Qi Gong: health, support and martial art
Not to be confused with the "chi" in "tai chi" (or "ji" in taiji), which means "universe", the Chinese concept of ch'i "(old spelling) or" qi "(official modern spelling) , "ki" in Japanese, refers to the energy in or the energy of nature, of heaven, the earth, and of the human body.
The Qi flows through our body following channels, meridians, which can be influenced at sensitive nodes.
In TCM ("Traditional Chinese Medicine") "Kung" or "Gong" refers to results that are achieved through repeated and dedicated practice. "Ch'i Kung" or "qi gong" is the improvement of our body energy-flow through the practice of certain exercises designed specifically for that purpose.
Qi is one of the "Three Treasures" Jing, Qi and Shen. Jing is the power and energy that someone has inherited at birth. "Qi" results from this original jing, and the jing extracted from food and air. Shen is the spritual force that originates from jing and qi . Qi gong works on three levels:
- Qi gong regulates the body through relaxation and stability.
- Qi gong deepens breathing, which promotes relaxation and relieves stress.
- Qi Gong, quiets the mind.
- He who has acquired a relaxed, stable posture, deep breathing and a calm mind through qi gong, can use energy when and where it is needed.
- A relaxed body increases immunity.
- Eventually, strength is developed through motivation: determination, patience, and perseverance.
Hence, it becomes clear that qi gong exercises are more than mere. They relax, renew, bring calm and regulate the energy flow in the body. There are hundreds of qi gong-schools [Marius:kan volgens mij met en zonder koppelteken]. Some, through the years, have acquired a strong reputation thanks to their perceived effects.
Of the various qi gong schools, some are rather soft, others are stronger or very strong.
The soft qi gong schools include:
- Ba duan jin (eight pieces of brocade)
- Taiji qigong siba-shi (18 different exercises)
- Wu qin xi (5 animals qigong)
Somewhat stronger and of a more technical nature are:
- Chan Ssu jin (the extraction of the silk thread)
- Dayan qi gong (wild goose qigong)
Among the stronger are:
- Zhan Zhuang Gong ( "tree standing")
- Yi jin jing (tendon stretching and bone marrow washing)
- The small (and large) heavenly orbit
- Iron shirt qi gong
An alternative view on the diversity of qi gong, is a classification following posture: exercices lying down, sitting, standing or walking. Some consider also tantra as being a kind of qi gong pratcice.
In our classes we primarily use the soft qigong forms, which are characterized especially by a relaxing, stress relieving and an overall healing effect, and thus fit in well with preventive self-care.
Ba Duan Jin
Ba duan jin, the eight pieces of silk, is one of the most famous schools of qigong. It is a very old school, that’s been existing for more than a thousand years. It consists of two sets, one sitting, one standing. The standing set is the best known and almost universally spread. Some of the exercises are executed both left and right, resulting in a set of thirteen executions in total. Every exercise can be executed once, twice, four times or even more in order to increase the intensity.
Taiji qigong shibashi
This series is sometimes called "eighteen poses “ qi gong . "Taiji Qigong" was developed in 1982 in Shanghai by He Weiqi (tai chi) and Lin Hou-Sheng (qi gong). They combined the traditional exercises of qi gong and tai chi chuan. The shibashi is described in the book "Qigong" by Michael Tse and "Tai Chi Qi Gong" by Gary Khor. Jenny Tang, a niece of He weiqi, made a DVD concerning this practice.
Wu qin xi
The "5 animal frolics" qigong or "wu qin xi" is almost two thousand years old: Hua Tuo, a physician of the Chinese emperor, was the first to perform it around the year 200. The exercises of the crane, the monkey, the tiger, the bear and the deer can be approached both as qigong and as a fighting technique. Both crane and ape and tiger and bear are complementary, the deer representing the balance of yin and yang. Wu qin xi is closely linked to wu xing, the approach of health of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), known as "5 elements": the crane refering to fire, the ape to earth, the tiger to metal, the bear to water and the deer to wood. Wu qin xi is a very gentle, but also very effective style of qigong. We practice the version of Xue Zhi Wang of this style. This version consists of five exercises for each of the five animals.
