A Taoist would describe the body as internally consisting of the vital internal organs and the Chi energy which services them. Externally the body is comprised of bones, tendons, muscles and the fasciae which contain them. If you recall, bones are moved by the action of muscle contractions which pull on the tendons that are attached to the bones. Blood is said to move muscles and Chi to move blood. Thus, the Taoist Master strives to create and protect the Chi and the blood. This Chi, as an electromagnetic energy is unseen, while the muscles, tendons, bones and fasciae are quite visible. Practice consists of working both the visible and the invisible as an expression of the harmony of Yin and Yang.
To stress only internal or external development will result in disharmony and dysfunction. The organs and muscles must be vitalized by Chi, but the circulation of the Chi is augmented by having a healthy body. Strengthening muscles without cultivating Chi creates a similar imbalance which will not lead to true health or strength.
"Changing the Tendons" works with the muscles, tendons, bones and fasciae, developing both the visible (muscles, tendons, bones and fasciae) and the invisible (the flow of Chi).
The practice of loosening the tendons is comparatively easy, whereas that of utilizing the fasciae is considered to be more difficult. Iron Shirt Chi Kung is said to be the most difficult discipline of all and yet its practice, in which you learn to increase and store more Chi, truly begins with the Microcosmic Orbit. Once you have collected
Chi,you you can direct it as it is needed to the fasciae of any point in the body.
By a process in which you collect, conserve and reserve the energy of the vital organs (kidneys, brain, heart, liver, lungs, spleen and genitals), the polluted energy descends and exits as the clean, vital energy rises up to replace it. As you relax and collect more and more Chi, it is directed towards the tendons and fasciae until the entire body is filled with Chi energy.
The Chi flows into the fasciae, expanding and strengthening the tendons.
Again, balance or harmony is necessary. If you practice so that your fasciae are vitalized with Chi and your tendons are neglected, the fasciae will have nothing to depend on, since it is by way of the tendons that the muscles attach to the bones. On the other hand, if you work on the tendons and not the fasciae, the fasciae will not fill out and serve well as a coordinator of the muscle groups which they cover. If you exercise the tendons and the fasciae without Chi Kung to activate an energy flow, the tendons and fasciae will not ''raise up'' separately and will not be able to work freely. If you practice Chi Kung and not the tendon or fascia exercises, the Chi will not be able to travel freely throughout the body and will be impeded in gaining access to all of the meridians. At the same time, the tendons will be weak through disuse and the fasciae will be tight and restricting.
In this chapter, an overall picture is presented describing how the muscles, fasciae and bones function together. Muscles cover other muscles and bones and contain the various cavities which hold your vital organs. The tendons and fasciae are joined together and the tendons connect muscles to bones. The fasciae cover muscle groups, affording them the ability to do more work than they would were they not so bound together, and add to the resilience and general tone of the muscles as well. Since these bundles of muscles wrapped in fasciae lie outside of bones, they protect them; and since they make up the walls of the thoracic and abdominal cavities, they protect everything within them. The most important uses of the Iron Shirt Chi Kung are to fill the cavities of the body with Chi and to build up more Chi pressure in the vital organs, protecting and enabling them to deliver instant energy. (Fig. 5.3)
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