punch.
A further supplementary layer is that your steps are to go along with your body’s changes and are never to perform a step unassociated with the five elements, and thus you will be free from making mistakes. Because of the principle of sticking, connecting, adhering, and following, as well as letting go of yourself to follow the opponent, your body in turn will go along with your stepping, and as long as you remain true to the five elements, there will be such a naturalness to your posture and steps that it will not matter even if you do make some mistakes here and there.
[v] ON PERSONAL INSTRUCTION IN THE ACUPOINTS THAT SAVE OR KILL
There are acupoints that save and acupoints that kill. They cannot be learned without personal instruction. Here are three reasons why: because of how difficult they are to learn, the fact that they are a matter of life and death, and the degree of a person’s talent. There are eight kinds of people not to be taught:
1. the disloyal and unfilial,
2. those who are fundamentally unkind,
3. those with crooked intentions,
4. those who are rude and reckless,
5. those who think themselves superior to others,
6. those who care more about rules than they do about people,
7. those who are fickle,
8. those who will have an easy time picking it up and then just as easily discard it.
It must be understood that these eight people are not to be taught. Criminals of course do not deserve to be considered at all. As for those who may be taught, they are eligible to be given personal instruction in its secrets. There are five kinds who may be taught:
 those who are loyal, filial, and gracious,
 those with a mild temperament,
 those who will hold to the method and not discard it,
 those who will be true to the teacher,
 those who will complete the study as ardent as when they started.
These types will be resolved to complete the study without having doubts and can be shown the whole thing, and what will be given to the pupil is illumination. It goes from those who already know it to those who will know it, the torch being passed down through generations, always by this process. But what a shame it is that of those who know martial arts, some turn out to be criminals.
[vi] WHAT ZHANG SANFENG INHERITED
“The sky and the ground made the world.
Fu Xi was the progenitor of mankind.
He drew the trigrams and declared the Way
for Emperor Yao and Emperor Shun, and for sixteen generations on.
The most mysterious of pinnacles have consented access
to the most dedicated, such as Confucius and Mengzi.
The skill of spirit transmuting the life-force
went down through seventy-two sages to King Wen and King Wu.
“Instruction has come to me
by way of the writings of Xu Xuanping.
The medicine to bring about longevity lies within ourselves,
in the perfection of our original state being revived. [Basically, live every day as though it’s your first, a lesson that could have been learned from pretty much any Daoist poet.]
Your natural self can empower and enlighten.
The truth when expressed can fulfill you in spirit and body.
With countless repetitions, chant of lengthening the springtime.
Heartfelt sincerity will have a real effect.
“The three doctrines [Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism] are not different schools,
for all that each of them discuss is a matter of the Grand Polarity
which runs through everything,
centered and everlasting.
The ancient wisdom is always with us,
constantly inspiring new students to learn.
When water and fire cooperate [as in hexagram 63 – water above, fire below, leading to a heated cooking pot, as opposed to hexagram 64 – fire above, water below, an absence of interaction which produces nothing],
our goals are able to come to fruition.” [The metaphor in this last statement is that ancient knowledge is the fire and the act of learning from it is the water being brought to a boil.]
[vii] THE TEACHINGS OF ZHANG SANFENG
“I understand the idea that the three doctrines are basically the same: they are each a study of life, each take the mind to be controller of the body, and are purposed to maintain mind and body, to bring longevity to essence, energy, and spirit. With essence, energy, and spirit, we can be calmly civil and boldly martial. Calm and bold, civil and martial – as these things are expanded and have a transformative effect, there will come wisdom and spirituality. The earliest discoverers of this found their way into truth and then took it to another level. Later students then imitate what they did in order to achieve their awareness. Such awareness is innate in everyone, but to get at what they were doing, it is nevertheless necessary to follow in their footsteps. Civil and martial are inherent to human ability. The seeing of eyes and hearing of ears are inherently civil while the dancing of hands and prancing of feet are inherently martial, and so both aspects are clearly inherent. Having achieved the layers of civil, martial, wisdom, and spirituality, the forefathers advanced the teaching of self-cultivation by way of physical training, though not by way of martial arts.
“When the teachings reached me, I grasped the receive/oppose [counterbalancing] nature of the dancing prancing, in which the passive aspect of the other person’s body is borrowed to build up the active aspect in one’s own. The active aspect is the masculine quality. The passive aspect is the feminine quality. The body has both qualities. While the maleness is active and the femaleness is passive, the femaleness receives the active aspect to counter her own passive aspect [as the maleness receives the passive aspect to counter his own active aspect]. Thereby the active [or passive] returns to its initial state [of being in balance with the other]. The passive feminine aspect within the body means more than a young woman being developed enough to become pregnant. There are countless ways in which a woman may enact counterbalancing, and this is not about the bodies of men and women being somehow corrected. It is said that taking advantage of the skyness and groundness in one’s own body is what makes the counterbalancing of the passive and active aspects. This means that a man may make use of the passive aspect of his masculine side as a way to counter his own feminine quality. [However, this work of balancing the masculine and feminine qualities within oneself] is not as efficient as the self-cultivation of two partners making use of their masculine quality to work at balancing their passive and active aspects [through the constant exchanging of passive and active roles during the pushing hands exercises].
“Seeing as I have placed these teachings into a martial context, martial arts must not be viewed as something trivial, but as a part of physical education, a method of self-cultivation, a practice of life-enhancement, a category of wisdom and spirituality. The work of counterbalancing between two partners is no different in principle from the counterbalancing within your own body, but when working with a partner, it is like counterbalancing between mercury and lead. [In the context of two partners pushing hands, the role of the attacker is solid and heavy, like lead, while the defender is fluid and yielding, like mercury.] When fighting, the four primary techniques are a matter of active opposing passive, while the four secondary techniques are a matter of passive receiving active. The eight trigrams supply the eight techniques. The body and feet stand centered. To advance is to oppose actively. To retreat is to receive passively. To step to the left is to receive actively. To step to the right is to oppose passively. The five elements supply the five steps. Combined, they are the eight techniques and five steps.
“These teachings of mine you may make use of for your entire life and yet never be able to use them up. What I have gained and am passing down is to be taught as a martial art of self-cultivation. As to the method of cultivating the self, it does not matter if it is approached by martial or civil means, for the achievement is the same. The three doctrines, at any of the three levels [greater, middle, lesser], are all inescapably based in the concept of the grand polarity. I wish for the next generation of students to examine the theory in the Book of Changes within themselves and that it be continued by succeeding generations. That would be a good thing.”
[viii] ZHANG SANFENG ON USING MARTIAL ARTS TO ACHIEVE THE WAY
“Before there was the universe, there was the principle which governs the passive and active energies. This governing principle by which the universe exists is the core of the Way, and the way these energies flow is in the manner of complementary opposites. For passive and active to oppose and yet complement each other is a mathematical principle: to be [zeroed out in a half-and-half state of] one part passive and one part active is the Way. ‘The Way that cannot be described is the origin of the universe itself. The Way that can be described is the source of all things within the universe. [Daodejing, chapter 1]’ Before the universe existed, there was merely nothingness, and thus nothing to be described. Once the universe existed, there was finally somethingness, and thus things to be described. Before the universe existed, there awaited the principle of existence. Once the universe came into being, there was then the creative principle.
“Pre-beginning, it was the principle of existence that brought about the balanced passive and active energies. Post-beginning, the creative principle then gave rise to the ways of coming into being: gestation in a womb, hatching from an egg, spontaneous generation from water, and metamorphosis. The Way is the way of neutrality, nourishing all things by being in a balanced position between skyness and groundness. The sky and ground are your greater parents, of the pre-beginning. Your mother and father are your lesser parents, of the post-beginning. When we are born, we are the recipients of the energies of passive and active, of pre-beginning and post-beginning, and on such a basis we begin. When we are born, we are given by our greater parents our life-force and disposition, and are endowed with reason. From our lesser parents come our physical essence, blood, and bones. By the merging of the life-force and body of the pre-beginning and post-beginning, we each then become a person. For us to align with the sky and ground, taking our place as one of the three substances, we cannot ignore our fundamental origin [as a product of both].
“As long as we are able to follow our nature, we will not lose touch with our origin. By not forgetting where we come from, we will not lose touch with where we are headed, for if you want to know where you are going, you must first know where you are coming from. With our origin mapped out, our way ahead is a clear route that will be traversed by way of instinct. We all, whether smart or stupid, worthy or worthless, have an instinctive awareness that will point us to the Way. If we cultivate the Way, we will be able to know our origin and can fulfill our destiny. To know our origin and fulfill our destiny lies in being able to cultivate the self. Thus it is said [in the Da Xue]: ‘From king to commoner, it all comes down to self-cultivation.’ The way to cultivate the self is through instinctive understanding and ability: eyes keenly seeing and ears acutely hearing, hands dancing and feet prancing, martiality and civility. ‘Broaden your understanding by studying things deeply, thereby improving your intellect and smoothing your emotions.’
“Since mind is in charge of body, the intellect should be improved and the emotions smoothed in order for the feet to perform the five steps and the hands to perform the eight techniques. The hands and feet amount to four, and they can be used in such a variety of ways, but instinct is able to retrieve their basic state [of unity]. The eyes see as a union of three [what the left eye sees, what the right eye sees, what both eyes see by triangulating together] and the ears hear along the six paths. The eyes and ears amount to four, but within they function as one, instinct again regaining the basic state. Ears, eyes, hands, and feet – they each are divided into two, making two polarities, but each functioning as a unity, totaling a grand polarity.
“Gathering inward from without, expressing outward from within, all of it in this way can be reached, inside and out, specifically and in general, all understood thoroughly, and we will naturally attain the hoped-for achievements of the worthies and sages, their vision and knowledge, their wisdom and spirituality. This is what they meant by fulfilling one’s nature and facing one’s destiny, taking spirit as far as it will go and thereby causing transformation. The way of both Nature and mankind is sincerity and nothing more.”
– – –
[*Survey of Textual Variations (Wu document left side / Yang document right side):
Harmless character variants:
section 5 – 斷 / 断
7 – 淂 / 得
10 – 淂 / 得
13 – 淂 / 得
15 – 得 / 淂
21 – 顕 / 顯
23 – 缉 / 緝
24 – 憑 / 凴
30 – 顯 / 顕
ii – 淂 / 得 ; 也 / 矣
iv – 淂 / 得
vii – 淂 / 得 ; 淂 / 得 ; 淂 / 得 ; 之 / 者 ; 淂 / 得
Flipped words (one occasion in each document):
24 – 絲毫 / 毫絲
vi – 濟既 / 既濟
Missing words (one occasion in Wu document, seven occasions in Yang document):
1 – 五行者 / 五行
2 – 淂之 / 淂
13 – 淂矣 / 得
19 – 得成 / 得
22 – 半重偏 / 半重偏重
ii – 緣勁 / 勁
iv – 如對掌 / 對掌
vii – 補助身 / 補助
There are also two occasions in Yang document of missing character components:
17 – 悠久 / 攸久
25 – 呬 / 四
As for accidentally added words, there is one occasion in Wu document:
22 – 除除 / 除
In section 30, 於己人 is expanded in Yang document to 於己於人 five times, indicating deliberate addition in Yang document rather than absent-mindedness in this section of Wu document.