Chan ssu jin
Chan Ssu Jin means "the unrolling of the silk thread”. The hands move as if they’re pulling a coiled silk thread: evenly, without tugging, but with a certain tension. The wire is unrolled, but must not break. The movement of the hand follows a Tai Chi yang symbol with the hands first following yang, then yin, and finally following the full circle. These exercises can be performed standing or walking.
Dayan qi gong
Dayan qi gong, or "Wild Goose" qi gong, is a very comprehensive qi gong school. It includes several sets which form a sequence of exercises, as in a tai chi chuan form. The first set of 64 exercises for instance, tells the story of a day in the life of a goose. In China, geese are valued for their strength and perseverance. These sets are extremely “revitalising”.
Dayan qi gong became well known through the teachings of Yang Meijun. She had several advanced students, all of whom greatly contributed to the dissemination of the "Wild Goose" qi gong.
Zhan Zhuang Gong
Zhan Zhuang is a part of "Yi Quan" and is better known as "stand still like a tree". In this style, certain postures are taught that are endured in motionlessness during a certain time. While retaining such posture, one can focus on the relaxation of one’s ankles, knees, shoulders, on a good posture and energy flow through the body.
Zhan Zhan gong is the first step in Yi Quan. After practicing motionlessness, exercises follow in slow movement, walking slow, and, eventually, fighting technique. Thereby, one tries to preserve what was experienced and acquired while practicing motionlessness. Zhan zhuang gong is therefore called the basis of martial arts.
Yi jin jing
Stretching tendons and bone marrow washing are the effects of "Yi Jin Jing", a qigong form that allegedly descended from Bodhidharma. It is a very strong qigong, which removes negative energy by stretching tendons and cleaning bone marrow with qi flow. The development of an “elixir of life” is linked to it, i.e. the idea that the body itself can create the drugs it needs by practicing the right exercises. While performing jin yi jing, some bodily postures are kept for a short while.
The micro (and –macro) cosmic orbit
The microcosmic orbit, as qigong exercise, slightly resembles Kundalini yoga and can also be considered to be a form of meditation. The goal is to remove energy blockages through a cycle of qi.
Imagine being in a state of rest, breathing in through your nose, feeling the air, filling your abdomen with air and energy. While exhaling, imagine that the air and the energy flows between your legs, along the tail bone, over your back and your head, leaving your body through your nose. In this way, a full cycle of energy is accomplished. This cycle can be realised in several ways.
In the macrocosmic orbit, one absorbs energy from the universe. In that sense, the exercise has a nourishing purpose.
Iron shirt qi gong
Mantak Chia promoted this type of qi gong. The purpose of these qi gong exercises is that the limbs would become like "steel wrapped in cotton". They consist of the “inner washing" of bones, the extension of muscles and joints, and the development of “firmly rooted” postures.
Diverse qi gong exercises
There are a lot of individual qi gong exercises, which do not explicitly belong to a school but are widely transmitted by teachers. Interesting examples are to be found in books like “Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body "by BK Frantzis', "Qigong" by Michael Tse, or in the video "Qigong" by Bigkun Hu.
There are also newer qigong schools, such as the "Kuan Yin Qigong" by Li Jun Feng, former coach of the Chinese Wushu team, and his daughter Li Jing. The recent reconstonstruction of the Ma Wang Dui-series, is also very interesting.
Qi gong and Martial Arts are a whole
Martial arts and qi gong are closely linked. The first requisite for good health is safety, which can be ensured by martial arts. Conversely, a practitioner of martial arts needs a good health as a basis to perform technique. Martial arts such as aikido and tai chi chuan are conceived to have a major health-promoting aspect. And that is perhaps the most important connection, making people sick is a form of attack, a form of violence. Staying healthy, and more generally speaking “self care” is the first step in a strategy of self defense.