Archive for neigong

Living 100 Years: Re-Learning to Breathe

Posted in Health, Internal Arts, Internal Development, Peace & Wellbeing, Qigong, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2012 by chencenter

The famous comedian George Burns was once asked, “What’s the secret of Life?” … of which he replied,

“Keep breathing.”

Wise words from a guy that reached the ripe ol’ age of 100 (and two months).

The word is Qi (pronounced “chee“).  We’ve heard it plenty… some of us have read up on it… but every one of us has experienced it [just most of us haven’t been aware of it]!

When I speak to youngsters about qi, I often allude to the Star Wars films in which George Lucas replaced “Qi” with “the Force.”  Qi is a term that means energy, or breath.  It is the prime-mover of our existence and permeates throughout the universe.

There are different types of “Qi Training” (called Qigong) such as: Buddhist Qigong, Taoist Qigong, Wushu Qigong and Medical Qigong.  Within these, the practitioner learns to harness and cultivate this energy for the purposes of: emitting, absorbing, cleansing, conditioning and healing. [Author’s note: Wushu Qigong should not be attempted without a qualified teacher. Practitioners should also have a basic understanding of qi and qigong training before wushu qigong is attempted].  And yes, there are even methods: Natural, Differential, Reversed, Dantian, Embryonic and “method of no-method.”  All have their benefits but it is the first, Natural Breathing Qigong, that we will focus on for purposes of “beginning at the root”, health and in developing a habit of “correct method.”

Breathing and its link to good health makes plenty of sense …for it’s the air we breathe, the oxygen that’s delivered to our cells and all the “energetics” at work that nurtures Life.  But it’s our awareness of our breath through both moving or non-moving activities that bolsters results.

  • Awareness: Concentrating on the “breath in” and the “breath out” focuses our mind internally and removes us from outside thoughts and common distractions.  Thoughts will always enter-in (it is our nature as humans to think).  But just as ripples appear on a pond… let the mind return to calm and think back to the breath as it is drawn into the body and finds its rest in the lower abdomen.

A MYTH:  Healthy breathing does NOT mean expanding the chest and letting as much oxygen in as possible.  By doing so, oxygen restricts the hemoglobin molecules and less is released to the cells.


  • Quality:  Soft. Quiet. Relaxed. Smooth… all of these should be words to describe how you are breathing.  As you breathe into your nostrils (at a relaxed, steady pace), imagine the breath going all the way down to your abdomen (aka. dantian).  By bringing your breath to your dantian, even smallest blood vessels will relax and open and will enrich your body with a greater flow of blood, oxygen and qi.
  • Natural or Diaphragmatic breathing: Breathe through the nose at a soft and steady rate and bring the breathe to the abdomen.  Allow the abdomen to expand (by way of the breath, and not by your abdominal muscles pushing outwards).  As you breathe out, do so by breathing out through the nose and allow the abdomen to contract/go inward.
  • Relax: This cannot be repeated enough.  The better you are at relaxing, the greater the benefits you will attain from your practice.  Bring your thoughts away from school, work or any other outside distractions.  If your thoughts drift… return back.  Over time, over practice… the “return” will be easier and easier.
  • Posture:  There are many qigong postures and all of them will have to be adjusted slightly since we all are built differently.  I have 3 basic postures that I use and they are: standing, sitting and laying.  I use each of these postures throughout the day (as I am often in one of the 3 postures naturally).  For instructional purposes, a standing posture should be made with a straight spine, head erect, knees slightly bent, arms by your side and the tip of the tongue resting softly behind the roof of the mouth (behind the first two teeth).  For more on standing qigong, please check out Eli Montaigue’s Combative Corner contribution entitled, Three Circle Qigong.

Illustrations of qigong movements are helpful, however the mother of movement will always be stillness.  There are many great books that may help you to better understand qigong such as: Qigong Empowerment, by Master Shou-Yu Liang & Wen-Ching Wu and The Way of Qigong, by Kenneth Cohen… but the act of qigong is a relatively simple way to improves your health and longevity.  Time, patience, willpower and correct intention are the only requisites.

