I will be posting notes and musings dealing with chiropractic, martial arts and health. My Chiropractic office is Glendale Chiro Care located at 1620 Victory Blvd., Glendale, CA 91201. Office phone is (818) 244-7600 or (818) CHIRO-00.
I teach Tai Chi classes at Golden Monkey Healing Studio located at 13259 Moorpark, CA 91423. Classes are held every Tuesday from 7 pm to 8 pm. Beginners are welcome. For more information please call
(818) 331-9107.

Yours in peace and health.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chinese Internal Arts-Neigong

Into Mountains, Over Streams:
Internal Exercises: Neigong Practice and the Chinese Martial Arts

January 17, 2011

by Salvatore Canzonieri

Such Chinese martial art systems as Taiji Quan, Xingyi Quan, Bagua Zhang, Tongbei Quan, Shaolin Rou Quan (少林 柔 拳), and so on are known as “Internal” because they contain Neigong ( 內功 ) and Qigong (氣 功 ) exercises and methodology at their foundation. A few thousand years ago, esoteric Chinese Taoists developed physical exercises, breathing methods, and meditation methods that worked the inside of the body to increase one’s physical health and spiritual well being.
Dao Yin – Chinese Yoga

For many thousands of years, esoteric Chinese Taoists developed physical exercises, breathing methods, and meditation methods that worked the inside of the body to increase one’s physical health and spiritual well being; these were called “Dao Yin“, which literally means “guiding and stretching”. Dao Yin is also known as “Chinese Yoga”, since it similarly used to balance, strengthen, and heal the body through physical stretching and standing postures and guided meditation.

Traditionally and historically speaking, Daoyin practices are stretching exercises, usually combined with breath work. This breath work was called “Qigong” (i.e., ‘Breathing / Energy Skills’). In this way, work was done inside the body to enhance heal, wellbeing, and longevity. The Eight Section Brocade is one of the most well known Dao Yin methods.

Chinese Yoga has three primary goals:

1. To increase the vital energy moving into and circulating within our bodies.

2. To become aware of the subtleties of our body, breath and mind and understand their relationship to one another, as well as how to use this relationship to create a sense of wholeness and peace in our everyday life.

3. To increase our physical flexibility and strength through full ranges of motion, as well as gain smoothness and depth in breathing. This helps to enhance every aspect of our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
Neigong – Internal Exercises

This “internal” work was called “Neigong”. Neigong emphasized coordinating specific body movements with breathing techniques, in specific ways to develop internal strength by ‘harmonizing inner and outer energy’. Internal strength was designed to amplify the effect of physical actions while reducing the effort involved in doing them.

Emphasis was placed on the elasticity of the body, the mobility of the joints, the support of the skeletal structure, the twisting and stretching of the organs and connective tissue, and the proper alignment of the body’s parts in order to move as a unified whole.

Qigong and Neigong originated through the Chinese philosophy of Taoism (Daoism) with its first recorded history in the Yi Jing / I Ching (Book of Changes). Qigong has subsequently been influenced by Buddhist, Confucian and medical beliefs. Currently, it is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), along with acupuncture and herbal remedies. Its basic premise is to treat the origin of disease in the whole person – body, mind/emotions, spirit – by looking at the imbalance of the entire human system.

Qigong does this through a system [also used in acupuncture] of both pathways that circulate energy, known as meridians, and of vessels that store energy. Qigong exercises are designed to clear blocked energy in different body organs. It is acupuncture without needles, exercises you can do yourself that induce self-healing.

Some of the basic principles of Neigong are:

• the traditional Chinese belief that the body has something that might be described as an “energy field” generated and maintained by the natural respiration of the body, known as “qi”;

• the belief that this ‘qi’ (i.e., the life energy inside a person) flows and moves though the body and is assisted by the internal organs;

• the release of external and internal tension is a necessity for cultivating health;

• the letting go of muscular strength to perform specific techniques and postures;

• a heightened self awareness of internal body structure and posture;

• the development of ‘root’ by lowering the body’s center of gravity, whereby the origin of movement is lowered within the body, which is believed to cause a sinking of ‘qi’ or internal energy;

• the combining of the normally separated areas of the body into one integrated, unified, and powerful whole;

• the coordination of specific breathing methods with bodily movements, and the development of an internal peace or calm emotional state;

• the methods involve using the minimum amount of force to achieve maximum results via leverage.

