Thursday, June 21, 2018

Yang Taiji Neigong Exercise



This simple movement is part of the Yang Taiji Neigong, who’s method originally derives from Wudang. In fact a number of parts of the Yang’s Neigong are carbon copies of the much older Wudang Taijiquan which dates back to the early Ming Dynasty.

Traditionally this Neigong was only taught after everything else in the Taiji syllabus had been mastered. The purpose of this training was to cultivate, harness and control one’s own Qi and direct it at will with the speed of the mind.

With Neigong, before the more complex combinations can be learned, we must first be able to ‘sense’ and feel our Qi or in today’s terms, our bio-electromagnetic energy field. The Daoists call this our ‘Energy Body.’
The idea is to become consciously aware of this energy field that both permeates and surrounds us. For most ordinary people this field only extends out a few inches, but with diligent practice of Taiji Neigong a Master like the late Ma Yueh Liang’s field extended many feet in front and behind, above and below into the Earth.

The three internal techniques.
1-- Holding focus in the center of the Dan Tien throughout the movements.
2-- Simultaneously moving the Qi along the Central Channel down through to Hui Yin and up through Baihui on the opening expanding part of the movement. And then returning the Qi to the deep center of the Dantien in the condensing, closing part of the movement. After enough practice a vertical cylinder develops. With continued perseverance this cylinder grows wider until it encompasses the entire body.

When the cylinder is still in its early stage, one begins to feel a movement of energy that is almost a concrete sensation like balls of concentrated ‘warmth or energy moving effortlessly through the cylinder. The cylinder itself is alive with a less ‘intense’ or concentrated version of energy-warmth and Space. This provides a vacuum-like environment within which the Qi can move effortlessly at the speed of the mind.

3-- The third technique involves a total spherical expansion and condensation. From a pinpoint deep in the center of the Dantien out through the boundary of our personal energy field (in the expanding, opening segment) and back again to our deep center. (in the closing, condensing segment) Eventually the arms will sense the outer boundaries of our energy field.

One of the other important Yang Taiji Neigong techniques is ‘holding postures.’ (Zhan Zhuang) But instead of just mindlessly standing there, the Neigong methods of moving the Qi through the channels and Jin pathways are practiced in the various postures.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Ti Jin and An Jin


Ti Jin and An Jin

The ‘Classics’ spell out the internal method of these two jin quite clearly. For Ti Jin (Lifting Strength) “...if you want to go up, first go down...” This means we must sink the Qi into the feet as we apply Ti Jin. For An Jin (Sinking Strength - moving energy down into the Earth.) “...if you want to go down, first go up...” This means that with the Qi already in our feet we allow the Qi to rise upward to the crown (Baihui) as we apply An Jin.

This is a bit of a simplification in that there are often multiple energy flows, many times in contrary motion, that is, simultaneously moving in opposite directions, present in these and other types of Jin.



Friday, January 5, 2018

CULTIVATING YIN QI

Most of us have experienced some of the confirmatory signs of our Yang Qi, such as warmth in the Dan Tien or throughout the body, the feeling of warmth and/or fullness flooding our palms or feet during various Taiji movements. The feeling of rooted heaviness and unified solidity. The feelings of power or inner strength after a proper Fa Jin release. All these are aspects of what we can call ‘Yang (or active) Qi.’

And this is what most people are interested in, for martial power and the like. And this is natural because these are the things we first encounter as we follow through in our training, both with Zhan Zhuang and indeed in any of the internal arts.

But there is a whole other side to what we ordinarily call Qi. And that is the Yin aspect or ‘Yin Qi.’ Of course all this is based on Chinese Medicine theory and Taoist thought. 

After one has developed ‘frame,’ which includes root and the ability to both absorb and issue power in what we might call a highly ‘visible’ manner, it then becomes possible to begin the exploration of the Yin or ‘mysterious’ Qi. Why mysterious? Because in order to properly cultivate and later utilize Yin Qi, it first becomes necessary to let go of a number of cherished martial arts beliefs. Basically this means that ordinarily we will equate speed and ‘strength’ with power. But in the world of Yin Qi we must give up this notion because with the Yin Qi, basically the opposite is true. This means that with Yin Qi, when we feel ‘strong,’ we are in fact weak, and when we feel ‘weak’ or perhaps a better word is effortless, that’s when we’re actually very strong.