Michael Joyce

Original article posted, April 2008 at ChenCenter.Com

Us at the Combative Corner welcome your insights as well.  Here are just a few of the questions we’d like to know.  Please post your response in the comment section below.



What is Tai Chi?

Posted in Internal Arts, Martial Arts with tags , , , , , , , on June 29, 2010 by mindbodykungfu

Is it a mystical ancient art?  Is it a health panacea?  Is it a black and white circular symbol?  How about an ultimate fighting system?  What about a philosophy or conceptual framework?  Depending on who you ask, tai chi could be any one of the above mentioned possibilities.  There is a joke that goes “How many tai chi practitioners does it take to screw in a light bulb?  100.  One to screw it in, and 99 to say ‘that’s not how I was taught to do that.'”  Similarly, if you ask 100 different people what tai chi is, you’re liable to get nearly as many different answers.

To simplify the question, we need to differentiate between tai chi as a health practice, tai chi chuan (taijiquan) as martial art, and tai chi as a concept.  At the most fundamental level, tai chi is a concept; it is the state of harmony between yin and yang.  The yin-yang symbol is an illustration of this idea.  The whole is neither yin, nor yang.  Rather, tai chi encompasses both yin and yang.  It is the balance between yin and yang such that both are present and can evolve one into the other.  Tai chi chuan, in all its glorious variants, encompasses martial arts based on the principle of tai chi.  Tai chi as a health practice borrows pre-choreographed forms from tai chi chuan and removes most of the martial aspects of training.  Tai chi practiced for health instead focuses on improving health through a blend of body movement, qigong, and meditative exercises.

With the multitude of tai chi practices in the world, there are some common misconceptions.  A complete list would be impractically long, but we can explore a few examples:

Tai chi is not defined by circular movement.  Circular movement is a natural consequence of the joints of the human body.  No joint in the body allows linear motion.  Every joint works by allowing movement in arcs.  Harmonizing the yin and yang in the body makes the circular movement more obvious and links the arc across multiple joints.  Integrated and curved movement result from applying the principle of tai chi to body movement.  However, it is entirely possible to perform circular movements which do not manifest the yin-yang tai chi harmony.  Curved movement is an effect rather than a prerequisite of tai chi.

Tai chi is not just softly yielding to force.  “Four ounces deflects a thousand pounds” is a common tai chi saying.  Unfortunately, a lot of people misinterpret this as meaning that you must use no force and become limp to deal with incoming force.  Dealing with a force by just yielding and dropping back is just a yin movement.  Directly fighting back against a force is a purely yang movement.  The tai chi occurs when the force is met and dealt with using simultaneous yin and yang movements.  (note: “meeting” the force is matching the force and not fighting back against it)  If there is yielding to the force at one section, there must be an advancing force elsewhere for balance.  A common example of this is absorbing a force with one hand to project force with the other.  The concept also applies equally well to a single point of contact.  If one side of the point of contact yields, then the other side of the of the point of contacts advances–much like moving on a pivot.  When this harmony of yin and yang occurs, then the force can be deflected as a “rollback” where the opponent feels like they are touching a spinning sphere.

Tai chi is not shifting weight.  Shifting the weight is a training tool to understand movement at the hips.  Just shifting the weight translates the body weight from one leg to another.  Some people claim that making one leg empty and the other leg full is manifesting yin and yang.  That’s true in a sense, but that doesn’t make the weight shift tai chi; it makes the weight shifting either a yin or yang movement.  The tai chi occurs when the yin and yang are both present and harmonized.  It is more important to understand the coordination between flexors and extensors and between the anterior and posterior chain.  This yin-yang harmony can happen just as readily from an equal-weighted stance as from a split-weight stance.

Ultimately, tai chi as either a martial or health practice must manifest a harmonization of yin and yang.  The yin and yang in the body structure and body movements must be balanced to truly practice “tai chi.”  Tai chi practiced for health, taijiquan practiced as a martial art, or any art based on tai chi must be guided by this principle of harmonizing the yin and yang.

-Johnny Kuo

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