Neigong practices cause the whole body to move in a continuously stretching, expanding and contracting, opening and closing motion. Eventually the body is fluid enough to move very quickly as needed with an absence of central nervous system reaction lag time; great power can be issued with little movement.

This twisting of the body causes the organs to twist as well, which activates the organs to have a detoxification reaction, whereby the liver, intestines, and other organs release toxins that were stored deep in the body so that they can be flushed out. The ultimate aim of this neigong practice was to make the practitioner one with nature, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The various Chinese Buddhist and Taoist based martial arts systems that were developed at Wudang, Emei, Kunlun, Shaolin, and other places throughout China at different times incorporated these Neigong techniques and further developed them for use in both health cultivation and “soft” self defense into what today is called the “Neijia” or “internal” family of martial arts. In his book, The Principles of Effortless Power , Peter Ralston explains that, “An internal system . . . concentrates on fundamental, natural principles that are mostly overlooked in other pursuits. For example, an internal system has inherent in it relaxing the whole body, using the whole body all at once, deriving power from the ground, intrinsic strength, the use of Qi or energy circulation throughout the body and that cultivation; breathing, the psychology of the whole matter, perceptive skills, developing the area below the navel”.
The Thirteen Core Concepts

At the heart of all qigong / neigong methods, and the “internal” martial arts that incorporate them, is an intrinsic set of thirteen core concepts. The purpose of these concepts is to teach one to have effortless power through the most efficient and effective mental attitudes and body mechanics. On one level, they involve mental processes and on another level they involve physical activities. In his book, The Principles of Effortless Power , Peter Ralston does a great job of explaining these 13 ideas that are contained within all internal martial arts as “5 Principles and 8 Points” for making the body move more efficiently and effectively:

The Five Principles for being effortlessly effective:

• Being Calm – staying undisturbed in the face of adversity; controlling the thoughts, emotions, and energy of the body so that it is empty and calm. In this way, one can deal with the reality of what is happening rather than reacting to circumstances based on preconceived ideas and habits.

• Relaxing – keeping the mind and the body supple, loose, and open. In this way, the body sets itself naturally using its own connective tissues to bind together was a whole, without locking and tightening any of its parts, such as the joints, tendons, muscles, and so on. Energy is able to flow freely and circulate through the body without impedance. Movements can change freely and spontaneously as necessary.

• Centering – putting physical and mental attention into the center region of the lower abdomen (called the ‘Dantein’) so that it governs all body movement. In this way, the body moves as whole, outwardly from this center point; the center directs the movements that the body follows. A centered body becomes more functional and effective because it has structural alignment and balance.

• Grounding – sinking the body weight (after calming the mind and relaxing and centering the whole body) so that it is carried by the pelvis and legs, lowered into the feet, and finally sunk into the earth. To accept the weight properly, the body weight is shifted to only one leg at a time (‘single weighted’), gaining leverage. The body weight is not evenly distributed over both legs at one time (‘double weighted’), which could allow one to easily topple over. During stepping, the weight is relaxed from one foot and then transferred to the other foot, hugging into the earth. In this way, energy is moved down so that the body is rooted and support by the ground.

• Being Whole and Total – the entire body works as one unit, with no gaps within body movements. The limbs do not move independently of the center, they move without tension as a result of the center’s movements. In this way, the body and the mind’s intention move harmoniously from the center in a complete three dimensional manner.

The Eight Points on structuring body alignment efficiently:

• Align with gravity – align the structure of the relaxed body so that energy is directed downward. In this way, only a minimum amount of energy is used to hold up the body. The body is balanced so that each part below directly supports the parts above it. We align with this falling energy, which is being pulled by gravity.

