Qigong Practice in the Cold

Travis practicing Qigong in January. 20 degrees F. 

Travis practicing Qigong in January. 20 degrees F. 

There is debate about whether one should be warm, dry and comfortable doing Qigong. Some texts and I can also attest that my late Master T.K.Shih taught that one should be warm and comfortable when performing Qigong. The reason is based on opening the pores of the skin and the gates of the body in cold, windy or damp weather could predispose one to detrimental exogenous qi deviations. In his later years Master Shih practiced qigong only inside from what he told me. Chinese Traditional Medicine texts along with many Daoist practices would also back him up on that point. Calm mind, calm environment and comfortable loose clothing is the ideal.

I have talked with other practitioners, teachers and masters and there are those that would disagree and state it was just fine to practice in non-ideal settings and temperatures. I even know of one who likes to practice during thunderstorms. In his opinion, the qi is quite powerful in the air. 

Now after practicing qigong for 18 years, I can tell you from my experience that if you enjoy doing it, the rest of the factors are almost irrelevant. Other masters and instructors may disagree with me but like the 'Dude' says "It's just your opinion, Man."

Now, personally I practice a lot indoors in my den, but on a nice day, I will certainly be outside. Every now and then I do break out of my comfort zone and foray into a cold day, during a snow fall, the bitter cold of a winter night under stars or the blazing, burn inducing rays of the sun (when that happens twice a year in Michigan ). Being out in the environment always seems to give me a better feel. Sun, sky, wind, outside air, smells or grass or wet cold wood to me are added layers to the experience.

Recent research is showing exposure to outside air bathes us in more negative ions that are in the environment vs. the positive charged particles we are overly exposed to. In the stagnant air of a house that is circulated by a furnace or air conditioner along with all the positive ions produced by our electrical appliances, TVs, phones and computers, getting outside may be the best thing for us, qigong or not. Feel free to google the healthy benefits of negative ions as it is better stated throughout the internet than I can provide space for here.

Further research into exposing ourselves to the cold can have beneficial effects upon our nervous and immune systems. I am not saying one has to go all 'Wim Hof Iceman' into deep cold exposure, but I think some cold built into ones health and fitness regimn might be quite beneficial.

So if you are a tai chi, kungfu or qigong practitioner, get outside and level up your game. If its in the cold, then step up and enjoy the challenge.

Travis

 

 

Martial Qigong (Wu Gong)

4511504384_4b954fc374.jpg

The Martial School of Qigong (Wu Gong)

Over the last year my own personal Qigong practice has shifted from the Medical and Daoist approaches towards more of the Wu Gong methods. The reason for this is I am now a student of Tibetan Burning Palm Kung Fu under the guidance of Sifu Garry Hearfield of Warrior Body Buddha Mind. The journey into this art requires the time and work (gung) to fully appreciate its depths.

I have found the qigong methods in Tibetan Burning Palm quite enjoyable and stimulating compared to some of the more sedate Medical or Daoist methods. It may be due to the fact I like a bit more dynamic movement. To each his own. One should do what one is passionate about. If you hate the practice, find something else. The following is just a brief introduction to Martial Qigong.

Qigong development has always been about the borrowing,synthesizing and further developing and modifying ideas and methods from other disciplines. Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian, Medical and Martial forms have all borrowed from one another and used each others methods to better themselves. For example, martial artists learned acupuncture points and meridian systems to understand the flow of qi, for both self healing  and improve recovery as well as for striking specific points or cavities to further damage or kill an opponent by disrupting the qi. Classically these were called dian xue (pointing cavities) or dian mai (pointing vessels) or what many modern martial artists refer to as the darker arts of Dim Mak.

The Martial School of Qigong most popularly is traced back to Da Mo's arrival at the Shaolin Temple during the Liang Dynasty in China. He found the monks there had poor physical bodies and less than optimal health due to their sedate meditative practices. He wrote the Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic during this time and instituted mandatory physical and martial training in the monks. Soon they increased their health, built their bodies stronger and greatly enhanced their martial art power. Shaolin monks since that time have been known as legendary martial artists.

Martial qigong techniques continued to develop. This has even lead to the development of Kung Fu styles such as Tai Chi Chuan, Xing Yi and Ba Gua that use internal energy embedded within their movements. 

The benefits of Martial Qigong are as follows:

  1. Greater physical conditioning leading to greater force and power development as well as to withstand physical stikes better. Iron Body/Iron Palm
  2. Develop "Spring Force" to maximize damage with strikes
  3. Improve health and healing capabilities. The same energy that can be used to devastate can also be used to heal. It is just a matter of Intent
  4. Improve vitality. Many of the methods emphasize the Kidneys.
  5. Facilitates better understanding of the vital points, cavities and meridians

 Iron Shirt and Iron Palm are two popular methods that use both internal energy work and conditioning work to build a body that can better withstand blows and develop the strikes do deliver devastating damage. Other areas of the body such as head, groin and appendages also have similiar methods applied to them. The Iron Shirt and Iron palm methods require careful study and practice and should not be rushed to avoid serious injury.

Springy Force is another element to Martial Qigong. This is internal energy that couples with the physical interplay of tension and elasticity of the tissues. Combined they form 'springy force'. I think the image of a coiled rattle snake striking out encapsulates the idea. At the end point of this springy force is an impact strike that delivers greater than normal damage. 

So this was just a quick summary of Martial Qigong. One of many elements that make up training for Kung Fu in all it's many branches. For those researching and practicing Qigong, explore the Martial Branch as well. You may find it holds many beneficial methods to incorporate in your own practices.

To your Health and Vitality,

Travis Summerville 

For those interested in Warrior Body Buddha Mind. Here is the link:  www.warriorbodybuddhamind.com

photo credit: bozzo2m <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/44703381@N06/4511504384">Shaolin</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">(license)</a>

So many paths, which one to choose?

"I do qi gong". That's like saying "I do exercise." It could mean almost anything. A person could mean they like weight training, or running, Pilates, CrossFit, or playing a sport such as tennis to work up a sweat. Describing qi gong is exactly like that. I briefly describe the major branches of qi gong in my website: Martial, Medical, Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist.

Within these large branches sprout many more. For example, within the martial branches are Shaolin, Wudang, Mount Ermei and many others. Even these break down into certain lineages. A lineage is a form of kung fu and qi gong that is directly passed down from lineage holder to lineage holder. They contain all the knowledge and mastery of that form. They hold the 'DNA' of that form. 

To make matters even more confusing, there are many qi gong forms being taught that may have been part of a lineage and have been taught separately from the original comprehensive format. That doesn't make the qi gong form less effective in and of itself. It is still beneficial but the student may not know it is but a part of a greater style.

Many forms have taken different names and the movements changed somewhat to reflect the style it was taught under. Feel free to youtube "Eight Pieces of Brocade Qi gong" and you will quickly see dozens of pattern variations, speed of execution, sequencing, and even name changes.

For the beginner it all looks overwhelming. "Where do I possibly start?" Well, depending on what you want to do, research the big branches I listed above to see what resonates with you. Many of those branches will have very similar forms contained within them: standing forms, moving forms, sitting meditations, martial forms, physical conditioning or self massage.

 My personal suggestion for a moving form is The Eight Pieces of Brocade. It is simple to learn, gentle on the body, encompasses medical and general health benefits and makes a good whole body exercise set. In just about any of it's incarnations, it is a great first form to introduce a novice into a larger qi gong and kung fu world.

Later on the novice can explore other forms depending on his or her interest. That is the beauty of qi gong. You can find the practices that best suit your needs. Use what works for you, discard that which doesn't. Ultimately qi gong is the applications you use to make your own path.