Chi Energy Defines the Classic Approach
Without chi energy there is no tai chi qigong. It is integral to why we practice qigong in the first place. And though it is so integral to tai chi qigong, it is difficult for most people to conceptualize. To put it simply, it is a vital force or healing energy that is responsible for life, vitality, health and personal development.
Commercialized schools that teach contemporary tai chi calisthenics make little or no mention of this life force, often scoffing at it and attributing it to Eastern superstition. Some martial art schools will teach about it but only at a very basic level.
Part of the reason is that the concept of healing energy is very complex and foreign to western culture, little understood by those who do not practice the higher levels of qigong.
If you are new to this concept, please read the following pages:
Beginning students often tell me they feel tingling in their fingertips and attribute it to the beginning manifestations of this vital force. That is only a superficial experience. There are many different sensations, just as there are many different types of chi energy and many of these sensations are far greater or subtler, and much more difficult to describe in words.
The waidan chi or external life force, cultivated in hard martial arts, for example, is vastly different from the neidan chi or internal vital force, cultivated in soft arts. The waidan chi relies on part physical strength and stamina and part mental focus, while neidan chi relies almost completely on mental discipline.
Medical qigong and other contemporary types of qigong exercises do not rely as heavily on cultivating the chi energy as traditional practices do. That is because contemporary commercialized schools stress more on calisthenics for health and relaxation, physical exercises with which westerners are more able to relate.
Instead of just physical well-being or specifically focused aspects of health, as promoted in medical qigong, traditional qigong views health at a much deeper, holistic level, focusing the chi energy for whole mind, body and spiritual health, longevity and healing.
Instead of fitness that can be maintained through calisthenic exercise, traditional training is about martial arts, mental discipline and self-defence.
And instead of merely increasing relaxation and concentration, traditional practices also seek to transcend the here and now, to attain a higher consciousness and to develop psychic power and abilities beyond what most can only imagine.
It is attack chi that allows my brother to send his opponent to a distance of thirty feet with a mere push of his three fingers. It is also the vital force that enables my master to repulse an attacker with a mere wave of his hand before the attacker can even reach a few feet of him!
It is the healing chi that TCM doctors stimulate with acupuncture needles, acupressure massage and moxibustion. It is also healing energy tapped from the environment that the healer channels and transfers onto the person being healed.
And it is the same life force that we employ when we transcend the physical plane to the higher levels of consciousness that enables us to move another person at will or to sense the movement of an opponent behind us, before he or she is even able to lay hands on us!
At a physical level, contemporary tai chi is merely calisthenics and graceful dance-like movements. At a martial art level, there is a “push hands” component in which students learn self-defence applications. At an even higher level, usually given only in traditional training, there is a mix of mental and physical discipline, what is known as fajing, “expelling the vital energy with force.”
At the highest level, we use only the yinian, mind power or yi consciousness to channel the life force. Once a practitioner reaches this level, no physical movement is necessary in martial arts or healing, only the mind.
Take a look at this clip; it exemplifies the higher level of traditional training of martial arts.
One often hears of the story of two veteran martial artists standing face to face in combat. Neither manifests any discernible movement. Yet a few minutes later, one accedes to the other in defeat.
What has just transpired is a combat waged at a much higher, mental level than can be seen on a physical plane, but make no mistake — it involves much more power than one of mere physical magnitude! This is the potential chi energy that is transmitted through the higher levels of mental training and which is so little known or seen in western society.
Only recently, has my master been willing to demonstrate publicly his prowess of mentally manifesting his life force outside of our senior class:
Such then, is the higher level of mental discipline in traditional tai chi qigong that is not found in contemporary forms. Regardless whether it is tai chi chuan or other forms of qigong, conventional training emphasizes mental discipline over the physical. This is key to the higher levels of development beyond mere calisthenics and hard martial arts.
Those self-proclaimed certified “masters” and “grandmasters” who scoff at the potential power of the chi energy know nothing of its latent power, because their own lack of humility prevents them from experiencing it, let alone manifesting it. But suffice it to say, without cultivation and refinement of this vital force, tai chi qigong is reduced to nothing but mere calisthenics.