Chapter Tai Chi Chi Rung

3-1. General Training Concepts

Before we go into the practice of Tai Chi Chi Kung, we would like to point out a few things. First, if you look at your Chi Kung practice as a battle against sickness and aging, then your body is the battlefield, your mind is the general, your breathing is the strategy, your Chi is the soldiers, and your spirit is the morale of the general and soldiers. Therefore, in order to win this battle, you must know your battlefield (body) and learn how to arrange it most advantageously for the battle. The general (mind) who is in charge of the battle must be calm, wise, and always know what he is doing, so that he can set up the best strategy (breathing). When the battlefield, general, and strategy (body, mind, and breathing) are organized correctly, the soldiers (Chi) can be led effectively. You also need good fighting spirit and high morale.

When practicing Chi Kung, you should always pay attention to regulating your body, breathing, and mind. You must keep regulating them until your mind does not have to be on the regulating, and the regulation happens automatically. Then you will be able to feel the Chi, and your Yi will be able to lead it easily and smoothly. Ultimately, you will be able to lead Chi to your head to nourish your brain and raise your spirit of vitality.

Second, although you can learn the theory and movements from this book, the movements will not be as alive and your understanding of them will not be as detailed as if you had learned them from an instructor. In other words, although a book can offer a detailed theoretical discussion which can ultimately lead you to a deep level of understanding, it is often unclear and misleading in its description of movement. A videotape can remedy this lack. However, even if you have both book and videotape, you still will not get the feeling of the exercise. This internal feeling is one of the most important aspects of the exercise that an instructor can convey. However, despite all of these obstacles, thousands of Chi Kung practitioners have reached a high stage of practice through reading, pondering, and training. If you understand the theory, know the movements, and practice patiently and intelligently, then you can gradually accumulate enough experience to achieve a great depth of feeling for the exercise. Only when you have this feeling will you be able to say that you have gained the essence of the training.

Third, remember that theory is the Tin side of knowledge, while practice is the Yang side which manifests the theory. This means that if you really want to understand the exercise, you must both study the theory and practice the exercise. Each one helps the other, so that Yin and Yang can grow together and lead you to the essence of the practice. If you are interested in knowing more about Chi Kung theory, please refer to other YMAA Chi Kung and Tai Chi publications.

In this chapter we will review the keys and the general concepts of successful Chi Kung training. Then we will introduce the warm-up Chi Kung. Beginners frequently ignore the warm-up Chi Kung training. This is unfortunate, because it is almost as important as the Chi Kung practice itself. The warm-ups prepare you by leading your mind and body into a deep meditative state where they are ready for the practice. You will then be able to feel and lead the Chi, which is critical for success. In other words, the warm-up Chi Kung is an integral part of the training.

3-2. Fundamental Training Principles

In this section we will summarize the training principles and rules which we have discussed earlier. During the course of your practice you should always keep them in mind.

Above all, understand what you are aiming for. For example, if you are only a beginner you should first learn to regulate your body until you feel relaxed and comfortable, and then begin regulating your breathing and mind. However, if you have practiced Chi Kung for a while and have already grasped the key points of regulating the body, breathing, and mind, you should then practice using the mind to lead the Chi. Naturally, if you have already reached this level, your target will be learning how to regulate your spirit. The process of regulation is crucial in Chi Kung, so let us review the procedures before we start discussing the actual training.

L Regulating the Body (lyau Shenn) M

Regulating the body is adjusting your body until it is relaxed, centered, balanced, and rooted. For example, when you practice a pushing movement, the muscles should be relaxed to such a deep level that you can feel your arms relax all the way to the marrow. Only then can the Chi be led into the marrow and also to the surface of the skin. In addition, your movements must be coordinated with the movement of your torso. This enables your whole body to move smoothly and continuously as a unit. The coordination of the body enables you to find your balance. In every movement, your body must be upright (i.e., the head suspended) and rooted, and your pushing arm must also be rooted. For example, in a pushing movement your elbow must be sunk and your shoulder dropped. This allows you to find the root of the push, and makes it possible for your Yi to strongly lead your Chi. You can see that regulating the body is the most important and basic process in any Chi Kung practice.