• Align the Knee, Heel, and Toe – Movement of the knee is directed down the leg and pressing into the heel of the foot. The front of the knee point in alignment with the toes of the foot, not going past them in any direction. As the foot turns in or out, so too does the direction of the knee. Also, the pelvis stays in between the feet. In this way, maximum leverage is achieved.

• Shifting the Weight – One leg is relaxed before it moves towards the other and compresses into the heel. With one foot free, the steps or the waist and legs can be adjusted without some preliminary movement. The center of the body presses into the foot, which presses itself away from the earth. In this way, the weight is shifted as if dropping into the ground and the body is compressed or squeezed, moving as if it is coming up from the ground (getting great power from the compression). The stepping is coordinated with the breathing, which is sunk into lower abdomen immediately before the foot is pressed.

• Unlocking the Body – the joints of the body are allowed to bend and rotate with ease so that they can relax and align themselves to the way they naturally function. The feet are relaxed so that they act as a suction cup that spreads on the surface they are on and become sensitive to balance; the pelvis is relaxed so the hip joints open so that it drops down and stays between the two feet; the upper body is relaxed so that the shoulder joints open and loosen, keeping the shoulders and elbows pointing downwards; and the joints are relaxed and opened so that the body’s balance is maintained and it is not effected by occurring forces.

• Integrate, Unify, and Coordinate All Body Parts – When the various parts of the body move tightly without whole body harmony, the body loses power, balance, coordination, and more. When the major sections of the body move with unification and coordination, it is called the ‘Six Unifications ” or ‘Six Harmonies’ (‘Liuhe’). The lower and center parts take priority over and initiate movement of the upper parts. The moving center allows the foot to move out in relationship with the hand, the hips to turn with the shoulder, and the elbows and knees to move together. The nose always points in the same direction with the naval. In this way, the head turns at the same time as the pelvis. The pelvis is kept directly under the upper body and over the feet so that it is centered between the upper and lower body. Finally, the mind, energy, and body moves as one unit, with energy circulating through the body, permeating all its parts, and then becoming heard and understood so that it can be transcended.

• Functional Priorities – the upper body is subservient to the lower body and the inner center directs the outer body parts. The center then has the highest priority since it creates all movement. Likewise, energy has priority over physical movement.
• Creating the Opening for Intrinsic Strength – making all the relaxed body connections and alignments allow its intrinsic strength to be used naturally and expressed with effortless power. Movement is propelled loosely from the center so that the limbs are emptily projected outwards with a minimum amount of force. As the hands go up, strength is then concentrated away from the arms down into the legs and feet, which then can freely project a maximum amount of power back up through the relaxed arms. Being that the joints are open and the body tissues are loosened, the limbs can elongate greatly and the extending energy can strike from a greater distance than is expected.
• Being Three-Dimensional in Eight Directions – the movement of energy from the center radiates freely and equally in all directions (i.e., front, rear, left, right, up, down, inside, and outside).
Self Defense through 13 Healing Postural Movements

Eventually self defense oriented footwork and hand movements developed over time that exemplified these 13 core concepts. These associated movements often were called the “Shi San Shi,” which can mean “13 Forces” or “13 Skills,” Some called them the “13 Powers” or “13 Postures,” as well as 13 Tactics, Entrances, Movements, or Energies. The 13 Shi are not actually 13 different and distinct postures, it really means 13 basic skills or attributes for advance study. These 13 Shi were further developed under different names depending on where and when the material was being taught: the 8 Directions and 5 Steps; the 8 Powers and 5 Elements; the 8 Gates and 5 Directions; and so on.

The 13 Shi allowed one to master using effortless power for self defense. The key to achieving this effortless power was to first master rooting through single weighted postures. Once single weighted rooting was mastered, then what was next mastered was rooted movement while the body is relaxed. To achieve this mastery, the body is kept fully relaxed and tension-less by dropping the shoulders and elbows, relaxing the lower trunk, and letting everything be naturally pulled downward by gravity so that all the body’s weight is felt in the feet. It was essential to be able to retain one’s root while stepping forward and backward; in other words, to walk and shift positions while remaining weighted, or rooted.

