Qi Gung, the lost art. Part 1
Once again the reason I titled this article Qi Gung (the lost art) is because instructors make this vital process in martial arts too complicated or don’t themselves know enough about it to make it easy to learn. In this article I will try to simplify the instructions, so you can start work on your QI balance today!But first, a very short history on the subject and then we train!
Dama, a Buddhist preacher who traveled from India to China to teach the Buddhist philosophy to the Chinese monks, living there. He, Dama was the father of what we now know as, QI Gung . The Country of India had already established forms of Medical therapy and exercise along these lines but Dama seeing that the community of monks were, in fact, drained of energy and vitality, were not able to stay alert and responsive to the rituals which are a part of Buddhist practice. Dama, unable to correct the problem at first, reportedly retreated to a cave and meditated for nine years on this difficulty. When he emerged from the cave he created two forms of exercise to help the monks to regain there energy and vitality. These two forms were very different from the ones found in India. Although they shared similar foundations, Dama’s two exercise’s provided movement and were not static in nature. In this way, QI Gung was formed, and in time Qi Gung became, quit by accident, a basic building block for all the forms of Chinese martial arts.
Later all other systems, soft and hard, would adopt Qi Gung into its regiments of formal exercise. Even the Okinawa martial arts adopted Qi Gung into their practices. And in some cases the higher forms of karate still do incorporate Qi Gung into their fighting arts. But in time as karate became simplified, Chi Kung (Qi Kung) was dropped from the traditional practices. But In the original Gung Fu and Karate systems they were never meant to be separated from the fighting arts or dropped altogether. Originally the fighting arts and Qi Gung were all part of the system and were practiced by the all students at the same time as the fighting arts. One of the reasons for dropping the Qi Gung practices was time to make the art quicker to learn. They would drop certain aspects of training, one of them, basic vital points the other Chi Kung. But in times past, they were a part of what the masters today called, “the old ways”.
The name Qi, simply put means “internal energys”, and the word Gung means “work” or “to work’. The combination of the two words, “to work on the internal energy systems”, by way of breathing and messaging certain points of the body. This type of energy work would be best described by telling you what it is not! It is not necessarily strength having to do with muscle. It is not necessarily power ( having to do with mightiness), and it is not necessarily speed having to do with quickness although the end result is all these will improve greatly. Qi Gung is producing core energy, in the places the core energy originates, not were it ends up. Qi is the energy that flows through the System of the body by way of, a liquid-chemical chain like system called meridians which by way of this liquid-chemical mixture, energy is created, stored, transported to every part of the body, brain, nerves, organs, skin etc… The wrong type or amount will cause sickness and or disease. On this fact the higher martial arts is based, for it is possible to enter a pulse of QI into an opponents body which will disturb the opponents QI balance. This type of ability comes directly from the practice of long term QI Gung practice. It also is a self help management tool for keeping fit, healing, and helping to heal others.
Qi Gung practice starts with the breathing process which is focused on pressure points found inside the human body. The type of practice to start with depends on the general health of the individual. I will go about this discussion by starting with the sickly individual and go on to the healthier one, and what that may mean (Sickly and healthy). And we will get to know why the ancestor’s practiced QI Gung and why in the orient it is still practiced even today. Qi Gung is in use today as a form of therapy by oriental peoples, along with medical forms and practices like cupping, acupressure, acupuncture, message, herbal tea’s and foods, as well as western medicines. All have a place in eastern medicine in this culture.
The alpha and omega of eastern medicine is, our emotions. The state of our emotion is what can dictate the difference between good health and illness, also life and death. In eastern medicine, the freeing of a negative emotion is the key to good health. There are many things we can do to free our selves from a negative emotional state. When I ride on my motor cycle, I find myself too involved in the controls and the beauty of the country side to think about how I feel. It is that way with many things we do. Isn’t it? Meditation works much the same way. Meditation provides a way of emptying one self of negative (destructive) emotions and can bring oneself to a balanced peaceful place in the spirit. The primary tool used in meditation is a tool called quiet. The goal of QI Gung is for the mind, the spirit, and the organ of the human body to be still in a sense to be quiet. And the way to use this tool (quiet) is by using the imagination. Yes the key factor in the practice of Qi Gung is your imagination. if you don’t have one you will not be very successful. So get one!