Mistaken words (one occasion in Wu document, ten occasions in Yang document):
3 – 知 / 覺
5 – 匾 / 區
18 – 亮 / 毫
23 – 使 / 始
24 – 囟門 / 匃門 ; 云 / 去
32 – 一然 / 亦然
iii – 末 / 未
vi – 戌 / 戍
viii – 壹 / 一 ; 手 / 乎 ]
Reference: EXPLAINING TAIJI PRINCIPLES (TAIJI FA SHUO) with an introduction and pictures of the original manuscript.
with Robert Peng
Byron Zhang shows Tai Chi’s Song Kong Yuan Man (Relax, empty, full & rounded).
Precelestial breath, Postcelestial breath. Those who obtain them always seem to be drunk.
The precelestial Breath is the original and initial Ancestral Breath.1 This Ancestral Breath is in the real center of Heaven and Earth within the human body. [Placed between] the Secret Door and the Gate of Life, hanging in the middle, it is the Heart of Heaven.2 The self-cultivation of the divine Immortals only consists in collecting the precelestial One Breath and using it as the Mother of the Elixir.
The postcelestial Breath is the Breath that circulates internally: one exhalation, one inhalation, once coming, once going. “Exhaling touches onto the root of Heaven, inhaling touches onto the root of Earth. On exhaling, ‘the dragon howls and the clouds rise’; on inhaling, ‘the tiger roars and the wind blows.’”3
When [the postcelestial Breath] is “unceasing and continuous,”4 it returns to the Ancestral Breath. The internal and the external inchoately merge, and coalesce to form the Reverted Elixir (huandan). Then you become aware of a burning fire in the Cinnabar Field that spreads to the four limbs. You look like a fool or like drunk, but “its beauty lies within.”5 This is why it says, “those who obtain them always seem to be drunk.”
This is what the Daode jing (Book of the Way and Its Virtue) means when it says:
The Spirit of the Valley never dies:
it is called the Mysterious-Female. The gate of the Mysterious-Female
is called the root of Heaven and Earth.
Unceasing and continuous,
its operation never wears out.6
And this is what the Book of Changes (Yijing) means when it says about the Kun ䷁ hexagram:
From the Yellow Center it spreads to the veining, as it places itself in the correct position. Its beauty lies within, and extends to the four limbs.7
1. “Precelestial” (xiantian) and “postcelestial” (houtian) refer to the states before and after the generation of the cosmos. The precelestial Breath (qi) is the One Breath of the Dao. Once the cosmos is generated, it is permeated by the postcelestial Breath, which manifests itself in the multiplicity of the directions of space, the cycles of time, and all the entities and phenomena that exist and occur within space and time. In the human being, in particular, the postcelestial Breath is the breath (qi) of ordinary breathing. In any of its forms, however, the postceles- tial Breath hides and preserves the precelestial Breath, or one “particle” of it. In the strict sense of the term, the purpose of Neidan is the recovery of the precelestial Breath—represented as the Elixir—and its reconjunction with the postcelestial Breath.
2. The first part of this sentence alludes to the description of the center of the human body in the Huangting jing (Scripture of the Yellow Court): “Above is the Hun Numen, below is the Origin of the Barrier; on the left is the Minor Yang, on the right is the Great Yin; behind is the Secret Door, in front is the Gate of Life” (“Inner” version, poem 2). The Secret Door (mihu) is the kidneys, or a point in their region. The Gate of Life (shengmen) is the lower Cinnabar Field, or a point in its region. — The Huangting jing, originally dating from the second or the third century, is one of the main texts on early Taoist meditation. It exists in two versions, usually referred to as “Outer” and “Inner.” The “Inner” version” is later and longer compared to the “Outer” version.
3. This passage is quoted, without attribution, in Xiao Tingzhi’s (fl. 1260–64) Jindan wenda (Questions and Answers on the Golden Elixir). It is also found in Li Daochun’s (fl. 1288–92) Zhonghe ji (Anthology of Central Harmony), ch. 4.
4. This expression derives from the passage of the Daode jing (Book of the Way and Its Virtue) quoted at the end of the commentary to the present section.
5. This expression derives from the passage of the Book of Changes quoted at the end of the commentary to the present section.
6. Daode jing, sec. 6.
7. Book of Changes (Yijing), “Wenyan” (Explanation of the Sen- tences) on the hexagram Kun ䷁ (see Wilhelm, I Ching or Book of Changes, p. 395). The first sentence is also found in the Cantong qi (The Seal of the Unity of the Three), sec. 19: “From the Yellow Center it gradually spreads through the veining: moistening and impregnating, it reaches the flesh and the skin” (see Pregadio, The Seal of the Unity of the Three, p. 77). In the explication given by Wang Jie, these passages of the Daode jing and the Book of Changes refer to the precelestial Breath.
Reference: Commentary on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine (Ruyao jing zhujie) translated by Fabrizio Pregadio
Translated by Harold Roth
One The vital essence of all things: It is this that brings them to life. It generates the five grains below And becomes the constellated stars above. When flowing amid the heavens and the earth We call it ghostly and numinous. When stored within the chests of human beings, We call them sages. Two Therefore this vital energy is: Bright! - as if ascending from the heavens; Dark! - as if entering an abyss; Vast! - as if dwelling in an ocean; Lofty! - as if dwelling on a mountain peak. Therefore this vital energy Cannot be halted by force, Yet can be secured by inner power [Te]. Cannot be summoned by speech, Yet can be welcomed by awareness. Reverently hold onto it and do not lose it: This is called "developing inner power." When inner power develops and wisdom emerges, The myriad things will, to the last one, be grasped. Three All the forms of the mind Are naturally infused and filled with it [the vital essence], Are naturally generated and developed [because of] it. It is lost Inevitably because of sorrow, happiness, joy, anger, desire, and profit-seeking. If you are able to cast off sorrow, happiness, joy, anger, desire and profit-seeking, Your mind will just revert to equanimity. The true condition of the mind Is that it finds calmness beneficial and, by it, attains repose. Do not disturb it, do not disrupt it And harmony will naturally develop. Four Clear! as though right by your side. Vague! as though it will not be attained. Indescribable! as though beyond the limitless. The test of this is not far off: Daily we make use of its inner power. The Way is what infuses the body, Yet people are unable to fix it in place. It goes forth but does not return, It comes back but does not stay. Silent! none can hear its sound. Suddenly stopping! it abides within the mind. Obscure! we do not see its form. Surging forth! it arises with us. We do not see its form, We do not hear its sound, Yet we can perceive an order to its accomplishments. We call it "the Way." Five The Way has no fixed position; It abides within the excellent mind. When the mind is tranquil and the vital breath is regular, The Way can thereby be halted. That Way is not distant from us; When people attain it they are sustained That Way is not separated from us; When people accord with it they are harmonious. Therefore: Concentrated! as though you could be roped together with it. Indiscernible! as though beyond all locations. The true state of that Way: How could it be conceived of and pronounced upon? Cultivate your mind, make your thoughts tranquil, And the Way can thereby be attained. Six As for the Way: It is what the mouth cannot speak of, The eyes cannot see, And the ears cannot hear. It is that with which we cultivate the mind and align the body. When people lose it they die; When people gain it they flourish. When endeavours lose it they fail; When they gain it they succeed. The Way never has a root or trunk, It never has leaves or flowers. The myriad things are generated by it; The myriad things are completed by it. We designate it "the Way." Seven For the heavens, the ruling principle is to be aligned. For the earth, the ruling principle is to be level. For human beings the ruling principle is to be tranquil. Spring, autumn, winter and summer are the seasons of the heavens. Mountains, hills, rivers, and valleys are the resources of the earth. Pleasure and anger, accepting and rejecting are the devices of human beings. Therefore, the sage: Alters with the seasons but doesn't transform, Shifts with things but doesn't change places with them. Eight If you can be aligned and be tranquil, Only then can you be stable. With a stable mind at your core, With the eyes and ears acute and clear, And with the four limbs firm and fixed, You can thereby make a lodging place for the vital essence. The vital essence: it is the essence of the vital energy. When the vital energy is guided, it [the vital essence] is generated, But when it is generated, there is thought, When there is thought, there is knowledge, But when there is knowledge, then you must stop. Whenever the forms of the mind have excessive knowledge, You loose your vitality. Nine Those who can transform even a single thing, call them "numinous"; Those who can alter even a single situation, call them "wise." But to transform without expending vital energy; to alter without expending wisdom: Only exemplary persons who hold fast to the One are able to do this. Hold fast to the One; do not loose it, And you will be able to master the myriad things. Exemplary persons act upon things, And are not acted upon by them, Because they grasp the guiding principle of the One. Ten With a well-ordered mind within you, Well-ordered words issue forth from your mouth, And well-ordered tasks are imposed on others. Then all under heaven will be well-ordered. "When one word is grasped, All under the heavens will submit. When one word is fixed, All under heavens will listen." It is this [word "Way"] to which the saying refers. Eleven When your body is not aligned, The inner power will not come. When you are not tranquil within, Your mind will not be ordered. Align your body, assist the inner power, Then it will gradually come on its own. Twelve The numinous [mind]: no one knows its limit; It intuitively knows the myriad things. Hold it within you, do not let it waver. To not disrupt your senses with external things, To not disrupt your mind with your senses: This is called "grasping it within you." Thirteen There is a numinous [mind] naturally residing within; One moment it goes, the next it comes, And no one is able to conceive of it. If you loose it you are inevitably disordered; If you attain it you are inevitably well ordered. Diligently clean out its lodging place And its vital essence will naturally arrive. Still your attempts to imagine and conceive of it. Relax your efforts to reflect on and control it. Be reverent and diligent And its vital essence will naturally stabilize. Grasp it and don't let go Then the eyes and ears won't overflow And the mind will have nothing else to seek. When a properly aligned mind resides within you, The myriad things will be seen in their proper perspective. Fourteen The Way fills the entire world. It is everywhere that people are, But people are unable to understand this. When you are released by this one word: You reach up to the heavens above; You stretch down to the earth below; You pervade the nine inhabited regions. What does it mean to be released by it? The answer resides in the calmness of the mind. When your mind is well-ordered, your senses are well-ordered. When your mind is calm, your senses are calmed. What makes them well-ordered is the mind; What makes them calm is the mind. By means of the mind you store the mind: Within the mind there is yet another mind. That mind within the mind: it is an awareness that precedes words. Only after there is awareness does it take shape; Only after it takes shape it there a word. Only after there is a word is it implemented; Only after it is implemented is there order. Without order, you will always be chaotic. If chaotic, you die. Fifteen For those who preserve and naturally generate vital essence On the outside a calmness will flourish. Stored inside, we take it to be the well-spring. Floodlike, it harmonizes and equalizes And we take it to be the fount of the vital energy. When the fount is not dried up, The four limbs are firm. When the spring is not drained, Vital energy freely circulates through the nine apertures. You can then exhaust the heavens and the earth And spread over the four seas. When you have no delusions