So, what is the value of this Yin Qi? Well, besides the obvious health application, for martial arts it goes something like this. It is said Master Wang Xiang Zhai used Taijiquan Yin Qi aspects for neutralizing and diverting, Bagua for footwork and Xingyi generation methods to issue power. So the usefulness of Yin Qi in internal martial arts has to do with its ability to stick and adhere and lead into emptiness. A most useful skill in setting up for or simultaneously returning devastating Yang Qi power.

The big difference when cultivating Yang Qi versus cultivating Yin Qi is that with the Yin Qi we must let go of all the normal feelings of strength and power and instead go for a most profound form of relaxation and focus, such that we may even let go of the shape of our outer form or structure almost entirely, and rely solely on our ‘internal frame’ which we have cultivated over the years, to support our outer structure and later also to deal with incoming power.
The two photos included show both the Yang and Yin Qi Taiji Cultivation postures. Note that the Yang posture is forward-weighted (bow stance) while the Yin Posture is back-weighted, as with Lu, or Rollback. In the Yang posture, the folding of the Kua and the twisting of the torso around the centerline cultivate Taiji’s famous spiral energies. (For those wishing to cultivate very strong Yang Qi it is highly recommended to also train in the Santi posture. Extensive Santi practice cultivates one of the most ‘solid’ forms of Yang Qi. Most effective for devastating penetration power. I believe one famous Xingyi master put it this way, “Where I hit, he breaks.”

Now with the back-weighted Yin Qi cultivation posture, our focus and intention becomes very different. With the Yin posture we want to cultivate what we might call, the ‘empty vessel’ - open to receive (and release) Heaven energy from above and Earth energy from below. After a time one will begin to feel a subtle but tangible flow of a ‘soft,’ almost ethereal ‘substance’, descending from above and entering through the back hand and fingers, circulating throughout the body and smoothly exiting through the front palm and fingers. Later we may also feel this energy entering through Baihui point at the crown of the head and descending through the Central Channel into the ground through the Earth Point and the bottoms of our feet...

Try these for yourself, 5-15 minutes per posture and then switch sides for a total of between 20-60 minutes. Be sure to start with the Yang posture on each side





Thursday, December 21, 2017

ZHAN ZHUANG - CROSSING THE ENERGETIC BOUNDARY

During Zhan Zhuang we experience many different types of ‘organic sensations.’ These sensations or feelings reflect the diverse changes and adjustments the body goes through on the way to refining our Zhong Ding and eventually achieving Song.

These organic sensations many times preoccupy the new student throughout the first several years of training. These sensations are often so powerful they drown out our ability to maintain the unified focus of our feeling-awareness in our low Dan Tien.

Eventually however after enough practice, many of the body’s issues resolve themselves and the pull of organic sensations begins to greatly diminish. When this happens, seasoned practitioners often feel an expansion of consciousness followed by an increase in perception that allows them to become aware of a different kind of sensation. Although these ‘new’ sensations are linked to the physical body, they also contain within them elements of what might be called ‘supra-physical’ energy. The Taoists identify these particular sensations as related to the various layers of our ‘energy-body(s.)’

After this transition begins to occur we slowly find ourselves dwelling in this new arena for longer and longer periods. At first we feel both a physical element and an energetic one simultaneously. However, as our training progresses we are able to shift and hold more and more of our feeling awareness solely in the energetic arena. When this happens we find ourselves in a whole new world of possibilities. When asked what he felt while doing Zhan Zhuang, Master Cai Songfang replied, “I feel my energy.” Master Cai’s teacher learned Zhan Zhuang from Yang Cheng Fu and was one of only about a half-a-dozen people to whom Master Yang taught this skill. In his younger days Master Cai was the push-hands champion of Shanghai. His daily Zhan Zhuang training consisted of 90 minutes per session in the Wuji posture.  

Although these energetic feelings or sensations vary according to the individual consciousness and are at best, difficult to translate into words, there are a few commonalities that may  prove useful in identifying when this transition begins to occur.


One thing that happens is that we feel like our whole body is immersed in a watery-like substance. Although this feeling is a bit more subtle and somewhat different than pure physical sensation, there is a clear and definite substantiality to it. Following this, in the next stage the body’s interior seems to ‘hollow out,’ or loose its feeling of density, all while the sensation of the ‘exterior’ part of the body being ‘immersed in water’ remains present. After this, and often quite rapidly, the deep Central Channel and many times the Left and Right Qigong Channels ‘appear’ or emerge. This is often followed by the Du and Ren meridians opening and linking to this inner architecture such that we can ‘see’ and feel energy simultaneously coursing through all of these conduits while still being peripherally aware of our body’s exterior ‘immersed in water.’ I’ve used the word ‘appear’ to describe the feeling of something manifesting out of apparently nothing. Of course this probably has more to do with a shift or expansion in our perception.



