Ba Gua as Taoist Yogic Practice

The previous chapter examined the Taoist yogic roots of Ba Gua Zhang. This chapter looks at the application of Taoist yogic theory and practice to Ba Gua Zhang and the internal martial arts.

Gua Century Martial Arts
to Western Author Liu (left) practicing Ba Gua with Master Wang Wen-Kuei, 1977.

Tao yin taoyin nei kuan shen tien yuan qi foïj]

nei gong

One of the most important discoveries of the ancient Taoists was the direct manipulation of internal qi. Other than massage, there are two ways to direct internal qi: mental exercise (nei kuan or nei shih) and manipulation through posture—the grandfather of qi gong, an art called taoyinA The Taoist exercises described in Chapter Two were designed to move and guide qi and through this process transform the body. Taoist sages believed that by becoming in tune with and balancing qi, a harmonious inner environment within the body is created, which reflects the idealized, harmonious universe. Through taoyin practice an inner alchemist returned mentally and physically to shen tien, a state before the normal decline of birth and death sets in, where balanced qi brought him into harmony with the natural order through internal balance and where his yuan qi, (primordial qt) would be full and uncorrupted. During the Tang (618-906 A.D.) and Sung (960-1279) dynasties these practices became popular within Taoist circles. Manuals describing principles of "nourishing the life force gymnastics" were popular among literati practitioners of Taoist physical yogas. Texts advised that these exercises be done to "render the body more supple and to rest it." The result of these exercises was nei gong, skill or mastery of the inner qi flow. Elaborate health-therapy systems, probably the oldest and most complete physical therapy system in the premodern world, developed from this body of knowledge.

Physiotherapists of ancient China understood that qi moved in the human body like water in a river. When pathways in the body's energy dam up, blockages form and the energy in the body, just like nonmoving water, becomes stagnant. These blockages, according to Taoist inner alchemists and later the traditional Chinese medical doctors, were the primary cause of ill health. Stagnant qi was understood to be the cause of joint tension, backache, headaches, high

Continue reading here: Yogicbased internal martial arts

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