within you, Externally there will be no disasters. Those who keep their minds unimpaired within, Externally keep their bodies unimpaired, Who do not encounter heavenly disasters Or meet with harm at the hands of others, Call them Sages. Sixteen If people can be aligned and tranquil, Their skin will be ample and smooth, Their eyes and ears will be acute and clear, Their muscles will be supple and their bones will be strong, They will then be able to hold up the Great Circle [of the heavens] And tread firmly over the Great Square [of the earth]. They will mirror things with great purity. And they will perceive things with great clarity. Reverently be aware [of the Way] and do not waver, And you will daily renew your inner power, Thoroughly understand all under the heavens, And exhaust everything within the Four Directions. To reverently bring forth the effulgence [of the Way]: This is called "inward attainment." If you do this but fail to return to it, This will cause a wavering in your vitality. Seventeen For all [to practice] this Way: You must coil, you must contract, You must uncoil, you must expand, You must be firm, you must be regular [in this practice]. Hold fast to this excellent [practice]; do not let go of it. Chase away the excessive; abandon the trivial. And when you reach its ultimate limit You will return to the Way and the inner power. Eighteen When there is a mind that is unimpaired within you, It cannot be hidden. It will be known in your countenance, And seen in your skin colour. If with this good flow of vital energy you encounter others, They will be kinder to you than your own brethren. But if with a bad flow of vital energy you encounter others, They will harm you with their weapons. [This is because] the wordless pronouncement Is more rapid than the drumming of thunder. The perceptible form of the mind's vital energy Is brighter than the sun and moon, And more apparent than the concern of parents. Rewards are not sufficient to encourage the good; Punishments are not sufficient to discourage the bad. Yet once this flow of vital energy is achieved, All under heaven will submit. And once the mind is made stable, All under heaven will listen. Nineteen By concentrating your vital breath as if numinous, The myriad things will all be contained within you. Can you concentrate? Can you unite with them? Can you not resort to divining by tortoise or milfoil Yet know bad and good fortune? Can you stop? Can you cease? Can you not seek it in others, Yet attain it within yourself? You think and think about it And think still further about it. You think, yet still cannot penetrate it. While the ghostly and numinous will penetrate it, It is not due to the power of the ghostly and numinous, But to the utmost refinement of your essential vital breath. When the four limbs are aligned And the blood and vital breath are tranquil, Unify your awareness, concentrate your mind, Then your eyes and ears will not be over-stimulated. And even the far-off will seem close at hand. Twenty Deep thinking generates knowledge. Idleness and carelessness generate worry. Cruelty and arrogance generate resentment. Worry and grief generate illness. When illness reaches a distressing degree, you die. When you think about something and don't let got of it, Internally you will be distressed, externally you will be weak. Do not plan things out in advance Or else your vitality will cede its dwelling. In eating, it is best not to fill up; In thinking, it is best not to overdo. Limit these to the appropriate degree And you will naturally reach it [vitality]. Twenty-one As for the life of all human beings: The heavens brings forth their vital essence, The earth brings forth their bodies. These two combine to make a person. When they are in harmony there is vitality; When they are not in harmony there is no vitality. If we examine the Way of harmonizing them, Its essentials are not visible, Its signs are not numerous. Just let a balanced and aligned [breathing] fill your chest And it will swirl and blend with your mind, This confers longevity. When joy and anger are not limited, You should make a plan [to limit them]. Restrict the five sense-desires; Cast away these dual misfortunes. Be not joyous, be not angry, Just let a balanced and aligned [breathing] fill your chest. Twenty-two As for the vitality of all human beings: It inevitably occurs because of balanced and aligned [breathing]. The reason for its loss Is inevitably pleasure and anger, worry and anxiety. Therefore, to bring your anger to a halt, there is nothing better than poetry; To cast off worry there is nothing better than music; To limit music there is nothing better than rites; To hold onto the rites there is nothing better than reverence; To hold onto reverence there is nothing better than tranquility. When you are inwardly tranquil and outwardly reverent You are able to return to your innate nature And this nature will become greatly stable. Twenty-three For all the Way of eating is that: Overfilling yourself with food will impair your vital energy And cause your body to deteriorate. Over-restricting your consumption causes the bones to wither And the blood to congeal. The mean between overfilling and over-restricting: This is called "harmonious completion." It is where the vital essence lodges And knowledge is generated. When hunger and fullness lose their proper balance, You make a plan to correct this. When full, move quickly; When hungry, neglect your thoughts; When old, forget worry. If when full you don't move quickly, Vital energy will not circulate to your limbs. If when hungry you don't neglect your thoughts of food, When you finally eat you will not stop. If when old you don't forget your worries, The fount of your vital energy will rapidly drain out. Twenty-four When you enlarge your mind and let go of it, When you relax your vital breath and expand it, When your body is calm and unmoving: And you maintain the One and discard the myriad disturbances, You will see profit and not be enticed by it, You will see harm and not be frightened by it. Relaxed and unwound, yet acutely sensitive, In solitude you delight in your own person. This is called "revolving the vital breath": Your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly. Twenty-five The vitality of all people Inevitably comes from their peace of mind. When anxious, you loose this guiding thread; When angry, you lose this basic point. When you are anxious or sad, pleased or angry, The Way has no place to settle. Love and desire: still them! Folly and disturbance: correct them! Do not push it! do not pull it! Good fortune will naturally return to you, And that Way will naturally come to you So you can rely on and take counsel from it. If you are tranquil then you will attain it; If you are agitated then you will lose it. Twenty-six That mysterious vital energy within the mind: One moment it arrives, the next it departs. So fine, there is nothing within it; So vast, there is nothing outside it. We lose it Because of the harm caused by mental agitation. When the mind can hold on to tranquility, The Way will become naturally stabilized. For people who have attained the Way It permeates their pores and saturates their hair. Within their chest, they remain unvanquished. [Follow] this Way of restricting sense-desires And the myriad things will not cause you harm.
Book: Harold D. Roth Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism
Si Hongyu, Shangqiu Normal University; Li Jun, Party School of CPC Shanxi Provincial Committee
While popularizing and promoting Health Qigong, it is beyond doubt that the instructors or coaches should emphasize the dominating role of natural respiration before the teaching activities. As the exercisers get more and more familiar with the routines, the authors believe that: during the differentiation stage, the instructor or coach should intentionally explain breath regulation and stress its common properties: inhalation is usually used during opening and ascending movements; exhalation is usually used during closing and descending movements. Inhale while lifting and exhale while dropping. First inhale and then exhale. During the automation stage, abdominal respiration and anus-lifting respiration should be consciously coordinated with the limbs so that the exercisers can truly experience the essential properties of Health Qigong.
Body regulation, breath regulation, and mind regulation are three fundamental elements of Health Qigong. Breath regulation means actively and consciously regulating and control respiration in order to change its frequency, rhythm, and depth and thus gradually meeting the requirements and accomplishing the goals of the exercise. Of the “three regulations”, breath regulation is the one of the main criteria for judging the efficacy of Health Qigong exercise. Different exercisers should apply different breath regulation modes in different stages.
Generalization Stage of Exercisers
During the early stage of Health Qigong exercise, the exerciser can only obtain a perceptive understanding according to the explanation and demonstration by the instructor or coach and his own exercising practice and still cannot fully understand the intrinsic motioning rules of Health Qigong. The influences from the external environment will be transmitted to the cerebral cortex through the perceptive organs (especially proprioceptors) of the exerciser and cause excitation of the cells in the cerebral cortex. In addition, as the internal inhibition of cortex has not been established, the excitation and inhibition in the cortex are both diffused. Therefore the conditioned reflex is not stably connected for the time being and generalization is caused. During this process, the muscles of the exerciser will usually be stubborn and poorly-coordinated. Muscles that are not supposed to contract will be contracted and have unnecessary movements which are quite laborious. Therefore the exerciser will begin to sweat after just a few movements. At this point, the instructor or coach should not put too much emphasis on details of the movements or explain the modes of coordination between breath regulation and movements. Too much explanation will cause exercisers to quit for fear of the difficulty of Health Qigong before they even benefit from it. Therefore the starting stage should be focused on the standardization of basic movements and less explanation of breath regulation should be made. The coordination of respiration should be based on natural respiration. And the main form of natural respiration is thoracic respiration, which is characterized in that the breast expands during inhalation and contracts during exhalation. The foothold of thoracic respiration is positioned in the chest which coincides with the natural physiological structure of the human body because the main respiratory organ of the body-lung-is exactly located in the chest. During this stage, Health Qigong exercise is basically not different form any other sports. Therefore it is certain that no “uniqueness” of Health Qigong will be felt. To interest the exercisers and bring them into the next stage of study and practice, the instructor or coach should have certain skills and theoretical knowledge. The development of Health Qigong requires a number of instructors or coaches having the necessary skills and theoretical knowledge.
Differentiation Stage of Exercisers
As the practice goes on, the beginners will form a preliminary understanding of the intrinsic rules of Health Qigong and some poorly-coordinated and unnecessary movements will be gradually eliminated. During this stage, the excitation and inhibition processes of the motor center of the cerebral cortex will be gradually concentrated. Due to the enhanced inhibition process and especially the development of differentiation inhibition, the motion of the cerebral cortex will enter from the generalization stage to the differentiation stage. Therefore most incorrect movements during the practice will be corrected and the exerciser will be able to smoothly and continuously complete the entire exercise. During this stage, the instructors or coaches should explain breath regulation to the exercisers. If they fail to explain breath regulation, Health Qigong in itself will be meaningless. But they should not go into too many details. In this stage, the exerciser can experience the benefits brought by Health Qigong through the simple coordination between the limb movements and respiration, and thus boost their “emotional” demand for Health Qigong. They he or she will naturally enter the next stage of study and practice.