To defeat any attackers with effortless power one must bring them out of their range of balance. By evading their attack, they must to over extend to continue to issue force. Next, at the moment of contact, either on defense or offense, the body’s weight must be rooted straight into the ground. The body exhales while the supporting foot is being driven into the ground, allowing the weight to fully drop down into that foot. Thus, the body can then achieve maximum leverage to uproot an attacker by unifying the body’s weight into a single space under this foot. When the weight is dropped through the feet into the ground, our body is more stable than any moving human force that seeks to come into contact with our body, which allows the body to act as a lever to uproot an attacker.

During stepping, it is important that the point on the foot where the most weight is pushing into the floor is centralized. Once you over extend and use brute force you come out of this strong root, and your power decreases congruently. Also, it is important to understand that by relaxing, staying calm, and “not trying”, you can master self defense and uproot an opponent with effortless power. If the opponent enters your space, no matter what technique he is executing, he will be uprooted and toppled easily. The less brute force you use, the more you instead can discharge your mind/intention (Yi) to move others. The weight can then be dropped at will while in any posture or movement.

The next step of great importance is learning to turn at your central axis or waistline. When attacked, you can simply turn your Axis and uproot them with little to no force when rooted. When the force is initiated in our direction we relax patiently and begin turning our axis/waist slightly to redirect or deflect their energy. The hands guard the centerline while simultaneously acting in defense and offense.

Furthermore, internal Chinese martial arts feature such concepts as:
• Maximum power is used with a minimum of effort because the muscles, ligament, tendons, and will are focused to exercise in coordination with each other;

• “Stopping the Fight”, preventing or evading an incoming attack rather than engaging in sports-like one on one trading of blows;

• Evasive maneuvers are used to get out of the way, much like a bull fighter moves out of the way of a charging bull with horns;

• Every technique is simultaneously both offensive and defensive (there is no direct hard blocking first and then a counterattack);

• No first initiation of movement, the attacker initiates, but the defender’s movements quickly hit the attacker before his attack can be completed;

• Striking with punches and kicks is de-emphasized, instead the emphasis is on taking down an opponent by using the legs, arms, or even the whole body to evade, trap, unbalance, or trip an attacker;

• Often the foot is used during self defense to step on an opponent’s foot to help unbalance the attacker;

• All movements are based on pointing, swinging, or both together.

Today, the martial arts of Bagua Zhang, Taiji Quan, and Xing/Xin Yi Quan are the best known of the Neijia arts and are often practiced together. The origins of these so-called “Big Three Internal Martial Arts” are both mysterious and controversial. These convoluted origins are often interconnected and interrelated and span through many other Chinese martial arts. Often times some aspects of one style’s boxing routines served as a root to the development of another style, though their relationship may have become long forgotten today.

During the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912), many famous Chinese martial artists arose who practiced not only all three arts of Bagua, Taiji, and Xingyi, but also some form of Long Fist Boxing as well, such as Shaolin Quan and Tongbei Quan. One such practitioner, Sun Lu Tang ( ??? , 1861-1932), noticed that there were many similarities between the movements, body mechanics, and core ideas of the boxing routines of the three internal arts and was able to develop a practice that successfully integrated their movements. Sun Lu Tang was renowned as a master of the Chinese Neijia (internal) martial arts and was best known for developing the Sun style Tai Chi Chuan, which contains elements of Chen Bagua Zhang, Hao (Wu) Taiji Quan, and Hebei Xing Yi Quan.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tai Chi Chuan-Ancient Martial Art of China

Tai Chi Chuan means Grand/Supreme Ultimate Fist/Boxing or Fist of the Mind Boxing.

Tai Chi utilizes the mind to develop your internal powers to create this ancient exercise system for health and self-defense.

