Development of Chinese martial Qigong most likely started during the time of Da Mo. Da Mo was an Indian Buddhist prince who accepted an invitation from Emperor Liang (Liang Dynasty 502-50 A.D.), to come to China to preach. The emperor did not value Da Mo’s philosophy, so Da Mo went to the Shaolin Temple. It was in the Shaolin Temple that he observed that the priests were prone to sickness due to their weak physical bodies. Committed to helping the priests of the Shaolin Temple, Da Mo went into seclusion for nine years to ponder this problem. During his seclusion he had written two books, Yi Jin Jing (Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic) and Xi Sui Jing (Marrow/Brain Washing Classic).
Many Buddhist priests practiced the techniques given to them (after the emergence of Da Mo from seclusion), in the Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic. It was at this point that there was a paradigm shift in the Buddhist Qigong; strength and health of the physical body also aided in preparation of the mind and spirit for Buddhahood.
As the Shaolin priests applied the techniques of the exercises, they found that their health increased, and their physical power increased to very significant levels. When the power they had developed was combined with their fighting techniques, Chinese martial arts underwent another step forward in its evolution.
As mentioned above, the training in Muscle/Tending Changing Qigong, created an evolution in power for Shaolin monk martial techniques. Several martial styles following this evolution have developed Qigong exercises to boost their effectiveness. This gave rise to the development of martial styles based on Qigong theory as the starting material.
Qigong is used in martial arts to enhance the power and efficiency of the muscles. Using a simple idea, that the mind (Yi) leads Qi to the muscles, which in turn energizes the muscle and makes their use more efficient and economical in the sense that fatigue is reduced. This development mitigated much of the fatigue experienced during the long hours of sedentary meditation. By average, a person uses less than 40% maximum muscle efficiency. The use of a strong mind to guide Qi to the muscles in a more effective manner, stimulates a higher level of muscle energy and as a result fighting effectiveness is increased.
The advancement of fighting technique evolved further through the understanding of acupuncture as martial artists learned how and where to attack specific vital acupuncture cavities to disrupt their opponents Qi flow to create imbalances which lead to injury or death. This type of specific attacking technique is only applied effectively by practitioners that have knowledge of the timing and path of Qi circulation in the body. This also requires accuracy for striking the correct cavities. Cavity striking techniques are referred to as Dian Xue (Pointing Cavities) or Dian Mai or Dim Mak (Pointing Vessels).
The main benefit of martial Qigong (apart from enhancing fighting power) is health improvement. However, some martial Qigong practices can be damaging to the practitioner’s health, although they typically do provide the enhancement of a specific fighting skill. One example of this is Iron Sand Palm which in one way can give the user significant power, but a side effect of over training it is the alteration of Qi circulation in the hands and the internal organs.
Qigong theory has paved the way to the development of several martial styles that can be divided into internal and external styles.
External Styles – Heightens the build up of Qi in the limbs for coordinating the physical martial techniques. The theory of Wai Dan (external elixir) is followed in external Qigong. Qi is customarily generated in the limbs by special exercises. Concentration of the mind is utilized during the practice to energize Qi, which in turn fortifies muscular strength and the effectiveness of martial technique. Training a specific Qigong can develop resistance to kicks and punches. In this practice, Qi is sent to energize the skin and muscles which can allow the user to resist strikes without injury. Examples of this training include Tie Bu Shan (Iron Shirt), Jin Zhong Zhao (Golden Bell Cover). Shaolin Gongfu is a style that uses Wai Dan martial Qigong, which classifies it as an external style (Wai Gong) or hard style (Ying Gong).
Precautionary Statement – Power development is important, and Wai Dan Qigong is a path to such power, but this can lead to overdevelopment of the external muscles. This overdevelopment can be to a disadvantage as there is a problem known as energy dispersion (San Gong) when a practitioner gets on in years. It is for this reason that high level external martial arts practitioners integrate internal Qigong methods to reduce the effect of energy dispersion. For this purpose, it is said that “Shaolin Gongu from external to internal.” During the muscle tension, one must be mindful of not overdoing this tension so to not inhibit the flow of Qi through the vital channels, which would defeat the purpose of the exercise altogether. Remember, we don’t force or fight the flow, we allow it to be.
Internal Styles – Based on the theory of Nei Dan (internal elixir), which generates Qi in the body instead of the limbs. Qi is sent to the limbs from the internal vessels to increase power. Muscle usage is kept to the minimum in order to lead Qi to the limbs. This is achieved by using soft techniques and limiting muscle utilization. There is a paradox in that this soft training techniques in Nei Dan is much harder than those of the hard, martial Qigong of Wai Dan.
Precautionary Statement – The practitioner should not rely on one or the other martial Qigong styles in martial arts. It goes without saying some instances call for the use of muscular strength during martial combat. It is for this reason that practitioners that have a working knowledge base of the softer internal Qigong should also learn to use the harder external techniques. For this reason, it is said that “The internal styles are from soft to hard.”
Qigong development has led to of the realization that Qi circulation changes seasonally. During the periodic changes it is good practice to have the body adapt to the changes. Some organs are prone to having different issues during each season. For example, Autumn changes the function of the lungs in colder air while breathing. This leaves the lungs exposed to disturbances and at higher risk to catching colds more easily when transitioning from warmer temperatures to colder temperatures. During seasonal changes your digestive system can be affected. You may experience a deeper need to feed in colder temperatures. Also, when temperatures decrease you may experience kidney or bladder issues. Kidney stress can lead to back pain. Many of these maladies are a product of Qi disorders which can be offset by perform Qigong movements to speeds up the body’s adjustment to seasonal changes.
Qigong used for health purposes has been formatted by many doctors to model animal movements which target treatment of specific organs and biological systems of the body. The most typical and well-known set of exercises is the Wu Qin Xi (Five Animal Sports) which was created by Dr. Jun Qian. For the purpose of enhancing health and avoiding sickness another well-known practice called Ba Duan Jin (The Eight Pieces of Brocade), was developed by a soldier, Marshal Yue Fei. Illness is prevented by balanced Qi. Unbalanced Qi is the cause of many illnesses. Prolonged periods of unbalanced Qi can lead to degradation of the organs.
Further healing and preventative methods involve administering herbal supplementation, acupressure and acupuncture. Qigong exercises are a small, albeit one significant part of improving our health using traditional Chinese medical science. The medicinal effect of Qigong is concentrating Qi in specific areas in the body by the accentuation of moving meditation. Qigong can aid in maintaining health and preventing illness by reducing the effects of seasonal changes.
This artical was writen by my Student Geordie Biggar