Automation Stage of Movements
This stage is the best embodiment of the characteristics and nature of Health Qigong exercise and a stage in which the exerciser gains the greatest mental and physical benefits. This is because during the automation stage, the exerciser can practice in an unconscious state but the practice cannot be completed without the participation by the cerebral cortex. It is fair to say that this stage is the best moment for the exerciser to practice breath regulation. This is because automation occurs with the exerciser’s practice which provides the “conditions” for the respiratory activities of the conscious and active operation. And actively-handled respiratory activities are only a small part of it, i.e. the part of gas exchange between the lungs and the external environment during external respiration. In addition, the gas exchange between the thoracic respiration and pulmonary capillaries in external respiration cannot be perceived. And the transportation of oxygen and carbon dioxide in blood and the internal respiration can neither be perceived. Therefore they cannot be actively regulated or controlled. Therefore, all kinds of breath regulation can only be based on and act on external respiration, the perceivable part of the respiration process, i.e. the intentional regulation of the gas exchange between the lungs and the external environment. Breath regulation does not result in obvious external and observable morphological changes and cannot be simply imitated like “body regulation”. Peaceful respiration basically results in no significant change sin the external body. Therefore breath regulation in this stage is mainly focused on mastering the internal changes. The internal changes include changes in the mode and position of respiration, changes in the speed, intensity, and destination of respiratory currents, and changes caused by respiration in the sensation of related viscera and muscles.
To sum up, limb movements of different routines of Health Qigong has to be accompanied by conscious active operations during this stage. Breath regulation modes mainly include: Abdominal respiration: Abdominal respiration requires that the exerciser feel the respiration in the abdomen. This feeling can actually be induced during operation but it does not mean that the respiratory Qi has truly reached the abdomen. From the modern scientific point of view, the respiratory Qi can only enter and exit the lungs and will never descend to the abdomen. The so-called abdominal respiration is just the result of the expansion of the lungs that presses the diaphragm and presses the internal organs in the abdominal cavity. Air cannot really go through the diaphragm and enter the abdominal cavity. If it really does, problems will take place. It includes the following two types:
(I) Obverse abdominal respiration: During the practice of obverse abdominal respiration, it is required that the lower abdomen expand during inhalation and retract during exhalation. In other words the respiration is moved from the chest to the abdomen. In order to achieve obverse abdominal respiration, we first need to find the changes in the respiratory sensation. Our usually respiratory sensation takes place in the chest. It is only when we gradually move the up-and-down movements of the chest to the abdomen that we can gradually form obverse abdominal respiration. If we fail to find the sensation that Qi enters from the chest into the abdomen and simply expand and retract the abdomen during respiration, we will not be able to achieve obverse abdominal respiration but have discomforts and mistakes instead, just as the old saying goes: haste does not bring success. With regard to the internal sensation of respiration, the breath of obverse abdominal respiration directly enters the abdominal cavity. The intake breath also goes through the chest cavity but does not stay in it. The chest cavity is only used as a channel for the breath to pass by, like an extension of the nasal cavity. From the physiological perspective, this is a process in which the diaphragmatic muscles actively contract to form negative pressure in the chest and store the air in the lower part of the pulmonary lobes. The descent of the diaphragm will increase the pressure in the abdominal cavity and compress the organs in the abdominal cavity. Externally, this process will be reflected by the expansion of the abdomen. This is the understanding of the basic theory of obverse abdominal respiration. In the practice of Health Qigong, the preparative routine (staring posture with breath regulation) of Wu Qin Xi and preparative routine of Ba Duan Jin are exactly provided with obverse abdominal respiration. The changes in the pressure of the chest and abdominal cavities will powerfully massage the internal organs, improve the blood circulation in the viscera, extend the lung capacity of thoracic respiration, and properly mobilize the functions of the body to lay a good foundation for the successful completion of the following movements.
(II) Reverse abdominal respiration also stresses the operation of the respiratory Qi by the diaphragmatic muscles. It is actually an enhancement of thoracic respiration. The exerciser can effectively cultivate the internal breath and guide it along certain routes in order the exercise both the body and mind. Reverse abdominal respiration means pulling back the abdomen and lifting the anus during inhalation as opposite to obverse abdominal respiration, in order to lift the diaphragmatic muscles, enlarge the chest cavity, and retract the abdominal cavity. During exhalation, the intercostal muscles will be relaxed and the diaphragmatic muscles will descend. An internal breath will be sensed and guided downward and then sent to the abdomen. Breath regulation is a method for lifting Qi and improving Yang Qi. Obverse abdominal respiration is a method for guiding the descent of Qi and can nourish Yin. Therefore when we practice the ending routine of Health Qigong, we should perform reverse abdominal respiration or obverse abdominal respiration according to our own Yin-Yang equilibrium, so as to strengthen the abdomen and improve the practicing results.
There is also anus-lifting respiration which actually means consciously lifting the muscles in the anus and Huiyin during inhalation of reverse abdominal respiration and relaxing muscles n the anus and Huiyin during exhalation. Anus-lifting respiration is applied in the practice of “Ape Lift” in Wu Qin Xi, “Holding the Hands High with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” in Ba Duan Jin, and “Pulling back Tails of Nine Bulls” in Yi Jin Jing.
To sum up, long-term conscious breath regulation practice during the automation stage will help exercisers better experience the unique features of Health Qigong and further improve the practicing results.
Reference: “Breath Regulation” Modes in Various Stages of Health Qigong Practice jsqg.sport.org.cn
By Liu Feng and liu Tianjun
At present, widespread Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing, Wu Qin Xi, Liu Zi Jue and Ba Duan Jin etc. are based on dynamic exercise of body regulation. Body regulation refers to the regulation of postures and movements and is one of three elements of Health Qigong. However, it is not enough to only regulate body by this exercise. It would be better to achieve the state of integrating three regulations into one. This is because integrating three regulations into one of Health Qigong is to integrate body, breath and mind and is essential characteristics that are different from ordinary physical sports.
Integrating Three Regulations into One is a Kind of State
Integrating thre regulations into one is a type of state and subjective experience in the course of Health Qigong exercise. Exercisers can experience and judge whether they are alraedy in this state by one way or another. There are many ways: be it sates descriptions, be it process narration, or creating an instant environment, but the exercisers should not purely imitate postures and movements of the body regulation.
In the state of integrating three regulations into one, three regulations coexist yet all disappear. We say coexistence of three regulations for the reason that from the perspective of formality and exercisers, body regulation, breath regulation and mind regulation can be described clearly. On the other hand, we believe that they do not exist for the reason that independence of three regulations disappeared. In this state, it is done in a sef-running course, and the alternation of which can have an impact on the other two. Therefore, under this circumstance, the only thing of exercisers need to do is in fact to watching the self-running of the three regulations,
If three regulations were seen as a happing family, the contents of three regulations would be three kids. Three kids can deal with their correlations and live harmoniously. You can only look at them nearby or take part in and being one together with no need to guide any of these three kids in any way.
In this sense, integrating three regulations into one is also a lively state full of fun because it is a coordinate process of your own kids. In the beginning, like a parent, you may think your kids can not solve the problems themselves. Gradually, you find that these kids can correlate themselves and all you need to do is to waiting for them to grow up and to be a part of your family. You are likely be influenced by their fun of correlations and forget you are one of them, but the family is still in forever growing process. Therefore, in this state, all operators are in a natural process of constant development.
All kinds of disorders in human body can be released and disappeared in this natural regulation. This is an adjustment among three regulations but not impairing or enhancing any one. All that man can adjust is postures, breath, psychology and movements. Once coordinated relations are set in them or a balanced state is achieved, then this state is tending to be stable. This is also one of the advantages of Health Qigong– stability with no negative effect.
In the course of Health Qigong exercise, to obtain these experience of three regulations is the essence of Health Qigong which is also the regimen’s forever objective. Then, how to obtain this sate of integrating three regulations into one?
Basic Methods for Obtaining the State of Integrating Three Regulations into One.
There are many ways to get to the state of integrating three regulations into one， and they all can be obtained from three integrations, which, Generally speaking, can be categorized into tow basic ways: Integration and extension.
Integration means integrate three regulations sequentially into one process. It may be long or short, easy or difficult for different people. It contains three sections as follows: firstly, understand the exercising contents such as the correct postures, movements, breath methods and consciousness, then perform all the movements and methods coordinately and finally obtain the state of integrating three regulations into one. To be more precisely, the three sections can be concluded as the separation of three regulations, coordination of the three regulations and the integration of three regulations. The last section is a higher stature above the second, so the second section is a fundamental transforming part to obtain the state of the integration of three regulations into one.
There are two methods to define the performance of three regulations, from above to below or from below to above. The former indicates the coordination state of three regulations, while the latter refers to the separation state.
From above to below, there is a method to strictly perform three regulations individually in accordance with the standards till it finally fulfills the requirements of their coordination state. Taking the comparison mentioned above, the three regulations are compared to three kids who have their own characters and are supposed to carry out their own duties carefully. The advantage of this method is that, it has a pattern to follow, so it can easily avoid problems. As long as it is carefully and strictly performed according to the requirements, the coordination state of three regulations will be obtained. Nevertheless, the disadvantages are also as obvious as its advantages. The performing standard is only one coordination states of three regulations in many. It may be suitable for some people, but not for the other. So for the people who are suitable, it is easier and faster to obtain the state, while for the people who are not suitable, it will be much difficult.
From below to above is a method to reach the state of integrating three regulations into one by defining a general three regulations’ performing standard, and trying to find the best way among the three regulations’ performing requirements. To coordinate with the comparison above, it is a method to tell the three kids to build a harmonious family and peaceful integration state by allowing them to cooperate and coordinate with each other with ample trust and freedom. This method can help the exerciser to find the most suitable way of three regulations performing pattern quickly, but as it is judged and exercised by the exerciser’s own experience and practice, the state of integrating three regulations into one may vary in accordance with the constitution of each individual.
Extension is a method extending from point to the whole. To be more precisely, it is the perfection state obtained by performing the movements and contents of one regulation in the three. When the regulation is perfectly performed and the perfection state is achieved, the state of integrating three regulations into one is obtained. To correspond with comparison in the previous text, it is appointing one kid to be the leader to coordinate with other two kids.
This method has its own reason to be recognized. Actually, there are some similarities among the performance of the three regulations, such as exercisers will hold breath when they fears, which is the coordination of the regulations of heart and breath; the exerciser will breath out when he thrust fists, which is the regulation of body and breath; while people will wave and dance when they are happy, which is a coordination of heart and body. Extension is an integration state of three regulations into one achieved through these natural coordination.
The key point to a successful extension lies in finding the best regulation and taking it as one’s exercising focus. Generally speaking, one’s favorite is one’s most suitable way. So for people who are active, dynamic exercise is the best one to start; while for people who are quiet, static exercise is much better. Of course, the cases are not all the same, for instance, for the cancerous patient, dynamic exercise is a better choice, because body regulation is complicated but much easier to learn and to practice.
State of Integrating Three Regulations into One in Health Qigong Practice
We are informed from the previous text that the state of integrating three regulations into one is the basic state for any Health Qigong, and any exercise or method is a media to enter this state. In the following passage, the writer will take “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” movement in Health Qigong•Ba Jin Duan as an example to explain how to practice it to obtain the state of integrating three regulations into one.
The body regulation movement “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” can be divided into three parts. The first part covers from the very beginning to the movement of holding two hands to chest; the second part starts from the move where the first part ends, flip palms and pulling them up till perfection. In the last part, two hands fall from the body sides.
