There is a saying in the Chinese ‘Internal‘ boxing arts like Taiji Quan; ‘Use the mind not force’.(Yong Yi Bu Yong Li) This is a foundational concept in the ‘Internal’ martial arts and is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp and even harder to achieve. The idea that Yi (Generally translated as intention) should take precedence over force (Li) contradicts the natural ‘fight’ response we are more familiar with where muscle power, speed and an instinctive physiological and cognitive response that focuses on ‘fight or flight’ takes control. As a defining concept it also determines the manner, order and strategies of training. (More on this another time) Wether you are training form, pushing hands, applications or sparring, wether it is for therapeutic (Qi Gong/Dao Yin) or martial training, the idea that ‘force’ (dominance of muscle) must be subjugated … Read More »
Ji Ben Gong is the term given in Chinese martial arts (Guo Shu) to the fundamental training practices that are necessary to achieve basic physical and martial skills. There are many exercises and practices that constitute Ji Ben Gong as each style of traditional Chinese boxing will have specialised postural, stepping, striking and kicking skills that are basic and which serve to train the core principles of that art.
Traditionally any student wishing to learn a martial system would spend many hours practicing the core stances, steps, striking and kicking methods etc before they even learned a ‘Form’. This is Ji Ben Gong and it functions as a preparation not only for strengthening, shaping and preparing the body and mind but also teaching fundamental martial skills. To neglect Ji Ben Gong means you are neglecting the very basics of martial functionality. … Read More »
The most fundamental of the many ‘trained’ energies or Jin that comprise the art of Taiji is the skill of ‘Song’ Jin.
Its full title might read ‘Fang Song Jin’ but in Taiji this term is abbreviated to Song Jin and it is probably the most commonly used term in the specialised vocabulary of Taiji Quan. The full term Fang Song is more generally reserved for Qi Gong practices. ‘Fang’ means to liberate, let go, to free and ‘Song’ means ‘to loosen’ or ‘slacken’. Interstingly the same character also denotes a pine tree which in Chinese culture is symbolic of longevity. This may indicate the desired health outcome of achieving this particular skill. Fang Song is however specialised technical terminology used in Qi Gong and Taiji Quan practices and as such its meaning often stretches beyond ordinary usage and takes on … Read More »
The most important theoretical aspect to consider when reviewing the ‘Internal’ in Nei Jia Quan is that they are ‘embodied’ concepts/philosophy. These concepts are unique to traditional Chinese culture and they actively shape the methods and combat strategies of these boxing systems.
The foundational framework in Taiji Quan is Yin/Yang theory. As the primary method and martial namesake (Taiji = Yin/Yang) it is obvious that we need to understand how Yin/Yang theory becomes a defining principle of this Taiji boxing system.
The cosmological theory of Taiji refers to the two emergent states of Yin and Yang. Visually this is expressed in the Taiji diagram often referred to as ‘two swimming fish’. In this diagram, Yang/White holds a balanced predominantly upper state in relationship to Yin/Black which sits below. Both express the theory of interdependence and continuous transformation from one to the other … Read More »
There is often much discussion about the relative merits and characteristics of the Internal/External schools of Chinese boxing. Most of these discussions seem to be generated by practitioners who seek clarity on what has become a cloudy and often misunderstood martial classification. Interestingly it seems to be a conversation that means more to the practitioners of the so called ‘Internal’ schools than those of the ‘External’ schools. In addition it is also a conversation that is more likely to be had amongst western practitioners than amongst Chinese practitioners who in my experience see less conflict in the two terms.
In the spirit of shedding some light on the discussion, I have decided to put down some comments based upon my own experience and from what I have learned from my years of study under my Master Li Li Qun and more … Read More »
I recently had a conversation with someone who was seeking qi gong advice. She was four years into a serious and degenerative condition and was looking for ‘alternative’ therapies that might help her manage her symptoms and perhaps much more. She had come across qi gong on the web and found many testaments to its efficacy. When she contacted me she expressed her confusion over the differences between Therapeutic and Medical qi gong. Both terms had cropped up in online chats so I thought I would put down some notes based upon that conversation for anyone wondering the same.
As an overview, it is fair to say that all qi gong can be considered as Therapeutic. If we take for example a common definitions of Therapeutic we see that qi gong definitely fits. Therapeutic – relating to the healing of disease; … Read More »
Tai Ji Quan is called Supreme Ultimate Boxing, Great Polarity Boxing and Yin Yang Boxing. Tai Ji Quan is a sophisticated martial Art, a health practice, a meditation, physical poetry,
embodied philosophy and spirituality. It is restoring, healing and nourishing. It is a way of life.
Tai Ji Quan is demanding, subtle, intelligent and natural.
It is fluid and continuous, still and lively, mysterious and simple, gentle and powerful. Tai Ji Quan is a flowing river.
Tai Ji is born of Wu Ji and is the source of Yin and Yang. Everything is generated from Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang give birth to endless changes. Yin and Yang are symbolised by the Tai Ji diagram showing two opposing but balanced states, interdependent, constantly merging and separating, becoming and dispersing, changing and transforming endlessly seeking balance, harmony and unity.
Every movement expresses Yin and Yang. … Read More »
I’m always reminded when teaching Taiji that people often embark on learning Taiji with one of three outcome in mind. I refer to these as achievements. The first is Taiji for its health benefits. This is by far the most popular reason for seeking out a class. The second is Taiji as a traditional martial art which has had a well deserved resurgence in the last decade but still is not an achievement that many people aim towards when they start a Taiji class. Third, and less mainstream than the previous two is Taiji as embodied philosophy and spirituality. That it is possible to achieve all three of these outcomes from one ‘art’ is remarkable. Achieving any one of them however is a long journey and if you take the three achievements in the order I have written them you … Read More »
I am frequently asked how practice benefits us in our daily lives. I normally say that to understand that you need to remember what you were like before you began a regular practice and imagine what you might be like now if you had not persevered.
Most of us pursue these arts because we want to feel different not just in our bodies but emotionally as well. We want to act differently, cope better or just feel the gentle emergence of our potential. In short we want to change something.
Beyond the obvious physical benefits of a regular practice, I think it is always worth remembering the more subtle aims and changes that sincere, regular and correct practice offers us and how they translate into benefits.
Firstly these Daoist practices teach us to cultivate stillness. This does not come in one hit but evolves … Read More »
Part 3- Mind
I have often been asked by students of Qi Gong how they can enhance their practice. I generally look at what they are practicing before I comment since the problems may lie in the mechanical and technical aspects of their Qi gong. These are the obvious and external qualities that are reasonably easy to rectify. Assuming all is well there I then consider the less obvious and more internal qualities like respiratory technique and integration and then lastly and arguably the most important of the Triple Unity of Body, Breath and Mind (Qing, Qi and Shen) that comprise the practice of Qi Gong, I consider the mind, since it is this last aspect of our practice that often is most easily neglected.
Mind or Shen ( often referred to in its more mundane aspect as Xin) is an incredibly complex … Read More »