The ancient Chinese developed Tai Chi for combat, to save their lives. Your best chance to survive is to fine tune your body to create optimum health and to use this expression to defeat any opponent. Tai Chi besides provides fighting skills, it also generates optimum health to increase survival probability by generating and circulating the internally created energy. This energy can be used to heal, for optimum health, to fight if you need to defend yourself and feel good.

There are many different styles of Tai Chi which are named after the family that created the style. Chen family style is the original style and Yang, Sun, Wu, and Wudang are offshoots of the original Chen style, but the principles are the same.

Tai Chi is only a form when expressed properly can be used for combat to save your life. You do not fight in slow motion, but you fine tune the body to flow with whatever speed the situation warrants. The form is a tool to produce a well oiled, balanced, coordinated naturally moving machine by utilizing the breath and the mind.
Clear your mind and body of stress, tension and energize and relax yourself naturally.
Learn the secrets of Kung Fu masters.

In ancient times the beginning students didn’t start with the form. Students practiced special standing meditation postures and breathing exercises before learning anything else. Each training session began with an hour of standing meditation to build up chi. Only after sufficiently developed did they start learning Tai Chi’s martial stances. They included meditation, breathing and martial stances. This lasted 2 to 3 years before tai chi form position was taught. Each posture was separately taught and they were finally linked together. Hold each posture for a long time. Chi gong means chi development and is as simple as meditation and breathing exercises

Students learn to relax their minds and breathe evenly. Blood circulation starts flowing evenly. This corresponds with the tai chi theory of silence produces action.

1) Breathing exercises. These include the tai chi form, where the body slowly moves. Proper breathing is a must for relaxation, just as relaxation is critical for good breathing practice.
2) What makes tai chi so beneficial for chi development? The answer lies in tai chi’s most important principles-relaxation and calmness. These are the keys to chi development.
3) Most people don’t realize that under tension or stress, they exhale longer than they inhale. If they are not relaxed while practicing tai chi, their shoulders tense and their breathing rises, throwing off the timing and smoothness of their form. Tai chi breathing exercises teach students to inhale and exhale at the same rate.
4) Without chi development, tai chi would be just another external martial art or exercise. Chi development comes from passive meditation and stance training. It must also include chi and physical activity, gained form forms practice and breathing exercises. Coordination and flow of hands, fine tuning the musculature creating more sensitivity and increased reflexes. Opening and closing the joints.

Tai chi form and applications—Tai Chi is a scientific martial art. If you don’t follow the principles, the result is poor tai chi.

Each principle is structured around precise body actions, incorporating different angles and directions. There is no question that good Tai chi comes through hard work and correct practice. If you do not correctly practice the form, you will never reach your full potential in tai chi.

The external appearance of tai chi form techniques, postures and footwork must be correct. This external appearance is how you position your arms and legs when you move. As a rule, correct form is also nice-looking form, but with tai chi there’s more to it than just beauty.

Once you learn the form and memorize its sequence, you must work on keeping five parts of your body down. From top to bottom, those five areas are the shoulders, chest, elbows, hips and back heel.

1) 1. Shoulders-always down and relaxed. When your shoulders are raised they cause your chest muscles to tense, making your breathing rise in the chest cavity. For martial art purposes, people with tense, raised shoulders are easily thrown off balance, because their bodies are too stiff. When you shoulders are tense, your striking energy is broken at the shoulder joint. This seriously restricts your power and force.

2) Elbows-down, it elbows are raised sideways; any striking or defending arm leverage is weak and energy is lost. Also raised elbows also make your shoulders stiff and chest muscles tense, causing you to breathe high in the chest.