Firstly, I will explain the method of from above to below of the integration. In the state of integrating three regulations into one, the heart is supposed to be regulated to be calm and peaceful. Under this mentality, the respiratory rate will decrease and the breath rhythm is slow and steady, deep and long. As for the movements, each movement of up-raising or out-pulling will guide the Yang Qi out of the body, while each move of downward and inward will guide Yang Qi downwards and save it in the inner body. Generally speaking, up-raising or out-pulling movements are coordinated with breath-out, so they will guide Qi-blood to our limbs and make them strong; while movements that downward and inward are coordinated with breath-in, and thus they can gather Qi-blood into the inner organs and do them good.
In accordance with this state, the three regulations of “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” can be defined as follow: breath in, and raise two hands till the chest; hold breath and flip palms and pull them up till perfection, and imagine that one is standing between the sky and the earth with two hands up, forming the skyreach pillar with the body; breath out and draw back the hands to the beginning posture. There are many movements that can be adjusted, such as the notion of holding the sky when pulling up two hands above till the perfection and the position of elbow and knee; or breath in till pulling to the perfection; and the time to flip the palms, etc.
The general method of from below to above of the integration is described as below: what kind of notion can best coordinate with the up-pulling movement, and make it to be more effective; how to regulate the exerciser’s breath when pulling up the hands; what posture will be more comfortable when the hands are pulled up to the perfection; whether it should be coordinated with notion, and what notion; how to control the breath so the exerciser will feel better; how the two hands should be put down, and how to control the breath, etc.
If the extension method is employed, any practice to perfection is capable of obtaining the state of integrating three regulations into one. Although the practice of “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” is mainly composed of motions, it can obtain the state of integrating three regulations into one by starting from body regulation, breath regulation and heart regulation, and performing it to the perfection.
The performance of extension method includes following ones: how the exerciser feel when breathe-in and pull-up hands, or breathe-out and downward the hands? What is the best and most effective time to start the notion when pulling up? How to perform the following movements so it will be more effective? Including the way to breathe-in and pull-up, and the way to breathe-out and downward the hands, etc. The exerciser is supposed to find the best practicing way in the process.
The extension of body regulation is as follow: The movement of “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” is a process of the hands from below to above and then from above to below, which is aiming at regulating the internal organs. To be more precisely, it aims at guiding the Qi in our body and making it smooth. In order to achieve this final aim and obtain the regulation of inner organs as well as to find the best feelings of holding the sky, the exerciser should clearly understand the route of the movements, the practicing force, and the transformation of the movements and the coordination of the whole body. There are details that should be paid close attention if the exerciser wants to achieve the effectiveness of regulating the inner organs. For instance, the degree of tightness when raising the hands from the chest, the best position to flip the palms, the state of elbow and knee to feel the notion of holding the sky, and the most suitable position of erecting head.
The extension method of heart regulation is as this: the exerciser should concentrate all his attention to the effectiveness of the practice, and try to find and feel the comfortableness of the regulation of the inner organs. It is a state with relaxing body, peaceful mind and comfortable inner organs. Under this state, the breath and movements will naturally appear as soon as the exerciser starts the practice of “Holding the sky with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs”.
To sum up, the state of integrating three regulations into one is creative and changeable, but it is always in a steady state of balance and regulation. The state will be changed if the aim or the notion is changed, which is accompanied with the change of movements and breath; the adjustment of movements can cause the change of effectiveness and breath; and the regulation of breath can also change the practicing effectiveness and the force of the movements.
Reference: An Analysis on Integration of Three Regulations of Health Qigong jsqg.sport.org.cn
In daily exercise, it’s easy to be found that a Health Qigong lover was still difficult tograsp the essentials of exercise even though he spent a lot of time in practicing and themain cause was due to his improper practice. I’ve often wondered how we can help theseimproper practicing lovers to grasp a kind of practicing technique, so that they can betterenjoy the pleasure brought by Health Qigong. I hereby recommend an approach for“trilogy” of Health Qigong exercise to everybody from the essential characteristics ofHealth Qigong and combined with years of teaching and practice experiment, hope that itcould enlighten the beginners and instructors.
I. Interpretation of “Trilogy” Exercise
What are the essential characteristics of Health Qigong? The definition of HealthQigong has given us a definite answer, namely Health Qigong is a traditional exercise ofour nation with body movements, respiratory Tuna (breathing in and out) and mentalregulation as the major forms of exercise. In accordance with the commonly used terms ofHealth Qigong, “body regulation” means “body movements”, “breath regulation” means“respiratory Tuna (breathing in and out)”, “mind regulation” means “mental regulation”, andthe essential characteristics of Health Qigong can be expressed as a heath preserving exercise with combination of “body regulation, breath regulation and mind regulation”, namely the unity and collaboration of “three regulations”. Further simplified, if used “form,breath, mind” to replace “body regulation, breath regulation and mind regulation”, theessential characteristics of Health Qigong can be further expressed as an exercise withcombination of “form, breath and mind” of the human. Accordingly, I proposed “trilogy” ofHealth Qigong exercise, namely practicing Health Qigong based on the sequence of“form-breath-mind”. The specific practicing contents and steps are shown in the following diagram:
- Form ＋breath
- Form ＋breath ＋ mind
Schematic Diagram of “Trilogy” of Health Qigong Exercise (see original diagram in pdf file)
II. Sequence Analysis of “Trilogy” Exercise
(I) The first step exercise – form
As for the Health Qigong beginners, the first step of Health Qigong exercise is to master the practicing methods and essentials of the “form”. The “form” herein refers to body movements and adjustment of body posture, namely “body regulation”, which is the external manifestation of the movements.
The basic contents of the “form” mainly include three aspects. The first is the methods and the hand shape, such as the “tiger claw, deer horn and bird wings” in HealthQigong • Wu Qin Xi, the “dragon claw, tiger claw, lotus leaf palm, willow leaf palm” inHealth Qigong • Yi Jin Jing. As the saying goes, “clever in mind and skillful in hands”. Modern brain physiology research indicated that the hand reflex zone also accounted for alarge area in cerebral cortex reflex zone. The regular changes of the hand shape inexercise can effectively stimulate the hands’ different nerve muscles and enable thecerebral cortex to produce good adaptation variations. The second is the footwork and stances. The moving and transition of the gravity center of the body and the bodymovements are dependent on the changes of footwork and stances. The general requirement of the footwork is “walking with cat-like step” and changing agilely and flexibly.The third is the body methods, including “chest, back, waist, abdomen and hip”. The substance of the “emphasis on extension and rotation of spinal column” mentioned in the essentials of four Health Qigong exercises is the body methods.
Only when one has mastered the “form” methods and essentials can he “guide thewaist and body and exercise all the joints” to fight with aging. The Health Qigong beginneris sure to make great efforts to perform well at the first step, distinguish the movements’routines, directions, angles, vacancy and fullness, laxity and tightness, and achieve neatpostures and accurate methods, so as to lay a solid foundation for in-depth exercises inthe future.
(II) The second step exercise – form + breath
After being more fluent in essentials of the “form”, the practicers can start the secondstep and pay attention to the close coordination of body movements and breathing. If thefirst step is required to achieve “guiding the body into a soft state”, the second step shouldachieve “guiding Qi into a harmonious state”, to combine “body guidance” with “Qiguidance”, thus to achieve “coordination of form and breath”.
Generally speaking, the coordination between breathing and movements is based onrules of “ascending-inhalation and descending-exhalation, opening-inhalation andclosing-exhalation, accumulating-inhalation and releasing-exhalation, andtightening-inhalation and relaxing-exhalation”. For example, the “bird flying” movement inHealth Qigong • Wu Qin Xi, an inhalation is taken as the ascending of gravity center whenboth arms are lifted to complete the movement of “spread wings” and an exhalation istaken as the descending of gravity center when the knees are bended and both hands arefolded, that is the coordination of “ascending-inhalation and descending-exhalation”; the“showing claws and wings” movement in Health Qigong • Yi Jin Jing, an inhalation is taken when both hands are changed into willow leaf palms and erected in front of chest, thechest is expanded and the force is accumulated and an exhalation is taken when bothhands are changed into lotus leaf palms and reached forward and the force is released,that is the coordination of “accumulating-inhalation and releasing-exhalation”; the“Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain” movement of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin, an inhalation is taken when “looking backwards” and the neck muscle is tightened and an exhalation is taken when “looking forward” and the neck muscle isrelaxed, that is the coordination of “tightening-inhalation and relaxing-exhalation”. In essence, the rules of coordination between breathing and movements are consistent, in general, it can be concluded as “opening-inhalation and closing-exhalation”,for example, for the “bird fly” movement, an inhalation is taken when the chest is expanded to complete the movement of “spread wings” and an exhalation is taken when the chest is folded to complete the movement of “folded wings”. Of course, the skillful coordination between breathing and movements requires a process, which cannot be achieved overnight. How can we achieve it? It shall start with the coordination between natural breathing and movements. Natural breathing is a way of breathing going on all the time around us. The practicers are required to slowly combine the movements withbreathing at the moment of natural breathing and breathe naturally with the changes inmovements. When the natural breathing and movements are coordinated skillfully, thebreathing will gradually become deep, slow, even and long, and then the effect of unifying state of mind is achieved to prepare for the third step exercise. If the natural rules ofcoordination between breathing and movements are violated to pursue unrealistic coordination, it may result in out-of-adjustment respiration, stubborn movements and even suffocation and fail to take effect.
(III) The third step exercise – form + breath + mind
If making distinction with overall exercise and decomposing exercise, the first andsecond steps can be considered as the decomposing exercises and the third step can beconsidered as the real overall exercise. The step-by-step principle is in line with the rulesand is also an important principle for performing well in Health Qigong exercise. Based onthis principle, the first and second steps are the precondition and foundation for the thirdstep and the third step is the goal and pursuit of the former two steps. Only when thecombination between body movements, respiratory Tuna (breathing in and out) andmental regulation was achieved can the essential characteristics of Health Qigong be trulyembodied, can the Health Qigong exercise enter the realm of integration of body and mindand the Health Qigong exercise obtain desired effect.
Whether it is the “form”, the “breath”, or the “form + breath”, both of them are “visibleand touchable”, and what’s going on about the invisible and formless “mental regulation”?How to fulfill the third step? We first need to figure out the essence and contents of thementality and the nature of consciousness. What’s the human’s mentality? Zhang Houcan, the vice chairman of International Union of Psychology, has explained it in plain languagein the article of “Current Situation and Development Prospects of Psychology in China”.She explained the psychological as “first, it is the function of the brain, it cannot workwithout the brain; second, it is the reflection of the real world, it can reflect the realities inthe outside world; third, the reflection of the human is not negative and reactive butpositive and proactive, which can be consciously carried out. The human being not onlyneeds to understand the realities but needs to reshape the realities, and we have to studythese issues if the psychology wants to achieve a high level of development”. The three notes of Zhang Houcan about the essence of mentality can be summarized as “mentalityis the subjective reflection of the human brain on the objective world.” The nature of consciousness theory of dialectical materialism pointed out that, “consciousness is the subjective reflection of objective existence, which is a reflection process of the human brain on the objective world and a process for continuous processing and production ofd ata input externally”. It is easy to see the consistency between the essence of mentalityand the nature of consciousness by linking them together.
