Chi kung

The ability to take in and store vital energy comes under the general heading of chi kung. There are hundreds of methods of chi kung, including Buddhist, Taoist and Confuscian sources in China. India and Tibet both had strong influences on chi kung in China. A great interchange took place between these countries, not only in trade, but also in culture and religious practice. Many Buddhist monks carried the teachings to China, and with them secrets of health and longevity. Since that time the Chinese have adapted and changed all that they have learnt, and produced the multi-faceted chi kung of today.

The main reasons for people performing chi kung can roughly be divided into three areas.

  1. Health promotion/stress-free mind.
  2. Longevity: chi kung advocates believe that correct and regular practice will ultimately lead to a healthy and extended life span.
  3. Martial arts: the ability to generate tremendous power from chi kung training.

In chi kung, there are three requirements.

  1. Mind: the mind must be calm and alert, with total concentration on the exercise.
  2. Posture: throughout all of the different methods, posture must be correct.
  3. Breathing:breathing is an integral part of chi kung. Some types emphasise the breathing in its length and duration; others do not. But even when it is not emphasised consciously, the breathing pattern is still changed markedly.


Where to practise

The best place to practise tai chi, chi kung and meditation is in the open air, surrounded by nature. Exercise near trees and where the air is pure and unpolluted. A quiet setting will be most conducive to practice. Training in the arts first thing in the morning will give you a wonderful start to the day. In the Far East, the parks are full just after dawn with people of all ages engaged in their various exercises.

If you are unable to practise outdoors, a well ventilated but warm room will serve well for your training area. At every opportunity make the most of any outdoor exercise.

The chi kung routine outlined below is called the 'Eight breathing chi kung'. It is a very popular method practised by both martial artists and health conscious individuals alike. It has proven over the centuries to be a most beneficial exercise regime for young and old. Its movements are straightforward and concise, dismissive of all flaniboyant and superfluous motions. This makes an ideal exercise to be learned from a book. However, when the opportunity presents itself, take lessons from a competent teacher.


Eight breathing chi kung

Take each individual exercise and spend at least one week or more on each one. Start with four or five repetitions per exercise and work up to a maximum of ten. If at any one time during the chi kung you feel light-headed or queasy, stop immediately and rest. Only start again the following day, reducing the number of repetitions per exercise. Over the weeks, gradually bulid up to the maximum ten repetitions of each of the eight exercises. If you have to start on less than four or five reps, that is perfectly alright. Progress at your own speed: the destination is more important than the speed you get there. If you have any doubts about your health and ability to perform this chi kung, please consult your health advisor before commencing.

Use crane breathing throughout. Breathe naturally. Do not try to control the breathing in any way. Perform the exercise slowly and evenly.

Important! During each repetition on the in breath, send it down to the tan tien. On the out breath, imagine you are pushing against a heavy object of some sort without tensing any of your muscles. This will feel odd to begin with, but will soon be mastered. The reason this is done is to 'trick' the chi into flowing to the area. Visualising the body ready for hard work causes the energy to surge to the point of potential pressure. When it reaches the area and there is no physical activity, it will circulate to the skin of the fingers and palms. From the fingers it will move back into the body, having completed its circuit. The continual surging of the energy will cause the chi flow not only to grow stronger, but to circulate throughout the whole body. The extra vital energy circulation will encourage the repair of cells and the removal of waste, revitalising the system in general and strengthening the flow to the extremities. If you are a martial artist, this increase in chi to the legs and hands will increase power in your strikes.


Source: Yang Tai Chi Chuan, by John Hine.