Chi Kung for Making Babies

Year after year, day after day, I hear people expressing enthusiasm for qigong.  I suppose we could say I share their enthusiasm, after all, I've spent many, many years practicing qigong every single day.  The problem is that qigong is not an enthusiastic tradition.

After something on the order of 30,000 hours of practice  all I can say is, I don't know anything.  (According to Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours theory, I have accumulated enough experience to have mastered qigong three times!)

To me, the practice of qigong is about becoming a baby.  It is about returning to innocence.  It is about discarding knowledge for the simple reason that babies have it all, already.

Healing?  No one knows what causes healing.  If your life is causing you stress or pain, return to simplicity.  Start from the beginning.  Qigong is a series of movement strategies to coax you back, back to the beginning of the process, or the project, or the job, back to the movement, back to the original inspiration which started to take shape in your body.  Qigong is a process of unraveling, it is a type of forgetting.  Is it medicine?  I dare say it is not.  Can it result in healing? I think it can.

Discovery?  Yes, you will make discoveries along the way, but then you must discard them.  If you build them up into a system of levels and achievements, treat those levels the way any 2 year old would treat a castle made of wood blocks.  Cast them asunder.  Because orthodoxy must have a way to renew itself or its qi will become stale.

Forms?  Forms take you back to before you were born.  They are a way to dance in your ancestor's body.  They collect the width, and breadth, the boundaries of movement knowledge.  They are empty.  Honor that emptiness.

If you write about your discoveries, have the child-like humility to memorize them, and then eat them.

In two years of writing this blog I have not recommended a single book about how to do qigong.  This is not because I'm an asshole.  It's because by the time these books are printed the qi is already stale.  Babies like to chew on books.  I've yet to find one that tasted the way a book should taste.

Five Levels of Muscle Training

This is a description of internal martial arts from the point of view of muscles.  These five levels apply to taijiquan, baguazhang, xingyiquan and (applied) qigong:

  1. Moving and Coordinating; running, jumping, rolling, lifting, stretching, etc.

  2. Static Structure; The ability to hold a static shape for a long period of time, and transfer force applied on any part of the body to the feet, the back or another limb.

  3. Continuous Structure with Movement;  All muscles must move in twists and spirals following the flow of the bones and ligaments.  Muscles weaken and become sensitive.  Force can be applied in motion at any angle from any part of the body.  Force can be avoided without losing whole body integration.

  4. Empty and Full at the Same Time;  All muscle tension must be discarded along with all intention to move.   Any solid concept of body structure must be discarded or melted away.  Muscles function like liquid and air.  (Power becomes unstoppable but unfocused and difficult to direct.)

  5. Whole Body Becomes a Ball.  Resistance training for big muscles only.  Small muscles are used mainly for sensitivity and force transfer (ligament support).  Muscles move only by "ten directions breathing," they move in all directions using expansion and condensation, not lengthening and shortening.


The separation of jing and qi, which happens automatically in stillness, needs to be available in motion to enter level 4.

In order to act through a body, that body must be felt as a dream.  Dreaming is not like the conscious mind.  If you think about running, you are likely to stumble.  In order to run, speak, or do any of these types of muscle training, you must first dream it.  In order to reach level 5, levels 1 through 4 must be felt as dream.  In other words, they can be done spontaneously by feeling, without thinking, or willing.



From my experience, this order is essential.  Each level takes a minimum of two years training.  Some internal traditions attempt to start their training at level 4 and then go back and fill in gaps in levels 1 and 2 through diligent forms practice.  The attempt to fill gaps in level 3 through push-hands training.  That seems like a mistake.

The quickest way to get level one skills is through rough play or dance (forms with speed and rhythm).

Level 2 can only be learned through a teacher/partner who tests your structure.

Levels 3 and 4 will be inhibited by strength training.

The key to transitioning from level 3 to level 4 is non-aggression, wuwei.  Aggression is refined to perfection and then discarded.  This transition probably requires working with emotionally mature partners.