According to the conclusion that “the consciousness contains the unity of knowledge,emotion and willpower”, it can be considered that the “mental regulation” contents of Health Qigong include “knowledge, emotion and willpower”. “Knowledge” refers to thetheoretical knowledge of “body movements and respiratory Tuna (breathing in and out)”and the theoretical knowledge of how to improve our health and the mechanism ofproducing healthy effects. For example, the joints, muscles, routines and methods in bodymovements, the respiratory Tuna (breathing in and out) methods and how to coordinaterespiration with body movements. “Emotion” refers to emotional feelings or sentiments. In Health Qigong exercise, the practicers are required to enter the healthy emotional stateand enter different emotional states according to different movements. For example, thepracticers are required to enter the state of mind of Health Qigong • Wu Qin Xi exercise toact like whatever role they act to achieve the unity of form and spirit. “Willpower” refers tothe mental state such as self-control, perseverance, confidence and indomitable spirit ofthe human being manifested in pursuit of certain goals and ideals. Understanding theessence of mentality and its contents before interpretation of the meaning of the third step6exercise is, after being more proficient in coordination between body movements andbreathing and combined with the requirements of different exercising methods andspecific movements, to give full play to the imagination based on functions of the brain toenter appropriate artistic conception requirements and gradually achieve the physical andmental state of the “unity of three regulations”.
III. Supplemental Instructions of “Trilogy” Exercise
There are two points need to supplement. First, the purpose of putting forward the“trilogy” exercise is to provide some theoretical guidance for beginners, and moreimportant is to tell the beginners that they must follow the principle of step-by-steppractices and always grasp the essential characteristics of combination of bodymovements, respiratory Tuna (breathing in and out) and mental regulation of HealthQigong. Never start to “imagine or absorb ideas” and even “random thinking” withoutbeing proficient in coordination between movements and breathing. This is “aggressivedoctrine” in exercise and is totally bad for the practicers; second, there is no absoluteboundary between the three steps and it does not mean that the practicing cognitiveprocess of Health Qigong exercise is ended up after three steps exercise. The principle ofepistemology of “practice, cognition, re-practice and re-cognition” is also applicable to thepracticing process of Health Qigong. As the saying goes, “art is endless”, Health Qigongexercise is always a continuous learning and continuous improvement process. Duringthe practice, only when we continuously improve the state of “form”, “form + breath” and“form + breath + mind” based on understanding and practicing levels at different stagescan we gradually improve the level of exercising methods and acquire maximum effectivehealth-preserving effects and more harmonious physical and mental skills.
Lowering Qi to Dantian can dredge the channels of the entire body, harmonize blood and Qi, prolong life, eliminate worries and fatigue, calm the bad emotions like anger, fear, and worry, open the mind, and boost wisdom. As far as I am concerted, lowering Qi to Dantian means: the exerciser has made a certain progress and entered the deep relaxation and serenity in the exercise, as mentioned in Lao Zi “empty the heart and fill the abdomen”. Lowering Qi to Dantian means to meet the requirements of “keep the head and neck straight and lift the head as if propping up something”, lowering the shoulders and elbows, drawing in the chest, straightening the back, relaxing the waist, and keeping the coccygeal end in the middle after long-term persistent practice, so that the entire body is completed relaxed inside out and a serene, calm, and worriless state is naturally achieved. With the “Bird Exercise” of Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi as an example, this paper dwells on how to relax the body and mind and lower Qi to Dantian to achieve serenity during practice.
After the exerciser has got familiar with the movements of the exercise and has begun to comprehend the key points to the exercise, relaxation exercises such as lowering shoulders and elbows can be introduced. In the first movement of “Bird Flying”, both legs are slightly bent, both palms are closed in front of the abdomen, the centers of palms are obliquely directed toward each other, the eyes are directed at the lower front. After the posture is established, attention is first drawing to the lowering of shoulders and the mind is concentrated on the tips of elbows to feel them lowering. This feeling is brought by the relaxation of the elbows. As both palms are pushing upward on the lateral sides of the body, both shoulders will be lowered and kept from rising. The elbows should not be raised. And the back is straight and eminent. Then the head slowly moves into the straight position and the chin is slightly withdrawn. The neck is relaxed and the small ligaments of the C-spine joints are loosened so that the suspended top is not stubborn. At the moment when both palms move laterally like spread wings, the shoulders are lowered and the mind is concentrated on the thumbs and index fingers of both hands. Lift the wrists to move the palms like waves and you will feel an indistinct force transmitted from the wrists to the ends of the thumbs and index fingers. As both arms are lowered and the shoulder joints are opened, the shoulder blades will be loosened horizontally with the tend so that both shoulders will be slightly withdrawn, both flanks are slightly contracted, and the thoracic skeleton is slightly withdrawn. Therefore there will be a slight tensioning sensation towards the left and right on the shoulders and back. This relaxation will be naturally transmitted to the elbows, wrists, and fingers and the process will be too quick for the mind to stay. In this way the shoulders will be lowered and the shoulder blades will be opened horizontally. The shrinking bosom and straightening back results will be naturally produced. Shrinking bosom and straightening back shall be completely compliant with the natural form of the human body and shall not be arched back and shrunk chest. Do not deliberately produce it. On the basis of shrinking bosom and straightening back, slightly draw in the buttocks. While doing this, relax the muscles in the buttocks and waist as much as possible so that the muscles of the buttocks are spread downwards. Then gently retract them forward and inward as if propping up the lower abdomen with the buttocks. This will restrict the projection of the buttocks and ensure the straightness of the lumbar vertebrae and the coccygeal end. By combining lowering shoulders and elbows, shrinking bosom and straightening back, and loosening waist and contracting buttocks, we can help lower Qi to Dantian. In this way the reversely ascending pathogenic Qi caused by bad emotions will be gradually lowered and eliminated and the harmonious Qi will be gradually distributed throughout the body. During the breath regulation of Bird Exercise, the body and mind will have an other experience: The body will be light and delightful. The respiration will be smooth and stable. The exerciser will temporarily forget all worries and sorrow and become carefree and cozy. This is the initial stage of lowering Qi to Dantian.
After the key points to the practice are comprehended, the movements can be further refined. During practice, the exerciser will be able to actively eliminate the distracting thoughts, focus the mind on the practice of the exercise, and maintain a peaceful and serene mind, and achieve a leisurely and calm look. In the first movement of “Bird Flying”, the palms are obliquely directed towards each other and the eyes are directed towards the lower front. No mind guidance is required and the exerciser should naturally meet the relaxation requirements such as lowering shoulders and elbows and shrinking bosom and straightening back. When both palms are moved up laterally, the shoulder blades will be opened horizontally towards both sides to drive the shoulder to move down. At the moment when both palms move laterally like spread wings, the shoulders are lowered and the mind is concentrated on the thumbs and index fingers of both hands. Lift the wrists to move the palms like waves and you will feel an indistinct force transmitted from the wrists to the tips of the ten fingers. This sensation is especially obvious with the thumbs and index fingers. As the palms move downward, the brain is between mindful and mindless. And the brain knows where the mind goes. Before the brain realizes the concept of “relaxation”, the body movement will suddenly relax the muscles in the shoulder blades. All of a sudden the entire body will receive the transmitted relaxation. A slightly numb sensation comes across the entire back. These are the results of the force of Qigong. The force is the force produced suddenly when the mind guides the circulation of the clear and harmonious Qi in the body when both the body and mind are relaxed and serene. It is the result of appropriate mind, appropriate Qi, and appropriate strength. Therefore it is also known as internal force. This practicing experience does not occur during every practice. As the shoulder blades are loosened to drive both shoulders to lower, the horizontal relaxation caused by the internal force will promote the natural extension and slight upheaval of muscles in the back. The sensation of straightening back will come along. Once this sensation occurs, the chest will be naturally relaxed and contained. The criterion for shrinking bosom is: At the moment the shoulder joints are opened and the shoulder blades are loosened horizontally, you will feel as if a round door is opened in the chest and the long-standing worries in the heart are discharged. The chest is slightly empty and the heart will suddenly feel relaxed and easy. The internal Qi that sways between both arms when they are moved upward and downward seems to be blocking the arms. And driven by the internal force of Dantian and Mingmen, the softened arms will be like the wings of the light crane that are spread in the air. When both arms are moved upward and downward, the entire body is relaxed and kept down. At the same time Baihui Acupoint on the top of the head will always feel a slight propping sensation instead of an imagined up-propping force. Baihui is suspended on the top, the coccygeal end is in the middle of the lower body, the shoulders and elbows are lowered, the chest is shrunk, the back is straightened, the waist is relaxed, the bottoms will be contracted, and the spinal column will e naturally relaxed segment by segment to form an up-down pulling posture. The state of “keeping the head and neck straight and lifting the head as if propping up something” will be naturally achieved and the heart will be suddenly enlightened. At this moment, the turbine Qi in the body will be lowered and eliminated. The clear Qi will be raised and infused into all parts of the body. The external form and the internal Qi will be gradually merged. Although we cannot clearly feel the incoming and outgoing movements of genuine Qi during this stage, the lower abdomen will feel the numbness, heat, and swelling caused by the swarming internal Qi. This sensation is generated because after entering serenity, the interoception is improved and the proprioceptive sensitivity is increased. The experience varies from person to person and should not be deliberately pursued. Otherwise deviations like “abnormal sensory perception” will be easily caused. After breath regulation of Bird Exercise is completed, the exerciser will unconsciously enter the intermediate stage of lowering Qi to Dantian: The body is soft and comfortable, the breath is even, gentle, and long, the brain is clear, and the chest is relaxed and empty. The gloom accumulated in the chest will be eliminated. All constraints of material desire are suddenly removed. The mind is suddenly opened. Dantian is filled with internal Qi and begins to communicate with the Qi of Mingmen. The facial appearance is calm and stable. The exerciser will look both mighty and easy.