MAKING THE MIND QUITE
In this exercise one needs to make the brain (mind) quiet. This you will find is not that easy. You may find that it is very hard at first to quiet down your mind. You may have to work at it for a time, but this process is a must for your health and the building of the stillness of mind needed to be a good martial artist, as well as healthy in body, mind, and spirit. I find that in the arts I can tell right away, the ones practicing Qi Gung from the ones who are not. The ones who are not trying to anticipate your moves, for the most part that’s impossible, but they will try anyway. Also the ones that can’t shut up and always think there being treated unfairly. The Qi Gung practitioner’s mind is quiet enough to see his opponents move coming, as if in slow motion. This may only be done by having a quiet mind. So now lets start the process in which we can open a quiet mind. We can start by following the coming directions.
ESSENTIAL NOURISHING EXERCISE
This is a wonderful exercise when you find your mind going a mile a minute or you can’t sleep at night because your mind is racing. Intrinsic nourishing exercise, is one of the main types of stationary breathing exercises. It requires you to regulate your breathing, imagine your self directing your breath downwards to the Dan Tian. While you think a thought in your minds eye, move your tongue to the roof of your mouth in the inhale and down and relaxed on the exhale.
Step 1. There are four suggested postures, you will pick one according to your health condition.
- A: Lay sideways; Get in your bed, with your head on a pillow, lay side ways and tilt your head slightly forwards. Curve your back slightly. Place your hand (the one that would be on the bed) Palm up beside your ear. Place your other arm along your body with the palm on your leg. The legs should have a slight curve, one leg on top of the other. This should feel very natural to you and comfortable. Many people find themselves going to sleep in just this type of posture.
- B: Supine posture; This one is when you lie flat on your back in bed. Place your head on a pillow, stretch your arms along the side of your body with the palms facing in towards the body.
- C: Sitting posture; Sit on a chair, keeping the back straight but relaxed. Feet flat on the ground shoulder wide. Relax the shoulder and chest.
- D: Strengthening posture; Lay in the same way as the supine posture but under your head put two pillows (eight inches of lift) and put one pillow under your back and shoulder, which will give your body a sloping effect. Stretch both legs out and then relax them side by side. The arm should be stretched one on each side with the palms against the sides if your legs.
The Supine posture is used when a person is ill or sickly. In this case the person would choose the right or left side according to comfort factor. A person with a problem with his colon, may feel more comfortable on his left side or some one with a heart problem on his right. The other posture may be used as one feels and according to what works best for the individual.
Note: to learn the Qi Gung exercises correctly, first you will need to learn how to relax, breath and quiet the mind and the spirit. Then you can go on with the correct more complicated precess of Qi Gung. Although there are many forms of Qi Gung they are all basically the same in nature.
Now that we know four starting postures, lets learn more about breathing. There are three method of breathing.
- Breathing method #1, Simplified; Mouth closed lightly, breathing through the nose, inhale air, and imagine you can direct it down past the lungs, past the stomach to a place located behind the intestine, one and a half inches below the umbilicus (belly button), just in front of your vertebra called the Dan Tian. Hold your breath there for one second, then exhale smoothly and slowly. As your breathing in, think the words “quiet mind” or “I’m breathing in health” or “I’m relaxed”. These thoughts should be slow enough to last through the inhale and exhale process. When you breath in, touch you tongue to the roof of your mouth, lower your tongue as you exhale.
- Breathing method, #2, Simplified; The difference with this method is to change the holding of the breath. Instead of holding breath in the Dan Tian, you will breath in then out and then hold your breath for one second and then think the thoughts in method #1. Every thing else is just the same as method # 1.
- Breathing method #3, Simplified; Inhale, with your tongue placed against the roof of your mouth, and take a breath through the nose then hold your breath, again inhale a little more air, imagining the air going down to Dan Tian, as you say a word in your mind. Again inhale a little more, saying a word in your mind. Do this as many times as possible. Then relax the tongue placing it normally exhale slowly and smoothly. In all exercises, there should be no sound when inhaling or exhaling.
THE DAN TIAN AND HOW TO CONCENTRATE ON IT
Originating in India, the Dan Tian is a common term used in many Qi Gung exercises and known also to most of the martial arts systems as well. Medically the Dan Tian or Ren # 6, (Qi Hai) is located 1,5 inches below the umbilicus. Of course, this fact differs from one martial art to another.