3) Chest---relaxes and slightly concave. Correct breathing is another reason for keeping your chest muscles relaxed. Most people only use the upper third of their lung capacity when they breathe. The accepted goal for both martial arts and health is to use your full lung capacity and breathe deeply into the lower abdomen. To that end, you cannot have tense chest muscles and expect to breathe with your entire lung capacity. When you only breathe in the upper part of your chest, your upper body is too heavy and your lower extremities are too light, which throw you off balance. Also breathing too high in the chest causes the heel of you back to come off the ground. This makes it easy for people to pull or push you off balance
4) Hips and waist-No matter what style of tai chi you practice; your hips should always be tucked, with your tailbone turned upward. If your butt sticks out to the rear, your back is swayed and there is no body connection. This leads to little power and balance. Waist relaxed and flexible. A flexible waist makes your lower body foundation stronger by letting you position your feet in their strongest natural position.

5) Back Foot—when practicing tai chi, your back foot and heel must remain flat on the ground. A common mistake with tai chi practitioners is turning the back foot’s heel or pulling the side of the foot off the ground. Your feet must be flat before they are rooted and stable.

6) Now that you know the five parts of your body to keep down, here are a few more pointers on correct tai chi forms:

1. head-.eye position look straight and eyes follow your hand’s direction.
2.body level=loose power
3.timing(all movements in tai chi like pulling a silk thread form a cocoon-soft and even-being careful not to break the thread with jerky movements
4.. Weight shifting=if done correctly, your moving steps are similar to a cat. A cat steps so lightly, it doesn’t make sound. When you move the same way-light and relaxed-you advance and retreat easily and quickly in fighting situations.

Daily practice is essential for results and results will produce greater mental clarity, memory, concentration, relax and stretch all the joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles.

Samurai maxim- A man who has mastered an art reveals it in his every action.

Training is a process of self-discovery, modifying your personality to make yourself healthier, better balanced and more efficient.

Learning any art takes time and patience. Achieve it slowly. To keep moving and exercising you is important. The core of this art is the focus on your health.

Be Natural means to learn or do things without too much thought.

Tai Chi aligns the spine and improves posture. Internal school of Tai Chi calls the spine “the dragon bone or the “dragon” BECAUSE IT IS THE SOURCE OF ONE’S MENTAL, PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL STRENGTH.
Your spinal alignment transforms the internal energy from bottom to top.
Correct posture is of fundamental importance, not only in Tai chi movement, but also for individual health. A relaxed, straight spine is beneficial for health.

You can cultivate gracefulness in your life by practicing the forms.
Zen saying: “Change your body and the mind will follow”

Class Exercises to develop Tai Chi Mind, Body and Spirit:

1) Opening energy 5 exercises
2) Finger, wrist, elbow, shoulder, waist twists, neck, knees, waist stretching and body loosening exercises
3) Coiling arms exercises
4) Chi Gong breathing set
5) Tai Chi Chi Gong breath and movement exercises
6) Form
7) Tai Chi Walking exercise
8) Tai Chi Circling arms exercises
9) Push Hand exercises
10) Martial art applications of Tai Chi movements
11) Advanced Chi Gong, Bagua, I Chuan exercises

Monday, March 22, 2010

Meditation reduces pain levels

I have from time to time heard of monks who can meditate in the freezing cold and maintain a warm body temperature, and those who have a high threshold for pain. Well, it seems that science has proven that meditation helps reduce pain.

AFP, March 3, 2010

Montreal, Canada -- ZEN meditation helps lower sensitivity to pain by thickening a part of the brain that regulates emotion and painful sensations, according to a study published recently. University of Montreal researchers compared the grey matter thickness of 17 Zen meditators and 18 non-meditators and found evidence that practising the centuries-old discipline can reinforce a central part of the brain called the anterior cingulate. "Through training, Zen meditators appear to thicken certain areas of their cortex and this appears to underlie their lower sensitivity to pain," lead author Joshua Grant said in a statement.

Building on an earlier study, the researchers measured thermal pain sensitivity by applying a heated plate to the calf of participants. This was followed by scanning the brains of subjects with structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The MRI results showed central brain regions that regulate emotion and pain were significantly thicker in meditators compared to non-meditators.

