NOTES FROM THE TRAINING HALL – JI BEN GONG
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. This will not only slow your progress and retard your skill but it will diminish the art and its purpose. No student of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts would historically, at least in China be allowed to progress deeper into any system unless they had shown their commitment, sincerity and achievement of Ji Ben Gong.
Teachers were typically rigorous in the requirements of Ji Ben Gong since the transformation from martial basics (Ji Ben Gong) to system specific practices happens through the study of Form and Application and unless the foundational skills are already in place Form and Application (Yong Fa) becomes impossible. Ji Ben Gong should sit right at the very beginning of any curriculum of learning and all students should be studying and practicing Ji Ben Gong long before Form.
After many years of training and teaching I am still enjoying Wu Style Taiji Quan Ji Ben Gong. I find these practices continually help me keep on track and self correct. Yes, even teachers should work at the fundamentals and maintain a rigorous practice of Ji Ben Gong otherwise they will become careless and unable to correct students on their path. Even students who do not see themselves as martial artists which is often the case in Taiji Quan need to train the Taiji Quan Ji Ben Gong over and over again. Students who do wish to train in the martial aspects of Taiji Quan must train them even more rigorously and hardwire them into the body and mind circuitry since this is the foundation of a successful learning experience and outcome.
In Shanghai I occasionally witnessed students approach my teacher for guidance and ‘special’ teaching. He would ask them to show their Form etc. After only two or three movements he would politely turn them away. His recommendation was often to practice the fundamental structure, stepping, stretching and folding more carefully in accordance with principles. This he said is the foundation. It can not be neglected. Ji Ben Gong he said should never be underestimated and never be neglected in class or your own private practice. In Taiji he said Ji Ben Gong must be linked to the core principles as outlined in the classics and the Daoist philosophy of Yin and Yang. Movement without principle he said is a waste of time. Principles without movement is empty.
The fundamental/ basic practices of Ji Ben Gong are the first step in a long journey. If you do not get them right in the beginning you will miss your destination by a long mile.
Practice. Patience. Perseverance.