To fined Dan Tian, place your finger 1 and a half inches below your belly button and with the other hand, place the finger of the opposite hand, at the side of your hip. Where the lines of your two fingers cross in the core of your body is were the true Dan Tian is located. The doctors of ancient Chinese medicine say that Dan Tian is the place were vital energy rises and gathers. If a person concentrates his mind (imagination) on it, he can ward off illness and disease. The Dan Tian, is the place were fighting energy and sexual energy is stored.
All traditional martial arts teach this but much of the practice for concentrating on Dan Tian has been lost, due to the modernization of martial arts into a more acceptable sports like art due to the length of time needed to master many ancient methods and processes.
HOW TO CONCENTRATE THE MIND
To keep away from all distracting thoughts, the mind must concentrate. There are three methods for concentration. The most common is the Dan Tian. Another is the Shan Zhang, located at the diaphragm, and on the tips of the toes of the feet. The Dan Tian is the most used although lady’s should use Shan Zhang because of lengthening of there menstrual cycle and if you are plagued by stray thoughts when meditating, you should concentrate on the toe’s. The idea is to stop your mind from wandering wereever it wants to go.
By concentrating your mind on the Dan Tian ( Shan Zhang or toe’s) the mind will become quiet and the mind will rest and regain health. That can translate throughout the whole body. This is the breathing part of the exercise, you need to take the time to master these things first before you go on. Why? I will expand on this exercise later. Be patent, for if you learn this exercise first, you will find great health benefits. Then you can go on to a more difficult expanded exercise. Don’t skip to the next part of the exercises until you’ve mastered this part first. You should do this exercise untill you become very relaxed when doing them and until you can take up to fifty breaths at a sitting, moving from one method to an other. This will take no less then six months to a year to master but as I said before, you will find great benefits in this exercise.
The tonic exercise is the cream of the basic exercise practiced in the Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist religions and adopted by the Shaolin temple and given to all traditional martial arts of ancient times.
- Posture # 1, Free crossed leg posture. Sit on a blanket or pillow to help keep your back straight and relaxed. Cross your leg ( Indian style), close your eyes gently, relax your shoulders as well as the muscles of the neck and chest. Place your hand on your lap holding one an other. Try to keep your back straight but relaxed.
- Posture # 2, Single crossed leg posture. First get into the free crossed leg posture, then place your bottom leg on top of the higher leg so that the soles of the feet are on top facing upwards.
- Posture # 3, Double cross-leg posture. Put your right lower leg on top of your left leg. Then lift your left foot and place it on your right leg so that the two legs cross with the two soles facing out wards.
- Posture # 4, Standing posture. Standing straight with your feet shoulder width apart, knees bent ever so slightly, with your head very slightly bent forwards. Close your eyes gently, relax the neck, shoulders and chest. Place your hand in front of Dan Tian with hands relaxed and your palm face the body. The thumbs on each hand should be spread apart and away from the fingers. Or place the hands in front of the diaphragm in the same way.
- Posture #5, Free posture. You may take any posture you wish other than the ones mention above! If you are exhausted mentally or physically do what you wish. This will improve your condition. But remember to center your mind on the Dan Tian and relax your whole body.
In all cases, keep your back straight and relaxed, don’t slump. Note; any one of the above postures is good as long as you can become relaxed. None of the above postures are better or get you there faster than an other. So find the one that will make you most comfortable and relaxed. That is the goal for choosing the right posture.
- Breathing method # 1, Natural breathing; The is a natural breath function with no restrictions. This is most useful to the older person or the sick person.
- Breathing method # 2, Deep breathing ; Extend your abdomen as you inhale. Breath in slowly, deeply, softly, evenly. Used for some illnesses and people who have trouble quitting there mind.
- Breathing method # 3,Reverse breathing; Contract your diaphragm along with your abdomen, as you inhale, again breath slowly, evenly, softly deeply. Slowly release the diaphragm and expand the abdomen as you exhale as well.Note; Choose a posture then a breathing method and go for it! Experimentation is good, Practice gradually building up to fifty breaths at a sitting. Do not force yourself. Daily practice can help to develop slow, even, soft, deep, breathing technique, which should be your goal.