James: This isn't news to Buddhism because reports of over-coming pain have been known in Buddhist history for centuries. It is interesting though to see science proving it. It makes sense though that meditation, which regulates the mind would help reduce pain. There is clearly a connection between the mind and body, so it isn't any wonder that Buddhists teach that oneness of body and mind through meditation and mindfulness opens the way for a calmer state of being. This is proving that through meditation one can literally rewire the brain, which surely has something to do with realizing long-term enlightenment.

I have noticed actually a higher pain threshold since beginning my Buddhist practice. I blew it off at first as being pseudo-science experiences but this makes me rethink that position. When I get tattoos I can sit through the pain to where at times it actually feels good!! I think that's in part because I meditate while getting the tattoo. The first few tattoos that I got where quite painful and ironically enough that was a time before I was practicing Buddhist meditation.

This also makes me think of the pain experienced from doing sitting meditation when first starting out or when returning to a dormant practice. Because the more you practice, the less painful it seems to get:

"The often painful posture associated with Zen meditation may lead to thicker cortex and lower pain sensitivity," Grant opined. Several of the meditators tolerated a maximum 53°C produced by a heating plate. They appeared to further reduce their pain partly through slower breathing: 12 breaths per minute versus an average of 15 breaths for non-meditators. "Slower breathing certainly coincided with reduced pain and may influence pain by keeping the body in a relaxed state," Grant said in the earlier study. Ultimately, Zen meditators experience an 18% reduction in pain sensitivity, according to the original study.

James: If everything is interdependent and interconnected then clearly it makes sense that the body can be tempered by the mind when its steered in the right direction. The mind in my opinion isn't entirely useless or bad as some Buddhists might believe. I see it as a wild horse that if tamed, it can accomplish some amazing things. After all, if we shut off the mind completely then we'd be piles of mush unable to be moved to practice compassion, loving-kindness and good will.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Yi Chuan: building strength called Hunyuan Strength

Student: So why is Hunyuan strength so important?
Master Fung: The development of Hunyuan strength is the basis for both health cultivation and self defense. You have to understand that health and self-defense are inseparable when it comes to martial arts. A healthy mind-body is the foundation of strength and awareness and therefore of paramount importance in Kung Fu. The exercises we use to discover and develop Hunyuan strength are beneficial to health. Much has been written about this...deeper relaxation, lubricating the joints, stretching the tendons, strengthening the ligaments, massaging the organs, etc. We are holistically exercising the body in a balanced way. Of course Yi Chuan is martial in nature, therefore we emphasize postures and orbits useful for fighting. When deployed with the proper footwork and timing, techniques expressed with Hunyuan strength utilize the capacity of the whole body to absorb, redirect and discharge strength. Powerful techniques can be delivered without much movement but with sudden and overwhelming force. By arranging our training to develop Hunyuan strength, we address the intertwined issues of health and self defense simultaneously.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Yi Chuan information

Benefits of Yi Chuan

Yi Chuan is a unique system of internal training that has recently become available in the West. It provides almost immediate results and can be practiced by people of all ages and levels of athletic ability. By practicing Yi Chuan regularly for even less than a year, one can go from weakness to strength and from sickness to vibrant health. If one is already strong and healthy, then one can become much stronger. Practicing this art will increase mental awareness, help to alleviate chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems, asthma, weight problems, diabetes, sleeplessness, nervousness, bad memory and poor appetite. It will also give one a healthier and more vibrant appearance.

Yi Chuan is regarded as a preventive medicine. For office workers, a half-hour in the morning is good for the nervous system, metabolism, and circulation. In fact, everyone who practices these exercises will experience his/her own development and benefit.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Yi Chuan

Practices of Yi Chuan

Yi Chuan exercises are soft, slow and gentle, involving a minimum of physical effort while requiring significant mental effort: concentration, directed attention, patience, persistence, imagination, and visualization. The mind does more and the body does less than in external exercise, and the result is that a kind of surplus energy builds up in the body. The hallmark of Yi Chuan is the concentration on various "standing post" postures for the development of the framework of "internal strength." The Taoist philosophy is the primary foundation of Yi Chuan. One of the main Taoist principles states that the true essence of nature is simplicity and nothingness. Therefore there are no forms in Yi Chuan.

