Nei Dan (pronounced "Nay Dan") literally means "internal elixir." It is a training method in which Qi is generated in the abdomen and then guided by the mind throughout the body. As was explained in chapter 1, when the muscles are exercised, Qi and blood accumulate in the area of the body being exercised. When the muscles are then relaxed, the channels open wide and allow the accumulated energy to flow from the area that was exercised and circulate throughout the body. This exercising with exterior muscles, called Wai Dan, was discussed in the previous chapter.
Nei Dan is a different process. Energy is generated in an area of the lower abdomen called the Dan Tian ( T ft ® ) or Qihai (Co-6)(Sea of Qi, & % ). The energy built up in the Dan Tian can be guided by the will to circulate through the two major vessels in the body, the Governing Vessel (Du Mai, ¡&) and Conception Vessel (Ren Mai, ttHfc), which are centered in the back and front of the torso. This is called Small Circulation (Xiao Zhou Tian, -J» ffl k ). Eventually, energy can be directed throughout the entire body through all twelve primary Qi channels. This is called Grand Circulation (Da Zhou Tian, k. ffl *.).
The history of Nei Dan can be traced to the very beginning of Qigong practice in China. Originally, judging from the record of Buddhist and Daoist scriptures, it was used to promote physical and spiritual health, as it still is now. The people who learned Nei Dan were scholars, Buddhist and Daoist monks, and a few common people, often sick people trying to regain their health.
In the thirteenth century, the Daoist martial style now known as Taijiquan ( k & 4-) was created. Taijiquan specializes in using the internal power created with Nei Dan. Though the breathing techniques used for training are different from those of the Buddhists, the principles are the same. Zhang, San-Feng (fti f )(Figure 3-1) is credited with creating the style in the Wudang Mountain area b )(Figure 3-2) located to the South of Zhong Xian (ft H), Hubei Province ( M it -4 ) In China. Since that time, several other Nei Dan martial styles based on the Wudang principles have been developed, such as Baguazhang (a.# i ), Xingyiquan t #■), and Liu He Ba Fa (* £ a&).
In the hundreds of years that have passed since then, both Shaolin Gongfu and Taijiquan have kept their respective emphasis on Wai Dan and Nei Dan secret. It was not until the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, when both Shaolin Gongfu and Taijiquan were generally exposed to the Chinese public, that martial artists commonly began to practice both Nei Dan and Wai Dan.
Many other martial and non-martial styles of Wai Dan and Nei Dan were created throughout Chinese history that were popular with the Chinese people. However, most of these styles have died out, and the styles mentioned above have dominated the popular interest since the turn of the century.
Also, many non-martial systems do not use the Dan Tian as the source of Qi, but rather use some other point on the Governing or Conception Vessels, such as the solar plexus or the third eye. Energy is generated hy concentrating on a selected point, not through moving the abdominal muscles. These meditation systems are outside the scope of this book and will not be discussed.
Figure 3-2. Wudang Mountain
Compared with Wai Dan, Nei Dan has both advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages are: first, with Nei Dan it takes a longer time to experience the Qi in the Dan Tian than it does to feel energy in a local area using Wai Dan. Therefore, Wai Dan Qigong can be easily applied to the martial arts in a short time, and you can see improved health and power relatively quickly. Second, Nei Dan requires more patience and a calmer mind than Wai Dan.
Finally, Nei Dan training requires instruction from a more qualified master than Wai Dan. Usually, Wai Dan training is quite straightforward once the principles and the forms are understood. However, in Nei Dan it is harder to experience Qi, so a student requires a master's advice and experienced analysis to advance step by step. Nei Dan generates a large amount of Qi and starts circulating it in the vital Governing and Conception Vessels, and it is possible that Qi can stagnate in the cavities of these vessels. Also, the generated Qi can get out of the meditator's control, go into an unexpected channel, and stay in the cavities of that channel. This Qi residue can be dangerous if the student does not know how to handle the problem. More caution and help from an experienced master is necessary in order to avoid injury.
On the other hand, Nei Dan has several advantages over Wai Dan. First, Nei Dan teaches an awareness of Qi circulation and develops this circulation more fully throughout the body, which benefits the organs more than Wai Dan. As you already know, Wai Dan circulates the Qi locally, and therefore benefits only specific organs.
Second, the Nei Dan practitioner does not have the risk of San Gong or Energy Dispersion, since Nei Dan does not build up the body's muscles except for those of the lower abdomen (the Dan Tian area), and once you practice Nei Dan for a few years, you will naturally use the Dan Tian all the time. Third, once the Nei Dan circulation is completed, the internal power it can build for martial purposes is much stronger than that of Wai Dan.
Very commonly, Chinese martial artists train both Wai Dan and Nei Dan, while non-martial artists usually practice only one or the other for health purposes.
Nei Dan can be roughly divided into Buddhist and Daoist styles. The major differences are, first, in training emphasis. Buddhists emphasize raising the Qi (Yang Qi, 4 il), in which the Qi is maintained through calmness, and is concentrated in the brain in order to reach enlightenment. In China, maintaining Qi through calmness is called Zuo Chan (4 # ) or Sitting Meditation.
In Daoist practice, however, breathing from the Dan Tian is emphasized to build up Qi and to make it stronger and stronger. This is called Lian Qi A.) or Strengthening the Qi. After the Qi is built up, the Daoist will circulate the Qi through the body by guiding it with his will. This is called Transporting the Qi
(Yun Qi, £ ft) or Circulating the Qi (Xing Qi, H ft). This kind of Daoist Qigong training is commonly called Yun Gong (3 *Jj) or Xing Gong (ff ift), which means "the Gongfu of Qi transportation."
Second, in Qi training, Buddhists use natural breathing, in which the abdomen is drawn in when exhaling, and expanded when inhaling. The Daoists use the reverse breathing technique, in which the abdomen is drawn in when inhaling, and expanded when exhaling. It is possible that this difference stems from the Daoist use of Nei Dan in martial applications. They found it easier to express strong internal power when the Dan Tian is expanding while exhaling and sinking the Qi.
In this chapter, the next section will explain the principles of Nei Dan, and how the Qi is generated and circulated. The methods of Nei Dan training, both Buddhist and Daoist, will be introduced in section three. In section four, the secret training methods for strengthening and guiding Qi to particular areas for martial purposes will be discussed. Finally, to close the chapter, exercises and self massage techniques for after meditation will be presented in section five.
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