Applications do not work at level 4.  Period. But paradoxically, the ability to use weight and momentum improves.

The good news! Yes, it takes at least ten years (two years for each level, and a minimum of three hours everyday), but levels 2 through 5 can be practiced at any age.  Levels 2 through 5 actually get easier with age because muscles become weaker and skin becomes looser!

Should You Have Sex With Your Qigong Teacher?

yoga5September being Yoga Month, I happened on an article yesterday in Common Ground called, "Should You Sleep With Your Yoga Teacher."  It's hardly worth linking too...and sorry it's not on-line yet.  In a few words; it was wishy-washy.  The majority of Yoga teachers quoted the precept, "Do no harm."  Which is of course a fantasy, not a precept.  But it makes an interesting contrast with the Martial Arts precept, "Do maximum harm."

Neither precept gives us much to go on.   The article retreated to the standard American office protocol; people in positions of power should not abuse their power.  Do not coerce your students to have sex with you.  Duh.

I was disappointed.  Had I been writing the article I might have said something about how Yoga classes generally have a hypnotic quality.  All the Yoga teachers they posed the question to talked about the importance of creating something elusive called "Sacred Space."  In a Yoga class the teacher will go through a series of requests.  Do this, now do that, now relax, now take a breath (as if you would forget) now do this progressively more difficult thing, now relax, now do this, now do abracadabra-vinyasa (half the class doesn't know what this means but they all pretend they do and just follow someone else).  In short suggestions followed by compliance followed by more difficult or unusual requests.  Hypnoses.

Until recently, perhaps because of  my contrary nature, I have had an aversion to thinking about hypnosis.   But no more.  I'm into it (more blog posts coming up!), and I think it's an important tool for learning.

In the context of Yoga as hypnosis, the question comes up, do Yoga students have conscious will?  If they have given over their conscious will to their teacher, then how can they consent?  Notice I didn't say "free will," I said "conscious will."  Hypnosis probably requires that the person being hypnotized freely give over control of their conscious will to the hypnotizer.

This is possible because conscious will is probably an illusion.  You can wiggle you foot four different ways--

1.  you can plan to wiggle it and then wiggle it,

2.  you can think "I'm wiggling my foot" while you are wiggling it,

3.  you can think, "wow, I just noticed that I was wiggling my foot unconsciously,"

4.  or you can wiggle your foot and not even know you wiggled it (but a machine can measure it).

We usually prefer to believe we are having sex because of a conscious decision, certainly that is the legal requirement, but in reality we may be acting on mostly unconscious "factors," like hormones and smells and conditioning.  We may be just telling ourselves that we are entirely free agents.  I don't know.

Daoism is clear about this.  Sex is OK if you are trying to have a baby.  Otherwise it's a really inefficient use of jing and qi.

Most martial arts classes are not too hypnotic, but there is a continuum on the one hand between;

•  classes where students independently run most of their own workout and come together to do two person routines or competitive activities and...

•  classes where a teacher guides the students through a slow series of suggestions, many of them about illusive qi flow and the visualization of colored clouds.

So my, my dear readers, I leave it in your hands to answer the question:  Should You Have Sex With Your Qigong Teacher?

UPDATE:  (I've decided I'm going to start teaching Taoist Yoga sometime this Fall.)

UPDATE:  Here is a weird blog on Sexy Yoga from China.

What Are All the Different Styles of Chi Kung?

I'm working on a web page that will be a clear and thorough explanation of Qigong.  It will include links to articles which explore various details in greater depth.  The following is a short section I have been working on:

Below is a list of all the styles of qigong.  Nearly all qigong practices are named after a cosmological principle (like hunyuan, which means original chaos) or a metaphor which is specific to Chinese culture like Wild-goose, (which means lots of weird movements stuck together in one form).  I haven't included every single name because the same type of qigong sometimes goes by different names, this is a list of qigong by characteristics and type.