The stance work peculiar to the internal martial arts systems differs from the more external variety in that it treats the body as a single framework and unit-organism similar to a strand of pearls. Through continued practice, your body is strengthened and healed both externally and internally from inside-out. The sustained postures develop not only an extraordinary whole-body framework, but also a subtle emanation of chi can be felt.

The Practices of Yi Chuan are very approachable. One can practice while one is standing, sitting, walking and lying down. Through steadfast practice, one can soon experience a surge of vital energy throughout the body.

At its highest level, Yi Chuan is intimately linked with the concept of self-cultivation. Liberating the mind through self-cultivation enables the practitioner to develop a more intuitive consciousness - a central aspect of Taoism and Buddhism. By relaxing the mind into its own state, the Yi Chuan practitioner strives to regain the mind's original, self-existing pristine awareness. This awareness is thought of as the essential unchanging ground from which all things arise.

*For a reference of Yi Chuan practices, see Master Dong's book: Still As a Mountain, Powerful As Thunder : Simple Taoist Exercises for Healing, Vitality, and Peace of Mind

Chi Gong (Breath Work)

Six Powerful Qigong Secrets for Generating Greater Strength

John Du Cane
Over many centuries, Chinese internal martial artists developed numerous skills for cultivating immense strength and formidable endurance, with or without the use of weights (as in weapons training).

Here are six of the most powerful qigong techniques for increasing your strength:

Low-stance standing
Whole books have been devoted to the power of standing postures to develop strength and energy. Crucial elements include: aligning the body correctly to minimize gravitational pull and optimize flow, the ability to remain relaxed while maintaining a low stance and correct abdominal breathing.

Central to this technique is the idea that we can employ an almost photosynthetic capability to “feed” ourselves by absorbing additional energy into our bodies from the external environment. The effect is similar to pumping up a car tire. The body becomes, with dedicated practice, highly buoyant and resilient. High-level practitioners are capable of “bouncing” strikes off their bodies. Absorbing techniques require great skill and perseverance in the use of attention to induce this phenomenon.

Creating a vibratory current
This is a very high-level practice for “upping the charge” in your body. Again, the skilled use of attention and extended practice are key, as you learn to vibrate energy backwards and forwards to promote higher intensity within your frame. The potential with this kind of technique is unlimited.

Compressed breathing
Qigong masters discovered that you can regulate strength in the body by creating greater pressure in the abdominal area. There are several methods used for “packing” extra pressure by compressing the breath in a forceful manner, while holding the stomach area very tight. The more you do this, the more strength you will be able to exert throughout your body.

Localized tension control
Once you have mastered compressed breathing and developed your attention skills, you can learn to shift your qi and “tension” into a very concentrated spot or area in your body. The training for this often involves specific movements or held postures that help direct energy to that area. Even vulnerable areas like the front of the throat can be trained in this manner. To illustrate this point, one of my teachers would use a palm strike to shatter a ballpoint pen lodged against his throat.

Elastic winding
Internal martial artists figured out how to “load tension” into their muscles by deliberately twisting their bodies like coiled springs. This coiled position is either held for long periods or used as a preparation or transition for explosive action. Iron Shirt qigong uses this technique as do forms like The 18 Buddha Hands and The Five Animal Frolics.

Dragon Door author Pavel Tsatsouline gave a modern explanation of how elastic winding works in a past issue of Milo magazine:

“Muscular force is generated by actin and myosin filaments overlapping each other and forming cross-bridges…once the actin and myosin filaments have maximally overlapped, more tension can be realized by spiralling of the myosin filaments. A change in the length of the pitch of the actin helix may also boost force production during a very intense muscular contraction. Both processes can be compared to twisting a rubber band after it has fully contracted…it enables the muscle to store high amounts of elastic energy as the descending weight stretches the bands and the twists in the bands on the way down.”