Friday, December 15, 2017

Dentro De Zhan Zhuang

To all our Spanish speaking friends - 
Inside Zhan Zhuang is now available as an ebook en EspaƱol!





Thursday, December 7, 2017

ONE INCH TAIJI STYLE PUNCH


One of the benefits of daily Zhan Zhuang training for martial arts is the ability to emit strong power in a very short space or distance. The whole-body force happens ‘under the skin’ and only manifests visibly in the wrist and hand. Being a Taiji style punch, the energy begins in the low Dan Tien, instantly travels under the feet, up the spine and Central Channel and out the fist. Although the video examples are self explanatory, a few words will perhaps be useful about how to receive the blows.

Many people have not been struck by a strong internal power blow to their torso, head or neck. Those who have, have no desire to repeat the experience because these types of strikes very often linger (create pain or other serious problems) for hours, days and even weeks after the actual blow. In one case a famous internal martial arts master struck one of my teachers on the shoulder-blade. The strike itself took only a few nano-seconds to deliver, but my teacher suffered serious pain for several months afterward and needed acupuncture and massage to finally clear it.

With that in mind, a method was developed which allows the repeated issuing of strong internal force without damaging the recipient. Firstly, the blow is delivered to the opponent’s arms rather than their torso, head or neck. This allows the force to be transferred to our feet while keeping our structure in tact. The additional force is then absorbed by allowing ourselves to be ‘bounced’ away, bouncing repeatedly if necessary, each time landing firmly on our heels to vent the excessive Qi out of the body. This bouncing back also allows the recipient to fully maintain their structure or frame while receiving the blow. This way we can practice repeatedly with strong internal power and no damage to the one absorbing the hits. 

A word to the wise, not following this method or something similar while repeatedly issuing strong internal power will inevitably result in either the recipient’s frame being disintegrated - causing instant and perhaps lasting damage - or at the very least, roughly and unceremoniously losing balance and landing hard on their backside - or both.




Saturday, December 2, 2017

SLOW FRAME and SPRING TESTING


Slow Frame testing, sometimes called Spring Testing, is a basic two-person exercise designed to give experience in the compression and expansion of the joints and cavities and cultivate and strengthen the outer physical frame and the idea of spherical movement. Simply put, one training partner assumes a Tai Chi (or Zhan Zhuang) posture. The other partner then gradually applies pressure (force) while the partner in the Tai Chi posture systematically absorbs the force into the low Dan Tien. At first a technique called “Snaking” (like the undulation of a snake) is used where the force is absorbed step-by-step through each of the joints and cavities. 

In the first example in the video, fists are used to apply force to the palms of the Tai Chi posture “An.” (Push). As force is slowly applied, the palms and wrists gently compress followed by the elbow joints, the shoulder joints, shoulder blades and shoulder’s nests and finally the spine. As the partner’s pressure continues, the spine, chest and abdominal cavities also gently compress or condense, taking the force down into the hips, Kua and low Dan Tien region. From there as your partner’s pressure continues, you next compress the feet, ankles, knees and hips into the Kua and low Dan Tien. This in effect creates a compressed version of an energetic sphere with the low Dan Tien as it’s centerpoint.

From there, with the body having properly absorbed the force into the low Dan Tien (and feet) the partner in the Tai Chi posture achieves a moment of ‘stillness’ and then - in one instantaneous movement of release - using relaxation, suddenly drops the Qi (pressure) down under the feet. This instantly generates power which rises up the spine and out the hands, creating in effect, an expanded Sphere. 

Once this basic method has been mastered in sequence through the segmented or “Snaking” method, the next step becomes condensing and expanding the joints, cavities and spine simultaneously. Following that, once one has achieved Song, then at first touch the practitioner’s energy automatically sinks to the low Dan Tien and below the feet. This is accompanied by a condensation or compression of one’s Qi or Inner Frame or Sphere. At this stage, issuing Jin is then only a matter of expanding one’s Inner Frame or Sphere. Thus the advanced practitioner shows very little outer movement if any, while the recipient is strongly and sometimes violently repulsed or ejected.