I first started studying qigong in 1977 when I was 10 years old because it was considered a basic requirement of Northern Shaolin training.  I first heard the term qigong when I was about 20 in the late 1980's as qigong fever was sweaping Mainland China.  By 1995 I had seen every type of qigong on this list.  Every year I hear someone claim to have discovered a new, yet ancient, type of qigong that is more special that all the rest.  Inevitably what they are practicing is just one the following repackaged.  While I find the claims a little pretentious, the trend itself is positive.  All forms of qigong become very personal over time because all dedicated practitioners will naturally combine and integrate the following types of qigong to suit their needs, values and in accordance with their temperament.  I myself have created two "new" types of qigong; Tiger Skin Qigong and Chicken Toe Qigong.  Here is the list:

Zhangzuan (Standing Meditation, done in various postures)

Wu Xing-Five Organs (While the movements themselves may differ from school to school, the basic idea that each organ generates, and is tonified or depleted by, a particular quality of movement is the same.)

3 Dantians (the use of swinging movement generated from, and integrated with, the three centers of the body, abdomen, chest and head) (Note: Swinging the arms from the lower dantian while shifting weight from foot to foot is the most widespread form of qigong.  Variations are used in almost all martial arts schools.)

Cloud Hands (a simple asymmetrical movement of the arms which can be use as a base for integrating other types of qigong)

Muscle Tendon Lengthening (The art of stretching)

Golden Ball (Moving qi around the dantian)

8 Extraordinary Meridians (Exploring how qi moves around the surface of the body at the moment of birth)

Heaven & Earth (Micro/macro cosmic orbit, three dimensional pulsing & elasticity, usually symmetrical movement)

Spine training (Bend the Bow and Shoot the Arrow; drawing qi into the spine for healing, power, and for connecting the movement of the limbs to the spine )

Chan Su Jing, (Silk Spinning --joint releasing & spiraling movements) go

Immortals Dancing in the Clouds (Bone Marrow Washing, Sinew integration, and development of spherical movement)

Daoyin (Orthodox Daoist Lineage Hermit Practice which uses extensive stretching, with rolling slapping jumping, pounding, scraping and self massage.  Sometimes broken into pieces, sometimes combined with circus training or monkey kungfu.)

Hunyuan (Prenatal movement rediscovered with an emphasis on the movement of fluids and the development of the qualities of empty and full.  Often asymmetrical.)

8 Silken Brocade (8 Sinew lengthening and integrating movements)

Wild Goose (A particular teacher's 'list of favorates' put together into a form linking them together.)  (Geese in the wild do lots of different types of movement.  They run, hop, swim, fly, flap, squawk, root, gargle, preen, stretch, stand on one leg, etc...)

Tai Chi--(Taijiquan, the martial art, can be practiced purely to get the benefits of improved balance, mobility, flexibility, and circulation.  In this case it is often simplified and/or made symmetrical. )

Conditioning Techniques  (Iron shirt, Gold Bell, iron palm--toughening exercise for forearms,shins, and torso)

Taoist (Daoist meditation is sometimes taught as stillness qigong.  Particularly jindan, the golden elixir, and various tension dissolving techniques).  (Sometimes the deity visualization intermediary practices are taught without explicit naming of the deities-- only their attributes as visualized.)

Now that I've released the comprehensive list I encourage people to challenge it!  Have you seen or practiced a type of qigong not on the list?  Can you describe it's attributes?

Note: Obviously I've discarded the standard Communist Government organization.  I've never seen Buddhist, Confucian, or Neo-Confucian qigong.

Update: We had a discussion on Facebook, where my blog now appears (search for Scott P Phillips if you want to be my friend).  I decided that the last category "Taoist" is an identity, and therefore not suitable as a category because it opens up the possibility of naming techniques after identity groups of regions.  Therefore, I am changing the "Taoist" Category to "Inner Alchemy."