2. Regulating the Breathing (Tyau Shyi)

When you have reached a level where you feel comfortable and natural and your body is relaxed, centered, rooted, and balanced, then the Chi circulation in your body will not be stagnant. In order to use your mind to lead the Chi efficiently, you must learn to regulate your breathing - which is the strategy of Chi Kung practice. If you breathe correctly, your mind will be able to lead your Chi effortlessly.

There are two common ways of breathing in Chi Kung: "Normal Abdominal Breathing" and "Reverse Abdominal Breathing." Normal Abdominal Breathing is commonly used to lead the Chi to circulate in the primary Chi channels. This helps you to relax both physically and mentally. However, if you wish to lead Chi to the surface of your skin and to the bone marrow, you would normally use Reverse Abdominal Breathing. It is more aggressive, and is therefore emphasized generally by martial Chi Kung practitioners.

Regardless of which breathing method you use, it is important to coordinate your breathing with the movements of your anus and Huiyin cavity. A more detailed discussion of these two breathing methods will be given later in this chapter.

3. Regulating the Mind (Tyau Hsin) tfU'fr

In regulating the mind, you first learn how to bring your mind and attention into your body. This is necessary for feeling the Chi circulation. The first step is learning how to control your emotional mind so that it is calm and peaceful and you can concentrate. Then you can use your Yi to lead your Chi.

4. Regulating the Chi (Tyau Chi)

Once you have learned how to use your Yi to lead your Chi effectively, then you can start working toward several goals in regulating your Chi. First, you want to make the Chi circulate smoothly and strongly in your body. Second, you want to build up the Chi to a higher level to strengthen your body. Third, you want to lead the Chi to the skin and also to the marrow. This will keep the skin fresh and young, and keep the blood factory (the marrow) functioning fully. Finally, you want to lead the Chi to your head to nourish your brain. It is the center of your whole being, and your health will have a firm root only if your brain is functioning well. If your brain is healthy, you can raise your spirit of vitality, which is the main key to the secret of longevity.

In order to reach these goals, you must first learn how to circulate the Chi in your body without any stagnation. This is possible when all of your concentration is on the Chi circulation, and there is no physical stiffness to make the Chi circulation stagnate. In time, it will feel like your physical body gradually disappears and becomes transparent.

5. Regulating the Spirit (T^au Shen)

Once you reach the stage of "transparency," you will be able to clearly feel the state of your body's Yin and Yang, and adjust them until you reach the state of Wu Chi (no extremity). When you have grasped this Wu Chi center, you will be able to return your whole spirit to its origin (the state before your birth), your Chi will unite with the Chi of nature, your spirit will unite with the spirit of nature, and you will become one with nature. This is the final goal of enlightenment and Buddhahood.

When you practice, you should also be aware of the following:

1. Do not practice when you are too full or too hungry.

2. Do not practice when you are upset. You will not be able to regulate your mind efficiently and may cause yourself harm, especially if you intend to use your Yi to lead your Chi.

3. Do not drink alcohol before practice. It can excite your emotions and Chi and make them unstable.

4. Do not smoke, since it will affect your lungs and the regulation of your breathing.

5. The best time to practice is just before sunrise. Eat a little bit right after you wake up in the morning, then practice about 30 minutes to one hour. If you would like to practice another time, the best time is two hours after dinner. The second practice in the evening will help you relax before sleep.

Ib conclude this section, always remember that the final goal of Tai Chi Chi Kung is to be natural. When you regulate your body, breathing, mind, Chi, and spirit, you should practice until the regulation happens naturally and automatically. This is the stage of "regulating without regulating." Only then will you be relaxed and comfortable, and your Chi Kung practice be effective and enjoyable.

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