With the refining of movements, the exercise enters the automation stage. All distracting thoughts are eliminated during the exercise and even the movements as well as the ego are forgotten. But all movements are still in line with the standard requirements and will still represent the verves of the five animals. After the last movement of “Bird Stretching” is completed, both hands will be naturally lowered at the lateral sides of the body, the eyes will be directed at the front, the entire body will be completely relaxed inside out, the mind will be free of worries, and Yang Qi will be calm and harmonious. Linked with the previous posture, both legs are slightly bent, both palms are closed in front of the abdomen, centers of the palms are obliquely directed at each other, and the eyes are directed at the lower front. The exerciser is still in a relaxed, serene, and gentle practicing state. When both palms are moved up laterally, the shoulder blades will be opened horizontally towards both sides to drive the shoulder to move down. Lowering means the lowering sensation of muscles in the relaxed and gentle state and is the criterion for relaxation. The relaxation in this stage has transcended lowering and is mainly represented by looseness. Genuine Qi flows throughout the body. The entire body is relaxed and loosened. Relaxation is driven by the internal force from the muscles to the tendons and bones and from the exterior to the interior to penetrate the body bit by bit and segment by segment. When both palms are lowered, the relaxation and looseness produced by the internal force will be even stronger. The mind already knows everything before the thought is moved. The interior of the shoulders will be automatically relaxed and loosened. The relaxation and looseness will be suddenly transmitted to every part of the body. The chest will be vacant. The back will be filled up with internal Qi. It seems that the muscles and bones are missing. Shrinking bosom and straightening back has exceeded the body form requirements. Baihui Acupoint on the top of the head will be vacant and unobstructed. And almost no up-propping force is felt because the channels around Baihui are smooth. The exerciser will begin to comprehend the true meanings of “Achieving the ultimate vacancy and adhering to the true serenity”, “coordinating the mind with Tao”, and “clearing the mind to gain insight into nature”. At this moment, the Qi activity will be smooth. “Man resides in Qi and Qi resides in man”. As the internal Qi is unsettled and breaks through the body surfaces, the body will be merged into Qi between heaven and earth and the feeling of boundaries of the body will be lost. This state does not run through the entire practicing process as Qi activity is transient. It shows up at different moments for different people. And it differs even in the same person with the different serenity states during exercise. After breath regulation of Bird Exercise is completed, the exerciser will unconsciously enter the advanced stage of lowering Qi to Dantian: The body will be naturally relaxed and gentle and the respiratory Qi will directly reach Dantian. The targets of “Exhale softly, inhale slowly, stay between consciousness and unconsciousness, and remain continuous and unbroken” will be truly reached. The brain will be clear and free of thoughts. The mind will be vacant and ready for everything. Wisdom will appear in the vacant mind and shine the interior and exterior of the body like bright sunshine (deficiency of the upper portion of the body). Qi circulates smoothly in Dantian and merges with the Qi of Mingmen. The facial expression will be calm and imbued with supreme heroism and mightiness (excess in the lower portion of the body).
Reference: How to Successfully Lower Qi to Dantian by Zhang Caiqin, Inner Mongolia Normal University Chinese Health QiGong Association
No matter you are a Health Qigong beginner or an experienced exerciser for years, you might not feel unfamiliar the term “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field(qì chén dān tián)”, because nearly every stance emphases that “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” is essential for exercising Health Qigong. However, few of exercisers can clearly explain how it is when asked how is ” Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field”. Analysis finds that it is influenced mainly by conventional way of thinking, which results in a tendancy of ambiguous perceptual mastering of many terms of Health Qigong, and just making use of it rather than discussing it in depth. In fact, with the change in the context of modern people, if some classic terms originated from tradition can be illustrated with modern language, it can not only enrich the basic theoretical knowledge of Health Qigong so as to promote discipline building and scientific development of Health Qigong, but also help people correctly understand Health Qigong and scientifically exercise Health Qigong. In order to arouse people’s serious attention to this issue, I hereby attempt to make a brief analysis of ”Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field”, hopefully it could serve as a modest spur.
I. Location and Functions of Cinnabar Field
According to the origin of history, Cinnabar Field is an important position for Taoist practitioners to regulate mind and build up will. In A Brief Talk on Diantian Theory by Chinese Taoists, Xiao Zhicai expatiated the records in various ancient literatures about the location of Cinnabar Field and its important functions. Cai Mingzong also made meticulous discussion on Diantian in his doctoral dissertation “Discussion on Cinnabar Field Mystery and Research on the Function of Delaying Aging of Female Ovariectomized Rats by Catgut Embedment in Cinnabar Field Area. In their opinions, Cinnabar Field is a very special and important position in one’s body. It is called “Mingmen (Life Gate)” in Neijing, located between the eyes and joining in encephalon, which is the vital position. It is called ”Dynamic Qi between Kidneys”, located between the two kidneys, for men to store essence and women to tie ovicell, which is the origin of vitality. One is the Upper Cinnabar Field, and the other is the Lower Cinnabar Field; between the two there is the Middle Cinnabar Field, which is in charge of human being’s Qi, blood and water and food, covering heart, lungs, liver, spleen and stomach, etc. These three need and work mutually, containing human being’s essence, Qi and spirit. The three Cinnabar Fields are not a point but an area. The Upper Cinnabar Field is located in Yintang Area, the Middle Cinnabar Field is located in the Area below Heart and the Lower Cinnabar Field is located in the Area below Umbilicus. The ancient literatures gave the most detailed description of the Lower Cinnabar Field Area, pointing out that that the Lower Cinnabar Field is located three cun (Chinese inch) below Umbilicus, between the two kidneys and back, and in the middle of human body, covering an area of four cun.
The Taoist cognition of Cinnabar Field is somewhat different from Medicine’s cognition thereof. Specifically, the common standpoint of both lies in that Cinnabar Field is the residence of original essence, original qi and original spirit. According to this standpoint, Taoism regards Cinnabar Field as the position for keeping qi with ideation, as well as a main site and fundamental place for condensation of essence, qi and spirit. This kind of cognition produced profound influence on the Qigong Science and even Neijiaquan (internal boxing) of later generations. Medicine regards Cinnabar Field as the origin of life, which dominates all activities of life. In terms of physiological structure, it is “the foundation of five viscera and six bowels, the root of twelve meridians, the gate of breathing and the source of triple energizers”, and it is the physical basis for the formation of human body. In terms of functions, it is the innate level higher than the acquired level of five viscera and six bowels, and it dominates the growth, development and functions of five viscera, six bowels, limbs and skeleton, and plays decisive roles on short or long lifespan, disease and death of human beings.
II. Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field in the Eyes of Researchers
What does “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” refer to specifically? How can we “Sink Qi to Cinnabar Field”? Through consulting literatures, we find that, different researchers have somewhat different views. In the article “Can Air be Inhaled into Cinnabar Field?”, Lin Yongjiang believes that, air breathing can be conducted only in lungs, while Cinnabar Field is located in lower abdomen, and air cannot enter lower abdomen directly. Breathing not only functions exchange of air, but also results in a series of phenomena of physiological changes. He further points out that, so called “internal work” means that, under the domination of “ideas” “which use ideation but no force”, taking actions as the guidance and breathing as the driving force, so as to enable internal qi to run in the whole body at will, which is the mechanism of running of internal qi.
In the article New Comprehension of Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field, Zang Baodong believes that, the qi in “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” is not the air breathed, but a reflection of a kind of biological pulse which is transmitted into nerves and to cerebral cortex after various receptors of nerve endings receive external and internal stimulations of human body; qi can also be regarded as a kind of special reflection of nervous function under certain condition. When human body is exercising under a relaxing and quieting state, capillaries open under such impacts as innervation, muscle flexing and biochemical and bioelectrical changes, these perivascular nerve receptors are stimulated and then transmit nerve impulses to the brain’s sensory center, causing such feelings as “numb, hot and distending“, which is “qi” or so called “internal qi”. The running of qi is closely related to the running of blood, which coincides with the views of traditional Chinese medicine that “Blood runs if qi runs, and blood stagnates if qi stagnates”, and “Blood is the mother of qi”. He also emphasizes that both air inhalation and air exhalation can “sink Qi to Cinnabar Field”. Upon air inhalation, due to that rhythmic slow actions cause breathing to gradually become natural, deep and long, inspiratory diaphragm moves down more, and will give a kind of beneficial gentle extrusion massage to abdominal organs, thus transforming the stimulations of intra-abdominal receptors into bioelectrical impulses, which are transmitted via sensory nerves to the sensory center in brain, hence causing the feeling of “qi” rushing to the lower abdomen, which is the so called “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field”. Upon air exhalation, due to that diaphragm moves up, sphincter ani relaxes, lower abdominal pressure reduces, and the closed capillaries in abdomen suddenly open, there will be a kind of warm nerve feeling in abdomen, which means a success in “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field”.
In the article Cinnabar Field·Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field·Ideation of Cinnabar Field, Jiang Shan points out that, the Cinnabar Field referred to in “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” can be located in the lower abdomen and the entire pelvic cavity of human body, namely the area in abdominal cavity below umbilicus till the bottom of pelvic cavity. In the infra-umbilical abdominal cavity, there are mainly such organs as small intestine, large intestine, kidneys, nephric duct, etc. In the pelvic cavity, in addition to bladder and rectum, a male also has an ampulla of deferent duct and a seminal vesicle; the pelvic part of deferent duct ranges from sidewall of pelvic cavity, upper back part of bladder to the bottom of bladder; and there is prostate below bladder. In the pelvic cavity of a female, there are also ovaries and oviducts, and there are uterus and vagina between bladder and rectum. “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” means that genuine qi sinks from thoracic cavity via adbominal cavity down to the bottom of pelvic cavity, and it sinks slowly among various organs in thoracic, adbominal and pelvic cavities. Ideation of Cinnabar Field means that using an idea to think of that genuine qi is filled among the aforesaid organs in infra-umbilical abdominal cavity and pelvic cavity, and genuine qi gently infiltrates these organs.
III. Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field and Abdominal Breathing
The term “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field(qì chén dān tián)” sounds very abstruse at first, actually it means deep breathing in modern language. Generally normal breathing is thoracic breaghing, which is shallow breathing relative to abdominal breathing. Abdominal breathing not only makes thoracic cavity to expand and contract more fully, and improves the air-inflation rate of pulmonary bubbles, but also causes various viscera and bowels as well as various tissues and structures such as secreting glands, junctional membranes, membrane envelopes, nerves, meridians and muscle fibers in abdominal cavity and thoracic cavity to generate relative movement, and hence gently squeeze and massage each other, which is the so-called “surging of Cinnabar Field(dān tián gǔ dàng)”. The air inhaled into pulmonary alveolis by a person in breathing is impossible to enter adbominal cavity through the tissues in his body.A person has the feeling of sinking qi when he “sinks Qi to Cinnabar Field”, just because that the tissues in abdominal cavity relax and sink down. The aforesaid viewpoint was also proved when I interviewed experts, and it is found that, when a person sinks Qi to Cinnabar Field, his caudal vertebra sinks downward and contracts forward, which changes the backward bending radian of the waist, and is more advantageous to relaxing and sinking of abdominal organs.
Different breathing patterns produce different impacts on human body. “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” is a manifestation of deep breathing, and it can help human body strengthen oxygen supply and discharge large amounts of carbon dioxide, so it plays very big roles in the metabolism exchange process. The reasons lie in that, on one hand, slow and conscious deep breathing can improve the alkali content in human body, accelerate heart beating and blood circulation, thus transmit more oxygen and nutrients to human body through blood; on the other hand, trash and toxins in body are discharged out of body through deep breathing and sweats, which can effectively reduce the acid content in body, and maintain a balance of chemical compositions in human body. In addition, deep breathing can also promote shock of blood and lymphatic fluid and hence free circulation thereof, restore the connections among various nervous systems, as a result, various nerve endings also cheer up, and directly or indirectly stimulate blood vessels, which enhances the nutrition of muscle due to improvement of metabolism. Furthermore, abdomen is the place where the yin meridians among twelve meridians of the conception vessel joint together, and where many important acupuncture points and autonomic nerve plexuses of human body are distributed; deep breathing makes abdominal muscles to generate regular ups and downs, which can not only effectively stimulate relevant acupuncture points and autonomic nerves, but also massage the liver, intestines and stomach. Thus it can be seen that, abdominal breathing is a kind of scientific method in life nurturing and health care through Health Qigong for promoting the running of blood and qi.
It can be found through the aforesaid discussion that, the feeling of sinking qi in “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” does not mean that the air in breathing enters abdominal cavity, but mean that various tissues in abdominal cavity relax and sink downward, due to the change in intra-abdominal pressure caused by increase in the amplitude of up and down movement of diaphragm. For beginners, they can succeed in “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” from two aspects, namely changing the external shape of spinal column and changing the breathing pattern. In aspect of shape of spinal column, it focuses on changing the radian of thoracic vertebra and lumbar vertebra; while in aspect of breathing pattern, it focuses on changing thoracic breathing to abdominal breathing.
When an exerciser succeeds in reaching the state of “Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field” through efforts, he not only makes his thoracic cavity to expand and contract more fully, and improves the air-inflation rate of his pulmonary bubbles, but also causes various viscera and bowels as well as various secreting glands, junctional membranes, membrane envelopes, nerves, meridians and muscle fibers in abdominal cavity and thoracic cavity to squeeze and massage each other, which exerts active roles in life nurturing and health care.
Reference: Exploring Analysis on Sinking Qi to Cinnabar Field(pdf) by Lin Zhihua Chinese Health QiGong Association jsqg.sport.org.cn
Let the void be your cauldron
Let nature be your furnace
for your primary ingredient, take stillness
for your reagent, use quietude
for mercury, take your vital essence
for lead, use your daily energy
for water use, restraint
for fire, take meditation.
Reference: A Complete Guide to Chi-gung by Daniel P. Reid p.81
Practise Qigong for one day,
One Will receive a day’s benefit.
If one stops practicing Qigong for one day,
It will be equivalent to losing one hundred days’ benefits.
If one stops practicing for one hundred days,
One get no benefit through all his life.
Life Will become an empty dream.
Shen Xiaodong, Shanghai Qigong Institute
Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin is a simply, refined, smooth, graceful, and effective health-preserving exercise which contains deep health-preserving philosophy and is deeply welcomed by the common people. This paper provides a detailed analysis of “Qi” and “Mind” in Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin exercise according to the practicing process of Health Qigong •Ba Duan Jin.
“Integrated Qi between Heaven and Earth” in Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin Exercise
The “integration of three regulations” is the core and feature of health Qigong exercise. The body regulation, breath regulation, and mind regulation are everything we can use for self-regulation of both body and mind. The three regulations are commonly seen and practiced in our daily activities but the “integration of three regulations” is difficult to achieve. Health Qigong is exactly aimed at achieving such a state. The “integration” of “integration of three regulations” should refer to “Qi”. Zhuangzi said “Qi runs throughout the entire world” (Zhuangzi: Zhi Bei You). Huang Di Nei Jing: Su Wen: Bao Ming Quan Xing Lun says: “when Qi between the heaven and earth was integrated, man was created” and “man was created with the Qi between heaven and earth and lives by the rules of the four seasons”. Man can actively and consciously realize the “concordance of Qi” of his body and mind and merges his own life into the tremendous steam of life in the cosmos. Man can actively maintain his own health and assist the circulation and development of life between heaven and earth.
Qi is the source of life and motive power for vitality. Qi “cannot be seen, cannot be heard, and cannot be touched” (Lao Tzu). Qi is beyond our sensory organs. We cannot represent it, objectify it, or consolidate it. But we can learn it by establishing a concept with our mind.
Qi has is intrinsic rules and principles of operation, which are exact “Dao”. There is only one way to master Qi: to merge ourselves into “Qi” and “Tao”. We should “get relaxed and natural”, lay down our preoccupation and sensory organs, empty our heart and mind, and then The forms of things all in it crouch; Eluding touch, eluding sight; There are their semblances, all right. Profound it is, dark and obscure; Things’ essences all there endure. Those essences the truth enfold” (Lao Tzu).
The movements of Qi in the human body can be understood as “ascending, descending, incoming, outgoing” circular movements. “Extension Tao Outlook” is advocated by the Chinese culture. It is believed that all things in the world moves in circles like the universe. This is also the case with the operation of Qi in the body. Qi runs in the body through the Twelve Regular Meridians and the Eight Extra Meridians like rings. Qi of the human body also communicates with Qi of the heaven and earth through acupoints on the body surfaces. The human body is an open “macrosystem” (Qian Xuesen). On the one hand, our body performs material metabolism with the outside world. On the other hand, the functional activity systems (e.g. meridians, spirit, Qi, and essence) of our life also have energy and information transmissions and exchanges with the outside world. “Man is connected to heaven and earth” (Huang Di Nei Jing: Ling Shu: Xie Ke). Man is a small cosmos. The changes of things in the environment have certain connections with the physiological changes of man. This is called “Induction between Heaven and Man”.
By carefully analyzing every movement of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin, we can find that all three movements embody the association and connection between the human body and Qi of heaven and earth. In “Holding the Hands High with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs”, both arms are required to be rounded and pushed upward and both feed are required to be firmly pressed onto the ground as if taking roots in the ground. The exerciser will be like “standing upright on his two legs between heaven and earth”, connecting the upper and lower Qi of the human body and merging it with Qi of the heaven and earth. In “Posing as an Archer Shooting Both Left- and Right-Handed”, the exerciser is required to draw an imaginary bow as if shooting an arrow, pulling the arms, shoulders, and the back leftward and rightward and directing the thought towards the boundary between heaven and earth in the distance. And the legs are kept in a Horse Stance with five toes anchored onto the ground. This can be called “shooting the heaven and anchoring the earth”. In “Holding One Arm Aloft to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and Stomach”, one arm is held up against the heaven and the other is held down towards the earth as if holding up a cauldron with great power. This is called “propping up heaven and pressing earth”. In “Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain”, both arms rotate outward, the head and arms are turned, the chest is square and the abdomen is drawn back. Qi is concentrated in Baihui Acupoint. The entire body looks like a high tower which takes in Qi from heaven and earth. This is called “twisting heaven and bending earth”. In “Shaking Head and Tail to Dispel Heart Fire”, the head and hips are shaken while the waist is rotated and the body is turned. They respectively take circular movements which are corresponding to the rotating movement-one of the fundamental movements of the universe. This is called “turning heaven and rotating earth”. In “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist”, both hands move downward from the top, run along the body to the back, reach to the ground and stretch forward, and finally slowly move up from the front of the body, as if both hands are moving in a circle around the body to infuse Qi of heaven and earth into the body. This is called “receiving heaven and connecting earth”. In “Thrusting the Fists and Making the Eyes Glare to Enhance Strength”, both fists are clenched and thrust alternately into the air. Both legs are firmly kept in a Horse Stance. And the eyes glare at the same time to produce tremendous power and grandeur. It is called “thrusting heaven and clenching earth”. The last routine “Seven Movements of the Back to Eliminate all Diseases”, the heels are feet are lifted and then released. The head and neck are kept straight and lifted as if propping up something. The lower part of the body is held to the ground as if being pressed by a very heavy object. This is called “propping up heaven and bumping earth”.
“Coordinated Form and Spirit” in Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin Exercise
Health Qigong exercise is a resting and growing process. In our daily life and work, all kinds of mental and physical damages are inevitable and consume the resources and energies of the body. And Health Qigong is exactly a “magic weapon” for restoring the resources and energy of the body. Our predecessors pointed out that the purpose of Qigong exercise is to “nourish the vital Qi”, “regulate the meridian Qi”, and “consolidate the defensive Qi” in order to help us achieve “sufficient essence, full Qi, and complete spirit”, keep us away from or eliminate diseases, and maintain the internal equilibrium and stability of both the body and mind.
Health Qigong exercise involves thought, which is a great feature of Qigong. The thought has major influences on both our body and mind. Compared with animals, man is more susceptible to diseases, probably because our thoughts are too disorderly and frequent. It is believed in traditional Qigong theories that thoughts have to be “neither forgotten nor assisted” and have to be placed between adherence and non-adherence. Huang Di Nei Jing says: “To treat deficiency pathogens, we need to avoid wind with good timing. If we stay indifferent to fame or gain and keep a vacant heart, the genuine Qi will follow us, the essence spirit will be contained, and diseases will be prevented.” During health Qigong exercise, we should learn to maintain an indifferent mental state and draw back into our own body. We should neither eradicate thoughts nor become over-absorbed by the mind.
Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin is a moving exercise dominated by Daoyin of movements. As a Qigong exercise, however, it has its own requirements on thought. “Being relaxed, serene, and natural” is the threshold and orientation of Qigong. During the exercise of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin, we should always maintain a long and unhurried thought, keep our mind peaceful and delighted, naturally relaxed our body, and make our movements smooth, round, and continuous. In the preparative stance of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin, we should not only bring our body into an empty and relaxed state, but also quiet our mind, eliminate distracting thoughts, evil intentions, and stupor in order to keep our mind in “subtle and continuous” indifference and delight. As is described in Qigong tips, “when we keep our spirit in a serene state, the form will be naturally upright” (Zhuangzi: Zai You). While quieting, emptying, and relaxing our body and mind, our body will naturally become soft and comforted. In this way we can “maintain both body and spirit and live to the full length of our life” (Huang Di Nei Jing: Su Wen: Shang Gu Tian Zhen Lun).
To sum up, Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin is dignified and graceful. Its movements are internally smooth and externally straight and full and circular. Its process is like moving clouds and flowing water. Qi circulates throughout the body to straighten bones, soften tendons, and facilitate blood and Qi circulation. While practicing Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin, we need to enter a good state of “integrated Qi of heaven and earth” and “coordinated form and spirit” through the “Three Regulations” in order to achieve the fundamental objectives of Health Qigong exercise.
Allow one’s exhalation to flow out naturally and one’s inhalation to enter the body freely.
Exhale so as to reach the far ends of the Universe and inhale so as to concentrate our breath infinitesimally to a point in the lower abdomen.
Ki in Daily Life
by Koichi Tohei